Women Like Us…

Yesterday afternoon I had the honor of attending the Women Like Us Foundation Afternoon Tea and Speaker Series Annual Fundraiser.  What a wonderful event!  Many of the ladies in attendance took the “Tea” theme to heart and were dressed in their finest…right down to the pearls, hats and gloves!  More important than the fashion at the event was the message.

For those of you not familiar with the Women Like Us Foundation, it is the passion of a great woman named Linda Rendlemen, author of Women Like Us: Real Stories and Strategies for Living Your Best Life.  This annual  inspirational tea and speaker series was created by Linda and Dr. Sally Brown Bassett to expand on the theme of the common threads which run through women’s lives. Our stories are singular, but our passions are shared. After the initial success of the book, the Women Like Us Foundation was created to inspire and empower women and under-served girls to make a difference globally and locally.

The speakers were fantastic, first up was Madeline DiNono, Executive Director of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media and her message was very thought provoking – I had never thought about it, but am now looking at television and movies in a bit different light.  Changing the Status Quo:  Female Characters in Popular Family Films and Television very enlightening!  Madeline Di Nonnois the Executive Director of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, the only research based non-profit working with the entertainment and media community to improve gender diversity in children’s entertainment through research based programs. More on Madeline Di Nonno and Geena Davis Institute.

Our Keynote Speaker was Jessica Fellowes, Author of The Chronicles of Downton Abbey.  While I’ve not watched the program, enough people I know are completely enthralled!  She spoke about The Women of Downton, Women of Today.  Jessica is the #1 best-selling author of The World of Downton Abbey—which features new insights into the stories and characters, social historical context, sketches, on-set photos, and research for the production team—and its follow up, The Chronicles of Downton Abbey—an evocative combination of story, history, and behind-the-scenes drama from one of the world’s most popular and beloved shows. She is the niece of Julian Fellowes, the creator, screen writer and executive producer of the popular PBS series.  Jessica spoke on the historcial evolvement of women and the importance of evolvement in teen girls as it relates to future accomplishments in our world. Click here for more on Jessica Fellowes.

This event was amazing, many of the young women being served by this organization were in the audience and such and inspiration.  While facing my own financial struggles right now, I gave a small gift to the organization and was rewarded by winning one of the door prizes!  This is not why I gave, but am so grateful to be a recipient.  There were no programs like this available in my small hometown I know how much I would have benefited all those years ago and much of their program I have tried to teach or be to my beautiful nieces…I hope some sliver has been as meaningful to them as what I experienced yesterday.

Linda, continue your good works, you and yours are making a huge difference in so many lives.


Vicki Reed

Do you remember…

Video Killed the Radio Star“?  It was the first video played on MTV, August 1, 1981…music and music television has come a long way since…today, they don’t play much music!  I’m beginning to feel like “Reality TV killed the TV Star”.  Have you noticed how much “reality” programming is on your television?

Reality television can find it’s roots in radio…in 1948 when Allen Funt produced a radio show called “Candid Microphone” then switched over to television with a new show called “Candid Camera”.  This show ran to May of 2004 and portrayed real people’s reactions as they were pranked or involved in awkward, comical, outrageous or abnormal situations.  Considered to be the very first reality television ever produced it’s precedence and innovation is still felt as the American public watch numerous shows each week that are considered reality television series.

Wordiq.com calls reality television “a genre of television programming in which the fortunes of “real life” people (as opposed to fictional characters played by actors) are followed.”  Wikipedia lists reality television as “a type of television programming that presents purportedly unscripted melodramatic or “humorous” situations, documents actual events, and usually features ordinary people instead of professional actors, sometimes in a contest or other situation where a prize is awarded”.

Viewers are attracted to this particular type of television series for a myriad of reasons. But the popularity has increased over time and the genre continues to evolve as producers brainstorm up scenarios and premises for new shows each week. The genius in producing this type of programming is that it can be customized to any viewing audience, of any age and interests including cooking, dancing, survival, fashion, home improvement, adventure, family life, weight loss etc.

The popularity of a reality TV series is directly affected by the level of involvement of the audience and the  subjects that are explored as the cast of show interacts. The audience must connect with the characters on some level for the show to be successful. Reality shows in recent years have incorporated audience interaction methods in the form of voting online or texting as a method of determining the outcome of the show.

This voting may be used for ratings, elimination of a cast member, or in some other aspect of the show. Viewers are often encouraged to interact on social media sites and receive updates concerning the show which entices the audience to have a heightened sense of involvement in their favorite shows and retain the interest of the viewers. This interaction also provides data to producers to determine what types of programming viewers might want to see in the future.

The more popular a series becomes, it can be syndicated to a national audience, spinoff shows created, and in the end spill over into other media outlets such as video and dvd sales. Merchandising is incorporated to cash in on the show’s popularity. As a show declines in popularity it may be cut from a network or bumped to a less desirable time slot.

Audiences are drawn to reality shows for the drama, shock factor, raw human emotion, to see how every day normal people react to abnormal situations using their personal morals and decision making skills. This leaves the viewer at home wondering how they themselves would have handled the situations they see portrayed on the screen and is generally discussed between friends and coworkers the next day.

As reality television shows branch out into every possible subject matter, social boundaries are tested and acceptable moral codes are broken as producers attempt to create shows that will compel the interest of the American viewing public. The affect that this has on the younger generations is more pronounced as they are more susceptible to the influence of these shows…for better or worse.

Ultimately as a source of entertainment audiences are affected by both the negative and positive natures of these shows. Repeated and regular exposure to either type will influence those watching and result in the imitation of good or bad qualities exhibited by the characters on these shows.

Some level of scripting or directing is involved in the production of a reality television series it is regularly argued that they are not in fact based on reality and will result in the audience believing what they seen on the television screen to be completely normal, acceptable and real…when the truth is that all of these shows contain an element of embellishment to make the show more enticing to it’s viewers.

Reality (pun intended) is reality television shows are less expensive to produce and can have a much larger payout over time depending on the level of popularity of the show. This makes it a steady source of income for most television networks and will continue to be used to grow their business in the future. For good or bad reality television shows appear here to stay and will continue to evolve with it’s audiences as controversial and important topics are explored through this unique social media outlet.

I admit, I love HGTV and my favorite “make-over” “reality” show has been What Not To Wear for many years, but do we really care about Honey Boo Boo?  Why does anyone want to keep up with the Kardashians?  Or do we need to know more about multiple women marrying 1 man on Sister Wives?  I wonder…is the fact that Snooki even exists as a television personality truly a sign of the Apocalypse?


Vicki Reed

Wish # 7

My seventh wish is that we turn off the television more often and lessen the constant bombardment of advertising, noise and a 24/7 news cycle.  It distracts us from what is important…put on quiet music and read a book, talk to your family, play with your children.

I have found that many people in my age group (I’m 48) are TV addicts and I admit to being one!  If I’m home, the TV is on…as I work, write, read, whatever, it is always on.  I think part of it is because we are the generation that grew up watching ABC, CBS and NBC because they were the only channels available and where I lived we only got NBC and CBS!  Cable came to be as we be grew up and I think somewhere inside us are those kids who had very little choice of television programs and are still fascinated by the overwhelming amounts of programming (good = Criminal Minds; bad = Here Comes Honey Boo Boo) available.

Turning off the TV will also eliminate watching TV news which likely leaves you frustrated and angry about things you can’t control…if you are looking for the weather, look outside and you’ll have a good idea of what it’s going to be like!   If something extreme and newsworthy happens (like nuclear war) I’m sure we will hear about it anyway.  There was a time in our not so distant past that we didn’t know what was happening during a war unless we saw the news reel at the local theatre or had a radio…this was a time when our patriotism was much higher than it is today when we learn about the news as it happens.

I’m going to try to turn off the TV more…we’ll see how it goes!  Can you do it?

No-TV-  Vicki Reed