Am I the chicken or the egg?

February 25, 2010

Our media says something about who we are.  Yes, we as consumers don’t actually participate in the production of whatever mindless, silly, useless, pointless, inane, shallow, venal, dehumanizing, manipulative (use whatever adjective you like) media in all its many varied and invasive forms.  We do however consume it, willingly or otherwise.  Other people in expensive suits I imagine- in places like N.Y., D.C. and L.A., determine the exact nature of the media that we consume.  But they design it all very carefully with you and I in mind.  They create the songs, movies, TV shows, billboards, magazines, books, flyers, inserts, pop-ups, jingles, commercials and 30 second attack ads based upon what they think about who we are.  They think they know from extensive research, polls, studies, experts, psychologists, questionnaires and surveys just what we will buy, watch, read, glance at, stare at, laugh at, listen to, and tolerate whenwherewhyandhow.   Very often they hit the mark.

Consideration of such matters begs circular questions about life reflecting art and art, life, made more troublesome by the increasing absence of anything resembling actual art.  Is it the chicken or the egg?  Am I the chicken?  When some combination of pictures, words and sounds captures my attention, just who or what is doing the capturing?  When these things that I see and hear that were made by someone I will never meet affect the way that I may think, feel, desire, or understand what exactly is changing and who’s ends are served by that change?  My answers to these questions are my own, and incomplete at that.  I would not presume to answer these questions for you or your children, that is your job, your duty in fact. 

So, next time you are watching that ad for cars or beer or chewing gum or a political party you might want to ask yourself, “who do these people seem to think I am?”  And what does the answer to this question say about those responsible for such an ad (or any other form of media to which one might be subjected)?  The answers to these questions may make you very uncomfortable, and they should considering what they say about who we are as a people and a nation.