Television Ideology

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A particular way of seeing the world that is articulated through language, imagery, gesture, metaphors etc.

- science of ideas

- Marxist view of ideology is as a way in which those in power DISTORT meaning.

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Bourgeoisie rules the proletariat, maintaining supremacy by making economic inequalities seem normal

Ideology used by the bourgeoisie distorts profound inequalities of capitalism until they appear natural.

Ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas.

Ideology normalises the dominant ruling class ideas until they become accepted by all.

'Divine Right of Kings' - religion is the opium of the people, Marx. Seen as a way of dulling the pain of oppression

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McCormack (2000)

Original concept of ideology.

- Ideology is a false way of seeing the world of social relations, based on the economic and social structure of society.

- Dominant class imposing way of seeng the world onto subordinate classes.

- Works in favour of a few against the interests of the majority.

It's not a conspiracy created by the working class, but rather, simply what they deem as natural themselves.

Contemporary notions of ideology are influenced by McCormack's works.

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Television (Marxism)

Claims that the role of television is to maintain the ideological power of the bourgeosie

Television critics examine how the medium reflects the views and concerns of the ruling class.

Quiz shows and games shows validate the materialist aspects of capitalist society + mislead the masses into thinking that wealth is available to all, regardless of social class. Fiske (1987) suggests that the concept of knowledge and skill producing high rewards is a misconception.

One of the first groups of intellectuals to take television seriously was those in the Frankfurt School.

Television is used to con viewers into thinking they're happy and deluded in their exploitation.

Ideological criticism reminds us that rather than reflect the world, it rather represents reality. 

Television consistently 'naturalises' the world, turning ideological bias into a seemingly 'natural representation'.

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Binary Oppositions

Good vs Evil

Black vs White

Man vs Woman

Mind vs Matter

Narrative theory suggests that we see a world through a variey of oppoositions and are defined hierarchically; the latter option is seen as a corruption of the first. Thus, man is superior to woman etc.

Within television it is seen as a construction of images of the political world that works on the binary opposites of 'us' and 'them'. The 'West is good, East is bad', due to the chaos of the East, in comparison to the supposed togetherness of the West.

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Symbolism within television emphasises the binary opposites.

Red clothing for example is often a depiction of a bad character. In a female, it displays the seduction and temptation of women in society. For a male character, it represents the bloodlust and evil nature of the man. However, this can also be reversed and represent love and passion, rather than the negative connations.

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Stereotypes naturalises culture, creating distorted myths about social, racial, national groups etc. Forms cliches. 

Television stereotypes because it needs to establish character instantly to engage an audience. These can however be socially damaging. 

Stereotypes work by dividing people, thus binary opposites are formed. 

Early TV portrayed homosexuals as evil or objects of ridicule, these aimed to reinforce 'normality', as the LGBT society was feared. Done to keep 'minorities' subordinate to reestablish dominant culture/ideology. Similarly, native Americans are often depicted as 'Red Indians' or 'Savages'. Racism, sexism and homophobia reject dominant ideology.

'The establishment of normalcy through stereotypes is a habit of the ruling groups.' Dyer, 1997.

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Resistant against dominant ideology

Not considered in Marx's theory.

'Cultural dupes' unable to see beyond their ideological manipulation.

Media has a direct influence on the individual, thus, the hypodermic needle has been directly inserted into the individual, Williams (2003, 171-2). Public as treated as passive consumers of television, who aren't able to form their own opinions and thus revert to the ideology implemented.

Marx ignores the effect of gender and race, but instead simply focuses on the economic.

Barthes - Resistance is accepted, but only as 'inoculation' from greater threats. Society ALLOWS a small amount of resistance to keep it balanced. 

Ideology is a system of domination, resistance and compromise. Ideology may control society, but how it does is frequently a matter of negotiation. Gramsci.

False consciousness is a false picture of reality, constructed by the unfair relationship between the classes.

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Reality TV; broadening into subgenres such as Documentary-style, Competition, Self-improvement, Renovation, Social Experiment, Dating Shows, Talk Shows, Hidden Cameras, Supernatural, and Hoaxes. Reality television is unavoidable when watching television in this day and age because every station features at least one subgenre of reality television.

 Ideologies based on the subgenre.  Depending on what a person believes they are attracted to certain reality television that promotes their beliefs for example The Biggest Loser promotes living a healthier lifestyle through its self help genre and Survivor promotes the idea of the survival of the fittest through its contestant focused genre.

An important part of reality television is the casting of the “ordinary people” who will be on the show. Mills (2004, p.79) believes making entertainment out of the weaknesses of others has been a selling point for most television throughout history. Represents the ideologies of the ruling class. 


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