Monday, 21 September 2015

Viola Davis, Cultivation Theory and the 2015 #Emmy Awards

Viola Davis accepts her Emmy Award for Outstanding Actress in a Drama at the 2015 Emmy Awards.

I won't pretend I didn't cry this morning. 

I didn't watch the Emmys live last night, so waking up to the news that not only did Viola Davis win herself an Emmy (as I predicted back when she de-wigged on primetime), but two other black women, (Regina King for American Crime and Uzo Aduba for Orange is the New Black) had also left with trophies, has left me floating on a cloud of #blackgirlmagic that has lasted the entire day.

But it has also left me thinking long and hard about why these victories matter on a sociopolitical level. 

I'm currently working on my dissertation for my MA in Mass Communications and I came across a theory recently that I plan to explore in depth. My dissertation focuses on portrayals of rape and sexual assault in American primetime television, but it struck me how relevant the theory is to discussions of racial diversity.

The theory is "cultivation theory" and in layman's terms, it means that over time, people begin to believe that the television universe reflects real life. Essentially, people who watch lots of TV begin to see the social reality of fiction as an accurate account of real life. 
"The primary proposition of cultivation theory states that the more time people spend 'living' in the television world, the more likely they are to believe the social reality portrayed on television." Cultivation leaves people with a misperception of what is true in our world." -Cohen, J.; Weimann, G. (2000). "Cultivation Revisited: Some Genres Have Some Effects on Some Viewers". Communication Reports 13 (2): 99–114.
I hope you can see where I'm going with this...