Sunday, February 8, 2009

Seongbae's questions for week 4

1. An interesting sentence about media violence caught my eyes when I was reading Horkheimer and Adorno’s article. “The enjoyment of the violence done to the film character turns into violence against the spectator; distraction becomes exertion” (Horkheimer & Adorno, p.53). This might have been true for ancient times. I don’t think this is the case for today’s media violence. People actually enjoy media violence to certain degree that the number of violence depicted on TV keeps increasing over time. George Garbner, who is known for his dedicated works in TV violence, discovered that prime-time TV in 1970s contained about eight instances of violence per hour. In 1990s, it has increased to 13 instances per hour (G. Sparks & C. Sparks, 1994). In my opinion, this is because people keep getting used to media violence that they want more impulses to satisfy their expectations and needs for violence on TV. So is it still safe to assume that TV violence merely offenses audience today? I don’t think so.

2. Their view on media entertainment is rather harsh. “Even by the measure of the existing order, the bloated entertainment apparatus does not make life more worthy of human beings” (Horkheimer & Adorno, p.53). This was a bold statement, and I believe this does not apply today. Entertainment programs on TV have become an essential part of our social life. People talk about ‘American Idol’ at school, at work and even at home. People like to share their thoughts and impressions about entertainment programs or movies with other people. If we count online forums into consideration here, the importance of entertainment program for social life grows even bigger. You are isolated if you don’t know certain movie or certain TV show among certain groups. I don’t know if this is true in the United States, but it obviously is true in Korea. What kinds of TV programs in the United States are included in this ‘must-watch’ program list for different age groups?

3. On page 43 of Horkheimer and Adorno’s article, the authors claim an interesting comparison. “If the objective social tendency of this age is incarnated in the obscure subjective intentions of board chairmen, this is primarily the case in the most powerful sectors of industry: steel, petroleum, electricity, chemicals. Compared to them the culture monopolies are weak and dependent” (Horkheimer & Adorno, p.43). This might have applied before 50 years ago, but now I don’t think culture monopolies are weak anymore because of globalization of certain culture especially American culture. We call it ‘cultural imperialism’ these days, and it indeed imperializes the world. For example, Hollywood movies affect many people from many different countries even more than those commodities the authors made comparison of. Yes, steel and electricity affect us greatly, but not mentally. However, cultural products like Hollywood movies, broadcast of certain sports, radio and advertisements affect us to think and behave in certain way. Often times, a person’s own culture conflicts with a culture that he/she experiences indirectly through movies and music from different culture. I guess what I want to ask here is this: is it safe to say that cultural imperialism is still ‘weak’ to the degree that we can simply ignore it, or has it become a new trend that cultural products can be more powerful than everyday commodity? And which of the cultural products is the strongest form today? A movie? Music?

4. Horkheimer and Adorno talk about advertisements starting from page 68. Their view on advertisement resembles their view toward other types of media including film and radio. They regard customers as extremely passive figures while defining advertising as ineffective mean to persuade people. “Advertising today is a negative principle, a blocking device: anything which does not bear its seal of approval is economically suspect. All-pervasive advertising is certainly not needed to acquaint people with the goods on offer, the varieties of which are limited in any case” (Horkheimer & Adorno p.68). I agree with the authors that many of the advertisements are ineffective and promise too much features and benefits that aren’t really proved. However, I believe the authors tend to underestimate the power of advertisement, which is understandable when I consider that the article was written in 1944. Advertisements, today, I believe are highly effective compared to those in 1944. I wonder what the advertisement is like back in 1944. How bad were those that the authors evaluated it as almost useless?

5. My final question is a general question concerning all of the above. To be honest, I feel kind of bad because all I did here was to refute Horkheimer and Adorno’s point of view. I think their thoughts and ideas are too old to apply to today’s elements and characteristics of media and society. As Sunho mentioned in her post, the essay is a product of a particular historical moment. Most of the authors’ claim about films, radio and advertisements were almost laughable to me. They regarded audience as extremely passive and that media was mostly harmful. As soon as I realized that the article was written more than 50 years ago, I could finally understand why the authors argued such ideas. Do you all think that their assumptions about the traditional media are still applicable to today’s media? If so, what parts?

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