In this week’s assigned video, we watched Crash Course’s fifth video in their media literacy series, “Media and Money“. The media is a big collection of massive, money-making industries. Understanding how and why the media is produced, the business of it all, is key to the full media literacy picture.
Media is made. Every bit of it is constructed by someone or groups of someones. Each step of the way they’ve made choices, too, about what to create and how to create it. They’ve made those decisions based on life experiences, preferences, and money – who has it, and how they can make more of it. But those choices affect you, the consumer.
First, let’s focus on why media is created. Its purpose, like to entertain, inform, or persuade. The reason a piece of work is created can be really helpful in understanding its impact. Every piece of media has many purposes, and they each impact how the work is made from day one. If purpose is the “why” of media creation, the “what” is focus. Focus is the topic or subject, what we’re including (and at the same time excluding) when we create. However, sometimes the focus can be a little manipulative. For example, if you see an ad for pop, it doesn’t mention how much sugar each bottle contains; just the crisp, refreshing taste.
The purpose and focus of media can also manipulate how you think about other people. Media texts have the power to impact your understanding of things like race, ethnicity, gender, age, disability, or sexual orientation. The way they deal with and present these topics is called representation. Representation is important because if only straight white men are running the show, the representations of everyone else can skew towards stereotypes. That being said, it’s not like there’s some secret underground group in Hollywood forcing everyone else out of the media (….I think). Racist ideologies are spread throughout the media by way of money.
All types of media creation require some kind of money. Newspapers and movies require a lot. If you’re lucky, you have some sort of patron or investor backing your art. However, because not everyone has money, it’s mostly done by people who already have it. People with money often want to spend it on people and things they already know will make more money; they consider who has the experience making media that makes money, and usually that’s people who have already had the money to make media make money. It’s one big, vicious cycle that prevents different voices from creating different kinds of media. Gross.
Social media has fortunately helped break this cycle by lifting up diverse voices and challenging the ways media is traditionally made. Social media campaigns have even thrown the spotlight on negative or non-existent representations in mass media. Unfortunately, the people with lots of money still tend to dominate the scene. That’s not to say every creative decision is based solely on money; plenty of decisions are made for practical reasons, or by people just doing mundane jobs. Each one may not seem like a big deal, but when strung together they create all the media we absorb.
We spend most of our day with media, so it’s crucial we understand what is created by who, how, and for what reason. It’s almost as important as constantly reminding each other that media is created. It didn’t just appear out of nowhere; humans purposefully created it. However, humans do some really weird stuff for money.
Until next week,