What TV shows say about culture
We may be thinking and talking about the huge impact that the internet and social media have among society, but television is still the most powerful outlet in terms of propaganda. It is also still the most effective tool to make a huge nation sleepwalk while many life-changing events take place and the future is at stake.
For someone who stopped watching TV five years ago in Turkey, a quick glimpse of today’s TV might give a huge shock. A very well designed circus that’s made for only two purposes; propaganda for politics and manipulation about what really matters in life.
Propaganda and manipulation; these two words do not exist only for the sake of politics, but they also play a huge part in the daily lives of people and popular culture.
After the failed coup of July 15, 2016, Turkish citizens have been living under state of emergency laws. Lately, the Turkish Prime Minister stated that marriage shows on daytime TV will be considered under the state of emergency laws and might be banned soon. Obviously, it’s very unusual to take action about some TV shows under these circumstances; “If one show is considered under these laws, what would happen if the government decides to ban any show that they dislike in the near future?” Turkish citizens ask. Other viewers nod their heads about the government’s involvement.
Let’s take this unusual decision into an opportunity to focus on what’s really been going on TV and how those shows shape culture.
When you try to understand Turkish TV, our best asset is probably Turkish dramas. Remembering the rise of Latin American soap operas in the 80s and 90s, these shows were like an addiction among the international audience, something that they couldn’t stop watching day after day. Today, Turkish dramas have the same effect among Middle Eastern and eastern European viewers. Turkish actors like Kenan İmirzalıoğlu, Kıvanç Tatlıtuğ and actresses such as Beren Saat became international stars in the Middle East.
Aside from well-famed Turkish dramas, Turkish TV has turned into an ugly reality show hell in 15 years. The transformation was quite slow that the viewers were not able to notice the unpleasant change. In a decade, these shows did not only dominate mainstream TV, but also haunted viewers’ perception of real life.
Our world has become a dystopian place that even when there’s a terrorist attack that hurts tens of thousands, even millions physically and mentally, you can see people talking about some annoying contestant on the Turkish Survivor. That tacky “Who wears what better” reality shows have almost become a tool to forget that our life outside home is periodically being terrorized.
Marriage shows have become a replacement for things that really matter; arts, movies, books and everything that allows the development of the humankind.
Just a couple of years ago, politicians were treated as politicians, not pop stars with crazy fans. Awkward relationships and onscreen marriages did not exist. Reality shows were once fun to make and fun to watch because on the one hand there was real life with real matters, and there was show business on the other hand.
Reality shows, currently, are not fun to watch anymore because they’ve become too real. It’s not fun to watch a staged dystopia when you’re already living in one.
When all the “culture” one can get from TV is only derived from slow-paced dramas, celebrity gossip shows, propaganda news and reality show; masses stop thinking. They allow themselves to get consumed by what they see on TV. They lose the sense of what should really matter. They lose their ability to think about their future. They start treating politics the way they treat reality shows.
Once a “guilty pleasure,” when these TV shows became mainstream, they start to become mirror-like structures. Daily conversations become simpler, language starts to decay, and everyone becomes a mirror image of the people that they watch every single day. Masses start to fall apart because they lose the bond, the music, and the shared feeling of something that holds them together.
I am not unhappy of the government’s decision about the marriage shows, to be honest. The way out of this nonsense shouldn’t have been caused by a ban, but this might be an opportunity to create a roadmap to a more responsible broadcasting.
We all hope producers hear the voice of a society that is intellectually sinking because of what they have made us watch for years.