Saturday, January 5, 2013

Yes. No. Maybe.

Sometimes I get to wondering if media effects culture,  if culture effects media, or maybe they work in tandem... where one encourages the fantasy of the other wherein they feed off of each other.

Certainly, one can never expect a 1950's episode of "I Love Lucy", where Lil Ricky comes out of the closet unless he was actually getting his coat or something...

Closer to home for most of us: You do remember that 'The Brady's' and 'The Partridge's' were  products of widowhood, as was "Nanny And The Professor."
Most kids that I knew growing up who were missing a parent  were missing it for social reasons (divorce, illegitimacy, etc.). A few widows, but very few.

Safe to say, in my early time, media wasn't presenting the norm as I knew it, just the fantasy that we wished was the reality. *

Media folks ( screen writers, news reporters... and all those in between who work in that field) are as human as the rest of us.
They have their fantasies and their realities, just like we do.
They see the world through their lense-of-the-moment, yet will find value in the ideal when the money says to, or not to.
It's about the money, after all.

As media types, they eventually have to market to the audience if they hope to keep cashing paychecks.
Being 'cutting edge' is part of that.
Societal norms, the acceptance by people of what most people see happening in their own lives, is a larger part of that... the envelope can only be pushed so far before a career is ended, or... riding a once edgy trend that becomes the norm of acceptance.

The question of how complicit the media (in all of it's forms) is in spreading the more negative aspects of our culture (like gun violence, sexual promiscuity, casual disregard for others) can best be answered with 'Yes, No, Maybe.'

Go ahead and weigh in.

* I still remember when my best friend from grade school learned, after her death, that his maternal grandmother never had that 'grandfather' for him who 'passed' before his mother was born. But he was  passing through, a fighter in The Spanish Civil War who never returned to claim the bride who waited for him, who's pregnancy he had yet to learn of. (Maybe because he couldn't? It was a bloody affair... he will never know. But when the subject came up, she spoke lovingly of him as if he was her husband, and remained unmarried through life.)
That was a shock!
It wasn't acceptable in her culture to have sex before marriage. She was too embarrassed to allow her grandson to know the truth.


RW said...

Whenever the subject of "the media" comes up I always wonder what your definition of "the media" is. Until shon otherwise I kind of have to reject the idea that a "media type" even exists.

What is "the media?" And what is a "media type"?

Am I a "media type" because I publish a magazine? Are you because you participate in the blogosphere?

It's kind of important to define right up front because no doubt folks will assume they know what you mean by these terms and just start flinging the usual crap as if there's this secret definition out there known only to an elite few. But you should define the terms because, really, they're incredibly ambiguous and can encompass anything you want. But we've had this discussion before... obviously to no avail.

I know that there seems to be lots of folks who feel society (i.e. the general culture and all the memes that entails) is degraded from years past. But I don't see much in the way of empirical evidence that says past eras were more or less "moral" than ours. Seen through the filter of what someone may want to believe about how we are only now specially going to hell
in a hand basket harder than other eras have gone to hell in it, I can see where an entire argument can get built around the idea that we're worse than anyone has ever been. That condition does, after all, become a justification for certain political agendas meant to correct our moral faults.

Henry Miller, a man known to be hyper sexually active in the late 1910's and 20s and quite famous for his writings on the subject, once commented - when asked what he felt about people who were decrying the loose morals of the "modern world" scoffed at the whole notion. He said "You know, there was just as much fucking going on then as now. Don't kid yourself."

Art and the cultural scene feed and eat off each other. Remember in past times there were repressive restrictions on what could and could not be said and shown and talked about. The lack of incidence in cultural display doesn't mean they weren't happening in the dark.

Gino said...

RW: RW: when i say 'media', in this case, i mean all of it. movies, papers, broadcasts, sitcoms, radio, bloggers, video game makers... but more largely the profit driven members who need/seek approval of the consumer to keep it going.

it reflects society and its values as well as drives behaviors.

i dont think we are less moral than before, just a different set of sins i guess.
its hard to say a society that wasnt too bothered by slavery at one time and publically decried promiscuity was more moral.

as for sex then and now: my grandparents told me that very few 'waited for marriage' in their day, but it wasnt broadcast like it came to be later.
(my grandmather's aunt was a madame, ran a brothel in Chicago during the 30's 40's 50's. they were not blind to the hanky panky around them)

Gino said...

i want to see where this discussion goes before i post something else, a way to get some thoughts sorted out.

Brian said...

As media types, they eventually have to market to the audience if they hope to keep cashing paychecks.
Being 'cutting edge' is part of that.

I could not disagree with that statement more. The overwhelming majority of mass media "culture" is safe, unadventurous garbage designed to be tolerated by as many people as possible. Monotonous, forgettable pop music. Vapid rom coms. Stupid action movies. Formulaic sitcoms. Virtually interchangeable procedurals.

Don't even get me started on reality TV.

I am not in the slightest worried about the effect of mass media on our collective morals. But I definitely worry about its effects on our collective intelligence.

Bike Bubba said...

Brian's got a good point that most mass media is more dangerous to our intelligence than our morals, but I've seen from time to time various things where it was pretty clear the director and producer wanted to push the envelope in our society.

And if the media don't have an effect on how we think and act, please explain to me the concept of a "commercial." Madison Avenue owes a lot of refunds if mass media don't impact behavior.

Gino said...

Brian: yes, a solid point, but would the Brady Bunch play today? "All In The Family" was daring, as was "One Day At A Time", but it took a chance taking visionary to see their acceptability.
being edgy was the key to their success.

Bubba: you touched on part of my train of thought.

RW said...

So you're an insightful, perceptive and cunning observer of the world and all its foibles who can't be fooled, and most everybody else is a herd of manipulated sheep who can't see how they are being led around by the nose?

Congratulations. You're a snob. :-)

Gino said...

it's tough being this wise.

Bike Bubba said...

RW: Gino, me, and PT "No one ever went broke by underestimating the intelligence of the American people" Barnum.

Mr. D said...

Don't even get me started on reality TV.

No kidding. Nothing is more contrived than reality TV.

W.B. Picklesworth said...

I think that both media and culture reflect society as it exists while also trying to (re)form it.

I also think we live in an age that is characterized more by quantity/variety than quality. Just about anything is disposable these days: plates, dates, wives and knives, tv shows and all our clothes.

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Brian said...

Man I am glad someone cracked the men boobs thing.

R.A. Crankbait said...

Ah, spam: there's your culture right there.

Anonymous said...

My TV viewing is mostly limited to watching basketball and the odd hockey game. I rarely go to movies now. It both cases it is because what is on TV/at the theater is rarely worth the time/ticket price.

The good news to the time in which we live is that we have access to more info than ever. The bad news is that in the race to get the info out there incorrect info gets shared/reshared. Bad news and bad ideas also spread far more quickly.

Is the media complicit? Yes they are, but mainly because we allow it.