Reaction Paper 1
Perspectives on Television
Symbols of status: iPhones, iPads, massive homes with huge payments, designer footwear,designer bags and lets not forget the massive SUV’s, advertised as built to maneuver on rough terrain and made for soccer moms. The general concept is to tell members of society that bigger is better; be it the price or the product. Television, when they first appeared, was a sign of status; perhaps in many ways, they are still symbolic of a persons place in society. However, when anyone can drive through rural areas, and see on practically every dilapidated home, a satellite dish, television has become something more.
Sociologists “study the influence that society has on people’s attitudes and behavior and the ways in which people interact and shape society” (Schaefer 6). There are three ways in which a Sociologist will view society and it’s elements. The first is the perspective of a functionalist who views society as a system, with a unified structure, while the second, conflict perspective looks at who is in control that is constantly causing conflict. Last is the interactionist perspective that “generalizes about everyday forms of social interaction in order to explain society as a whole” (Schaefer 15).
Functionalist View The functionalist will ask: what is the role of television in our society and what purpose does it serve?The functionalistview society as a living organism in which each part of the organism contributes to its survival. This perspective emphasizes the way in which the parts of a society are structures to maintain its stability (Schaeffer13). The functionalist also will look at manifest and latent functions as well as dysfunction (see fig. 1).Manifest functions are those that “involve the intended, recognized consequences of an aspect of society” (Schafer 14). The functions would be:
Television provides entertainment.
Television passes values and social norms from generation to generation.
Television delivers information by way of news and educational programming. Advertising is also a form of information that helps the economy by promoting industry and goods.
Television fosters consumption that helps the economy.
Fig. 1 Table illustrating latent function and dysfunction of television
People and mostly children spend too much time watching television.
Not enough physical activity, causing obesity in children which brings up health concerns and self-esteem issues.
Promotes consumption with advertising.
Environmental concerns of industry and consumerism and also, people incurring debt that often ends in bankruptcy.
Promotes unrealistic idea of beauty and perfection for our youth.
Eating disorders, body image issues, low self-esteem and an overall feeling of never measuring up to the constant pictures of perfection.
The dominant concept of the conflict view is that “people are shaped by power and coercion” (page 16). The conflict theorist will see television as an outlet and a tool to gain control over individuals and society. At the root of this perception is the idea that people are fighting over resources which creates divisions and conflict. One major theory of the conflict view is that of gatekeeping, which is defined as a select few who dictate what is allowed to be seen by the