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Brief thoughts on ABC’s 7.30 Report and Channel 7’s Today Tonight

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The ABC as an organisation under the public sector of media is, in comparison to the privatised state of Channel 7, a haven for truth and, for lack of a better explanation, real news journalism. Nonetheless, it is not devoid of sensationalism. The latest episode opens with a split screen shot of its host backed by the words RED ALERT to cover a story of government budget cuts in the guise of a crisis. This could be seen as an overstatement but in relation to Today Tonight’s reductionist structure and method, it is everything but.

Today Tonight is reductionism at its finest. Its focus is on the individual more so than any social factor, and its content sways reliance on stereotypes and right leaning discourse. The show is framed in such a way to represent, in broad terms, the Other as extremist and the white privileged public as their victim. This has never been more the case than in the latest Today Tonight coverage on Boston’s bombing fiasco. In itself, the cause has been reduced to be the fundamentalist view of an extremist group which has no bearing on the suspect in question. Today Tonight’s coverage disregards any contributing social factor and blames the individual. ABC’s 7:30 report seems to shy away from this approach.

Today Tonight, unlike the ABC’s 7:30 report, is riddled with “ahistoricism”. Again, it focuses on the here and now misinformed details of an individual and completely ignores any historical factors which may have led up to this point. In covering the ‘Boston Bombing’, ABC’s 7:30 report at least makes an attempt to gather some evidence as to why the current suspect is a suspect. Today Tonight, on the other hand, relies on sensationalist methods and face value stereotypes.

This brings us to the concept of Monocausal explanation. ABC’s 7:30 report takes into account a sociological perspective on a majority of its coverage, factoring in historical, cultural, and structural influences. Today Tonight however seems to take the opposite approach, in that one occurrence is because of one sole motive of an individual.

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100 Word Analysis (Globalisation and the Media)

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In broad terms, globalisation is a word used to describe growth at a global scale and emphasizes interdependence. If we’re to focus our gaze on the media, one could agree with Marshall McLuhan as he puts forward the idea of a ‘Global Village’. Through the rise of electronic media and, for example, social networking websites, a ‘Global Village’ is created. This is evident in the rise of e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, and blogging platforms.

However, there are some criticisms to the claim that we now live in a world in which people are closer and more participatory in the distribution of discourses. The concept of ‘cultural imperialism’ is one that some theorists have latched on to; this is the idea that one culture is an all invasive and dominant force among all others (i.e. American culture). Regardless, I’m more inclined to subscribe to the ‘Glocalisation’ theory or ‘Hybridization’ approach, in which the globalisation of a dominant culture is appropriated, distributed, and localized according to region.

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A 100 Word Analysis (The Biggest Loser)

The Biggest Loser and the various discourses evident in the series.

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I would argue that The Biggest Loser is lifestyle television at its worst. It’s dominant discourse tells the viewer that morbid obesity is the fault of the individual and doesn’t put any emphasis on social influence. From one episode, it is obvious to see that the show strives on body shaming, sensationalism to keep the viewers emotionally attached, and extreme methods in regards to weight loss. According to Oullette and Hay, shows such as the Biggest Loser invite the viewer to ‘stage their own lifestyle intervention’ and, in return, participates in shifting the concept of a political government intervention to a ‘government of the self.’ Other discourses in this show include the idea that it is impossible to be happy if you are overweight. I find this to be an outrageously generalised claim and wouldn’t be surprised if it causes more cultural harm than good. Product placement is also extremely evident in The Biggest Loser. Products are clearly displayed throughout an episode’s duration and this works to fuel the economic culture of the show.

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Brief thoughts on Ideology and the Media

Ever wonder how stereotypes, narrative structures, ‘point of view’, order of events, narrative ending and hierarchy of discourses contribute to the building of a dominant ideology?  This is how I would critique Ideology as a concept.

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Ideology can be defined as a system of normalised ideals and morals shared by the majority of a society. However, as a concept, it is seen as a system of ideals normalised with thanks to a higher hegemony. As Karl Marx states, ideology is controlled by the ruling class and used as trick to create an illusion of fairness and harmony. While this plainly brings into question human agency and free will, an ideology is not set in stone, and therefore, one could argue, that those under power still have the ability to change it. Gramsci claims that audience awareness is evident and cultural domination is always in contention. This, if applied to the media, is a valid and positive argument to make.

O’Shaughnessy and Jane Stadler define the narrative as a ‘basic way of making sense of our experience.’ Generally speaking, we, as human beings, tend to think of all of our experiences through narrative. With the most basic of narrative structure containing a beginning, middle, and end, points of view can make a big impact on how we view the world that is presented to us. For example, if a television narrative is shown through the point of view of a woman, the dominant ideology could be one of feminism and equality. If a film narrative is shown through the point of view of a male, the dominant ideology could be one of a patriarchy. However, if the ending of this film shows a woman saving the day, or if she delivers the dominant discourse of matriarchy at some point in the film, the opposite could also be true. Through narrative, stereotypes can also be shown. For example, Hollywood, even now, very rarely has feminine protagonists as a lead subject in its films. This reinforces gender stereotypes and holds true to the belief that we, as free agents, live in a gender biased culture.

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A 100 Word Analysis (Buffy)

A TV narrative discussion about how the narrative structure, point(s) of view, gender relations, binary oppositions, hierarchies of discourses and ending contribute to the formation of dominant ideologies.

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Seasons 1 – 7)

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is riddled with a number of social issues and binary oppositions. Good versus evil is an obvious opposition, as is the hierarchy of discourses dealing with, firstly, gender roles and, secondly, stereotyping. However, the dominant ideology in this series is that girls can be powerful too. From the point of view of a number of characters, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is centred on, and framed through, Buffy herself. Over seven years, Buffy grows from a naïve girl to a powerful woman. however, in the end, Spike, a male, is the show’s hero, thus reinforcing the notion that feminism is still a necessity.

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A 100 Word Analysis (The Breakfast Club)

A film which creatively combines individual psychological issues with social concerns. Let’s briefly talk about narrative, sequence of events and ending/dominant discourse.

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The Breakfast Club deals with a number of social concerns. These include stereotyping, class inequality, bullying, and social pressures to perform. It follows a basic structural pattern, which is what social theorist Tzvetan Todorov calls ‘a narrative movement between two equilibriums.’

This is a story told from the point of view of equally relevant teen-aged protagonists. Their psychological transformation throughout the film is evident as they break down barriers of adolescent social conformity; they enter in ignorance and leave enlightened. Brian, at the end of the film, delivers the dominant discourse in the form of narration before the credits begin to roll. This is one of what you see is not necessarily what you get.