How Western TV Shows Affect Our Lives

Written by: Sargun Kaur (20-E4)

Designed by: Tiew Zuo Yuan Richard (21-I2)

Television shows come in all shapes and forms, including both domestically produced programs as well as international television shows. These international shows, of course, consist mostly of American shows that have gained a large traction all around the world. 

Streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime are fast becoming the norm for the way we now consume “TV” and the bulk of these libraries are made up out of American shows and recommendation algorithms biased towards them. As a result, the viewership of these shows increases, and so does the impact they have on us. Although it may not be direct, western television shows have an influence, be it big or small, on our lives in Singapore.

Role in Shaping Views of the West

Even though they are  often exaggerated versions of real life, American TV shows can tell us more about the dynamics of everyday life in the US. They also offer us a glimpse into American core values and traditions. 

Watching TV shows allow us to learn about American family life, workplace dynamics, how to use common phrases, fashion trends, and pertinent conversation topics. “Modern Family”, for example, explores the relationships between different types of American households and reflects what American families look like today and how they function. 

Additionally, American television often touches on the American dream, where anyone, regardless of their circumstance, can attain their own version of success, thus allowing us to gain a deeper understanding of America’s core values of equality of opportunity and freedom. While this idea definitely has its flaws (such as excessive materialism), it remains appealing because of the idea that hard work will lead you from nothing to something. Therefore, because of Western TV, Eastern people thus view America as a free society where anyone can go anything and get anywhere in life. 

Role in Shaping Culture (Fashion)

Due to globalization and the widespread growth of mass communications around the world, most countries are becoming increasingly interconnected. Through mass media such as films and television programs, societies have unconsciously yet undoubtedly influenced each other, resulting in gradual convergence of culture. 

Western television programs have a large influence over our definition of the latest fashion and thus have a great impact on the way we dress. Whenever we see how appealing the stars look in the foreign films and television programs, most people would go to great lengths to look just as mesmerising as their idols.

 For example, when the eighth season of American Idol was being aired in Singapore a few years ago, Adam Lambert’s sensational performance and personality made him an idol to many Singaporeans who watched the famous American variety show. With a bold black eyeliner and matching black nail polish, Adam “Glambert” captured the hearts and minds of Singaprean teens, and they could be seen in the streets with similar black eyeliner and nail polish, regardless of gender. This is quite a significant sign of the impact of western shows on culture. 

Role in Shaping our Views of Ourselves

The influence that western shows have on self-esteem and body image is widely acknowledged. Everyone has days when they feel awkward or uncomfortable in their bodies. By portraying idealistic, luxurious lifestyles and false notions of beauty, these shows perpetuate harmful social definitions of beauty and these perceptions soon become the benchmark upon which we measure our own value. 

For example, larger people are portrayed negatively. Their weight is the focus of the role, and they are either being laughed at or rejected. This can be seen in the character of Big Rhonda from That ’70s Show who was awkward, gross, rude, tomboyish, ate a lot, and was super undesirable until a fantasy flash-forward when she lost a ton of weight doing aerobics, which suddenly gave her a softer attitude and a nicer personality. 

By contrast, thin people are presented in a wider range of roles and images, with no negative focus on weight. These unrealistic portrayals have strongly influenced how we define what  is attractive and beautiful, and can contribute to the development of eating disorders and a reduction of self-confidence.

In conclusion, it is clear that western television shows have a huge impact on our lives even though they originate from a place so far away. They hold significance in shaping our lives, from influencing our views of the West to the way we dress and how we view our bodies. Western television shows may provide us with high quality content and offer great entertainment value but it is certainly crucial to understand how they might be affecting us. After all, you are what you watch.

References:

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