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.

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3 thoughts on “Selling a “Culture of Consumption”

  1. […] article, Selling a “Culture of Consumption”, explored political economy, deregulation, commercialization, Disney, and ended with a fun rant […]

  2. I laughed a little when I started reading your blog, because you had the prominent picture of Reagan, which was the first thing thing I saw, and then you opened with how you’re extremely clever. I couldn’t help but picture a politician framing the message, and making it clear early on in a speech what you should think.

    That being said, the culture of consumerism comment was pretty witty. Kudos.

    Down to the meat of the article. You’re talking about political economy. I love how you led the reader down the path to your definition and explanation of political economy. Talking about deregulation, using the example of Clear Channel, moving on to the broadcast networks (I have an antenna and it works just fine… most of the time) and cable- by the time you got to actually introducing and defining political economy and ideological criticism, I felt like I already knew what you were talking about. It’s like you tricked me into learning.

    Your apple pie hypothetical was great, as well. It helped to demonstrate the ideas you were talking about using a more simplified idealized version of events. Sometimes, when we use real-life examples, we get stuck with situations that never perfectly adhere to the principles we’re trying to illustrate. The real world is too nuanced sometimes, I guess.

    I would’ve loved examples of how Disney pushes certain racial stereotypes and gender roles. If I hadn’t seen the film, I would have gotten confused at that point in the article. I might have left you and angry comment in ALL CAPS for defaming the wholesome and innocent Disneyverse.

    Your advertisement example at the end was great. Also loved how you displayed a little anger. It’s more engaging for us as readers to see that personal side.

    Well done!

  3. Gerilyn says:

    What I enjoyed…
    First I’d like to say that I really enjoyed reading this particular blog post! I enjoyed it because you included some of your own wit into it. I liked how you related the media to apple pie, and how people like to be fed “comfortable” information—it’s so true! I also liked how you broke the post up by adding in bold text in between paragraphs; it made it easier to read and follow along. And, the video you included was interesting. It was interesting because, at first, I didn’t know what was happening. But, then you tied it in nicely with the concept of hegemonic power.

    Something that I learned…

    I had never heard of the Johnny Trend of Trend Universal; maybe I haven’t been paying much attention. I think it’s funny that he has an obsession with apple pie, and then proceeded to build an entire media empire around it!

    Some elements for improvement…

    One thing I picked up on while reading through the whole post was that you didn’t always explain exactly what you were talking about. Even though we are all students in the same class and we know the topic of discussion, I believe it is important to write as if the audience knows nothing. For example, when you went into discussion about the Mickey Mouse Monopoly film, there were no examples to back up your argument. Perhaps when you mentioned The Lion King, you could talk about the hyenas and the racist ideologies behind them.

    There were many examples of ideologies mentioned in the Mickey Mouse Monopoly and Consuming Kids films, such as gender roles that you touched upon. But there were also many more, such as ideologies of what it means to masculine or feminine, and how Disney conveys them through the use of signifiers. I feel that adding these extra points, along with examples, could strengthen your argument about gender roles portrayed in Disney films.

    Also, I feel the post could benefit from a few more hyperlinks. I know hyperlinks can make a page look cluttered, but they can help explain your argument more by providing outside information/examples. They also add more “spice” to the discussion and layout of the post!

    Over all, it was a great discussion! It definitely could have benefitted from further clarification through the use of examples. But, it was very easy to follow because you broke up the text using different fonts and visuals. Also, you engaged the reader by asking questions.

    GOOD JOB!

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