Reflection: How would you prefer your mass media administered?

If someone had mentioned “The hypodermic needle theory” to me a couple of months ago, I probably would have assumed they were discussing the concept of illicit drug injecting rooms.

The ‘hypodermic needle theory’ insinuates that people are influenced by what they see and hear in mass media, which is justifiably to blame for the bad behavior of its audience. (Puri, 2011) Through creating my own blogs and interacting with those of my peers, I have gained a much broader insight into the role of different forms of media and the role they play in influencing public discourse.

In her blog, Veronica Cremen (2014) provided an excellent example of how a simple, yet controversial Coca-Cola advertisement can generate debate within the mediated public sphere. We are influenced to discuss a wide range of issues from many different media forms.

ImageWhilst public discourse is influenced by mass media, the actions of individuals cannot be directly attributed to themes and ideologies expressed within various media forms.  During research for my blog post “Is Disney making my child gay?” I discovered that a movie directed at a wide niche audience, is unjustifiably being blamed for influencing the sexuality children. It seems that children have been at risk of being influenced by Disney for decades.

Another peer of mine, Breanna O’Neill (2014) commented on the way feminists have over time, directed blame at certain Disney films for portraying the traditional female character in the relentless pursuit of true love. The films cannot be blamed for influencing young girls into thinking that this is the collective female ideology.

Whilst on the subject of children, lets consider the topic of the sexualisation of children, which is a highly debated topic within the mediated public sphere. In 2011, the following headline was published to highlight the apparent sexualisation of young girls with the sale of padded bikini tops. (Gallagher, 2011)

Source: retail-week.com
Source: retail-week.com

It is clear to see that the aim of this headline was to incite moral panic and influence public discourse. Are paedophiles really bothered with whether or not that little girl’s bikini top is padded? Sexual based connotations are discussed worldwide, and it seems their occurrence is increasing exponentially over time. Recently, Liz Hurley was highly criticised for her widely advertised, animal print bikini line for children. Judge for yourself here.

The portrayal of children and the exploitation of their innocence is an appropriate example  of how images are interpreted, and their connotations identified, based on the ideologies of different participants in public discourse. This is fuelled by the increasing moral need to protect the innocent image of the child.

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As a result of the blog posting exercise, I am more conscious about the origins of the information I am being given. I am also more inclined to actively question the agenda of the author or presenter, rather than just willingly accept an injection of information to the brain.

I think that it is imperative for a consumer of mass media to consider any implied message imposed on them by a text, and consider how and why they form their opinions on issues presented within those texts.

The mass media provide the drug, it is up to us to question where it comes from, and decide whether it is safe to take.

References:

Cremen, V., 2014, ‘Coca-Cola on drugs?’ Veronica Cremen, web blog post, 24th March 2014, viewed 8th April 2014, <http://veronicacrem.wordpress.com/2014/03/24/coca-cola-on-drugs/comment-page-1/#comment-26>.

Gallagher, V., ‘Retailers sign up to responsible retailing guide for kids wear,’ Retail Week, 6th June 2011, viewed 14th April 2014, <http://www.retail-week.com/topics/csr/retailers-sign-up-to-responsible-retailing-guide-for-kidswear/5025894.article&gt;.

O’Neil, B., 2014, “Beauty and No Brain,’ Breanna O’Neil, web blog post, 9th April 2014, viewed 11th April 2014, <http://breannaoneil.wordpress.com/2014/04/09/beauty-and-no-brain/comment-page-1/#comment-8&gt;

Puri, S., 2011, ‘Hypodermic Needle Theory (Magic Bullet Theory),’ Media and Journalism studies,’ web blog post, 2nd February 2011, viewed 11th April 2014, <http://sonamjourno.blogspot.com.au/2011/02/hypodermic-needle-theory-magic-bullet.html>.

 

 

Ja’mie King: Niche or quiche?

“You are povo, you live in the western suburbs, and you’re black.. and I’m well, Me”  Ja’mie King, 2013

If you haven’t already, familiarise yourself with Ja’mie.

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Source: ww.metro.us

She’s arrogant,

She’s a bitch,

                            … and she’s so fucking quiche.

If you don’t know who she is by now, I’d have to ask you where you’ve been.

The infamous creation of Australian comedian Chris Lilley, seventeen year old Jai’mie King became a household name during the success of Lilley’s fictional series, “We Can Be Heroes” (2005) and “Summer Heights High” (2007).

The 2013 spin off, “Jaimie: Private School Girl” follows the life of Ja’mie, as she navigates her way through her final year at a private, all girls secondary school. The show is essentially a parody, yet Lilley controversially took aim at a variety of issues, and created a global explosion of debate and opinion within the mediated public sphere.

As Australians, most of us got it. It had it all; swearing, nudity, themes of drug and alcohol use, and most prominently, sex. Yet as a form of popular media, it strongly contributed to debate within the public sphere, through the expression of many issues facing young teenagers.

Through satire, Lilley conveyed themes of bullying, body image, underage drinking, socioeconomic and demographic issues, and the sexualisation of teenagers. These issues required the thought of a wider audience; of teenagers, parents of teenagers, and of people themselves who experienced the school yard antics portrayed in the show.

The following scene alone captures the essence of a wide range of issues presented in the series, that are relevant to post modern debate.

Chris Lilley effectively disseminated a large range of questions, concealed within a comedy series, that the world felt compelled to answer. The parents and Alumi of various private schools around Australia (Knox, 2013) claimed that they were inaccurately portrayed and in fact publicly misrepresented (McKee, 2005). Others just bought the Ja’mie related merchandise and began slipping the word “quiche” into their everyday conversation.

Habermas (1989) told us that the public sphere should only deal with ‘serious’ issues, but what is deemed ‘serious?’ In a post-modern world, topics of bullying, body image and the ability of a teenage boy to instantly disseminate his genital-featuring photograph, transcends many age groups, cultures and demographic groups (McKee, 2005).

The reality is that no matter the topic, people love to give their opinion. All they need is to be influenced and prompted and Chris Lilley, very effectively, did just that.

Need more Ja’mie?

References: 

Habermas, J., 1989, The structural transformation of the public sphere (translated by Thomas Burger), MIT Press: Massachusetts.

Knox, D., 2013, ‘Parents unhappy with private school girl,’ Today Tonight, 1st November 2013, viewed 4th April 2014, <http://www.tvtonight.com.au/2013/11/parents-unhappy-with-private-school-girl.html&gt;.

McKee, A., 2005, The Public Sphere: An Introduction. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, pp. 1-31.

Ja’ime: Private School Girl, 2013, DVD, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, written and directed by Chris Lilley.

We Can Be Heroes, 2005, DVD, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, written and directed by Chris Lilley. 

Summer Heights High, 2007, DVD, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, written and directed by Chris Lilley. 

 

 

Don’t tell me what to think – Media Ownership.

Newspaper groups News Corp Australia and Fairfax Media Limited account for over ninety percent of the regional, metropolitan and National newspapers, and Australia has but three commercial television networks (The Australian Collaboration, 2013).

Click here to see the ‘brands’ owned by News Corp. Australia. Its really is staggering.

In October 2006, the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (Cwlth) was reformed to regulate ownership for commercial media. This meant that registered media groups were restricted to holding the licences of two out of three commercial media groups; television, radio and newspapers. (Australian Communications and Media Authority, 2013)

The merging of digital and print media networks however, compromise the diversity and competition amongst media outlets. The reform relaxed the rules of merging and specifies that any prospective merger agreements are suImagebject to approval from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). (Australian Collaboration, 2013).

Convergence media reduces competition between media agencies, and therefore affects the range and quality of the information that the public are given. Editorial rules placed on Journalists restrict the type of information that is passed on to consumers, and we are therefore prevented from making any real decision about an issue ourselves. (Hart, 2008). It is as though the mainstream media seem think that the public is  content with being fed the same, sugar coated information, served from different packaging.

The under and over representation of information by certain media corporations is dangerous. What is seen or heard has the ability to influence a person’s opinion and ideologies about certain issues. The mass media controls public discourse and in turn, media agencies have acquired the power to influence, and enact change to significant aspects of society.

Remember this?        Image

    and this….?             Image

Paul Barry is the host of Media Watch (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) and author of Breaking News: Sex, Lies and the Murdoch Succession. Recently, he faced a barrage of scrutiny by The Australian (News Corp.) for the over representation of News Corp Australia on the show. The issue arose after Barry questioned the lack of media coverage of the March in March rally and attributed this to the right wing ideologies of media corporations such as News Corp Australia (The Australian, 2014).

The reality is, people do rely on the media to disseminate information to them under the pretence that they are given equal and unbiased information. However as consumers of mass media, we are at risk of exposure to the passive propagation of the political, social and cultural ideologies of the mainstream media owners.

We as Australians need variety. We need to be given a range of information in order to process all aspects of an issue and make a decision for ourselves. However this is impossible when the main stream media is ‘party mix’ bag of lollies filled only with red frogs.

References: 

Australian Communications and Media Authority, 2013, Media Reform – Key concepts relating to media ownership, viewed 6th April 2014, <http://www.acma.gov.au/Industry/Broadcast/Media-ownership-and-control/Ownership-and-control-rules/acma—media-reform—key-concepts-relating-to-media-ownership&gt;.

Hart, E., 2008, ‘Media Ownership’ in Media and Journalism, Oxford University Press: Melbourne, Australia, pp. 400-408.

Markson, S., 2013, ‘Paul Barry slammed by editors for obsession with News Corp.’ The Australian 24th March, viewed 6th April 2014, <http://www.theaustralian.com.au/media/broadcast/paul-barry-slammed-by-editors-for-obsession-with-news-corp/story-fna045gd-1226862663418#&gt;.

The Australian Collaboration, 2013, Democracy in Australia – Media Concentration and Media Laws, viewed 6th April 2014, <http://www.australiancollaboration.com.au/pdf/Democracy/Media-laws.pdf&gt;.

Thank God for Ellen!

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The image, titled “Lesbian Last Supper” (Lundberg, 2012) is certainly an example of a controversial and complex text. The signifier is simply an illustration of a group of women sitting around a table. As we begin to delve into the signified, we can identify that the illustration is a take on Leonardo Da-Vinci’s “Last Supper,” and that the figures have been replaced with iconic and prominent lesbian women.

The image promotes positive connotations of femininity, sexual identity and how the freedom of sexual identity has been embraced, and has linked individuals together. An even deeper complexity lies in the selection of the individuals in the artwork, and their positioning in place of the original figures.

Ellen DeGeneres, for example, is portrayed as Jesus. It suggests that like Jesus, she is influential within the public sphere and a modern day household image. The way she is drawn with her arms out connotes that prominent celebrities are viewed as a type of ‘supreme deity’ in the lounge rooms of many.  Many people take the word of Ellen, and other celebrities, as ‘gospel’, whether they realise it or not.

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Source: News.com.au (2013)

For those who are fans of the series “The L-Word”(2003), you will notice that the notoriously unfaithful character ‘Shane’ is sitting in place of Judas the betrayer.

Obviously, a person’s interpretation of this image depends upon their personal beliefs and experiences. Characteristically, you would expect those people who identify strongly with religious ideologies to have an oppositional view to that of the artworks intended meaning. Perhaps they may feel that the image is blasphemous and it’s intended meaning sacrilegious against the image of Jesus and religion in general.

Would the negative connotations change if the adapted image depicted representatives of another social group? What would the signified be if animals were put in place of people at the table?

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Source: empireonline.com (2012)

I think the meaning is in WHO is depicted and where they are placed. If you compare Da-Vinci’s original with the adaptation, you can see that the strategic placing of the celebrities is a direct attempt by the artist to control which connotations are extracted from the illustration.

References:

Empire Online, 2012, 12 examples of the last supper in pop culture, viewed 25th March 2014, <http://www.empireonline.com/features/last-supper-pop-culture/p4&gt;.

Lundberg, B., 2012, Lesbian Last Supper, Whimsical Art, viewed 25th March 2014, <http://bronwynlundberg.com/2012/12/07/whimsical-art-on-shewireds-holiday-gift-guide/>

News.com.au, 2013, How swisse got Nicole Kidman and Ellen DeGeneres on board to help launch Swisse in the US, viewed 25th March 2014, <http://www.news.com.au/national/how-swisse-got-nicole-kidman-and-ellen-degeneres-on-board-to-help-launch-swisse-in-the-us/story-fncynjr2-1226567284274&gt;.

The L-Word 2003, DVD, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, USA, written and directed by Ilene Chaiken, Kathy Greenberg and Michele Abbott.

Is Disney making my child gay?

“Audiences are not blank sheets of paper on which media messages can be written…” (Abercrombie, 1996, cited in Hanes, 2000)

Are media texts persuasive enough to influence a person’s sexual orientation? Without delving into the depths of “why” homosexuality exists, it is a natural and fluid aspect of a person’s identity that is privately explored and discovered, at a certain stage in their life.

Yet why are the various media forms persistently and unjustifiably blamed for persuading and influencing the minds of homosexual, bisexual and transgendered young people?

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Recently, comments were made by American Pastor Kevin Swanson on a Christian radio station about the negative effects that “Frozen,” a Disney movie, may have on children. Swanson deduced that the protagonist, Elsa, was introduced by Disney to establish a homosexual theme within the movie (Tashman, 2014.). Those that have seen the movie may agree that this is quite a far stretch by Swanson and far from advertising the “homosexual propaganda,” as Swanson suggests (Tashman, 2014).

Swanson commented, “I wonder if people are thinking: ‘You know, I think this cute little movie is going to indoctrinate my 5 year old to be a lesbian” (Tashman, 2014). By his interesting use of the word “indoctrinate”, Swanson seems to believe that such a movie is capable of persuading and influencing a child’s sexual orientation, and furthermore, that the audience is prone to being easily influenced by a character portrayed in a cartoon.

His opinion is an extreme take on the effects of media on young people in which he believes the movie, and others like it, will solely have an effect on the actions and motives of young people (David Gauntlett). Swanson in this case does not just suggest that media glamorises the concept of homosexuality, but has the actual potential to persuade children to identify themselves in a certain way.

Similarly, the Florida Family Association has publicly condemned EA Games for its portrayal of a gay character in the video games “Mass Effect 3” and “Star Wars: The Old Republic.” The Association, not unlike Pastor Swanson, directly linked the increased prevalence of homosexuality amongst young people, with the portrayal of homosexual characters in various media forms (Florida Family Association, 2012).Whilst different media forms have the potential to reach out to its audiences, it is naïve to think that the human mind is simple enough for a video game or a movie to influence it.

Perhaps the anti-gay groups could support the basis of their arguments with accurate sociological research into the self discovery, morals and social surroundings of young people, rather than linking media as the direct “cause” of such a complex issue.

References:

Gauntlett, D., 1998, Theory.org.uk: Ten Things Wrong With the ‘Effects Model,’ Viewed 16th March 2014, <http://www.theory.org.uk/effects.htm&gt;.

Hanes, P., 2000, The Advantages and Limitations of a Focus on Audience in Media Studies, viewed 16th March 2014, < http://www.aber.ac.uk/media/S tudents/pph9701.html>.

Florida Family Association, 2012, Star Wars video game may soon allow players including children to choose a homosexual or transvestite as their game player? Florida Family Association – Defending American Values, viewed 16th March 2014, < http://floridafamily.org/full_article.php? article_no =140>.

Tashman, B., 2014, Right Wing Watch: Swanson: Disney’s ‘Frozen’ Is A Satanic Push To Turn Kids Gay, Viewed 16th March 2014, http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/swanson-disneys-frozen-satanic-push-turn-kids-gay#sthash.JxNFFV9k.dpuf.

Take a breath… and blog.

I’m Stephanie, though most people who know me call me Steph, or refer to me by my last name, Bentley.

I’m 26, and have just returned to studying at University of Wollongong, doing a Bachelor of Journalism/Bachelor of Science. A strange combination to some, though I just went with what I’m interested in. Don’t bother asking me about my career aspirations, I’m just happy to be blogging and collecting insects for the time being.

In terms of what I’ve done with my life so far, I joined the NSW Police Force when I was 20 years old. I worked on the streets of Bankstown, and then in forensic investigation in the Western Sydney area. Therefore, there is nothing that will shock or offend me, though I welcome you to try!

I love my heavy metal music and there’s no better feeling than standing at a live gig next to thousands of other sweaty fans. When I’m not doing that, I will usually immerse myself in an epic fantasy novel or waste hours gaming. I know all too well the separation anxiety when you finish a good book or game.

To round off my interests, I enjoy wining, dining and travelling. My sense of humour is dark at times, though I believe that many of life’s lessons can be learnt from an episode of Spongebob Squarepants.