My name is Taylor Haire and I am a Mass Communications major at Towson University. I love studying journalism because it has such a big impact on society.
With a major in Mass Communications, I plan on becoming a radio personality at a major city. My dream of being a radio personality comes from a passion of helping and uplifting different communities.
Being a radio personality will not only give me the power to do that, but it will also allow me to incorporate a few of my other passions such as music, art and poetry into my profession.
In order to be a successful journalist/radio personality, I decided to take a course called Media Criticism.
Media Criticism is a course that allows you to break down the many parts of the media and understand them from a more in-depth point of view.
I’m sure we all have over-analyzed something in the media one time or another, but who says over-analyzing is bad?
Media Criticism will help you understand how things are, why things are, and who is being targeted. Then, you take all of those aspects and put them together in order to thoroughly understand a piece.
Sounds confusing, huh? Well, keep reading. I’ll explain.
It is important to think carefully about the media because in order to fully understand how and why things in the media are the way they are, you have to analyze every different aspect such as texts, audience, production, and the social world.
It is extremely important to develop media literacy because it allows you to be aware and cautious of the “un-spoken traps” that companies may be trying to trap you with.
How many times have you seen a commercial for a face product and the female who they portray as having “beautiful” skin is un-commonly flawless? How many times have you compared yourself to that female and thought that if you purchase the product being advertised, you too, could look like that flawless female? Media Criticism will help us break down a commercial or media source like that and pick every small detail about the commercial to come to a conclusion.
You will NEVER see media the same.
It is also important because it allows you to analyze and interpret different media outlets and to come up with your own opinions.
The “text” of media is defined as “anything that you actually see and/or hear.” What that means is that the text is usually what portrays the message.
For example, a lot of beauty product commercials now-a-days show a female whose image may not be “average” to the regular female, but Dove is trying to change the standard definition of beauty in the media through their recent commercials entitled “Dove Real Beauty Sketches.”
These commercials/short films include numerous different women of all ethnicity, sizes, and backgrounds describing what they don’t like about themselves.
One video in particular that stood out to me was entitled “Dove Legacy”. The 3 minute commercial shows women writing down their imperfections. In another room, at the same time, their daughters wrote down their imperfections also.
What most of the mothers failed to realize was that what they thought was imperfect on them, became a reflection of what their daughters thought of themselves.
This text translates that it is okay to not be perfect, but confidence is contagious and could affect people who are the closest to you.
Dove created this text to show women that the media and society does not define what beauty is, you do.
Society is sometimes outrageously harsh on females. We, as females go through so many un-spoken obstacles that we sometimes feel we are “expected” to deal with.
The constant feeling of wanting to be prettier or smaller or to have more or less features than we were born with is always hoovering over our heads like a huge dark cloud.
Sometimes, it feels like the media isn’t even our friend. Constantly showing commercials or TV shows starring females who are society’s definition of “beautiful” leading us to believe that if that’s what beauty is, and we don’t look quite like it, we must be ugly or something must be wrong with us when in reality, like James Blunt taught us, “We’re Beautiful”.
The recent Dove commercials have hit me close to home. They include females who are just like me and you and tell their stories of insecurity and what they dislike about themselves. To your surprise, you might find a few things in common with these ladies as I did.
Dove uses the real life, relatable relationship between a mother and a daughter to convey the message. Growing up, most daughters look up to their mothers for advice and most importantly, guidance. Thus, the commercial creates a personal relationship and connection with most women because they are either a daughter or a mother.
Dove felt like this message needed to be communicated through the media because they wanted to re-define what beauty is.
The music in the background is also an example of the text. The music is soft and settle at first as if it were representing the mother’s insecurity. As the commercial concludes, the music becomes more uplifting and even has a beat as if it was to represent happiness or the “sunshine after the rain.”
To break down this commercial even further, we will be using semiotics.
Here comes the big words
According to my notes, semiotics is defined as “the study of how social production of meaning is constructed through system of signs.”
How do we know that the Dove commercial/ad is promoting self-beauty?
What signs are shown in order to translate this message?
But no, we’re not done yet. You can break semiotics down into two parts; syntagmatic and paradigmatic. (bear with me, okay?)
Within syntagmatic is syntagm, which is the order what you are trying to analyze is in. But it can’t just be in any old order, the order has to make sense of the whole meaning.
For example, if you are going on a date, you might take a shower, pick an outfit, get dressed, and leave.
Syntagm in this process is the order in which you get ready for the date, and why things were done in that order. For instance, you take a shower first because you might be dirty. You pick an outfit because you want to look nice for your date. Once you find an outfit, you put that outfit on because you wouldn’t want to go on a date naked. All of these actions end with one outcome, you will eventually leave for your date.
Paradigmatic is the process of “understanding a set of signs that are all members of defining a category.”
What this means is that with paradigmatic, instead of looking at the order, you look at the individual aspects and ask yourself “how we know this is happening.” Or “why”.
Within paradigmatic is paradigm which is a more complex way of saying “dissect”, because that’s exactly what you do.
Back to the dating example, if the topic is getting ready for a date, and your chain of sequences is taking a shower, picking an outfit, getting dressed and leaving, the paradigm way would be to explain HOW you would know that you’d be picking an outfit and getting dressed. Also, how and why one comes before the other.
The syntagm part of this text is that the mother’s explain their insecurities, then the daughters are asked to write theirs down, the producers then share the daughter’s insecurities with their mother’s and the mother’s see that a lot of their insecurities often became their daughters.
The paradigm part is that you know the mothers are talking about their insecurities because they are picking out specific things about their bodies and their body language seems un-confident. We know the daughters are writing down their insecurities because we see them writing and then the producers hand their mother’s a piece of paper with writing on it. We know that they wrote down insecurities because the mothers are comparing what they said to what their daughter’s wrote.
But Wait, There’s More
This is absolutely true for the Dove commercial. The commercial
The context of this text is that they are trying to create more awareness towards self-beauty.
Dove is trying to tell a story by using different characters that can relate to society. The characters being used are mothers and daughters of different backgrounds and ethnicity. The setting is in a house which gives the text a more personal and “behind closed door” feel.
The language of the text varies. Towards the beginning, the mother’s use words like “don’t” and “dislike” which shows signs of self-hate. Towards the end, the language becomes more uplifting as the mothers explain how they want their daughters to grow up with the mindset that they are beautiful. The characters then begin to use words such as “like” and “love” to describe themselves giving of a sign of self-love and appreciation.
Dove creates a personal and emotional relationship among a lot of females because they too often deal with insecurities about their physical appearance.
It is extremely important to understand media texts. So many things could be assumed about media texts, so many people can have so many different opinions and explanations. By analyzing a text through media criticism, not only will one learn how to thoroughly dissect every teenie tiny little detail, but to be more open about their personal opinions by doing the proper research in order to find an educated explanation.
My criticism on the Dove commercial will help others better understand it by understanding the influence that it has on the audience and culture.
Others who may not be females may not know of the struggles we go through on a daily basis when it comes to our physical images. We also may not be aware of just how much our personal opinions can affect the people who look up to us such as our children or younger siblings.
It can influence culture by creating a sense of awareness. Maybe more companies will stop advertising products with flawless models and start including real life people who others can actually relate to.
So, there you have it. The importance of Media Criticism in a nutshell (or two).
Any Questions? Let me know your thoughts.