How Popular Media Distorts Reality
In this essay, I will be discussing popular media and how it reflects popular opinion or is exaggerated for the purpose of entertainment. I will firstly define what popular media is and look at how it is profit-minded. I will then explore how entertainment takes preference over information in popular media before moving on to images and finally, how popular thought is shaped by popular media. In conclusion, I will argue that whilst popular media does reflect the thoughts and opinions of the masses to some extent, it is often exaggerated for entertainment value which can lead to a false representation of reality.
2. What is popular media?
Popular media can be defined as “the means of communication that reach large numbers of people in a relatively short time and are designed to appeal to widespread tastes or interests” (The Free Dictionary, 2019). It includes things such as newspapers, magazines, radio and television programmes that are aimed at a large audience.
3. Profit-mindedness in popular media
Most media practitioners, except state-run publications, have focused on profit generation instead of representing popular opinion or factual information whose sell-out is low” (Kanji, 2010, p.16). This means that they are more concerned with making money than with providing accurate news or representing the thoughts and opinions of the people. This is because “in a free market system, the bottom line for most businesses is profit” (Kanji, 2010, p.16). As such, businesses are only going to invest in things that will make them money and not necessarily things that are important for democracy or for informing the public. For example, newspapers are more likely to feature stories that will sell copies rather than stories that are important but not as newsworthy.
4. Entertainment over information in popular media
As well as being profit-minded, another way in which popular media does not always accurately reflect reality is through its focus on entertainment over information. This is because “in capitalist societies…the primary motive behind any cultural production is exchange value or profit” (Garnham, 1990, p.59). This means that businesses are more concerned with making money than with providing accurate information. For example, television programmes are often more focused on entertainment than on informing the public about current affairs. This is because people are more likely to watch a programme that is entertaining than one that is educational.
5. Images in popular media
Images also play a role in distorting reality in popular media. This is because “the camera never lies” (Garnham, 1990, p.61). This means that what we see on television or in films is often an accurate representation of reality. However, this is not always the case. For example, films often use special effects to create images that are not realistic. This can lead to people having a false idea of what something looks like in real life. For example, many people believe that aliens look like the aliens in the film E.T., when in fact we have no idea what aliens would look like if they did exist.
6. Popular thought in popular media
Popular thought is also shaped by popular media. This is because “the media provide us with images and ideas which enter into and shape our consciousness” (Garnham, 1990, p.62). This means that the things we see in the media influence the way we think about things. For example, if we see a lot of images of thin women in the media, we may start to believe that this is the only “correct” body type. This can lead to people becoming body-conscious and may even lead to eating disorders.
In conclusion, popular media does reflect popular opinion to some extent, but it is often exaggerated for entertainment value which can lead to a false representation of reality.