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sexualisation/censorship/violence:

Task 1

In a general sense, censorship means banning or preventing certain material from being seen by certain others. In media terms, the most commonplace example s something being banned from being broadcast (on either TV or radio). However it could also include the prevention of a media product from going on sale, or not allowing newspapers or the news to print or reveal certain things. Censorship exists for a few different reasons, and people don’t always agree with them.

 

One reason for censorship is to prevent children and unwilling people from seeing inappropriate, harmful or shocking content. This includes things like sex, violence, swearing, and drug taking. The reasons for this are understandable, and it is why there are age ratings of films. However, you can’t simply use an age rating when it comes to television, as someone flipping through the channels may very well see something they did not want to. So as a sort of compromise there is what’s called the watershed, which is an official time that afterwards people can broadcast things with this sort of content.

 

Arguments against this sort of censorship tend to be things such as it ‘prevents artistic freedom’. The artists (script writers, filmmakers etc.) should be able to express themselves in any way they want, with any kind of content they want. However with the watershed system in place people are almost always able to create and broadcast their content anyway. Some things do get banned altogether, even from DVD release. This is fairly rare and it usually means the content is in some way ‘extreme’, such as a graphic depiction of a child being raped. On the whole people tend to agree it is acceptable that these things be banned. Another argument, usually referring to things on the news is that shocking videos that the news channels want to show are the truth, and nobody, not even children, should be kept from the truth. To not show this things would, in a sense, be ‘lying’. Unfortunately for people that think this, more people tend to think that children should be sheltered. They may be scarred emotionally if not, and/ or very disturbed and unhappy.     

 

Other than censoring material, the other main type of censorship is that of information. This means keeping info or files classified and secret from the general public. It is often the government that does this (e.g. the secret services and military understandably must keep some things classified), but organisations, institutions, companies and people can do, or attempt to do, this also. The reasons for this are sometimes to do with it not being ‘safe’ for the general public to have access to certain information. Sometimes it is simply because the current holder of the information doesn’t want it to be public (e.g. privacy reasons). Sometimes it is because the info is personal or private and it would either be morally unjust, or even illegal for it to be distributed. Finally sometimes it is because (the government in particular) wishes to uphold the ignorance of the people, and not allow them to know the horrifying truth about something they have done or are involved in (e.g. MK Ultra).

 

People are opposed to censorship of information for all sorts of reasons. Mainly it is that people have aright to know organisations and governments are getting up to behind closed doors. A good topical example of this is the American whistleblower Edward Snowden. He leaked files and cables from his position working for the NSA (National Security Agency). He did this for moral reasons, as the NSA were spying on millions of citizens and politicians all over the world. He wanted to uncover these atrocities and shed some light on the shady behaviour of America’s security agencies. He is now a wanted felon and has had to flee the country and take political refuge in Russia, something nobody should have to do. A lot of people believed what Snowden did was a good thing, as people deserved to know these things about the NSA, as it was a threat to our freedom. People believe that if a government is able to keep lots of things classified it will do immoral things for the ‘benefit of the people’. (As it says in Orwell’s 1984, “ignorance is strength”). It is in this vein of thought that conspiracy theories often arise.         

 

There are a small number of governing bodies that uphold the standards of the media to the general public’s officially set standards:

 

BBFC –  The British Board of Film Classification is an organisation set up to ‘classify’ and censor films in the UK. The responsibility it is most known for is selecting which age rating films should be, which is then reinforced by cinemas and put on the front of DVDs meaning nobody below that age may purchase them. It is a non-governmental organisation (so it is independant of parliament, and holds itself accountable). It is also funded by the film industry. The age restrictions they use are one from: U (universal, suitable for all), PG (parental guidance, generally suitable for all, some scenes may be unsuitable for young children, parents may wish to check the film first), 12 (nobody below the age of 12) 12A (this is for cinemas only, it means children below 12 must be accompanied by an adult), 15 (nobody below the age of 15), 18 (nobody below the age of 18), and R18 (can only be shown at licensed adult cinemas or sold at licensed sex shops, to anyone 18 or older. Films in this classification will usually contain genuine acts of sex or sexual activity as well as extreme pornography and anything deemed intended for sexual stimulation).     

 

OfCom – The Office of Communications (known commonly as OfCom) is an authoritative body that deals with the regulation and competition for the broadcasting, telecommunications and postal industries of the United Kingdom. It was set up i 2003, is a statutory corporation (written into a Law and government approved) and based in London. It’s duties are to represent and protect the citizens by encouraging competition and censoring harmful material. They also handle licensing, research, codes and policies, complaints, competition and protecting the radio spectrum from abuse.       

 

Advertising Standards Authority – The ASA is the organisation that ensures advertising in the UK complies with its specifically laid out advertising standard codes. It is self regulating, and ‘non-statutory’, meaning it cannot enforce legislation, though it’s codes comply almost interchangeably with statute law anyway. It is also not funded by the government but by a levy (tax) on the advertising industry. It’s main roles include investigating complaints about ads, sales promotions or direct marketing. Also (by it’s own words) make sure “no marketing communication should mislead, or be likely to mislead, by inaccuracy, ambiguity, exaggeration, omission or otherwise”.     

 

Committee For Advertising Practise -The CAP is what’s called a ‘sister company’ to the ASA. Cap are the ones who are constantly updating and revising the  British Code of Advertising, Direct Marketing and Sales Promotion (also known as the CAP code). The Cap code is in it’s 12th edition. The CAP is split into four main groups, the Code Policy team, Monitoring team, a Compliance team, and a Copy Advice team.    

 

Task 2

‘Violence On-Screen Causes Violence In Real Life’

 

With the surge in broadcast and online media in recent years, there has been a lot of debate as to whether the violence we are exposed to on-screen, has created more violent crime and a more violent society. There are many arguments for and against this, with the main debate usually coming down to how ‘passive’ we are as an audience, and how we take in things that we see on screen.

 

If we take took the ‘hypodermic needle model’ as the truth, then logically the portrayed violence would cause us at the least to have more aggressive or violent midgets. However this model is almost completely disregarded as the actual truth, because we now know that audiences are always on a spectrum, going from passive to active. The are are more passive viewers and viewing styles that mean people take in more, and there are more active viewers and styles that tend to think more about what they’re seeing, and not always ‘agree’’ with it or the ethics behind it. This is what’s called an ‘oppositional response’. If someone agrees with the violence they see (and the media product as a whole) it would be called a prefered response. Someone with this response may be more likely to be affected by the violence, as they have no problem with it or seeing it. There is also what’s called a ‘negotiated response’, meaning people agree with some parts of a product but not others. One example of this could be someone who likes a film, but thinks it is too violent, having this opinion is an active viewing style and very possibly again will mean less of an affect on said person.   

 

Many people feel exposure to violence is generally okay, but not when it comes to children (especially younger ones). This is because children are more passive viewers, as well as being generally more ‘sponge-like’ (taking in a subconsciously processing everything). Also children when the images are extremely graphic, gory or horror themed can become disturbed or even develop a nervous disposition because of it. Sasha Emmons reporting for CNN wrote ‘Age seven or eight is a turning point, what experts refer to as “the age of reason.”’ She explained how this tends to be the age were children can tell the difference between fantasy and reality, as well as clearly know that just because something is happening on-screen it doesn’t mean it’s OK in real life.

 

This concern about children is a big part of the reason why we have age ratings on films and games. Sasha Emmons went on to write ‘Researchers who study TV’s effect on kids say this black-and-white view offered by the TV world can cripple kids living in a gray real world. “If a child sees himself as the ‘good guy,’ then anyone who disagrees with him must be a ‘bad guy’ — and this black-and-white thinking doesn’t leave much room for trying to see it from the other side, or working out a win-win compromise,”’. So another thing to consider when it comes to children is that in the film world people are often categorised easily into good and bad, but in real life there is often a huge range of ambiguity on many subjects that surround morality.  

 

There have been a number of real life crimes that allegedly have been caused directly by media products, usually, almost always being films or video games. These are also quite often children, affirming the argument that children take violence in a lot more, and therefore should be sheltered or stopped from viewing it. One gruesome example is Daniel Barton, who was jailed for life at the age of 14 for killing his mother. He beat her to death with a hammer and then set alight her body using petrol, after seeing the same style of killing on coronation street. According to the Independant, Daniel had become ‘obsessed’ with the character John Stape, who committed them murder in Coronation Street. He also allegedly watched clips of horror gore-flick Saw (which features victims left in deadly traps they must escape from in time). Clearly the media had a huge influence her over the way  in which Daniel killed his mother. However, there is, of course, no way to prove that Daniel wouldn’t have killed someone anyway, even without any media influence. People have been around for centuries, and we have always killed one another. Broadcast media has only been around for a hundred or so years.

 

When a seemingly media-inspired murder like this happens, people (very understandably) become extremely emotive. They have a tendency to lash out at the media corporations, saying it was all their fault. JustTV posted an article by a parent that said ‘There may be some correlation between violent behavior and particular media consumption practices, and in some instances, violent media might be a contributing factor to inspire particular violent actions, but such linkages are so much lower than other factors (like poverty, drug/alcohol use, patterns of physical & emotional abuse, and access to weapons) that suggestions to curb violence by changing media are simply an impractical, ineffectual distraction.’ I think this person makes some really interesting and valid points. People, children included, are such complex beings that how can we decipher what the ‘main’ or even only cause of a murder was. Surely many factors need to be taken into consideration. It may also be worth noting that children who commit murders like these quite frequently have a history of abuse of some kind. So it is very ambiguous as to whether it is or isn’t the media to blame.     

 

It is also important, when looking at violence effects debates, to consider the context violence is in. Glorified violence in video games where say you are rewarded for killing the most people (as is often the case), seems that it would logically have more of a negative impact on someones mind, than a film which portrays murder as a heinous act. Also there is an argument that violence n the news should always been shown, as it is real and genuinely happening, and people deserve to see the truth of what’s going on.Again there is a counter-argument, that constantly showing real violence in the news creates a pessimistic, fearful society. Famous director Roman Polanski once said “You have to show violence the way it is. If you don’t show it realistically, then that’s immoral and harmful. If you don’t upset people, then that’s obscenity.” He makes  a very insightful point there, showing violence and murder etc. as something casual or fun could create real problems, as children and more passive audiences will not see the huge emotional, societal and legal implications of the violence. But when the huge consequential implications are shown, it will surely not create a violent society, but put people off of being violent.   

  

http://www.mediaknowall.com/as_alevel/mediaviolence/violence.php -overview article

http://edition.cnn.com/2013/02/21/living/parenting-kids-violence-media/ -dmagaing to kids?

http://justtv.wordpress.com/2012/12/17/media-violence-and-debating-effects-influences/ -opinion unimportant  

 

Task 3

Analysing a Music Video: ‘Ayo Technology’ by 50 Cent (Feat. Justin Timberlake)

In this music video there is clearly a very different representation of men and women. The two male singers and the couple of other men we see in the video are dressed in fashionable, expensive looking clothes (mainly suits). They are dancing and performing the song. Women in this video are also dancing although in a totally different style, which is totally sensual and erotic. The women are also dressed very ‘skimpily’, generally in bra’s and micro-skirts. Even near the beginning a women is seen getting into her car, in public, in these clothes. So clearly the creators of this video wanted to show off the womens bodies a lot, but the mens stay totally concealed. Many people would argue this is sexualisation of the women, and a very negative way to represent genders. The men are meant to look cool, and high-class whereas the women are meant to look sexual and objectified.    

 

What actually is happening in the video, is that Cent and Timberlake are using various forms of technology (night vision binoculars, rifle scopes, futuristic wall sized touch screens etc.) to locate, watch and arguably stalk these half clothed dancing women. This to some could seem pretty creepy, and I have a feeling the reason people just accept it is because it is two high-rolling, attractive respected artists doing it. If somebody made a video about two average men spying on women in such a way I think people would be quite shocked. So it is interesting to see that artists like these (and the creators of the video) can get away with so much more because of the artists status.  

 

The way the two artists are ‘stalking’ the women like this, I believe is also a negative representation of men. It is not particularly as derogatory, however it makes men out to be predatorial, and like they are obsessed with getting women and sex which is simply a giant stereotype that doesn’t fit huge amounts of men. So not only are they derogatory to women, but they represent men (to me) negatively as well.

 

At one point in the video Cent goes into a house full of women dancing eroticly, running their hands over themselves. Some of them are dressed up in ‘themed’ revealing clothes (for example, a ‘slutty policewoman’). I think this shows how the women are thought of as entertainment. This idea is emphasised when he then sats down, is blindfolded, then woman take it in turns to give him lap dances. I thought this was amusing as it confirms that in the video he doesn’t even care who is dancing for/ on him, so long as one of them is entertaining him. This again shows of how women aren’t actually thought of (in videos like these) as individuals, but instead as faceless sexual objects.

 

I think we can tell a lot about the representation through the shots used in this video. The shots on the two singers are predominantly mid-shots, so we can see there faces and their torsos, meaning their dancing is captured. However, with the women, often we don’t even actually see their faces, it’s just low angles of their bodies, often with their backsides centre screen. There are also lots of slow zooms onto their bodies whilst they dance. This suggests to me it is not the person that is trying be captured, but just the most sexual parts of that person. They are meant to look sexy, not like people. Again this is very degrading. When we do see the women’s faces, they are all (other than one woman we see briefly at the start) making gormless, lustful expressions. This continues with the stereotyped idea being portrayed that women are ‘always up for it’. They are sexual beings and not actually people.

 

All in all I think I can conclude I feel this music video is very degrading to women, and negatively stereotyping to both genders. I don’t think it would actually be that much of a problem, if it were a handful of videos and artists that did this, however this is not the case. It is the sheer quantity of music videos these days, that have such negative social aspects that I think is where the problem lies. I also believe if it were only a handful, we would see them more for what they actually are: derogatory, degrading and creepy. However because we see this all the time, and are desensitised to the negative aspects, we often scarcely even notice them. They sell well and make people money, but I think at a very damaging cost to our societies overall psyche.      

 

(Task 4) Sexualisation of Women in Music Videos  

There is currently a lot of debate and controversy in the media surrounding the issue of sexualisation. Sexualisation in this sense generally refers to the sexualisation of people, usually women. Sexualising people means making them seen as simply something to have sex with, or something to lust over and think about/ want to have sex with. The arguments arise because people feel this is degrading, and means we no longer see people as human beings but as sex objects. Though not everyone agrees it is a bad thing, and some people argue the artists should be free to create the content they want, without people complaining it is ‘inappropriate’ or damaging. Music videos are a prime place for such sexualisation to take place, and just like the rest the rest of the media industry more often than not it is women that are sexualised.

 

So the question must arise, what are the problems with sexualisation in music videos? Well it is a number of arguments that are usually brought up. The first I have stated already, it causes males to see females as nothing more than sexual. Of course women and men should be seen equally, as complex and having depth, rather than the superficial view of just their appearances that sexualisation creates. This could be particularly true in the case of younger watchers, as the connotations may diffuse more passively into their minds (as children are known to take more in subconsciously). So it is considered very degrading to women. Sexism has existed for practically all of recorded history, and the new found technology and power of the media should, if anything, be aiming to combat and help bring sexism to an end, not irresponsibly contributing to it just for the money. Though people may argue that man too are sometimes sexualised, so it is not ever sexist. Though this argument may lack validity seeing as it is so much more often females that are sexualised.  

 

Some people don’t just believe that sexualisation isn’t a problem, but that it is actually very positive as it empowers women. Women can now be free to act or wear whatever sort of clothes they want, whereas historically they have been repressed, and not allowed to express themselves as sexual beings or even having any sexuality at all. So they argue that now we live in a free society, where people have freedom of speech and artistic freedom, they can do and create whatever they want. It is liberating for both men and women to be empowered through sexually active material, as well as lifestyles (which are sometimes also criticised by the press). It is also the ‘right’ of the production company, as sexualised music videos sell very well, so it is a successful business venture. If pornography is legal sure people should be free to make ‘raunchy’ music videos, which are overall far less explicit?       

Along the lines of creating an unequal view of men and women, some would actually go as far as to say the effect contributes to societies problem of domestic abuse and violence towards women. The unrealistic sexualisation also contributes to ‘rape-culture’. Holly Dustin (reporting for IBT) says ‘There is growing evidence to suggest that a sexualised media, which includes music videos, provides a conducive context for violence against women and girls to flourish by portraying women as constantly sexually available and men as sexual predators. The way black women are portrayed is particularly stereotyped and sexualised in many videos.’ So passively people take in these messages that women are always sexualy available, and then men are constantly ‘chasing’ girls and sex. Also her point about stereotyping specifically black girls is interesting, as this is then possibly both a gender and race problem.  

Another issue people have is the effect it will have on young girls. The problems may be that girls may see these videos and subconsciously take in the messages that it is ‘cool’ or something to aspire to to behave in a promiscuous manner, or to purposefully look a certain way, possibly to dress in revealing clothing. For an adult woman (I personally think) it is entirely her choice if she wants to wear such clothes or act in this way, but I don’t think girls should be exposed to such things so early on, before they actually understand what they are doing and all the connotations attached to it. The BBC did a survey of 1500 parents and found that ‘Most (75%) of parents with daughters said very sexual pop acts were teaching girls they would be “judged on their looks, not their achievements or personality”.’ So it is a worry for parents, especially as music videos don’t currently use an age-rating system, and so children frequently watch them on YouTube and other places online. They are also shown on music channels on television, which have been criticised a lot recently for showing ‘inappropriate material before the 9PM watershed’. There is a possible counter argument to this though in that it teaches girls not to be repressed , socially or sexually. Some people (especially ‘sex-positive feminists) would say there is no problem in anyone being free and confident in their sexuality. They may also argue that girls can’t be encouraged to act and wear ‘inappropriate’ clothing, because they don’t feel any is inappropriate. They would say there is nothing wrong with a girl showing off her body, it is usually men or repressed women who have the problem with this.

The next problem to consider is that some people feel that certain artists simply promote their sexual image to make up for a lack of talent. It is a common saying in the business world that ‘sex sells’. But the music industry should be about talent and creativity, not who can ‘pimp themselves out’ the most. Anna Webster in her essay ‘Living in a Sexualised Society’ wrote ‘It is clear by watching various music channels that the female artists whom young girls are encouraged to look up to rely heavily on their sexiness, raunchy costumes and suggestive dance routines  to attract attention and most importantly to sell records.’ So clearly she thinks this is both a cheap and immoral business move. A simple money making scheme that damages society. She also again touches on the point that young girls look up to these people and so they have a responsibility to be good role models, but often aren’t.

The last of the main arguments against the sexualisation, is that the artists themselves are often allegedly exploited by the industry, the press and especially their managers and producers who very possibly push them towards things they aren’t comfortable with. This is seen as a problem especially when the artists are younger girls (or boys). Teen pop stars are frequently seen as exploited. The problem is that it is debatable, and we possibly won’t ever really know how much is down to the managers and how much of it is down to the artists themselves. A lot of the young female artists that appear in ‘skimpy’ clothing and act raunchily in their music videos claim it is all their choice, but not everyone believes this. Others do reveal they think they have been treated unfairly. Britney Spears is an artist famous for her sexualised image and music videos. This was especially controversial at the start of her career when many deemed her too young to be so sexualised. She was 17 when she made her first music video (‘Hit Me Baby One More Time’), and it featured her in provocatively revealing schoolgirls outfit. The Independant did an article on Spears, quoting her saying ‘’I am too sexualised by the music industry’. It goes on to talk about how she feels her songs and videos are too much about sex, and she wants it to be more about the dancing and the music. The article also reads ‘When asked whether her managers were pushing her further than she wanted to go, she replied “yes”.’ So from that it is pretty clear she doesn’t have the control over her image that she would like. She, in a lot of peoples minds, is being exploited.

However, some people think the industry/ managers can be blamed when an artist regrets her/his actions. Chris Wright (founder and chairman of recording/ producing/ distributing company ‘Chrysalis Group’) says, ‘Female artists who present a sexualised portrayal of themselves in videos and live performances are almost always in control of their image’. This is interesting, and it confirms that we just can’t know for sure when or how much artists have been ‘pushed’ and when it’s entirely their decisions to behave/ show themselves in certain ways. ‘If things go great, a lot of artists think it’s down to them as people; if things go wrong it’s someone else’s fault and the music business is a convenient scapegoat.’ So perhaps when artists complained they have been pressured, we should take it with a pinch of salt. I am sure though that pressuring does go on, and some artists are telling the absolute truth. Though very possibly some are exaggerating or even lying.   

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-24836571 -survey

https://www.essex.ac.uk/sociology/documents/pdf/ug_journal/vol8/2012sc111_annawebster.pdf sexualised society essay

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/news/britney-spears-i-am-too-sexualised-by-the-music-industry-8858611.html Britney

http://www.musicweek.com/news/read/sexualised-female-pop-stars-artists-often-have-themselves-to-blame-says-chris-wright/056831 selfto blame article

 

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About lgriffiths96

Writer, thinker, poet, psychonaut and Netflix binger.

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