The Last Critique “Look @ Me Now”

I am taking 13 credits over the Summer semester… shouldn’t I be completing some sort of assignment instead of blogging? Or I could just kill two birds with one stone and have my assignment be a blog. I don’t know about you but I prefer the latter. For this particular blog assignment we were tasked to critique and give feedback to three of our classmates on their previous blogs. Yes I am telling you that I am blogging about blogging. Don’t worry my dad works in the corporate world and he tells me that he has meetings about meetings at least once a week.

                                                                                                                          I chose Ally’s 1st blog about “The Real Housewives” franchise.










I chose Laurens 3rd blog about consumerism.










Last but not least I chose Jen’s 1st blog about “The Secret Life of the American Teenager.”












If you’re in college and spend the abundance of your time online using some form of social networking, I would advise you to take a class that allows you to do something that you already do. Even if you don’t spend a whole lot of time socializing on the internet I would still recommend that you take a class in media criticism or media literacy. Your eyes will be open to a new way of thinking.

It was a great experience to see what my classmates thought about my blogs. I am able to learn what things they like and what aspects I can improve on. I will only become better because of this. Additionally giving feedback to my classmates has allowed me to see several different perspectives of the same topics that I am discussing. I think I can learn from some of the ways they addressed the topics and I may even attempt to incorporate some of their stylistic techniques, such as using bullets and titles.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Whole World…In Their Hands

Ideas are at the root of ideology. Ideas about right versus wrong and about how the world works. If ideology had an internet domain name it would be Media critics look at ideology as means of exerting power. Preserving the status quo and existing power structure is what’s most important. The culture that gets produced will reprogram citizens to accept the existing economic, social and political arrangements. The elites stand to gain the most from this system. The hidden agenda perpetuates a class system of oppression. By this I mean the only way to move up is to buy in and by buying in the elites continue to move up. This is a true win, win, for the elites.

By buying in I mean it figuratively and literally. We figuratively by in to the ideology of what is portrayed. To do this we must literally buy or consume something. What ever it is that we buy or consume is the physical representation of the ideology in which we seek to achieve. Ideology creeps into our social world and affects our everyday life. It helps use understand and make sense of those experiences.

Throughout the field of media criticism, political economists have expressed their views on the current trend of deregulation. Conventional wisdom is that these businesses know what is best for them selves and that the market can regulate itself. The concern that political economist have with this belief is that it does little to nothing to control the formation of media conglomerates. There is a loss of diversity and because of this the role of ownership is becoming increasingly more important. The goal of a political economist is to challenge the dominant ideas and confront the status quo.

Consuming Kids shines a bright light on the power media has to shape our social values as a society. Today there are out-of-control marketing practices that are aimed at children. There is a lack of consumer protection for children. Because children influence $700 billion in spending every year they have become targets. They are immersed in 360 degree marketing. Their childhood has become saturated with commercial messages.

Happiness has a price tag. The belief being marketed is that things or specific brands will make you happy. Emphasis is placed on material goods. The things you buy make up who you are as a person. You are defined by material things. The opposition to this message is that not having the thing or brand that is cool makes you less than others. This re-illustrates my statement about buying in. No other industrialized country in the world allows anywhere near the amount of commercialization to be aimed at children that we do.

The second motivating force is the notion of brand loyalty and the creation of life-long consumers. Children are bombarded with logos and brands from an early age on television, on their clothing, on their drink-bottles and other paraphernalia, and even in their schools (the one place where they can not escape.) The result is that a brand can get a consumer “from the cradle to the grave”.

Age compression is the belief that children are getting older younger. The age group of tween was developed. A tween may be as young as six and as old as twelve. The thought is that this group is in between childhood and adolescence. What is being sold to these tweens is a lifestyle that their brains may or may not be ready live in.

Girls are represented in a more sexualized manner. At an increasingly younger age girls can be seen in mini skirts or in halter tops with their midriff exposed, just as some of their favorite toys are. Some products that were originally only meant for adults have been pushed on them, such as finger nail polish, make-up, and a whole list of other beauty products. TLC’s show Toddlers and Tiara’s is a depiction of this. Boys are taught that power can be achieved through violence and that aggression is the proper response for conflict. They are bombarded with violent images and it is framed as fun and entertaining. An example of this would be the WWE.

The price of being a kid is getting more expensive. Children products rival adult products in cost. Children become emotional attached to commercial characters because they feel they understand them. Corporations leverage this attachment to make money. The conglomerates are not only able to make money but are also able to instill their own values, and belief system.

You should care because the world needs creation just as much as it needs innovation. New creations are reliant on creativity which is sparked by thinking. Thinking that is not constrained by preconceived notions of our world. The kind of thinking that questioned if earth was the center of the solar system. The same kind of thinking that allowed us to put a man on the moon. You should care because the concentration of power is in the hands of a few. The few that hold this power are loyal to their bank accounts. You should care because money should not compromise you. You should care because humans can not be bought nor sold. Do you really want to pay the price? In our lifetime we have seen an economic crisis unfold right before our eyes because of greed. Do we want a moral crisis as well? You should care!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Sex Still Sells

ESPN is one of my most watched networks because sports rank among the top forms of entertainment to me. Since ESPN have several television channels including ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNNEWS, and ESPNU, I don’t often watch commercials; instead I turn to another channel. On this occasion I began to watch the commercial. ESPN’s own sports journalist







and comedian Kenny Mayne (seen center) was the pitchman. The commercial was for Van Heusen shirts at JC Penny (The screen shot above is from the actual ad).

There is a lack of innovation in the signification of the signifiers, and signified. Using our all seeing “Structuralism/Semiotic” eye we can see exactly what the brand managers had in mind for this advertisement. Viewers who are fully aware of the entire context of the ad would have a dominant reading, and would decode the images as they were intended. Viewers who are unfamiliar with any one of these three images would have a negotiated reading with an adjusted meaning that made sense to them on a personal level but is probably similar to its actual meaning. This is due to the symbols used forming a closed text.

Kenny Mayne is a well known name in sports journalism, particularly to ESPN viewers. This is mainly because unique offbeat dry sense of humor. He has been with ESPN since 1994 and has served as a co-anchor on SportsCenter, and has his own segment during Sunday NFL Countdown called “The Mayne Event”.

To his left (our right) we can see what appears to be a man wearing the Van Heusen brand. The shirt is a stripped polo with a neutral color paired with a black leather wrist watch, matching his belt and dress slacks. The man appears confident, noted by his posture, his shoulders are back and his chin is high. The man is also non-threatening; this is displayed with his hands in his pockets. He appears to be physically fit because there is no undesirable bulge around his midsection but he also doesn’t appear to be unrealistically muscular. We see another ad where a face is not shown to allow the audiences to more easily identify with him.

To Kenny’s right (our left) we can see a woman in a bathing suit in what appears to be a torrential down pour of rain. She is wearing a two-piece red bikini with spaghetti strings and red lipstick to match. She has long dark glistening (most likely due to the water) hair. She appears to be an ideal height and weight (what ever those ambiguous numbers may be).

This woman is actually model and actress Phoebe Cates and most men in their mid to late forties and early fifties know her better as Linda Barrett. She played Linda in the 1982 hit movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High. This scene made her famous among teenage boys. As the scene plays out in the movie a young man is actually fantasizing about her wanting him.

Kenny Mayne acts as a narrator. At a quick glance a sports co-anchor, a brand of polo, and an attractive woman has nothing to do with each other. He tells us that if our reward for continuing to watch this ad is Phoebe Cates memorable scene. Consumers are inundated with the pop culture figure telling us to use this product and get this girl. In this case the pop culture figure is Kenny Mayne. The product we should buy is Van Heusen polo’s, which are on-sale at JC Penny’s. Our prize is Phoebe Cates, who we have fantasized about.

The men in the ad are not seen full length but the woman is. You should focus your attention on her. It’s hard not to, not only because she is in seductive swim attire but because that swim attire is red, the only bold color in the commercial. We also know that culturally red is a color that represents romance or intense passion such as red roses. The intended representation is carried on from its original text. The pool scene is also played slower.

This commercial very cleverly uses familiarity and intertextuality by juxtaposing old images of Phoebe Cates with newer ones of Kenny Mayne. If you understand one of these icons than you can understand the other. The advertisers have broadened their target base. Even if you don’t understand them in their entirety the fact that they are social paradigms allows you to make basic assumptions. These images are brought together syntagmatically. Your assumptions are what they (in this case Van Heusen) are counting on to create “wholeness” in the ad.

So what importance does this have to our lives? Well anybody who remembers this particular scene of the movie would probably recall how the scene progresses showing nudity and other characters performing lewd acts. Van Heusen is definitely toeing the line of obscenity by taking you up to the very seconds before the scene turns R-rated (or possibly PG-13 by today’s standards). This product is closely related to the very pretty women of your dreams, and not just any women, but the gorgeous women you fantasized about during your youth. This particular scene, from this movie, was chosen for that specific purpose. For authenticity the scene was not recreated. They could have also used one of the several modern interpretations but this may not have been as sensational to the demographic they were trying to reach. That demographic would be men between the ages of 45 and 55 who remember watching the film. As the old saying goes “Sex Sells”. These are the types of association being distributed for consumption.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

You Be The Judge

Hi I’m Simon Cowell. Not literally, but this semester for the purpose of this class I will be playing the role of judge. My name is John Barr. I am currently a junior majoring in Political Science & Mass Communications with a track in Public Relations. I enrolled in Media Criticism 352 with the hope further developing my analytical skills. The course description states we will learn “Theory and practice of media criticism intended for various audiences, including consumer-oriented criticism, social criticism and scholarly criticism.”

Media critics are the score keepers of our society. Media literacy is essential to media criticism and the process of understanding and evaluating “text.” You may ask the question, why is it so important to think critically about media?

Today, there are more than 20 nationwide broadcasting networks. Historically, there were only three or four major national broadcasting networks those being ABC, CBS, NBC, and DuMont, which has currently been replaced on the list by FOX. Market research giant The Neilsen Company estimated that there were 115.9 million television households in the United States as of the 2010-2011 TV season. In the words of Vice President Joe Biden, it’s kind of “a big [bleeping] deal.”

Question your media. Is it biased, is it incomplete? Who is behind it and what are their motivations? Brandchannel and Clearchannel are two important tools you should become familiar with.  Brand channel will give you a complete list of product placement and featured brands in some of this year’s box office hits. Clear Channel leads in radio broadcast station ownership with 1,207 stations reaching 201 out of 287 markets in the United States. Chances are if you heard it on the radio Clear Channel had something to do with it. These websites are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to transparency.

Media is powerful. Less than a week ago, on May 31, 2011, CBS News reported on a story of a teen that killed a young girl for money for a computer game. The bludgeoning with a rock of the young 7 year old girl by the 15 year old boy took place in Vietnam where violent crime is rare. An uptick in these sorts of incidents has cause authorities to tighten restrictions on online gaming.

We as the consumers of media should be responsible and critical enough to choose the right messages delivered by the media. We should look vigilantly for both sides of one issue not just one. We should have some research to know the truth. Don’t outright accept what is told to you as the truth. It doesn’t matter how much media is exposed to us, we must be able to decipher the messages sent by media and ask questions so we are not influenced in a negative manner.

This past spring semester while taking an Urban Government class my professor asked the class if they believed crime rates had risen or fallen nationally in the last decade. All the students in the class including myself believed that crime rates had risen in the past decade. Why wouldn’t we? Isn’t that what our news is dominated by today. He informed us that each and every one of us was wrong (according to the FBI) and that this was a common misconception.

The show The Secret Life of An American Teenager was first met with a lot of skepticism. The first season focused on a 15 year old girl, who comes home from band camp having had sex for the first and only time resulting in pregnancy. It explores how the pregnancy affects her life and the life of the unborn child’s father and also the strain it puts on everyone around them.

The New York Post commended the series for having a set of characters that are “… real and come from families of all stripes – from intact to single-parent households to one boy in foster care…”

On one hand the show can be viewed as a cautionary tale to the youth about teen pregnancy. In this instance one decision has forever affected the lives of many.

On the other hand some would argue that this show is further promoting teen pregnancy by placing it on the primetime stage and allowing the youth to think that this is supposed to be what the life of an American teenager is supposed to be like.

This speaks to the ambiguity of Media Criticism. Your personal experiences, beliefs, and ideologies will ultimately shape the way one critiques this show and others like it. Criticism automatically has a negative undertone because of its meaning but Media Criticism is not meant bash “text” but rather to dissect them. What I find most shocking about this show is that the show can be viewed on ABC family’s channel and their parent company is The Walt Disney Company. When I think of Disney I don’t picture of pregnant teens but rather Mickey Mouse.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

“If you ain’t 1st your last.”

“Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” stars Will Ferrell as a famous driver. This movie takes a comedic look at the world of Nascar, a sport heavily driven by its corporate sponsorships and endorsement deals. The film was packed full of brands! In the beginning I tried to keep track of how many I saw, but quickly realized that this would be pretty difficult.

Sponsors pour into just about every part of this characters life. His wife even gets angry with him when he plugs a sponsor during one of their arguments, and this is also repeated during a prayer at a dinner provided by Domino’s Pizza and KFC. The movie pokes fun at Nascars excessive commercial breaks.  

The most noticeable brands found in the film are Wonder Bread (Ricky Bobby’s sponsor), Old Spice (Cal Naughton Jr sponsor) and Perrier (Jean Girard sponsor) who are all teammates but also opponents. According to brand channel, these three brands can be seen about 90 times throughout the film. Other obvious brands were Chevrolet, Ford, Applebee’s, Shake n’ Bake, Sunoco, Rally’s Hamburgers, PowerAde, Mountain Dew, Pepsi, and Coors. For a complete listing of the brands found in the film check out

After Ricky Bobby get into a serious accident his father puts him in a car with a live cougar. His father tells him he must conquer his fear of the cougar in order to overcome his fear of driving. The drivers in this movie can be seen wearing puma shoes. In the conclusion of the movie Ricky Bobby defeats his opponent with no large sponsors. I was left wondering if his success was due to not having to please sponsors.

This film makes a statement about the hyper-consumer culture in which we live and the rise in mainstream popularity of NASCAR racing. This movie beats us over the head with advertisements, from the large Fig Newton windshield sticker to the most hostile advertisement ever “Hi, this is Ricky Bobby. If you don’t chew Big Red, then f*@# you!!”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Respect, Protect, Connect, & Promote

It is that time of year again. School is almost out and businesses can look forward to receiving contributions from patrons and tourist. In these economic times this will be celebrated and welcomed. This past weekend I was fortunate enough to participate in this exchange of currency for entertainment, along with my two sister in-laws & my nephew.

We visited the Baltimore Aquarium and also saw their dolphin show. I found out that my nephew is not afraid of sharks even when nose to nose with them. Besides learning that, I was also educated about our enviroment.

 Several advertising techniques are presented at this venue. For example, after purchasing your tickets for admission you may want to quickly flip it over and read the National Aquariums statement about inspiring people to respect, and protect the environment. I would say the aquarium uses the hidden fear persuasive approach pretty responsibly. There were numerous occasions where I was given facts about animals that are on the endangered list, such as seals, dolphins, and sea turtles.

What puts this information into perspective is that many of these animals can be found in their natural habitats in Maryland. I say that the aquariums methods are responsible because although they are instilling fear, they are also attempting to educate the public about what is happening in the environment. Their views are supported by impartial scientific studies and research. Their views benefit the greater good of all mankind.

 I believe the National Aquarium and other institutions like it also indirectly depend on viral marketing, to advise friends to also visit, and to advocate on their behalf. The fact that I am currently blogging about my personal experience is reason enough to believe that they have at least been successful with the latter. If you are ever wondering what there is to do in the inner harbor take a trip to the Baltimore Aquarium.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Societies Ladder

Earlier this semester I was required to read a fictional book called Native Son. I purchased the book from Amazon.

In this novel we are introduced to Bigger Thomas who is the main character. Bigger lives in the Black Belt, which is an area of Chicago largely inhibited by African-Americans. Even though he shares a sense of disenfranchisement with other members of his community he struggles to identify with them. He doesn’t feel like their quality of life is acceptable and he is constantly questioning why.

His query into propriety is a contradiction to the social norms and traditional thinking of the time (1940’s). This book characterizes a struggle of power and the majorities rule vs. the minorities’ rights.

Instead of having a government that depends on the people, the people are dependent on the government. They (African-Americans) rely on entertainment to gain enlightenment about their society through movies. They truly believe that what they watch is an accurate representation. ‘You reckon folks really act like that? Bigger asked… Sure, man. They rich, Jack said.’

Movies are composed and disseminated in a fashion that paints African-Americans as brainless jungle dwellers, and Whites as intelligent, wealthy, powerful, aristocrats. ‘Two features were advertised: The Gay Women, was pictured on the posters in images of white men and white women lolling on beaches, swimming, and dancing in night clubs: the other, Trader Horn, was shown on the posters in terms of black men  and black women dancing against a wild  background of barbaric jungle.’ This can be seen as governmental propaganda.

 The amazing aspect to me of this story was that Richard Wright constructed a protagonist with major flaws. These flaws are also stereotypes that have been exaggerated. He then uses these flaws and a series of bad decisions to show the ills of society. What is impressive is how this book is still relevant to our society today because we are less than four years removed from “Jena 6.” This book has caused me to think about the political implications and statements of our mediums of story telling.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment