“Dance is a conversation between the body and soul.” – Agnes de Mille
Everyone is entitled to an opinion, thoughts and ideas about certain aspects of life. Some of these can be controversial, difficult to discuss or confront. The ‘public sphere’ allows us everyday people to acknowledge these issues from the safety of your home through popular television shows such as So You Think You Can Dance (SYTYCD). Habermas describes the ‘public sphere’ as ‘the realm of social life, where the exchange of information and views on questions of common concern can take place so that public opinion can be formed’ (Dahlgren, 1996).
SYTYCD acts as a form of public sphere. “Popular culture has relevance for identity construction, ideology, and norms, aiding us to work through important contemporary ideas and issues” (Dahlgren, 2009) SYTYCD addresses issues such as life, death, violence, health, relationships and love, through the art form of dance. Despite the dance being the choreographer’s story, they are emotions that everyone experiences, extending the dance far beyond a perfect pirouette and into the hearts of millions that tune in.
Critics say that the public sphere today is “too fragmented, and it has caused citizens to become too apathetic about important public issues” (McKee, 2005). Because it is on television, critics assume the audience stay tuned because of the drama/content. Also, that shows like SYTYCD are only targeting small audiences who are dancers/interested in dance. However, audiences remain captured because of depth and realistic aspects of reality shows. SYTYCD addresses many deep and real issues, showing genuine emotions and struggles that contestants and everyone at home experience. With technology becoming more mobile and easily accessible, almost everyone has access to TV shows, expanding the audience from just people interested in dance, to people surfing the internet/sitting in their lounge rooms and relating to the contestants. Reality TV gives us “power, to make the audience members feel like part of the action” (Hicks, 2009), and through this power, we feel that we belong to a larger technological community and that we can make a difference in our lives.
TV shows like SYTYCD empower their diverse audience, regardless of race, religion, gender, education or upbringing, addressing current personal and political issues and provoke us to talk, discuss and question these issues. Despite the critics, the public sphere is not becoming degraded due to fragmentation or apathy. In fact, quite the opposite. Every person’s opinion is valid and it’s important we can express them, inspired by TV shows and SYTYCD is an example of a public sphere which ignites the conversation and changes people’s lives on stage and in the lounge room.
Peter Dahlgren, Television and the Public Sphere: Citizenship, Democracy and the Media, SAGE Publications Ltd, first published 1996, republished 2000
Peter Dahlgren, Eastbound, Television and Popular Civic Cultures: Public Sphere Perspectives (1), http://eastbound.eu/site_media/pdf/EB2010_Dahlgren.pdf, written 2009, accessed 6/04/14
Alan McKee, The Public Sphere: An Introduction, Cambridge University Press, Published in the USA by Cambridge University Press, New York, 2005
Jesse Hicks, Probing Question: Why do we watch reality tv? Penn State News, http://news.psu.edu/story/141303/2009/08/24/research/probing-question-why-do-we-love-reality-television, written 24/08/09, accessed 6/04/14