• How media texts shape the way we think about the world as cultural, political, and social beings
• Culture can be described as the collection of artifacts, practices, and beliefs of a particular
group of people at a particular historical moment, supported by symbolic systems and directed
• Culture is ideological – The cultures we inhabit teach us to see the world in some ways and not
• Cultures give rise to ideologies and ideologies influence how individual members of the culture
see the world
◦ Ex: The majority of cultures in Renaissance Europe did not perceive madness as a problem.
It existed as a constant in daily life, a factor as unpreventable and prevalent as death
What is it?
• Ideology: a system of ideas that unconsciously shapes and constrains both our beliefs and
◦ Ideology is the sets of beliefs underlying the customs, habits, and practices common to a
given culture. To members of that culture, the beliefs seem obviously true, natural, and
universally applicable. They may seem just as obviously arbitrary, idiosyncratic, and false to
those who adhere to another ideology. Within any culture, numerous ideologies coexist;
some are marginalized, others are hegemonic (i.e. dominant and the cultural norm).
◦ Ideologies may be forcefully imposed or willingly subscribed to. Their component beliefs
may be held consciously or unconsciously
What does it do?
1. It limits the range of acceptable and even conceivable ideas.
2. It normalizes (e.g., naturalizes) particular sets of social relations.
3. It privileges some interests over others.
4. It interpellates individuals into subjects.
• Promotes some perspectives and values while devaluing others
• Some ideologies are easy to spot because the interpretations they promote are obviously one-
◦ Ex: Republicans and Democrats. Each party functions as a culture with particular artifacts,
customs, and attitudes, and each party provides its members with an ideology that limits
interpretation and helps those individuals distinguish b/t right and wrong, true and false,
good and bad
• However, some ideologies define our world in a more unconscious fashion. We enact and
support them without realizing it. So ingrained in our minds we fail to see them as ideologies
◦ Ex: Biological sex in today'sAmerican society. We tend to understand the concept of sex
according to one of two groups: male and female. In reality though the human form can
often display physical characteristics of both sexes
◦ Ex: public restrooms are assigned according to male and female sexes, as are clothing and
▪ India acknowledges a third sex and name it Hijra, so they have a diff ideology there (2) Naturalizes (normalizes)
• Ideology often makes social relations and arrangements between people seem normal, and it
makes established relationships of power appear to be the natural order of things
• The social roles we occupy throughout or lifetime (child, student, employee) inscribe us into
relationships of unequal power as a result of ideological value hierarchies
• All social relations are inherently relations of power because all social relations exist in a web
of ideologies which award power to certain roles
◦ Ex: instructor has power only becauseAmerican cultural ideology often awards authority to
highly educated experts in a given field
◦ Ex: The ideology of American capitalism ensures that employers have power over their
employees, and this relationship b/t owner and worker seems to be a natural part of
everyday life instead of a culturally constructed system
• Ideology privileges some interests over others. In the process of normalizing relations of power,
it also informally confirms that the perspectives, qualities, or needs of socially powerful groups
are more important or valid than those of socially dominated groups
◦ The capitalist ideological structure ofAmerican business culture is an example: although
employees tend to do much of the actual work in a capitalist business, it is the more socially
powerful management and owners that reap the most profits generated from the work
◦ Most businesses in America favor managerial styles that emphasize masculine qualities like
assertiveness, independence, or competitiveness, a fact that helps men move up thru a
company and often creates difficult situations for women seeking a promotion
• Turns individuals into social subjects. Individuals are actually a collection of different
ideological systems fused into one identity through the process of “hailing”
◦ Hailing occurs when individuals recognize and respond to an encountered ideology and
allow it to represent them
• Ideologies exhibit the range of possible identity expressions, and individuals are a collection of
the ideologies to which they consciously or unconsciously ascribe
How does it do it?
• How do ideologies within a culture become widespread, common, or dominant? Three
concepts: Myth, doxa, and hegemony
• Asacred story or “type of speech” that reaffirms and reproduces ideology in relation to an
• Myth operates as the “higher” level of meaning of a particular object.
◦ Ex:All objects relay a basic meaning. Super Mario bros literally means “a video game
named Super Mario Bros.” However, most objects also relay larger, culturally connotative
meanings: the realm of myth
▪ Ex: In addition to signifying “video game,” Super Mario Bros also relates a classic story
of a hero undertaking a voyage to rescue princess from villain.
▪ In this way, the mythological, or “higher level” meaning of the game connotes ideas of
bravery, heroism, and masculinity that are central toAmerican ideological formations ◦ The game reinforces certain ideologies over others by making their mythological content
seem innocent, everyday, or “natural”
• Myth is the preservation of ideology through the active retelling of dominant cultural stories.
• In other words, doxa refers to the constructed aspects of a culture that its members don't really
challenge or critically reflect upon
◦ Agood synonym for doxa is “common sense.” Like myth, doxa supports certain ideologies
over others by making them seem natural or simply as “the way things are.”
◦ Those with social power wish to preserve the cultural doxa, while those without power seek
to resist or alter it
• Doxa is the preservation of ideology through silence and maintaining the distinction between
what should and should not be debated
• Important because it accounts for the evolution of dominant ideologies. Doxa and Myth lend
insight into why certain ideologies are more widespread than others
• The process by which one ideology subverts other competing ideologies and gains cultural
• Hegemony is the process of convincing people to support the continued existence of a social
system that does not support them in return. “Spontaneous consent.”
◦ The working class (or any marginalized group) doesn't revolt because they actually consent
to being dominated by the ideologies of privileged groups
• Dominant (hegemonic) ideologies still reflect the desires and interest of socially powerful
groups, but these ideologies also come with the added promise that it's in the best interest of
dominated individuals for them to accept these particular values and beliefs
◦ socially powerful groups seek to have their worldview accepted by members of society as
the universal way of thinking, and individuals within the culture accept the hegemonic
ideologies because these systems of interpretation seem to benefit them in some way
◦ Basically, although these systems (paying for college tuition) ultimately harm us as
consumers, we willingly consent to systems of ideological domination because of the
perceived benefits (education and better pay in future).
• If a marginalized ideology does happen to gain visibility in a culture and pose a challenge to the
hegemonic ideologies, the dominant ideologies won't simply fall. Instead, they absorb the
marginalized ideologies and integrate them into the privileged ideological matrix
◦ Ex: Wearing blue jeans used to be a sign of opposition to the dominant america culture.
However, as the popularity of such a resistance began to take hold, retailers responded by
creating an elaborate system of different mass-produced styles and labels for jeans. Jeans
became popular and normal. In response, many people tried to rip and disfigure their keans ,
but retailers again began to fade and destroy their jeans on a larger scale. The jeans were
absorbed and put in the service of hegemonic ideologies.
• Hegemony is the preservation of ideology through won consent and flexible adaptation toward
resistance Social class
• Social Class – the division of society into the ‘haves’and ‘have-nots’. The term ‘have-nots’
denotes a lack of wealth, but it also connotes a more basic incompleteness—a lack of “cultural
• Two differences between Marx's original divisions of social class compared contemporary
American capitalist society.
◦ 1 : Size of the petite bourgeoisie (middle class). Unlike in Marx's time where the class
encompassed a relatively small number of professionals, the middle class now represents
the largest class division inAmerican society
▪ The growth of the middle class (and shrinkage of the upper and lower classes) is tied to
the second important deviation from Marx:
◦ 2 the rise of information – and media-based occupations in the 20 century.th
▪ Newly created white collar jobs increased the size of the middle class and patterns of
ownership became increasingly focused on the cultural production of lifestyles and
• Two concepts to help us understand how class ideologies function inAmerican media
• (1) American Dream, (2) Conspicuous Consumptio