If you’ve ever watched a movie or seen an advertisement online, you know that the media relies on stereotypes to deliver their message. Often the same stereotypes are repeated over and over again, so that we become desensitized to their effects and the images start to appear ‘normal’. Yet because media messages are constructed, we have to ask ourselves can these images ever be neutral or objective?
Media literacy gives us the tools to deconstruct the harmful messages and images that media presents as “normal”. When we understand what the media is selling us, then we have the power to talk back to the media and decide which messages are harmful. Media isn’t “just a song” or “just a movie character” and ads don’t just sell us products – they also sell us values and ideas, shaping how we think about and see the world around us.
- Think about who created the message and who is intended to receive it.
- Examine how the message was created. What words, images, sounds, or designs are used?
- Consider the point of view of the media makers – what are their values and their biases?
- Try to uncover the hidden meanings (intended and unintended) in the message.
Another way to decode media messages is to think about:
- How the image makes you feel? Does the image affect you?
- Are the messages presented positive or negative?
- What groups of people does the message empower? or disempower?
- And what part of the story is not being told?
For this week’s action, we challenge you to practice decoding media messages. Here is how:
- Select a media message to decode. It can be a product, advertisement, film, TV show, or music video.
- Tell us what bothers you about this image and how you would change it. Or, if it is positive media tell us what you like about the message or image.
For example: Instead of pointing out that the girl in a commercial isn’t doing anything, while the boys play sports. You could point out the problem by stating “Why is the girl just watching the boys play sports? Girls like to play sports, too! #MediaLiteracy #IDG2014”
Don’t forget to use #MediaLiteracy #IDG2014 and #11MonthsofAction with your responses.