ERIC Number: EJ939716
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2004
Reference Count: 9
Angel on My Shoulder: "Angels in America," "In America," "Monster," "American Idol," and "The Apprentice"
Multicultural Perspectives, v6 n4 p33-36 2004
Culture offers people suggestions for dealing with life's vicissitudes, and people find different suggestions in different cultures. In a multicultural society, they have a variety of alternatives to choose among: ethnicities, regionalisms, lifestyles, religious movements, occupations, hobbies, and more. In American society, the groups that are distinguished from one another in their cultural diversity nevertheless are usually deeply involved in the common American pursuit of prosperity, respect, and freedom to realize plans and dreams. One of the ways subcultures differ is in the prescriptions for striving, achieving, succeeding, and failing in those pursuits. As usual, people select cultural models for handling these real-life challenges by consulting images from movies and television. The power of these centralized media sources to shape people's ideas comes from the attention people pay willingly to such images. Those images are chosen by movie makers from a diverse menu of cultural possibilities. They, in turn, try to reach "The Audience" as they understand it. Popular stories do not always present a generous picture of their main characters, but they allow people to identify with them enough to be interested in how and why they do what they do. However, which characters do people identify with? In the dramas about striving that Americans find so fascinating, people may identify with those who strive (the classical approach) or those who decide the fates of the strivers (the contemporary approach). The former way is immediately understandable. People who strive seek out stories about characters who strive. On the other hand, what is so interesting about being in the position of a judge? The poignancy of this question is even sharper when people realize that the role of a judge includes, most especially, the opportunity to condemn and find fault. How different in tone are the numerous reality shows in current television programming. The inventiveness of producers is expressed in the variety of grotesque tests and challenges imposed on zealous competitors in contests that involve the greatest aspirations of contemporary life: (1) marriage; (2) prosperity; and (3) fame. This article discusses three recent productions that invite identification with afflicted main characters--"In America," "Monster" and "Angels in America"--and two reality shows--"American Idol" and "The Apprentice."
Descriptors: Subcultures, Cultural Awareness, Programming (Broadcast), Cultural Pluralism, Popular Culture, Mass Media Effects, Didacticism, Identification (Psychology), Film Study, Modeling (Psychology), Literary Criticism
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Adult Education
Authoring Institution: N/A