The Role of Television and Visual Media in Our Society
I am a strong believer that television and other visual forms of media are as important as literature. They are a form of art that imitates reality. As with any art, not only does television imitate our reality but it always adds a learning component whether it’s moral, satirical, societal, or what have you. TV is the reason why I know to do “pizza shape, French fry shape” with my skis even though I’ve never been skiing. Television shows and movies are fundamental in our understanding of society and how to be functional members of said society.
This is the exact reason why it’s fucked up that there aren’t many ugly people given representation and when they are the majority of the time they are written to have mean, insignificant, pathetic, or sinister personalities.
Let’s Unravel This.
First off, please try not to be offended by the term “ugly” because it’s a term that our society came up with to define anyone who is not conventionally attractive. Can these people be attractive? Well as a fat person who definitely doesn’t fall into the category of conventionally attractive, I vigorously nod my head and say, yes of course! But there will always be the tiny part deep down inside that still doubts that. There are many factors that come into play to create the mini me full of doubt but visual media plays a big role.
With all of the lessons that TV and movies teach and the things that they normalize, in often cases it is not always media mirroring reality but reality mirroring media, with people becoming more empathetic to others based on what they see in the media. Brian’s Song brought along a new wave of individuals questioning their racism. Ellen opened up the door for homosexuality, pushing people to question their beliefs on the subject. The Fosters gave voice to the hearing impaired, reminding audiences that there needs to be space for these individuals.
Visual media teaches compassion and shows us how to treat people so when the main character isn’t ever visually unappealing it sends the wrong message. It tells us these people don’t matter.
In the Netflix original Stranger Things, everyone was so hellbent on finding that little boy who got lost. You had a whole town of folk searching in the dead of night for this adorable little boy but what about Barb? Barb, played by Shannon Purser, isn’t exactly what our society deems gorgeous. I’m not saying that she’s extremely unattractive (because she is far from that) but she is more likely to win “most likely to succeed” than “best hair.” And look what happened to Barb? She went missing in the same fucking town as that boy and no one said a little bo-peep! Not even her fucking parents looked for her, like huh?! If she were a size two with Estée Lauder skin then maybe people would give a shit!
Even when unconventional individuals play a role in these TV shows and movies they still check off some box. They may be fat but it’s in all the “right places” so they are “good fat.” They may be nerdy but they’re “cute nerdy.” So all of the lessons that surround characters of “all sizes” or looks is still fit with the asterisk of, as long as they are attractive.
The Role In Our Real Lives
The lack of representation does hinder the way we view people in real life. To this day I still see magazines about JonBenet Ramsey, that adorable girl that went missing in 1745 (hyberbole: it was 1996) but every year there’s an update in her mysterious story. Now don’t get me wrong, what happened to her is tragic and it’s good that we do not let her name die but like….why her? What about the countless others who have vanished without a trace? What makes this little girl immortal? And I’m telling you, it’s the media.
We love attractive people. We love them to the point where no one and nothing else matters and it’s harmful to our society. Even Ted Buddy got as far as he did because people found him sexy. In a different post I’ll definitely talk about my theory as to why we are so fixated on making attractive people the stars of everything but regardless of the reason it needs to stop. Art imitates life and life imitates art and people really be out here thinking that ugly people don’t matter. People really be out here only helping and being kind to individuals that they find attractive.
A life shouldn’t add value or decrease in value based off of visual appearance!!
It’s fucked up and it’s selfish and it’s something that was taught which means it’s something that can be untaught. Let’s unteach it.