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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Increasing Decadence in American Business (and Society): The Case of On-Screen Distractions during Television Programs

While watching Lord of the Rings on TBS in 2010, I noticed that the network was posting not only its logo on the bottom right of the screen, but also advertising for its programming on the bottom left. Also, “more movie, less commercials” was written to accompany the logo. What really got to me during the movie was when pictures advertising a television show were shown. They took up almost an eighth of the screen and thus could not but distract the viewer from watching the movie. I decided I would not watch movies on networks that compromise or prostitute their own programing in order to sell themselves while "in progress." It is like sitting down at a restaurant and having the waitor sell me on other dishes while I am trying to enjoy the one that I'm eating. “I just want to enjoy this fine meal, thank you,” any discerning customer would be wont to say. Once at Starbucks, the customer in front of me at the register was paying $25 for a variety of products.  As I was thinking that the store had made a good sale, the clerk tried to sell the customer on a certain food item for the next visit--as if the present sale was not enough.  The same propensity wherein nothing is ever enough is evinced by the television networks that can't seem to restrain themselves from adding more and more self-promotions onto the screen during their own programming.  These networks are playing off the mitigated nature of the additions being incremental, and thus not objectionable to the average viewer. 

It is simply bad business to interfere with a customer’s enjoyment of a product by trying to promote the business or another product. The over-reaching has the bad smell of self-indulgence knowingly at others’ expense. It is impossible to enjoy a movie while animated characters run around the bottom of the screen to get the viewers' attention. The perpetrators ought to be regarded as children wherein if we give them an inch, they will indeed take a mile. Sadly, too many of us allow ourselves to be strung along the slippery slope--perhaps some viewers don't even notice the incremental intrusions. The smell of the network managers' over-reaching ought to be emetic, but perhaps the stench is so ubiquitous that we as a soceity are innoculated against even smelling it.  One can hope that one day, we shall wake up to the decadence and "smell the coffee." Perhaps only the loss of a significant viewership would mean that the sordid managers will be out of their jobs–unable to earn their high salaries for trying to manipulate us in new subterfuges. That, ladies and gentlemen, would be justice and a more salubrious society.  In the meantime, American television will increasingly come to reflect the lowest common denominator in the viewership because that is where the numbers are. In fact, perhaps it could be said that this nature of television reflects the values that are taking hold in American society.

Do we as a society value mutual respect and self-restraint, or are we too tolerant of selfishness and manipulatory behavior? Do we not value strength, but instead enable weakness? Are the stars of reality shows famous for fifteen minutes because they evince our society's actual values?  In other words, have we become a self-absorbed, petty people without realizing it?  If so, the television networks may simply be us taking advantage because it is condoned.