Sunday, January 20, 2013

Realty vs. Dreams

After reading sections 1-11 in Peter and Simonson's Mass Communication and American Social Thought, the work of Jane Addams immediately intrigued me for a few reasons. First, was the overall concept of Hull House which she opened in 1889 for new immigrants arriving in Chicago and getting acclimated to live in America and second, her overall views of theater and the impact the stage had on this group of youth. 

Hull House

In "The House of Dreams" Addams explores the dangers of the theater as a place where young people can satisfy the craving for conceptions of life higher than that which the actual world offers them. (Addams) Growing up, children can use their imagination to create scenes with their toys and dolls but as they age, Addams depicts this imagination may come from reading books or for the welfare child, going to the show. As one who loves broadway, I could relate to the feeling you have as the curtains close after a show, being swept up in an imaginary world with new the possibilities, emotions and ideas running through your head that you've never thought before. The problem here is that theater has a strong power that forecasts life for the youth and may create a false image of the real world. 

Is it better to live in complete reality with just the facts or let your imagination run wide and dream the impossible? A modern day issue similar to Addams concerns would be reality television. Millions of viewers now tune in on a weekly basis to watch "real people" put in unique survival, dating and life style circumstances. The rise of realty television is staggering. In 2001-2002, reality TV accounted for about 22% of the prime time TV audience watching the top 10 programs. By 2011, it accounted for 56%, an increase of almost 155% (MarkingCharts) But has realty television consumed our lives and changed the thought process and perception of youth like theater did in the early 1900's?

An extreme example is MTV's series, "16 and Pregnant" where girls are filmed and displayed for the nation to see. What once, would have been deemed immoral and unacceptable in society is now the spotlight of a popular teenage show. While almost every episode showcases the disfunctional lifestyle and hardships, I can't help but wonder how many 16 year olds think by getting pregnant, this could be their ticket onto television and their 15 minutes of fame.  Why are we supporting the mistakes of adolescents and giving them fame instead of pulling this show off the air and focusing the attention into prevention learning? 

How many girls buy every line of Kardashian products just to look and have a lifestyle like Kim, Kourtney and  Khloe? As Addams states, theater is not only a place of amusement, it is a place of culture, a place where people learn how to think, act and feel - much can be said about realty television as well in present day. 

It was also intriguing to read about the beginning of public recreation and the desire for the production of small parks and athletic fields as another outlet of expression for the youth. And what they called "an experiment" at that time is still supported today as a way to keep kids out of trouble, off video games and into exercise and a healthy life style. 

I stated at the beginning I found Hull House very interesting. In fact, the original building still stands today as a national historic museum and tribute to Jane Addams. Check out this modern Hull House website with tons of history, current information, social media outlets and upcoming events regarding topics that Addams would be excited to be teaching today! 



Marketing Charts, Prime Time TV Preferences Shift During Decade, Published Sept. 22, 2011 at  

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