Selective perception describes the phenomenon of only seeing what we want to see. This bias is most glaring when a large group of people see the same events - like a television show.
Have you ever been standing next to a friend, saw a fight happen in real time, and then turned to each other and said, “He/she was crazy.” One of you backs the first of the combatants, and the other is entirely on the side of the second. You can’t imagine how your friend feels different. Everything you saw seems to back your position. Your friend feels the same.
What you experienced was called selective perception. Give a person a preconception and they will not notice, or soon forget, anything that doesn’t back their position. When it comes to private fights, or events witnessed by a small group, it happens often enough. When it comes to events watched by millions of people, like television shows, there are wide gaps in how the same events are perceived by different individuals. I read recaps for a certain show, by a person I respect, and in my opinion she gets every single point the show is making wrong every single time. I don’t understand how she never seems to get it.
No rumor mill, please. It isn’t anyone on this site. But it is becoming increasingly common in science fiction and fantasy. As genre shows get more complex, and include more points of view, fan division on who is in the right, or why a certain action is taking place, can vary widely. This amounts to no more than snarking when it comes to minor points of story and character. When it gets political, people get heated.
What’s funny is, they always have. From the moment tv shows began getting into politics, people started dividing up over their message. A surprisingly divisive show was All in the Family. Running throughout the 1970s, it featured a bigoted American father who constantly butted heads with his grown daughter and her liberal husband. The show sometimes got flack from liberal writers, who claimed that it reinforced bigotry in everyday life. The show creators shot back that the kids were always in the right, and the dad was always in the wrong. Clearly, the show discouraged bigotry by making it the butt of every joke.
Then came a survey that showed they were both right. Liberals watched the show because they believed it reinforced their views. Plenty of bigots did the same. Whenever each group saw the other side score a point on the show, they minimized it or forgot it, while they were happy to remember any point - made by any character - that backed up their own beliefs. Two groups of people saw two different shows.
Before it was called All In The Family, the show had two pilots – the second of which was titled Those Were The Days, and here’s the late Jean Stapleton and the late Carroll O'Connor in a scene from that episode of the series “suggested for mature audiences.”
Okay so this is easily the weirdest and downright creepiest experience I’ve ever had in my life. This will probably get kinda long, so I apologize in advance. I also apologize to the mods for anything breaking the whole rule against “vilifying” someone, but understand this is from someone who lived with it and dealt with some really nasty stuff on a daily basis.
Sammy Davis Jr. plants a historic TV kiss on Carroll O'Connor’s cheek in this Feb. 19, 1972 episode of All In The Family.From the New York Times:
The Captain Kirk-Uhura kiss on “Star Trek” in 1968, compelled by telekinetic aliens, caused a stir, but the “All in the Family” kiss was more than a stir; it was in effect calling out a country that by 1972 routinely glorified black performers and athletes but was still full of people who thought and acted like Archie (Bunker, the show’s hyper-bigoted main character). The episode and the kiss have been making lists of top TV moments ever since.
In the days before showrunners were famous, Norman Lear was a brand name. His name stood for topical stories, and quality TV. He co-created All in the Family, which premiered in 1971, and was the number one show for five years. Storylines addressed subjects that were not typically discussed on tv back then: like racism, homophobia, politics and generational conflicts. Carol O’Connor played the conservative father; Rob Reiner the liberal son-in-law. All in the Family spun off The Jeffersons, about a prosperous African American family, and Maude about a middle aged liberal woman who never hesitated to speak her mind. Other Norman Lear hits included Sanford and Son which starred comic Redd Foxx, and Good Times, both about African American families—at a time when few TV shows had black casts. Norman Lear got more directly involved with politics as the founder of the liberal group People for the American Way. At the age of 92 Norman Lear has written a memoir called Even This I Get to Experience.
Photo: Norman Lear (center) created, developed and produced the hit show All in the Family, which ran from 1971 to 1979. The politically charged sitcom starred Jean Stapleton, Carroll O'Connor, Rob Reiner, Sally Struthers and Mike Evans. (CBS /Landov)
America may not be ready for CBS’s “All in the Family,”…the curtain opens with a lusty hippie type strenuously trying to drag his microskirted wife into bed before her folks come home from church. Mom (Jean Stapleton) and Dad (Carroll O'Connor) arrive in time to thwart them. In short order, his Dad calls his son-in-law a “dumb Polack,” malignes Jews, blacks and Puerto Ricans. “Family” is clearly a long walk from “Father Knows Best.”
“ya know something, if the whole damn world was to go to the dogs, as long as I had you standing by my side, or sitting by my side, or laying by my side, everything would be just ok. I’ve been blowing my own horn for a lot of years. I’m gonna tell ya something, I ain’t nothin without you.”
“ya know something, Archie? You’re a pip… A real pip.”
- last lines on the last episode of All in the Family.