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Popular Culture Lecture 2 Mass Consumer Culture - PowerPoint


									Ch. 5 Media and Ideology
   What is ideology? A set of
    assumptions used to explain and
    justify some form of social
   An ideology is basically a world view.
   An ideological analysis of a movie would
    examine what messages that movie
    contains about ourselves and society.
      It would examine how that movie depicts
       men, women, children, racial minorities,
       rich and poor, old and young etc.
   There are numerous ideologies used to
    explain and justify specific social
    relationships: sexism, feminism, racism,
    egalitarianism, capitalism, communism,
    individualism, collectivism, classism, etc.
   Ideologies are inherently political. They
    justify how power should be allocated and
    which groups, if any, deserve more power
    than others.

    Dominant Ideology
   Within any society, some ideologies will be more
    widespread or dominant than others.
   The dominant ideologies are those that are most
    accepted and visible in mainstream society.
      Dominant ideology stems mainly from elites.
        • They have the most power to spread their
          world views and to censor alternative or
          competing ideologies.
      Dominant ideology tends to be taken for
       granted by members of society as the “normal”
       way to view people.
      Dominant ideology is rarely challenged. It tends
       to be accepted as Truth.
Examples of dominant ideologies
 Capitalism is the dominant economic
  ideology in the U.S..
 Christianity is the dominant religious
 Democracy is the dominant political
 Individualism is the dominant social

    Group superiority values
   In the 19th century group superiority values
    supported various dominant ideologies in
    the U.S. that are controversial today.
       Racism (both by color and ethnicity)
       Sexism (against women)
       Ageism (against youth)
       Classism (against the poor and working class)
       Homophobia (against gays)
       Species’ism (against non-humans)
       Religious persecution (against non-Christians)
       Regionalism (against rural people)
Dominant Ideology
Because of the power of dominant ideology
  to influence consciousness, most of us
  would have been racist, sexist,
  homophobic, classist, etc if we had lived
  during the 19th century.
 We tend to be indoctrinated into
  dominant ideologies by the agents of
  socialization in our society.
     Just as the Chinese pledge allegiance to
      communism, the Americans pledge allegiance
      to capitalism – with most people never
      thinking deeply about what it really means.
Dominant Ideologies are not accepted
by every member of society.

   There are some who reject the dominant
    ideology, perhaps because they are
    victimized by it or because it is
    inconsistent with certain principles.
       The United States was founded on notions of
        freedom, justice, and equality. Consequently
        racist, sexist, and homophobic beliefs and
        practices are inconsistent with these

The 1960s Culture Wars brought a
decline in group superiority values.

    Until the 1960s, racism and sexism
     were the dominant racial and gender
     ideologies. Today these ideologies
     are more controversial.

Dominant Ideology
   The media are at the center of modern
    culture wars over how various categories
    of people should be portrayed.
   The mainstream media tend to promote
    dominant ideologies at the expense of
    other ways of looking at the world.
   This is not just a media controversy. It is
    a political/social policy debate across
       We do not all view women or racial minorities
        the same way.
Dominant ideologies are legitimized by
powerful cultural myths.
Dominant Ideology Legitimizing cultural myth

   Capitalism         Myth of eternal progress
                          Rags to riches

   Individualism      Myth of the rugged
   Christianity       Myth of Christ
   Sexism             The beauty myth and the
                        myth of opposite sex
   Racism             Myth of polarity
   Ageism             Myth of eternal youth
The dominant ideology of
corporate capitalism
   Normalizes certain ways of thinking:
       What is good is what sells.
       Material things/beauty are more important than
        abstract things/beauty.
       Life is about individuals in competition with
        each other, guiding by self-interest.
       Private property is sacrosanct.
       The importance of consumerism and keeping
        up with the Jones.
       Rich people are better than poor people.
       Corporate authority is to be respected.
       What is good for General Motors is good for
        America.                                      11
Features of the corporate
capitalist lifestyle
   Consumerism
   Materialism
   Suburbia
   Credit purchases
   Hedonism
   Status consciousness
   Fear of failure
   Every man for himself
   Obedience to corporate authority
Media and dominant ideology
   Most corporate media producers argue
    that their images are merely reflections of
    our society, and that they are not
    purveyors of an ideology.
   This argument is inaccurate.
   By selecting some images and ideologies
    over others, they cannot help but
    promote specific world views at the
    expense of others.

Media and dominant ideology
   This does not mean media producers
    are consciously promoting one view
    over another.
       Many producers take dominant ideology
        for granted as the only legitimate
        ideology by which to frame a story.
        • They don’t even consider that there might
          be another way to frame a story.

Theoretical Roots of Ideological Analysis

    Early Marxist Origins
    Marxists tie dominant ideology to the
     notion of false consciousness.
    False consciousness: when a subordinate
     group accepts the (dominant) ideology of
     the dominant group.
    Examples:
        When women accept they idea they are the
         weaker sex. (dominant ideology of sexism)
        When the poor claim to believe in the virtues
         of capitalism. (dominant ideology of capitalism)
    Karl Marx
   Argued that capitalism had emerged to
    become the dominant economic system,
    and that capitalism had become the most
    dominant ideology of Western culture.
   The capitalist world view tends to be
    promoted across all the institutions that
    capitalists influence – which means most of
    the major institutions of culture: politics,
    media, education, work, and even the
       Alternative ideologies, like democratic
        socialism, had been virtually censored from
        these institutions.                       16
   Antonio Gramsci extended the ideas of
    Marx by developing the concept of
   Hegemony is where the flow of
    information in society is controlled by a
    ruling elite.
       Gramsci was concerned about how the media
        may serve as a propaganda tool to promote the
        dominant ideology(s) of the power elite.

   According to Gramsci, elites try to
    manufacture consent to their policies by
    promoting specific values and messages in
    the media favorable to their interests.
   At the same time, opposing views are
       In Nazi Germany, the (capitalist) German media
        served as a virtual indoctrination mechanism for
        the virtues of the dominant ideology of Nazism.
       Gramsci was aware that people can be
        manipulated when the flow of ideas is
Is the American media hegemonic?
   In the U.S., given corporate concentration
    (and the agenda of media moguls like
    Rupert Murdock), the danger of hegemony
    is real.
   Our capitalist mass media tends to portray
    the world of corporate capitalism as a
    healthy world of competition in which
    everyone benefits.
       They do not advertise the fact that 60% of
        goods and services produced in the U.S. are
        produced by monopolies, oligopolies and other
        anti-competitive systems. Poverty is largely
        censored too.                                19
Is the American media hegemonic?
   The corporate media coverage of the
    2003 invasion of Iraq was almost entirely
       It emphasized President Bush and the
        Generals’ point of view while largely censoring
        dovish viewpoints.
   To the extent that the FCC allows greater
    concentration of media ownership, it
    opens up the danger of hegemony.

What does a capitalist news
media tend to censor?
   Pro-labor news.
   News that challenges the legitimacy of
    corporate capitalism.
   Anything that challenges the dominant
    ideology of capitalism and its
    corresponding values.
       Marxist ideology is nearly totally censored.
   Aside from Marxism, this censorship is not
    total – we still have a relatively free press
    and there remains a fair amount of
    editorial diversity – but the capitalist media
    are clearly biased.                          21
    News media biases
   Toward elites and the powerful – at the
    expense of the powerless.
      The news media generally reinforce the status
       quo stratification systems.
   The myth of eternal progress is often
    reinforced, especially by ads in between news
    segments. This is the notion that our economic
    system creates limitless opportunities and it is
    perpetually expanding in a wonderful way.
      Therefore, if you have not made it rich it is your
       own fault – not the fault of the system.
   The myth of technological utopia – the idea
    that life will get better with new technologies.
News media biases
   The news media like to present
    themselves as the voice of moderate
    reason – as though they are balanced.
   They tend to present their news to make
    it seem like common sense.
   In fact, they are biased toward the
    wealthy, toward whites, toward males,
    toward established leaders, and toward
    large corporations.

Economic News as Ideological Construct
   The capitalist media rarely portray
    corporate takeovers and mergers as a
    “social problem.”
   Instead, they often let the corporate
    executives define the meaning of their own
       The executive will typically call it healthy
        progress, despite the fact that it is harmful to
        competition, consumers, and workers.
   Similarly a workers strike is often portrayed
    through the lens of the corporate executive
    more than the strikers. The striker is often
    branded a trouble maker.                    24
Ideological Analysis of
Specific Genres of Media

    Action-Adventure Films
   #1 Hollywood movie export.
       Understandable to anyone.
   Ultimately, these are stories about good
    and evil – heroes and villains.
       Myth of polarity – it’s us vs. them.
       The hero typically represents the forces of
        civility and goodness, while the bad guy
        represents uncivilized, debased society.
   Ultimately the hero kills or domesticates the
    bad guy,restoring security.
       Hail to the status quo! Hail to the hero! Hail to
        the rugged (male) individualist!
    Hal Himmelstein – Myths
    Exploited by Action Movies
   Myth of the frontier.
       Rural frontier: wild regions beyond civilization.
       Urban frontier: inner city lawlessness.
   Myth of polarity.
   Myth of the individual.
       The rugged individual stands beyond the law,
        the group, the bureaucracy, beyond society.
   Myth of manifest destiny.
       To the extent the story is about expanding the
        “civilized” empire to new territories.
War Movies: Pre-1970s War Films
   Patriotic and hawkish.
   Manifest destiny promoted by the Westerns.
   Moralistic – we’re the good guys!
   Myth of masculinity.
       A real man is a fearless rugged warrior.
   Myth of polarity.
   Positive war conditioning.
   Examples
       “They Died with their Boots On” (1941).
       “The Green Berets” (1968).
    War Movies: Post-1970s
   The culture wars of the 1970s challenged
    traditional assumptions about identity and
      Myth of polarity (racism) was questioned.
      Manifest destiny questioned.
      Rugged masculinity questioned.
      Hawkish patriotism questioned.
   The traditional Hollywood Western became
    unpopular. The new Westerns were different.
   Examples: “Little Big Man” (1970) and “Dances
    with Wolves” (1990) either debunked the
    traditional myths or even inverted them, making
    white males “the bad guys.”                    29
War Movies: Anti-Vietnam
Films (1970s to mid-1980s)
   Less patriotic. Move dovish.
   Implied criticism against manifest destiny.
   Moral confusion.
      Are we really the good guys?
   Less polarity, more complex, deeper probing into
    the human condition.
   Negative war conditioning.
   Examples
       “The Deer Hunter” (1978) – surrealistic (the fog of war)
       “Apocalypse Now” (1979) – very surrealistic
       “Platoon” (1986) – surrealistic
       “Full Metal Jacket” (1987) - surrealistic
       “Hamburger Hill” (1987) - realistic
    War Movies: Pro-Vietnam
    War Films (1980s – the Reagan Era)
   The 1980s brought a return to traditional
    values, and along with it returned some
    traditional war themes.
   Patriotic and Hawkish.
   Manifest Destiny.
   Moralistic – we’re the good guys!
   Myth of masculinity.
      A real man is a fearless rugged warrior.
   Myth of polarity.
   Positive war conditioning.
   Examples
       “Uncommon Valor” (1983),“Missing in Action” (1984).
Television, Popularity and Ideology
   TV is central to our mass mediated culture.
       A single national TV show is viewed by 15-20
        million American households.
   TV mediates reality in seemingly realistic
    images, but they are not that realistic.
       Because most TV seems real, the viewer
        routinely suspends disbelief.
   The ideological work of TV lies in the ways
    it defines normalcy.
       Portrayals of sex, race, class, age, etc generally
        reinforce dominant ideologies.
Television, Popularity and Ideology
   TV producers have adopted the strategy of
    “least objectionable programming.”
       Programs are intended to avoid controversy and
        remain politically bland in order to please
        sponsors and gain the widest array of viewers.
       The result has been an emphasis on stereotypes.
         • Stereotypes are simplistic generalizations
           about different categories of people.
           • They tend to emerge from dominant groups to affirm
             dominant ideology. The dominant ideology reassures
             people that the system works.
           • They are not true, but are believed because they are
             taken for granted as “common knowledge.”
Television, Popularity and Ideology
   TV ideology is mostly determined by the
    strategy of using conventional images,
    dominant ideologies, and stereotypes as
    the backdrop to most programs.
       Hence, TV “normalcy” is disproportionately
         • White
         • Male
         • Upper middle class (affluent)
         • Relatively young
         • Trim and fit
         • Eurocentric definition of beauty
    TV depictions of the Family
   1950s TV portrayals of the family were
    found in shows like “Leave it to Beaver,”
    “Father Knows Best,” and “The Ozzie and
    Harriet Show.”
   These shows depicted the “normal” family
    as white, nuclear, suburban, middle class,
    happy, secure, and patriarchal.
       There were no serious family conflicts.
   In reality, 1950s families were more
    complex and diverse.

    TV depictions of the Family
   The 1960s culture wars brought the rise of
    feminism and pluralism.
   By the 1970s media capitalists finally
    recognized these values by creating
    competing domestic images of family.
       “All in the Family” featured an ideologically
        polarized family that portrayed the new debates
        related to civil rights and empowerment.
       “Brady Bunch” and “Partridge Family”
        depicted blended or matriarchal families that
        were happy and secure in their suburban middle
        class lifestyles. These shows reassured people
        that the system works despite the 60s changes. 36
    TV depictions of the Family
   One key to the changes in TV family
    images lies in the network desire to
    attract new markets – particularly
    young, urban, affluent consumers
    who are desired by sponsors.
       By the 1970s, these younger consumers
        did not buy into the traditional 1950s
        family images.

    TV depictions of the Family
   By the 1970s, images of the family were
    not so blissful anymore.
   A new version of the family appeared in the
    world of work:
       MASH, Taxi, Mary Tyler Moore, Barney Miller,
        WKRP, and similar shows depicted workplace
        employees as the new surrogate family.
       The workplace was where people could find
        support, community, loyalty and love.
       The workplace family was intended to be read
        against the social backdrop of divorce and the
        bureaucratic sterility of corporate jobs.
         • Here, work life was warm and family-like.     38
    TV depictions of the Family
   In TV shows like Cheers, Friends, and
    Seinfeld, the family is either absent or
      The hidden message is that your friends are your
       only true family.
   The TV show Frasier depicted the family as warmth
    and love, but it was an unconventional blended
    family (counting Daphne).
      This award-winning show explored all three
       historical images of family:
        • 1. Family as Haven (common depiction until 1970)
        • 2. Family as Fun (common depiction from 1950-70)
        • 3. Family as Encumbrance (relatively new depiction)
    TV depictions of the Family
   The desire of media corporations to
    reassure viewers reflects their conservative
    ideological support for the American
       Despite the real world, at least on TV we can
        see happy endings and satisfying social
   Mainstream TV promotes the dominant
    ideology that the system still works, that
    consumerism is normal behavior, and that
    if you play by the rules you will be
    successful in life.
    TV depictions of the Family
   Recent TV images of the family have been
    more diverse and inconsistent.
   While the Cosby Show and The Wonder
    Years idealized a race-neutral, upper
    middle class, suburban nuclear family,
    Married with Children, The Simpsons,
    Malcolm in the Middle, and Arrested
    Development satirized the suburban
    American family.
       These satires debunked what Himmelstein calls
        the myth of the suburban middle landscape
        with its emphasis on the suburban nuclear
        family as the ideal form of family.          41
Rap Music Ideology
   Rap music originated mainly out of
    young, inner city, working class and poor
    black males.
       Given this demographic, the music tends to
        reflect a different version of the American
        Dream: survival in a hostile world.
       This music takes advantage of the post-1965
        era of freedom of expression, with emphasis
        on dance, rhythm, and lyrical expression.
       Today there are many types of rap music,
        from heavy to light, from political to
    Rap Music Ideology
   The mass media generally reinforces status
    quo stereotypes, but media messages are
    not ideologically uniform. They may be
       Given the commercial emphasis on profit,
        whatever is profitable will generally be
        endorsed by the commercial media – even if it
        conflicts with dominant ideologies.
   According to Tricia Rose, rap music should
    be understood as a mass mediated
    criticism of the dominant ideology of racism
    within the America power structure.
    Rap Music Ideology
   Rap criticizes traditional institutions like the
    police, the justice system, education and
    the job system because these systems are
    seen as oppressive to blacks and the goal
    of equality.
   Rose argues that much rap music rejects
    dominant ideological assumptions.
       Rap affirms the experiences of inner city black
        youth while criticizing the social institutions that
        contribute to their ghettoization.
         • Rap bands like Public Enemy and Wu Tang Clan were
           critical of the white power structure and its portrayal of
           the American system as fair and meritocratic.
    Rap Music Ideology
   Tricia Rose argues that rap music has been
    empowering to black youth by providing them a
    way to express themselves and their critical
   Yet at the same time, rap is full of ideological
    contradictions. While some rap challenges
    racism, the lyrics and imagery are often
    misogynistic, depicting women in degrading ways.
   Thus rap music may challenge some oppressive
    dominant ideologies (racism) while affirming other
    oppressive dominant ideologies (sexism).

    Rap Music Ideology
   Similarly, many rap artists who become rich and
    famous flaunt their capitalist lifestyle – thus
    implicitly reaffirming the very institution behind
    slavery itself.
   As rap music became lucrative, the message of the
    commercial rapper was less challenging of the
    status quo.
   Part of this is due to the commercial media’s
    exploitation of particular forms of rap music over
    other forms.
      The industry prefers safe commercial rappers
       over all others.

    Rap Music Ideology
   Commercial rap is devoid of messages that
    are critical of capitalism.
       Indeed, this music is a celebration of capitalism,
        consumerism, materialism, and the good life.

   Today, rap music has crossed over into the
    white culture. Why are so many young,
    middle class whites attracted to rap?

    Rap Music Ideology
   In general, whites use slightly different
    ideological filters than blacks.
       It is therefore unlikely that a white person will
        be attracted to rap music that labels white
        people as racists.
       But that same white person, if they see
        themselves as young and hip, is likely to
        identify with other messages found in rap:
         • Non-conformist messages related to youth culture,
           gangsters, and youthful deviance.
         • Conformist messages about the good life, sexy babes,
           traditional masculinity, etc.

Rap Music Ideology
   Rap music offers something for
    everyone depending on how
    commercialized it is and how cool it
    is perceived within specific

Rap Music Ideology
   1. Liberation messages can be found in themes of black
    power, youth culture empowerment, and being real.
       Alternative rap prefers deeper, more liberation oriented
        messages, but is largely rejected by corporate media.
   2. Conservative dominant ideology messages can also be
    found in rap, especially commercial rap.
      Sexist images of women (myth of polarity), combined
       with the myth of masculinity that portrays real men as
       tough guys.
      Celebration of the good life of capitalist materialism.
      Myth of the urban frontier is exploited, complete with
      Myth of the Puritan Ethic – Look out for #1.
      Myth of eternal youth.

Rap Music Ideology

   Is it possible for corporate rap to be
    fundamentally oppositional to the
    status quo?

Rap Music Ideology
   Not really.
   The radical rapper, like the radical rocker,
    has been largely censored by the
    corporate media machine, and most of
    what we get is the sanitized version of
    the “revolutionary” rapper.
       It is the commercial version of “hip” that we
        see affirmed by commercial forces.
   The revolution will not be televised.



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