Monday, April 15, 2013
The glorification of bad characters on Television
Have you watched television recently? Or plug in your tablet, computer, smart phone to catch up on shows? Then like me you must have noticed the latest trend: glamorized bad characters. Yes the new black on TV is not to kill leading roles anymore, but it is to portray bad characters. A few examples to support my statement:
House, a doctor who will go to any means necessary to diagnose and treat his patients. Admirable you say, except that this doctor is popping pills he steals from the hospital, does not hesitate to lie and cheat but also treats any other human beings around him (colleagues, interns and patients) poorly to say the least.
Then comes Dexter who murders criminals. He seems to be some kind of an avenger but isn't he just another sociopath serial killer.
In a more superficial world, we have Serena Van der Woodsen and Blair Waldorf of Gossip girls who schemes to get their way in the Upper East side.
My personal favorite is Olivia Pope, the talented problem fixer who will go to any length to save his clients from scandals and such. She would be lovely except from the fact that she often breaks the law to help her clients, that she helped rigged the votes that got the president elected, that the later is her on again off again lover, that she will sabotage the lives of people around her particularly those who are unstable just to protect her secret.
I could go on and on presenting examples after examples of bad characters on television that we secretly or openly admire and love. But there is no need because you get my point.
TV used to be about good guys and bad guys. At the end of the show, a bad guy was apprehended, put in jail or just avenged. Like the little stories we study at school, or read before bedtime, there was a lesson to be learned at the end of the plot: if you are bad, you loose. Now, the lesson is that if you are bad, you are a winner.
What scares me the most about this new trend is that it is not about to die down. And it is our fault, us viewers. We barely seek fairy tales and happy endings. We want hard core, mind blowing dramas on TV. We start to watch those characters and deep down we think: "My GOD, how can they do that?" But soon enough we are hooked on them so much that we stalk the future episodes and create chat rooms to discuss their behavior. We are in epic withdrawal if we miss an episode or two.
One of the reasons why we are so into those characters is that even if they are rotten to the core, they are appealing to us because the writers of the show make them vulnerable. They are not only bad, the also have a heart. They have someone they love, and someone who loves them no matter what. They may lie and steal and kill to gain power but they seek companionship, romance. They are just like us, other human beings (at least that is what writers of the shows want us to believe.) Who can resist the torn, lost, passionate yet sad look on Olivia Pope's face when she sees the President. Her eyes convey so much love and yearning that we cannot help but fall in love with this sinner. We know that what she is doing is wrong but isn't everything fair in love and war.
There is also another interesting fact: watching those characters go down that route makes us feel better about ourselves. We look at them and think: I will never do that. Or we think how pathetic they are. How many times have you watch Real Housewives or Basketball wives and laughed at, pitted those women for their lack of class. There is something fascinating in watching a wreck as it is happening. It makes us feel happier about our drama free lives.
But there is a danger in letting this trend take its course. If it was only for pure entertainment, it would have been interesting. Unfortunately many people are started to be influenced by those TV characters. I am referring to the younger generation who see the cast of Jersey Shore or Blair as role models. What are they going to learn about the world: that it is okay to be bad as long as we are having fun or gaining power. What will happen to values then? Will we all live in a world where human decency has disappeared? You may think that I am exaggerating but if you see what my country had become after cable TV arrived and we got introduced to all kinds of American TV shows (combined with economic problems and structural reforms), you would understand. Let us just say that my neighborhood was never the same after Beverly Hills 90210.
It is true that we cannot only blame TV. Once again, actors are no role models. We have to take actions and limit the amount of garbage the children are exposed to on TV. As parents, we also have to educate our kids by giving them values and make them understand that being bad is not the way to go even if it seems cool on TV. It all starts at home they say. So parents, if you want your children to have a good and solid tomorrow, turn off the TV now (at least until they are off to bed).