When the concept of the public sphere came up in our lecture, all I could think about was Gossip Girl and I was determined to incorporate the topic into this weeks blog post. You might not realise it yet, but most of the information we know about the world comes from this ‘thing’ called the public sphere. Being such as well integrated and highly proactive part of our lives, we often forget it even exists! But the fact is, we’re all living in this ‘Public Sphere Bubble’.
As such, my views on Gossip Girl and the opinions of others on the topic, are an example of a ‘Public Sphere’. So, let’s break this down! For example, think of a donut (Yum, now I want a donut), imagine the hole in the middle being the issue/topic and the actual donut itself being the people/society surrounding it, almost like a discussion group collaborating their opinions.
This notion was created by Jurgen Habermas and is described as “A space where citizens can come together to debate about common concerns.” The sphere is an open environment for discussion and can significantly help to draw people together of similar interests. It has become mediated in recent times which is also quite prevalent in regards to Gossip Girl. Whilst the show was still airing fans would take to various online chat rooms, forums and websites after each episode, blogging and tweeting their opinions. I personally took part in this interaction discussing the fashion, numerous New York sights, witty lines, and the shows love stories (particularly that of Chuck and Blair). It’s such a great way to share your ideas and connect with other like-minded fans.
The entire Gossip Girl series is focused on an anonymous blogger who is sent information from everyone on the show, revealing juicy secrets about the Manhattan socialites which are then uploaded online without their consent. Although this is clearly a fictional show, the controversial issues presented, such as lack of privacy, bullying and backstabbing are very much real life problems happening in our society. The information we are posting online is no longer just ours, nothing is owned and it can’t be controlled. We all have an inner Gossip Girl wanting to spread the latest information, however, the thought of our private beliefs and ideas having the potential to enter this diverse social networking platform is highly concerning. Take a quick look at the following video, for a snapshot into the world of Gossip Girl:
Welcome to the world of Gossip Girl! Just from this short clip we are already introduced to many of the shows key themes, promoting a society full of freedom, fun, and very limited parental control. Here we see underage drinking, sex, partying, drugs, fights, scheming and obviously gossip, and keep in mind these characters are supposed to only be 16yrs old! Therefore, it is quite apparent why many parents were uncomfortable and wary about their children watching the show, in case they were influenced negatively by the behaviour the being promoted as ‘acceptable’. Carol Platt Liebau states that the show “Glamorises and normalises the kinds of behaviour that may seem charmingly risqué and sophisticated when little girls see them on TV, but which, if emulated in real life, can result in emotional and psychological distress for them.”
A few years back, a very serious issue arose in the public sphere resulting in the formation of a Wollongong Facebook site, moulded around the central ideas of the Gossip Girl TV Show. Susan McLean, an online safety consultant stated that “The reputations of Wollongong teenagers were trashed on a malicious Facebook page, modelled on hit US TV series Gossip Girl.” Urging teens to reconsider their actions before criminal charges were made. This not only highlights the negative aspects of the public sphere but also how specific television series can directly affect their target audiences’.
I hope you can now understand the way in which TV Shows such as Gossip Girl, create debate and conversation within the public sphere. People can easily attach onto different aspects of television series or media outlets depending on their own personal opinion and interests. The public sphere has changed throughout history and will continue to change. For example, individuals no longer have to meet at coffee shops when they have instant access to the internet. Welcome to the ‘Public Sphere Bubble’.