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Mass Media covers the range of papers, film, books, music, internet, social media, etc.
Table of Contents
Q1: To what extent do films reflect the values of society?
(Mass media on films)
Every society is characterised by a set of values. These give the society its nature, culture and identity. Ever since the birth of cinema, films have tried to represent and in turn influence the various aspects of society. However, they have often been accused of misrepresenting or only partially representing the social values. I do agree that films do not paint an explicitly realistic picture of social values. However, I believe that they do reflect the values of the society to a significant extent, implicitly through their content as well as the expertise that goes into it. Most of them do give us a perspective of the values of a society.
Films are produced for different purposes. Commercial films are created for entertainment and profit. On the other hand, art films are produced with the motive of celebrating the artistic elements of films. Both of these reflect different values of society in different ways. Commercial films portray what the public wants to see. They talk about burning social issues, love-stories torn by enmity, family problems and so on. Although they exaggerate the true situation, and sometimes to an unrealistic extent, most of them are successful in providing the public with a general view of what is happening in contemporary society. For instance, the famous. comedy “Mrs. Doubtfire” is a moving portrayal of a loving father, a career-oriented wife, and the children torn between both of them. Although represented in a comic and unrealistic way, it is a great specimen of a typical American family that is in jeopardy due to materialistic social values.
Similarly, art films reflect social values but in a more realistic way. These films do not show what people want to see. They are, rather, intended to make people look at what is but from a different perspective. For example, “Bawandar”, a National Award winning Hindi film, is the true story of a rural woman raped by her landlord. She was one of the first Indian women to rise up against such injustice instead of being broken down by such a mishap. The landlord was ultimately brought to justice by an illiterate rural woman. It not only reflects the poor condition of women in the villages but also the malpractices of unscrupulous landlords. It was a film honoured for rightly representing the strength of character of an Indian woman, which is a basic value of the female society in India. Although we also have instances of movies like “Fire” which misrepresents the traditional Indian values by espousing homosexuality, these movies quite impressively bring out the prevalent social practices and how society passes value judgement on them.
Films could represent a society’s value structure not only through a portrayal of its culture, traditions or social issues, but also through a portrayal of its day to-day lifestyle. Some films very effectively bring to our attention the nuances of a mundane life lived by thousands through characters that we can closely identify with. For instance, Farhan Akhtar’s Hindi film “Dil Chahta Hai” was applauded for being one of the best portrayals of friends in an urban area. It is the story of three friends who have recently graduated from college. It shows how, because of varying backgrounds, they reacted differently to issues of day-to-day interest, like career, love, family and dreams. Such films do give us a view of our own. lives as if we are viewing the society from the outside. Thus, films can give us a perspective of a society’s day-to-day values.
Films do not only represent the current values of a society. Historical films reflect the traditions and customs of a society. They help us gain an insight into the roots of a society’s value structure. For instance, movies like “Ben Hur” provide us with an insight into that society’s history. It helps us understand how its values have evolved because of what it has been through. Although some historical films do give a very inflated and exaggerated view of a society’s history to make it interesting, the gist of movie still helps us understand that society better. For instance, movies like “Hero” give us a unique view of the culture of warriors in ancient China. Thus it reflects the age-old values that are embedded even in the modern Chinese society.
We must agree, however, that many commercial movies focus narrowly on a small cross section of society. For instance, “Yaadein” is a movie that
portrays the non-resident Indian class as one that is excessively rich and has lost all links with its culture. true in some Although true cases, it is a very wrong index of the non-resident Indian society. Similarly, art films sometimes touch on issues which do not represent the general social value structure. Its outlook is limited and this obscures the issues which further alienate as the entire society may not be able to relate. Many movies are too violent and gory. Some are excessively vulgar, too. For instance, movies like “Eyes Wide Shut”, “Khwaaish” (Hindi) are all exaggerated misrepresentations of social values. Science fiction and fantasy movies like “Minority Report” and “Terminator” certainly do not represent the values of society.
However, in conclusion, if we overlook the extreme cases of the misrepresentation of social values by films, I believe most movies do represent the values of a society to a significant extent. Their content and the expertise with which it is presented implicitly touch upon the social value structure and, thus, give us a reasonable overview of a society’s values.
Q2: “Violence in the media is the cause of violence in society,” Discuss.
The world as we know it is becoming an increasingly violent place. Wars are raging in various countries, while terrorists and extremists cause havoc by executing hundreds of innocent people. Crime rates are not falling either. Violence in the media is one of the main causes of our increasingly violent global society. Though it is not solely to be blamed, the fact that it is widely accessible ensures that its influence. stretches far and wide.
Although it is a fast changing trend, violence in the media generally receives less censorship than sexually explicit content. Movies about serial killers and mass murderers, such as “Scream” and “I Know What You Did Last Summer” earn millions of dollars and become instant box office hits. The public’s fascination with these types of movies is fuelled by their glamorisation of violence and gore. This is evident in the fact that merchandise from these movies, such as the infamous mask of a white face contorted into a scream, from Scream”, are distributed and sold all over the world for many years after the movie’s release.
The fame and recognition that actors in these roles receive gives the public the impression that violence can make you successful, or at least famous. Films like “Silence of the Lambs”, featuring a cannibal, have even spawned copycats. Though not everyone who watches a movie about murder turns into a murderer, the violence in the movie can in someone in an already unstable mental state to turn violent. Taking the real-life example of the Columbine High School shootings, the two young gunmen were emulating Hollywood’s clichéd image of mafia hit men in trench coats. Imagery of violence cause in the media, and the fact that culprits in films and television get away with their crimes, must have pushed these vulnerable boys to do what they did.
The music industry is overcrowded with musicians, mainly rap artistes, who proudly publicise acts of violence they themselves have committed. Some of them even recount their violent encounters in prison or the community in their songs, which are broadcast to many young people all over the world. Again their misdeeds are glamourised by their wealth and success in the music industry. It almost seems as if their wealth is directly proportional to the severity of the crimes they have committed. Many adolescents. have been influenced into dressing, speaking. walking and dancing like these artistes. However, in some cases the influence spreads too far and naïve youngsters start to behave like their favourite rap stars. Some may begin to join gangs like the ones their idols belong to. This no doubt leads to delinquency such as gang fights. Verbal wars between the ‘East Coast and West Coast rappers of America resulted in two murders in the late 1990’s. The same happens to fans who emulate these stars’ actions and behaviour. The violent lyrics act as a stimulus for these acts.
Another form of entertainment for the young is video games, the most popular of which are centred on killing and destruction. Adolescents, children and even some adults can spend hours a day playing these addictive games. After some time, they seem to be desensitised to violence as they witness it constantly. Without bloodshed and gore, a video to or sell at all. game is unlikely to make any profits at People simple do not enjoy peaceful, tranquil games any more. The world is accepting of violence is suddenly becoming more In fact, violence has become fun. In a video game, the aim is to kill the enemy to get rid of your problems. Addicts begin to employ those same principles in reality and assume that most situations can be resolved with a fight.
Furthermore, with war and terrorism encompassing at least one third of the news today, violence seems to be everywhere. The scary thing about it is that the images we see look fit for any ‘slasher flick in cinemas but are in fact reality. Take the recent beheadings of American and Korean hostages in Iraq. Videos of the deed itself were available on the Internet, probably the most widely accessible form of media in today’s world. Young children and adolescents, still not yet fully mature in their thinking, were exposed to these graphic images. Again, after seeing these types of images countless number of times in the media, they must be unaffected by it. Even adults are no longer greatly traumatised or affected by them. We have been desensitised to blood, gore, and worse, the inhumanity of it all. Some may no longer think twice about committing a violent act like getting into a physical fight. However, the behaviour may not stop there and may escalate into assault or something more serious.
Having talked about the role that violence in the media plays in making our society a violent one, it must be said that there are other causes as well. Not everyone who plays a video game annihilates his sty real-life enemy and not everyone who watches murder on television mass murders his peers. There are other catalysts that instigate someone to commit violent acts. After all, there were violent crimes taking place before violent movies were screened.
As most societies around the world increase their standard of living it becomes more necessary for both parents to work to provide their child with the best educational opportunities and such available. Therefore, many children and teenagers are left in the company of maids or alone from a rather young age. They receive little guidance about what is right. and wrong when they see violent acts on television or in video games. This, coupled with the amount of violence they are exposed to, creates a young child unsure of his boundaries, in terms of action and behaviour.
Parents feeling guilty about neglecting their child fuel this uncertainty by buying more video games and allowing the child to watch and listen to violent movies and lyrics. Guidelines meted out by local censorship authorities are not adhered to since the parents are never around anyway to carry out the “parental guidance” advised for some movies, like those marked “PG-13”.
The child’s curiosity and need for attention may cause him to carry out small acts of violence like abusing animals or fighting violently with a sibling. Not all unsupervised children are affected this way. However, for those who are, it is a serious issue, as the degree of violence is likely to escalate and the child may move on to attacking his peers, not just animals.
Others may commit violent acts as a result of abuse they endured or witnessed in their own environment. This cannot be blamed on the media.
The media plays a large part in provoking violent acts that one commits. The images and ideas that are made widely accessible to society influence some, albeit few, into copying this behaviour. Often people are simply desensitised to violence and the lines between right and wrong begins to blur for them. However, it is often not solely responsible and simply acts as a catalyst for someone dealing with more serious issues or problems to commit a violent act.
Q3: What is the educational value of television?
(Mass media on TV)
Television, the most powerful mass medium, has provoked much argument on its educational value. Just how good is television at educating people? Over the years. television has come under fire for the detrimental effects of its emphasis on sex, violence and materialism. Do the bad effects offset the educational value? I personally do not think so.
We can assess the educational value of television by looking at the programmes. We see that some of them have the potential to be high in educational value.
Firstly, there are cultural programmes available on television. With easy and cheap access to cultural programmes, people are more likely to watch and begin to appreciate culture. Classical concerts, ballets, operas and musicals may be too expensive for an average worker to attend. But with television, he is able to watch these cultural performances at home and appreciate them. Other programmes like those showing African tribes as their natural selves and not as stereotypes and people of other cultures living their daily lives are highly educational because they give people an awareness of the world. around them and reduce xenophobia among people of different races. They result in more tolerance among people. Television exposes children to different cultures. With early exposure to different cultures, a child may grow up more broad-minded than generations before him with no television.
Documentaries are another source of education. Nature documentaries bring nature right into the home and with programmes like “Earthvision” which show people different aspects of nature and how they are being destroyed, people can become more aware of the environment, and learn what they can do to help. Documentaries give people an insight into different aspects of the world.
Children’s shows are yet another source of education on television. “Sesame Street”, for example, uses lively and colourful characters to teach young children words and letters. Under such conditions children can learn and have fun at the same time. “Sesame Street” has been running on television for more than a decade. This shows how successful an educational television programme can be.
Television can also promote political awareness and educate the masses on politics. With telecasts of Parliamentary debates, rallies and elections, people can become more aware of the political affairs of their country. This is extremely important in a democracy where it is the duty of each citizen to cast her vote sensibly, based on knowledge of the issues. The news on television provides more up-to-date in formation for people than newspapers. This gives the masses an insight into world events everyday. For many people it is much more interesting than reading newspapers and for these people it is often their only source of information on current events.
Sports programmes may seem to be devoid of educational value but this is not true. By bringing sports close to the people, people may learn about determination and hard work. Moreover, sports programmes can instill an interest in sports in people and encourage them to actually go out and participate in sports. Instructional sports programmes educate people on how to play sports properly and this prevents injuries.
However television can have detrimental effects on people, especially children. Commercialised television programmes glamourise crime, infidelity and violence. They may promote materialistic life-styles. However, even these programmes can be good if parents teach the children about what is good and bad. TV promotes inter action and provides parents with the opportunity to teach some moral values to their children.
In conclusion, television is high in educational value if it is used appropriately and with proper guidance. We must not forget the example of Tony Lara, a prisoner who got a degree after watching instructional programmes on television in prison. Television complements formal edu cation and can be considered as a form of informal teacher.
Q4: “Pop music is nothing but noise.” How far is this true?
(Mass media on music)
Today, pop music is perhaps the most widely appreciated form of music among the developed and industrialised countries. It is true to say that pop music originally evolved from rock and roll and is generally identified with today’s younger generation, who are constantly ex posed to it daily through radio and television. They also absorb the lifestyles of pop musicians from magazines, newspapers or even idle gossip.
However, the claim that “pop music is nothing but noise” should be analysed in detail before such a criticism is taken to be valid. It is not rational to label pop music as just meaningless noise as pop music carries with it considerable power to influence young minds.
It is first necessary to consider the generation gap between today’s older and younger generations. Many of the older members of the establishment do not appreciate the lyrics and rhythms of rock music while the younger twenty-somethings may fail to agree, hence there is a clash of opinions. To the older generation, pop music contains lyrics that are a meaningless jumble of words spoken too fast, and its tunes are too loud and jarring. However, to the younger generation this is simply a re flection of their hectic modern lives. Pop music soothes their inner turmoil with its powerful messages about violence, AIDS, homosexuality, love and other social problems. Hence, the strength of pop music to them is that it allows them to escape from the mundane real world into another dimension constructed purely from audio sensations in which they can meditate and reflect on their present state of life.
Next, the advent of pop culture as part of a modern lifestyle must be considered. The widespread propagation of pop culture through hip dressing styles and attitudes has alarmed many of the older generation who see this as an invasion of traditional culture by a form of music which is both bizarre and alien to them. Hence, pop music is misunderstood and carries with it a stigma of anti-social behaviour. However, it must be argued that although pop culture in itself may not be a thing, its power to influence is undeniable. Literally mil lions of teenagers cash in on trendy pop-style streetwear and many display ostentatiously relaxed attitudes, as exemplified by the new slacker generation or “Generation X” as the media have labelled them. These young people are most influenced by underground music, also known as grunge or alternative music. Other forms of music create different attitudes towards life, so how is it possible that pop music, if it is “nothing but noise” can change the outlook on life for millions? wholesome
In addition, pop music’s power to entertain must also be considered as the rhythms and tunes of pop music are not plain, harsh noise but cleverly manipulated notes and beats intended to give an intricate pattern of sound energy which has a euphoric effect on many youngsters through its audio-sensations. This has been coupled with visual sensations through music videos. Indeed today, the music industry has spawned countless artistes who have been promoted to idol status, with titles such as “Heavenly King” or “God of Songs.” Their lifestyles keep fans intrigued. Even the movie industry, the
greatest entertainment industry, derives part of its fictional magic from the powerful soundtracks created to suit the mood of the movie and to keep audiences in tune with the storyline. In today’s movies, most soundtracks are pop music in essence.
Furthermore, the widespread new discotheques and “hot-spots” in urban areas owe their growth to pop mu sic as their existence depends on the ability of dance music to stimulate and please customers. Other aspects such as mood and decor are mere trivia compared to the role of pop music. Other aspects of the pop music industry include the production of memorabilia endorsed by famous artistes, enormous pop concerts as well as lucrative sales of compact discs and audio cassettes. Without pop mu sic, the electronics industry would probably not prosper as devices such as MP3 players, walkmans and discmans would not attract much attention without the proper music to listen to. Hence, pop music is a factor which indirectly generates not only revenue but employment as well.
To conclude, it must again be emphasized that both the tangible and intangible effects of pop music are very real in their power to influence and dictate lifestyles. The words of the great guitarist Jimi Hendrix ring true: “The easiest way to control a people, a society and dictate their actions, is through music.”
Q5: “All art is useless.” Do you agree?
(Mass media on Art)
Art has been in our lives for as long as we know. It is present here, there, everywhere even when we may not know it. Art has been intertwined with life for so long that life may seem sadly lacking without it. Art is a source of life for some and for others, and even though it may not play such an important role in their lives, art without doubt has helped to brighten up their world and made it all the more interesting. So art is definitely not all use
Art is present in many aspects of our world. It can serve as a livelihood for some, help others pass their lei sure time or r simply just serve as a form of expression of oneself at one time or other. For a long time, people have always seen art as secondary to other things, like science and technology. Art just does not seem to be sufficient enough to base one’s future on. Parents of schooling children even today urge their children to take up science for they feel it will surely provide a better and brighter future for them. Yet art has served many, from past to present. well. It has allowed them to turn their love and interest. for art into jobs. It does not only include the artists, painters, sculptors but also those in fashion, architecture, mu sic among many others and they have done well for them selves.
As a hobby and leisure art has proven itself too. Many consider art to be their favourite pastime. People take up art as in art courses and music lessons, for surely making beautiful music is also an art. They join pottery classes. flower arranging, the making of handicrafts and others. All these are art, even if in different ways.
Art also serves as an expression of oneself. It provides an outlet for many feelings and emotions, and of course for creativity. Many wonderful expressions of art have come from inspiration and have continued to inspire others too. Beautiful music from the great composers like Mozart and Beethoven, magnificent artworks created by great masters like Leonardo da Vinci have shown us much beauty and helped to make our history, culture and life so much more full and interesting. Even the present day pop music has served as expressions of the artistes themselves and those with meaningful lyrics have helped encourage the young and old. Of course, besides secular music, is the music in religion and culture. This kind of music in corporates the good teachings of religion into music so beautiful that they seem to come from the heavens above. All these are expressions of art, transformed from Man’s many emotions, inspirations and beliefs.
Besides serving as a means of livelihood, leisure and expressions of creativity, art is also incorporated in many things in our lives. Art can be seen in pictures, books, buildings, gardens, homes and many other uncountable aspects. There is art in food, in merchandise, in music even in plants, besides many other things that are close to us and surround us each day.
Food has become an artform, where great chefs show off their skills not only in turning up delicious cuisine but also in the presentation of their specialities. Food that turns up on our tables nowadays is so intricately and wonder fully decorated that it seems such a waste to eat these artistic creations sometimes. It has been said that food must not only be tasty, it must also be attractive in its presentation. All these had led to an art evolved from the kitchens. Ingredients are chosen not only for their taste in the dish but also for their colour and shape. All those designs that are not available ready-made, the great food designers simply produce themselves: things like carvings of carrots, potatoes into unbelievably real shapes of dragons, flowers and others. This is art too.
Of course, there is also the art on the plate, which is carefully painted cutlery like those precious china. Many other material comforts of our daily life have art in them. Clothes are a great artform. Designers each year compete with one another to produce the most brilliantly-designed clothes, each a piece of exquisite art on its own. Of course there are also the watches, the shoes, bags and even cars. and other sources of transportation are being turned out as wonderfully designed and packaged as can be. Speaking of shoes-the exhibition of ‘Cinderalla’s Revenge’ at Lane Crawford has shown us that creativity extends to shoes too.
Great art is also found in architecture, from past to present, with beautiful churches, museums, even sky scrapers with art and usefulness intertwined. Plants are being made into an artform too, with the famous bonsais, carefully and painstakingly snipped and shaped into magnificent little trees in small pots. There is art in film, in charity even. Art has served charity over and over again, with charity art exhibitions, dance presentations or the sale of paintings to raise funds for the needy. There is just so much art in our lives that we just cannot say that all art is useless.
However, we must also understand that many forms of art have come along with greater affluence and higher standards of living. It is difficult for a very poor man to say that art is definitely very useful to him when he does not have enough to eat or to feed his family. It is also hard for people in war-torn countries, in disaster-ridden countries to support art’s usefulness when they have to worry about the very skin on their backs. It is not that there is no art in these countries or in their lives, but it is that they have to worry about their lives first before they can observe the art around them. Thus for those of us fortunate enough to be able to stop and stare, to observe art, we must be thankful and treasure its presence.
Art is a marvellous thing, and even great Mother Nature has it, in her skies, seas and living creatures, in the splash of colour across the sky after rain and the beautiful sunset on the horizon and the sun and stars; it is sim ply too much to write it all down. Therefore we should take the time to stop and stare, to see art’s usefulness and beauty and know that art is not all useless, at least not to us, the more fortunate ones.
Q6: Do book still have a future?
(Mass media on books)
Books are a reasonably inexpensive and convenient way of storing knowledge and information. In the present age, technology has provided man with another information warehouse – the computer system. Increasingly. computer s systems are are replacing books as Man’s dominant information repository and especially the recent invention of the PDF and EPUB (aka eBooks) technologies has made this form of storage and retrieval of ideas more popular than ever before. Yet, we need not fear that the development of such technology would bring about the extinction of books. In the future, although the bulk of our information will be stored in PDF, books will still remain.
Indeed, books still have a future, but in this future, books will play a much less significant role than ever before. This is because PDF are in many ways better information treasuries than books. A comparison be tween the two alternatives is very revealing.
Firstly, books are much less durable than PDF. With rough handling, the pages of books tear or come loose easily. Also, water spoils books irreversibly and when a book is old, it usually gets mouldy. Such fragility makes books less pleasant to read, as readers are put off by the mildewed and torn pages. On the other hand, the round, metal-coated, plastic eBooks are less prone to physical damage and are resistant to fungus. This feature of the PDF attracts people to employ them in the storage of information, as data stored here will not be lost easily.
Another advantage that the PDF have over books is that PDF are much more space saving. Books take up a lot of space and the construction of libraries and book shops to store the vast amount of data found in all these books, illustrate this. The invention of the eBooks has thus revolutionized the information processing industry, as the slim, wafer-like eBooks can store many times more data than a books of its size can. One example is a compact disc I own, that contain all the works of Shakespeare. A book equivalent to its size would not even be able to contain five of Shakespeare’s sonnets! A eBook thus boasts of larger storage space than a book and is much more convenient to carry round compared to many books. Admittedly, ebook require computers to be able to operate and these are bulky and heavy to carry around. However, technology promises to improve on the size of computers. This promise is already beginning to materialize as supercomputers that are 50 times smaller than the conventional supercomputers and which are able to process information 2 to 6 times faster have been invented. Therefore, in the future, much of the information will be kept as soft copy books as these are more space saving than books
As a result of these features, ebooks are relatively less expensive than books. In one’s life time, one does not have to buy another ebook containing the same information as the first one. This is because the first ebook will last for a very long time. Also, for the price of one ebook, one can get all the information found in a dozen of books or so, where one of these these books could already cost the amount the ebook cost. Undeniably, though ebooks are relatively cheaper than books, laptops n PCs are not. A set of computer together with the printer .com costs a few thousand dollars. Yet, computers are getting cheaper and in the future, they will be affordable by most people. Indeed, more and more of Man’s ideas and observations will be stored on ebooks due to their de creasing cost.
Lastly, it is much easier to search for and locate information from eBooks. This is because information in books must be manually retrieved, as opposed to the CD. ROMs, where the computer churns out the required in formation for us. The “search” capability of computers to seek out the information we want helps us to save time, that before the information Age, was spent on the unproductive work of finding data.
As can be seen from above, the ebook is in so many ways superior as a information warehouse compared to the book. Why, one may ask, would books still have a future, since they appear totally substitutable by ebook? The answer is that books are not totally substitutable by ebooks. Some information is best stored in books, for the maximum pleasure of readers. By this, I am referring to novels and the like. These books are best read, curled up in a comfortable chair, smelling the scent and feeling the texture of paper of the books. These pleasures can only be offered to us by books. Even though computers in the future can be of the size of a small book, yet the computer will still be hard and metallic unlike books that can be bent in any way to read. I do not think that I will get accustomed to reading a thriller off a computer screen, much less derive any pleasure from it. Be sides, it is bad for our eyesight to be watching computer screens for too long and as such, many would prefer to read novels from books, rather than from ebooks.
The advent of the Information Technology has changed our lives tremendously. This is most clearly seen in the aspect of information storage and retrieval. In the future. most of our information will be kept in computers and ebooks. Books, however, still have a role to play. In this future, books and ebooks will complement each other. Each will store different kinds of information, which will give Mankind the benefits of both methods of storage.