Games and Soaps in a post 9/11 world
[I decided not to post this on the anniversary and hope folks don’t mind if I post it now.]
I have long believed one of the best ways to truly understand a modern society – from an Anthropological standpoint – is not from its art, leaders or religious traditions, but rather its Soaps and Game Shows. This occurred to me in the wake of 9/11 when the Red Cross had stopped rattling its poor cup at America and we were trying to regain a sense of equilibrium. I observed this first on game shows and Soaps.
For starters, neither had a choice in depicting a “Post 9/11 World”; they had a mandate. They absolutely had acknowledge the event occurred and their paradigms absolutely had to shift. Other types of programming had time to consider how and when they would address the event in their content, and on some level most really didn’t do it except in a vaguely lip service way or self serving way.
Game Shows began featuring firefighters and cops. Soaps began featuring storylines alluding to firefighters and cops. Each had to quickly assimilate the new paradigm in the same manner that the rest of us did – one day at a time. Because they had no choice in the matter – given their target demographics – they did a much better job of presenting the material in a much more thoughtful – albeit characteristic to their own stylistic elements and tone – way than the primetime programming, which spent too much time deliberating, before finally taking one of two approaches:
- Make very little about 9/11, like Law & Order, where the Towers falling were mentioned in kind of breezy manner as though the events took place in some distant past and we were all “over it”.
- Make EVERYTHING about 9/11 and as a result coming across like some kind of 9/11 Walter Sobchak.
Presenting the paradigm shift as though it were a dichotomy rather than a continuum is probably helpful in terms of story arc-ing, but not much else.