Entry 1 – Summary of any chapter from Media, Culture and Society by Paul Hodkinson
Chapter 12. Media Communities: Subcultures, Fans and Identity Groups
This chapter discusses communities, minority groups and subcultures and how they are represented through a variety of media.
The media is often associated with social change and decline in community. Tonnies’ (1963) theories of gemeinschaft (community) and gesellschaft (society) though not specifically media related, explain the principles of society eclipsing community. This was relevant when populations shifted from small, self sufficient villages to large industrialised cities.
Hodkinson states that improved communication systems from the telegraph in 1844 through to the internet in the mid 1990s have changed the way people relate to each other. According to Bauman (2001) traditional community which relied on isolation from the outside world was bound to be undermined by the development of media where contact with people in other places would blur the insider/outsider boundaries.
Hodkinson adds that media can bring like minded people together to interact and share ideas and give them a sense of shared identity. Music and fashion trends of the 1960s and 1970s saw the emergence of Mods, Rockers and Punks; groups of young people demonstrating a defiant form of collective identity. Labelling such groups deviants or ‘others’ may contribute to prejudice and moral panic. In turn this can strengthen a groups identity and such labelling becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.
Local newspapers and radio contribute to the formation of communities by constructing: “a sense of collective exclusivity among their audience” (Hodkinson 2013:250). Similarly, niche magazines and niche digital media facilitate community as they: “involve more tightly knit audience groups, each with distinctive community values, knowledge and identities” (Hodkinson 2013:252-253). Geographical, social and religious barriers are broken by mutual common interests.
Ends: 269 words
BAUMAN, Z. 2001. Community: Seeking safety in an insecure world. Cambridge: Polity Press.
HODKINSON, P. 2013. Media, Culture and Society. London: Sage.
TONNIES, F. 1963. Community and Society. New York: Harper & Row.
Entry 2 – Critical analysis of a chapter from your module bibliography
Chapter 1 of Everybody’s Hacked Off. By Brian Cathcart
Lord Leveson is concerned that his expensive and protracted inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press will be shelved. Several similar investigations since 1949 have failed to effectuate change. According to Cathcart (2012:10) press leaders elude efforts to make them accountable to the public: “In 1989 Tory minister David Mellor told the press it was ‘drinking in the Last Chance Saloon’.”
The press controls what is published or buried. Inevitably they resist external regulation. Liberal theorists claim: “Newspapers submit themselves to public judgement every time they go on sale whereas politicians stand for election at infrequent intervals” (Curran & Seaton, 2003:326).
Equally, the power of large news organisations such as News UK owned by Rupert Murdoch could imply Marxist theories as: “Lacking control over the purposes and products of their labour, workers are reduced to a commodity object themselves” (Hodkinson, 2013:106).
The pattern of complaint, inquiry and debate with no conclusion has recurred. Politicians want support in the public sphere though: “Many confessed that they had been weak in failing to stand up to the press” (Cathcart 2010:5-6), while editors complain they should not all be penalised because of the actions of one company.
The phone hacking scandal may imply journalism standards have reached a nadir and parliamentary regulation is needed. Conversely, free press is seen as part of the British Establishment. Other than The Licensing Act of 1662 (which lapsed in 1695), the press has had free reign. It may be argued that other legislation covers criminal behaviour, human rights and libel. Live online broadcast of the Leveson inquiry brought press regulation to the top of the news agenda.
Ends: 273 words
CATHCART, B. 2012. Everybody’s Hacked Off. London: Penguin.
CURRAN, J and SEATON, J. 2010. Power Without Responsibility. 7th edn. London: Routledge.
HODKINSON, P. 2013. Media, Culture And Society. London: Sage.
Entry 3 – Critical analysis of the film Behind The Candelabra
Based on the memoirs of Scott Thorson and Directed by Steven Soderburgh, Behind the Candelabra chronicles the relationship between Thorson (Matt Damon, The Bourne Identity) and Liberace (Michael Douglas, Basic Instinct) during the ‘70s and ‘80s.
Liberace, an aging, flamboyant entertainer lives in a lavishly furnished property exhibiting pianos throughout, though he never plays them. His stage clothing comprises sparkling rhinestone suits and long fur coats that trail along the floor like a wedding train. In contrast, Thorson a 16 year old country boy from Texas has been raised by a succession of foster parents. He works as an animal carer and dreams of becoming a vet.
The relationship works well while they fulfil their respective roles. Liberace is lonely, yearns for youth and has always wanted a son. Thorson is naïve, in need of financial security and a father figure. The relationship flounders as a result of Liberace’s promiscuity and Thorson’s drug addiction. Just as Thorson replaced Billy Leatherwood so Thorson is replaced by a new protégé. Soderburgh uses an identical scene to comically portray the recurring theme of outgoing lover behaving petulantly, pulling faces and shovelling food into their mouths as the new lover gets Liberace’s full attention.
Cosmetic Surgeon Jack Startz (Rob Lowe, The West Wing), is portrayed as the antithesis of a medical practitioner endorsing the use of addictive drugs to aid weight loss. Soderburgh uses black comedy in the montage scene of graphic, gory facelift surgery offset by upbeat ‘ragtime’ style piano music.
Both the main actors are portraying characters completely different to their stereotypical macho men roles, a daring move demonstrating their versatility and ability to not take themselves too seriously. A film of contrasts and opposites, an enlightening love story.
Ends: 287 words
Entry 4 – Review of a book that you have read that you think should be on the reading list (that isn’t).
Letter to Daniel: Despatches from the Heart. By Fergal Keane
This collection of essays from BBC foreign correspondent Fergal Keane evolved from a suggestion by his editor Tony Grant that he write an article on fatherhood. Though reluctant at first, Keane found himself overwhelmed with emotion as he cradled his baby. ‘Letter to Daniel’ was well received by listeners of Radio 4’s From Our Own Correspondent and led to the compilation of this book.
Keane recalls his troubled childhood, family in Ireland and his alcoholic father. He tells amusing anecdotes of his days as a cub reporter and how he learned his craft. Reports from Asia include the return of Hong Kong back to the Chinese and of his friendship with Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
More than half of the book covers the time Keane was based in South Africa in the early 1990s. Arguably the most significant time in their country’s recent history, he chronicles apartheid and the historic elections that ended white minority rule. Often in danger, he writes of the political unrest, violence and poverty of the displaced black population with sensitivity and understanding. There are detailed explanations of tribal culture and historical background of the country’s colonisation over 350 years ago.
As the title suggests, Keane writes from a reflective and personal angle. The essays are more in depth and descriptive than standard news broadcasts. Scenery and views are described with imagery such as: “Clouds crashed and tumbled far above so that all around the Bushveld took on a morbid grey colour” (Keane:1996:83). For newcomers to journalism this book offers an insight into the opportunities available in the field and the encouragement to develop an individual style.
Ends: 274 words
KEANE, F. 1996. Letter To Daniel – Despatches From The Heart. London: Penguin.