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Theatre critic: there is historic importance in people’s trust of television

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RU«Pop-culture’s influence over society should be viewed from two different perspectives. First of all, it is important to consider how society affects popular culture – what we see or hear at least partially reflects the modern society. Secondly, if created products turn out very influential, they inspire people and shift their thought processes or behaviour one way or another. This is because new and exciting products that have never existed until now, products that are considered marginal,» said theatre critic and Assistant Professor of Social Sciences Faculty of the University of Latvia Zane Radzobe.

What can popular culture tell about society?

«Because pop-culture is culture created for consumption by as wide an audience as possible, I think modern pop-culture product creators want to study what is important in a society and what people want to see. I think the most important factor is how much can be said about society using pop-culture,» said the assistant professor.

Radzobe’s research interests also include communication aspects in pop-culture. She was asked how topics are picked for discussion in modern pop-culture – film, theatre, television, etc. «There are different ways. It is worth mentioning that if there is a format successful in some country in the world, other countries will try the same. This includes adapted series and television shows. Pop-culture does not think much about creating new ones. Instead the focus is put on what is already successful and using it for as long as possible, capturing the entire market.»

She continues: «One other thing, since we’ve touched upon original shows and products. Artists – pop-culture creators and producers can be called artists. This is especially true if they do their jobs particularly well and have an eye and intuition for promising ideas.»

She also adds that sometimes a more rational and mathematical approach works in pop-culture.

Pop-culture as a tool

«Without a doubt, pop-culture is a tool that can help retain society’s attention or focus attention on some social problems,» says Radzobe. Programme ‘Caur ērkšķiem uz..’ [Through the thorns to…] was touched upon during the interview. This is why the assistant professor was asked about her opinion as to how reality shows of this kind portray social problems. In this particular case, the problem in question was violence against women.

She commented: «By definition, reality shows consist of two parts, with one of them being ‘show’. The show is made to be entertaining and help capture an audience. Events people are shown are more often than not scripted, and the audience is unaware of that. The second part is ‘reality’ – it offers the audience a look at people we don’t often see in our everyday lives, people we don’t know. Because of that, the show has to be tied to reality at least somewhat.»

As for the main idea detailed in the programme, the assistant professor said: «Everyone is aware that violence exists. But if the audience is presented with an actual person who tells about their experience and certain details are shown to the audience, people become more emotional. The problem no longer seems theoretical. It becomes real in our perception.»

When asked if shows that focus on some social problem can actually help solve the problem in a long-term perspective, Radzobe said: «The question is how shocking the show is and if action from the audience follows after the show airs. The latter does not apply to reality shows. It is not their function – to change society. Still, if a show outlines some problem, for example helps public organizations gather finances or attempt to change legislation, then they do have some importance.»

To explain her idea on shows’ influence on society, Radzobe mentions: «I have a specific example from one of America’s reality shows – Caitlyn Jenner’s case. America had transsexual people before the show. But because he/she is associated with the Kardashian family, which is an enormous brand and members of the family often appear before the press, the fact that a famous person is also a transsexual makes problems associated with transsexuals all the more topical.»

Critical thinking: how reliable are the things people are shown on television?

Radzobe says – there is historic importance in people’s trust of television. «Editing was impossible in the early years of television. Everything happened in real-time and people felt they were witnessing events as they were happening, as though they were witnessing it in person. Since then, of course, television has come a long way. Editing processes now make it possible to change contents and manipulate people’s minds, essentially. But a level of trust still remains. We simply trust what we see with our own eyes.»

She continues: «What we are shown on the screen does not always work as a reality filter. Not all viewers feel the screen, as it were. This is why it is important to educate people, because the media are able to manipulate information. People have to think about what they see more carefully than ever before.»

In the end the theatre critic said: «Going back to reality shows, the term itself describes what they are – reality and show. We can never be 100% certain where the line is between reality and show. This is an important factor to keep in mind. I think it is much healthier to watch reality shows as a work of art pieced together from fragments of reality that do not make up the entirety of reality.»

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