My name is Alexa Demski and I am a junior here at Towson University. I am majoring in Electronic Media and Film with a minor in Mass Communication and aspire to one day be a sports broadcaster. I have been surrounded every day of my life by media since the day I was born from books, to television, to radio, magazines, internet and so much more. As the technology used to transmit the media is continuously changing and improving, understanding the importance of media criticism is now more important than ever before. Media has to power to shape our individual lives, culture and society as a whole whether we are aware of it or not.
I am bring up the term media criticism because that is the class that I am currently taking to fulfill requirements for my minor and to learn why it is so important in today’s society. From this class I am hoping to learn the different theories and methods in media criticism and how to apply them to break down and reveal the real messages that are being sent out by media. In doing so you must be able to critique and interpret the content in media in order to truly recognize the hidden messages you are consciously or unconsciously receiving. From a lecture in class we defined media criticism as “the systematic process used to understand media texts as meaningful sociocultural symbolic forms and forces.” It is important to think critically about the media because after you have acquired such media criticism skills only then will you have the proper knowledge needed to empower individual resistance and embrace your own thoughts and feelings in regards to media.
In order to help you better understand why developing media literacy skills is so important I am going to use an example from the one of America’s favorite mediums to receive media: the television. A specific television text that I am going to use is the influence and sensation that has become the hit show the Jersey Shore. MTV’s Jersey Shore first aired on TV on December 3rd, 2009. The show took eight young adults and had them living together for a summer at the popular vacationing spot on the east coast. MTV has been known for years to be marketed for teens and younger generations not for adults or elderly people. That is why it was no surprise that the show became an instant hit with the teens and the names Snookie and the Situation became household names. But not everyone was all for the new reality show, many adults found the show to be a bad influence on their children due to the belief that the show was promoting drinking and partying every night, sexual relations with numerous partners,violence against women. ethnic stereotyping, and anti-Italian slurs.
Not only were parents concerned but the state of Jersey and national president of New Jersey-based UNICO were offended by the show and uncomfortable about the perceptions people were going to have after watching the show. Andre DiMino the president of UNICO was quoted saying that when he saw the promos for MTV’s new reality show, which promises to offer a peek into the lives of the “hottest, tannest, craziest Guidos,” he said he was offended. “Since this show has come out, I’ve received hundreds of e-mails from Italian-Americans, and even people who are not Italian-American, some Jewish Americans, who are disgusted,” said DiMino, who decried what he called decades of depictions of Italian-Americans as “either Mafiosos, buffoons, bimbos or bums” on TV and in movies. “No ethnic group should be treated this way. Just because these young people refer to each other this way [as ‘Guidos’] doesn’t make it proper.”(http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1627353/jersey-shore-castmember-defends-show-against-detractors.jhtml) This is a great example of how this television text has influenced people’s perceptions of Italian-Americans and what the popular vacationing spot in Jersey is really like. Here is a clip that I found on youtube that goes into more detail in regards to the “guido” outrage.
Another example of how the Jersey Shore was affecting people’s perception is when actress Alyssa Milano filmed a spoof of the Web Site Funny or Die. “In the spoof she is filmed being made over “Jersey Shore” style–fake tan, big hair, gaudy clothing and at the end of the clip, a message flashes across the screen that says, “No wonder our perception of Jersey is distorted.””( http://racerelations.about.com/b/2009/12/23/public-outcry-against-jersey-shore-continues.htm)
Those are just a few examples of the concerns in regards to the Jersey Shore when the television show came out. People truly believed that this show was going to shape our values and culture and that this show was going to ruin society and our children if they watched the show. Even with the show not intending to cause any harm or to do any damage it still influences its viewers with these concealed messages and is a source of cultural pedagogy. People who are not media literate unconsciously take in these messages and are prompted to act and behave as they see in the show. I’m not necessarily saying these are extreme behavior changes and that everyone who watched the show went tanning, moosed their hair, and was fist pumping in the clubs but with all media people are being influenced in some way or another, minor or major. It is important to take media criticism seriously because when you are aware of the true messages you are receiving from media then you have all the power to perceive it as you want.