by Alex Merced
I am admittedly of pretentious cultural tastes enjoying television shows with complex thought provoking writing and production values and enjoying complex and unique musical genres. Although, while my personal aesthetic often finds me raising my nose at mainstream popular culture, there is beauty in its role in the evolution of societies values and its interplay with the laws of economic forces. In particular I’m referring to my belief that the growing proliferation of reality shows has had a role to play in what seems a rapidly increasing proliferation of tolerance of groups and individuals of all types.
First of all, the growth in reality tv is a story of economics and scarcity. While the profit margins of television shrank as more alternatives for entertainment came to existence also diluting the supply of prime advertising space driving the cost of ad space down, there was demand to create low cost programming to increase the profit margin on shrinking ad revenue. With the success of shows like The Real World, Survivor, and Big Brother it became clear reality television would fill this gap.
This easy and cheap to produce culture created a rush of finding subjects that would capture the audience in this genre saturated with programming. The result is that may channels sought to display groups and individuals that many would have a curiosity about such as polygamist, gypsies, drag queens, and more. So while these shows sensationalize and sometimes can be seen as “exploiting” (how I so dislike that word) these groups and individuals for profit, the end result often shows the humanity in these diverse groups of people which in my opinion led sometimes initial curiosity of the audience to turn into empathy and tolerance as they interact with the diverse world around them.
In short, growing scarcity led to decisions for ones own benefit that in my opinion had great social externalities. Yes, the market works, and it works well.