Active Audience or Bust?

Hello all! My name is Jennifer smith and I am a mass communications major at Towson University. Currently, I am studying public relations and advertising. I have a love for fashion and hope to incorporate that into my future career somehow. A major component of the mass communications field is the media. I love to study the media and its overall effect on society. Currently, I am taking a media criticism class with the fabulous Dr. Sandy Nichols, and I couldn’t be having more fun learning. In this class, we study how the media plays a vital role in shaping our everyday lives. First of all, you may be asking yourself how the media has acquired this large role in our lives. The answer: hegemony.

For those of you who don’t know what that means, I will help you out. Hegemony is a type of power elites can maintain over the masses. Yes, they have the power, power that has been obtained through their large dominance over mass media outlets. For example, large corporate conglomerates like ABC and NBC own so many facets of the media that they decide what ideas, values, or norms they want to reinforce in society. This may seem too obvious to be overlooked by society, but it’s not. In fact, many people have no idea that the programs they choose to watch are influencing them. All media texts reinforce a common stereotype, norm or value in society, and that is why I feel we should think more critically about the media.

When I say we should be more critical, I mean that we should all think about our favorite media text and its real message to viewers. If we are constantly being exposed to a text that reinforces stereotypical gender roles, we have to admit that it would begin to affect our views on the topic as well. Viewers constantly seeing a woman as a stay at home mother and a man as the working bread-winner will influence the viewers own outlook of gender roles. Reinforcing this gender stereotype will lead viewers to believe that the norm in society is women stay home and men work. We all know that in today’s world this is pretty far from the truth.

I looked around, and I found an article that discusses the strong presence of hegemony in televised sports. The article states that “despite the vast increase in the number of women who actively participate or once played organized sports, research has consistently shown sport media generally provide far more coverage of men’s sports than women’s sports.” I found this interesting because it shows exactly how we need to be media literate in today’s society. I will even admit that I never thought twice about always seeing men’s basketball on TV or men’s soccer. I have seen David Beckham on TV way more than I ever saw Mia Ham. However, the sad part is that I expect to see David Beckham, not because he’s cute, but because men’s sports get the majority of media coverage. But for those of you who don’t pick up on this because you don’t watch sports, let’s take a more recent, controversial media text: The Jersey Shore.

Now this text takes on a whole different stereotype than gender roles. The Jersey Shore has led many of those who watch to believe these young adults represent the entirety of New Jersey. But, for that small population who has never heard of this television show, let me descried it for you. The Jersey Shore is a reality show that depicts the everyday lives of a group of eight Italian adults. However, when I say the show depicts their lives, I should say it depicts their party and drinking skills. I have never seen adults drink and sleep around so much in my life. The show, as you may have guessed, has received flack from the rest of the New Jersey population. They feel that the show is an exaggeration of a very small group of adults who live in Jersey. The cast of the Jersey Shore has honestly led millions of people to believe that Jersey society consists of drinking, sex, tanning, laundry and coined sayings such as t-shirt time.

There is also another group besides the population of Jersey that is outraged by the reality show: Italians. Italians feel that they are being heavily misrepresented because the cast speaks of their Italian heritage frequently. So not only is New Jersey getting a bad rep, but so are Italians. The Jersey Shore is a prime example of how television shapes our ideas and judgments without our knowledge. After viewing a show like the Jersey Shore, many people don’t see how they are feeding into a common stereotype. We are judging all Italians and people from New Jersey as sloppy drunks who do nothing productive with their lives.

MTV plays the Jersey Shore, and they are just as guilty as the cast members for spreading this stereotype. They do this by only showing footage of the cast engaging in controversial behavior. The cast does participate in a job, which does produce some good. However, we barely see them ever working, and if we do it is because they are hung over or drinking during the job. MTV could easily throw in some more footage of the cast being productive, but they chose not to because they want to influence the viewer’s ideas and opinions.

As you can see, it is HIGHLY important that we be media literate! Yes, it’s great to let the message of a media text to wash over us, but we need to be critical of what that message is and how it affects us. So far, in class, my favorite term we have learned is active audience. I feel being an active audience member is crucial in exposing yourself to multiple texts. It’s important not to let ourselves be consumed by stereotypes and values portrayed in the media. I mean, if we take television for example, most of that stuff isn’t even real! It’s not based on reality or the true norms in society. It is created people who want to their ideas and opinions to be the norm, so they write it and throw it on television to spread their ideas. So readers, I leave you with this: Be an active audience member! I promise you will discover all kinds of texts loaded with influencing messages!



About jenniferose04

I am a sophomore at Towson University. I live with 7 other roommates on campus and spend most of my time with them. I have lived near Annapolis since I was 4, I was born in Virginia. I love the Washington Redskins and football in general.
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2 Responses to Active Audience or Bust?

  1. Hanna says:

    When a movie/show is made, it reflects a construction of what is in the maker’s head; their ‘what if’ scenarios, beliefs (social, economical, religious, etc.), ideas, or simply their passions (hobbies, etc). So, even though a movie may contain truth in it, but it doesn’t really need to be accurate. Why? ‘Cuz it’s a movie. Unless, the movie claims to be ‘a true history’ of some place, for example, than they have to be as accurate as possible.

    Of course when we watch TV, our guard is down, and because of media illiteracy, we a lot of times gobble up everything it says. This also happens with other mass media outlets (magazines, etc).

    Keep up with the posts :).

  2. Pingback: You are All Invited… To Help Me! « Hanna Wilbur's

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