Accessing My Classmates

Hello everyone,

Well this is it. We’re coming to the end of the semester and this fall 2012 media criticism class is coming to an end. For my last blog assignment, I will be assessing the Word Press blogs of three of my classmates.  I will be reading their discussions on many of the topics we discussed in class and respond to one of them. This blog won’t be a critique of what they posted, but a response to how they approached the assignment. I will explain to them what I liked/disliked and anything I may have learned from reading their blog. I will also give them a few ideas on how they could have approached the assignment differently and any information I feel they could have included.

For my first response, I commented on Kaila Flood’s post on ideology. Here is what I said:

Kaila,

I really enjoyed reading your post and I think you did a great job. Your post does a wonderful job of explaining what ideology and ideological criticism is in detail. I also feel that understanding what ideological criticism is, can help tumblr_kr8nybGVqn1qzmvbao1_5001individuals understand what the media is exposing its viewers to. Many of us watch TV programs, movies, and advertisements without realizing how the message is shaping our society and culture. Another good point you made was how this is a hegemonic approach that is used by these media conglomerates to maintain some form of control and manipulation over its viewers. With the tool of ideological criticism at our disposal, as viewers we can be more skeptical of what we see from these media outlets. Your example of how Disney accomplishes this hegemonic approach through the film Mickey Mouse Monopoly: Disney, Childhood & Corporate Power, was very informative. I like your two examples how Disney portrays gender roles and what it means to be a boy or girl. You give some very good examples with images, but I feel you could have given more examples of Disney’s ideologies through video like this one.  I also would have referenced how Disney uses their commercialization power to distribute their ideologies to the public with an example like this. Aside from those two suggestions, I feel your post was nicely done and informative.

For my second response, I looked at Eric Arditti’s Breakdown of Breaking Bad:

Hey Eric,

First thing I want to say is that I think you did a great job with the post. I have never seen an episode of Breaking Bad,51wn7FlN7xL._SX500_ but I’ve heard many good things about the show. Your introduction of the show is very informative and gives a good description of the main characters. A school teacher with a life threatening illness doing something illegal to take care of his family is a compelling situation for the show. Another fact you talked about was his decision to join up with a former student, makes it even more interesting. Their inexperience in being drug dealers, which gets them into all types of trouble seems to add another element of drama. You also did a very good job of describing how the show takes an Aristotelian approach, which looks at the story through elements of drama. Your analysis on how there speech in the show reflected their characters was very enlightening. Mr. White being a teacher with a professional vocabulary does not reflect his new profession as a drug dealer, but his partner speaks with a slang or street vocabulary. This showed me that you truly understand how the producers of the show are trying to portray these characters to the viewers. The post is full of images and good video clips to complement your assessment of the show, but I have one suggestion. I feel you could have added more links in the post, maybe to the official site for the show. This would give someone like me who may be interested in the show an opportunity to get more information. Other than that, I think you did a great job; it makes me want to check out the show!

And for my third response, I took a look at Allison Brickell’s post Man Up! Or Else:

Hello Allison,

textingFirst off, I really loved your post and you did a good job introducing your audience to your topic. I remember watching the series of Miller Lite’s “Man Up” commercials, but I really didn’t think anything was wrong with them until now. Your post brought a lot if underlining issues with the commercials that I would have never thought about. You did a very nice job using semiotics to identify the signs within texts of the commercial and bringing them out for your audience to see them for what they really are. When you view the commercial, it seems the roles have been reversed from what we’re use to. As you described, the man seems to be very passive and does not carry the qualities of the chiseled chin, broad shoulders and muscles. He just looks like the average Joe that you see every day on the street. But because he doesn’t choose to drink “Miller Lite”, he is perceived to be unmanly or not masculine. I also loved how you analyzed that the bartender happens to be a female who fits all the dominant ideologies of being an attractive and feminine, but with a dominant male attitude. I feel they use this to reiterate how not drinking their beer makes you feminine, like the guy wearing the skirt. And to be “manly” you need to drink Miller Lite. This was a great post and the only thing I think you could have done is add some links in your post. A link about semiotics or the Miller Lite site, would have given the ready more resources to look at. Other than that, nicely done!

In closing, I would like to thank Dr. Nichols for doing a wonderful job with the course this semester. After reading my classmates’ posts, it’s very clear that my classmates and I have a better understanding of what media criticism is and why it’s important to study. I have learned to look at media more critically and to be careful what I expose my family to. Too much media can be dangerous and if you don’t learn to analyze the signs within media texts, you will be at the mercy of what they want you to believe is right. Taking this course will be one of the best experiences I’ve had in college.

Identifying Ideology

Hello once again  media critics,

Back once again with another assignment for my media criticism course. For this blog, I will be discussing another field of media criticism we have been studying called ideological criticism.

Before I go into what ideological criticism is, I would like to pose a question. What if someone told you how you should behave as a man or woman? As a man you should have large muscles, drive a pickup truck, and be a “tough guy.” Women are supposed to be homemakers with slender and sexy bodies that they use to get what they want.

These are just a few of the ideologies that are expressed in many media texts that we see everyday. Yet many of us do not identify these texts and what they are telling us.

So now that we have a good idea of what ideological texts are, let’s now look and what ideology is. Ideology is an instrument used by dominant elites as a means of exerting power and control over others. What this translates into is a set of partial and selective ideas that give some particular account of how the world is.

An example of some of the ideological ideas would be an idea of what it means to me masculine, or what type of vehicle you should drive. After a while these ideas begin to seem natural and common as if things have always been that way.

This allows those dominant elites such as media conglomerates Disney and Time Warner, to maintain this control over the masses. With that said, let’s now look at how ideological criticism is used to analyze these ideas.

Ideological criticism examines how these ideas are imbedded and circulated in texts by these dominant elites. These ideas are used to reflect and serve the interest of these elites, and through time begin to become accepted as normal. This concept is something political economists are very concerned about.

Political economists are examining the social role of advertising/marketing practices by these media conglomerates and its influence on our “consumer culture.” They feel these practices promote a culture of “consumption”, that is unhealthy for our society.

Today I will explain how these political economists feel this is a major concern in our culture and why we need to be aware of what media is. The way political economists see it, our children are being targeted by these media conglomerates in ways we don’t even notice.

Two films that political economists use to show these ideologies in a new light are “Mickey Mouse Monopoly: Disney, Childhood & Corporate Power” and “Consuming Kids: The Commercialization of Childhood.”

In these films, many ideological criticism theories are used  to show how media texts are used to influence and shape our children. They show how movies, books, and toys are used to give our children a false sense of what the world is really like.

The film “Mickey Mouse Monopoly: Disney, Childhood & Corporate Power,” shows Disney’s increasing size and ownership of mass media organizations and ideology on femininity and race.

Dr. Henry Giroux feels that Disney has made a spectacle of innocence and hides behind it in an attempt to separate corporate culture from corporate power.  They present a product that promotes a magical and fun world that does not exist and as parents if we allow our children to view these films, we are allowing Disney to shape our children’s view of the world.

One of Disney’s main ideologies is gender representations and what it means to be a girl or boy. The images and representations of these ideologies remain consistent in their films and never change.

Young girls are taught that to be feminine, you need to have long beautiful hair, a slender body, seductive eyes and a beautiful voice. Disney maintains these characteristics even in their animal representations of females. They show females as sexy and seductive with the ability to use their bodies to manipulate people to get what they want.

This gives young girls a false image of what femininity is and how mature women should behave. Many young girls don’t make the comparisons from the women they see in the Disney films to the woman in their lives. They will just want to become their favorite characters from the movies.

When its comes to Disney’s ideology of race, the movie points out that the script writers are predominantly white males that have no real perception of ethnicity. Whether they do it intentionally or unintentionally, their portrayal of characters who may be of an ethnic background is viewed as racist.

Blacks are portrayed as monkeys, orangutans, or crows who speak with a juke or jive slang. They dance around doing the hustle or breakdance and portray themselves as black monkeys who want to become real men but can’t.

Disney has also taken criticism from films such as Tarzan, that portrays a “white” man who tames the animals and natives in the jungles of Africa with no black people around. Black children who watch this film with no African people in it, will have no choice but to relate to the gorillas in the film. This causes a potential problem of promoting white supremacy since no other races are properly represented.

But these gender and race ideologies from Disney and other media conglomerates are not the only thing that concerns political economists. The ideology of consumerism is a huge problem for children in our society.

The film “Consuming Kids: The Commercialization of Childhood,” highlights how our children are being groomed to be consumers from birth. Media conglomerates look at children as having serious purchasing power with their allowances, and the “nag factor” of getting their parents to buy it for them.

Children are taught that what you buy is who you are in our society and if you don’t have nice things you are a nobody. This gives children a sense of entitlement and promotes a “got to have it” type of attitude.

Political economists feel that children are now living in a world of materialism that is squeezing out childhood. Children are now not allowed to be creative when they play, as they would rather imitate what they see in the movies.

With all these points being made, you may ask yourself why is ideological criticism so important. Our children are being targeted and shaped by these media conglomerates and many of us don’t even know it. This is mainly because we as parents have also been shaped by the ideologies of these same corporations.

Many of these ideologies have become so normal and common, that we don’t even realize when we are being manipulated so we don’t question it. Without ideological criticism we would never know the underlining themes of the texts that are presented to us.

Ideological criticism gives us a tool to fight against the hegemonic practices of these media conglomerates. Without it everyone would fall into a state where we believed everything we saw in television, and never have our own ideas about what the world is really like.

Hello again fellow media critics,

I’m back with another blog assignment, but this one will be a bit different. In my last blog, I discussed media criticism and its importance in understanding and identifying media texts. With this blog I’m going to do something a bit different. Today I will be taking one of my favorite TV programs, Burn Notice, and apply one of the concepts I have learned to critically examine this particular text.

Burn Notice is an American TV program that portrays a spy named Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan), who has been “burned”, and now uses his unique skills to help those in need. The show covers multi genres as it can be categorized as action, crime, drama, mystery, or thriller.

Some of the other characters that assist Michael Westen in his adventures include his ex girlfriend Fiona Glenanne (Gabrielle Anwar), close friend Sam Axe (Bruce Campbell), and mother Madeline Westen (Sharon Gless). All of these characters’ lives become intertwined as they work together to solve the mystery of how Michael became burned, and any other situations that come up along the way.

The setting for the show takes place in the American city of Miami, FL, which is portrayed as a hotbed for drug/gun trafficking, kidnaping, money laundering and all types of illegal activity. The main storyline of the show has Michael taking jobs for people who are desperate for help, while dealing with his own demons from a rough childhood and spy career.

The program is geared toward those who enjoy a good action/crime show with a bit of drama and mystery. Burn Notice comes with plenty twists and turns that will have viewers wondering what will happen next, while having plenty of gun fights, car chases and explosions to satisfy those who love action.

Michael’s relationship with each character is very unique and plays a large role in how the show progresses. His love for Fiona puts him in situations that he usually does not want to be in as seen here.

Sam Axe is one of Michael’s closest friends, and he trusts him with his life. He is always the first person Michael calls upon for help with any situation.

The relationship between Michael and his mother is very sketchy.  They were both abused by his father, and she is afraid of his safety on every job he takes. After Michael lost his brother on a mission, their relationship has gotten worse. She blames him for not protecting his brother or being there for her.

Now that we know the main characters on the show, I’ll now go into the critical explanation of the program using narrative criticism. Narrative analysis is the study of texts and how they are structured into a chain of events that achieve certain effects. These effects come about because of the arrangement of the story in a beginning, middle, and end format.

Vladimir Propp was a Russian theorist who examined  narrative analysis through folk tales and came to the conclusion that they all shared the same elements of 31 “functions” and 8 “character types”.  Using narrative analysis will allow you to understand these sequence of events and character functions/types to help show potential meanings in certain texts.

I will be doing my narrative criticism of Burn Notice, by using Propp’s analysis of the 8 broad character types/roles in a TV program. I will place the characters in a particular role based on their actions within the show.

The episode I will be analyzing is the season six finale entitled “Desperate Times”. Michael is still searching for his brother’s killer, and he turns to his old mentor Tom Card (John C. McGinley), for help but finds that he has more enemies than he thought.

The hero in the episode is of course Michael Westen, who is searching for his brother’s killer and will do anything to catch him. He places himself and his team in the city of Panama, to hunt down that man who he thought was responsible.

The villain is a man by the name of Tyler Grey (Kenny Johnson),who is revealed to Michael as the man responsible for his brother’s death. Michael’s mentor, Tom Card, informs him that he found some information on a arms theft and that Grey could be the man he is looking for.

The donor is Michael’s mentor and former boss Tom Card. He gives Michael the information and sends him to Panama to capture his brother’s killer.

The (magical) helper(s) are the people Michael depend on most on his missions. Fiona, Sam, and a new-comer to the team Jesse Porter (Coby Bell). They help Michael  successfully complete his missions, and will always put his needs above their own. They follow Michael to Panama and risk their lives to help him find Tyler Grey.

The Princess is not represented in this particular episode, but in past episodes Fiona has played this role in the episode “Split Decision”. In this episode, Michael puts his life and career on the line to get Fiona out of prison.

Her father does not have a represented role in this episode.

The dispatcher role is played by Tom Card. He is the person who sends Michael to Panama in search of Tyler Grey.

The false hero/anti hero is played yet again by Tom Card. At the end of the episode, it is revealed that he set up Michael and his team to be killed while in Panama.

This narrative analysis on Burn Notice, confirms Propp’s theory that all the characters in a TV program can be resolved into 8 broad character types that help us to follow and understand a story. All characters will fill at least one role and some will fill multiple. Narrative criticism gives the viewers an opportunity to be critical of the texts we are presented with and its effects. It makes it easier to follow and understand the story the way the producer of the text wanted us to.

Many of the texts we see on TV programs, carry over into our culture and become “second nature”.  The ability to understand these concepts are critical in examining  texts and their influence on our culture. Without narrative criticism we would just accept the stories as we see them, and not have tales of our own.

Media Criticism and why its Important

Hello media savvy people,

My name is Mark Scott and I am a Towson University senior currently pursuing a degree in Mass Communication. This semester I enrolled into a Media Criticism course, because I felt it would help me to be more critical and aware of the messages various media outlets were trying to send me. The objective of the course is to help students distinguish, identify, and apply various media criticisms to develop critical claims, arguments and evidence to support them.

One important concept to understand is how media has the power to shape and effect our society, culture and our individual lives. If we do not  learn to become critical of what the media presents to us, then we will believe anything we read or see. Just because the media wants you to believe something, that does not mean you should.

Media criticism is the study of media “texts”. These texts can be from TV programs, news shows, advertisements and social media. Media criticism  provides us with the “tools” needed to understand and interpret what these various texts mean. Once you can understand what these various media texts are trying to tell you, then you will become media literate.
Media literacy is a skill everyone should have, simply because we live in such a media saturated world. We encounter media around every turn in our everyday lives, and we should be critical of every single one. It’s the media’s job to manipulate us into thinking that the messages or “texts” that they show us are truthful and possible. For example, if I drink a slurpee on a hot summer day, my brain and hair will not freeze. This interpretation of the text is something a media literate person can do easily,but what about those who can’t?  Will they believe what they see in advertisements and be astonished by what can happen if they buy a particular product only to be disappointed when they find out it was false.

For example, television is the largest and most profitable media today. Television is an industry driven by profit that supplies us with a constant flow of images and sounds. It can be used as a powerful media tool for sending messages for a mass audience to receive.

One of my favorite TV programs, before they ended the series, was House, MD. This show portrayed the life of a man named Gregory House, who was a  brilliant doctor that was called upon to solve medical mysteries no one else could. He was built to be more of a super doctor who always had the right diagnosis and was never wrong, except when he wanted to be. But as brilliant as he was, he often had more problems than many of his patients including an addiction to painkillers, and it effected everyone in his life. House is demeaning and cold to almost all of his patents, and treated his best friend even worse on some occasions. He defied his boss whenever he could and many of the doctors on his team hated him, but continued to work for him out of respect for his so called brilliant mind. He felt that he was above anyone else and the rules didn’t apply to him because of his profession and position and he could care less about anyone but himself.

Over the years, many of the doctors that were on his team either quit, were fired, and one even committed suicide.

House, MD shows how the media portrays doctors as miracle working super humans, that have all of the answers and can solve any problems. In a society that already holds doctors to higher standards than ordinary professionals, shows like this don’t help people realize that doctors are just as normal as everyone else. The truth is, many doctors work extremely long hours and and are underpaid for what they do. They don’t always have the right answer, and they can make mistakes that cause patients death more than saving their lives.

TV programs like this give people a false hope when they look to their own doctors to solve all their medical problems, and can give people a bad perception of doctors and their behavior. Doctors should follow rules and care for their patients, unlike the character in the show. People who are not media literate would not understand that this fictional doctor was created for dramatic entertainment, and not for informational purposes.

We live in a world where media is literally shoved in our faces on a 24/7 basis. If we don’t learn to be critical of what we’re consuming, we can fool ourselves into thinking how the media wants us to instead of thinking for ourselves. I want study media criticism to learn how to be critical of media and have my own opinion about what’s best for me, and how I should live my life.