Social Question

Trillian's avatar

What is the appeal?

Asked by Trillian (21099points) May 6th, 2012

I notice that the underlying theme in many television shows is conflict. The reality tv shows are some extreme examples, and I can not actually bring myself to watch them, but I see the advertisements and it never ceases to amaze me. This would include stuff like Jerry Springer as well. The people are absolutely geared for conflict from beginning to end, and in the end, nothing has actually been accomplished. The audience boos and gets angry at whomever the “bad guy” is in the scenario, the people actually on the show get into ridiculous, raucous arguments with shouting and arm waving. And, as I said, nothing is accomplished. That I can tell anyway.
I started thinking about this when I saw a show advertised called “The Slap”. I don’t know if it ever got off the ground or was aired at all, but the premise was something about one person slapping another and somehow a whole town was involved. The main quote that I remember, which got me thinking down this path, was “Whose side are you on?”
Um… I’m not on anybody’s “side”, and I couldn’t care less. My question is; Why does anybody?
I get that watching conflict appeals to many people or these shows would tank. I understand that I may be in the minority. Again. I don’t mind that, I just would like someone to logically explain the appeal from a psychological standpoint.
I guess people “identify” with one side or the other? Is there some hardwired… thing built into people?
What is it?

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18 Answers

Sunny2's avatar

It’s basically economics. Get as many people to watch as you can so you can sell it to sponsors. People enjoy drama. Drama requires conflict. A happy ending is a comedy. A sad or bad ending is a tragedy. It must serve people something compelling or they wouldn’t watch.
I think you’re right about identifying with what’s going on. I can’t yell and scream, but look at that guy go. I wish I could do that to my boss, my wife, my husband, my kids. Is that projection? There’s a term for it. We’re not as “civilized” as we’d like to think.

prasad's avatar

I agree with you that nothing is accomplished. I too don’t know why people like to watch such shows, which I think is a waste of time.

marinelife's avatar

It is the Romans and the gladiator. it is public hangings. It is gawkers at accidents.

It is an innate part (and a not too attractive part) of human nature. We love to watch someone else’s downfall while we are safe.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

There were three ‘reality’ televisions shows I used to watch regularly that relied on conflict to draw audiences. One was Wife Swap(U.S._TV_series), one was The Hotel Inspector and the third was Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares.

For me, it’s not the conflict that makes these shows enjoyable, although that can be the catalyst. It is that the outcome often brings upon a change for the better, or at least an ‘ah-ha’ moment for them. Out of these three, Wife Swap was my favorite. It created a glimpse into the extreme lifestyles that other couples lived. Almost always, it generated awareness in spouses that their preferred way of living was not necessarily embraced by other members of the family. In just about every situation, it was wonderful to see people accept the diversity in their loved ones.

CWOTUS's avatar

It’s no different from “Pro Wrestling” ... which I was amazed was on television in the 1960s… and I’m more amazed (and depressed) to see that it still is, and is bigger than ever.

ragingloli's avatar

American audiences seem to love excessive drama and conflict.
Just compare the original UK version of God Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares to the US version.

ucme's avatar

Appeals to the lowest common denominator, you know…...morons!

Neizvestnaya's avatar

Without researching, being too lazy and not really caring enough about the genre, my guess is the average tv viewer is over stimulated and not excited by much. I believe it takes more and more noises and shocks to the sensibilities to grab and hold their interest.

There isn’t appeal for me because I am too short of attention when uncomfortable. I just can’t watch those kind of shows long enough to catch on. Watching and listening to conflict is a lot different for me than say here on fluther occasional where I can read it at my own tempo and mental volume.

mazingerz88's avatar

Some hardwired thing built into people? Try stupidity.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Gang mentality. We are, after all, just a bunch of shrieking, screaming, rock and stick-throwing band of primates. 95% of us just follow the leader blindly.

thorninmud's avatar

A good theoretical basis for understanding this is Social Comparison Theory. Basically, it says that we’re driven to gain knowledge of ourselves by comparing ourselves to others. This makes us want to get glimpses into the unvarnished inner lives of others; we want to see what others are really like, beyond their public facade. We use that information to see how we stack up, whether we’re within the norms or outliers, more noble or more petty, etc.

We know that people generally hold their cards close to the chest, careful to let others see them only as they want to be seen. So we’re particularly fascinated by situations where that public facade gets stripped away, and the other is exposed to full view. This lets us get a good, unshielded view of what they’re “really like”, so we can compare that to how we think we would feel or behave in a similar situation. We especially love to do this when we see the seamy side of others, because the self-image that emerges from that comparison is boosted a notch or two.

The kind of shows we’re talking about are carefully designed to put people in situations where their facades crumble.

Salem88's avatar

Obviously one can not always gauge another’s strengths and weaknesses.

Therefore, the very best a human can display is the desire to do “The Right Thing”. If you did not learn it while young, you will surely learn when old.

Remember the the 2 Bitches…...Karma and Payback. You can stop one – if you have any manners at all – but the other is all for you in your own time and fashion.

Grace is the answer. If you’ve never actually read Webster’s definition, give a read. I’m grateful for all the grace I’ve been given in life.

Trillian's avatar

@marinelife Interesting that you bring up the Romans. I’ve often believed that there were many parallels between our and Roman society. The seeming increasing lust for blood sport, disregard for human life and obliviousness to larger issues while immersed in various petty, diversionary soporifics… smacks, to me, of panem et circenses.
@Sunny2 Agreed. Civilization is a very thin veneer which can be scratched off without much effort, though I also believe that extreme events can reveal some of our finer attributes which we also may have hidden.
@CWOTUS I know, right?

Trillian's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer I haven’t seen those shows, or even heard about the hotel one. I gave an adverse judgement to wife swap and refused to watch it, so I’ll take your word for it that there was something positive in it!
@thorninmud Tought provoking and thoughtful answer, thank you.
@Dutchess_III @mazingerz88 @ucme Yep.
@Neizvestnaya Hah! There is conflict here isn’t there? Nothing like the shouting, arm-waving violence one sees elsewhere, but perhaps more than enough to go on occasionally.
Thank you for you thoughtful answers.

ucme's avatar

@Trillian I give you a fine, well crafted answer & all I get is a “Yep” ? ;¬}

ucme's avatar

I tawt dawgs go yap

CWOTUS's avatar


Besides, Willow only looks like a dog. She’s a dorg.

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