By Brianna Holcomb and Brianna Ciniglio
Turn on any news station and you’re bound to find Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump’s latest campaign activities.
Whether it’s Clinton being whisked off by Secret Service because she has fallen ill or one of Trump’s children explaining why their father is not “deplorable,” there is no shortage of coverage for this presidential race.
Although we know the race for the White House is a serious and important piece of the American democratic system, can we see this race as a form of entertainment?
The definition of entertainment, by Merriam-Webster, is “the action of providing or being provided with amusement or enjoyment.”
If we are supposed to enjoy what we are seeing in order for it to be considered entertainment, then what are people looking forward to for this debate and what does the debate promise to show us?
“[The debate] promises to be exciting live television,” said Susan Drucker, a professor of journalism, media studies and public relations, before the debate.
“What we are looking at is a live television show that offers all sorts of tension, drama and suspension, which is exciting and entertaining.”
Alex Mucci, a senior criminology major, tuned in to the debate for the entertainment value more so than for anything else.
“This debate can be summed up in two words: a circus,” Mucci said. “I’m choosing to watch this debate as a comedy, not as an actual debate between two ideologically separate people who can actually shape the fate of this nation.”
Industry analysts have predicted that the number of viewers for the live broadcast of the first presidential debate will be on the same scale as the Super Bowl (more than 100 million people.)
There are a few similarities when looking at how media outlets get ready for the Super Bowl.
Hofstra’s campus was flooded with news outlets throughout the days leading up to the debate, all of which were setting up stages to cover the big event. Analysts were prepared to comment on the candidates’ every move.
And just like the Super Bowl, viewers at home will be watching and waiting to see how their players – or candidates – perform.
“I think many people tune in for the entertainment value – the controversy,” said Jingsi Wu, a mass media professor at Hofstra. “They tune in for the spectatorship.”
Adding Trump into the mix has definitely increased the spectatorship of the debate.
“Trump is an entertainment figure,” Wu said.
She believes that his background in the entertainment world before he began his candidacy has played a role in his success as a presidential candidate.
“His public persona created on ‘The Apprentice’ is very driven and able to manage things,” Wu said. “This parallels what people want to see in the commander in chief. They want someone who is able to make decisions. He has created an entertainment persona that they see has the qualities of the president of the country. “
But is viewing the debate – which will ultimately help the country determine who should be our next leader – as a form of entertainment a good thing?
“Entertainment certainly has a positive role to play,” Wu said. “[But] at some point we need to take the fate of the country seriously. We have to be mindful of the potential traps.”
Meena Bose, the executive dean of the Peter S. Kalikow School of Government, Public Policy and International Affairs, believes that news outlets and the debate moderator, Lester Holt, will be taking this event as a serious news piece and not as entertainment.
What were people looking forward to seeing in the debate?
Bose was looking forward to seeing how the candidates engaged with each other.
“[The debate will be] an event of the century,” Mucci said. “Which can only be seen to be believed that it is truly happening.”
Regardless of one’s opinions of the candidates, most would agree that the debate was a TV event worth watching.