A study of American culture from 1970-1994 is essentially a study of its media. Television became the cornerstone of American culture throughout this period, televising all major events, be it political, cultural, scientific…everything.
As was stated previously in the textbook while describing the effects of “suburbanization”, the television or the colloquial “TV” became the centerpiece of the American family’s living room, thus causing a direct effect on both architecture and interior design, hitherto held by the fireplace.
At the beginning of this time, circa 1970, the three major broadcasting giants (CBS, NBC, ABC) featured primarily general interest programming which was used to draw a mass audience. Shows at this time were typically thirty minutes and the popularity of certain programs was determined by the Nielsen rating system, concurrently used to draw ventures from advertisers, thus creating commercials that also act as a great time for families to talk while ignoring each other for an ever-increasing percentage of their lives.
Throughout the 1970s, these major broadcasting networks, specifically CBS, began “narrowcasting”, which is the process of replacing older popular programs with programs aimed at younger audiences for every popular motivator is money. Over time CBS began broadcasting such programs as All in the Family, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and M*A*S*H, which acted as platforms for both social commentary and, of course, copious amounts of comedy. NBC also joined the party by creating Saturday Night Live, thus streamlining the process of developing mass opinion along with NBC.
ABC aimed its broadcasting at the 14-22 demographic by airing future Nick-at-Night staples such as Happy Days and Three’s Company, and the outlier that is Charlie’s Angel, thus introducing sex appeal to the unacquainted.
By the end of the 1970s, these three major networks managed to create prime time, which became a ritual that defines bedtimes for children up until this very day.
During the 1980s, television essentially replaced newspapers for the general population, as the sale of newspapers fell while the number of television stations grew to around 200. The godhead of broadcasting remained, as they still do today, but they began to have trouble maintaining ratings.
The UHF independents created developed re-runs, as well as strategically broadcasted Hollywood films and sporting events. During the late 80s, Fox rode the wave of independents and washed ashore with everyone’s favorite dysfunctional, jaundice yellow family, The Simpsons, which went on to become the longest-running sitcom (situational comedy) in the history of television. Fox also went on to outbid CBS for the rights to the National Football League’s NFC conference games, monopolizing America’s favorite civil religion.
Universal-Paramount and Time-Warner followed Fox’s prototype and aired shows aimed at younger, urban viewers with offerings such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer (I accidentally wrote layer at first and wanted to share with you the hilarity) and The Jamie Foxx Show. Buffy went on to be a role model for many young girls, which has perplexed me for years.
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The development of the remote control in the 1960s led to the phenomenon of “channel surfing” in the 1980s, thus directly contributing to obesity and the American educational system producing test scores below the global average, yet this shouldn’t be seen as a problem because it also began to feed people their opinions and desires, thus lowering the need for successful critical thinking, thus balancing itself out.
Television also managed to force-feed stereotypes thus eliminating the need to get to know somebody before you pass judgments on them, but that’s fine because by 1994, families had pretty much stopped talking to each other anyway and that bright little box became both a great teacher and babysitter, as well as a great excuse for arguing over things that don’t matter, as well as spreading propaganda and sensational stories so that Americans could ignore the actual issues that were taking place in its country.
Around 1991, Black Entertainment Television (BET) was introduced as a channel catering to African American viewers, which went on to define Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech as a music video during their 1999 video countdown.
Lastly, television has also mirrored family values throughout the years, but it also came to define family values, which is a very dangerous practice that everybody needs to be aware of. Values such as venerating a successful African American family in The Cosby Show, can be seen as a very progressive and admirable act, however, defining what values a family should have, is toxic. Having every family following the standard model of a nuclear family was an act that indirectly contributed to a lot of hate towards anybody that didn’t fit inside this supposed mold that doesn’t exist.
A healthy amount of TV is fine, but throughout the years, people started to forget how to turn it off. I am one of the kids that grew up only talking during commercials while listening to my parents talk about Jerry Seinfeld like he was one of their friends. Their entire world concept was based on what they saw on the “boob tube”, and that is not a healthy way to live your life.
Due to the way I grew up, I don’t own a TV, and I will not spend my autumn years sitting in a dark room with the dull technicolor lightly reflecting off of my pale skin.
Television defined America from 1970-1994 and it’s time for America to turn off the tube, get their butts outside, put one foot in front of the other in a rhythmic sequence, and start to define themselves. Indonesians often can’t afford TV and don’t live in premier conditions, but when I was there, I didn’t see one unhappy family.