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.