The concept of the mediated public sphere was first introduced in 1962 by Jürgen Habermas and was thought of as a place where individuals could come together and debate about news ideas and issues, whatever they may be. Now this definition may at first seem pretty straightforward but since its inception it has been widely criticized for many reasons, primarily for being trivialized, too fragmented, relying too much on spectacle and finally for being too apathetic.
Now each of these issues can be seen in most of today’s most popular television shows, one of them being Kurt Sutter’s drama series “Sons of Anarchy” particularly in regards to the argument that the public sphere has become too apathetic which can be seen through how frequently the show portrays violence and to what degree.
From the very first episode, fans knew to expect a lot of action-packed scenes, and consequently A LOT of blood, I mean the show depicts an outlaw Motorcycle Club and their illegal acts, so of course violence is going to be involved, but it does raise the question: where do we draw the line? As the show went on, it only pushed that line further and further, becoming more intense and confronting and eventually the fans (myself included) became used to it, and arguably, we became apathetic. You have to understand, from the shows inception we have seen characters raped (both men and women), a woman be burnt alive in front of her chained up father and a fan-favourite be beaten to death with a pipe in front of his best friend and fellow club members.
Statistics show that the series has some of the most involved viewers, which is evident in how the fans reacted over the death of the protagonist’s wife Tara in the final episode of its sixth and most recent season, with one viewer tweeting, “Well @SonsofAnarchy fans, if we survived Ope’s death, we can certainly handle this…” indicating that while the death, which occurred with the character being stabbed in the head multiple times with a cooking fork by her mother-in-law was still able to shock and horrify its viewers, it wasn’t the first time a major character had been brutally murdered. A recent online article discussing the shows most recent season also stated that, “The violence no longer feels particularly shocking or even provocative; it just feels arbitrary and a little tired.”
Now, don’t get me wrong I am a HUGE fan of the show, but I can’t deny that it has caused me to become somewhat indifferent to the violence it portrays, I mean now I’m more shocked if there isn’t a death in an episode than if there is. Therefore, I have no doubt that the show has caused debate in public spheres over just how much violence is acceptable on TV and if as a result it has caused us to become desensitised and indifferent to such scenes.
- Habermas, J.H., 1962. The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere. 3rd ed. Germany: MIT Press.
- FX, (2013), Sons of Anarchy Season 6 Poster [ONLINE]. Available at: http://seriesnews.biz/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Sons-of-Anarchy-Season-6-Promo-Poster.jpg [Accessed 06 April 14].
- ListenLogic. 2011. ‘Glee’ and ‘Sons of Anarchy’ Have Most Involved Viewers, ‘Mentalist’, ‘Good Wife’ Least. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.listenlogic.com/news/press/tv-ivr-ratings/. [Accessed 06 April 14].
- Fansided. 2013. Sons of Anarchy Season 6 Finale: Twitter Reacts to Major Character Death. [ONLINE] Available at: http://fansided.com/2013/12/10/sons-of-anarchy-season-6-finale-twitter-reacts-to-tara-death/#!CQiIQ. [Accessed 06 April 14].
- Screenrant. 2013. ‘Sons of Anarchy’: Not Bad, Just Familiar. [ONLINE] Available at: http://screenrant.com/sons-anarchy-season-6-episode-4-wolfsangel-review/. [Accessed 06 April 14].