How would “America” be represented in a popular television show to a foreign audience?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is a real interesting question.  On one level, I am not sure any culture should be defined by one television show or by films.  Yet, I understand that mass media defines cultural tastes and appreciation, and by default, some level of judgment can be made from it.  In my mind, I wonder what other cultures would make of The Jerry Springer Show.  If you could identify one show that highilghts the lowlights of American culture, I think that this particular version of tabloid talk show/ freak show vision of American talk show/ reality television might best capture it.  The Springer escapade would represent much to a foreign audience that really helps to encapsulate so many contradictions within America.  On one hand, a nation that has a history and narrative of compassion and acceptance features a television show where violence and raw dislike is emanated with so much freedom and with a wanton disregard of civility.  At the same time, the show represents much in way of the modern "dis" or the idea that the very worst in American society can become the subject of salacious gossip, parading the very private in the realm of the very public.   I think that an outsider or someone seeking to better understand American culture would struggle with how a nation that represents the idea of justice and fairness can descend so very quickly into anarchy on stage, where fights are almost encouraged by the audience with others watching, doing little to remedy the manufactured tension.  Finally, I think that the American idea of "entertainment" is something enhanced by the show.  Contrary to the hopes of the  Springer "Final Thought," the show itself is seen as entertainment, to be seen as nothing more than simple and light form of enjoyment for "an hour of your life that you will never get back."  Yet, there is something haunting and unsettling that a nation like America, seen as a beacon to the world for so much that is positive, would so openly have a show like this one and for this, I think that it would be an interesting study to use as how others would see the nation based on a television show.

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