Media Theory Week 5

This week in my Media Theory class is covering the Karl Marxist’s theory of Capitalism and how the conflict theory affects the mass media. Students will be analyzing The Hunger Games movie based on a Marxist’s ideology viewpoint to see how class systems works in film.

Chapter 5 Focus Questions:

Ideology – is defined as any kind of criticism that bases its evaluation of texts or other phenomena on issues, generally political, socio-economical, of consuming interest to a particular group.

Marxism – is a system of thought developed by Karl Marx and elaborated on by many others deals with the relationship between the economic system in a country (the base) and the institutions that develop out of this economic system (the superstructure). Marxist media critics focus on the role of the media in capitalist societies, especially on the way the media help prevent class conflict and defuse alienation by generating consumerist cultures. See Karl Marx Political Theory Video.

What does Mannheim say in the passage from his Ideology and Utopia?

Mannheim argues that utopians often come from repressed subcultures and other groups and see only the negative aspects of the societies in which they find themselves. Mannheim’s ideologists see no evil in their societies, and his utopians see no good; both of course are deluded.

Background: What is the difference between relativism and relationism? As nouns the difference is that relativism is (uncountable|philosophy) the theory, especially in ethics or aesthetics, that conceptions of truth and moral values are not absolute but are relative to the persons or groups holding them while relationism is (philosophy) (karl mannheim)’s idea, proposed as a response to relativism, that the recognition of different perspectives according to differences in time and social location appears arbitrary only to an abstract and disembodied theory of knowledge.

How is ideology defined by the authors quoted?

The concept of ideology forces readers to perceive that all cultural texts have the distinct basis, interests, and embedded values, reproducing the point of view of their producers and often the values of the dominant groups.

The ideological analysis argues that the media and other forms of communication are used in capitalist nations, dominated by a bourgeois ruling class, to generate false consciousness in the masses or in Marixt’s terms the proletariat. Marxist Criticism points out that there is usually a hidden ideological message that is mediated and other forms of communication. These hidden messages shape the consciousness of those who receive these ideological messages. In other words, shapes how we tend to think. ie. the latent or hidden in mass-mediated texts, artifacts, or forms of collective behavior such as fashion.

What points does Roland Barthes make in his Mythologies about the media and about wrestling? Barthes was a critic of pop culture. He believed that myths have a relationship to bourgeois- (meaning middle or upper-middle-class) culture and society. See Roland Barthes – How to read the signs in the news and mythologies videos. His view of wrestling: The quality of light in wrestling generates extreme emotions. Wrestling is not a sport but a spectacle. Wrestling is an excessive portrayal of suffering. Wrestling is full of excessive gestures. Each sign in wrestling is endowed with absolute clarity. The bodies of wrestlers are signs about the way they wrestle. Wrestling provides the image of passion, not passion itself. In America, wrestling represents a sort of mythological fight between good and evil.

What is Hegemony? Why is it a problem for Marxist critics? Hegemony – refers to the notion that ideological domination is invisible because it is all-pervasive. See Karl Marx & Conflict Theory Video.

Marxist problem – They believe there is an ideological content in everything, it becomes impossible to see this domination because we have nothing to compare it to, no way of isolating it. The situation is made worse because, Marxists argue the forces contending against this domination, if any exist at all are relatively weak and powerless. Status Quo – is the existing state of affairs, especially regarding social or political issues. The media tends to manipulate the masses into accepting the status quo economically and in many areas as well. Marixts argue manipulation is too simplistic and even old-fashioned. Manipulation suggests that the people who do the manipulation, run the newspapers and television stations and make the films, actually recognize the ideology it is peddling and therefore does not recognize it as ideology.

Are Debord’s ideas in his Society of the Spectacle still valid? What would he say about the Super Bowl and the 2018 Winter Olympics?

Spectacle – according to the French theorist Guy Debord, capitalist societies are based on the use of spectacles to distract people from recognizing their exploitation. He explained his idea in a book, Society of the Spectacle 1970. Debord believed that sports can be viewed as a society of the spectacle. Today, sports still play an important role in our lives because we enjoy being entertained. See Society of the Spectacle Video.

What points were made in the Marxist interpretation of the Fidji Snake advertisement? Key Points: Everything in a text such as a commercial is important. The more you know, the more you can see in a text. This is because texts store a tremendous amount of information in themselves and are a great deal more complicated than we might imagine. The idea is also that those print ads and TV spots can be seen as popular or commercial art. The notion is that, like other art such as paintings, music, sculptures, and poems, you can see, notice, even appreciate, new things in more complex commercials and ads. Such ads are often rich in symbolism and interesting material for those who have the keys- that is, theories and conceptual framework- to unlock their meaning. Ads and cxs are richer in meaning than we might think. And it takes a good deal of work to understand how they communicate ideas and meaning and, to the extent that they are successful, shape our behavior.

The more critics know, the more they can find in commercials or any kind of artistic or literary text. The book’s author uses six different theories to analyze this Fidji “Woman with the Snake” perfume ad.

Six-Step Analysis:

  1. Semiotic Analysis – What signs, symbols, and codes are found in the text?
  2. Psychoanalytic Theory – How does the text make use of the basic elements of the human psyche to sell goods and services? Id, ego, superego?
  3. Sociological Analysis – What does the text contain that is relevant to such matters as socioeconomic class, gender, race, status, and role?
  4. Historical Analysis – If the ad or cx is part of a campaign, what is the campaign like? Where and how does this text fit into the campaign?
  5. Political Analysis – What role does the ad or cx have in the political process? What techniques are used, what appeals are made?
  6. Myth/Ritual Analysis – What mythical or ritualistic aspects of the texts are of interest? How does it relate to ancient myths? Pages 141 -150.

Fidji Perfume Advertisement:

  1. Snake is a phallic symbol (Freud)
  2. Flowers are sexual organs of plants
  3. Myth of passion in Polynesian islands (Gauguin)
  4. Adam & Eve (and snake)
  5. Dark hair and ideas about sexuality
  6. Perfume as magic (and like venom?)
  7. Fidji and sophistication: cost and advertisements
  8. Design of ad: leads eyes to perfume
  9. Fingers grasping perfume in a strange way
  10. Sex found hidden in images

What does John Berger say about glamour and the way advertising uses it? Berger used the word publicity for advertising, creating a sense of glamor. it promotes competing messaging. Yet, publicity persuades us to transform ourselves, our lives by buying something more because we want to be envied by what we have or by others. Thus, publicity is the process of manufacturing glamour. It feeds our desire for pleasure. Advertising is not about the product it is selling, but the pleasure of ownership.

Mimetic Desire – people are motivated by mimetic desire to have. Mimesis means imitation, which plays a major role in social relationships. We often want what we cannot have, which invokes envy in us, so we want to imitate what others have. ie. Celebrities are selling products in advertisements and we desire those things in our own everyday lives. See John Berger Subliminal Advertising – Ways of Seeing Video.

What are the basic issues raised by feminist critics of the media? Feminist Criticism – focuses on the roles given to women and the way they are portrayed in texts of all kinds. Feminist critics argue that women are typically used as sexual objects and are portrayed stereotypically in texts, resulting in negative effects on both men and women.

What does Mannheim discuss in his analysis of the “Social Conception of Knowledge?”

The social conception of knowledge recognizes that education, the media, our families, and other parts of society play a major role in giving people the ideas they hold. Socialization – refers to the processes by which societies teach people how to behave what rules to obey, roles to assume, and values to hold. Traditionally, socialization was done by the family, educators, religious figures, and peers. The mass media seem to have usurped this function to a considerable degree with consequences that are not always positive.

The subculture rejects many of the basic norms of the societies in which they find themselves. A subculture is a cultural subgroup whose religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, beliefs, values behaviors, and lifestyle varies from those of the dominant culture. In any complex society, it is normal to have a considerable number of subcultures. Some subcultures are deviant and others criminal. Phallocentric Theory – refers to men assuming that the power relationships they find in society in which men are dominant are natural.

What is the grid-group theory? How does it get its 4 political cultures or lifestyles? Grid-Group Theory – is based on the work of social anthropologist Mary Douglas 1970, this theory argues that in modern societies there are four mutually antagonistic lifestyles that shape people’s choices in consumption and other areas of social and political life. The group involves the strength of the bounds in the units in which people find themselves song or weak, and the grid involves the number of rules that they must obey many or few.

How are our pop culture and media references tied to the 4 political cultures or lifestyles? Pop Culture is a term that identifies texts that appeal to a large number of people, that is texts that are popular. But mass communication theorists often identify or should we say confuse popular with mass and suggest that if something is popular, it must be of poor quality, appealing to some mythical lowest common denominator. Popular culture is generally held to be the opposite of elite culture, that is arts that require sophistication and refinement to be appreciated, such as ballet, opera, poetry, classical music, and so on. Many critics now question this popular culture – elite culture polarity.

Grid Group Theory

4 Types of Political Cultures are: Fatalists – group boundaries are weak, prescriptions numerous. Decisions are made for them by people on the outside. Being a controlled culture. Individualists – group boundaries are weak, prescriptions few. Competitive individualism encourages ever new combinations. Elitists – group boundaries are strong, prescription numerous. Various social roles combine to form hierarchical collectivism.Egalitarians – group boundaries are strong, prescriptions few. The shared life of voluntary consent, with coercion or inequality.

1. People wish to reinforce their beliefs and thus tend to choose films, television programs songs, books, and other similar material that are congruent with their beliefs and support their values. 2. People wish to avoid cognitive dissonance – and thus tend to avoid films, television shows, and other forms of mass-mediated culture that challenge their belief system. Cognitive Dissonance – refers to sounds that clash with one another. According to psychologists, people avoid ideas that challenge the ones they hold or that create conflict and other disagreeable feelings. It also refers to ideas that conflict with people’s views and generate psychological anxiety and displeasure.

Week #5 Resources

Karl Marx Political Theory Video

Karl Marx & Conflict Theory Video

Roland Barthes – How to Read the Signs in the News Video

Roland Barthes Mythologies Video

Society of the Spectacle Video

John Berger Subliminal Advertising Ways of Seeing Video


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