So You Think Your Opinion Matters?

“Dance is a conversation between the body and soul.” – Agnes de Mille

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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),, 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,, written 24/08/09, accessed 6/04/14


6 thoughts on “So You Think Your Opinion Matters?

  1. I always thought it was interesting that a dance show could present so many real issues. Although I don’t watch regularly, most of the discussion I hear about SYTYCD in the public sphere seems a lot less concentrated on these “issues” then it should be.

    1. As someone who is an avid dancer, I believe the show wouldn’t exist without these issues. I do agree that they do not focus on these issues because after all, it is a dance competition and at the end of the day, there will be 1 winner. However, I believe that it is the underlying themes that make a difference.
      It is discreet, but never the less, they are present and without these raw emotions/issues, there would be nothing to dance about

  2. Definitely a unique choice of text, don’t think anyone else will have chosen SYTYCD. Can’t say I ever thought that a show about dancing could have so many underlying issues so thank you for opening my eyes. I would say that these issues might not be overly present in conversations in the public sphere. That said, I’ve never really participated in a SYTYCD conversation before. Anyway, good post, and great analysis of a unique text!

    1. Thanks Mathew
      I chose SYTYCD because it’s something which I can personally relate to and because I felt it offered a unique insight into the public sphere, one that not everyone might consider. The issues that are discussed on the show and are quite personal like relationships, death, life and love etc that many people deal with. I guess it’s a way of communicating that you’re not alone. It offers a support network as well as provoking conversation and awareness, something that people might need in difficult times
      Thankyou for you comment. It’s greatly appreciated 🙂

  3. Really liked this idea, I definitely agree that SYTYCD was a really unique idea for this blog post, and you pulled it off really well, awesome example of public sphere, kudos.

    1. Thank you for your support and feedback.
      I just decided to chose something that was close to my heart and that I believed in… making it a lot easier to write about.
      I’m glad you liked it

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