The Blame Game: Media Edition

We are always quick to put the blame on something and much of this blame is aimed towards the media. This is the essence of ‘media effects’ in which the public blames the media of over its perceived ability to influence vulnerable groups in society such as children, youth and the uneducated. The media envelopes our lives, and over time has only become more and more present. Thus, it is easy to put the blame on the media for changing the attitudes and behaviours of society. However, is it right to do so? Current anxieties towards the media include its power to influence the influenceable but not in positive ways. People who are deemed ‘vulnerable’ are considered highly impressionable and are thought to be more at risk to take on “messages” from the media such as body expectations and the use of violence to solve indiscretions.

The 1990 episode of The Simpsons, ‘Itchy Scratchy & Marge’  is a satirical look into this notion that the media is at fault in influencing audiences into copycatting anti-social behaviour. Homer is hit on the head with a mallet by Maggie after she sees the same act on The Itchy and Scratchy Show. Marge begins an anti-cartoon violence movement, much to the dismay of her other children, claiming that it is the violence in the cartoon that caused Maggie to attack her father (Simpsons Wiki, n.d). The episode provided a comical debate of the concept of media effects with the issue of television violence and the impressionable audience it is aimed at. It is thought by some that the message susceptible viewers may perceive is that violence is the answer to resolving conflict or that violence is an acceptable action with no ramifications due to the lack of the consequences being shown in the aftermath of the violent scenes in the programmes.

Later in the episode, there are calls for the statue of Michelangelo’s David not to stop in Springfield during its tour. Marge is against the boycott as she views the statue as a “masterpiece” and not offensive or something that needs to be censored. She realises her hypocrisy in the issue of censorship. The episode explores both sides of the argument but effectively conveys that it is ultimately how the audience views the media and the message they perceive from it, as it is safe to say the creators of the content have no intent to suggest violence in any circumstance is acceptable. This plays into the impressionability of individuals and their social background and whether they have been enforced with morals and values that help them to separate fantasy from reality, therefore adhering to social expectations in behaviour.

In closing, it becomes clear that the message from the media to an individual is based on HOW the viewer ‘decodes’ and interprets said message. Society is quick to say the media has an effect on individuals because it is an easy target rather than looking into why an individual would act a certain way in certain situations (Turnbull, 2015). It is not the issue of what is the media doing to the audience, but rather what is the audience doing with the media.The effect of the media is dependent on the audience’s interaction and interpretation of it.

Stay classy,

Tracy Bustamante

References:

Gauntlett, D. (n.d.). Ten Things Wrong With The Media Effects Model. Available at: http://www.theory.org.uk/effects.htm [Accessed March 20, 2015]

Itchy & Scratchy & Marge. (n.d.) [online] Simpsons Wiki. Avaiable at: http://simpsons.wikia.com/wiki/Itchy_&_Scratchy_&_Marge [Accessed March 18, 2015]

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3 thoughts on “The Blame Game: Media Edition

  1. I really liked this post!

    I think that The Simpsons did this perfectly when this episode aired, and as you pointed out, the message is still relevant today. I agree with you in saying that it is incredibly unrealistic to say that people see something like violence (as used here) in cartoons and then will go out and simulate the exact same thing in the real world. While I do agree with your point about how it’s more about who we are as people and how that effects the way we decode the message.

    I do wonder though if parts of the media do take it that little too far. A recent example of this was the Wicked Camper Vans scandal that came up in the news around this time last year and then again last week. While this isn’t directly media in the most popular sense of the word, these vans essentially act like moving billboards and I do believe that to an extent, some of the messages on these vans do promote violence against women. As you correctly pointed out, this doesn’t mean that everyone that sees the vans is going to go and be violent toward women, but I do think that it does somewhat normalize, or tone down a very serious behavior. I do believe that in some cases, legislating against it to protect people is appropriate, however, ultimately, legislation an only get so far, and we have to decide how we want to decode messages, rather than just blaming the media as the soul cause of the problem.

    Awesome post

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Wicked Camper Vans is a great example! It does play into the whole thing about influencing the influenceable, resulting in some thinking that that is the correct way to think. Thank you for the kind comments and great insight.

      Like

  2. The interpretation of any media message comes down to the individual audience, correct!!
    Perhaps that’s why, when presented with this article (http://thump.vice.com/en_au/article/what-the-34eat-sleep-rape-repeat34-t-shirt-at-coachella-says-about-rape-culture-at-music-festivals-au-translation?utm_source=vicefbanz), while so many people expressed their disgust at the shirt – it’s simply tactless – one male took offence that the uproar surrounding the shirt was so OBVIOUSLY suggesting that seeing such a shirt would make men go out and rape women at this festival, and that obviously meant everyone was saying men can’t control themselves.
    Now that shirt wouldn’t have that effect on the masses, and the article and media are NOT saying it does, yet this example shows it’s not what the media does, it’s what WE do with the media. Said male took offence to an inoffensive article, while many others took it on face value – exemplifying the outlier that would allow media to control them.
    It’s interesting to watch scenarios play out in real life and be able to apply these concepts to it.

    Like

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