Tuesday, January 10, 2017

What is so appealing about the idea of hegemony in television?

There was a question by Sellnow that really stuck out to me this week and it was about my own favorite television show and whether or not this show reinforces hegemony. This got me thinking about the main characters in Family Guy. The Griffins are a middle class family that does not conform to the concept of a "typical American family." Peter is an over weight husband with an overweight son and a daughter that is constantly being ridiculed for her unattractive appearance. Both children are unpopular in school. Stewie is an infant child who characteristics are the total opposite of the typical belief that toddlers are innocent and pure in the heart. Even the dog, Brian, is opposite of the ideal concept of a pet because he is portrayed as having the highest IQ of all the main characters. The only character to support ideal society hegemony would be the housewife Louis. She is considered attractive in the television series with the body shape that society tries to portray as the perfect woman.

This poses the question of why would a television program that tries to portray the main characters as characters who go against the concept of hegemony be appealing to some people?

When I think about that question I wonder if it is because I like that the show goes against hegemony. It shows how silly some of the standards that have been created for how the "typical American family" should look and behave. This is Peter trying to teach his son how to look educated because society says that is what makes someone successful.
I mean look how ridiculous they look when they go to the extremes of what society says is success. this really goes with the concept from Thomas E. Wartenberg who wrote that intelligence trumps class. There is this notion that getting a good education is one of the ways in which people can cross social class boundaries. Maybe a show that goes against hegemony is appealing to those who recognize that people are creating this concept of the typical family, yet it is usually the far from what most families look like.

When discussing commodities this week there was an example of a ton of silver being equal to two ounces of gold. I know that gold is worth more because there is less available on the market than silver, but if a person was to look at gold and silver side by side they look equal.

Having two similar looking families side by side dressed the same, it may be hard to tell the difference between the two. There would be no way of knowing whether one is in a higher social class than the other. Yet, hegemony still gets to decide who is gold and who is silver.

I would love to hear your feedback on the question. 

1 comment:

  1. Hi Luke!

    I think your insights into gold and silver provide the perfect explanation of why there is such a wide variety of shows on television - what we show on the outside is rarely the whole story.

    Messy Outside - There have been many series that show us families and groups that are barely keeping it together! In The Odd Couple, one of the guys is an unreliable slob - In Sanford and Sons, the males all lived in a junkyard - In Cheers, Norm spent almost all of his time at the bar because he didn't want to go home to his wife - The Simpson's paved the way for your Family Guy by having Bart stun the world by saying "Eat my Shorts!" My favorite contemporary television show that pushes against hegemony is ABC's The Middle: a yelling mom, a grumpy dad, a lazy son, an awkward daughter, and a gifted/disabled quirky little brother. All good stuff. I think we may love to watch shows about a messy outside because we all have a lesser degree of most of the issues presented, but we can say to ourselves, "At least I am not as bad as them!"

    Beautiful Outside - It's great to see how the 'other' people live. From Dallas and Dynasty to 90210 and Gossip Girl to Revenge and The Kardashians. We enjoy seeing the objects and lifestyles of the rich, but then it is gratifying to see how messed up they are under their diamonds and Porsches. We can think to ourselves, "Thank goodness I am not as rich as them because that brings a whole different kind of drama!

    We like to watch flawed characters. I would never want to watch a woman on television who has everything together. I already see what seems to be perfect neighbors on my Instagram, so it feels good to know that I am not alone in my struggles. The norm in any type of story needs to reach beyond the usual expectations.