We all live in and belong to multiple communities that we will never meet in real life. No American will ever sit down with his or her fellow 300 million nationals, a Londoner will never have a conference call with the city’s other 8 million inhabitants, nor will a middle-class Latina ever have the chance to meet all other middleclass Latinas.Thus, as Benedict Anderson (1983: 15) notes of the nation, many of the communities and social groupings to which we belong are “imagined” – not imaginary, but never wholly present, always constituted in the mind. True of our own communities, this is even moreso with our knowledge of communities to which we do not belong, and of people and places unfamiliar to us.As Larry Gross suggests, much of our knowledge of the world, and of the places and people that populate it, must come from indirect experience. Multiple sources inform this experience, of course, but given its wide viewership and its often mundane and everyday feel, television entertainment can play a significant and determinative
role in telling us of the people, places, and communities of the world. Many of us make the distinction between “the real world” and TV at an analytic, abstract level, but in the trenches of everyday decisions and thoughts, the two merge. We often judge people and places based on televisual depictions, make decisions about everything from dating to job aspirations with “information” learned from sitcoms and dramas, and select many of our heroes or villains from the characters we encounter on television.