Thursday, December 3, 2009

Entertainment Education and Soft Power

The last time I tuned into my favorite TV show or watched a movie, the farthest thing from my mind was the type of education I was receiving. I'm also making the assumption that when most Americans settle down on the couch for their favorite night on television; they aren't thinking "boy, what do these TV shows do to "disseminate ideas to bring about behavioral and social change"? As entertainment education is further studied and considered as a medium to spread messages to developing populations, I couldn't help but wonder...are we using TV shows as a new form of soft power?

In the readings about strategic communication, one point became very clear. If the United States wants to increase its credibility, maybe we should focus on our own faults - allowing critique from outside sources, being open to criticisms, and changing our communication style to accept these new ideas. Entertainment Education would certainly allow us to improve these attributes. Our society has become more open to change and diversity and this can be seen in the TV shows that consume our lives. One example is the new ABC sitcom, Modern Family. This popular show is one of the first to display the new version of the the family: "Modern Family is the first primetime sitcom that has embraced American society as a true melting pot. Homosexual and interracial couples, are now practically as common as traditional couples and the show is all about living and coinciding together" Perhaps shows like Modern Family are increasing our soft power so that populations that view the United States’ culture as unfavorable are now seeing through our entertainment style, us in a positive light.
Maybe, if we found a way to export the comedian Jeff Dunham (complete with his terrorist puppet, Achmed), The Daily Show, Modern Family, Family Guy, and a whole multitude of others….we could use soft power in a way never used before.


  1. I think there has been a lot of exporting of American culture, which is what built American's soft power for so long. Sesame Street is played in numerous countries, as are Baywatch, Friends, and other iconic American shows. However, they've been working more as promotion of this vision of the "ideal" American lifestyle and a consumerist culture (not so much Sesame Street, but the other things). I don't know if there has been much in terms of cultural television/film/other entertainment exports that really promotes the American government and American policies. In addition, some of those entertainment exports have hurt our image as more conservative cultures see us as being obsessed with sex, violence, and material things. I haven't seen Modern Family, but it sounds more like a type of show that would present a more positive and diverse view of American life. Maybe if we could export more shows like that it would be an effective form of entertainment soft power.

  2. Leanne, I think you bring an interesting point thinking of E-E programs as a type of soft power. It is true American television shows are opening up and now have a wider variety of topics and appeal to distinct audiences. The example you mentioned of Modern Family was perfect! Also the Cougartown sitcom from ABC as well, is from the point-of-view a divorced woman over 40 that now has to deal with being a single mother, advancing in her professional career path, and moving on with her life. Another example is Men of a Certain Age that has not aired yet, but is from the perspective of men over 40 as well and what they are thinking and how they live their lives. The expansion of television themes could be very positive for the “brand” America, and I agree maybe exporting these types of shows would help with the perception of America in a positive light.