Marathoning “Political” Television

From Chris Ferrin:

Although election season is over and everyone has had their fill, I’m sure, of political talk, my recent experience interning on a campaign had me thinking about politics in everyday life.  This became relevant to media marathoning when I read a Maclean’s article about the recent trend of political shows that are appearing on TV these days.  What is particularly interesting about these shows is that they touch upon a subject that is often an area of dispute and controversy. (Political beliefs can certainly create heated discussions.)  The reason, according to the article, that this subject is appealing for television producers is that often politics has “built-in dramatic tension.”  This stems from the fact that any political candidate has a lot of pressure on them, as he or she is the focus of intense scrutiny, so anything wrong that candidate does has the potential to be amplified immensely.  This same reason can also make for a good comedy, such as a political character trying to keep embarrassing secrets hidden for example.

While there certainly seem to be good reasons to produce a political show, the question becomes what does portraying this subject do for the audience?  If a person is marathoning a political show, such as Newsroom or even Parks and Recreation, and he or she is consistently exposed to a certain message or view, could this affect how that individual thinks about real life politics?  The article mentions that there could be positives, such as removing party lines or portraying political figures as “human,” or negatives, such as causing people to become cynical.  In terms of media marathoning it makes one think about the consequences of being exposed to a continuous message in a show we consistently watch, political or otherwise, and how that might affect us in our everyday lives.

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9 thoughts on “Marathoning “Political” Television

  1. I don’t personally watch many political shows but I can definitely understand the connection you’ve made here. I like this idea of “humanizing” political figures via dramatic series in particular. This concept seems to fall right in line with our discussion on morally ambiguous characters for me. In life, I think it’s easy to develop hard and fast criteria by which to judge those we find amoral. When you get an insider’s look at those amoral people, through a TV show for example, you begin to see the complexities that make that judgement process much more gray than it is black and white. In my opinion this is one of the most beneficial pieces of television viewing. Morally ambiguous characters (or semi-human political figures) allow us to view the world that we know from different perspectives. Political or not, it still has the power to change our outlook on things.

  2. I do think that shows with political narratives have the potential to affect a viewer’s opinion, especially when the political show is marathoned. For one, characters on these shows are (for the most part) fictional and the viewers are able to get to know them on a personal level. As much as we think we know the people we voted for, we don’t get to see them behind closed doors. Narratives like The West Wing and Political Animals give us that interesting opportunity. The news only gives us the President’s decisions; narratives give us the events and reasons leading up to those decisions. Also, TV shows make politics…less political. When Leslie Knope advocates for sex education on Parks and Rec, it’s not preachy or heavy-handed; it’s hilarious. Her intense love of Pawnee does not seem like a politician going through the motions; it seems sincere because the audience knows her character truly believes in her hometown. All in all, marathoning political shows is much more fun than following actual politics, and definitely has an effect on the audience. I know I feel much more positive about the state of the country when the politics are fictionalized.

  3. I say yes. Being exposed to a certain point of view through media that one watches continuously can change one’s mind set to fit the opinion of what is being said on the program. Even outside of media, if someone is constantly being exposed to a specific opinion, that opinion could have the potential to become their own. During the presidential debate there are always certain news networks that obviously take a side. If a person watches a news network that obviously pushes for Arnold Schwarzenegger to become the president, there’s a good chance that devoted viewers might also want Arnold to become president due to the persuasion of the network.
    I’m gonna go a teeny-tiny bit off-topic here…
    We could also take this a step farther and say that certain character’s on un-political shows that are connected to a subject of political debate could have the potential to change our political beliefs. We could look at Glee, a musical performance comedy-drama known for openly accepting homosexuality. Someone who marathons Glee and doesn’t support homosexuality might have a para-social relationship with the openly gay character Kurt. Most of the time, If you love a character, that character can do no wrong in your eyes and therefore everything they do is right. So that person with the para-social relationship with Kurt might change their opinion on the debate of LGBT rights.
    On the other hand, we could turn this on its head and say maybe these shows draw people in because of the politics they are expressing and not changing the opinion but reassuring the individual that their side of the debate is the right one. Maybe Johnny No-Name marathons a TV show that is about Arnold Schwarzenegger being the president because he really wants Arnold be president in real-life. People are drawn to their already implanted beliefs.

  4. Like Carissa, I don’t watch many shows that have to do with politics. The one show I do watch, Boardwalk Empire is about a corrupt treasurer of Atlantic. I don’ know that watching this show would change my political views, but it would make me think more about who or what policies I vote for because the show brings the “hush” of corruption to the forefront. For some people who have developed para social relationships with these characters and change their decisions based on that character or the person who plays the character, I think It could be a problem if they are so easily influenced. I definitely agree with Rachel when she says watching political shows instead of actual real politics is much more entertaining for me because it is all in fun and their is not so much on the line.

  5. It is rally interesting you bring the concept up about marathoning political shows or debates because it remind me of marathoning texts we wouldn’t necessarily think of, like music. Especially during the last few weeks of the election did I find myself semi-marathoning the debates. Although I wouldn’t consider it marathoning in terms of how we describe it in our class, I found myself watching the debates, listening to the news and searching the internet for more information about the candidates and what they bring to the table. This is just as I would do for any other marathoner texts. Though I wasn’t watching to the debates, etc. in a sequential order within a week’s time frame, I was able to go beyond the text to further my marathoning which I find interesting. What’s also really interesting is that my boyfriend and his brothers marathoner a text called “Newsroom”, which is a series about a political news station that struggles to report what they believe is as opposed to what they are suppose to be censoring to the public sphere. I only was able to watch the first two episodes due to travel but it was an extremely interesting and compelling show that fits into this genre of political marathoning.

  6. Like some, I don’t watch many shows that involve politics. I have watched a few episodes of the TV show Parks and Rec, and I agree with Rachel’s opinion on the show. Because the show has fictional characters, adding politics doesn’t make it uptight, but actually puts politics in a different category of comedy, which is something that I believe a lot of other “stuffy” subjects, should do. If there were actual political figures in the show, I think that people wouldn’t enjoy it as much because why wouldn’t they just turn on the news? In the end, marathoning a text that has to do with politics should definitely include fictional characters because it makes the subject more of a light one and could actually get people (like myself) to develop an interest in politics. Politics paired with humor is the perfect stepping-stone for me to begin researching more on actual politics throughout the world.

  7. Like many others who have replied to Chris’ blog post, I do not watch many shows that involve politics. I do agree with Rachel when we stated that watching politics in a narrative format makes them less political or formal you might add. All in all, I do see the connection between media marathoning and politics and definitely see how people could marathon presidential debates and such and then pursue further information about a candidate via the web. I actually think nowadays people gather information about politics and candidates more so through the web and social media so I think that marathoning debates, for example, is a positive because it could lead people to find more information about a candidate and their political views. To me, marathoning opens up a whole new world, it allows a person to not be subjected to one text.
    I also agree that people’s political views can be dependent on a person’s views in a narrative that they marathon. Hence, we adapt other people’s views. I consider this to be a negative because I think a person should watch the debates and research a candidate’s views and what they intend to do while in office before making a decision about who to vote for. I feel that people find it so much easier to adapt other people’s opinions instead of formulating their own (i.e. we are lazy).

  8. What a creative idea! I think this has a lot of good points, and it makes me think: are politcal ads an uninvited marathon? During the election season every single commercial break had multiple politcal ads running, many times, one after another. This has created a negative effect on the way people view elections and sometimes, even makes a person shut off the TV set in general. As for the idea that parks and rec or another politcal sitcom/tv show can shape a viewers ideas about what politics do and what issues are important, I think you’re right. I am reading an article right now for some research on the Marathoning final paper about how people who watch TV shows that give an oppinion on therapy or show therapists in a certain light, tend to seek professional help or not seek professional help based on that assumption. It’s very interesting stuff and I think this topic of politics goes the same way!

  9. while i do think watching a show can alter one’s political views, i don’t necessarily think it does the same thing for everyone because not everyone gets the same things out of them. there are people out there that could be influenced by Amy Poehler’s character and be pro-big government, or some may liken to Ron Swanson and lean towards the Libertarian Party. Even so, people can take away different things from the smae character; there are people out there that actually think Stephen Colbert is a republican.

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