The words power, hegemony, sexism, object, popular culture, spectacle, ways of looking, representation and consumer all go hand in hand because they all fall under the term media. The media is a powerful tool that through subliminal messages or in your face advertising ad nauseam, helps to convey a message to the public masses whether it is intended to be positive or negative. The above terms all play a corresponding role in how media is structures and thus plays a significant role in the lives of billions around the world, irrespective of gender, race, religion or social status. Everyone is represented or is being targeted by the media in some way.
Before getting into what these terms mean, it’s important to harp back on the word spectacle because Society of the Spectacle served as a precursor or a warning as to what media was bound to become. Guy DeBord was a pedagogue, or teacher of a theoretical concept due to his seeming foresight to determine that media would become the powerful machine that has enveloped society today. Why is the media so powerful today and seemingly getting stronger? It’s due to influence. Media has such a stranghold on society’s attention today that it has reached an incredible level of power that shows hardly any signs of slowing down in the foreseeable future. A particular line of thinking outlined in Society of the Spectacle is that modern society or social life would ultimately be replaced by representation. The idea of society being represented has happened in certain aspects but none more notorious than advertising. It seems that ads have found a way to portray products that can cater to any group within society. Society is now represented by an advertising machine today rather than representing themselves as it was during the time of Debord. How many times do we see an advertisement today portray a group by branding them in a certain way and then the perception of that group is looked at comparatively to the ad? Whether it’s an accurate representation or not, the perception often changes.
Consumer’s have a massive role in society today and their presence is growing in importance. Consumer’s are important because its who companies target. Everyone within society is a consumer of some type of good or service. Due to the importance of the consumer, billions of dollars are spent on advertising to try to influence the consumer to invest into a particular good or service. With such an over saturation of products out there to choose from, ads have become more risque to draw people’s attention and quickly. The only concept that seems to carry legitimate weight is the old adage “sex sells.” Go on YouTube and look at some of the highest viewed commercials from previous Super Bowls. I cite the Super Bowl in this particular example because due to the sheer enormity of the television audience that the Super Bowl brings in, some of the biggest brands in corporate America splurge millions of dollars just for a 30 second ad. The highest rated or most talked about ads usually feature Danica Patrick posing seductively in a Go Daddy commercial scantily clad or David Beckham modeling in his underwear for H&M. Due to the influence consumers have, companies are willing to take it to that level in order for you to ultimately delve into consumption of their product.
When I think of the word popular culture, I think of relevancy. What is current, what is trending, what is currently captivating a large segment of the population’s attention? A topic that always seem to captivate a large segment of the population is depicting something as an object. An object in my view is another form of representation, they both go hand in hand. For example, there was mild controversy recently about a TIME Magazine cover that featured what appears to be a women’s leg wearing suit pants and high heels with a mineture dangling from the tip of a high heel. The women was essentially an object or representation of Hilary Clinton possibly running for President of the United States and at this early point in the Race for 2016, exerting her authority over her male political counterparts. It was controversial because some interpreted the picture as sexist to women as it sort of mocked the current commanding presence Hilary Clinton has on her male counterparts in voting polls.
It’s not all doom and gloom necessarily in regards to the influence of the media. Media has been beneficial in terms of helping raising awareness and notoriety for social, economic and political issues that might be plaguing other nations. For example, before media became the influential conglomerate that it is today, people subjected to being apart of hegemonic society were not aware of what democracy or societal freedom stood for or even existed. During the Saddam Hussein dictatorship in Iraq, citizens of Iraq were falsely conned into thinking they were living in a democracy and not under the hands of a tyrant in Hussein. Once media allowed for greater awareness on what’s happening outside a nation’s borders, Iraqis were able to see that they were actually living in a hegemonic society where their government before being dethroned was an all-controlling, dominant figure in the political and societal spectrum.
There are many influences today in society and there are many interpretations of the visuals that people are being exposed to on a frequent basis. It will be interesting to see what is truly next? How much farther can the envelope be pushed in order to draw as much attention as possible? It seems that considering the power of media today, society is just a passenger along for the ride with not much foresight on what could be happening next. Where’s Debord when you need him?
Can Anyone Stop Hilary? (Time Magazine)
Controversial Hilary Cover of Time Illuminates Sexism in the Media (Huffington Post)
Society of the Spectacle (Guy Debord)