Alexa Gibson

Television’s impact on American culture

Television is extremely important to American culture. It is the ‘norm’ to people, and is used on a daily basis. The television is relied on by millions of people; whether it’s used for information, communication, or just for pure entertainment. In my opinion, it’s weird if there isn’t a television in someone’s home. This is because the television is everyone’s hangout spot, no matter if they are watching or not. Whether it’s playing in the background of their conversation, or if the television is the one conversing, people are drawn to the TV. However, the TV isn’t just a decorative piece in your home or a box that shows pictures for entertainment, it has actually resulted in many impacts toward American society; specifically socially, economically, politically, and diplomatically.

Socially, television had impacted television in three ways. First, millions of people rely and use a telelvision on a daily basis. Previous to the introduction of television in homes, many people would find their own forms of entertainment. They didn’t have something to rely on to help pass a few hours if they were bored. However, nowadays, millions of families own a telelvision in their homes. In fact, ‘98. 5 percent of U.S. households have at least one television set’ ("The). Although, nowadays, millions of people own two TV’s in their home, and sometimes even three to four! For example, in my home, we own four TV’s and guess what? Each and every one of them are used on a daily basis. Second, the television has made many positive impacts on American society, but it has also made many negative impacts as well. For example, telelvision has brought up many stereotypes in the world; one of these being housewives. Housewives, especially in the 1950’s, were stereotypes by the TV for two reasons. “One reason the stereotypes linger is that many women did conform to the housewife image” (N.p). Many women in the 50’s would drop out of college once they got married to stay home to clean and take care of their children. They were happy this way, and continued to stay home and perform these duties while the men went to work. You could really see this through the shows programmed on the TV in this decade .“A second reason is the effect of 1950s media: “Television, radio, and magazines bombarded them with the assurance that the kitchen was their realm and that loving food preparation for their families was the way to fulfillment” (N.p). TV commercials, radio ads, and magazine articles would advertise products, especially for the kitchen, with a woman filled with excitement that they owned a new refrigerator or oven. Or, they would show an advertisement specifically for women saying that a new fridge would make them a hundred times happier, or it would make their love of cooking one hundred times easier! Here’s an example of a 1950’s Kelvinator refrigerator commercial! Click Here! Lastly, Another stereotype that has occurred because of television was of African Americans and Native Americans. Socially, the TV changed the way that people thought about a certain race, gender, or age. Civil rights became an issue in part because of this. Up until the 1970’s, the majority of television actors were white. However, although there were a few African American and Native American actors, many were stereotyped because of their race. “For example, African American actors often played roles as household servants, while Native Americans often appeared as warriors in Westerns” (Encyclopedia). They would usually portray these actors as unimportant parts of the films, and were often used as the budd of the joke. Here’s an example of a show that used an African American women as a household servant and the budd of the joke. You can definitely see the stereotype when Bulah starts mowing the lawn.

Economically, television has impacted American culture in three ways. First, the television has made it easier for people to afford their mortgages. This is because popular shows like “I love Lucy” or “Leave it to Beaver” influenced spending habits. For example, houses, especially like the one in “Leave it to Beaver” was popular in the real world and were were bought, and were sold with mortgages with lower interest rates and down payments. Cleaning products also flourished economically at this time because of the show “I love Lucy”! Second, the actual television impacted the economy greatly. ‘By 1957, over 40 million TVs were in American households ("The Impact). Television commercials also took a turn for the better because TV businesses allowed time in their TV schedules to add in the use of television commercials. This later helped the economy because of the increase of advertisements for products. Lastly, one man in the 1950’s has helped the American economy through television. One man, also known as the king; Elvis Presley! Elvis was an entertainment icon at this time, which you could definitely see through the television. Because Elvis was being broadcasted through the TV, more teens tuned in, which boosted the economy especially in 1957 when Elvis was becoming popular. Here’s an example of Elvis being broadcasted on the TV! Specifically, this show was called ‘The Milton Berle Show”, and this was broadcasted in 1956. Click Here!

Politically, television has impacted American society in three ways. First, politics were broadcasted on the television, specifically for political elections. Candidates, like Harry Truman, ran their campaign mainly through television. Harry was also the first president to be televised. This helped his election enormously. Another election, the election of 1960 (Nixon vs. John F. Kennedy), was impacted by television enormously, and in my opinion, even more than Truman's campaign. Although Truman's campaign was first to be aired on television, the JFK and Nixon campaign was the first on screen election to be watched by a mass audience. Specifically for JFK’s and Nixon’s first debate, over seven million people tuned in to watch compared to the significantly smaller audience watching Truman’s previous to this. In JFK and Nixon’s on screen campaign, especially through their debates, the audience could see things that they normally wouldn’t be able to see if they were debating through the radio or in writing. You see, previous to the introduction of campaigning on television, most people tuned into political elections through the radio or in the newspaper. By listening to someone talk about their campaign on the radio, you can see their facial expressions and it was harder for a listener to pick up on a mistake. If you read about a candidate's political campaign in the newspaper, not only can’t you see the candidates face, but you also can’t tell when they’ve messed up at all. It’s easy just to erase and start over. However, when political campaigns were moved onto the telelvision, audiences got to see the candidates battle it out in the raw. If they were rude, you saw it. If they were UN-knowledgeable, you could pick up on it. And, especially for JFK’s and Nixon’s campaign, if they were nervous, it was recognizable. You can tell through this video that Nixon was nervous. You could tell that Nixon was antsy. You could tell that Nixon lacked confidence in his campaign. However, for Kennedy’s case, you could tell that not only was he confident in what he was campaigning, but he also had poise and was much more comfortable in front of an audience and also was good at communication; two key traits every good president should have. The television can make or break you; and in this case, Kennedy made it and Nixon broke. Third, the television had an impact on American society through the ‘Duck and Cover’ program. In 1949, the American people felt threatened and nervous because of the constant threat of atomic bombing on America. After America bombed cities in Japan, each and every American feared that the same would be done to them. So, ‘a new Federal Civil Defense Administration (FCDA) was set up in 1951 to educate – and reassure – the country that there were ways to survive an atomic attack from the Soviet Union’ ("Duck). So, in order to do just that, the Duck and Cover defence film started to air on televisions, especially in that of school classrooms. This film occurrence on televisions impacted America because it taught them a way that they could stay ‘safe’. It gave people reassurance that by ducking and covering, you were safer than you were a second ago.

Diplomatically, television has impacted society in three ways. First, it shapes public opinion. For example, an election or campaign is used in part by on screen public opinion. Going back to the JFK and Nixon campaign, each candidate would say things that they believed in, or things that they can do when elected for president. This shaped public opinion. This is because millions of people watched these two candidate’s debates, and if you agreed with something one said, it’s more likely would would have the opinion that one of them is better than the other. For example, in this campaign commercial, if you agree with Nixon’s opinion that you should keep peace in the world without surrendering, you would be likely be more drawn to electing Nixon as president. This is public opinion! Second, it is relied on by the public as a source of information. For example, even though China is across the world from us, we still hear information about them. Television has allowed us, even though we are millions of miles apart, to stay ‘connected’. Third, television was used to keep peace. The television was used to reach out to different populations outside of the United States. This is done in part by satellites. By doing this, we can talk to anyone around the world, per say in Canada or in the United Kingdom to keep the peace and to communicate with each other, especially because they're our allies.

As you can see, television is extremely important to American society. Not only has it allowed us to stay connected to the rest of the world, but it has also allowed us to stay entertained on a boring day. It has helped Americans more than we could have ever imagined, whether that be by simply informing us about an snowstorm, or more importantly about war that has broken out or a nearby tornado. But other than informing us about everyday things, television has also impacted American society socially, economically, politically, and diplomatically. There are bigger effects on American society than you could ever have ever imagined, and that’s because of the beauty of television.

Works Cited

"The Social Impact." Of TV. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2014.

N.p., n.d. Web. HighBeam Research, n.d. Web. 08 Dec. 2014.

"The Impact of TV on the Economy in the 1950s." Everyday Life. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2014.

"Duck and Cover Drills Bring the Cold War Home." Duck and Cover Drills Bring the Cold War Home. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2014.

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