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.
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]