Pay Attention: Media Criticism


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.

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