The author, Laurie Ouellette argues, with ethic strategies, that things have changed since John Conter’s 2002 essay
, critical of reality TV, and that it is now more than just a trivial diversion, but it actually serves an important civic purpose. Her rhetorical appeals include pathos, or qualities that evokes pity or sadness in others; logos, use of a logical argument; and ethos, the characteristic spirit of a culture of a certain time or place.
Ouelette begins her piece with the logos that, since the “Post-welfare” 1990’s, public television had been “radically transformed,” and isn’t serving the function of citizen education as much anymore through documentaries. The author argues that do-it-yourselfer lifestyle resources are now taking roles to serve that purpose and have adopted many conventions of public broadcasting, making reality TV beneficial to society in a real and practical way.
Since the 1990’s, the downsizing of the public sectors across Western capitalist democracies has opened the door to entrepreneureal competition from commercial channels and new media platforms that have pervaded our culture so much, that we now come to them for education and advice about civic conduct, like the “can-do” attitudes of solution and “build-it” type programming. It is part of our ethos, fully integrated into our society now, regardless of their market imperatives and entertainment formats, and therefore it must be beneficial in our new consumer society. In other words, it’s what we’ve got to work with right now.
The writer claims that reality TV does not simply “divert” a passive audience, but it translates the broader sociopoltical currents of the narratives and expectations of citizenship. She even claims that they can serve to inspire self-empowerment. This is an effective appeal to the readers’ pathos. She also describes the reality TV shows that are high-profile charity helping ventures, or “do-good programs.” Philanthropy as marketing device is still philanthropy, and reality TV, she suggests, exemplifies philanthropy.