Take me out to the ball game…

Ahhh… We’ve made it to that time of year again… Halcyon days, verdant, pristinely-manicured turfs where “the boys of summer” beguile leisurely spectators tucking away peanuts and cracker jack and… beverages. The “Great American Pastime” is in full swing (pun) in renowned parks all over the landscape. Just relax, and take it all in…

Photo Credit: Werner Kunz via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Werner Kunz via Compfight cc

What’s missing?

Umm, let’s see… Got my glove (just in case!), my over-worn and under-washed cap (soap dilutes good luck), flip-up shades (that’s how I roll), smart phone (duh!), XL cup of Dr. P (yeah, I will drink it all!), foot-long carcinogen-filled, cardiac arrest inducer (I mean, hot dog). That should do it. Still, I can’t shake this feeling I’m missing something… Wait, I know what it is! It should be here anytime now! I’ll just sit back and wait for

the melee!

Photo Credit: David Gallagher via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: David Gallagher via Compfight cc

the almost inevitable brawl, the brouhaha,  the fracas, the altercation, the scuffle, the skirmish, the… kurfuffle? Yes, I’m talking about that other Great American Pastime… watching a good fight! (or even a bad one)

Where did the halcyon go? I can’t see the verdant turf for all the… Wow! That shortstop has a mean right jab! I wonder what that guy said about his mother?

Wait, I digress… I was talking about the all-too-common tendency for disagreements among “professional,” “adult” baseball players to be settled like children on the playground, complete with foot stomping, theatrical arm (and hand) gesturing, and tete-a-tete bad mouthing at the top of their lungs. And let’s not forget the wrestling, punching, and rolling on the ground. What recess rumpus would be complete without those?

Sports commentators–and the media in general–generally give a wink and a nod to these demonstrations of poor judgment, and that’s when I come off the bench to critique broadcasters’ apathy and general misunderstanding of the troubling attitudes that major league fights belie.

  1. You’re making 6 and 7 digit salaries, so…. Shut up and play!
    Photo Credit: HikingArtist.com via Compfight cc

    Photo Credit: HikingArtist.com via Compfight cc

    In 2013, the average MLB salary was $3.4 million, while the average U.S. salary in 2012 was $42, 500.  (Why don’t they talk about that on the nightly news?)

  2. You’re role models to thousands of young people! (Do I really have to mention that?) Here’s a list of 10 players who ARE doing it right.
  3. This is not going to last. Enjoy playing baseball while you can! This requires the humility to understand that, even if you’re Babe Ruth, you won’t be forever.
    Leave a positive legacy.
  4. You’ve beaten the odds. Why jeopardize that? (Is anybody still reading this?) A college baseball player has only about a 11% chance of making it in the MLB, and the average career length is about 5 1/2 years. Why are you so angry?

What’s the take away for mass comm students?

While the typical textbook tells budding journalism students that their highest calling is objectivity in reporting, the reality is that hardly anyone ever practices it. At best, some broadcast journalists practice selective objectivity, carving out a niche of issues on which they feel comfortable riding the fence and making a show of detached professionalism on largely irrelevant topics. The vast majority of broadcasters these days likely couldn’t define objectivity. Never mind do they know why it’s important. So yeah, that’s not happening. But we’ll keep teaching it, just in case a few of our students are listening.

Most of our students are at the age where they would find video clips of baseball brawls hilarious, not discerning the implications for the sport, the audience, and society in general. That’s why broadcasters must not simply report about fighting in sports; they must help educate viewers about the negative effects of bad behavior. One small way to begin making a difference would be for sportscasters to resist the urge to editorialize on camera after reporting these stories, especially with the typical tongue-in-cheek approach that conveys lighthearted disdain, but also their enthusiasm for having a sensational “get” story. Tosses between anchors at the news desk are usually brief, but laughing and vocal inflection gives the impression that nothing that happens during a game is to be taken too seriously.
What a shame!

Photo Credit: peasap via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: peasap via Compfight cc

A wonderful benefit of Christian liberal arts education is that it challenges students to apply moral values to practical career situations. In this vein, I would encourage my students to temper their enthusiasm for all things raffish with reading from Scripture, such as the following:

Do not associate with a man given to anger;
Or go with a hot-tempered man,
Or you will learn his ways
And find a snare for yourself
(Proverbs 22:24-25, NASB)

 

 

Darrell Roe (Ph.D., UGA, 1998) is an Assoc. Prof. of Mass Communication at ETBU. His specialty is analyzing the content of visual media and its effects on audiences.

 

Tonight at 10: Mack the Knife!

Do you remember

Photo Credit: Devin.M.Hunt via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Devin.M.Hunt via Compfight cc

that iconic song made notoriously famous by Bobby Darin, a tongue-in-cheek parody of the 1920′s German play, “Die Dreigroschenoper” (“The Three Penny Opera”)? The song was first made big in the U.S. by jazz legend Louis Armstrong in 1955, but it was Darin who made it a night club-style “classic,” winning a Grammy for Best Record of the Year in 1959 and becoming that year’s second best selling song, taking it to #1 for nine weeks.

Photo Credit: Ken Bondy via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Ken Bondy via Compfight cc

Oh, the shark, babe, has such teeth, dear…

But can you imagine

Photo Credit: Shavar Ross via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Shavar Ross via Compfight cc

a TV news anchor dancing atop the desk, SNL-style, gyrating his hips to a swingy beat in an irreverent mash-up of the day’s top stories? (Maybe you can, actually.)

And it shows them pearly white…

Agenda-Setting
An abundance of research has shown that the news media, while not telling us what to think, clearly tell us what to think about. McCombs and Shaw did seminal work in this area in the 1970s, and their findings are still highly regarded–and have been rigorously emulated–in the academic field of mass communication through the present. This body of work has been directing our attention to—and illustrating how—some issues, values, video clips, and a milieu of daily highlights are shuffled and re-shuffled in order of importance in our minds, some decreasing and some increasing in salience and prominence among our thoughts de jure.

Photo Credit: bionicteaching via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: bionicteaching via Compfight cc

Just a jackknife has old Mac Heath, babe…

What’s the take away for mass comm students?

In both print and broadcast journalism classes we repeatedly stress the eight “newsworthy” elements that make a purported news story worth telling. We give examples of these and ask students to identify them both in participatory activities and on exams. The eight newsworthy elements are, in no particular order:

  1. prominence (of someone in the story)
  2. proximity (to the audience)
  3. timeliness (newness of the information)
  4. conflict (between parties in the story)
  5. overall impact (on the audience)
  6. emotional impact (on the audience)
  7. magnitude (how far the impact reaches)
  8. oddity (getting the audience’s interest)

A good understanding of these elements is essential to our students’ success in creating good, engaging news that daily readers, viewers, and web surfers will want to consume. Frequently, however, classroom discussions about which story elements would be most effective and appropriate to focus on for any given story reveal that, at least initially, students are generally unreflective about their own motivations for how their angle on the story will affect their hapless readers/viewers.

And he keeps it out of sight…

Moreover, because of the very influential power of news media to direct people’s attention and even, ultimately, to affect their attitudes, budding journalists must take their responsibility seriously as purveyors of information. Careless Unreflective Reckless fact gathering and reporting will inevitably have deleterious effects on everything from losing credibility (on the “big” issues), to creating unnecessary alarm, to enervating democratic processes.

Photo Credit: Great Beyond via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Great Beyond via Compfight cc

You know when that shark bites with his teeth, babe…

Clearly, sensationalizing violence  and gratuitously feeding the basest needs of audiences for graphic “news” is not an appropriate default strategy for journalists. There is much more to informing the masses than simply being “ambulance chasers” and “doomsday prophets.” There is a far higher plane to which academia can direct its acolytes, instilling within them the desire to inspire with their writing and pictures, to create a hunger for greater knowledge of the world around them, rather than soliciting knee-jerk reactions time and again.

Photo Credit: madamepsychosis via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: madamepsychosis via Compfight cc

Scarlet billows start to spread…

Failing to instill this concern in the classroom setting, however, perhaps journalism instructors should convey to students the apostle Paul’s concern, wherein he reminds us that, “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you (Philippians 4:8-9, NASB)

Thanks for watching! Good night, and have a pleasant evening!

 

Darrell Roe (Ph.D., UGA, 1998) is an Assoc. Prof. of Mass Communication at ETBU. His specialty is analyzing the content of visual media and its effects on audiences.

Cognitive Dissonance and Soap

Hey, buddy… try this!

Photo Credit: Davi Ozolin via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Davi Ozolin via Compfight cc

It’ll make you feel good! Real good!

You know you want this!

TRY THIS NOW!!

If a drug pusher or… a pimp… accosted you this way–as you strolled carelessly down the street. Maybe got uncomfortably close? Maybe yelled in your face? Maybe blocked your way?

Would you feel put upon? Call the police?

Would it ruin your otherwise perfect morning and disrupt the serenity of your innocent thoughts on your tree-lined, routine jaunt to Starbucks?

How dare someone!! That would be intolerable! Right?

Then why then do we tolerate such boorish behavior from advertisers who do the same things to us 24/7 on TV sets that we purchase and via cable programming we’re paying for? In short, why do we let advertisers invade our private property and infiltrate our personal space and time?

But seriously…

Am I suggesting that broadcast advertisers are basically pimps and drug pushers? No!

They’re worse. They’re much more influential. Much more pernicious. And despite a few regulations from the FTC, they are largely unrestricted. Drug dealers would like to have it so good!

Most people are blissfully unaware of how many “free choices” they think they are making in everyday life are really the end result of carefully crafted schemes launched on Madison Avenue (or some avenue). And much of the success of advertising is due to the effect of  cognitive dissonance, in which one’s mind is in a state of tension due to an unresolved dilemma. The culprit usually involves a choice which must be made, but there are competing advantages and disadvantages for making each choice. Thus, one experiences tension and stress until the issue is resolved. If the choice and, thus, the cognitive dilemma, is great enough, one may even wrestle with her conscience for some time–and with considerable angst–before deciding what to do.

What does any of this have to do with advertisers?

They create cognitive dissonance in people on purpose (see McLeod, 2008)! Estimates vary greatly, but the range of possible exposures to marketing messages is somewhere between 3,000 and 20,000 per day per consumer. Yes! Per day! Potential consumers are bombarded with dissonance-inducing solicitations designed to cause them to re-evaluate how comfortable they are with their status quo.

Don’t you know you could do so much better than… that?

Photo Credit: Professor Bop via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Professor Bop via Compfight cc

Part One of the sinister plan is to convince people that whatever product or service they’re using could be better… no, should be better! Right now!
Part Two of the sinister plan is to create the appearance of distinction between mostly similar items.
Part Three of the sinister plan is to play up trivial differences as being significant, very significant.

Using this approach, advertisers have convinced us to change out our perfectly good laundry detergent for soap with a more clever name. We have tossed out delicious potato chips for insane flavors, and we have ditched our insurance providers for products sold by lizards and ducks. Yes, you did! Fess up! 

Larry the Cable Guy, spokesman for Prilosec OTC, in one ad quipped humorously that, in this country, “We don’t just make things you want…We make things you didn’t even know you wanted!“ 

Despite the levity, what is missed by most viewers of this ad is that Larry has briefly pulled back the curtain on one of advertisers’ key motives.

What’s the take away for mass comm students?

In class discussions about the effects of media on audiences (and consumers) I think my students see what producers of news, entertainment, and advertising are up to. They generally see the intentionality of the producers who are eliciting certain reactions and/or effects in the content of their messages. However, it’s another challenge to get students “fired up” about the ethical uncertainties of large and powerful groups (e.g., media conglomerates and their advertising shills) wielding almost limitless and generally unquestioned influence on the American psyche. Perhaps they would rather not consider the mind-boggling ramifications that advertisers’ psychological hegemony has on our current financial crises, both personal and institutional.

Jesus encourages us to be “shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). Paul warns us that “even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14). Finally, Peter warns us that “by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved” (2 Peter 2:19)

So… Are you in debt? Hooked on Pringles?

Perhaps it all started with a dose of cognitive dissonance that grew into an unquenchable habit. (Tweet This) And, yes, advertisers intended for it to be so!

Darrell Roe (Ph.D., UGA, 1998) is an Assoc. Prof. of Mass Communication at ETBU. His specialty is analyzing the content of visual media and its effects on audiences.

 

 

E.T. phone your pastor!

I was amazed when a scholar in film criticism first brought to my attention that the movie E.T. was Steven Spielberg’s attempt to reiterate the gospel message in a fun-for-all flick about a lovable alien who befriends a boy and his family. Sure, there are similarities:

  1. An other-worldly being drops in on us lower-life organisms here on Earth (crashes the party, so to speak).
  2. He makes friends with a chosen few, especially children and those who are good.
  3. People on Earth have their own designs for him.
  4. He helps people while he is here.
  5. He makes contact with his own people while here.
  6. He suffers physically from living on Earth too long and dies an agonizing and emotional death.
  7. He recovers (or comes back to life), coinciding with those who have returned for him.
  8. He makes an amazing and emotional departure.
  9. His closest friends look forward to his return.
  10. He is forever regarded as a great person and positive influence on those he touched.

But besides these ten similarities–and perhaps a few more–why would anyone draw the conclusion that Spielberg had intentionally created his own science-fictional parallel to “the greatest story ever told”?

Photo Credit: Johnson Cameraface via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Johnson Cameraface via Compfight cc

Because he did!

And because it is a great story line! When one begins to analyze modern film motifs, it is soon clear that numerous film genres have made use of the gospel narrative as a plot design for decades. (Tweet This)

Consider some other movies which seem to have capitalized on this technique…

  1. Clint Eastwood’s High Plains Drifter (1973) and Pale Rider (1985)
  2. Superman (especially, 1978, 1980, 1983, 1987)
  3. Lucas’ Star Wars (1977) and Return of the Jedi (1983)
  4. Ghost (1990)
  5. Rambo: First Blood and Rocky III (both in 1982)
  6. The Matrix (1999)
  7. Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) and Sleeping Beauty (1959)
  8. Turner and Hooch (1989)

In past blogs I referred to the usefulness of schema theory in understanding how audiences create and re-shape their views of reality based, in part, on media messages. Schema theory explains that images and situations portrayed on television and film provide building blocks for how we, the audience, construct–and re-construct–our internal (cognitive) reality. Our reality about people, politics, tangible and intangible things, including our concept of the “the self,” are made up mostly of a curious amalgamation of information bits about the things which we have been experiencing and observing since we arrived on the planet. As we learn more about anything we adjust the schematic references in our minds, or, in some cases, we adjust the incoming information to fit into the existing realities already present there, since the latter requires fewer processing resources (and less work!). This has been demonstrated by Rumelhart (1980) and others who have done extensive research using schema theory.

In short, the construction of the original gospel message (about real events) is a schema which may provide a useful framework for constructing fictional narratives. It may be considered a very successful vehicle for carrying a message from one point to another, such as from script to director to editor to audiences. The cohesiveness of the plot mechanism allows one to creatively attach a variety of discrete–even bizarre–story elements to it and allow the plot vehicle to unify uncommon elements into a common, easily-understood, even fun to tell story line.

What’s the take away for mass comm students?

Photo Credit: 1upLego via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: 1upLego via Compfight cc

My students should understand that every media product they create has the potential (and likelihood) to be interpreted as intentionally referencing both sacred and profane texts. Thus, they should be very careful to write informative news reports, produce engaging commercials, make inspiring music, and create press releases that do not encourage insinuations, double entendres, and potentially embarrassing unintended meanings. And when producing Christian media, they should be especially diligent to faithfully represent God’s Word and truth because people will ultimately judge the producer and the product more severely if they feel s/he has taken unnecessary liberties in storytelling. Finally, conscientious Christians in the TV and film industry likely do not want to accidentally give people the wrong impression about the Bible based on the escapades of a fictional character!

Darrell Roe (Ph.D., UGA, 1998) is an Assoc. Prof. of Mass Communication at ETBU. His specialty is analyzing the content of visual media and its effects on audiences.

The “Happy” Bug

I had planned to write this blog with some critical observations about the hugely popular song “Happy” (from the movie Despicable Me 2 soundtrack by Pharrell Williams, aka “Pharrell”). Numerous mock-ups and imitations of his original music video have posted on YouTube from groups all over the U.S. and around the world, from colleges to Congressmen, and everybody else in between. It seemed like easy prey for my critical eye (and typing fingers) to point out how superficial were all these unfortunate, child-like, overly-optimistic, too-easily-entertained Internet wannabe sensations.

As mentioned, I had planned to blog thusly, until, having watched a few of these amateurish, low-production-value vignettes,

I caught the bug!!

Sadly, it only took a few minutes of online viewing, and I had an raging case of “Happy” fever. I simply couldn’t help but enjoy the positive, unassuming faces and unpolished choreography. I began to take greater and greater delight in the carefree, no-strings-attached, boundless joy exhibited by the participants whose uncomplicated yet contagiously sincere joy seems motivated by nothing more than swaying to the catchy rhythms of Pharrell’s redundant melody, easy-to-sing lyrics, and uplifting tone. There is something magnetic about the smiles and unrehearsed moves that makes one want to “catch” whatever they’ve got going for them!

To be fair…

you should start with the “official” music video by Pharrell. Then feel free to click on and watch some of the takes on Pharrell’s video below (a small fraction of those available online):

  1. Great Lakes Institute of Management (U.S.)
  2. Syracuse University
  3. Children in China
  4. People in Santiago, Chile
  5. People in Prague, Czech Republic
  6. People in Kampot, Cambodia (disabled citizens)
  7. People in Laval, France
  8. People in Rome, Italy
  9. People in Abu Dhabi (U.A.E.) (about 40 nationalities shown)
  10. People in Jerusalem (mostly teenagers)

If I have any critique about the “Happy” song’s message, in my melodically-induced-dopamine joie de vivre, it would be to remind folks that happiness is, in fact, not the truth. Jesus is the truth–and way and life (John 14:6), as he himself has also reminded us (see also John 8: 31-32). Only a personal relationship with Jesus Christ can bring us genuine and enduring happiness, as well as peace and hope. If our happiness is based merely on the transitory pleasures of this fallen world, no matter how innocent or noble, it will surely not last. Rather, we will experience the same roller coaster ride of ups and downs on our journey through this time side of life as do those who don’t know the Lord at all. Jesus also reminded His disciples (and us) that “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” (John 14:27, NASB). And the apostle Paul, even though in prison, writes “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4: 4, NASB). Perhaps most memorable are what have been referred to as the Beattitudes, 9 prescriptions for happiness direct from the Lord’s mouth in his hillside sermon. (As you read these, remember that the word “blessed” may also be translated “happy.”) Therein, we should find the greatest fulfillment for our souls, as well as our minds. (see Matthew 5:1-12) (Tweet This)

What’s the take away for mass comm students?

Bastien (2009) showed us that music has the ability to foster productive dialogue on important issues. I’ve recently covered this in my Senior Seminar (capstone) class at ETBU as we discussed the dibilitating effects of the stigma of being diagnosed and living with HIV/AIDS, especially in developing nations (including some in Africa and Latin America). Bastien believes that African popular songs may be an effective use of mass media, in that they may help overcome resistance and help push back some of the barriers to effective discussion and get people talking. Specifically, Bastien expects this will happen in three distinct ways:

  1. Helping correct risky behaviors associated with HIV/AIDS
  2. Helping correct misunderstandings about how HIV/AIDS is spread
  3. Providing context and appeal for popular social issues (through allegories and themes in songs)

King David, who frequently made time to worship the Lord in song and verse, found happiness in his relationship with his Heavenly Father. The psalms he was inspired to write can help us do the same. For example, “Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him. Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart! (Psalm 32:10-11, NIV)

So… why not lower your defenses and try to “catch” a little of the “Happy” bug? And then…?

Try to spread it!

Darrell Roe (Ph.D., UGA, 1998) is an Assoc. Prof. of Mass Communication at ETBU. His specialty is analyzing the content of visual media and its effects on audiences.

They can’t sleep…

Earlier this week in my Broadcast News Reporting class we were discussing how to write a hard TV news story about the recent spree of violent crimes known as “The Knock-Out Game.” This sadistic “game” is generally perpetrated by young males in urban settings, sometimes in broad daylight. Generally, one male from among a group (or even walking all alone) will sucker-punch an elderly woman or unsuspecting man, an innocent passer-by, perhaps someone carrying something. In every case, the victim is caught completely unaware and completely defenseless. Coming from the blind side (or even from behind), the assailants hit their targets with a full force fist punch in the head, knocking them unconscious and to the ground with such violent force that some have died from their injuries. All have suffered serious injuries.

Why is this happening?

There is no theft or sexual assault accompanying the attacks. Wallets, purses, and bags are left intact, even beside the victims. There is little apparent motive, other than a few miscreants wanting to amuse themselves. But again…

Why?

Solomon (inspired to write Proverbs) tells us that wicked and evil [people] “cannot sleep unless they do evil; And they are robbed of sleep unless they make someone stumble” (Proverbs 4:14-16, NASB). This very clearly tells us the Who, What, and Why of the story. It’s enough to get a writer going. But in class discussion another culprit became apparent, one that sees the crime but doesn’t help the helpless, one that may be as much to blame as those who strike down the innocent.

Who’s watching?

Photo Credit: hunnnterrr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: hunnnterrr via Compfight cc

The CAMERA is!

Yes, the camera! Several students, as well as I, became increasingly convinced through our discussion that the cameras which captured the crimes for all to see, as well as the Internet and TV networks which repeatedly showed the attacks, were very much accomplices in the crimes. No doubt. First, there are the security cameras in many locations, all too effective in capturing the attacks, but not always clear enough to identify…

Who Done It?

In fact, at least one assault was videoed by the assailants themselves on a cell phone, which later got lots of TV “news” air time, having made it into social media streams faster than the news of the crime itself, far faster than any ambulance could arrive on the scene to help.

In previous blogs I’ve pointed out that research indicates that visual media inspire imitation. Vicarious learning may be a release for some, but for others, a cue to reenact and reinforce what they’ve learned. Pictures and video on social media are no exception to this, and they may, in fact, make the behaviors shared by others seem much more plausible and easy to carry out. Add the illusion of anonymity, and there is very little regard for the consequences of one’s actions.

How do we write about it?

The budding journalists in my class were clearly struggling with how to begin telling a serious news story for their audience. The challenge of crafting that LEAD SENTENCE can be daunting for anyone, especially when a story evokes a range of strong emotions, not only for the victims, but for the journalists themselves. Our discussions about WHO did WHAT to WHOM, WHERE and WHY became very spirited. But when I try to get students to nail down one strong, concise phrase that grabs our attention, sets the tone of the story, and compels us to want to hear more, many are stymied.

As I typically find in class discussions about issues that are highly evocative, there are several stumbling blocks that must be overcome.

  1. Victim blaming (lack of empathy)–likely an attempt to gain distance from the uncomfortable topic
  2. Joking–making light of the injuries and seriousness of the crime
  3. Prioritizing–inability to distinguish the most important facts from lesser important facts
  4. Newsworthy elements–inability to choose which angle to take on the story, such as impact, magnitude, proximity, oddity, etc. (There are 8.)
Darrell Roe (Ph.D., UGA, 1998) is an Assoc. Prof. of Mass Communication at ETBU. His specialty is analyzing the content of visual media and its effects on audiences.

 

 

What’s My Line?

The following are listed as “AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Movie Quotes” (See more here!)

  1. “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a…” (Gone With the Wind1939)
  2. “I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse.” (The Godfather, 1972)
  3. “I coulda been a contender.” (On the Waterfront, 1954)
  4. “Toto, I’ve got a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” (The Wizard of Oz, 1939)
  5. “Here’s looking at you, kid.” (Casablanca, 1942)
  6. “Go ahead, make my day.” (Sudden Impact, 1983)
  7. “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.” (Sunset Blvd., 1950)
  8. “May the Force be with you.” (Star Wars, 1977)
  9. “Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.” (All About Eve, 1950)
  10. “You talking to me?” (Taxi Driver, 1976)

To which quote can you most relate?

One of the reasons that films appeal so much to us is their ability to make connections to our lives, our past and experiences, our inspirations and aspirations. We remember iconic scenes and unforgettable lines for years–perhaps out of context–almost like fragments from actual experience.

Why does it resonate?

George Gerbner developed cultivation theory in the late 1960s. His work in this area became a seminal part of mass communication research from the 1960s through the 1990s. Although the theory has had its detractors, it has indisputably furthered the way we study mass media. Cultivation theory purports that heavy media viewers of TV (or film) will more likely believe the version of “reality” shown on TV than that they actually experience in real life. It predicts that heavy viewers will have mainstreaming effects in which their views of society will line up with that depicted on media. It further predicts a resonance effect, in which media portrayals seems to resonate (or ring true) to what a heavy viewer is experiencing, thus, lending further credibility to media’s versions of reality overall.

What’s the take away for mass comm students?

Nothing is irrelevant. Everything, no matter how subtle, has a potential effect on media audiences. I try to remind my students that writing is more than an academic exercise. They need to think about the effect of words (and actions). What seems at first like mere words on a page will soon become some form of reality for those who hear (and/or see) the results of what is written. I want them to want to critically analyze media writing and depictions, as well as their own creations, anticipating the results of mass communicated messages.

I would also remind them of what Jesus said.

“After Jesus called the crowd to Him, He said to them, “Hear and understand. 11 It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man.”12 Then the disciples *came and *said to Him, “Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this statement?” 13 But He answered and said, “Every plant which My heavenly Father did not plant shall be uprooted. 14 Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.”

15 Peter said to Him, “Explain the parable to us.” 16 Jesus said, “Are you still lacking in understanding also? 17 Do you not understand that everything that goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and is eliminated? 18 But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. 20 These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man.” (Matthew 15:10-20, NASB)

Dr. Darrell Roe (Ph.D., UGA, 1998) is an Assoc. Prof. of Mass Communication at ETBU. His specialty is analyzing the content of visual media and its effects on audiences.

Oh, my…

How would you finish this all-too-common expression?

Photo Credit: liquidnight via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: liquidnight via Compfight cc

I am convinced that most people–my students included–would, sadly, complete it by calling on the Creator.

But not in sincerity. Rather, in vain.

Horse feathers! Poppycock! Fiddlesticks!

Do we ever really mean these expressions literally? Do we take time to think what they really mean and then speak them sincerely to someone, having considered the possible implications of our speech?

Probably not.

Why not? Likely because we think of them as merely fillers… void of true meaning, polite substitutes for their more bawdy counterparts.  In other words, people tend to use these filler words IN VAIN.

In fact, whenever we speak without meaning what we say, aren’t we referring to the subject IN VAIN? If I say “Good Morning” to you out of habit without really meaning it, did I really mean “Good”? Did I really think about it being “Morning”? Did I even consider whether you were actually having a “good morning” or not? If the answer to any of these is “No,” then I spoke this rather benign phrase to you not only innocuously, but also IN VAIN. Yes, IN VAIN.

The Third Commandment states very clearly, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain (Exodus 20:7, KJV). It’s a commandment, not a suggestion.

Can you imagine someone walking down the street randomly calling out names or words they don’t mean?

Whataburger! Gladys! Elm Street! Chevy Tahoe!!

Wouldn’t we think they had lost their mind?

What if someone texted you with seemingly uncalled-for proper nouns?

Franklin Delano Roosevelt! Santa Claus! Nebraska! Jumpin’ Jehoshaphat!!

Would we be offended? Would we block them from messaging us? Or would we laugh and/or take it lightly, as what we’ve come to expect from our superficial communication these days? (And then maybe even return the post to them using a similarly VAIN turn of phrase?)

What is your point, already, Dr. Roe?

Our students, like most of society, have become far too comfortable in vaguely and insincerely referencing the name of our Almighty God, our Heavenly Father, the One whose Name and Person should always, ALWAYS be held in highest reverence by all who breathe… since He gives us breath… and everything else we have from His generous hand. (See Isaiah 42:5; Acts 17:24-28; Psalm 145:14-16)

Why do people do it?

In their intriguing study, Nabi and Clark (2008) found that “negatively reinforced behaviors on TV may be modeled anyway” (p. 407), that is, despite, and perhaps even because they are negatively modeled. Pointing to Social Cognitive theory (SCT), Nabi and Clark remind us that “vicarious learning” (p. 409) is indeed prevalent among TV audiences. Echoing Kellner’s (1980) work, in which he warns that “[TV's] imagery is. . . prescriptive as well as descriptive,” (p. 5),  Nabi and Clark’s research help us understand that what we view may ultimately become a guide for our own behavior thereafter.

What’s the take away for our mass comm students?

It is challenging, but vital to get students to recognize where their patterns (and bad habits) of communicating come from. In fact, teaching people to become self-reflective, in general, is a daunting task, but oh, so vital.

In class, we have to begin by discussing what seems most obvious–because that’s where the pernicious influence of society begins to have its influence. We have to discuss why we do–or don’t–think of such phrases as “Oh, my God!” (or its text version, OMG!) as being just another way of showing surprise or disdain. Are we speaking TO the Almighty when we employ such words? If not, then why are we using His Name–IN VAIN? (His Name is above all Names, right? See Philippians 2:9-11.)

Or did we forget?

A few years ago a detergent maker began to advertise what was a short-lived addition to their long-known brand name. I’d like to think it was informed, pro-active media-savvy consumers who got them to change their name back and to stop running those irritating commercials. People like my students who have learned from class discussions not to take such things for granted, and from Bible-reading Christians who have learned that they will give an accounting for every careless word. (See Matthew 12:36.)

I mean, really? All-Mighty laundry detergent? Is it that good? Only God is good, said His only Son (Luke 18:19).

What was Sun Products Corp. thinking?

Photo Credit: AMagill via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: AMagill via Compfight cc

 

The Impact of Immorality… Shhh!

On Sunday, February 16, 2014, Mitt Romney was interviewed on NBC’s Meet the Press. Asked by David Gregory if he thought same-sex marriages were going to have a negative impact on society (given that so many states are starting to allow gay marriage), Romney quipped,

“Oh I think it’s going to take a long, long time to determine whether having gay marriage will make it less likely for kids to be raised in settings where there’s a mom and a dad. That’s not gonna happen overnight. It’s something which happens over generations…”

Wrong answer, Mitt.

Now, what am I going to tell my students, many of whose parents voted for you in the last presidential election because they believed you have conservative values? To his credit, Romney did persist in saying he thinks it is best for children to be raised with a father and mother.

But to the question of IMPACT…

  1. The impact of not recognizing the spread of sin in American culture
  2. The impact of not being willing to disabuse sinful behavior
  3. The impact of “letting bygones be bygones”

What does God think about the IMPACT?

Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Paul wrote, “18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. 24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. 25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.” (Romans 1:18-27, NASB)

The spiral of silence theory

is a political science and mass communication theory propounded by Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann. The theory asserts that a person is less likely to voice an opinion on a topic–if the person feels s/he is in the minority–for fear of reprisal or isolation from the majority.  The media play a large part in determining what people’s perception of the dominant opinion is, since our own, personal, direct observations are limited to a small percentage of the population. As the media’s coverage of the majority opinion gradually becomes the status quo, people who think they are in the minority are less and less likely to speak out. The theory assumes that people are constantly assessing the public’s opinion and that they use the media to do so. It also assumes that we have an inherent fear of isolation and know what opinions will bring on isolation by the majority.

What’s the take away for mass comm students?

Young Christians entering the media workplace will immediately be faced with challenges to their faith and to their willingness to promote God’s views over man’s. They will find the public arena circus where media thrive does two simultaneous and contradictory things:

  1. It sucks out the most venomous of public opinion under the guise of freedom of expression, and
  2. It spits that venomous opinion directly into the eyes of people with conservative viewpoints.
Photo Credit: TomSpinker via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: TomSpinker via Compfight cc

Christians in media

That is, my students entering the meretricious realm of news, public relations, creative production, and the like, must find a way to keep godly viewpoints from being automatically marginalized. They must give voice to what has largely been called “politically incorrect” and, thus, snuffed out like a burgeoning ember. They must quell the fear of reprisal that retards balanced and fair reporting and portrayals of all perspectives, especially those given to us by the Creator of all.

Dr. Darrell Roe (Ph.D., UGA, 1998) is an Assoc. Prof. of Mass Communication at ETBU. His specialty is analyzing the content of visual media and its effects on audiences.

Marty, the F-Bomber

According to Variety online, Martin Scorsese’s recent mega-hit, Oscar-nominated film The Wolf of Wall Street, has more instances of “the F-word” than any film in history. With 506 utterances in three hours, it easily tops the previous record-holder, Spike Lee’s Summer of Sam (with 435). Variety also describes The Wolf as being “all about excess,” including sex and drug abuse scenarios which I won’t go into here.

What Jesus said matters far more than any commentary I could write about the state of the “Hollyweird” movie industry and more than any academic perspective I could tell my blog readers and my mass communication students. If I but compare the set of values presented in The Wolf of Wall Street to the values Jesus presented from His world to ours daily, always living faithfully what He preached, I could efficiently end this blog with the following quote from the Lord, point supremely being made:

33 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. 35 The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. 36 But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it inthe day of judgment. 37 For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:33-37, NASB)

Writing through inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul also warns against using bad language in his letter to the Ephesians (e.g., Ephesians 4:29 ).

What’s the academic perspective?

Photo Credit: 96dpi via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: 96dpi via Compfight cc

In their intriguing study, Nabi and Clark (2008) found that “negatively reinforced behaviors on TV may be modeled anyway” (p. 407), that is, despite, and perhaps even because they are negatively modeled. And a plethora of mass communication research on everything from sitcoms to movies to TV ads and even the so-called reality of news violence has bolstered our understanding over the decades that there is something inherently attractive and, unfortunately, more memorable about negative portrayals than positive ones (be it strong/suggestive dialogue, anti-social behavior, immoral lifestyles, physical conflict/injury, and even damage to property).

Pointing to Social Cognitive theory (SCT), Nabi and Clark remind us that “vicarious learning” (p. 409) is indeed prevalent among TV audiences. Echoing Kellner’s (1980) work, in which he warns that “[TV's] imagery is. . . prescriptive as well as descriptive,” (p. 5),  Nabi and Clark’s research help us understand that what we view may ultimately become a guide for our own behavior thereafter.

What’s the take away for mass comm students?

Our students need to OWN the task soon to be set before them. Some of the most intelligent writing for film and television has been provocative, not because it body slams our libidos or cattle prods our visceral instincts, but because it makes us think–think about the noble, the possible, the enriching. It takes little imagination or skill to ambush the senses by flinging expletives like hand grenades.

Our students MUST do better when they enter the industry than continue to “slop the hogs” in feeding hungry audiences.

Our students simply MUST do better.

Again, Paul’s letter to the Ephesians makes it clear as to what lifestyle is pleasing to God and what is not, the latter including coarse speech, greed, and immorality (Ephesians 5:1-12). Scorsese’s latest box office success is rife with everything loved by the world, but not by the Almighty. Read what the Spirit inspired James to write also on this very subject! (James 4:1-10, NASB)

And He [Jesus] was saying to them, “Take care what you listen to. By your standard of measure it will be measured to you; and more will be given you besides.” (Mark 4:24, NASB)

Dr. Darrell Roe (Ph.D., UGA, 1998) is an Assoc. Prof. of Mass Communication at ETBU. His specialty is analyzing the content of visual media and its effects on audiences.