In my previous blogs I have described hegemony and its significance in media texts. In this blog I want to take a minute to discuss an instrument used in exerting that
hegemonic power over the masses: Ideologies. An ideology is a set of beliefs or values that influences ones behavior and understanding. More specifically an ideology is the process of how we, as the viewers, make meaning from what a text presents to us.
For example, News Corporation is owned by Rupert Murdoch, a notoriously conservative businessman. In the multiple facets of media that News Corp owns, Murdoch’s conservative views can be seen and acknowledged by viewers. These beliefs propel conservative values as “the norm” to views which ultimately alter how we behave in our everyday lives.
Now that you know what an ideology is, understanding ideological criticism should be very simple! Ideological criticism is the study of ideologies and their saturation of
power. When you think ideologies, you should think power. Power that corporate
conglomerates have to make the ideologies that think should govern society seem
normal. This power is directly related to the political economy theory because it examines how media institutions exert power over the masses through texts.
Elites are able to sustain power over the masses through owning so much of the media. If the masses are only exposed to certain stereotypes or social norms, then that will undoubtedly shape how they will think and behave. This theory really looks at ownership and how that plays a key role in propelling ideologies they see fit to the masses.
Ideological criticism is by far my favorite to study because it focuses on the affect that the elites have over the masses because of the power they hold. I mean, I could it get
more interesting than that! This approach is different from all the other I have studied in my media criticism class because of its focus on power.
I think it is so fascinating to examine how power ultimately decides what we think about because the elites choose what ideologies to place in their texts and what information makes the news. I feel like I could write for days about ideological criticism and the political economy theory but I don’t want to bore my readers!
I know you are as enthusiastic as I am but if not, hopefully you are still on board with me! I have two examples I want to discuss with you so you will better understand the concepts I have described to you. First, I want to talk about my favorite company in the world: Disney. I have so much love for Disney, but I will try to contain myself as I discuss it in regards to the political economy theory.
In my media criticism class we watch the film Mickey Mouse Monopoly: Disney, Childhood & Corporate Power. The film talked about how Disney is such a huge conglomerate and how their beliefs and values are perpetuated on to so many people because they own so much media. Disney doesn’t just make movies; they own theme parks, radio stations, television shows, publishing companies, and more! Most people just think that Disney is so great and wonderful that it is a good thing that they own so many mediums of media.
Wrong. Many people (not me) think that Disney doesn’t support the right values and ideologies that they should to their audience. Disney is secretly criticized by many for their continuous stereotyping of women and race, among others. This is a concern
because they are teaching young girls that they need to be skinny to be beautiful and fragile to be considered feminine. Also they are showing their audience that African
Americans are the uneducated and Latinos are animals.
We initially as the viewers don’t see how this is wrong or how it will affect how we perceive race and gender. We watch films and television shows to be entertained, not to analyze the material that we are viewing. But when we do stop to analyze, many people are outraged by what Disney is saying to impressionable young children.
I ask myself how Disney goes without being widely scrutinized by society for its obvious neglect to portray the socially correct ideologies in its media. Do you want to know the answer? That is simple, Disney hides behind innocence. They are able to basically do and say whatever they want because it is all wrapped up in a fantasy.
Disney is all about believing in magic and living through fantasies. I can count so many Disney films that require magic to carry out events and ask the audience to believe so
something will come true. Disney is viewed as the ultimate form of fantasy that can’t be questioned.
I don’t think I can express into words the power Disney has. Disney not only owns so many facets of media, but they own our hearts. Even though I can analyze Disney and scold it for their neglect, I will always have a special place in my heart for Disney.
They enchant you at a child and keep you hooked throughout adulthood. They hold power that shapes our lives and impacts our belief systems.
The real testament to Disney’s power is how it is as beloved today as it was 25 years ago. Even though Disney is acknowledged to propel negative stereotypes and social roles,
it is still loved by a great population in today’s society. Disney is a great demonstration of the political economy theory. Not only do they control many facets of media, but they are not challenged for the messages they send or the values they see are redeemable because of that power they hold.
Many of my readers are probably saying if Disney can’t be touched, then so what? Why spend the time analyzing Disney and pointing out their hegemonic power? I feel it is important to address this issue of political economy and ideological criticism because of the unconscious affect it has on the viewers. As I explained before, the audience isn’t aware of the values and beliefs that are influencing them as they are exposed to the media text. They are unconsciously registering in our heads, which later affects us in our thinking and behavior.
I feel it is vastly important to be active as a viewer but to not get crazy with it. After you are exposed to a media text, I would simply reflect on what you took away from it
and how that may later affect you. Whether it is a reality television show you are watching or even something as basic as a print advertisement. I would briefly look at what social cues you are observing or how the text is representing gender roles for example.
I am not requesting that you go crazy and analyze every time you are exposed to a media text, I just encourage you to be aware and not to get completely swept away by the wonderful world of Disney. Something that I know I fall victim to 🙂