Media Manipulation and Changing Cultural Values

The way in which video footage is manipulated helps us gain an insight into how easily the media can manipulate audiences. We can change lighting, audio, take sequences out of context by editing footage, use actors and pretend it is live footage, using various camera shots and basically change the story to suit our needs. This is why shows like A Current Affair and Today Tonight are considered tabloid journalism because they manipulate the audience to position them in a negative or positive way.

Arrested Again

Representations can also change over time. Society may start to accept previously unacceptable ideas until they become mainstream. For example, Lenny Bruce was a stand up comedian in the 1950’s and 1960’s in America. His shows were renowed for their profanity. So much so that he was arrested on many occassions for swearing on stage.  Lenny Bruce was persecuted so much that in the end he committed suicide. It is hard to believe a stand up comedian these days being persecuated and not allowed to perform because of swearing.

Another way of  understanding cultural change is to examine sitcoms.  Shows from the 1950’s are almost unbearable to watch, not only because the humour is dated but the portrayal of family life is so sugar coated. Shows like Father Knows Best and Leave it to Beaver have the traditional nuclear family set up where the father is the breadwinner and mum is the housewife. The children are respectful and everyone is middle class.

By viewing sitcoms through the decades we can see how cultural attitudes change and are reflected back to us through these comedy shows. Watch an episode of The Brady Bunch, Roseanne, Malcolm in the Middle and Two and a Half Men and note the changes that have occured in the treament of family and spousal relationships and the role of the father across different time periods.

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