The mass media has become a significant and permanent force in our society. Indeed, it has created a new modern culture as it not only promotes products, but it also influences moods, behaviours and attitudes. However the effects of the media have generally been viewed in a negative light as the media is usually blamed for anything that appears to be unhealthy in our society.
One criticism has been that the media has created a more violent and anti-social society (Gauntlett, 1998). While I agree that children and adolescents are easier targets, I do not agree that the media can entirely be blamed for such behaviours. The media appears to be an easy target for such violent acts, when in fact, there are other factors which can also be attributed to the negative behaviours. This was exhibited through the 1999 Columbine school massacre where majority of the blame was attributed to Marilyn Manson and his ‘dark music’ for the shootings. Sensationalised headlines such as ‘KILLERS WORSHIPPED ROCK FREAK MANSON’ circled the globe. The more obvious and contributing factors -i.e the loosely implemented American gun laws; the poor dysfunctional family backgrounds of the killers; the mental state of the killers -were ignored. This incident exemplifies Gauntlett (1998)’s criticism of the way in which the ‘media effects’ approach works ‘backwards’ and fails to look at individuals rather than society.
‘The ‘media effects’ approach…[starts] with the media and then [tries] to lasso connections from there on to social beings…’ (Gauntlett, 1998).
However, in certain situations, the media has had a profound effect on individuals. This is particularly evident amongst young girls and their insecurities in relation to body image. Whether it be magazines, billboards or the barbie doll, women are constantly confronted with images of thin ‘perfect’ -and usually photoshopped -bodies which are defined as ‘beautiful’ and ‘desirable’. A study conducted in America indicated that 80% of women felt insecure after seeing images of women on the television, while two-thirds of women were influenced by underweight models in magazines. See this visual diagram for more statistics (source: http://www.raderprograms.com/causes-statistics/media-eating-disorders.html). Considering such alarming statistics, it is clear that the media has a responsibility to change the way in which women are portrayed.
Thankfully, certain companies are beginning to promote are healthier body image. My favourite example is the Dove campaign:
Despite such observations, in my opinion, the media’s portrayal and promotion of images is a mirror of society as well, and not merely an initiator. The media feeds the hungry. Thus, before we can criticise the media, we must also consider the culture we have created. Perhaps we are equally accountable for what the media feeds us.
O’Hagan, S 2000, ‘The Fall Guy’, The Guardian, 4 November, viewed 14 March 2014, < http://www.theguardian.com/theguardian/2000/nov/04/weekend7.weekend1>
Doveunitedstates, 2012, For Real Women, By Real Women – Show Us Your Skin, video, YouTube, 10 April, viewed 14 March 2014 <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GsnEkTvq0-c>.
Tim Piper, 2006, Dove Evolution, video, YouTube, 6 October, viewed 14 March 2014 < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYhCn0jf46U#aid=P8OgBDT5VvQ>.