Picture this: it is the early ’90s, and a new episode of the hot smash hit, The Simpsons, is about to grace your television screen. The opening sequence plays, and once the iconic scene of the five main characters sitting on their couch to watch T.V. is shown, that’s when it hits you: seeing as the titular family is intended to be a portrayal of the stereotypical American household, and given this particular segment appears before every episode proper, you realize just how great an impact the television has had on your culture! In addition to its prominence in a popular cartoon, you then reflect on other ways in which T.V. has shaped the modern world. After giving it some thought, you fully acknowledge the how a box full of “moving pictures” has not only revolutionized the way we see the outside world, but has also inspired generations of individuals to take action and stand up for their social and political beliefs.
II. General Impact of TV
- BRIEFLY mention usage of radio for news/entertainment; “pre-TV” life
- 1950s: Television sets commonplace in American homes (find/cite source on ownership statistics)
- Televised news:
- Talk about visual component being resonant with viewers, broadening understanding of outside world
- Compare radio unfolding of Pearl Harbor to T.V. unfolding of 9/11; differences in emotional impact
- Televised entertainment:
- Motion pictures and cartoons no longer limited to movie theaters
- Sports games no longer limited by radio and stadium tickets (may need to cite sources on this; not a big sports guy!)
- Video games no longer limited to arcades
- Discuss some of the memories shaped by televised entertainment
- Miscellaneous Innovations:
- Our “addiction” to staring at screen likely laid the foundation for designing personal computers, smartphones, etc.
III. Call to Civic Action
- Mention resonant visual component again
- Images of a situation oftentimes have stronger emotional impact than auditory/textual descriptions alone
- The more emotional impact, the more people feel the need to take action
- Cite 1968 Vietnam War pictures as example of this
- Informing viewers on politics
- Impact of televised debates (research Kennedy v. Nixon debate)
- Media “frenzy” nowadays possibly stirring up too much political controversy
- Informing on misc. issues
- Crime, poverty, hunger, natural disasters, etc.
- Discuss influence on how people help as a result of broadcasts
- More subtle ways of calling to action
- TV shows, for example, that are thought-provoking enough to inspire others to make a difference
- Mention The Simpsons again, discuss how they satirize relevant issues to convey a message.
The television was not only a revolutionary piece of technology, but a quintessential tool for influencing modern-day civic duty, with the power of visuals being able to convince an individual to get off the couch and make a difference in their world, whether it be by getting informed to vote in their next election, or by volunteering to help starving children in poorer countries.