Lauren's Blog

Conforming To Media’s “Society”

Posted on: June 6, 2011

Greetings! My name is Lauren Deares, I am a senior at Towson University and majoring in the Mass Communications field with a track in Public Relations. I am enrolled in a Media Criticism class this summer and will begin blogging about several issues concerning media and our society.

The course “Media Criticism” describes the theory and practice of media criticism intended for various audiences, including consumer-oriented criticism, social criticism and scholarly criticism. This course explores a variety of theoretical approaches and how they can be applied to better understand media texts.

Course Objectives Include:

–       Demonstrate critical thinking skills

–       Apply various media criticism theories and methods

–       Develop critical claims and employ arguments and evidence in support of these claims

–       Attain greater competence in the practice of reviewing, critiquing and interpreting media content, production,    and consumption

What is Media Criticism?

Media criticism is a systematic process used to understand media texts as meaningful sociocultural symbolic forms and forces. Furthermore, it is a critical analysis of some aspect of a popular culture text, news broadcast, or other media text.

In media criticism, a media critic makes an argument about a media text or a series of media texts. Every argument the critic makes must be presented as an informed opinion that is backed up with strong evidence. Now you may ask yourself:

Why Is It Important To Think Critically About The Media?

First, you must understand that we live in a media saturated environment. Media texts such as radio, television, and film forge our very identities; our sense of selfhood; our notion of what it means to be male or female; our sense of class; of ethnicity and race; of nationally, and sexuality.

Media images help shape our view of the world and our personal values. We consider what is good or bad, positive or negative, and moral or evil from the media surrounding us.

Every second we are being consumed by media, therefore, it is important to learn how to understand, interpret, and criticize its meanings and messages.

The media are forms of pedagogy which teach us how to be men and woman. They teach us how to dress, look and consume; how to react to members of different social groups; how to be popular and successful and how to avoid failure; and how to conform to the dominant system of norms, values, practices, and institutions.

One network in particular, MTV, targets a young age group through specific provocative television shows. For example, MTV’s shows Teen Mom and 16 and Pregnant are reality shows that film young moms and their children.  The moms are faced with challenges such as financial difficulties, lack of education, unemployment, and the psychological struggle of raising a child at an early age.

These shows, while showing the difficulties, also show the ability of the moms to overcome their struggles and to successfully raise their kids. This can be misleading to the viewers of the show by portraying the situations as being acceptable and easy while overshadowing the true difficulties of being a teen mom. Unfortunately, some teens find this to be suitable for their lifestyle and end up emulating what they see on the shows. They figure that if these families can go through the hard times and make it, they should be able to make it as well.

In conclusion, I find the influence of television shows to be very strong to their viewers. If a show like Teen Mom expresses to its younger audiences that society finds it acceptable to do these things, then the viewers will too. However, if there were negative consequences the reactions of the viewers would be a lot different.  Some people look towards television as a way to entertain and live their lives. This media text is extremely influential to our culture in the way we relate to society’s norms, values, and beliefs.

As television simply being a constant flow of images and sound, we are always engaging in the power of this medium. Those who dictate media culture tend to “mainstream” themselves, conforming to what they see on television. People identify with the characters and people they watch on television thus creating identities similar to those on TV.

According to Douglas Kellner, media criticism is valuable to understand because it provides some tools that enable one to read and interpret one’s culture critically.  The focus of media criticism lends itself to a multiculturalist’s program that demonstrates how culture reproduces certain forms of racism, sexism, and biases against members of subordinate classes, social groups, or alternative lifestyles.

The choice is yours, to conform to media’s society or live by your own.

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