That was quick.

So, we are wrapping up in my Media Criticism class. For our final blog post we have been tasked with reading three of our classmates blogs. After we read their blogs, we are to leave them with a few comments about the topics they chose to discuss. This is a nice assignment, their are not to many times that you are actually able to read what your classmates have been thinking about. From my perspective Ideological Criticism is extremely interesting, so it should be fun to compare my thoughts with a fellow classmate.

First Up

 The Blind Critic.

"Start your Children Early"

Adam brought up some really interesting points in his blog.

Hey, great post here. First off, your writing style kept me reading the whole time. It was informal and was a fun interesting read. I’ve had heard of David Nolan before, especially with Ron Paul in the media, but I had never seen that chart before. It is weird how a graphic can draw you right into the article.

Anyways, I also like how you listed all the companies the Walt Disney Corporation owns. When we were talking about cradle-to-grave consumerism in class it sounded a little bit far fetched. People truly have no idea how much of their day to day life is influenced by the media.

Who knew that Baby Einstein was owned by the same individuals as ESPN. They really have captured a whole generation of consumers. It truly is a great example of hegemonic power. We as consumers, should be wary of the power we have given The Walt Disney Corp., but we see them as producers of innocence when what they really produce are stereotypes.

The caption for the Mickey Mouse picture I found funny. “All hail our animated overlords”, clever.

All in all I thought your blog post was well thought out, showed great insight into the topic, and was appealing.

Great Job

Next

Knowledge for Your Mind.

As a fan of A.M.C I had to read this blog.

My favorite show. It is now canceled.

First, I was immediately hooked in with your first paragraph. I have really enjoyed watching two AMC series, Breaking Bad and Rubicon. They are awesome. If you are a fan of Breaking Bad, the guy who plays Badger, did a Q&A on reddit. here. They are also doing a Good Fellas series which I am excited for.

When I got to the meat of the blog, I got a lot of good and relevant information about Propp’s character Models. It also gave you a great character outline. You didn’t spoil any of the plot, but I now know who is who. I would have liked if you gave me  more information using Propp’s model.

Specifically, I would have been interesting in reading how the plot points in Hell on Wheels compare to Propp’s model. I know the show has only been on one season, but I think its fun to spectate on shows we are following. Using Propp’s model we could probably make a couple of accurate guesses.

All in all you made a great  post. The information was appealing, relevant to what we discussed in class while being  easy to read.

and Ending With.

Keris Noelle

I really feel like I understand the Starz series Camelot using Vladimir Propp’s theories.

A Great Series.

Wow, awesome post. Your use of visuals and hyper-links makes for an awesome interactive read. I would also like to suggest to you a show called The Game of Thrones. It is an awesome series set in the world of  ‘A Song of Ice and Fire‘. It is full of relationship conflicts, class struggles, and interesting  roles. Really a great show and if you like Camelot you may want to give it a shot.

You did a great job of explaining  Propp’s theory. You did a great job of explaining why the characters in the show fit Propp’s theory. You also provided story elements which related well to the common plot elements that we learned about in class.

I wish I was able to format my blog as nicely as you were able too. It really brings an ease to the way your blog reads. Your writing was interesting and my interest was kept with photos which were relevant to the topic.

Great Job.

Reflection

This class was great. It was first and foremost very relaxed. Our papers were easy to write because we were given the ability to be creative, as long as we were able to tie in course  material. That in itself is awesome. When you are able to make connection between your interests and coursework, their is nothing better.

I feel like I took a lot of information out of the class. I feel like it gave me a great understanding of the topic and a viewpoint I will carry on into the workplace. I hope to work, one day, in the industry and I hope that this course will remind me of just how many people my work may influence.

This method of receiving criticism is great as well. I was excited when I got my first comment on my blog. It’s always great when you can share ideas in a constructive atmosphere.

All in all, I found this method of turning in assignments great. It was fun and gave me a skill that I can maybe carry over to the industry.

Selling a “Culture of Consumption”

“A Culture of Consumption?…I’d buy that.”

I know, I am  extremely clever.  But, the fact is I have been thinking about this blog for a while now. I really love talking about the political economy perspective because I think it is extremely relevant to my major’s track, advertising, and I love critiquing societal values brought up in media. So before we begin talking about Disney and the film, lets talking about something called the political economy perspective.

Deregulation! Did we not already deal with this? 

Their is a group of scholars who are looking to change the way media is regulated by the government. You know how Clear Channel owns 1,200 radio stations across the United States? Well there are a lot of people who feel that deregulation allows for unfair competition in the marketplace. Is it o.k for one company to own over half the market share? Some would say yes, others would say no. This group of scholars is making the same argument about current media.

Let’s think about this.

If you don’t subscribe to cable you most likely, maybe, hopefully, when the wind isn’t blowing,  receive  four national broadcasting channels, NBC, ABC, FOX, CBS. These four channels are known as the ‘Big Four‘. Now the argument is that because their are only four broadcasters the amount of uncensored news, which reaches the public, limits the amount of free and vast political or societal discussion in the United States.

But, I have cable…

Well that is also a problem the scholars say. The fact is that even these ‘Big Four’ networks are owned by huge media conglomerates, who not only own other television networks, but they also own the majority of other media.

Welcome…

…to the political economy perspective. It has some validity, doesn’t it?  Well no matter if you agree or not, this perspective falls under the theory behind Ideology Criticism. Ideology Criticism central idea is the ideology. An ideology is the means of exerting power through placing your ‘idea’ in some form of media. Since most of our media sources are owned by some of the most powerful men on the planet, the idea is that they use hegemony or the practice of subtly using their position of power to influence society enough to keep them in power.

You can see where this is going can’t you? 

If you have been following my blog you know that I have been talking about people buying for your perceptions. Now as I have been saying your perceptions are worth BIG money in the marketplace. Now this marketplace has several different competitors all grabbing for your attention, but unfortunately the way they do this is to make you comfortable.

It’s like selling Apple Pie.  

Well yeah, everyone likes to be comfortable, thats the problem! Our major media sources feed  us comfortable information. Comfortable information like Apple Pie, the most American dish imaginable. Now imagine Johnny Trend owns Trend Universal, a major  conglomerate, that not only owns several news stations, movie production companies, advertising firms, and a new investment ‘Johnnie’s Apple Pie’. With Trend Universal’s market share they potentially control what 75 million people watch on television, read in the news, and see on billboards. Now Johnny Trend loves Apple Pie, so he invested money in a promising Apple Pie bakery. Since he owns all of these great marketing tools, he might as well use them to their fullest. So Johnny Trend instructs his editor at Trend News to start airing programs which promote the love of Apple Pie.

Out of a Love for Apple Pie

He also does the same at his publishing house, advertising agency, and production company. Through each of these business ventures, Mr. Trend may only reach 60,000-2,000,000 viewers, but since he owns several companies he can potentially reach 75 milion. After a several years of Apple Pie pushing it is finally a staple in not only every American home, but every home in the world, thanks to globalization! Now it seems to me that Mr. Trend not only brought Apple Pie out of obscurity in the U.S, I mean come on who actually eats or makes Apple Pie, but through globalization he was also able to change the perceptions of billions of other human beings through his once modest conglomerate, to his now colossal ‘piece of the pie’. What if I was to tell you that this doesn’t happen only happen with Apple Pies, but with stereotypes of all forms. Then what if I told you it was being sold to you through the childhood image of Mickey Mouse.

Mickey Mouse Monopoly: Disney, Childhood & Corporate Greed.

We viewed this film in class. In it, a group of scholars make the argument that through the innocent image Disney portrays and through their strategic decision to target the childhood market; they are able to implant racial stereotypes and gender roles in the majority of today’s children use through the guise of wholesome family entertainment.

Sounds a bit like Brain Washing to me…

I agree. Disney wants you to be a ‘cradle to grave’ consumer. Someone who grows up with a set of racial stereotypes and gender roles disguised in the form of wholesome entertainment. It does not stop there however. If you were like me you watched The Lion King for a majority of the few years you have spent on the planet. Lets say 3-5years. Than you move on to a new phase of your childhood. You aren’t  old enough to choose what you watch on T.V so your parents sit you in front of the babysitter, the T.V, and you watch the early morning programming found on the channel known for wholesome family entertainment, owned of course by Disney.

Their Influence Never Ends…

The stereotypes and gender roles found in Disney movies are again perpetuated in the form of their educational series found. You of course never realize that you are being fed stereotypes and gender roles. How could you? You are 5 years old. But, soon enough you are at the age of 10 and whole heartedly following one of the age appropriate sitcoms found on the Disney Channel.  Than at the age of 12 your family goes on vacation to Disney World. At the age of 16 you are finally able to watch a prime-time sitcom found on ABC. This sitcom uses some of the same stereotypes found in the Disney childhood movies. But you have grown up with these stereotypes and gender roles your whole life so you don’t exactly think of them as stereotypes they are more like truths. In fact, Michel Foucalt doesn’t use the term truth. Instead he uses the idea that truths are not universal, so every culture creates these “regimes of truth” which in actuality only apply to their own culture.

I watch Mickey Mouse, and I’m not a Racist!

Hey, I grew up on Mickey Mouse as well and I am no racist either. However, a lot of the research done into these political economist theories have a lot of basis. We know governments can easily control the perceptions of their citizens through the use or misuse of media. So why should we be surprised when a company the monetary size of North Korea is accused of pseudo brain washing of our nations youth? Well, obviously because we are Americans and Americans do not treat Americans like that. 

On a Side Note.

I’d like you to watch a commercial for Dermablend Professional Skincare and Cosmetics.

This is what makes me mad.

We have talked a lot about Hegemony in this class. I think this is a great example. I first saw this ad in November of 2011, when I was searching for an article on Ad Age. The article I found was praising the company, L’oreal, for it’s use of low budget viral advertising to reach a multitude of viewers. On first watch I was amazed by what I was watching. A man’s skin was disappearing in front of my eyes, to reveal this monster. I mean, everything about him screamed counter-culture. Then I realized what they were marketing. A tattoo cover up. They are in essence telling the consumer that their product allows you to ‘Go beyond the cover’ because in today’s age it is unacceptable to cover yourself in tattoos and expect to be taken seriously. This is the message I take from the commercial. In fact, the song played throughout the video is called “There is Hope” by Zoo Brazil. In the song they reference hope and fear. Notice when they first talk about hope they begin removing the makeup. When they bring fear into the song noticing the way the model looks at the camera, its extremely menacing as well as frightening when combined with the rest of his tattoo’s. The fact is that L’oreal didn’t set the cultural standard for covering up tattoo’s, they are in fact perpetuating this idea through marketing this product. Just the fact that it is known as ‘cover-up’ perpetuates the idea that you need to ‘cover-up’ what societal norms tell you to.

Understanding Breaking Bad

The Best Series on Television

Anyone who watches AMC’s hit drama Breaking Bad has to agree, it is one of the best series on television. The drama follows the story of high school chemistry teacher Walter White, Bryan Cranston, and his family. Walter, a chemistry prodigy, is stuck teaching full time at his local high school when he is suddenly diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Unable to afford his medical bills Walter turns to former student Jesse Pinkman, Aaron Paul, and enlists him in his scheme to cook crystal meth. Walter hopes that he will make enough money to cover his medical bills and leave his wife, Anna Gun, with a little extra. However, this high school chemistry teacher is soon sucked into the drug culture of Albuquerque, New Mexico and very quickly evolves into one of the best cooks in the world. In this blog post I hope to show my reader(s) how the television series Breaking Bad uses codes and signals in order to relate messages to the viewer.

Why this series?

In my last blog post I made the argument that everything place on television is buying to change your perception. Whether that program is an advertisement, government sponsored, or put out of an independent studio; they all want to influence your ideas. So “Why this series?”  you ask. The answer is that I don’t believe there is a drama on television currently that offers such an important glimpse of society. Breaking Bad has it all, sex, drugs, violence, family dynamics, power struggles, counter-cultures, cops and robbers, etc… So when I was tasked by my Media Criticism professor to use semiotics and analyze any text of my choosing, I didn’t know of a better text to use.

Semiotics?

Semiotics is the study of how social production of meaning is constructed through a system of signs.  Simply put, Semiotics is the study of signs and their meanings. It views texts, which are basically any media, and tries to decipher them using different types of readings. You may for instance view a weekly television sitcom, which would be considered a text. Now, most people would probably consider the program a ‘closed text’ meaning, there isn’t room for a lot of analysis. However, as media critics we know that texts can have multiple symbols and signs so therefore there most be multiple messages in that one television program. Symbols can mean multiple things to many different people all based on there perception. Which is where we begin.

The Title.

Since we are going to be looking at some of the more common symbols found in Breaking Bad we might as well start with the title of the show. To “break bad‘ has been defined by the show’s writer, Vince Gilligan, as the act of raising hell. Now, to a lot of people have no idea what “breaking bad” means. In fact it is a regionalism heard throughout southern Virginia where Gilligan was raised. You see “Breaking Bad” is a sign used to convey one theme found int he series. Now if a person was to decode and understand the symbol,which is the term “Breaking Bad”, than they would be considered using the dominant reading. Even though I have spent many summers in south Virginia I didn’t understand the symbol. I read the symbol completely wrong. I thought the term “breaking bad” meant to stop bad. This could be considered an oppositional reading because my reading is the exact opposite of what the shows creator meant it. However, my oppositional reading is still extremely valid. Since meaning is determined by not only who is producing it, but also who is receiving it.

This advertisement says it all. Underwear, Gun, Gas Mask, R.V…

Advertising is a great text to use when trying to explain semiotics. So we will be looking at my favorite advertisement for the show and attempt to draw a dominant reading from it. When you see the advertisement you are immediately drawn to the visual center of the poster. From there you see a person in his underwear. By your judgment  you can tell that he is middle aged, 40′s-50′s, you than see him brandishing a gun. Guns in today’s society can be seen as symbols of power, death, cruelty, etc. For our reading we will be using the gun as a symbol of power. Than we see that Walter White is in his tighty-whiteys. This symbol can have extremely vast meanings. To me it represents the typical male of that age group.  To some it may represent what type of man Walter is. Another reading may see his lack of pants as more important than the type of underwear he is wearing. Finally we see the R.V in the distance and with it billowing plumes of red smoke. Without watching the series, I doubt you could decode this sign yourself, however with the gas mask found lying on the ground by Walter’s feet, you could probably piece together that the gas is toxic. Finally we come to the title of the series,Breaking Bad, and we see the two elements from the periodic table inside the title of the series. That is the final clue. With this you can piece together, without any prior knowledge of the show, that Breaking Bad is about Walter White in a power struggle over toxic chemicals. Not bad right?

So Semiotics. 

Semiotics is extremely useful when looking at texts critically. You can view the text from multiple readings and than draw meaning from viewing the texts differently. I view Breaking Bad as a story about a  chemistry teacher who is faced with death. Unable to avoid his fate, Walter White chooses to disregards his responsibilities set forth for him by society in order to save his family from economic downfall. In his disregard for societal responsibility, Walter embraces an alter-ego to do what Walter White would never do. Semiotics helped me critically analyze this series. It is therefore extremely important  to decode the symbols written into the script by the shows creator in order to truly understand the thoughts and ideas found in the series. After all, every show contains a message and that message can be uncovered through Semiotics.

What is Media Criticism?

A photo of my brothers, Willy and Tommy, Myself, and our cousin Nick.Here goes Blog #1.

Hello, my name is Dave and I’m a Towson University student enrolled in a Media Criticism course.  In this course I have been tasked with keeping a blog, in which I will discuss key concepts. Now I really don’t imagine myself as much of a “blogger”, but as someone who may want to use writing as a profession skill in the future I will not pass up an opportunity like this to hone my skills.

 A little about myself. 

I am 20 years old. I am bewildered by the 2012 Republican hopefuls. I am interested in mass media.

Since most of my interest are in mass media, television, film, newspaper, advertising,  social networking etc.,  I decided to take a winter session course on a topic that I find extremely interesting, media criticism.

Media Criticism?

Yeah! Media criticism. You know that constant buzz of information which inhabits our daily lives. I mean, it really is everywhere and you really cannot escape it. Since we created this monster we might as well understand it. Right?

From the beginning of time the power elite have understood the sheer power which the media holds. Through this understanding of the media, the power elite have created these hegemonic forces which they control the lowly peasant, which we of course fall into.

Ok, maybe peasant isn’t exactly the right term. Let’s try consumer.

Taking-the-Bait.

In an article we discussed in class, Douglas Kellner states we are  “from cradle to grave in a media and consumer society and thus it is important to learn how to understand, interpret, and criticize its meanings and messages.” But wait, what does this mean? This means that the media is not only used as entertainment, but as a tool used in socialization. Hold on, you’re saying that the media cares enough to socialize us, that sounds like a great thing! No wait, what I mean by that is that every single media outlet in world is buying for our perceptions. As consumers we have all taken-the-bait.

How do we stop it?

Well you really can’t stop this monster we have created. The media is such a huge part of our lives. It tells us how we should dress, how we should talk, what music we should dance to, and even how to love. But, you can become aware of how the media influences you and media critics everywhere are trying to get you to wake up!

Just making sure you know who Peter Parker is.

The Media Can’t Always Be Bad!

Thats absolutely true. Look at all the great things the media has done.  It has increased the amount of information we have to access. It is great entertainment. It has even provided trillions of dollars to the U.S economy. To quote Peter Parker “With great power comes great responsibility.” We as consumers in this media driven age have the power and  responsibility to decode the messages sent by the media. Through media criticism we hope to give others the ability to decode the messages found in every day life and to understand why their perceptions are so important.

My New Favorite T.V Show!

One of my favorite shows on television is called “Moonshiners”. It is a reality television series that ran from December 6, 2011 to January 4th, 2012. This six episode series documented the lives of two notorious moonshiners and a ABC agent. The show is filled to the brim with scenes of what I would consider American rednecks who distill a colorless liquid packaged in large mason jars. Seems harmless enough, right? Well it turns out that anyone brewing liquor without a permit from the government is in violation of the law. So why exactly would the Discovery Channel put a television show in a prime time slot that documents individuals breaking the law? To change viewers perceptions.

Not This Again…

That is exactly what the show did. It changed my perceptions.  I would never drink illegal distilled liquor in my life. I have heard that you could lose your sight from drinking improperly distilled liquor or that it is sometimes only repackaged bleach. But, after this show I legitimately had my perception changed from, Yeah this should definitely be illegal. To, Well they are not really hurting anyone.

Let us Decode!

When you first watch the show you are immediately grabbed by its entertainment value.  It is legitimately a funny show to watch. What is better than watching a bunch of wasted rednecks mess about in the woods while making liquor. The answer is nothing. Through placing these innocent looking rednecks who brew an extremely innocent product the Discovery Channel has forever changed my perceptions on moon shining.

How do they do it? 

First the characters in the show look the part. They look like they should be brewing moonshine. In the series the main character wears only a pair of overalls for the entirety of the show. Second, these criminals do not act like criminals. The word criminal brings to mind images of thieves and frauds. In “Moonshiners” the main characters are bunch of good ol’ boys who are trying to make enough money in order to legally make whiskey. You see this television series has an agenda, as many do, and that agenda is to change how the regulation of alcohol is handled in our country.

The partial cast of Discovery Channel's series "Moonshiners"

It is all in the Agenda 

The producers behind “Moonshiners” have a not so hidden agenda. On one hand they are providing the consumer with social commentary on the other they are providing the consumer with entertainment. Maybe the producers of “Moonshiners” hope to change consumer perceptions enough so that one day they will elect officials who will de-regulate the Alcohol industry which in turn may create more American jobs or at least make it easier for the average American citizen to begin brewing their own liquor for home consumption.

So Media Criticism in a nutshell would be?

Media criticism is the window into a whole new field of study. The study of cultural perceptions given to us through the use of the media. It is important to understand how the media works, why it is there, and who benefits from it and why. This class I am currently enrolled in will hopefully give me the tools in which I can decipher more symbolism found in today’s media.

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