Protests/Threats Over Entertainment: Where Do We Go From Here?

You think a TV show is unfair; you don’t like what a movie says about your country. Protests over entertainment content can work -- in part, in whole, or not at all.

VH1’s “Sorority Sisters,” a show that follows the lives of historically black colleges in Atlanta across four sororities, grabbed 1.3 million viewers for its premiere episode. Many social media messages against the show said the series was “disrespectful and degrading.” As a result, many advertisers pulled out of the show.  But this may not necessarily mean that VH1 will stop airing episodes. The First Amendment prevails, many will say.

We have seen this trend before. Some Italian-Americans groups were up in arms about how some young participants on MTV’s show “Jersey Shore” were portrayed. The TV show continued on. But its list of potential advertisers was no doubt slimmed down.



Things are a little too different for Sony’s movie “The Interview,” which was pulled after threats of violence sent a number of theater chains canceling shows. Criminal threats over entertainment are in a different ballpark entirely -- and are not to be taken lightly.

This is a whole new level of protest over mass entertainment. I wonder where future comedy films with a political bent will land.

Traditional TV and wide-release theatrical movies still provide what big entertainment media needs: scale. (Though that scale has been slowly diminishing).

Maybe the much narrower digital media world can give us a clue.  A full range of content exists, with many different political and social perspectives -- as well as plenty of nasty, miscreant, disrespectful, and unsavory content. This stuff doesn’t get supported by marketers, and viewership/usage is low. But it’s still allowed to exist.

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