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TONI THORNE: Innovation no monster


TONI THORNE

TONI THORNE: Innovation no monster

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EVERYONE SEEMS TO BE captivated with this new television show called Empire.

It has replaced Scandal as the most popular serial on television with headline actors Taraji Henson and Terrence Howard.

The show has pushed many boundaries and continues to do so by highlighting obvious realities and reflecting real life situations in a television production. Empire has trumped Scandal in ratings and increases its viewership every week it is shown.

Why are shows such as Scandal and Empire so popular? Does it go beyond an exciting plot and gorgeous celebrity actors? Perhaps these shows are popular because their storylines reflect reality and viewers are able to connect with at least one character or situation.

When Empire’s lead male actor Terrence Howard made public requests for the show to the use the N-word in its production, many cringed, lauded or pondered.

Taking a globa-local approach, I began to think about how we Barbadians view our local television content. What is “acceptable” and “unacceptable” for our local television channels? As technology evolves and more of us stream shows, watch international networks and subscribe to various YouTube channels, it is hard not to admit that the world of television has also evolved.

In this day of endless choices and options provided by the glorious invention of a remote (where one can simply switch the channel), I take no issue when a producer seeks to push the envelope and challenge the status quo. A contemporary view might not necessarily be that the producer is trying to force certain lifestyles or views down throats but rather that the producer is trying to spark some level of debate and discussion amongst its viewers.

“Not for television” is a sentiment that is often expressed by some viewers. Some of us share the sentiment, while others believe that this is a hypocritical stance.

If the media is a tool to highlight the realities of society, then why do we take issue when publications, blogs, podcasts do so in possibly unconventional ways. What then is the role of the media? Without realising, we may well be stunting the evolution of local production.

Ironically, we may want to omit certain elements from the promotion of our local content but then anxiously switch to international channels week after week or more readily log onto the Internet to view productions that promote the same issues that we would want to prohibit on local television.

I witnessed a host accosted on national television recently for highlighting African spirituality. The caller went so far as to say that by highlighting this kind of activity, the programme was encouraging those kinds of religions to come to Barbados. Unfortunately, what the caller did not know is that these religions are already practiced locally. Hopefully by the end of the programme, the caller was enlightened.

In my view, the most impactful programmes are not the ones which everyone agrees with or accepts readily. The most impactful programmes are not generic. That is not the role of any form of media. The most impactful programmes are those which stimulate viewers to rush into the office the following morning and stand around the coffee machine to discuss the issues highlighted.

The world is not only “flat” but limitless.

Anytime you are attempting to spark national debate, interest or change consciousness, there will always be persons who will be resistant. I believe that Barbadians need to be more comfortable with resistance. Resistance can promote strength of character.

People begin to fear the repercussions of bold actions and forget the old adage that “fortune favours the bold”. Whenever one attempts to be a game changer, there will always be negative backlash.

Innovation is a part of life. It is the reason why we have sleek iphones and no longer have gadgets resembling phone booths attached to our ears. Innovation is the reason why we have Skype calls instead of having to fly halfway around the world for a 15 minute meeting. Innovation is the reason why we can pay all of our bills at one location or with the click of a finger, purchase anything.

Innovation, however, should not be confused with lowering one’s standards. Perhaps we need to understand the difference between forcing lifestyles on others and highlighting obvious realities. The media is neither Stalin nor Hitler. The media is also not the church.

Toni Thorne is a fashion entrepreneur and World Economic Forum Global shaper who loves global youth culture, a great debate and living in paradise.

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