The spectacle of animals, prisoners, and gladiators fighting and dying in the Collesseum spoke directly to the Roman viewer’s sense of the proper order of the world. Even an impoverished shopkeeper could watch a famous gladiator die and know that he, the observer, was still above that poor wretch. To be Roman was to know that there was always someone below you, and what happened in the arena was the quintessential reminder of the boundaries of us, the crowd, versus them, the damned.
If we look today at our entertainment, TV shows and Movies, we see some of the same themes and certainly the same reinforcement played out. When we watch someone make a fool of themselves on a national competition, such as American Idol we're forced to think about our position, there at home, and how much better off we are.