In David Croteau’s article, Media and Ideology, he explains that mass media ideologists are not focusing on very specific examples of the messages being taught to consumers, for example individual songs or movies, but the broad, underlying messages within all of them that are often very obvious, but sometimes more invisible and subliminal. “For ideological analysis, the key is the fit between the images and words in a specific media text and ways of thinking about, even defining, social and cultural issues.” This made me think of what Chris was talking about in class the other day about seeing advertisements and media messages not just for this face value, but seeing them as a text. I wasn’t in class the day you all actually discussed this, but what I understood about the funny examples Chris gave the day we talked about sex-positivity, was that even if an advertisement just seems stupid and actually makes you ask “what does that even have anything to do with the product being sold?” there is a hidden agenda in it that intentionally makes you think a certain way about the product, otherwise marketing companies would not use those ridiculous advertisements to promote themselves.
One quote that struck me was about half way through page 160. “Instead of assessing the images and making some judgment about levels of realness, ideological analysis asks what these messages tell us about ourselves and our society.” This made me think of a documentary that I watched recently with my boyfriend who is taking a mass media class at URI. In the documentary, The Merchants of Cool by Douglas Rushkoff, marketers and market researchers are the merchants being referred to. They are the people who actually go out into society and search for supposedly “authentic” scenes and the people who take their scene to the extreme, known as “trend setters.” Once they find these social scenes and what makes them intriguing and “real” to those certain people, they go back to whatever companies they work for and create products and advertisements that specifically market to those groups. It works extremely well, that is until they have eventually overexploited it, changed it’s meaning, and what was once a “cool,” unique culture is now commonplace and ultimately “uncool.” So the people who were once the “trend setters” realize how overused their look now is, and are forced to again change or suffer from being uncool and unoriginal. This is why, according to the documentary, that youth culture is always changing; because any cultural characteristic that is "real" and unique will eventually be discovered by mass media and abused, driving the uncool-fearing culture in new direction. So after a while, the lines get blurred and the question the documentary poses is weather or not we, everyday citizens, influence the media, or if the media manipulates us. So, because any single illustration of what is cool in society can be used as an example of the influence mass media holds, the message that the sum of the illustrations tells about our society is much more profound and important. [I found the documentary really interesting, but also very unsettling, and I would encourage anyone to find it online and watch it!]
Another piece of Croteau’s article reminded me of the movie we watched in class, “Tough Guise”.
“...as the Internet expands, politicians continue to condemn the availability of sexually explicit material online and argue that unregulated speech and imagery on the Internet pose a threat to children’s safety and well-being."
This made me think of Jackson Katz’s explanation of sexualized violence. He said that in many violent movies, such as horror movies, the film makers are advertising to males by showing sexy scenes of women doing things like showering in a locker room together or having a sleepover in their underwear, and just as the peak of the scene is arousing the viewer, a murderer comes in a kills these women in terrible ways. As a woman, I always thought those kinds of scenes in movies were tacky and unrealistic, but I never considered how dangerous pairing the two images could be. I believe that Croteau is completely right, or I guess the politicians are right for condemning easily accessible sexually explicit material to our youth. The developing brains of children are effortlessly influenced by everything they see, and for children to be able to go on the internet and view pornography and movies that incorporate sexualized violence as often as they want and without any discretion, they can actually grow up coupling sex and violence as one, literally training their brains to almost irreversibly associate them together! It is no wonder to me why the rates of domestic abuse and cases of violent rape have been drastically increasing in recent years with those images being pushed on vulnerable minds of kids today.
Overall, the incredible power the media has on us is unsettling. Most of us don't even realize that we're being manipulated by it until we find ourselves consuming the products we were mocking advertisements of. Many more don't ever realize it at all. I'm not trying to tell anyone to stop consuming, but this article has made me more aware of how what we consume and support tells us about our society. Because the influence of the media is basically unavoidable, I find it incredibly important to at least dissect things being marketed to "us", figuring out what they are trying to make you think and feel in order to be more conscious of they ways the media influences the way we act in society.