Alan McKee describes the public sphere as a place where “information is made generally available to the public”. Compared to a coffee house, it is a place where citizens debate common concerns. The growth of technology has encouraged a dialogic audience; allowing viewers to interact with the media. The modern mediated public sphere therefore is established from fragmented media sources, not only from the producer but also the viewer.
Popular media today, is concerned with issues that matter to in the public sphere, no-matter how controversial they may be. In 2009, TLC debuted their new reality series, ‘Toddlers & Tiaras’ following the families of contestants in child beauty pageants. The extremely competitive parents transform their children into beauty queens, with fake tans, wigs and a LOT of glitter, going to extreme measures to win a grand prize.
A lot of controversy has followed the series, particularly circulating what the pageant elite call ‘pageant crack’. The sticks of sugar are given to the children to keep up their stamina at a long day of pageants. The public responded through Facebook groups and petitions by demanding TLC remove the show from the air as it encourages ‘bad’ parenting.
The show then aired a particular episode where 6 year old Alana Thompson, (better know as ‘Honey Boo Boo’) is given her mother’s ‘homemade’ concoction called ‘go-go juice’, insisting the sugar sticks had no affect on Alana. This lethal combination of red bull and mountain dew had Alana quite literally bouncing off the walls, claiming, “My go-go juice makes me want to pull my Mummy’s hair!”
The media frenzy once again circulated with articles and public discussions revolving around the debate on whether this lifestyle is healthy for children. Thus leading to issues of child obesity, pedophilia and parenting due to the supposed sexual exploitation of these children.
Both Alana and her mother featured on a number of talk shows, defending themselves, but everyone certainly had their own opinion on the matter. This debate is continuously growing and with the public sphere expanding more voices are being heard.