Have you ever wondered why and how our social values came to be? For the fact that different cultures have different social norms and values, we certainly as humans are not born knowing these ideas. Instead, they are embedded into our brains by of course our friends, family and environment. However, have you ever thought about how greatly media have implanted these ideas as well?
Ideological Criticism is a theory that deals specifically with exactly that. Ideology itself is a means of exerting power. It is a tool that dominant elites use to extend control over those of less dominance, which in turn helps to maintain existing power relations. It refers to how our social norms come to seem natural, obvious and even just plain like common sense.
Ideological Criticism has everything to do with hegemony and power relations. It examines how these ideas are embedded in our media and how ultimately, they serve primary the interests of the dominant elites. The elites are the ones that made these ideas typical and customary. However, I’m sure we all agree we could certainly go without the damaging messages that are embedded through the media. Nonetheless, ultimately the reason this isn’t changing is because elites themself go unchallenged.
Political Economists are people very concerned with this appalling social problem we are facing. They study how media advances the interests of dominant elites and how they at the end of the day still preserve control. More specifically, they examine the role of ownership in our society, such as conglomerates, the production and distribution practices, and the link between the ownership of media and ideology. Inclusive, whoever owns our media owns the ideas and social norms that are being put into our brains. As weird as this idea may sound, I find this almost identical to brainwashing.
Political economists continue to examine the issues that this pertains to; the social role of advertising, consumerism, consumer culture, culture of consumption and globalization. Commercialization within young infants, toddlers and children are without a doubt the most important audience this is affecting.
Two films in particular shed light on the work of political economists concerned with the power of media to shape our social values; Consuming Kids: The Commercialization of Childhood and the Mickey Mouse Monopoly: Disney, Childhood & Corporate Power.
Consuming Kids: The Commercialization of Childhood is a movie we watched in class that started off with the statistic that kids influence the advertising world by about $700 billion a year. WOW! That is a huge number and shows that children are a major influence in the advertising/marketing world and that is why they advertising to children is so important to the marketers.
The film goes on to talk about the idea that “kids are growing up faster younger,”and without a doubt is true. Age compression has become dramatically more prevalent than it has ever been. When I hear the world “tween,” I think of a 9-12 year old child. Marketers categorize “tweens” as anyone aged from 6-12! This is the age group marketers are targeting with these ideas. It is sad, corrupt and unethical that is what our marketing world has came too.
The same messages from the media, aka elites, are being planted into these children’s minds. Ideas such as girls being taught they need to be not only pretty but sexy and boys need to be overly violent, manly and always maintain power, are being taught at the age of 6.
Personally, being around children often, I have noticed the age compression that has occurred, younger and younger every generation. Age compression has influenced the clothing children wear, their ideas about life and has enhanced them sexuality. Products marketing these undeveloped children are beyond sexual and teach young women they must be sexual, flirty, and even “easy” at such a young age.
Bratz, a very sexual, young children brand is only one brand off the top of my mind that perceives itself as innocent. Bratz is a brand that not only sells dolls but also different scandalous outfits for them to wear.
The dolls itself have very voluptuous lips, long straight or wavy hair, seductive eyes, long eyelashes, with skinny bodies. Clothing is sold separately and includes products such as heels, make up for the dolls, mini skirts, fur jackets and mini jackets. The brand itself sells that being fashionable, hip and sexy is tremendously important.
The movie Mickey Mouse Monopoly: Disney, Childhood & Corporate Power reinforces these messages and stereotypes planted in children’s minds but precisely investigating Disney’s media and their “magical” “innocent” and “pure” family friendly movies, shown to kids as early than even before they can walk or talk.
Who doesn’t love Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, The Lion King and Mulan? I know I used to watch these repeatedly. I certainly still watch these movies but only now I see them differently. I notice the appalling gender representation of girls.
Think about Ariel, Belle, Cinderella, Snow White and about every main female character in Disney films. Every single female has big breasts, tiny waists, big butts, and is incredibly beautiful. They also are very seductive, even a female character in animal form.
Also, the end of every Disney Fairytale, no matter how strong and independent the female may seem, the man always ends up in some case, saving the female. For example, Mulan starts out as a dependent woman for the fact that she acts as if she were a man. When she comes back home though after the war, she goes back to her womanly duties and has a man take care of her from then on.
Again, in The Little Mermaid Ariel falls in love with a human. In reaction to this, she gave up her voice for the man. In the end she marries him but he solely feel in love with her body since she was never able to even speak to him.
What are the messages do you think young girls think when they see these things?
Disney obviously has a huge impact on our children through their well-known Disney movies and The Disney Channel but these are only two of the vehicles Disney has control over. For those of you who are not aware, Disney is one of, if not the biggest conglomerate we have.
To name a few different media Disney owns—ABC kids, ESPN, Miramax Films, Lifetime, A&E, the History Channel, the Biography Channel, SOAPnet, Wondertime Magazine, ESPN the Magazine, Hyperion Books for Children, The mark Levin Show, Good Morning America and Sportscenter/Monday Night Football.
Disney also owns 277 radio stations in the United States. Disney owns at least one of every different vehicle of media.
If I were a Political Economist I would be concerned, mostly because one company owns so much of what we are consuming. One group of elites controls what we are taught as our social norms, starting from when we are born. Political Economist will continue to research commercialization and childhood but personally, I don’t think these messages will ever depart but only worsen for each generation.