Changing It Up..Media Criticism Style

Well hey there media critics! I am sad to say that this is my last blog post for Media Criticism class. Time has flown by and I am graduating in 2 weeks! Over the past few months, I have learned some intriguing and interesting concepts from Media Criticism. While taking this class, I have developed a better understanding of how saturated media texts are with symbols, signs and underlying meanings and messages. While I know you all love my explanations of the Media Criticism process we have been challenged to change it up a bit. For this blog post, you will be hearing how some of my classmates view the Media Criticism process and their thoughts about how we are impacted by this media saturated society that we are currently living in. I like this assignment because it gives our classmates a chance to see how their perspectives compare and contrast with each other.

Do I have your attention? Good, because up first is Mark’s blog and you don’t want to miss this. Mark highlighted the movie Mickey Mouse Monopoly and how the ideologies within these movies have a tendency to have an impact on children’s sense of reality.

disney-princess

In his post, I said “Mark, your blog post entitled Disney’s Dynasty…A Magical Kingdom Or A Problem, is brilliant. The title is very intriguing and caught my eye instantly. I developed curiosity about it and wanted to see what comments you had to offer. Your explanations of the concepts learned in class were very clear within your blog. By introducing ideological criticism and hegemony in your blog, it gives the audience a better understanding of how these terms relate to us and overall how these ideas are introduced to us through texts. Along with explaining the concepts I really enjoyed the examples you gave out of the movie, Mickey Mouse Monopoly. You offered a great point when you said that the Disney Princesses are controlled and made to seek out men to gain their help. I have to agree with you when you brought up the point challenging us to think if we wanted our children to see and learn these ideologies. The problem is that Disney as a corporation has a reputation of being family friendly, where your dreams come true. It is up to us as the consumers to challenge the elites and understand what we are being shown. I liked the images you included throughout your blog and I never once questioned the information that was presented to me. Your blog is very reader friendly. However with this being said, I would’ve liked to see a few more examples through graphics and some links to make the flow a little better. Otherwise great job, I enjoyed your blog and I hope you continue to blog in the future.

Interesting huh? Next up is Arco’s blog. Arco did a great job introducing Media Criticism  by explaining that as media critics we are simply critiquing the media and challenging values that are demonstrated in our favorite texts.

In his post, I said, “Arco, your blog post entitled Media Criticism, offers an intriguing perspective why one should take the time to learn about Media Criticism. I found that while writing this blog, I had a difficult time trying to get my point across to the audience. However, after reading your post, I was easily convinced to take the time to understand Media Criticism and why it is so important in society today. In your blog you said “In our current generation we are practically living under a media saturated environment. We consume all different forms of media almost as if it were a part of our diet. The power of the media can shape our individual lives, society and even culture.” I couldn’t agree with this comment more. You did a great job explaining that we are simply critiquing the media, dissecting it and challenging the various symbolisms and values that are demonstrated in our favorite everyday texts. The most fascinating aspect of this, is we are challenging symbolisms that we might view as the norm. It is interesting that as consumers, we accept the images that are shown to us. You break the idea down that Media Criticism helps us understand deeper meanings and foreign perspectives. I also liked that you used How I Met Your Mother as a reference because that is a text that is chock full of material that should go through the Media Criticism process. The only thing I would suggest is to add a few more examples on your page to support your theory and explanation. You did an amazing job explaining and breaking down the meanings and it is always good to have examples to support. Great job, Arco!himym

Still have your attention? Good, because I saved the best for last. Maggie’s blog is the last one that I am going to highlight today.  Between graphics and in depth explanations, Maggie’s post about syntagmatic, paradigmatic, semiotics and structuralism became alive throughout her blog.

In her post, I said, “Maggie, your blog post entitled What Does It All Mean is absolutely outstanding. You offer a step by step break down of how media critics should use semiotics and structuralism in our media saturated environment. When you said in your blog “syntagmatic analysis is used to understand the sequence of signs in an ad based on convention, while paradigmatic analysis is used to understand how the signs are constructed based on their shared characteristics” it brought an extreme understanding on how our society makes sense of objects within texts every single day. The way you used your graphics throughout your blog post to create a visual impact is amazing. Some of this information is difficult to explain and portray but everything is so clear on your blog post. Your explanation of binary oppositions is also brilliant. When you said “Because the way we make meaning from media texts can be very ambiguous, these different approaches help us study and better understand the process. By doing so, we gain a better grasp of the implications on society as a whole” I believe that this is best understood by your usage of the good and evil picture. While this picture seems to be simple it has a huge impact. It basically illustrates that a text can be the same but two different people can interpret the message two different ways. This is why using the processes that you illustrated throughout your blog is extremely important. I believe your blog is one of the most intriguing and enjoyable blogs that I have read. Thank you for making this easy to understand and easily relatable. I am interested in seeing other blogs posts of yours. Great job, Maggie!

GOODEVILMedia Criticism has been an amazing class. I have learned to be open to others perspectives and views throughout the class. I learned that while viewing texts, we all interpret them differently and all of us will place our own values and conventions on the texts. I am so happy I was able to blog and apply everything throughout my time in this class to examples that are shown in our society. This isn’t the end of my blogging future. I will be back around. Until then, keep critiquing you expert media critics! 🙂

Advertisements

Power and Political Economy: Are We Really Controlled?

Well media critics, here I am again! The school year is flying by and Media Criticism has been pretty awesome lately. It’s been awhile since I’ve been around but I promise I will fill you in on everything that you need to know!

Let’s dive right in, shall we? So lately, we have been discussing this pretty interesting topic called Ideological Criticism. Let’s break this idea up to gain a better understanding. First, Ideology is the means by which an institution exerts its power. In other words, how a text, such as a television show exerts its ideas to its consumers and followers. Ideology is used to control ideas to maintain current ones that are known to us as normal values and behaviors.

aljazeera

Now, Ideological Criticism examines the ideas that are embedded in texts. In other words, how the ideas reflect the interests of the elites who are in charge of these texts. For instance, a video by the popular media network Al Jazeera called “Baltimore- Anatomy of an American City” outlines the increasingly horrific homicide numbers that have been overtaking the city for years. Al Jazeera does a great job outlining this topic, however, the entire video highlights the danger of the city. The elites, in this case, Al Jazeera, focuses on the ideas that they want to highlight to the consumers. They use their power to focus on one side of an issue without equally balancing it out. If someone is new to Baltimore the ideas exerted through this video from Al Jazeera could control their feelings regarding the city.

Ideological Criticism is not just looking at the text rather it looks at how it’s produced, structured and interacts with our lives. Al Jazeera produced the video with the negative view of Baltimore. The structure of the sources through interviews shaped their argument which leads to a plausible and undeniably valid argument. See how we can be controlled sometimes? Pretty interesting stuff right?

Ideological Criticism challenges the way ideas embedded in texts are exerted. There are three main assumptions that are crucial to understanding Ideological Criticism.

There is value in understanding how media texts establish existing power relations. If we can determine and challenge media texts in our society we have the ability to understand hidden conventions and ideas that aren’t necessarily on the surface or easy to see. The next assumption is to inform and empower oppressed to strive for materiel changes to improve equality. In other words, informing consumers and society of the elites hidden agendas can help them challenge the texts and ideas presented to create change. The final assumption is to expose and challenge values that are often taken for granted. Basically saying, if we challenge the ideas that we see as normal through texts, start to think for ourselves and use values that we have learned, we can create a culture of texts that present and exert numerous ideas and values. It allows us to think for ourselves, instead of having the elites think and act directly for us.

Still with me? We still have some exciting stuff to learn! So hold on tight!

Now I am going to introduce you to the idea of Political Economy and how it correlates with the idea of Ideology through a few interesting examples.

Political Economy focuses on how media and texts establish and sustain power relations. More importantly, it focuses on how the media advances the interests of the elites. It is the link between media ownership and the ideology embedded in media texts. Remember, Ideology focuses on the text itself and how it exerts the power to the consumers. Political Economy is focusing on that text and what the media does to carry out the ideas and values that the dominant elites want exerted to us.

There are these people called Political Economists that are mainly concerned with the dominance of advertising and marketing in our lives through practices such as cross- advertising, cross-production and cross-promotion. Political Economists focus on social roles of advertising and marketing practices and its effects on how society reacts to the marketing and advertising through these synergistic practices.

In class, we had the pleasure of watching two intriguing films that highlight the idea of political economy and how corporate power dominates our society. The films were Mickey Mouse Monopoly: Disney, Childhood and Corporate Power and Consuming Kids : The Commercialization of Childhood.

I will be using examples from Mickey Mouse Monopoly: Disney, Childhood and Corporate Power to help gain a better understanding of Political Economy. This film highlights the values, behaviors and ideas that are exerted to children through a powerful and hegemonic elite known as Disney. Disney is portrayed as innocent, magical and wholesome family entertainment. Disney is an icon that has been apart of all of our lives at one point. The conglomerate, in this case Disney, exercises its control over messages in movies and advertisements.

Children don’t understand that the messages they are being exposed to are being controlled by Disney. Who would want to challenge Disney? How would we challenge Disney when the images, products and stories have shaped the lives and childhood memories of millions of people. You see, we allow The Walt Disney Corporation to shape what we know from the media.

mickeyFor instance, gender representation within Disney movies. The princesses posses sexualized bodies, seductiveness and a level of femininity that children aren’t aware of at young ages. These messages don’t focus on a normal girl, they make young girls believe that they must act, think and look like a grown woman. This is a misconstrued message that young girls have in todays society. It is forcing them to grow up early and start acting certain ways that aren’t age appropriate. In the movie Aladdin, Princess Jazmine becomes seductive to gain the attention of Jafar. This message portrays to young girls that they should use their bodies to manipulate and essentially get what they want.

Then there is the idea of violence and abuse. In the movie Beauty and the Beast, we witness Belle and her dad violently separated from each other. Through the time Belle is trapped in the Castle, she goes through many levels of verbal abuse. In the end, Belle excuses the violence and rage as a temper and interprets the beasts personality as tender and vulnerable. This is wrong. Teaching young girls to overlook abuse and be able to kiss the beast for his tender side to come out is not right. Young girls receive the message that it is ok to be abused and that they can change someone to make them right which is not the case.

See how hegemonic powers of the dominant elites can control our values and beliefs? Pretty crazy right?

You are probably thinking so what Diana. Why is this important? Well, I’ll tell you why.

It’s important to examine media through the lens of a political economist because it brings attention to another side of something that we constantly engage in. When we are presented with a text, we accept what we are given because we grow up thinking that is the norm. We don’t understand that the elites have this power to control how we think, act and comprehend media texts. The conglomerates establish this power by exerting ideas through our favorite texts and they embed them over and over again into our brains from a young age. No wonder we don’t know that challenging texts is healthy. By challenging these ideas, we can contribute to achieving a plethora of values and beliefs that may be able to change peoples lives throughout the world. No matter how controversial this may be. Striving to be different and challenge the norm always pays off in some way. Political Economists are finding ways to do this and some day the elites won’t necessarily dominate, rather they will adhere to the challenges they are faced with from society. belle

I hope I was able to shed some light on this topic to you all! See you next time, media critics! 🙂

View, Analyze, Approach, Critique

Hi again media critics! I am happy and excited to be back for a second lesson on media criticism and share what it has to offer. Media Criticism has been filled with some exciting stuff lately! For the past few weeks in class, we have been learning various approaches that help us with interpreting and analyzing media texts effectively. These approaches have been designed to help consumers of these texts, like you and me, locate the complete messages through signifiers, codes and symbolism. These approaches range from semiotics, structuralism, narrative criticism and genre criticism. Don’t worry, i’ll explain what these are later!

Since I began taking Media Criticism, locating media texts to decode symbolism and the overall messages have become not only easier but entertaining.

19-schlitz-beer-ad

The image shown to the right displays a man and woman in what seems to be the 1950s era. The advertisement displays the words “Don’t worry darling you didn’t burn the beer!” Immediately, this screams an obvious and evident message of sexism with the content present in this ad. The woman within this ad is holding a pan that is clearly smoking and heavily burnt. The woman looks up to the man as she is crying and he delivers the clever line.

The ad wants us to think what the man has said is adding support to his wife. However, I believe the message gives off a clear sense of sarcasm. In a way, I feel like the man is belittling her but using the opportunity to act as the supporter role. In those days, the man usually was the one bringing income into the family while the woman staid home to clean, cook and take care of her family. As clever as it may be, the message to me is simply phony. What do you think?

The audience demographic for this particular piece is undoubtedly that of men. When I think of beer, I think of men because I view it as a drink for men. This ad is emphasizing the idea that despite the fact that dinner is burnt, the beer is good enough to satisfy. Regarding demographics, Schlitz did something clever to involve women into this advertisement. By adding a woman, they not only increased their chances for attracting women to their beer, but they also emphasized the “American Dream” ideal. In that era, this ideal was something that each family strived for. If you achieved it, you achieved success.

Are you still with me so far? We just analyzed a text, now we are going to apply an approach to the media text. This is where it gets fun!

There are various approaches that you can use when analyzing a media text. In this case, I will be using Semiotics and Structuralism. Semiotics is defined as the discipline for interpreting and analyzing texts. It is the study of how social production of meaning is constructed through a system of signs. Semiotics provides four assumptions that you must take into account when analyzing a media text.

Assumption #1- Texts are constructed from signs using codes commonly interpreted in a society.

Assumption #2- While they have shared, common meanings, signs in the text can be interpreted in multiple ways.

Assumption #3- Texts are by nature ambiguous and meanings of signs can be unstable. It depends on who is producing and interpreting.

Assumption #4- Meanings vary according to person, time, place and context.

There are two analyses that we use to gain a better understanding of how we process and interpret media texts. These two analyses fall under the idea of structuralism. Structuralism is the study of the whole by virtue of the association between its parts. A paradigmatic analysis is used to understand a set of associated signs that even though are different are all members of a defining category. Paradigms are the signs that can represent general ideas and be exchanged for each other by common function.

In this case, there are many signifiers and signifieds that are embedded within this text. The signifiers within this ad include the burnt pan, the woman and man, the beer, and the handkerchief in her hand. All of these signs come together and create signifieds which helps us better in understanding, analyzing and creating meanings. We recognize the woman is a woman because she is wearing a dress. We recognize the man as a man because he is wearing a suit. We recognize the food is burning because of the puff of smoke. These are all concepts we associate with general ideas to locate signifiers within our culture. These represent the paradigms.

A syntagmatic analysis is used to understand the orderly sequence of signs to form the whole picture. Syntagms are created by linking signs from paradigms based on convention

Schlitz_Beer_Cone_Top_Beer_Can_Front

In the ad that I am analyzing we can simply use a syntagmatic analysis like this. A woman is cooking dinner, she turns to set the table, she looks back to see dinner burning, the husband walks in, she panics and starts to cry using the handkerchief, husband comes over to console and support and says that the beer hasn’t burnt. There is your ad in a syntagmatic sequence. Using this analysis helps us piece together each step one by one to create the whole picture and advertisement.

That was pretty easy wasn’t it? When you start to use these processes and approaches, ads take on a different identity. You start to view them in a more in depth way.

So why should you care? Well, there are a few reasons why you should take the time to critically examine texts. Each advertisement is ambiguous. Using these approaches can help you form your own opinion or thought towards a media text. It helps us make meaning out of ambiguous advertisements. You see, consumers see thousands of advertisements a year. We accept the meanings because we take the encoders word for it. The encoder is the producer of the advertisement. However, there are deeper meanings located and embedded within the context that we need to decode. Using these approaches help us understand and again the entire meaning and not just part of it. We are receiving the whole meaning by letting ourselves become critics and challenge ourselves to see different perspectives.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this lesson! See you next time!

Media Criticism…Who Would We Be Without It?

Towson

Well hey there future media critics! My name is Diana DeBoy and I am a Senior here at Towson University! I am a Mass Communication major and a Communication Studies minor. I have always loved this subject, so when I took Introduction to Mass Communication, it confirmed my excitement and validated my curiosity of this field. I was also able to land an amazing internship opportunity with CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield in their Corporate Communications Department. I am looking forward to applying everything I have learned into this experience!

Now to the good stuff. Media Criticism. Well to start off, I have always heard amazing and intriguing stories about this class. I’m going to be honest, I wasn’t completely sure what I was getting myself into or what Media Criticism was all about. After Dr. Nichols spoke and explained the course objectives it all made a little more sense.

carefirst

The course name, “Media Criticism” is self explanatory. It is a systematic process used to understand media texts in their sociocultural forms. We are simply critiquing the media, dissecting it and challenging the various symbolisms and values that are demonstrated in our favorite everyday texts. Texts can range from magazines, television, movies, social media, newspapers and so much more. The most fascinating aspect of this, is we are challenging symbolisms that we might view as the norm. You see, we accept the images that are shown to us. We can’t help it. Media criticism helps us understand deeper meanings and foreign perspectives.

There is no doubt that we are living in a society today that is completely media saturated. Whether we are reading a magazine, watching television, listening to the radio or simply surfing multiple social media sites, we are constantly consuming information. As discussed in class, being media literate is a legitimate skill that everyone should possess. Being media literate helps us evaluate texts and develop approaches to examine how each text is produced. It opens our eyes to symbolism and helps us distinguish our personal values from the status quo. Most importantly it helps us understand and comprehend media representation and its connection to other forms of texts.

Dougkel

During the first few weeks of class, we took a further look at Douglas Kellner, a critical theorist at UCLA. He has played a major role in the development of media criticism, cultural studies and media literacy. Kellner has written extensively on media culture as a complex political, philosophical, and economic phenomenon. He emphasizes in his seminal article, “Cultural Studies, Multiculturalism and Media Culture” that the media provides materials that we create our identities out of. An aspect heavily highlighted in the article is cultural pedagogy. This is defined as the understanding of media as a source of education. He explains that cultural pedagogy has a high affect on how we think, feel and behave. Makes sense, right?

After much thought, I think Modern Family is the perfect media text example. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Modern Family, I encourage you to start watching! This show is heavy in symbolism, values, cultural beliefs and challenging topics. The show displays 3 families who are all unique in their own ways. The three families consist of a homosexual male couple, a biracial couple and a heterosexual couple with three children. This show displays each family and their trials and tribulations that they face day after day. Modern family originally came out in 2009, which stirred controversy when a homosexual couple was a main aspect of the show. I believe that this showed a strong example of counter-hegenomy. Counter-hegenomy challenges the social norms and adds the ideology and social perspectives of that specific ideal.

modernfamily

Modern family helps shape our perceptions of each family displayed on the show. It takes a realistic and comedic approach to issues that we are facing in todays society. After watching this show for so long, I have grown attached to the characters because of their own personal values. I like to compare my personal beliefs to theirs. It helps me personally establish a relationship and correlate between the show and status quo. The issues brought up on the show such a homosexuality and interracial relationships help me form different perspectives in the real world. It helps me separate negativity and positivity and I truly appreciate that. Modern family is something that I personally feel educated by. I’m sure you would feel the same way too!

The most intriguing thing to me so far about media criticism is the fact that every text we consume has an impact on how we think, feel and behave. I am looking forward to learning different approaches on how to dissect and critique these media texts to provide different perspectives and outlooks for society. I am looking forward to the next 15 weeks and expect it to be filled with lots and lots of media criticism!