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Gerbner’s cultivation theory states that television has become the main source of storytelling in today’s society. It is the study of long term effects of television to society. This conduct of research is mainly carried out in America to analyze the audience there who are mainly categorized as couch potatoes. Cultivation theory also shows how people react after watching a particular program/movie on the television because cultivation theory is mainly based on how the television cultivates or moulds the mindset of society. It is also said that those who watch four or more hours a day are labeled heavy television viewers and those who view less than four hours per day are light viewers based on Gerbner’s research. Heavy viewers are exposed to more violence and therefore are affected by the Mean World Syndrome, it is an idea that the world is worse than it actually is and people tend to be more afraid of living their life’s peacefully. According to Gerbner, the overuse of television is creating a homogeneous and fearful populace amongst the world today. History of the Theory
Cultivation theory states that television ‘cultivates’, or promotes, a view of social reality that is inaccurate but that viewers nonetheless assume reflects real life. Cultivation theory (sometimes referred to as the cultivation hypothesis or cultivation analysis) was an approach developed by Professor George Gerbner, dean of the Annenberg School of Communications at the University of Pennsylvania. He began the ‘Cultural Indicators’ research project in the mid-1960s, to study whether and how watching television may influence viewers’ ideas of what the everyday world is like. Cultivation research is in the ‘effects’ tradition. Cultivation theorists argue that television has long-term effects which are small, gradual, indirect but cumulative and significant. Black Et. Al. used the metaphor of stalagmite theories to suggest that “media effects occur analogously to the slow buildup of formations on cave floors, which take their interesting forms after eons of the steady dripping of limewater from the cave ceilings above.” One of the most popular theories that fits this perspective is cultivation theory.”
They emphasize the effects of television viewing on the attitudes rather than the behaviour of viewers. Heavy watching of television is seen as ‘cultivating’ attitudes which are more consistent with the world of television programmes than with the everyday world. Watching television may tend to induce a general mindset about violence in the world, quite apart from any effects it might have in inducing violent behaviour. Cultivation theorists distinguish between ‘first order’ effects (general beliefs about the everyday world, such as about the prevalence of violence) and ‘second order’ effects (specific attitudes, such as to law and order or to personal safety). Cultivation research looks at the mass media as a socializing agent and investigates whether television viewers come to believe the television version of reality the more they watch it. Gerbner and his colleagues contend that television drama has a small but significant influence on the attitudes, beliefs and judgements of viewers concerning the social world.
The focus is on ‘heavy viewers’. People who watch a lot of television are likely to be more influenced by the ways in which the world is framed by television programmes than are individuals who watch less, especially regarding topics of which the viewer has little first-hand experience. Light viewers may have more sources of information than heavy viewers. Judith van Evra argues that by virtue of inexperience, young viewers may depend on television for information more than other viewers do (van Evra 1990, p. 167), although Hawkins and Pingree argue that some children may not experience a cultivation effect at all where they do not understand motives or consequences (cited by van Evra, ibid.). It may be that lone viewers are more open to a cultivation effect than those who view with others (van Evra 1990, p. 171). Since 1967, Gerbner and his colleagues have been analysing sample weeks of prime-time and daytime television programming. Cultivation analysis usually involves the correlation of data from content analysis (identifying prevailing images on television) with survey data from audience research (to assess any influence of such images on the attitudes of viewers).
Content analysis by cultivation theorists seeks to characterize ‘the TV world’. Such analysis shows not only that the TV world is far more violent than the everyday world, but also, for instance, that television is dominated by males and over-represents the professions and those involved in law enforcement. In one of the surveys conducted by Gerbner, he targeted four types of attitudes of people who watch too much television based on the cultivation theory. Firstly, he estimated that there was an increase of fear of walking alone at night. It is said, women were more afraid than men, but both sexes who were heavy viewers claim that there was an overestimation of criminal activity, believing it to be ten times more than figures indicated. Another attitude is the higher chances of involvement in violence. Based on that attitude, light viewers predicted their weekly odds of being involved in violence were 1 in 100; whereas heavy viewers said they were 1 in 10. Besides that, there is also perceived activity in police. Light viewers believed that about 1% of society is involved with law enforcement. In comparison, heavy viewers estimated 5%. And the last one, is a common general of mistrust in people.
Heavy viewers looked at people’s actions and motives in a more negative way. This is called the ‘Mean World Syndrome’. Cultivation theorists are best known for their study of television and viewers, and in particular for a focus on the topic of violence. However, some studies have also considered other mass media from this perspective, and have dealt with topics such as gender roles, age groups, ethnic groups and political attitudes. A study of American college students found that heavy soap opera viewers were more likely than light viewers to over-estimate the number of real-life married people who had affairs or who had been divorced and the number of women who had abortions (Dominick 1990, p. 512). The difference in the pattern of responses between light and heavy viewers (when other variables are controlled), is referred to as the ‘cultivation differential’, reflecting the extent to which an attitude seems to be shaped by watching television. Older people tend to be portrayed negatively on television and heavy viewers (especially younger ones) tend to hold more negative views about older people than lighter viewers. Most heavy viewers are unaware of any influence of television viewing on their attitudes and values. Key terms in cultivation analysis
Mainstreaming television plays a central role in society. While there are many diverse cultures in the world contributing the variety of beliefs, values, attitudes and practices creating our unique cultures, there is one thing that ties us all together: television. Of course there are many people that do not have access to television, but the underlying truth is, the reach of television is so expansive that it has become the primary channel responsible for mainstream in our culture. Mainstream is more than the sum of all cross-currents and sub-currents, it represents the broadest range of shared meanings and assumptions in the most general, functional and stable way. Heavy television viewing may override individual differences and perspectives, creating more of an American (and increasingly global) “melting pot” of social, cultural and political ideologies. Essentially, the more TV a viewer watches, the more likely it becomes that their opinions of various items in the world will start to mirror those the media portrays.
In fact, most heavy TV viewers do not even know they are starting to bend their views to those of the media. Blending takes blurring one step further when heavy television viewers cannot draw a line between parts of life that are real and fiction. Bending happens when people’s perception is completely changed from their original views or opinions. This can go even beyond simple reflection of the media, quite often it turns into reflection of television fiction. Gerbner found that ideas and opinions commonly held by heavy viewers as a result of mainstreaming have to do with politics and economics. According to Griffin, Gerbner’s research led to the conclusion that heavy viewers tend to label themselves as middle class citizens who are politically moderate. Gerbner only found people who labeled themselves as either liberal or conservative among those who only occasionally watch TV. Interestingly enough, however, he also found that “cultural indicators noted that their positions on social issues are decidedly conservative.”
Resonance occurs when things viewed on television are actually in line with the actual everyday realities of viewers. Gerbner writes that this provides a double dose of messages that resonate and amplify cultivation. Additionally, Gerbner et al. defines resonance as the combination of everyday reality and television providing a “double dose” that resonates with the individual, which in turn amplifies cultivation. The example they give is of minority groups whose fictional television character is stereotypically more frequently victimized on television, creating an exaggerated perception of violence for individuals who watch more television. Griffin sums it up nicely, when he states, “Gerbner claimed that other heavy viewers grow more apprehensive through the process of resonance.” Furthermore, Gerbner said, “The congruence of the television world and real-life circumstances may ‘resonate’ and lead to markedly amplified cultivation patterns.” This cultivation could have a large effect on our society if these viewers insist on receiving more security from the government, their work place, family, friends, etc. Resonance seeks to explain why heavy TV viewers often have an amplified vigilance about the world. ‘Mean World Index’ Gerbner et al. developed the Mean World Index. The Mean World Index consists of three statements: * Most people are just looking out for themselves.
* You can’t be too careful in dealing with people.
* Most people would take advantage of you if they got the chance. The Mean World Index finds that long-term exposure to television in which violence is frequent cultivates the image of a mean and dangerous world. More frequent viewers had a perception of reality in which greater protection is needed and reported that most people “cannot be trusted” and are “just looking out for themselves.” ‘ Dramatic violence’ “The overt expression or serious threat of physical force as part of the plot.” ‘Accessibility principle’ When people make judgments about the world around them, they rely on the smallest bits of information that come to mind most quickly. ‘Heavy viewers’ “TV viewers who report that they watch at least four hours per day.” ‘Meta-analysis’ “A statistical procedure that blends the results of multiple empirical and independent research studies exploring the same relationship between to variables. (e.g. TV viewing and fear of violence).” Gerbner also calls heavy viewers the television type, a polite way of saying couch potato. ” Literaure Review
1. The Landscape of Cultivation Theory
In many areas of communication theory and research, cultivation theory has enjoyed considerable popularity over the past decade. Gerbner’s Cultivation Theory is especially applicable to many situations. It focuses on the idea that television plays a central role in viewers’ perceptions of the world by affecting attitudes, beliefs, and ways of thinking (Amy Lindquist, 2006). Cultivation analysis springs from one of those broadly based theories in communication. The theory states that high frequency viewers of television are more susceptible to media messages and the belief that they are real and valid (Timothy P. Meyer,1989). Cultivation is about the implications of stable, repetitive, pervasive and virtually inescapable patterns of images and ideologies that television provides. “Mainstreams”, “currents”, “flows” and other water terms have been used to suggest the ubiquitous and cumulative influence that cultivation researchers attribute to cultural messages, as they conceive television as kind of cultural river in which everyone to some degree is carried along. The central claim of persistent long term exposure to television content has small but measurable effects on the perceptual worlds of audience members. (James Shanahan & Michael
2. The Theorists’ Views
Cultivation theorists argue that television has long-term effects which are small, gradual, indirect but cumulative and significant. Gerbner stated that the mass media cultivate attitudes and values which are already present in a culture: the media maintain and propagate these values amongst members of a culture, thus binding it together. Gross also considered that ‘television is a cultural arm of the established industrial order and such as serves primarily to maintain, stabilise and reinforce rather than to alter, threathen or weaken conventional beliefs and behaviours’ (Daniel Chandler, 1995). The theorists also believe those who absorb more media are those who are more influenced. Theorists of this persuasion are best known for their study of television and viewers, and in particular for a focus on the topic of violence (Daniel Chandler, 1995). However, some theorists also conducted studies that expand beyond that to cover gender, demographics, cultural representations, political attitudes and even consumer behaviour among many others.
3. Cultivation Research
Cultivation research by Gerbner looks at the mass media as a socialising agent and investigates whether television viewers come to believe the television version of reality the more they watch it (Daniel Chandler, 1995). According to the cultivation hypothesis, mediated messages can help shape the behaviour of individuals who interact with them on a frequent basis (Gerbner, 1969; Shanahan & Morgan, 1999). An investigation in 1994 by Dittmar was done to utilise a cultivation theory framework to examine the psychosocial characteristic of individuals who are television-free to moderate and frequent television viewers. However, there exist very little data examining the psychosocial health profiles of individuals who watch very little to no television (Dittmar, 1994; Shanahan & Morgan, 1996).
Gerbner (1980) places viewers into three categories: light (watch less than two hours of television a day), medium (watch between two and four hours of a day), and heavy (watch more than four hours of television a day). Focusing mainly on the heavy and light viewers in various experiments, he has discovered that heavy viewers hold opinions and ideals that are typically portrayed on the television rather than in the real world (Amy Lindquist, 2006). The difference in the pattern of responses between light and heavy viewers (when other variables are controlled) is referred to as the ‘cultivation differential’, reflecting the extent to which an attitude seems to be shaped by watching television. For instance, Older people tend to be portrayed negatively on television and heavy viewers (especially younger ones) tend to hold more negative views about older people than light viewers. Most heavy viewers, in fact, are unaware of any influence of television viewing on their attitudes and values (Daniel Chandler, 1995 5. Effect of Cultivation Theory
Watching series like Criminal Minds, CSI, and Bones that feature constant crime and violent acts being committed can be educational and ambitious, but they can also cause significant effects in the viewers’ perceptions on society (Katherine Miller, 2004). In a survey of about 450 New Jersey schoolchildren, 73 percent of heavy television viewers compared to 62 percent of light viewers gave the ‘television answer’ (which is an exaggeration of the number of violence reported in real life cases) to a question asking them to estimate the number of people involved in violence in a typical week. The same survey showed that children who were heavy viewers were more fearful about walking alone in a city at night. They also overestimated the number of real-life married couple who had affairs or who had been divorced and the number of women who had abortions (Dominick, 1990; Daniel Chandler, 1995).
Since Cultivation theory is mainly based on the television and how it changes ones perspective on things, many analysis of movies and TV programs have been done to study the significance of cultivation theory in our society and also around the world. For example, reality TV shows such as America’s Next Top Model – based on how young American women are contested to win the ultimate tag of “America’s Next Top Model – clearly promotes young girls to have bony figures. Thus young gullible audiences are influenced by such shows and do their level best to lose weight, even if they have to starve themselves. This obviously greatly affects their health.
(AMERICA’S NEXT TOP MODEL)
Another TV show in which the cultivation theory can be applied is Glee. Glee is a drama and comedy series based on teenagers living in a small city in the USA. It’s about a typical high school drama wherein teenagers fight to be in the top position – be it the stereotypical head cheerleader, popular jock, nerd and bullied gay kid. The positive aspect of this show is how they portray the gay community just as other normal people. It shows how gays are bullied for just that, being gay, and it is not their fault they are made this way. This has led to a change in attitude towards gays by homophobic people. In addition, the theory also states that viewers who watch more television will be more influenced than those who watch less and that “the cumulative effect of television is to create a synthetic world that heavy viewers come to see as reality” (Reber and Chang, 2001). To further understand this aspect of cultivation theory, we refer to a case study done by Jamel King – an interview with his two friends, Kevin and Colleen, who are lovers – which shows how their relationship is affected by things that they have viewed on television. History of Kevin and Colleen
Kevin and Colleen have been dating for 6 years. Colleen is a gymnast for the University of Arizona Wildcats. Kevin, who also attends the U of A, is currently working at PF Changs as a server. Their story begins in high school where they met. Just like something out of a movie, Kevin and Colleen were both standout athletes who seemed to have it all figured out. This proved not to be the case. Their hopes of attending college together hit a crossroads when Colleen was offered a scholarship from the U of A. Kevin knew that he was not being recruited by them, which eventually had them questioning whether trying the whole long distance relationship was even worth it. As the school year was coming to an end, Colleen and Kevin knew that a decision had to be made whether they would stay together or break up. Because of the high amount of trust they had for each other, they ended up staying together. While Colleen was going to school in Arizona, Kevin was still back in California working and saving up. As time passed, Kevin eventually moved to Arizona to go to school and live with Colleen. Accumulated Data
In a question where both Kevin and Colleen had to list 3 top reasons for the causes of arguments between them, the top reason for both was television. Asked for explanation, Kevin argued, “ever since we got that TV, both of us have been glued to it. It’s almost like whenever I turn on that TV, I get into my own little world.” (Strahler). He later went on to explain that he never used to have that obsessive desire to always watch TV, since they lived so long without one. But when they finally purchased one, they couldn’t stop watching it. He mentioned that on average he watches TV about 6 hours a day, which put him in the classification of a heavy viewer. How does it affect his relationship with Colleen? Kevin admitted that when he watches shows or movies about people in relationships who engage in violent behaviour, he sometimes thinks that reasons for the abuse were justifiable. According to Jamel King, this is surprising to hear because Kevin was always one of those people who was against the idea of domestic abuse.
This is an example of cultivation theory. Kevin watched TV so much to the point where he believed that in the right situation, that use of physical force is acceptable. “Most people who decry violence are that all-too-receptive young viewers will imitate aggression on the screen.” (Griffin, 2009). Jamel’s last question was if Kevin believed what he sees on TV, and Kevin revealed that he is very gullible, so quite often he found himself believing things that he had watched on TV. “Who doesn’t believe what they see on TV? It doesn’t matter who you are, but if you see or hear something enough, you start to believe it. I know I have a tainted view of reality that limits my potential to communicate with people,” he said. In the interview with Colleen, she said TV was the number one reason for conflict in their relationship because “we get so caught up in the lives of these made up characters that we start to forget about ours, that is kind of what happened to me and Kevin. I’m not trying to say that all we only do is watch TV, but it is just so boring here that we have nothing else to do but watch TV.” (Fisher). Following this, Jamel asked whether Colleen thought it affected her relationship with Kevin.
“Yes, it does. I mean you see these shows where violence is often portrayed as something that is acceptable. Just the other day, I was watching the movie, O where there was a scene where a girl’s boyfriend found out she was cheating, which resulted in him choking and killing her by strangulation. I’ve been in situations where violent tendencies emerged. It worries me to think that people are okay with reacting in that sort of behaviour,” she said. Jamel also asked her if there was any type of behaviour portrayed on TV that affects the way she looks at the world. She immediately responded with a “Yes,” admitting that her awareness of reality is based on certain shows that she watches. By doing this, she puts their relationship at risk. Lastly, Jamel asked her if she thinks that Kevin would engage in such violent behaviour. . Confident in her trust, Colleen replied back with a “No.” She said “I love Kevin, and he loves me.
Yes, we do get in arguments based off of things that we have seen on TV, but it’s nothing that has ever gotten serious. Matter of fact, it’s more of a debate than anything.” From this case study we can conclude that, the cultivation theory brings a negative set to relationships as a whole, because people tend to believe everything he/she watches and understands from the television. But also in a way, rationality towards reacting to actions based on the television program may help to reduce problems in relationships because when there is a sense of rationality people can learn to accept facts which the television portrays as just a source of entertainment and not to be taken into harsh consideration. Application of theory
A highly prevalent problem in our society today is the misconstrued perception many women and adolescent girls have about their bodies. The media portrays waif-thin bodies as being beautiful and desirable, yet most of the women on television and in advertisements can be considered to be dangerously underweight when looking at them from a medical perspective. As Gerbner states, “television is the central and most pervasive mass medium in American culture,” so there is no doubt that girls and women in our society are constantly bombarded by these images of inappropriate thinness through the television on a day to day basis (1980). In fact, “young women of around 15 years of age reported to watching…around 20 to 25 hours or more [of television],” which is full of images of starving bodies being seen as normal and desirable (Tiggemann & Pickering, 1996). This continuous flood of thinness being the ideal has led to a rise in body dissatisfaction and an increase in eating disorders among women. The figures that women are told to strive for are putting many of them in serious danger. Gerbner’s Cultivation Theory can be applied to this tragic situation.
One of the theory’s ideas, are that small immediate effects of cultivation can eventually manifest into long term effects that impact attitudes, pertains to a study that was done to find out more about this issue. The study was conducted to test how girls responded two years after being shown 20 commercials with thin females versus a group of girls who viewed 20 commercials without these images. It was found that the girls who had watched the commercials with the undernourished females would have immediate episodes of insecurity and distress about weight, and later had greater body dissatisfaction than the girls who had not viewed those commercials. The researchers conclude that a feasible “link between individual reactive ‘episodes’ of dissatisfaction in response to specific media images and the development of body image is that enduring attitudes, beliefs, and feelings about bodies and appearance accumulate over time through repeated exposure to ideals of attractiveness in the media” (Hargreaves & Tiggemann, 2003). If women are frequently faced with images of thin females on the television, then they will eventually begin to believe that their bodies are inferior and must exert effort in order to reach an unattainable beauty that the media has forced upon them.
The concept of mainstreaming that Gerbner discusses can be linked to this problem regarding females and poor body image. According to the Cultivation Theory, heavy viewers of television will experience the effects of mainstreaming, where their attitudes and opinions are essentially created by information and portrayals they receive from the television. In the media where women’s beauty and body perfection are defined by emaciated figures, it is only natural that heavy-viewing females begin to have their attitudes shaped by this ideal. They begin to be affected by the reality constructed on the television more than the reality of the world around them. It has been discovered that heavy-viewing young women glamorize weight loss and dieting due to what they see on the television (Harrison & Hefner, 2006). In fact, the study found that “television viewing [is] linked to subsequent increases in eating pathology” (Harrison & Hefner, 2006). Another example of this idea is a study that was conducted in which the impact of television being introduced to young women in a rural community in Fiji was investigated. The young women’s opinions about their bodies in terms of weight had been drastically influenced by the television and had urges to reshape their bodies in order to fit in with the ideals that were presented to them through the television.
The researchers found that “television appeared to redefine local aesthetic ideals for bodily appearance and presentation,” especially among the heavy-viewers (Becker, 2004). Resonance, coming from the Cultivation Theory, is the idea that if a person encounters something on the television that is already a part of her or his belief system, then that specific belief will be enhanced and the individual will experience an even greater cultivating effect. Females have levels of acceptance regarding their bodies. If they have positive body image, or they are satisfied with the way their body looks, then it is possible that they will not be affected by the media as greatly as women with negative body image would be. One study found that “women who reported higher levels of thin-ideal internalization experienced more body anxiety following exposure to thin-ideal media than women with loser levels of internalization” (Harrison & Hefner, 2006). The women who already feel a need to be thin are receiving a “double dose” of this belief when they see it justified by the television’s depictions of glorified undernourished women.
These messages resonate deeply with these women. The Cultivation Theory is clearly very applicable to the case of female body image. Gerbner’s Cultivation Theory is useful when it comes to assessing the impact television has on our culture. It can be applied across age, race, profession, income, and many other seemingly unrelated factors to show that our shared beliefs stem from the television and create a mainstreaming effect. This theory can link many perceptions our society has about the world, such as violence, racial stereotypes, and gender differences, among others, to the central cause of the images displayed by the television. It is interesting to see how the attitudes, beliefs, and opinions that are prevalent in our society are perpetuated by the television. Although this theory provides us with a unique way of looking at television as a highly influential part of our culture, it leaves out some aspects that also seem to have an impact on the belief systems that make up our society. The Cultivation Theory ignores the influence of other forms of media, such as commercials, magazines, newspapers, music, advertisements, and many others.
Relating back to the issue of women’s obsession with thinness, it has been discovered that “both print and electronic media exposure are associated with an increased drive for thinness” (Harrison & Hefner, 2006). Commercials, magazines, and printed advertisements are heavily lined with figures that maintain the negative body image that many women have. Even though these contributions to women’s views of their bodies may not be as profound as the contributions made by the television, they should not be completely disregarded. While these aspects of the media are most likely cultivating similar attitudes that are produced by the television, it is possible that they have some sort of other effect on women’s perceptions of themselves. The attitudes that have been constructed for people by the media cannot be based solely on television. Another forgotten feature that can lead to a creation of attitudes is the actual content of the programs. A person might be a heavy-viewer, but only watch the History Channel, the Discovery Channel, or some other channel with programming that does not fit in with mainstream society.
These programs focus on issues that rarely deal with violence, gender roles, and other stereotypes. If an individual watched only these shows, then it is likely that his or her perceptions about the world would not be based in the reality constructed by the television and these perceptions would not align with those of a highly mainstreamed individual. Females that view television shows that focus on real-world issues as opposed to the importance of maintaining that ideal emaciated body, or programs that include many thin women, will most likely feel less of a cultivating effect on their outlook about their own bodies. Evidence of this can be seen in a study where they discovered that it is “what the girls watched that mattered, not just that they watched television,” and “programs likely to show women in stereotyped roles was positively correlated with body dissatisfaction” (Tiggemann & Pickering, 1996). The content of the programs that are observed by an individual has a great impact on her or his attitude and this must be considered. Certain factors outside of the media also play a role in the formation of people’s belief systems.
Gerbner never addresses how individuals without televisions or cable are able to construct their attitudes. Basic human interaction obviously leads to the construction of one’s ideas and opinions, and television does not always play a role. Even though it is likely that a person without access to a television is interacting with another individual that has already been affected by the media, the aspect of real-world interactions cannot be left out of the creation of belief systems. In terms of the body image issue, “social factors like maternal and peer pressure to conform to an ideal standard predicted body dissatisfaction more strongly than did magazine exposure” (Harrison & Hefner, 2006). The Cultivation Theory implies that television is the single contributing factor to the creation of outlooks, but that is not the case. By looking at the case of poor body image for women in the context of the Cultivation Theory, something can be done to impede the dangerous effects that the television is having on women. Because television does play an important role in the cultivation of beliefs, the images that are portrayed on it can be controlled.
Fewer images of emaciated bodies and less approval of them could have a large effect on females. By casting the average body in a more positive light, viewers may begin to perceive that body type as beautiful and desirable. Certain campaigns, such as Dove, are incorporating this idea into their advertisements. As long as the forgotten aspects of influence on attitudes are included in the Cultivation Theory, the effects television has on individuals can be viewed in a way that interacts with these other aspects. By knowing these various ways that individuals’ perceptions of the world around them are constructed to form a more inclusive Cultivation Theory, action can be taken to create healthier body ideals that will become a part of our mainstream culture.
Another application would be in today’s reality television where it is one of the highest grossing, fastest growing, and most popular genre of shows on the air and with hundreds of different types, it is almost impossible to turn on the television and not come across some kind of reality television. Although we have made huge accomplishments in the areas of civil rights and racism, many hurtful and damaging stereotypes still prevail and are reinforced to us through television shows in our daily lives. (Image on the right shows the various types of reality shows regarding with the Cultivation theory)
This is especially true in the realm of reality television where people are specifically cast to fulfill certain stereotypical roles—the player, the sexy party girl, the girl next door, the gay/lesbian, the good black guy, the angry black guy, the smart Asian. It is easy to apply Gerbner’s Cultivation Theory to this idea because it analyzes the way the television both creates new and reinforces old perceptions of social reality. The reflection of stereotypes in reality television directly corresponds with Gerbner’s idea of the “double dose” because “in the process of struggle and negotiation over the meanings of race, we make sense of it in ways that reinforce or correspond to our own social and cultural reality” (Bell-Jordan 2008). Because of this, our conception of what it is like to be black, white, Asian, Mexican, is constantly being re-emphasized, homogenized, and mainstreamed. For these certain racial groups this leads to both a lack of equal opportunity, a narrow sense of identity, and restrictive feelings about what they may able to accomplish. In these shows, it is important that the people who are cast fulfill their stereotypical roles or else they come across as inauthentic or invalid.
They seek an authentic identity yet, it is obvious that “expectations of ‘authenticity’ are raced and gendered,” (Squires 2008) for example, creating a tension for a black participant on a primarily white reality television show. A good example of this comes from MTV’s The Real World: Denver when “the ‘angry Black man’ and the ‘reasonable Black man’ are pitted against each other” (Bell-Jordan 2008) in an argument over authenticity of blackness. This is particularly difficult to negotiate for participants when the most popular idea of “blackness” comes from the depictions of blacks on the popular VH1 show Flavor of Love. The women on this show truly reinforce every different negative stereotype of black womanhood, so when we combine this with other prejudices of past stereotypes we have obtained, the conception that this is a realistic and holistic depiction of what it is like to be black inevitably arises. On many seasons of The Real World, we also see several instances of scripted displays of “racial conflict,” thrusting together rural whites and suburban blacks in “entertaining” displays of ignorant behavior.
Gerbner’s Cultivation Theory leads us to believe that as a viewer engages in more and more of these reality television shows, our notions about people of different races will be less unique and widespread and these negative, unfair notions will be cemented in our minds as genuine fact. Now it is clear that entertainment and ratings are the main priorities for show creators, but the entertainment they create goes beyond satire and reasserts harmful ideas that unfairly categorize people on the basis of ethnicity alone. So, while so many Americans naively believe that we are a nation who has overcome segregation, prejudice, and racism, we still tune in to watch television shows that are full of the same damaging stereotypes that hold back entire groups of people from the equal opportunity to create their own unique and personal identities. No matter the race, everyone has their own exclusive identities and the reinforcement of racial stereotyping clumps entire groups of people into restrictive categories despite their very different histories and life experiences.
Doing this limits their options and causes people to hold pre-formed notions about these groups without ever even knowing them. One of the main problems with the ideologies reflected through reality television has to do with the title, “reality television” itself. The term “reality television” purports to viewers that what they are about to see is a completely genuine and unbiased exposure of real life. So, it is subtly asserted that these participants, their actions, and the situations they get into arise naturally and are a reflection of themselves and, in turn, become a reflection of their race. But in fact, many reality television shows have scenarios, messages, and interactions that are entirely intentional and planned out. Instead of being honest depictions of real life, “by definition, they mediate, even when, or perhaps especially when, it is real life that is purportedly being revealed” (Bell-Jordan 2008). So as Gerbner’s study shows us that the more people watch television the more it shapes and controls their perception of social life, we struggle with the truly unreal depictions in “reality” television and the way that they presents racial stereotypes as authentic symbolisms of an entire race as a whole. Discussion
In general, cultivation theory plays an important role in shaping people’s mind when it comes to the movies and TV programs like drama, soap operas, etc. There is a major impact of how the TV moulds our minds. For example, like most Tv shows like say for instance, Glee, there’s always a portrayal of how nerds and popular kids can never get along. In Glee, the kids always stereotype one another and this creates a sense of belonging for some children/teenagers in reality. So, technically, cultivation theory in this sense influences the minds of teens to learn to blend in a crowd. Also in this drama series there’s a positive approach of how the gay community gets along well with one another. The series in general promotes social unity within each other. There’s also a negative approach when it comes to long term effects in watching TV when there is a portrayal of image of women who are labeled as “beautiful” when they are supposedly skinny and their skin is flawless. This brings a negative impact to the world because young girls will be so caught up in looking perfect all the time and eventually deteriorates their health.
According to Cultivation Theory, television viewers are cultivated to view reality similarly to what they watch on television. As we can see, television is one of the most effective medium to spread news, propaganda, and information. Television shows are mainstream entertainment, easy to access, and generally easy to understand. Television finds a way to show and reinforce similarities among us, so those who regularly watch television tend to see the world in the way television portrays it. Compared to actual demographics, women, minorities, upper-class, and lower-class people are under-represented on television shows. At the same time, the percent of people who work in law enforcement and violent crime are over-represented.
People who are heavy watchers of television take in this information and believe that the world is full of danger, scary place where no one could be trusted. This is known as the “mean world syndrome.” However, there are others who don’t get affected by when watching television, also known as “light viewers” due to the low amount of time spent on watching the television. As been stated above, watching all those television shows make us view the world the way they portrayed in the television. So when you’re not spending tremendous hours on watching all those shows, your judgement on reality won’t be affected. From this theory we learned that people who spend most of their times on watching TV shows will get affected by it and they will lose their judgement on reality. However, watching TV shows can be beneficial, if we tune in to shows that are educational and informative.
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