A Media World

February 26, 2007 at 8:01 am Leave a comment

I very often talk about how we work against our own best interests and the modern media industry definitely falls into that category. While its popular to blame media for various social problems, that is a simplistic way of looking at it. There are two factors we need to be concerned with – the factors that motivate media content and why modern media is intrinsic to our society. Hopefully, by understanding the underlying dynamics at play, we may come closer to identifying sustainable solutions.

To understand the dynamics at play its important to recognize that film and television corporations do not live in a vacuum – they produce product like any other corporation with the goal of earning profits for their shareholders. Now its wonderful when a movie comes out that tells a story of personal challenge and growth, but in a market largely driven by teenagers and young adults who are at the peek of peer pressure to conform, such stories don’t hold enough “cool” factor this critical demographic. No, what the youth market demands is exactly what corporations are providing – the least common denominators of drugs, sex and violence, the only factors this powerful demographic can socially come together on.

The fact that American media is guided by market demand can be seen across all its sectors including news. While the industry is aware of its pandering toward sensationalism, the all present need to sell advertising inevitably shows through with coverage of the car chase or Anna Nicole simply because that’s where we stop clicking. If the news outlets don’t provide attractive content, viewership falls, advertising falls and profits fall. The “dumbing down” of our news is not a great conspiracy, but the result of public market demand and corporate need to pay bills and show profit. In the meantime, our entertainment oriented news industry is no longer providing the public service we need now more than ever. The lines of fact, fiction and opinion have been blurred and a great deal of content on news channels is actually opinion.

But, why is content significant to society? To put it simplistically, we humans become the focus of our efforts. If we prize drug, sex and violence as we do today, that lesson is absorbed like a sponge by our children’s minds and will be actualized by them and their peers throughout their lifetime. Again, this isn’t a metaphysical declaration; it is simply how the human brain works. Everyone, especially children learn by example. And, in an economy that demands two incomes to survive, the television has become the default babysitter and parent and our modern media may not be the best role model.

In a monkey see, monkey do species such as ourselves, images not only trap individuals, but can trap our society by creating false definitions of happiness, health and success. Again, this observation is not rooted in esoteric ideals, but rather in every human’s basic desire to be wanted and loved by others. The furor over anorexic models is a good example. The images provide people with unreasonable and unhealthy goals that foster depression precisely because they are unattainable. In fact, the images are highly manipulated by lighting, highly paid hair, make-up and stylists as well as the magic only Photoshop can perform. The consumer, however, thinks it’s just a picture fueling the thoughts of “Why don’t I look like them?” The answer is even the models and actors don’t necessarily look like their images.

As another example, recently a CIA expert described Matt Damon as being too “short, fat, pretty and white” to portray the real life person on whom his movie “The Good Shepherd” is based. But, that typifies the nature of Hollywood to beautify and idealize a story. And, by watching these stories, audiences form false expectations of reality resulting in an overall depression from our failure to live up to what turn out to be unreasonable expectations! But don’t get mad at Matt, he’s just doing his job and in general seems to contribute more to the solutions than the problems.

We complain about the available content, but we also demand profits from the corporations that provide media content. Content is developed to sell advertising. Advertising is meant to sell products that feed the consumption economy that is nibbling away at our planet’s resources. All these problems are related and they share a common solution: first awareness, which is my motivation for writing this and then acting with conscious choices.

CIA expert says Damon is too ‘fat’ for spy film



Entry filed under: Philosophy.

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