If you’re reading this, it’s too late to turn back now. I’ve already caught your attention! If you don’t mind, I would like to give you a lesson on Media Criticism. Once you take the time to read this blog, I promise you’ll feel awakened.
Hello! (waves hand with a Colgate smile) I’m Kalin, and welcome to my blog! Here’s a little about me, I am a 22-year-old junior at Towson University, and my major is Mass Communications. I hope to become a Public Relations practitioner one day. I enjoy media. I have social media accounts. I recently started a YouTube channel. I have found a new appreciation for listening to podcasts, and I enjoy watching television. I guess you could say media surrounds me! I am currently enrolled in a Media Criticism class this semester. Frankly, I enrolled in this course just because it sounded good, but now it’s my favorite class!
Definition of Media Criticism
Media Criticism, what’s that? You may ask. Well that’s what I’m here for! Media Criticism is defined as a systematic process that helps viewers understand the meaning of texts through embedded symbols and signs. It also provides tools to evaluate media through critical methods and approaches. Semiotics, Narrative analysis, and Genre Criticism, are some tools and approaches that are used to decode the meanings in media texts.
In this class we learn the importance of being media literate. Many millennials, like myself have been frequently using a new term called “woke”. (Slang for being awake) Being “woke” in today’s society is the state of being aware of what is happening around us in society as a whole, politics, and in our direct community.
Media literacy seeks to empower the under-represented audience, stresses the role of ideology in media, and helps with the process of making meaning from media. So to put this in perspective, people who are Media Literate are “woke” when it comes to knowing the power of media and how it can shape the lives of it’s viewers. This awakening is crucial in today’s society. Media is powerful in the sense that if you don’t know how to decode it, your perception of reality can be shaped by it.
There is a critical process that takes place when criticizing media. We must first, select the media we would like to critique. Second, describe the message the writer wants you to see. Third analyze the patterns. Fourth, interpret the true meaning, and lastly evaluate the impact.
Television shows are a prominent form of media texts. One fairly new show I have been watching lately is Love and Hip Hop Hollywood. Love and Hip Hop Hollywood is a reality show that airs on VH1. This show is geared for a millennial audience. It follows the lives of young adult Hip Hop artists and singers as they try to launch entertainment careers, and reveals (of course) all of the juicy gossip in their personal lives.
Genre criticism on Love and hip hop hollywood
In order to explain how watching Love and Hip Hop Hollywood can influence perceptions and shape our values and culture, I will analyze this show using the discipline of Genre Criticism. In the ideological approach of Genre criticism, we view television texts as instruments of power and control on conventions to articulate dominant ideologies.
I know that may be hard to understand, but I’m here to make it plain. Genres of television shows seek to make certain ideologies normal. Douglass Kellner, the founder of U.S. Cultural studies believes “television and other forms of media culture play key roles in the structuring of contemporary identity and shaping thought and behavior.” Kellner, Media Culture
When people watch how certain ideologies are displayed on television, they perceive it to be what happens in reality, and how they identify with their self. For instance, race, class, and gender roles are the dominant ideologies in Love and Hip Hop Hollywood.
Please take a look at this short video. This is a “super trailer” released by producers to promote the show before it premiered.
Dominant ideologies: Race, class, gender
There were several substantive values in this trailer that revealed what the dominant ideologies were. In Love and Hip Hop Hollywood, there are no white cast members. All of the cast members are black or have mixed race. This normalizes the idea that only black people are a part of Hip-Hop culture. Although there are plenty white rappers in Hip Hop, in reality television there is a deeper focus on black people, associating them with “gangsta” rappers.
Also, black women in reality television genres are always associated with fighting and arguing. Rarely do you see black women in reality television depicted in a good light. They are always in conflict with one another and never helping each other succeed. If a white person watches Love and Hip Hop Hollywood this race ideology could seriously impact how they view black people in real life. They could see how they are shown on reality television and think that all black men and women act this way.
Lets talk about class. In Love and Hip Hop Hollywood everyone is trying to out do each other. The narrator says in the beginning of the trailer “in this town perception is everything, but everything is not what it seems.” This focuses on the fact that people in Hollywood care mostly about what people think of them, and how they look to others. People who are impressionable and illiterate to media would look at the show and think that this is a positive way to live. They would think that life is all about how you look to others, and that you should strive to be rich and of high-class. This supports the materialistic nature of people in today’s society. Many people buy things to support a lifestyle that they can’t even afford.
In the video, you can see the cast wearing expensive jewelry, and driving luxury cars. The women are heavily made up and they wear revealing clothing to show off their figures. Nikki Baby, one of the female cast members is shown getting out of her car wearing nothing but bikini-bottom panties and a see-through mesh top to cover her breasts. In reality people don’t wear bikinis out in public. This is unrealistic. Someone who is not media literate could watch this show and believe that this is what success looks like, and that if they acquire these things, and dress in the clothing that the cast members dress in, they could also be a celebrity.
Another dominant ideology was gender. It seems as if every woman on this show was chasing after a man. And to be more specific they were chasing after a man that already had a girlfriend, or who just did not want to be with them. In Love and Hip Hop Hollywood it is not abnormal for two women to physically fight each other over a man. There has been 2 seasons of Love and Hip Hop Hollywood so far and there has not been one episode in which there were two men fighting over a woman.
Since we’re on the topic of violence, let’s go a little deeper. On almost every episode of Love and Hip Hop Hollywood there is a physical altercation. This seems normal on reality television, but this is not normal in “real life.” I have never witnessed any of my friends or family fight over a man. In just this one trailer there were several altercations. People who are not media literate may see these fights aired on television, and be encouraged to assault someone the moment they feel disrespected. This is because on reality television everyone does it, and not one person goes to jail.
If you assault someone in real life, you will probably get the police called on you and you will go to jail. It seems as if the law does not exist in reality television. Since I am a viewer of many reality television shows, I am immune to violence. I see it all the time and I don’t even realize it. That’s not a good thing! Violence is wrong! But because of the fact I see violence so much on television it is “normal” to me. Although I see it as normality I don’t see this as a way that I would live my life. However, someone who is not media literate would.
Back to gender, in the reality television genre, this gender ideology of women always lusting after men is presented to viewers in a hegemonic way. It supports the idea that women are inferior to men. The trailer I shared reveals the stories of some of the male cast members that have multiple women. In the video, if you fast-forward to 3 minutes and 39 seconds, Young Berg says to Hazel E “I got b*ches, and I got you,” with a smile on his face. How demeaning can you be? Reality television glorifies the man who has multiple women, and the disrespect men give to women. It is almost like they want viewers to know this is the way things are supposed to be. If a woman who is not media literate watches this, she will accept treatment of this kind from a man in her life, because it’s presented as normality. Women in Reality Television
I hope you all can see the importance of media criticism. Media plays a large part in how we perceive reality. If we don’t become a media literate society we will remain asleep. We have to be awakened to the messages that are delivered to us daily.
Parents must monitor the types of media their children engage in. Think about this; would you like your media illiterate teenager watching Love and Hip Hop Hollywood? This show was a great representation of how media genres depict what is normal in society.
The funny thing about reality television genres is the fact that most ideologies depicted in reality shows are actually the complete opposite of reality.