Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Is "New Media" really making a difference yet?

The first thing that struck me, as I began reading the second chapter of Van Zoonen, was the mention of "new media".  Alberto Melucci coined the term which describes the type of media that publicizes existing conflicts and produce a symbolic challenge to the dominant codes of society (12).  Through this "new social movement", the media will have greater instances where the representation of society will go against the norms and expose the public to a new way of viewing ourselves as a society.  While many people would enthusiastically agree that this “new media” has already begun to permeate society, I have to ask that those who agree take a closer look at the content and subtext of this “new media”.
                Although there are several examples that could be conjured up, I will discuss a television show which I am familiar with: Modern Family.  For those who are not familiar, the show claims to display three families that are what truly make up Western society.  There is a “normal” family with a husband, wife and 3 kids, one is a male gay couple with an adopted daughter, and the other is an older man with a younger, beautiful wife.  I do not doubt that the effort is there, but I do doubt that the show is doing anything too dramatic to influence how media portrays women.  My first example is a conversation between Claire and Phil (husband & wife) who are arguing about who has the better idea/advice regarding a particular issue.  After Claire insists hers is better, Phil retorts with “Sure…I’ll take advice from a marketing major at a party school, psh.”  Although the comment’s intent could have been playful, it came off completely rude and disregarding of his wife’s accomplishments in higher education.  In further regards of higher education, one of Phil and Claire’s daughters is a “nerd” and is the smart, driven one.  Despite her occasional upper hand in arguments because of her intellect, it is much more prevalent that the audience sees her less intelligent, but popular, sister degrade her ability to “have a life” or get a man”.
 Lastly, in the latest episode of Modern Family, Claire decides to run for local office.  But in the episode during her press conference, her opponent immediately brought up a personal issue regarding her family.  This comment turned into a fiasco at the press conference that eventually led to her not getting the position.  We see this type of situation all of the time, where women in the spotlight continue to receive “cheap shots” by their competitors which many times leads to there failure.  Even when a politician looks like she gained weight or got breast implants, that’s the most important topic in question for the (mostly) male broadcasters who interview them.  By emphasizing such a scenario on Modern Family, I continue to be disappointed in the media’s progress towards better representation of women.  Does anyone else feel, despite my above argument, that Modern Family is indeed a good source of “new media”?  Are there other shows that I do not watch that do a much better job at portraying women, and therefore, contribute to the “rise of new media”? Please do share!   

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