Spoiler alert: This piece of writing contains information some may not want to know if they are planning on watching the series.
The Ranch is a popular Netflix series. Season one of The Ranch came out in 2016, but the main focus today is going to be on part six (2018) through part eight (2020). In case any of you watch the show I will do my best to avoid spoilers but I can not make any promises. The Ranch is centered around one family of ranchers in Garrison Colorado who undergo many hardships and have to make difficult decisions on a daily basis. The father is Beau Bennett who is a stubborn old man who believes his way is the best and only way anything should be done. Rooster is the oldest son and has his own personal problems with the people he chooses to love and hang around with. Next in line is Colt, he left the ranch for a couple of years to follow his football dreams and never hears the end of it. He actually buys the ranch next to his dad’s so he can start his own life and follow in his father’s footsteps. At this point in time, Colt is married to Abby and they have a baby girl named, Peyton. In addition, Luke, who is Beau’s brother’s son, comes along after a significant moment in the show to reconnect with his family after the passing of his father right before he was born in Vietnam and the passing of this mother earlier in the year.
Agenda setting is an Objective theory that was introduced by Maxwell McCombs and Donald Shaw. Essentially, this theory claims that “overtime, the media agenda shapes the public agenda”(368). The media frames the content that they put out to the people to best fit their agendas. The second level of agenda-setting is the “ transfer of salience of a dominant set of attributes that the media associates with an attitude object to the specific features” and basically putting an image into our minds (370). When the media does this, their goal is to mess with our personal agenda, or “the list of issues most important to a single person at a given time”(369). While explaining the importance of the agenda-setting theory, it is important to know and understand framing. Framing was defined by James Tanark, one of the leading writers in mass communications theory, claims that “the central organizing idea for news content that supplies a context and suggests what the issue is through the use of selection, emphasis, and elaboration”(370). This is crucial to comprehend because the media has a “set agenda for which issues, events, and candidates are most important” and they ever so slightly push us to think about these issues to make them seem like their thoughts just pop into our head (370). Lastly, the third level of agenda-setting theory is that the “media indicates which issues are connected to each other” essentially connecting the dots for us to best fit their agenda (372).
Secondly, Narrative Paradigm is a theory that leans towards the interpretative side of theories. Our textbook defines narration as “symbolic actions, works and/or deeds, that have sequence and meaning for those who live, create or interpret them”.(299) Later the book defines Paradigm as, “a conceptual framework; a universal model that calls for people to view events through a common interpretive lens” (299). Now looking more into a narrative, it is essentially how someone tells a story. Contrary to popular belief, Fisher does not see the narrative paradigm as rhetoric, but as “the foundation on which a complete rhetoric needs to be built”(299). Transitioning to high school English, stories are filled with symbolism, therefore the story is much more than was is said or written on the page. The main portion of why people love stories is because of the interpretation that relies on the individual to decipher. After all, there are two determining factors for a narrative, fidelity, and coherence. Fidelity is basically if the story makes sense while coherence is determined by if the story comes together and floes effectively. Lastly, the ideal audience plays a major role in whether the story hits the audience or whether it bounces off and has no effect. The ideal audience is an “actual community existing over time that believes in the values of truth, the good, beauty, health, wisdom” and much more (303).
Thirdly, Cognitive dissonance theory is an objective theory that was introduced to us by Leon Festinger. Leon Festinger describes cognitive dissonance as “The distressing mental state caused by inconsistency between a person’ beliefs or a belief and an action”(194). Essentially, cognitive dissonance is when an individual believes something and acts in a way that does not coincide with their beliefs. When we were younger we understood that liars are bad people. So when we would tell a lie, we knew we were not a bad person but our actions did not line up with our beliefs therefore we felt cognitive dissonance. Furthermore, this tension “of dissonance motivates us to change either our behavior or our beliefs in an effort to avoid that distressing feeling”(194). Many of us fall victim to selective exposure, or “the tendency people have to avoid information that would create cognitive dissonance because it’s incompatible with their current beliefs”(196). Another big issue we face with cognitive dissonance is the need for reassurance. This Post decision dissonance is “strong doubts experienced after making an important, close-call decision that is difficult to reverse. Lastly, Festinger’s minimal justification hypothesis claims that “the best way to stimulate an attitude change in others is to offer just enough incentive to elicit counter attitudinal behavior” (198).
As I have noted above regarding Agenda-setting theory, the idea of changing other perceptions over time can be seen in part 6 of The Ranch. Without giving away a to much of the show, the Bennetts are faced with problems regarding Rooster, financials as well as a baby being on the way. Throughout part six, agenda-setting is seen, where people attempt to influence others. This is mostly present after Roosters death, the media coverage is focusing on how he just fell off of a cliff while riding his motorcycle but, some of the Bennetts believe otherwise. Here we can see how the media is attempting to frame how the incident went down and it avoids other details, like the fact that Rooster was threatened by an ex-con at gunpoint and was forced to leave his place. The media is sweeping all of the other information under the rug to sway the public agenda. By covering the story as if it was just a normal day and we accidentally drove off of the cliff, the media is putting an image in our heads about the night. We can also see the third level of agenda-setting theory when the media tells us which parts of the story to connect. They do not tell us about the other facts, they only tell us about the information they deem relevant so we can connect the dots with the little information we have.
Agenda-Setting theory is important for leaders to understand and implement in their daily lives because we need to understand the importance of multimedia. By using more than one media source we will have a better understanding of all of the facts, rather than just one source. No two outlets are going to cover the same story in the same manner. By listening to more than one we are able to connect the dots and the information given to us ourselves and then decide what we need to do with this information. In addition to doing their own research, they need to be aware of how their actions can affect their followers. They might be the only ones that their followers receive information from, therefore it is important to frame, and design the information in such a way that it is not one-sided and gives the followers the ability to think on their own. You need to be aware that you “the media” does not control their information so much that it affects the people who work under you.
After reading about Narrative Paradigm theory, I found it interesting how the majority of television shows and movies actually follow the same rules and outline of this theory. Throughout all of the seasons of The Ranch, the story of the Bennetts has always been the center of attention. To understand the importance of what happened in part seven you must have followed the family through all of the previous episodes because of many characters from earlier in the narrative return for a showing. Nick, the same guy then made Rooster leave town, and the one the Bennetts blame for Rooster’s death returns. When they arrive at Nicks’s trailer, they see that he has badly beaten his girlfriend, so they decide to take matters into their own hands. This is a reoccurring theme of Nick being bad news, one would only understand this through the telling of the entire story. Nevertheless, Nick ends up dead, but it was not the Bennetts who pulled the trigger. Furthermore, narration is present throughout the entirety of the series because the symbolic actions and the works put together in a sequence developed the meaning of the show. If the events were put into a different order the meaning of the show would have changed drastically. When considering how the ideal audience thinks it makes sense why the conceptual framework was targeted towards a specific group of people. Ending with this massive cliffhanger of who killed Nick, the other characters had their stories and attempted to piece together what happened that night. There are multiple paradigms for what happened that night, but only by sharing each other’s thoughts are they able to come to the bottom of it. But colt decides it is best to lie because he knows who did it but he wants to protect the individual because they are a good person at heart. Originally there was a lack of fidelity within their stories because they knew what happened they just could not identify who actually pulled the trigger, therefore it never really made sense. But once they figured out who pulled the trigger in part eight, the coherence and the fidelity changed and they solved the puzzle. What is essential to take away from this is the power of storytelling when persuading individuals, and how one small change in details makes all of the difference.
Narrative Paradigm is an important part of leadership. When considering how people tend to listen and understand stories much better than class lectures, you could teach by telling stories about past experiences. As a leader, it is important for you to understand the people you are leading, by understanding their past and what motivates them so in turn, you can better lead. But to understand and get to know the people you are working with you need to listen to their stories about past portions of their life. Stories are essential to effectively lead individuals because it opens up possibilities for motivation as well as helps you understand them on a deeper level. Another way to look at the narrative paradigm and leadership is to understand your past story with the individual. This will help develop a close relationship based on positive past experiences.
In other words, Part eight of The Ranch has no shortage of issues and cognitive dissonance. With Part seven ending on a massive cliffhanger, part eight sheds light on the difficult subject. Earlier in part seven, Colt receives a phone call from a mystery person, we do not know who it is but it is known that this caller killed Nick. Colt is overwhelmed with cognitive dissonance because he knows he should tell the police who killed Nick to save his cousin from being wrongfully imprisoned, but he decides to keep it to himself to protect the individual. His attitudes towards the subject and his behavior are on a conflicting path. In addition, Colt and Abby are starting to get their marriage back together. They split because Colt was not completely honest with Abby. For this reason, Colt wants to change his behavior in hope of reuniting the marriage for their newborn daughter. But sadly, once Colt tells Abby about the phone call, he believes that his changed behavior is going to help with their marriage, but sadly it pulls Abby farther away. Inevitably, Colt feels cognitive dissonance once again because he was not reassured that he made the correct decision in telling his wife. Eventually, Colt is pressured into telling everyone who actually killed Nick, but his heart told him he was doing the right thing, but his actions screamed otherwise. Naturally, this leads to Colt participating in selective exposure where he would not listen to certain people because he did not want to listen to the battle that would happen within his head. The only thing that is for certain is if your attitude and your behaviors always match, you will never feel the pain of cognitive dissonance. But we are all human, and this pain is inevitable.
Cognitive dissonance is important when you are a leader or trying to learn about leadership qualities. There is a saying regarding walking the walk and talking the talk. This is what is expected of a leader. The most effective way to lead people is to act how you preach. If you tell the people who follow you that honesty is the best policy and you are not being honest with them, they will lose faith in you as a leader. It is important to understand cognitive dissonance so a leader can avoid this feeling, not only so they do not feel the conflict within their head, but so the people who follow them will put their trust in you. Knowing you made the right decision and are filling them in with all of the details they need to know. Leadership is much more than having people look up to you and want to be you, it is about developing a relationship of trust and respect for one another so they can one day fill your shoes and make you proud.
Essentially, leadership qualities can be spotted by an untrained eye from a mile away. When we were young, we did not have to be trained on what a good leader looked like, we just knew who we wanted to follow. When a leader is in front of people it is important they understand Agenda-setting, Narrative Paradigm, and Cognitive dissonance. Agenda setting is important to know because a leader must understand how the information can be swayed to fit other agendas and the importance of doing your own research. Furthermore, if we look at the leader themselves as the media they need to be aware of the power that they hold. In addition to Agenda-setting, narrative paradigm is important for a leader to know. This will help develop relationships with their followers as well as provide possible ways the leader can motivate others. Lastly, is cognitive dissonance, which is arguably the most important for leaders to know. Cognitive dissonance is important for leaders because their attitudes towards a given subject must match with their behaviors. One to avoid any conflict within their own head, and two because they need to walk the walk and talk the talk. If a leader believes going green is important but drives a lifted truck that gets three miles per gallon how are his followers going to take him seriously? But when it comes down to it, leadership is much more than what I have mentioned above, it takes a lot more than just these three things to be a successful leader. Nevertheless, these are three examples of what quality leadership should look like.