Erins Blog

Media Criticism Spring 2011

Getting to know your classmates May 10, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — enr702 @ 9:28 pm

For our last blog (sad? me too!)  our assignment was to take our knowledge learned through out the course and apply it to our classmates blogs.  We chose four classmates, read a blog entry they wrote, and gave feedback on what we read.  Comments centered on what we liked, disliked, what we found interesting, and why it’s important to our lives.  Overall, I read a lot of great blogs and found everything very interesting.

Below are the blogs I read and the feedback I gave my fellow classmates:


I really liked the stance you took in your blog.  I enjoyed the media you included as well as several different examples of how Disney may not be shaping the lives of children in the way we normally think.  It’s important we learn about the underlying messages we see in all types of media, especially media that is made specifically for children.  The Little Mermaid and Snow White are two movies that little kids, especially girls, cherish.

I like the point you made about how times have changed and that women have a stronger part in our society.  A movie like Snow White can make little girls see otherwise.  Snow White not only lives with seven men, but she does everything household related for them.  It can seem a bit disturbing now that we see the bigger picture.

Another good movie you could have used as an example is Beauty and the Beast.  The movie would be a good addition to the already great comments you made examining the other two Disney movies.  The concepts portrayed in Beauty and the Beast are also very similar to the ones in Snow White and The Little Mermaid, where the women are shown more as objects then people.

Overall, I enjoyed your blog and think you made some really great arguments surrounding the role Disney plays in lives of children!


Your use of semiotics to explore the Chanel ad was insightful.  If I was to take one glance at the advertisement I wouldn’t have seen what you did.  All I see is a celebrity standing and looking all ready for a big event.  I like the way you explored the different signs of her wealth, her clothes, and the jealousy factor you threw in.  I too am jealous of the lavish life she seems to be living in the pictures.

I think you could have gone more in depth.  For example, how Keira Knightley is wearing red, which signifies a sexual color.  The color red could signify also that she is going to meet a man and she wants to look feminine and sensual for him.  Also, you could have examined the other Chanel ads to really hone in on the many signs Chanel depicts through their advertisements.

It’s also interesting to me how Chanel is using a well known celebrity to endorse their product but just by looking at the ad you’re not really sure which Chanel product she’s trying to sell.  I think this is an important topic because a high end brand like Chanel appeals to women from a young age.  The ads are full of signs we wouldn’t notice at first but an in depth look shows much more then what meets the eye.


I loved that you chose Dexter to explore the idea of semiotics and the levels of ideology.  As someone who is glued to the TV every time Dexter is on, there’s always something I miss, especially regarding the signs and signifiers we can uncover.  I liked how you used the opening sequence to illustrate your point.  Normally people don’t look deep into the opening credits or even pay attention at all, but you opened my eyes to things I’ve missed in the past.

I like how you used the idea of Dexter killing the Mosquito as dominance.  From the start you understand Dexter is the main focus.  Also, I never really thought of the idea of the Tabasco sauce being seen as blood or the meat as flesh.  Another idea I found interesting was the way Dexter gets ready.  Yes, everything is very clean and precise and it’s done because he doesn’t like to make mistakes.  Dexter’s kills are the same way if you watch the show, very clean, to the point and in the end no one would even know who or where there was a kill.

I think to illustrate Fiske’s codes of TV you could have used a clip from Dexter to depict your point.  Audiences reading who have never seen Dexter may not understand what is meant by the lighting, action, character, etc.

Next time I watch Dexter I will be looking much closer!


I like that you chose to use Gossip Girl as your example.  It’s a good media example of what we see and perceive.  You did a good job in examining how Gossip Girl can negatively shape our perceptions of teenage life.  Everything in the show is very unrealistic, most teenagers can’t even dream of doing the things the characters on the show get away with.

I think more then the negative perceptions teenagers get from the show is the perception adults can get from it.  Adults may watch Gossip Girl and think that’s what their own children are out there doing and in turn may shelter them.  It’s important to explore the adult perception of the show because we, as young adults, don’t want our parents to assume that’s what we have been running around and doing since we were in high school.

I also like how you mentioned the characters have almost no parental supervision.  Half the time I watch Gossip Girl I forget their parents are even there and when they are, they are acting more as a friend to them then as a parent.

Another point you could have touched on is how people from other countries and cultures may react to Americans after watching Gossip Girl.  They may get the perception that we are all a bunch of snobby kids who only care about money and sex.

Overall I liked reading your blog because as an avid watcher of Gossip Girl I never really think twice about what I’m watching.

I really enjoyed this assignment because it gave me a chance to read what others have been writing through out the semester.  Usually, we just write our blogs and that’s it.  Reading the blogs of our classmates gives us new insight into the topics we learned about.  I know I gained insight into things I didn’t think about before.

Overall, the use of blogs was one of my favorite parts of the class.  Blogs give us a chance to be informal, write our opinions, and really are a good way of getting our point across.  Along with writing about the many different topics we covered I enjoyed being about to post images and videos in my assignment.  It gives the reader a good visual so they can really understand the messages you’re trying to convey.  Also, it makes the assignments fun when we can see and visualize it.

I will miss using the blog as a form of homework assignment, I wish more professors would catch on to how useful they are!


Disney: The good, the bad, the evil April 10, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — enr702 @ 8:15 am

From the first toy we play with to the first thing we see on a television screen, everything has its brand name.  Popular names like Disney ring in our ears from the earliest age, instilling brand loyalty amongst the youngest.   But what does all this mean?  Is it too much too soon? And what kind of values do youngsters gain from all this?

To understand it all we have to take a look at the study of ideological criticism.  The text Critical Approaches of Television examines ideological criticism as, “the ways in which texts reflect the dominant ideas, agendas, and policies of the society in which they are produced and consumed” (p.292).  This concept differs from others because of the way it examines our use of brands and products in our everyday lives.  It looks at the underlying effects of how different texts in our lives affect us as people.

Are you confused a little? Well, let’s take a look at the idea of ideology.  According to our Professor, Dr. Sandy Nichols, ideology is “a means of exerting power.  An instrument dominant elites use to extend control over others.  It works to maintain existing power relations.”  In our class we have taken the idea of ideology and applied it to the political economy perspective.  This theory, “examines the role of ownership in media industry and how production and distribution practices shape the media texts.”   In short, it’s a way for the conglomerates of the world to have some power over the people.  In our lectures, we focus on the mass media and how conglomerates control what we see, buy, and use.

Now, let’s apply this to the real world and look at the Walt Disney Company.  Disney is one of the biggest conglomerates of the world, owning shares in many different companies.  A large portion of things we see as a child are distributed by Disney.  In terms of the political economic perspective, Disney is a large hegemonic force.  Disney has a large control over what we see and play with.  Disney also has a large part in the values that are enforced upon us at a very young age.

A documentary we watched in class, Mickey Mouse Monopoly, delves deep into the world of the Walt Disney Company and how they as a company have come to affect our lives over the years.  The documentary examines all different aspects of Disney and how they shape our lives more then we may think.

The documentary examines the different values we as little kids learn from the various movies and products.  It is explained in the movie that, “Disney is dangerous because it is sublime kind of education. It is absorbed by our young people’s minds as entertainment.”  Children look at Disney as fun and exciting.  Disney movies are often children’s favorites growing up.  But, what do the values in these movies teach children, especially young girls?

A good example of this concept and how Disney is part of the theme of hegemonic power is, Beauty and the Beast.  In the movie, Belle is kidnapped by the Beast and held hostage in his palace.  Beast is exerting his control and power over her.   But, as Belle spends more time with Beast and she comes to love him, she believes she can change him.  This goes hand in hand with the hegemonic concept of patriarchy, how men hold more power over women.  Little girls may take these ideas learned in Beauty in the Beast and apply it to real life.  In the documentary many little girls interviewed agreed that they would be able to change and help an abusive man, they wouldn’t leave him.

Think I’m reading too much into this?  Well, let’s look at another example, The Little Mermaid.  Arielle quickly gives up her voice in the movie to become a human being.  She falls in love with a man, but they can’t even speak to each other.  He knows nothing about her, only what he sees on the outside.  Arielle was willing to give up the most important part of her so she could be with a man.  What does this message teach little girls?  That looks are more important than personality.  Also, that it doesn’t matter what we have to change about ourselves to get a man.  These messages are unfortunately depicted everywhere through Disney movies.

It is important we study these concepts because of the large role it plays in our lives.  As we have examined, Disney isn’t full of innocence and fun.  It is a large conglomerate that has come to instill values in us over the years.  It’s important for us to be aware of the role Disney and other large corporations play in our lives because it has more power over us then we think.  These ideas may be innocent on the surface, but ugly and complicated underneath.


Vande Berg, L. R., Gronbeck, B. E., & Wenner, L. A. (1998). Critical Approaches to Television . Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Mickey Mouse Monopoly Transcript


You’re selling…jeans? March 10, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — enr702 @ 1:34 am

Over the years Calvin Klein has shone brightly in the spotlight with their sexy advertisements.  Calvin Klein has featured celebrities such as Mark Wahlberg and Eva Mendes in half naked, provocative ads.  The fashion line aims to catch the attention of the public by using gorgeous models in little (and I mean very little) to no clothing.  Whether they’re selling jeans or underwear, Calvin Klein grabs shoppers into the ad immediately by advertising what most young buyers are thinking about: sex.

This advertisement, part of a commercial for Calvin Klein jeans, was considered too racy for television.  It was banned from American television.  Even the billboards became the spotlight of extreme controversy around the world.  The first ad depicts three guys and one girl all wearing Calvin Klein jeans.  The girl is lying on top of one guy, while kissing another.  The third guy lay sleeping on the ground.  All four people are bear-chested and the men all look like they’ve taken “turns” with the one girl.

The approach I will use to help better understand the advertisements is semiotics.  According to the text Critical Approaches of Television, “Texts are constructed out of sequences of signs arrayed in codes and capable of being experienced or interpreted in common ways by members of a society” (p.72).  Semiotics uses the signs of a text as a signifier to decode the meaning, or signified, “to constitute a process of signification.”  The approach of semiotics tends to also be ambiguous, meaning the text could mean two different things to two different people.

So, it’s time to take a look at this steamy Calvin Klein advertisement from my personal perspective.  First, let’s start off with the half naked models (signifier).  The models bodies are touching, caressing, and engaging in sexual activity.  If it weren’t for the jeans they were all wearing I wouldn’t even know what Calvin Klein was trying to sell.  The girl is entangled between two of the men.  She is making out with one and being heavily touched by another.  This signifier shows that the girl is under the control of the men.  She is their property and they keep her in their grasp (signified.)  Another signifier is the man sleeping on the ground.  He looks exhausted, like he has already had his turn with the girl.  Not only is this girl property of the men but they all get their time with her to do what they want.

Another signifier is the girl reacting to the men.  She is submissive, touching and kissing them back.  There is no struggle, she understands her place.  This signified depiction can be understood by another approach used in class, the cultural aspect of hegemony.  Hegemony, according to our professor, is the form of power elites can maintain over masses enabled by the consent of dominated.  The men in this ad hold the power.  They have consent from the girl to use her for what they want.  The way she has enabled the men to wrap their hands all around her body and head shows she is almost like a toy to them.

Another photo from the same group of advertisements once again shows the women in the submissive position.  In the top photo the woman is shown draped across two men.  They are sitting upright while she is lying flat, below them.  The meaning of this signifier is these men are almost like kings, and she is their slave, waiting for them to tell her to do something.  The image on the bottom depicts a guy lying on top of the girl.  He is using her as a pillow.  Since he is the one with the power, he can use her as he likes.

So what does all this mean? Why take the time to analyze simple clothing advertisements?  It’s important to analyze these types of texts to keep our mind engaged.  We want to examine various texts to understand more clearly what we are looking at.  Analyzing these ads will help readers to understand that things are not all cut and dry.  Texts can have deeper meanings then what we originally believe just by giving it one glance.


Vande Berg, L. R., Gronbeck, B. E., & Wenner, L. A. (1998). Critical Approaches to Television . Boston: Houghton Mifflin.


Media Criticism Assignment #1 February 14, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — enr702 @ 10:00 am

Hi everyone! My name is Erin and I’m a Senior at Towson University.  I’m a Mass Communications major with tracks in Advertising and Public Relations as well as a minor in Electronic Media and Film.  I’m on track to graduate in December, after which I hope to move to my favorite city, New York City, and work in Broadway theatre (one of my many passions in life). I’m currently enrolled in the course Media Criticism for the Spring 2011 semester, where I hope to explore the role of media criticism and our society.

The role of media criticism has grown tremendously through the years; it not only shapes our view of the media but helps shapes our everyday lives as well.  Mass media has become an everyday necessity in our lives.  Whether it’s watching our favorite TV program or simply reading an online article for school, we are constantly looking at the media.  It’s important we look critically to the media because it helps us form views, helps us interact with one another on a social level, and even helps form values.  Looking at the media in a critical way gives us something to think about, talk about, laugh about, and even cry about.  Mass media isn’t simply turning on your television and watching for hours mindlessly, it’s about learning through what we are experiencing and forming our opinions based on it.

Media Criticism is important because it teaches people not to look at the media one dimensionally but to see it as a source with multiple angles and meanings.  It’s a way for people to understand what they are watching, hearing, or reading.  

Skins UK

Let’s take a look at the TV show “Skins.” No, I’m not talking about the newly remade MTV version (we’ll get to that soon.) I’m talking about the original, British, version.  Back in 2007 the British television station, E4, created a show about a group of teenagers living out their everyday lives.  This television show wasn’t your run of the mill, angst ridden teenage drama, it was something new, something real.  “Skins” showed a group of friends as they went to school, partied, and most importantly, explored their sexual sides.  Now in it’s 5th season (and 3rd generation cast, the show only keeps each cast for 2 seasons), the show is a hit in Britian amongst its viewers.

Skins USA

Fast forward to 2011, MTV has premiered their remake of the show.  They’ve aimed to keep the show similar to the British version, only changing a few character personalities, names, and overall plot lines.  They rounded up a handful of sponsorships to back the show and waited patiently as millions tuned into the series premiere.  The first episode sparked controversy amongst American audiences, including many parents.  With a 10 pm time slot, it was an easy target to young viewers.   All the depictions of sex, drugs, and alcohol consumed wasn’t the only problem viewers found, it was the fact that half the cast wasn’t even 18 yet.  Viewers quickly dubbed it “child pornography.” As these allegations grew stronger, MTV lost its sponsors for the show almost immediately.  People everywhere instantly become critics of the show.  The laws of our society state 18 is the consenting age for sex, so seeing barely (if at all) legal teenagers acting out these sexual acts were wrong and many believe, illegal.

Parents had a hard time seeing teenagers engage in sexual acts because of the culture many grew up in.  In England, the consenting age for sex is 16; so many viewers in the UK didn’t see the sexual acts nearly as much as a problem as people here in the US did.  The grittiness of the show has since sparked healthy debate between people and has made almost everyone tuning in a media critic.  No matter the age, everyone has their own opinion on “Skins.”

Through this course I hope to gain a new look on the media and the way we criticize it.  I hope to also engage myself during the course in debates and discussions when it comes to certain topics in the media, especially television!