It seems we have always been afraid of the media’s effects on people. The evil media’s ‘seduction of the innocent’ is always whispering in the ears of the children, the malleable and the uneducated proles, ever since the 18th century when Gothic novels were turning kids into demon worshipers. But if you ask anyone who suggests that the media has a brainwashing effect on the masses, they will almost certainly insist that they personally have not been affected, due to their awareness of the media’s effects. Yes, the media must have an effect on us, as does everything we experience, but does it effect us to the extent that we all believe?
Ironically, the idea that we are all being brainwashed by the media is an idea perpetuated in part by the media itself, through sci-fi movies, newspaper reports etc. News segments inform us of recent studies linking video games to violence, and other causalities that contribute to the cycle of media blaming. The real problem is, according to David Gauntlett in ‘Ten things wrong with the media “effects” model’ (1998), that we are looking in the wrong direction – instead of looking at the media causing problems with society, we should look at society itself. After all, the media is meant to be a ‘mirror’ of society, and you wouldn’t blame your reflection for killing someone, would you?
With all this said though, media must have some kind of effect on us. The question is, how much?
A current anxiety circulating through society is that of the media’s effect on body image.
We are constantly bombarded with ‘perfect’ bodies, whether it be on Instagram/Facebook or other social platforms, TV, movies, billboards or even on the side of buses. Unrealistic body images are blamed for depression, low self esteem and eating disorders in children, and have been gaining opposition steadily over time.
Now, the media (and the society it reflects) is also pushing back the other way, with campaigns for realistic body image, plus size models in the fashion industry, and movements for everyone to become comfortable in their own bodies, for example, Triple J’s #NoBodysPerfect week.
Of course, we will never truly reach that point. Who would buy a product if someone ugly was slinging it on the ad? When was the last time you saw a main character in a film with a pimple? Media will always present an idealised version of the human body, and that’s something I don’t think will change.
“Gauntlett D. (1998) – Ten Things Wrong With The Media ‘Effects’ Model”. http://www.theory.org.uk/david/effects.htm (Accessed 26/03/2016)