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.

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