“In order to emphasize the dominance ofthe professional identity even further, the heroes are often separated from the restof their family members; they are either estranged from them or all the members of their family are dead.”
I first thought something should be written about the phenomenon of TV shows the moment I noticed that the imdb.com website lists 54 of the best TV shows with a quality rating of over 9, while there are only three movies from the top 250 best movies of all times with a rating of 9 or more. TV shows therefore have that something that excites people more than movies excite them. It cannot be the fact that heroes and heroines are shown as beautiful, smart, and the best at what they do: this is a characteristic of both movies and TV shows. So what is the difference?
First of all it is the duration. A TV show and a movie have the same correlation as a novel and a short story. A movie is a twist, an incident, something that takes the viewer's breath away, that shocks. A TV show is an imitation of so-called "life"; its essence is not in the twists, but in the duration, despite all the (im)possible twists. A movie, like a good story, leads us, as a good story should (even though there are, like movies, always too few good ones), to that point that is opposite to life’s path: it is the moment of happiness, of the exhilaration that we all want to experience. By contrast, a TV show offers serenity, meaning this: regardless of all the twists, tensions, turbulent relationships between the characters, we find the heroes exactly where we left them, in each episode, that is to say, every day or every week: they last, they “live” on. This unchangeable state, regardless of anything, is the symbolic incarnation of the bourgeois dream – the dream of absolute safety. This dream is often linked to the myth about the “happy middle”: the middle is “happy”, because being in the middle means being safer than standing out/being different. This is why TV shows take pride in their kind of mediocrity and mediocre values even when the characters themselves are extraordinary: a movie tells a story, while something is always going on in a TV show; but because everything repeats itself (including the heroes who are immortal by de facto) these events are not characterized as unique and unforgettable. And it is this characteristic that marks a good story, the thing that excites us. A TV show, however, offers us serenity.
An average fan therefore enjoys this symbolic safety that TV shows give him: come what may, the thread is never ripped. It is a safe place where man is protected. A sort of micro-world where man is safe from the storms of the macro-world (wars, economic crises). I am beginning to think that TV shows used to see this place in the family, which is why the hero’s identity revolved around their place in the family hierarchy. I remember a time in the eighties, when I was a child, when the American TV show Dynasty was popular. Today, apart from rare exceptions, it is somehow logical that this type of family saga is produced somewhere in Latin America or maybe Turkey, but definitely not in the West. The West, or better, its television corporations offer us another identity as the ideal, stemming not from the family but from the occupation. This is why there are so many TV shows about doctors, lawyers, detectives (FBI agents), firemen, and even professions as obscure as lifeguards, etc. In order to emphasize the dominance of the professional identity even further, the heroes are often separated from the rest of their family members; they are either estranged from them or all the members of their family are dead.
What is the difference between non-western family TV shows and shows about professionals, created in the West? It is obviously the level of capital mimicking: in the West capital has become de-personalized and is no longer associated with strong families, but rather non-personal families: this is the “truth” of which these TV shows try to convince us. In other parts of the planet, capital is still associated with the family because it has not been de-personalized enough yet. (If someone wants to mention the name Delta holding in Serbia, they invariably end up mentioning the name Mišković; this is a perfect example).
The average hero of a TV show made in the West in the second decade of the twenty-first century is mainly an above-average professional; all his strength is fueled by his occupation, his profession. In the family sense he is a symbolic bastard; he either does not have a family or it is only in his way. The professional strength goes hand in hand with the security that nothing can jeopardize. As exciting, interesting, and rocky the lives of these doctors, lawyers, agents may seem, they are constantly revolving in their own professional circle; if something falls within this guarded space, it is someone of the same kind (a new lawyer in the office, a new doctor in the hospital) who quickly acclimates, because if he does not, he will quickly be banished out of the micro-world, like an intruder, while the little isolated world continues to exist. Even when a current event appears in the TV show (signs of war, economic crises), it no more than chips their little world, never destroys it. However this touch of reality is important: it is present so that it convinces us that micro-worlds are firm and impenetrable after all.
TV shows repeat exactly what the romantic conscience and all its descendants fought against: the idea of the integrated man in the TV show is juxtaposed to the man of profession—the professional— the best at his profession, getting his strength or safety from it. The bourgeois ideology reaches its peak in exactly these kinds of TV shows that try to convince us that isolated micro-worlds are possible, that we are safe in them and that, as long as we don’t meddle in worlds outside it, we can have fine lives as lawyers, doctors, models, detectives, and even as lifeguards; although I am certain that the standard of the latter does not allow plastic surgery, which seems to be indispensable for rescuing people and objects from the coastal regions of the Pacific.