Monthly Archives: January 2012

Concluding the Mini-mester

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I’m currently writing my fourth and final blog for my media criticism class. (Yay!) The assignment is to write to my fellow readers and introduce to them three blogs of my choice. I’m also to give my fellow classmates feedback on their blog which can be a critique, praise, additional information, or even something that they may have taught me within their blog.

Today I have chosen the blogs of my three classmates, Gerilyn, Adam, and Emily.  Here’s a little description of each of their blogs so you’re not totally lost by then end of my feedbacks. Gerilyn’s blog is about ideological criticism and how that ties into the major corporation, Disney (in case you’re wondering the definition of ideological criticism is listed quite nicely on Gerilyn’s Blog).  Adam’s blog was about Semiotics and how he applied this tool to understanding the meaning of a Bose advertisement. Lastly, Emily’s blog is about what media criticism is and the power of media to impact our lives socially, culturally, politically, and economically.

 

Now on to the feedback!

Gerilyn’s Blog: A Question of Ethics

Gerilyn’s intro was a terrific opener for her blog discussion. She explained concepts to her audience very clearly and organized which was an awesome tool to refresh me on the vocabulary we’ve been talking about in class. Her introduction was an effective way to get her audience up to speed on what Ideological criticism is and how it ties in to the Political Economy Theory as well as the corporation, Disney.

Gerilyn brought up a perspective about Disney that I had never really thought about before. It is definitely important to bring up in the discussion of Disney’s profits and how they maintain them. She said that children become co-dependent on Disney’s fantasy world. This is an excellent point to bring up because a child’s imagination is one of the most important aspects of childhood. It’s also skill that separates children from the adult world. With this being said, if Disney masters the art of feeding into a child’s imagination than that can only bring more profit to the company. I really enjoyed seeing this point of view from Gerilyn because the perspective is huge factor I had never taken into consideration when looking at Disney as a huge corporate machine.

 

Imagination, as Talked about by Gerilyn, also affects the artists behind many of Disney’s animated films. I think that this idea would have made a great contribution to her blog. In this link I have a video explaining how a child’s imagination has such a huge impact on the work of many artists and designers.

 

As a whole, I really enjoyed seeing Gerilyn’s more artistic perspective on the subject of Disney and how this greatly contributes to the company’s profits.

 

Adam’s Blog: Semiotics ≠ Symbiotics*

First of all, I’d just like to say that I found it extremely humorous and appealing that Adam made his blog seem like more of a daily journal. It personalized his work and made his writing seem a lot more relatable.  For instance, when he talked about his two sons and how he would be right back because one of the boys broke something. I found this hilarious and an effective addition to his writing that really draws his audience into his mind and personal life.  I felt like I was reading someone’s personal opinion for once instead of paper written simply for class.

 

Secondly, His analysis of the Bose headphones was a fantastic attention-grabber. I couldn’t help but finish the blog, a factor that I think is very important to bring up. His tactic of introducing the reader to his children and how they’re full of energy and mischief really aided in his analysis of the boy in the ad. He clearly presented and analyzed each object of the ad from the setting, to the boy, and then to the boy’s actions and behaviors. I also enjoyed the disclaimer he included about how people should not include these headphones in their daily parenting. His photos and organization put me at ease as I read through his hilarious blog.

 

One thing I would have to say that would greatly improve his blog would be to take into consideration the fact that people may not know what the terms used mean. I think it would have been more helpful for clueless readers if he had introduced the vocabulary a little more thoroughly in his introduction. Overall though, I found his blog to be one of the funniest I’ve read in a while.

Emily’s Blog: Introduction to Media Criticism

I would just like to start off by saying that I absolutely loved the video shown in the introduction. There were so many facts in that clip that I had never heard or thought about. For example, in the video a fact was shown that by the time I graduate in four years the technical information I learned as a freshmen will be outdated by the time I become a junior. With that being said, Emily’s video brought up some noteworthy points about how much we use and are involved with technology in our daily lives.

Emily’s example of Barack Obama and how the press called that election he was in the Facebook election really surprised me. I had never really noticed just how much Obama promoted himself through social networks. I also found it interesting that she said, “he won 70% of the votes of citizens 25 and under (the Millennial generation) because of the way he used the Web to hold their attention.” This fact totally blew my mind. I truly had no idea that much of our generation had voted for him to be our president. Her facts really showed me a new perspective on just how powerful media is in the political aspect of culture.

 

Overall, Emily’s blog was full of facts and statistics which really supported her claims on the huge impact media has on our individual lives. I, personally, don’t keep up with politics the way that I should so I found her blog to be not only informative, but also helpful in explaining the political perspective on the topic of media and just how influential media texts can be in today’s society.

To Sum It Up

I find that using blogs is a great way to apply what I’ve learned in class to real world examples. I also find blogging to be a great experience, especially when it comes to writing for the public. I think blogs, as a whole, are just another aspect as to why our society is so advanced when it comes to gaining information. I’ve gained so much insight on the topic of media criticism as well as peoples’ different styles of writing. Media criticism is not just another perspective to be taken lightly. I find it extremely important to pay attention to what I’m reading and watching because of the way that technology is constantly in our lives.

I truly enjoyed seeing my classmates’ opinions and ideas. I also found it remarkable just how many ways one can look at one topic. Without blogs many of our views would be very biased and one-sided. These media texts not only teach me new things but they make me think on a deeper level just how much the little things in life influence my daily decisions, actions, and thoughts.  I hope my readers have found my blogs interesting and informative.  Bye!

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Monopoly: This Isn’t a Game

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I begin with my blog that will make you think twice about what you’re watching and what you’re kids are watching on TV I’d like to ask a few questions.

 

What is ideology? Ideology is the means of exerting power used by elites, not only to extend power but, to maintain power in today’s society. Today I’m going to talk about the use of ideology by the giant corporation, favored by billions of children all over the world known as, Disney.

 

What is ideological criticism? Ideological criticism examines just how ideologies or ideas are embedded and circulated in texts such as, for this instance, films. It also examines how these ideas or values become accepted to society as natural, normal, inevitable, and unchallengeable.

 

What does this have to do with a monopoly or even Disney for that matter? Well I’m going to show you the observations and critiques made by many and shown through the documentary film, Mickey Mouse Monopoly: Disney Childhood &Corporate Power. The big and bad corporation, Disney, owns hundreds of companies. With this being said, they as a company, have some of the most money in the world, especially when it comes to the media industry.

 

Why does Disney have so much money compared to other child media companies? They are a huge conglomeration that continues to build itself bigger and bigger every day because of deregulation. Here’s a link showing just how many companies Disney owns and how this monopolizes the entire media industry not just in the movie field but in music, TV, radio, and parks and resorts.  Deregulation permits Disney to buy up any company it wants to  because the government is not allowed to make laws or push any type of purchasing regulation on major companies such as Disney.

I’d like to show you the ideas and values that Disney portrays in its films and how they have such a huge impact on children as well as adults in our American society. It’s also important to pay attention to how these ideas and values have shaped our culture as whole.

 

Mickey Mouse Monopoly: Disney Childhood, & Corporate Power

From a political economist point of view it’s very important to see what ideas and values are being portrayed in Disney films and how these ideas and values shape our culture and everyday lives. My focus from the film will be on stereotypes and how these stereotypes have directly affected the minorities in our society.   I’m going to describe to you the point of view or idea being portrayed and then I’ll explain how these messages affect our thoughts and minds without us even realizing it.

 

The Stereotypes

 Latinos

The first stereotype mentioned in the film was the stereotype on Latinos. In many Disney films the latino community is always represented with the same character, a Chihuahua. This is not only offensive because Latinos are represented solely as a dog but it’s also an extremely offensive dog used for many Latino advertising such as, Taco Bell. It’s also important to point out that the Latino characters in films are always doing some sort of wrong doing and look dirty and tired. Here is a clip of the Chihuahua from the movie Oliver and Company. This character portrayal used in Disney films is a total misrepresentation that tells kids that Latinos are all bad people associated with crime and, more literally, dirtiness.

Asians

The First Asian representation portrayed in Disney films that I know of would be the two Siamese cats in Lady and the Tramp. They have slanted eyes, buck teeth, and are very thin in size. This is extremely hurtful to Asians when it comes to the factor of their appearance. Not only is it offensive but it also isn’t fair to make an Asian person a cat, an animal that has nothing to do with the Asian community. Another representation of Asians shown in films would be Mulan. This portrayal of the Chinese was vastly improved yet there were still some majorly offensive messages portrayed about the Chinese. For example, in the documentary it is explained how Mulan portrays China as extremely sexist and oppressive toward women. There is a scene where Mulan, herself, must go into an interview as part of training to become a distinguished lady in society. In real Chinese culture this isn’t even a real practice. Women are not dressed up with tons of makeup and taught how to treat a man while also having to go through an interview to see if they’re a proper woman fit for the men in their community.

 Blacks

Many Black people, as mention in the documentary, are usually portrayed as a black crow, a monkey, or a hyena. There has not been one Black person in a Disney movie until recently with the making of The Princess and the Frog which after reading a review also sounds extremely racist. It’s extremely important to notice that many movies with characters portraying Black people are always dancing and doing some kind of jive. They also have a slow slurred speech as shown in the video to my right of the crows in Dumbo.  Another movie that is much more recent is Tarzan. The documentary pointed out that the movie is supposed to take place in Africa, yet not Black natives are shown. What was interesting to me was that the portrayal of Africa was totally unrealistic. Were the gorillas supposed to represent the black people? If so what does this say to children in Africa who watch the movie? It’s very clear to me that racist views are most definitely being pushed by the Walt Disney Company.

 

What’s Your Point?

My point is that while Disney, as a company, gets larger and larger they will become more powerful. This power will allow them to get away with anything. They will continue to hide behind, the childhood innocence, a characteristic that Disney has created over the decades. What’s alarming to me is that people don’t even notice the offensive themes being portrayed in movies not just made long ago but even those coming out now. Disney is creating a culture that is patriarchal and extremely oppressive to the minorities. They choose to push these messages into our minds subconsciously and then people believe that it’s okay, it’s rather normal and widely accepted to think this was when it’s most definitely not. From a political economist point of view I would suggest that everyone should become more skeptical about what they allow their children to watch. I would also suggest that even if you do watch Disney movies; at least have the decency to respect these other cultures and explain to your children that what they’re watching is merely a cartoon and that people of an ethnicity different from your own are not bad people. In reality we all should be viewing each other as equals.

Diesel:The Rebellious Side

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The Ad

Here, to my right, I have an interesting photo that the jeans clothing brand, Diesel, used to advertise its clothing.  As you can see here the photo depicts a woman standing on a ladder and flashing her breasts to a camera. What’s interesting is that the caption beside her reading out, “Smart may have the brains but, stupid has the balls” seems to be the main focus of the advertisement. It’s also important to notice the captions in much smaller fonts below her. They read, “Shop at Diesel.com” and “Be Stupid. Diesel.”

The Questions

Here are some of the questions that may be running through your brain? Is this ad effective in selling jeans? What does the ad mean? What is the photo in the ad really trying to say to us on a deeper, subconscious level?

The Approach

These questions can be answered just by observing and analyzing the images through the “signs” shown in the ad. I’m going to do this through the process of semiotics, where I will analyze the signs (signifiers), their meaning (signifieds), and how they’re signified (signification) into codes (field of signifiers).  I will also analyze the signifieds on different levels, syntagmatically and paradigmatically. The syntagmatic level will explain the combination of signifiers and the signifieds  that make the advertising piece in its entirety and how they create the photo’s theme or meaning as a whole. On the paradigmatic level, the associations of the signifiers will be explained to understand the defining the category in which they are placed.  To make it easier for you to understand this analytical process I’ve provided a short video providing a few examples of semiotic analysis.

On to the Analysis

The Woman

Now for the fun part! Let’s start with the first and most obvious image in the ad, the woman. When I first glanced at the ad I thought it was a young girl, coincidence? Of course not! They have the woman wearing her hair down and it’s blonde. Both signs can be seen as innocence because, as Arthur Asa Berger says in “Media Analysis Techniques”. Other signs that make her look young are her shoes and the way her jeans are rolled up above them. The bright tennis shoes are usually something we associate with children as well as the pants. The pants rolled up can be interpreted as a garment that only a child doing lots of activities outside would wear.

We can also look at the woman’s body. Her ribs are showing. This can be noted as the advertisers trying to get the public to associate the brand with thin people. We can also see her skinny physique as a sign to make consumers believe that the jeans will make them look thinner. We can also observe the fact that the side of the woman’s breast is showing. This image brings up signifieds of sex and rebelliousness. Lastly, I want to look at the color of the woman’s skin. It is a golden tan color. This brings up the childhood aspect again being connected through the fact that children play outside and therefore can sometimes have sun-tanned skin. The tan can also be a signifier of provocative signifieds as well as a signifier of sex.

The setting of the Photo

The barb-wired fence in the background, the bricked building, and the camera attached to the wall of the bricked building all signify being enclosed into an institution.  One could even argue that the background looks much like a prison. With this being said, the girl flashing the camera could be analyzed as rebelling against the system, the dominants in control. The color of the ladder is extremely important as well. The ladder happens to be the color red which is a color usually associated with anger. Within this particular ad one could conclude that the red ladder adds to the rebellious theme of the photo because the girl can be seen as angry at the system of which she is rebelling.

The Captions

The first caption to the left of the woman reads, as said earlier, “Smart may have the brains but, stupid has the balls.” The diction of the caption is extremely important to look at here. For example, the use of the word “balls” is not only an inappropriate word in daily usage but it’s also a word full of shock value. The characteristic of shock value in this case associates itself largely, again, with rebellion. Many in American culture see young, angry teens using inappropriate wording to “make a statement.”  The other captions seen at the bottom of the ad read out, “Shop at Diesel.com” and “Be Stupid. Diesel.” Again I’d like to point out the diction used here. The phrase “Be Stupid” can have a number of different meanings. The advertisers could be trying to be ironic by making a rebellious act look cool but then calling the person out for doing the inappropriate behavior. The advertisers could also be trying to associate the phrase with people that are cool. Ads like these make it a point to sell their products to a younger demographic. By making “stupid” acts look cool it therefore makes Diesel’s jeans look trendy, rebellious, and totally inappropriate. For younger teens looking to rebel against all things including their clothes it’s a genius ad.

 

What’s the Big Deal?

It’s important to understand what advertisers are trying to say or sell to its consumers. In this Diesel ad it has become quite clear that through my analysis the themes of the ad are rebellion and fighting the system. It’s also very clear that this ad is aimed at a younger demographic. We as a society associate teens with thoughts of progression and rebellion. Through the signifiers of the woman, the setting, and the captions consumers can view this ad and associate its images with characteristics of a wild teenager that I just described.  Without breaking the photo down and analyzing each of its features one might miss the subliminal messages that associate the jeans with being against the system. It’s also important to see that not only is the brand Diesel advertising jeans but they are also advertising wild acts as cool and trendy. One could infer that the ad is telling young people to act out against the system.  With this all being said, if you don’t pay attention to the details you’ll miss the whole point of the ad in its entirety as well as the themes being portrayed through the images.

Pay Attention: Media Criticism

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Hello readers,

This is Becka; I’m a mass communications major spending the next three weeks taking an in depth look at the media viewed by audiences everywhere, all over the world. The media being analyzed and critiqued, more specifically, are media texts.

The Questions

What are media texts you might ask?

Media texts can be any form of media from a TV show to a magazine article.

 

What do media texts have to do with critiquing media?

Two words, media criticism. Media criticism is the process used to understand media texts as meaningful sociocultural symbolic forms and forces. In simpler terms, it’s the way we make meanings out of the media that directly and indirectly shape our culture.

So What?

Now that I’ve explained the basis of what I’m going to be studying over the next few weeks I’d like to address the importance of media criticism and how it affects each and every one of us. Media criticism is extremely important because it not only helps us understand why we have the morals and beliefs that are in our American society but it also helps us understand how and why we are constantly surrounded by media. We literally cannot avoid it. With this being said it also extremely vital that you realize just how much media impacts your daily decisions, opinions, and actions.

For example, I found a video about the harmful effects that the media texts of advertising have on many children. It depicts how children and adolescents are the main targeted audience. Ads can definitely take a lot of the blame for bad habits that children pick up through what they constantly see on TV or on billboards in their local are. Children are eating unhealthy foods at any hour of the day, as shown through the photos of the obese kids and the McDonald’s billboards telling people to pick McDonald’s and eat late. These ads are only concerned about making a profit. What’s important to see here is that kids are being the most affected by this profit drive.

The video also takes a closer look at how these advertising texts affect our planet as well. Most online advertisers use a white background. These types of ads, believe it or not, are detrimental to the environment because, as shown in the video, they use 15 more watts of energy to load the page on your computer screen than a black or darker background would. A huge contributor to this waste of energy happens to be Google, a huge corporation worth billions of dollars.  This is a primary example of how advertisers make a huge impact on our lives. We, without even knowing it, are wasting valuable energy that could easily be saved with the switch of a color.  What does this say about our advertisers? Are we subliminally being told not to worry about our earth and its natural resources? I found it very interesting how money in the advertising industry seems to make the things we should really be caring about less important.

After viewing the video I have provided it should be much more apparent as to why people in our American society need to become more critical of what they’re viewing on TV shows, on billboards, and even what they’re reading and viewing in magazines. If we don’t pay more attention people will continue to oppress through ad visuals, misguide through food ads, and cheat people through the unknown energy they waste every time they search the web on Google. Don’t become desensitized by your environment of advertising clutter; pay attention.

The Power of the Television

Like advertising, many TV programs are designed to push messages into your head. These ideas can be values and morals, social norms, and gender roles. The TV program I’m going to take a deeper look into would be the reality TV show, The Jersey Shore.

Basic Synopsis

The Jersey Shore is about a group of people from the ages of about 21 to 30 who are all randomly selected and put into a house on the Jersey shore to live together for a couple of months. The house, as predicted, is full of partying, fighting and drama, and people coming together and building friendships. However, the show is full of lots of trashy aspects and scenes as well.

The Issues

The men on the show are portrayed as “meat heads” that go to the gym to work out, go tanning, and buy new clothes. The value obvious here is that men should base the bulk of their day around how they look and how they’re perceived by others. The men on the TV show also go to clubs every night, drink way too much, and bring home some different trashy girl who is dumb enough to sleep with them. What worries me is that young teens are watching this show and thinking that sleeping around is the acceptable social norm when in reality the men’s’ behavior on the show is extremely trashy and degrading to women.

Now let’s move our focus on to the women on the show. They all dress extremely provocatively, they drink way too much, and get arrested or get in fights at bars. They also are all obsessed with being so tan that they look orange instead of bronzed. What does this type of behavior say to young teen girls? Should we really be telling them to act with total disrespect for themselves as well as others? Should we be showing young teens on TV that they should dress like that or be that concerned with getting a tan? I find it very alarming that such a ridiculous show with very few morals or lessons has become one of MTV’s most popular shows.

An important example I want to show is a clip of the characters, Ron and Sam, fighting. It shows domestic abuse within a relationship not just verbally but physically as well. This fight shows viewers that it’s okay to be in unhealthy relationships such as this one. One could even argue that the show is pushing this type of relationship as a social norm. It’s pretty alarming and disappointing to me that people view that kind of behavior and become more and more desensitized to the violence.

The show as a whole is a perfect example of how powerful TV programs are when it comes to pushing certain massages and ideas into the minds of the viewers. Without media literacy people would not have the knowledge to look at the show critically and see all of the negative messages it portrays.

To Conclude

It amazes me how media criticism can show people all of the negatives within a show that many ignore and assume as just normal entertainment.  I hope to see some positives in TV shows as well that push values such as counter hegemony and multiculturalism. I find it interesting to see other shows break past the reality show norms of trashy behaviors and scenes to make money. I think a show that is genuinely enjoyable will take a more progressive approach when it comes to the messages and ideas they portray.