By Chris S.
In the contemporary United States competitive television shows have received great enthusiasm. These competition shows include dancing, singing and talent shows. This essay focuses on the popular television show, NBC’s The Voice, from the lens of political economy theory and interpretive theory. The Voice is a show in which competitors perform in ‘Blind Auditions’ for judges who have their backs turned to the performer so they are only judging the voice of competitors.
An anthropologist focusing on political economy would see The Voice as the exchange of values between the classes hidden behind the scenes. The main interaction in The Voice is seen in the exchange of entertainment for money. In the contemporary United States any form of talent, whether it is athleticism, vocal, artistic etc., is highly valued and there is in fact a price placed upon it. People pay their electrical and cable bills in order to receive channels such as The Voice for entertainment. Thus after receiving the money along with a large number of viewers, the producers of the show are able to continue producing more and more episodes. The second interaction is seen between the competitors themselves and the producers of the show. A competitor exchanges their time and effort by performing in order to have a chance to win the grand prize of a recording contract in return. It is in these economic exchanges that the values of U.S. society are expressed.
An interpretive anthropologist would view The Voice by looking at the deeper meanings the show brings to viewers’ attention. An intriguing aspect of the show, which truly enraptures the audience, are the ‘Blind Auditions’. This means the judges who must pick a contestant have their backs to the competitors themselves. This act is meant to eliminate any form of preconceived judgments or biases a person may have, which could visually sway their decision in selecting a performer. This symbolizes the contemporary United States’ discrimination or judgment of social or biological differences an individual may or may not possess. The United States’ society is entirely focused on the image an individual portrays. This obsession with image has been created and molded by publicity, which portray women and men in their ‘perfect’ states, as seen in; magazines, movies and news. The ‘Blind Auditions’ symbolize the need to look past social expectations and barriers in order to find the true individualistic beauty that a person possesses. By eliminating this barrier of judgment, The Voice provides an opportunity to those who have been rejected before based on bias and instead reveals the true talent a competitor may possess. The Voice expresses the contemporary United States ideals and values in the exchange of money for entertainment and the discrimination and judgment of those who differ from social expectations.
 “Like Us.” The Voice. McNulty Casting, Inc., n.d. Web. 29 Oct. 2014.
 McGranahan, Carole. “Cultural Anth 2100.” Cultural Anth 2100. University of Colorado, Boulder. Lecture.