About Entertainment for Social Change

Most people intuitively understand the power of entertainment on the popular psyche. Frequently, it is negative. Popular entertainment tends to reinforce existing attitudes in the United States--the white male as hero, muslim as terrorist, etc.

But it has also demonstrated its positive power. Shows like Will and Grace, Ellen, and Modern Family helped generate popular acceptance of the LGBT community.

In fact, there is considerable evidence that strategically promoting "prosocial" behaviors and attitudes in entertainment can inspire mass social change.  For example, in the United States, Hulu's "East Los High" led to measurable improvements in knowledge of reproductive health practices among its young Latinx audience. Rwandans have credited the popular radio drama, "Musekeweya," with helping to heal ethnic divisions in their country after its devastating 1994 genocide. South Africa's "Soul City" fostered a significant shift in popular opposition to domestic violence. Viewers of MTV Africa's popular television show, Shuga, are a third more likely to get tested for HIV. MTV's 16 and Pregnant led to a 6 percent reduction in teen birth, one third of the total decline in teen births during that period. These are but a few examples.

Entertainment Education

Red Hook Media Lab draws heavily on “entertainment education,” an approach that has been applied around the world by governments, foundations, and international organizations for over 50 years to foster positive social change. It is the process of modeling positive social norms within TV, film, and radio narrative entertainment based on several, widely accepted theories of human behavior, including Albert Bandura’s social learning theory. Mexican television producer Miguel Sabido developed the approach in 1974 with the telenovela, Ven Conmigo, which came to be known as the Sabido Method. Entertainment always leads, the characters are flawed but appealing, the stories engage, and the social messages are subtle. In recent years, academics and practitioners have refined the methodology and demonstrated its impact on behavior change.