Millions of people turn on their television every night and watch a few moments of reality TV. In doing so, they might not know it but they are bettering themselves on a personal level. Based on the ideas of Steven Johnson the average person could learn a thing or two form reality TV. In his article called, “Watching TV Makes You Smarter” Johnson states that; "For decades, we've worked under the assumption that mass culture follows a path declining steadily toward lowest-common-denominator standards, presumably because the "masses" want dumb, simple pleasures and big media companies try to give the masses what they want. But as that 24 episode suggests, the exact opposite is happening: culture is getting more cognitively demanding, not less."( 214). Johnson talks explicitly about what a scholar might call the “dumbing down of America”, which in his mind is completely false. Watching reality television in his mind makes a person more aware of the everyday occurrences that happen.
The major point first made in Johnsons article is based on his theory called, “The Sleeper Curve”. This theory is about how: “television alters the mental development of young people for the better” (215). Johnson talks about reality TV affecting younger generations in a positive light and helping with personal development. Another major topic discussed is how; “multiple threads in new television episodes are much more complex than old television shows.” In talking about this Johnson refers to the Mary Tyler More show being cookie cutter whereas reality TV today has real life issues. Through this kind of television our younger generation can be taught how to handle tough situations. The third major topic that is brought up in Johnson’s article is about how younger generations are given mindless television that they can not apply to their everyday life to watch and then expected to go out in the real world of high school and college and deal with tough, harsh situations. Through harder, more intense television our younger generations could have a bit better idea on how to handle these situations, while knowing the different outcomes that could occur. Quoting from his article Johnson says, “What I am arguing for is a change in the criteria we use to determine what really is cognitive junk food and what is genuinely nourishing. Instead of a show’s violent or tawdry content, instead if wardrobe malfunctions or the F-word, the true test should be whether a given show engages or sedates the mind.”
In a statement made by Graff in “Hidden Intellectualism”; “What doesn’t occur to us, though, is that schools and colleges might be at fault for missing the opportunity to tap into such street smarts and channel them into good academic work. Nor do we consider one of the major reasons why school and colleges overlook the intellectual potential of street smarts with anti-intellectual concerns.” I think that Johnson would completely agree with Graff’s statement and would back it up with research of his own. He would agree that society can be formed into great people with street smarts and books smarts, followed by a dose of reality.
As Duglas Rushkoff suggests in Bart Simpson: Prince of Irreverence, The Simpsons has a complex structure and, "Rather than drawing us into the hypnotic spell of the traditional story teller, the program [The Simpsons] invites us to make active and conscious comparisons of its own scenes with those of other, less transparent, media forms" (Rushkoff 248). What Rushkoff is saying here is that not all televisions shows are mindless entertainment, rather they can challenge our intellect by allowing us to find patterns of recognition. I agree that even shows like The Simpsons make us smarter because they depict political and social situations.
Johnson, Steven. “Watching TV Makes You Smarter.” They Say I Say. Comp. Gerald Greff, Cathy Berkenstein, Russel Durst. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2009. Print
Greff, Gerald. “Hidden Intellectualism.” They Say I Say. Comp. Gerald Greff, Cathy Berkenstein, Russel Durst. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2009. Print
Rushkoff, Douglas. "Bart Simpson: Prince of Irreverance." They Say I Say. Comp. Gerald Greff, Cathy Berkenstein, Russel Durst. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2009. Print