Do you know what the best medicine for an overly debated metaphorical issue is? Mockery!
We often have specific attitudes towards an issue and simply cannot fathom another’s viewpoint, or see it as less relevant or important to society at large. At this point, an ideological impasse has been reached. How frustrating.
What we might do is turn to comedy to calm our aggravated nerves. However, while we assume that we’re giving our poor, worried brains a break by consuming what appears to be trivial entertainment, we’re actually witnessing and responding to further debate in the mediated pubic sphere, whether we realise it or not.
Take the antics of Liz Lemon and Jack Donaghy with his cohort of Republican supporters on the T.V show 30Rock as an example….
30 Rock is exceedingly clever in conveying opinion on a wide range of issues such as; feminism, political agendas and the effects of hierarchical structures in media production and corporate organisations. It’s satirical approach allows for these often viscously debated issues to be presented ironically, which results in the wider pubic spheres’ approach to these controversial concepts being less guarded, despite the message having a direct objective.
In the above clip we observe a direct parody of Habermas’s notion of the original ‘public sphere’; a group of rich, powerful, somewhat inbred white men (mostly) discussing political issues they see relevant. Not exactly the modern concept we have of the public sphere today. But then we see Liz Lemon (30Rocks “too fat, too funny, too noisy, too old, too rebellious” yet powerful salient) come into the scene. While her objection to Jack’s political opinion may be valid, she simply isn’t able to properly articulate why she thinks this way. Her bizarre and erratically varied comments are a direct poke at the average American voter; they have a lot of opinions, but they either do not fully understand the issue, or their comments seem irrelevant to the topic being discussed.
We might wee ourselves a little bit laughing at Liz’s larrikin behaviour, but there are indeed two widely debated issues being presented.
1) Is the opinion of the ‘masses’ really relevant if they don’t fully understand the matter of debate? And;
2) Are people who are financially and professionally able to debate and influence social change on a larger scale validated in doing so if they don’t see the concerns of the ‘average Liz’ as important?
In this short clip, we see huge social issues being opinionatedly presented. Through comedy, the piece essentially questions the notion of the public sphere itself by challenging the integrity of those that participate in it.
Fans and foes alike respond to the subjects presented this way, and hence debate is ignited by 30Rock through the mediated public sphere. Viola.
For your reference:
McKee, A, 2005, ‘Introduction: the public sphere: an introduction’ in Public Sphere: An Introduction, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp1-31
…I feel like I just took all the life out of my beloved 30Rock, so here are some fun clips to make up for that.