Sitcoms and Society

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Sitcoms and Society
Joshua C. Dansby
Soc 101
Prof. Miriane Portes
April 18, 2012

Mass media makes a significant impact on society, no matter its form, whether we realize it or not. Mass media takes many different forms, but every form has its own unique impact on the progression of society. In this paper, I will examine mass media from a sociological point of view, utilizing the three main theories of sociology: Functionalist, Conflict, and Symbolic Interaction.

Often we fail to realize how truly broad of a spectrum mass media actually is. According to an article Manohar, “Mass media are media, which can be used to communicate and interact with a large number of audiences. Be it the pictorial messages of the early ages, or the high-technology media that are available today, one thing that we all agree upon, is that mass media are an inseparable part of our lives.” (Manohar, 2011) Although one may not stop and consider it, there are many forms of mass media that are often at work within our lives. Mass media ranges from the billboards you may see on your commute to work every morning to to television programs you may watch as a family in the evening. One thing remains the same, and that is whether or not we realize, mass media is constantly changing the way we feel as a society.

To better understand the importance mass media plays in the development of society, it is pertinent to start with the basics of sociology. One of the first theories of sociology that I will use to view this wide and various subject is the functionalist theory. According to Vissing, “This theoretical approach held that all social structures (institutions or stable units of society) exist because they fulfill some specific functions.” (Vissing, 2011) In order to develop a better understanding of the functions of mass media, we will have to take a much closer look at how mass media impacts society. With the functionalist approach to sociology being a macro level theory, we will have to examine how mass media impacts society on a large scale. This may seem some what complicated, due to the vicariousness of mass media, so in order to take a closer look at the impact of mass media, we will need to minimize our research scale. Hence forth, I have chosen to examine the impact that the silver screen, televised sitcoms specifically, can have on society and how, in turn, society can have an impact on mass media.

Modeling occurs within the home as children. Modeling is important to our behaviour, because it teaches us how to act in accord with our peers. According to Vissing, “In many ways, communication patterns learned in the home are a microcosm for society. How communication and negotiation patterns are set in the home creates a model for how children grow up and interact with others later on.” (Vissing, 2011) Modeling is important even as adults. As we view the often successful character within any given sitcom, we become aware of the simple fact that we too can achieve what this character has. It may be difficult to achieve the goals that the character within any sitcom has achieved, but we become aware that it is within our capabilities as a human. Perhaps we have better outside influences, but it is still possible to view a fictional character with enough interest to become aware of their success and possibly model a part of our self after the character. Our role within society can be distinguished through the actions of many different characters within any sitcom. As humans, we are capable of modeling our selves after any human and I believe the same could be said for a character within a sitcom. However, this may cause disillusionment within our lives, but we will come to that later on in this paper.

Every form of mass media makes its own impression on society. One such impression is the fact of importance of friendship. Friendship is one norm of society that we are capable of realizing at some point in our life, most usually as soon as...
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