An interesting piece of research featured on the front U of M page today shows that regular viewers of the NBC sitcom Will and Grace tend to be less prejudiced against gay men. That alone wouldn't be such a big deal, if the audience comprised mostly people who were already not prejudiced, but the study also found that attitudes were influenced most among Will and Grace viewers with the least amount of prior direct personal contact with gay men.
Will and Grace is a show I've watched on and off over the years, sometimes finding it hysterically funny, other times finding it a bit too repetitive and reliant on broad stereotypes: fussy, shallow, pop-culture obsessed gay men and desperate 30-something single woman. I haven't watched regularly in a couple of years, lacking both the time and the interest.
But there is something that disturbs me in all of this. It isn't that people underwent what I would consider to be a positive attitude change by watching a show that I would rate as mediocre-plus. It's that the conventional wisdom that we're all too jaded and media-savvy to be influenced by what we see on TV is apparently wrong.
So I guess it's both heartening and slightly upsetting that a mere TV sitcom can make a measurable difference in the world.Posted by at May 18, 2006 6:00 PM