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Sarah Levy

The Media: Storyteller of Our Lives

By: Sarah Levy
College Now Course - COM 11

Granted, most of us would deem ourselves the best storytellers of our lives. Surely, we do know ourselves best. However, imagine telling the story of your life. Wouldn't you be slightly tempted to change a few stories around? How about that time when the love of your life broke up with you? Wouldn't it just feel invigorating to be able to say that you got sick of him. Of course it would, and for that reason we must doubt that we are the best storytellers of our lives. The ideal storyteller will not be bias (as we surely are to ourselves) and would be able to reflect the most significant and memorable aspects of our lives. This storyteller would be able to relate our individual styles, morals, ethics, culture, politics, and social and economic thoughts and behaviors. He would be able to recall all of those important aspects that make each of our lives unique, and explain what influenced those aspects of our lives. We need not look far for this perfect storyteller. We cross paths with this story teller on a daily basis. Our conceptual storyteller is the Media.

Most of us view our style as the window to our true selves, to our individuality. While there are the very few who remain virtually uninfluenced by fashion portrayed through the eye of the Media, most of us derive our "distinctiveness" from a celebrity, a runway, or a magazine. And while we are certainly distinguishable from one another, we are not as original as we claim to be. Magazines and the "rich and famous" shape who we long to be. We emulate their styles out of admiration, and by doing so, we adopt those styles as our own.

It is hard to pinpoint exactly what shapes our morals, ethics, and politics, but the Media indisputably has a large hand in molding these important aspects of our lives. The Media does a magnificent job of targeting our morals and ethics when they want us to lean one way or another about a political conflict. They ask us to question our morals. In the 1960s, during the Civil Rights Movement, the Media asked us to really dig deep for our thoughts about racism. And for the past thirty-five years, the Media has asked us to voice our opinions about abortion. The Media coerces us to deal with personal issues so that we can be decisive in our opinions with political issues. The Media also reflects brewing ethical quandaries. The most recent example of this being Terri Schiavo, all of America was debating the ethics of this sad case. As we commonly discussed in class, the Media portrayed Schiavo in the light they chose to. They compelled us to take one of the two political stances on this case, therefore bringing politics into a very personal situation. During elections, and even on a regular basis, particular news programs reflect particular political views. Though news is supposed to be objective, many stations have become known as either liberal or conservative.

The Media does not stop at public issues such as politics, it surely finds its way into the diversely personal topic of culture. So what influences our culture? Most of us would answer that our families, religions, upbringings, experiences, etc. have affected our culture. However, according to our text, "Mass communication has become a primary forum for the debate about our culture. Logically, then, the most powerful voices in the forum have the most power to shape our definitions and understandings." Because these powerful voices are so often not in sync, different beliefs of different culture begin to divide us. During the O.J. Simpson trial, Simpson's entourage of lawyers cried that the accusations made against their client were tainted with racism. There was no substantial evidence of this, but as soon as the public heard of it, many people took the side of the defense. Particularly, many African-Americans sided with O.J., and many Caucasians regarded the defense as ludicrous and utterly preposterous. This certainly divided our nation, but as the text points out, "Culture can divide us, but culture also unites us." One simplistic, but common thing that we share is language. Regardless of race, we are able to communicate with one another through known gestures, body language, and appropriateness of conversation, making our society unified in at least one manner.

Media, additionally, is influential and reflective of our social and economic thoughts and behaviors. As a society we consider certain things appropriate and others inappropriate. As our class discussed in our "Acceptable Content" project, some things are just distasteful and not suitable for television. Sex and The City is fine, because it is on Pay TV...however, it would not be as accepted if it were broadcast on NBC. Television reflects our responses to different types of material. But, the rating system and opinions of others that we hear on television influence our responses. The Media is also very generous in sharing their opinions with us, the audience. For instance, the Media linked (as discussed in the text) Mortal Combat to the Columbine shooting. This caused an uproar from parents and society to ban such violent games. In 1991, people began questioning Barbie's unattainable figure, but because America had already accepted Barbie as the Media advertised her, we did not mind her un-proportionally small waist. Our society had already accepted Barbie, and didn't need a replacement. We, as people are very easily persuaded by the Media. As with television and our responses to it, our economic thoughts and behaviors are also a two-way situation with the Media. We are inclined to purchase what is advertised, but simultaneously, they are inclined to advertise what we buy. Advertisements usually feature popular items that we, the consumers, have made popular. However, without the advertisement for the products, their popularity would cease to grow. Apple's iPod is a clear example of this. After their initial advertisement of the product, sales boomed and it seemed that everyone either had an iPod, or wanted one. As demand for this product increased, Apple began to advertise more and more. These advertisements that seemed to appear everywhere continued to push people to buy the product.

So, no matter how much we rely on our best friends, or ourselves, we turn to inanimate objects such as televisions and radios for the answers to most of our questions. And whether it is visible to us or not, Media plays an extremely affective role in our lives, as do we in Media. Since the Media has played such an influential role in our lives, and our thoughts and habits have been reflected by the Media, I trust the Media to be the best, and most accurate, storyteller of my life.