American’s Cultural Shortcomings

Inevitably, American entertainment has changed over the last sixty years. While individuals have always been drawn to music and television shows, audiences have become more concerned about what is going on behind the screen rather than focusing their attention on a story or album produced. The drama that resides on the outside of our simple pleasures may be something we find most complicated and intriguing with the in-vogue artist or actor.

In 1956, several of the most popular titles in television were I Love Lucy; The Twilight Zone; and Gunsmoke. Such television shows were based around simple family life; uncomplicated tales that ended variously tragic or comedic; and a Marshall who kept peace within a Western town. Unquestionably, American audiences were entertained by fictional life, fantasy, and adventure. The need for personal drama was unnecessary.

Today, many of the most popular television shows are the reality hits. Keeping Up with the Kardashians; Dance Moms; and Total Divas are few of the titles that are some of the highest ranked TV shows in America. Nothing is staged. There are no scripts, props, or storylines. While often these series received poor reviews, the viewers’ numbers grew.

Simply, modern entertainment has become more about the personal side of celebrities who are supposed to bring comfort and understanding. Rather than feel overjoyed at the release of a new hit or premier of a new episode, we are more enthralled with personal details.

What, then, does this say for America?

The decline and change of consumer demand regarding TV shows is most likely due to the availability of personal information. During the late 1950s, the only chance audiences had at learning the secrets of their beloved role models were the gossip columns in magazines. Digital connectivity, blogging, and social media have exploded in the last ten years, however, which has only built bridges in the gaps that used to separate the celebrity from the “common man”.

American virtues have crumbled. Rather than believing in our role models, spectators can’t tear themselves away from what is going on in the life of someone they don’t know personally. It seems individuals are rooting for them to fail because it is more entertaining to watch a tower of blocks tumble than progress. As our virtues have declined, we have begun to display a shallower sense of others.

Reality TV isn’t the only entertainment audiences are obsessed with. Taylor Swift has recently become one of the most targeted celebrities in the media. At just sixteen years old, she made her album debut that became one of the fastest and hottest selling records of all time. With the 2015 release of 1989, her fame exploded into the same elements as that of Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley. She has grown to be one of the most well known celebrities of the century.

A recent split from 15-month running boyfriend Calvin Harris left spectators shocked. Then, just weeks later, rumors circulated that she and British actor Tom Hiddleston were together, leaving audiences both astonished and intrigued. Since then, Swift has been unable to do anything without being in full view of the judgmental public eye.

Audiences manage to explode trivial issues into worldwide concerns. Something as simple as a tweet can turn the media and the rest of the world into an entertained frenzy. Then, we watch and wait for the opposing party to fire back. Regardless, anything anyone does is thoroughly examined for any trace of hidden meaning.

Yet it’s true spectating from the sidelines is far more entertaining than dealing with issues in our own personal lives. Having the world watch and judge every move and know everything about our relationships, absurd shopping sprees, and family turmoil would be enough to send many of us home in tears.

Staying away from drama and maintaining peace in our own worlds would prove to be more prosperous than scrounging for excitement from someone else.

As for Taylor Swift and the Kardashian sisters, may their lives and relationships challenge us to not only give in to the public displays of personal chaos, but allow us to enjoy the privilege of living out from the spotlight and the deeming eyes of the world.

This article was written by McKenna Vietti, a writer for dusk magazine. 


About mckennajanev (16 Articles)
Student, pursuing a journalism career, and dreaming about traveling the world; servant for Christ. Aside from writing I love literature, films, the theater, and my Rottweiler, Raider. :)

4 Comments on American’s Cultural Shortcomings

  1. Natalie Windt // July 27, 2016 at 8:32 pm // Reply

    Definitely what we are drawn to says a lot about who we are. I see parallels and differences. Gunsmoke was an escape in the same way the Kardishians are. Both are fictionalized American Dreams at different angles. But in another sense they speak to where we are in our heads about how we plan to achieve them. In the 50’s we thought it was through action by justice and outlaw west style. Now, in another strange sense, just stumbling upon the west, fame, Kanye? Weird. Trippy!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Natalie Windt // July 27, 2016 at 8:34 pm // Reply

    Also, Lucy and Ricky were kinda the Kimye of their time hehehe


  3. mckennajanev // July 27, 2016 at 8:42 pm // Reply

    I see your point, Natalie. Thank you for the like and the read.
    Mostly what I learned when I researched for this article was not so much how the purpose of our TV shows have changed because we still use them to relax and breathe (thus escape); but rather what we are letting ourselves fill up and think about. Whereas Gunsmoke and Lucy and Ricky had morals and messages that infiltrated through their episodes, the Kardashians are primarily there for the drama. Maybe the decline of modern television is due to the decline of American morality?


  4. I think you’re being fairly selective and not really having a broad analysis.

    There’s always been crap on TV. There were always cheap game shows, for example.

    Reality TV is around for a simple reason: it’s cheap. It’s exactly like old documentary and game show programming.

    To say that people aren’t rooting for success isn’t even fair to those watching reality shows. A lot of people want folks in Survivor, or American Idol, or even Honey Boo-Boo to do well. It’s not all schadenfreude. More importantly, people were rooting for Walter White to succeed, even in the final season. I think that when it comes to reality shows we often relate to the subjects in a more distant documentary-type fashion while when it comes to drama we take on the protagonists’ viewpoint, to a degree that’s remarkable when you have a villain or anti-hero protagonist.


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