Is TV the right place for politics?
Many television shows and movies released recently steer the audience in a more political direction. Shows like Scandal and House of Cards offer us an insider’s view into the reality of what goes on in the White House on a daily basis. However, the television show that has caught the attention of most people is the new season of American Horror Story that is centered on the election.
As the nation becomes more politically oriented and polarized, television must follow in order to stay current and entertaining. These shows feature the inside of many different aspects of the government, keeping them all interesting in different ways. While shows like Scandal show what goes on behind the curtain of politics, other shows like The Court and House of Cards show the inner workings of the legislative and judicial branches of government.
One of the reasons that these shows have become so popular is that they haven’t been overdone to a large extent. While there are plenty of shows about police officers, lawyers, and doctors, there are very few that feature the president or members of Congress. These shows gather so much attention that make some of the biggest fans the very politicians that they are about. For example, Vice President Joe Biden appeared on an episode of Parks and Recreation, purely due to his enjoyment of the show. These politicians are cast in very likable positions due to the humanizing and laughable effect that it gives them.
However, some must start to wonder whether it is now harder for story writers to do their jobs, when the stories they used to write are becoming a reality under the presidency of Donald Trump. The writers in Hollywood are supposed to cater to the the drama and action that allows us to escape. Now they must change the way that they orient the shows to accommodate what has become the new political field in America. They have to make sure that the episodes that they write don’t look like the news. “We had the Hollis Doyle character, who we made up as the craziest person to ever run for president. He was very Trump-like.”, says Shonda Rhimes, creator of White House drama, Scandal.
Some shows, such as Madam Secretary, follow current events more closely and have to try to write their episode ahead of the news curve. It seems uncanny at times the way that television show writers are able to predict some of the events that come to pass. There are other shows, such as Family Guy, written about a week before aired that are able to pull from the current headlines in order keep every week’s episodes relevant. This show addressed the capture of Saddam Hussein in the very same week that the military operation occurred in a way that was both innovative and hilarious. This enables it to both appeal to the general audience and educate at the same time.
Writers felt more comfortable writing shows that may have been more outrageous and had more worst case scenarios when that was not the reality outside of these shows. “That was based on a world in which Obama was president and our audience was happy about what was going on in Washington and they felt optimistic. You can always tell any horror story you want when the light is on. But now the lights are off, and now I think people don’t want to watch horror stories, they want you to light a candle somewhere.”, says Shonda Rhimes.
There are those who argue that political cinema often embraces a liberal point of view more often than a conservative one. It has been proven that the most frequent moviegoers tend to be Democrats and the apolitical. Therefore, it would make sense to present ideas in a more liberally biased viewpoint in order to appeal to their audience.
There is also another painfully obvious reason that entertainment has been steered towards political viewpoints. Young adults are one of the least voting populations in the United States. In a time, where every vote makes a difference in the future of our country, voting is more important than ever. Having these TV shows and movies pertain to politics captures the attention of the audience that needs to be targeted in order to increase voting.
But cinema is also being used as propaganda to steer the audience’s political views. The University of Notre Dame did a study on how cinema influences political attitudes. It found that after watching movies like The Rainmaker, that provide a message on healthcare, viewers’ support for the Affordable Care Act increased. These movies can change standpoints, validate pre-existing ones, or force people to create a new one altogether.