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Do TV shows reflect society?

ILLYRIAN

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How many times in a American television show does gunfire happen, yet no police are ever seen. Does that happen in real life?

After all them rallies in America recently seem to infer that the police are almost everywhere all the time.
 

Myheadsgonenumb

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Well - it both does and it doesn't. When what's on T.V is a piece of fiction then what matters is the story and the real world has to take a backseat in order to allow the story to happen. So - for example in the real world no way would Cordelia be allowed to just knock down a wall in an apartment she had just leased, but the story wants to reveal the dead body buried inside the wall so real world complications like lease agreements and the fact you can't even paint in rented accommodation without the landlord's consent is pushed to the wayside.
So - if the story requires someone to be able to shoot something and then get away without the hassle of having to dodge the cops, then you just don't write the cops in the scene - after all it is a piece of fiction and not a documentary. In that respect, no it doesn't reflect the real world as it glosses over all the minutiae and red tape and sometimes even laws of physics in order to show what they want to show. And the audience accepts that - because very few people are interested in a story about real world minutiae and red tape. We don't want to have to watch a scene where Buffy explains what this dead body is to the cops and how come it's got horns and green skin every time she kills a demon. We want the story. The cops are just a device to be used in the story to add obstacles or solve problems when they are wanted and ignored the rest of the time as they would ruin the narrative flow.

However, T.V shows aren't written and produced in a vacuum. They are written by people who are a part of society and are therefore writing within the parameters of the world they know, even if they bend those parameters a little. So we see current values in society reflected back at us in T.V shows, we see the prejudices and the stereotypes that seep in and we see the attempts to overcome them. The stories are always set in a world that is recognisable as our own society - even when it's supposed to be a completely different world, like in Game of Thrones, we see parallels of things we know about and have or recognise from our shared history. So in that respect they do reflect the society we live in.

I'd say T.V more reflects our collective values (good and bad) than the physical reality of the world though. We decide through a character's actions whether they are a goodie or a baddie and that is determined on what we - as a society - have determined to be good or bad. And it is easy to check how that changes by the way our opinions on characters from older shows are different to what they used to be, and how the comment 'you wouldn't get away with that now' is often used.

I think having the cops there or how long it takes to travel some place are different to showing the way people think. Having x institution work exactly as it does in reality means stifling the fiction, therefore you bend the rules to tell the story. It's only incidental so it just gets hand waved over. When people say T.V reflects society they're talking about less physical and more intangible things - like the way it reflects racism or sexism or gender roles etc. And they end up in there whether the writers meant them to be there or not because they are a part of society and this stuff is the fabric society is made up of - it is unavoidable.
 
ILLYRIAN
ILLYRIAN
Cordelia may have been given permission, we don't know.

Btvs fan

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Well - it both does and it doesn't. When what's on T.V is a piece of fiction then what matters is the story and the real world has to take a backseat in order to allow the story to happen. So - for example in the real world no way would Cordelia be allowed to just knock down a wall in an apartment she had just leased, but the story wants to reveal the dead body buried inside the wall so real world complications like lease agreements and the fact you can't even paint in rented accommodation without the landlord's consent is pushed to the wayside.
So - if the story requires someone to be able to shoot something and then get away without the hassle of having to dodge the cops, then you just don't write the cops in the scene - after all it is a piece of fiction and not a documentary. In that respect, no it doesn't reflect the real world as it glosses over all the minutiae and red tape and sometimes even laws of physics in order to show what they want to show. And the audience accepts that - because very few people are interested in a story about real world minutiae and red tape. We don't want to have to watch a scene where Buffy explains what this dead body is to the cops and how come it's got horns and green skin every time she kills a demon. We want the story. The cops are just a device to be used in the story to add obstacles or solve problems when they are wanted and ignored the rest of the time as they would ruin the narrative flow.

However, T.V shows aren't written and produced in a vacuum. They are written by people who are a part of society and are therefore writing within the parameters of the world they know, even if they bend those parameters a little. So we see current values in society reflected back at us in T.V shows, we see the prejudices and the stereotypes that seep in and we see the attempts to overcome them. The stories are always set in a world that is recognisable as our own society - even when it's supposed to be a completely different world, like in Game of Thrones, we see parallels of things we know about and have or recognise from our shared history. So in that respect they do reflect the society we live in.

I'd say T.V more reflects our collective values (good and bad) than the physical reality of the world though. We decide through a character's actions whether they are a goodie or a baddie and that is determined on what we - as a society - have determined to be good or bad. And it is easy to check how that changes by the way our opinions on characters from older shows are different to what they used to be, and how the comment 'you wouldn't get away with that now' is often used.

I think having the cops there or how long it takes to travel some place are different to showing the way people think. Having x institution work exactly as it does in reality means stifling the fiction, therefore you bend the rules to tell the story. It's only incidental so it just gets hand waved over. When people say T.V reflects society they're talking about less physical and more intangible things - like the way it reflects racism or sexism or gender roles etc. And they end up in there whether the writers meant them to be there or not because they are a part of society and this stuff is the fabric society is made up of - it is unavoidable.
The big issue with this is Faith which was attempted murder. Buffy stabbed a girl and is never questioned by the Police. When Faith wakes up she is instantly wanted and no one ever stops to ask her who stabbed her even when she turns herself in.
 
ILLYRIAN
ILLYRIAN
Good point.

DeadlyDuo

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So - if the story requires someone to be able to shoot something and then get away without the hassle of having to dodge the cops, then you just don't write the cops in the scene - after all it is a piece of fiction and not a documentary. In that respect, no it doesn't reflect the real world as it glosses over all the minutiae and red tape and sometimes even laws of physics in order to show what they want to show. And the audience accepts that - because very few people are interested in a story about real world minutiae and red tape. We don't want to have to watch a scene where Buffy explains what this dead body is to the cops and how come it's got horns and green skin every time she kills a demon. We want the story. The cops are just a device to be used in the story to add obstacles or solve problems when they are wanted and ignored the rest of the time as they would ruin the narrative flow.
We see Buffy disposing of a demon body by burying it, which is when she said something along the lines of having a newfound appreciation of vampires turning to dust when they get staked.

In regards to cops not turning up to shootings, either they have to be called by a third party which gives the shooter character time to leave the scene before the cops show up, or nobody calls the cops so they are unaware that a shooting has even taken place.

However, T.V shows aren't written and produced in a vacuum. They are written by people who are a part of society and are therefore writing within the parameters of the world they know, even if they bend those parameters a little. So we see current values in society reflected back at us in T.V shows, we see the prejudices and the stereotypes that seep in and we see the attempts to overcome them. The stories are always set in a world that is recognisable as our own society - even when it's supposed to be a completely different world, like in Game of Thrones, we see parallels of things we know about and have or recognise from our shared history. So in that respect they do reflect the society we live in.
That's true, though some shows do miss the mark and come across as "woke" because of being too heavy handed with an issue which turns people off. "Go woke, go broke" is a well known phrase for a reason.

I'd say T.V more reflects our collective values (good and bad) than the physical reality of the world though. We decide through a character's actions whether they are a goodie or a baddie and that is determined on what we - as a society - have determined to be good or bad. And it is easy to check how that changes by the way our opinions on characters from older shows are different to what they used to be, and how the comment 'you wouldn't get away with that now' is often used.
Also the values of the audience can sometimes differ from that of the writers which is why some characters are absolutely hated by the audience yet loved by the writers.

Also, female on male rape tends to be glossed over in television and film, in comparison to male on female rape eg if you look at how the Buffy episodes Dead things (Warren/Katrina) and Seeing Red (Spuffy) treated male on female ATTEMPTED rape, then compare it to how OUAT (a show that started airing almost a decade later, ran for 7 seasons, and had several Buffy connections) treated ACTUAL female on male rape (two of those females were considered good guys by the end of the series) then that is an issue that certainly needs to be addressed.

Also another issue is what type of role do you give characters that belong to "special" groups eg if you have a gay villain character, are you vilifying gay people or are you being equal opportunity by having a gay character play any role rather than just a "good guy"?

I think having the cops there or how long it takes to travel some place are different to showing the way people think. Having x institution work exactly as it does in reality means stifling the fiction, therefore you bend the rules to tell the story. It's only incidental so it just gets hand waved over. When people say T.V reflects society they're talking about less physical and more intangible things - like the way it reflects racism or sexism or gender roles etc. And they end up in there whether the writers meant them to be there or not because they are a part of society and this stuff is the fabric society is made up of - it is unavoidable.
Wasn't there a season of Game of Thrones where all one character did that season was basically walking from one place to another?

The big issue with this is Faith which was attempted murder. Buffy stabbed a girl and is never questioned by the Police. When Faith wakes up she is instantly wanted and no one ever stops to ask her who stabbed her even when she turns herself in.
It's possible that the police tried to investigate but had no evidence (since Faith was the only witness and in a coma), then when she woke up Faith didn't say who stabbed her hence why there are no consequences for Buffy. Also Faith was probably a wanted person in Season 3 but was protected by the Mayor. With the Mayor gone, Faith was now fair game.
 

Myheadsgonenumb

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ILLYRIAN Cordelia may have been given permission, we don't know.

Her line as she is shown around the house by the realtor is 'first thing I'm gonna do is knock out that wall' ... she hasn't spoken to the landlord yet (Doyle found the apartment through one of his guys - it isn't even listed yet), never mind discussed knocking walls down with them. She's only just seen the house, she couldn't possibly have known there was a wall she wanted removing before she entered the apartment and she has not discussed major renovations with anyone in authority since she went inside. We do know. Of course we know. It's the writers ignoring reality in order to tell a story, but that's fine because the story isn't about signing lease agreements it's about a haunted apartment.

We see Buffy disposing of a demon body by burying it, which is when she said something along the lines of having a newfound appreciation of vampires turning to dust when they get staked.
That happens once in seven seasons (it's the wish) They ignore all the rest of the time because burying detail has no bearing on the story. Even if Buffy is supposed to be burying the bodies, we never see it and there is not always time allowed for her to have actually done that between one scene and the next. Which is fine - because my point is they don't waste screen time getting bogged down in non story relevant mundanity. Like we don't see her have breakfast every single day and nobody ever goes to the toilet - these things must be happening, but they have no bearing on the story so it doesn't get included.
It's the same with police - we see them turn up at the end of school hard, we see emergency services after the snake infestation, and the police are handily on campus when Buffy finds Kendra. They find Katrina's body in the river within minutes of Spike dumping it. They are obviously out there doing their job but they only get shown when it becomes plot relevant, because otherwise they are taking screen time away from the actual story. And when the show doesn't want them around it has 'the police of Sunnydale are deeply stupid' to conveniently fall back on as to why some stuff never gets followed up. And that's fine - because it's Buffy not Law and Order. The police are not the point.

To link it back to the original question. Buffy as a show reflects society (perhaps the society of it's day) because it reflects back to us the experiences of growing up, the dangers and the pitfalls and the predators as well as the good stuff, the friendships, the yearning for more freedom, first loves etc. You can transplant any set of characters to any setting imaginable and tell a story which will reflect something that the audience can relate to on an emotional level because even when the setting is fantastic, the friendships and the heartache and the fear and the joy and the moral dilemmas are all things we recognise.
Buffy doesn't NOT reflect society because the police are not especially visible. That is simply a convenience of fiction and one everyone accepts because they are watching a work of fiction and not a documentary. At the other end of the spectrum you could say Law and Order doesn't reflect society because it ONLY shows police and criminals... but that's because that is what the show is about. A show tells the story it wants to tell, the focus of it and the amount the real world impinges on that story will depend on how 'gritty' and 'realistic' the writers want that to be - and the audience recognise, going in, whether they're watching gritty realism or lighthearted fantasy or something in between. But every show is a product of society and it can't be said to not reflect that society just because it relies heavily on narrative convenience - to think that seems to be missing the point of what the statement 'T.V shows reflect the society they are made in' actually means.
 

Myheadsgonenumb

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That's true, though some shows do miss the mark and come across as "woke" because of being too heavy handed with an issue which turns people off. "Go woke, go broke" is a well known phrase for a reason.
I'd argue though that even attempts to be woke reflect part of society. The absolute tyranny of the "progressive" left is a part of society - whether it's one you like or not and either being woke or attempting to write something woke to pander to a woke audience reflects where society is now. When a show is being altered to fit behind the scenes politics then it reflects those politics and those politics are a part of society... so it reflects society, even if what it reflects is how divided we are and how massive the gap is between 'ordinary' people and people in some form of power.
 

ILLYRIAN

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DeadlyDuo in reply NO:4 you wrote that some shows miss the mark and come across as "woke"
I have never heard the term "woke" so can you explain it so that I can follow what you mean.

Thanks in advance.
 

Myheadsgonenumb

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@ILLYRIAN "woke" is a word for being liberal and progressive but arguably to a ridiculous degree. It comes from the idea of being 'awake' and 'aware' of all forms and systems of oppression and always being hyper aware of how what you might be saying might be offensive or classified as a 'microagression'. Those who consider themselves to be 'woke' think 'woke' is a good thing, those who aren't 'woke' use the word in a similar way to the use of the word 'snowflake' as a sort of insult.

It's essentially one side of the culture war. The Trumpian fundamentalist right being the other side. Most people are actually in the centre, but no one listens to them. These days T.V shows tend to be 'woke' because Hollywood leans left.
 

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I think this thread has become too much about politics and about people trying to use this subject to bash the left (there is a politics thread remember), rather than discussing the topic at hand. The term WOKE is offensive and people need to stop using it.

Don't forget TV has had a much better record on diversity compared with film for the best part of 20 years. Look at a show like Six Feet Under. That's a diverse show with generally well written characters and powerful themes which is clearly about the quality of the drama and not just ticking boxes. My point on it is the producers can treat it as a box ticking thing as long as the writers and directors don't.

As for the main question? Well its a bit of both really. Like pretty much any art the point of TV is reflect some sort of reality, whilst putting its own twist on it. Its about asking new questions with a everyday situation or to use a fantastical setting or set of rules to look at everyday themes. If you look at a show which big appeal is its escapism like The Gilmore Girls a lot of the issues the characters go through are things people go through in their everyday lives. Another thing to say is that the shows which tend to be too close to reality are the most boring and leave you with nothing to talk about. Its that sense of, well I'll just watch a documentary or stick my head out the window.
 

DeadlyDuo

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The term WOKE is offensive and people need to stop using it.
Is it though? It's a descriptive word to describe someone or something that is so immersed in identity politics that it is basically lecturing people on their "failure" to feel the same way and telling them what to think. Several Doctor Who episodes lectured people at the end with its "message", particularly the plastics in the ocean episode. Blue Planet 2 did a much better job of raising the issue without patronising the audience.

Don't forget TV has had a much better record on diversity compared with film for the best part of 20 years.
Television has the time to introduce various characters from diverse backgrounds across a whole season whereas films tend to have a condensed time of two hours. Imagine trying to fit the entirety of Buffy season 2 into two hours, you'd have to drop certain episodes and characters. For example, you'd need to keep the entirety of the episode Passion because it shows Angelus' evil mind games plus Jenny's death plus Buffy coming to terms that she would have to kill Angel but that is already 40 minutes out of your 2 hour screen time. School Hard is another episode you would need to keep as it establishes Spike and Dru's characters as threats to Buffy whilst also killing off the anointed one, that's another 40 minutes (though you could probably trim several minutes here and there from that episode) out of 2 hours which would leave you with only 40 minutes left during which you need to have the restoration ritual plus Buffy and Angel sleeping together. Kendra would probably be cut from the entire thing because her role is not important enough to be there, her two main functions in Season 2 are to put Angel in a cage and to get killed by Drusilla so Buffy gets accused of murder.

Look at a show like Six Feet Under. That's a diverse show with generally well written characters and powerful themes which is clearly about the quality of the drama and not just ticking boxes. My point on it is the producers can treat it as a box ticking thing as long as the writers and directors don't.
There's a difference though between a well written show that just so happens to tick boxes, and a show that's written to tick boxes. Look at the proposed Buffy reboot, all that anyone has been told is that the new Buffy will be black. They could've just announced a new Buffy show and the actress eventually cast to be Buffy just so happened to be black, however by leading with "Buffy is gong to be black", it makes it seem like the whole sum of the exercise which is essentially box ticking. Also it creates the unfortunate implication that fans don't want a new show with a black Buffy, rather than it just being that fans don't want a new show.

As for the main question? Well its a bit of both really. Like pretty much any art the point of TV is reflect some sort of reality, whilst putting its own twist on it. Its about asking new questions with a everyday situation or to use a fantastical setting or set of rules to look at everyday themes. If you look at a show which big appeal is its escapism like The Gilmore Girls a lot of the issues the characters go through are things people go through in their everyday lives. Another thing to say is that the shows which tend to be too close to reality are the most boring and leave you with nothing to talk about. Its that sense of, well I'll just watch a documentary or stick my head out the window.
Agreed. I also think it gives space to address issues without being in people's faces about it. You want to get people thinking about an issue without telling them "you should be thinking this about this issue".
 

AlphaFoxtrot

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The Apostle Paul once wrote of the Christian mysteries “What we now see in a mirror darkly, we shall soon see face to face.” It is important though, to remember that in AD 50, Mirrors were polished silver, which was a low fidelity of version of what we know today. But I think, a mirror darkly, or a faded photo, or even a shadow is the best metaphor. What you see on television resembles society but should never be understood as “real.” Even documentarians cannot capture the thousands of hours of shooting it takes to get one 90-minute film.

This would not even been an issue if we were discussing Stage theater, or a Radio Play, but motion pictures have such a strong suspension of disbelief, that is it’s an issue.
 

Ethan Reigns

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There was a TV documentary many years ago based on the book "An Empire of Their Own / How the Jews Invented Hollywood" that captures a lot of what went on in Hollywood studios and how it all got transplanted into television. (Note: I am not anti-Semitic. Many of my friends in university including the best man at my wedding were Jewish.)

It starts with the Jewish experience in America, arriving as immigrants, frequently poor and fatherless and trying to fit in. They were rejected by traditional business so they thought they would try their luck in the new business of movies. They were usually not Orthodox Jews (who started a short-lived movie industry in New York featuring mainly Jewish culture and subjects). They had seen harsh governments before so they tended to go toward the liberal rather than conservative side of politics and this affected the stories they told. They eschewed the morality play type of movie for something more nuanced and less predictable. They were not going to be the ones producing "The Perils of Pauline" with the girl tied to the railway tracks by Snidely Whiplash. Instead, they made America in their own image of what the future should be and America largely followed their lead. Interesting trivia: Louis Gasnier, the director of The Perils of Pauline (1914) later did "Reefer Madness".

I have a book on my bookshelf behind the computer, "The Craft of the Screenwriter" which follows the careers and ideas of six screenwriters, five of whom are nominally Jewish. The question the OP raises is whether TV shows reflect society and to a large extent, they do, but society also reflects screenwriters' leads. Many people aspired to be like the heroes they see in movies and on television so there was a constant cross-fertilization of ideas between culture-at-large and the movies and television.
 

Btvs fan

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You only have to look at older stuff. Back in the 40's to 60's you've got John Wayne movies where he's killing them Injuns and taking there land and its portrayed as cool.

Even further back you've got the movie Birth of a Nation about the KKK and which President Woodrow Wilson claimed was the most realistic movie he'd ever seen :oops:

Even Joss says now he'd make Willow as Bi whereas back then he had to make her gay and that's it
 

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I think it depends on what your society is, of course I don't actually watch anything, so am the wrong person to really answer this. However I think it's the demographic that the shows are written for that is trying to be reflected. If you're writing a show for teenagers than their view of society is going to be different to if they are writing a show aimed at the over 60s.
 
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ILLYRIAN

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I'm not surprised by what you said, I didn't think you were that old that you would remember the last time you adopted a dragon.
Actual zombies a quite nice people, I can tell you what its like living upside down - I live at the bottom of the world as such I need to have telekinesis, how else do you think I keep my feet on the ground!
 
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Buffy Summers

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Back in the 40's to 60's you've got John Wayne movies where he's killing them Injuns and taking there land and its portrayed as cool.
That's an oversimplification. There are plenty of John Wayne films where racism against indigenous Americans is called out and/or where they are shown as overpowering and win the battle. McClintock and Fort Apache come easily to mind. It wasn't all good, but wasn't all bad either.
 
ILLYRIAN
ILLYRIAN
I agree.

ILLYRIAN

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Many times I've watched as automatic gunfire and explosions happen yet the police are never seen IE: that start of RED.

To Buffy Summers, about your reply to Btvs fan.
John Wayne is just the actor he does what the Director dictates and he says what the Scriptwriter writes. As far as I'm concerned what the film states isn't John Waynes viewpoint.
 
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