It Must Be Good Television Since…

The majority of television has gained the ability to appeal to the masses and create an even playing field for everyone to enjoy the shows presented. However, although people have a mixed bag of television likes, there is still somewhat of a hierarchy in taste for consumers of this medium. Those who watch reality television or have that “guilty pleasure” show (Here Comes Honey Boo or The Bachelor) are instantly put into a lower rung on the hierarchy. These shows are typically cheap to produce and have are viewed to have little artistry and social commentary to give the consumers. As television becomes more appreciated for its stories and aesthetics, the viewers of lowbrow media have their voices removed from the legitimization of television shows because they are now viewed as socially narrow minded and have little appreciation for “true art.” Those that do not view low brow text put themselves socially above those that do view this text and in turn put the shows they like to watch on this unattainable pedestal.

Independent shows or texts are often placed on this pedestal of true quality and is considered legitimate art because of the content presented and for the aesthetics. These materials often have a specific or controversial social commentary that it is trying to make and so the audience needs to have a clear understanding or knowledge of the point trying to be made. The  independent category usually shows an aspect of education. If educated and respected people praise a piece of work  for its artistry and quality, then it must be of some value to our society. Though we may not fully understand why it it praised, people want to show that they understand a higher or more thought-provoking subject in order to boost their own standings within society.

In the work Legitimating Television by Mike Newman and Lawrence Levine, Levine mentions that art is transformed into something high brow as soon as someone decides the art is “esoteric”, and those who once enjoyed it or understood it are now ostracized by it. I believe this is a good point by Levine, because things like Shakespeare were a common art during its day where the masses could appreciate and enjoy it; however, art changes with the times and the culture, so as culture and language changed over time, Shakespeare became the unattainable to the masses and viewed as a legitimate and essential part to the study of literature. The same concept can be applied to television. A show can be made with a certain generation in mind and it is praised during its time, but as things change the show becomes lost on younger or older generations. A show can be accessible in content, but becomes esoteric based on the cable channel it is put on (HBO, Showtime, etc). Since many people don’t have access to these stations, the work is immediately put out of reach. Another type of esoteric television can be things like the History Channel, where the content can be accessed but the information being given is not relatable with the masses because they have little knowledge or interest in the subject. A show I believe is a good example of esoteric television would be Game of Thrones. Game of Thrones is praised as one of the best shows on television and has a massive cult following making the show truly seem to be a legitimate work of art; however, to those that don’t have HBO, this show a bit out of reach, considering it is not on Netflix. The content is somewhat over the top for many (sex, violence, etc) and the time period in which it is set can be inaccessible to many. Another example could be Doctor Who.  A show that has a great cult following, the content and fandom of the show can scare off a lot of people. Since it is sci-fi, the content is somewhat of a reach and they perhaps feel as though they cannot watch the show unless they become as committed to the show as the rest of the fans.

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2 thoughts on “It Must Be Good Television Since…

  1. Awesome post. I liked your example of Game of Thrones as esoteric television. There seems to be a connection between what is defined as “esoteric” and the strange cult following sort of structure that is associated with it. It is interesting to me that me being a part of this cult, forces me to use HBO Go. This makes it easier to see how this sort of media text isn’t always easily accessible.

  2. I really like how you brought back the idea that you can use your knowledge of popular art/culture to raise your status and tied it into television. Do you think this is why less accessible works are seen as art, because of the limited number of people with the time and ability to see them?

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