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Details and Context of the Chosen Media Artifact
The media artifact selected for this assignment is Black Panther, a film that was recently shown in movie theaters all around the globe. This media artifact received a loud social response as it was one of the most expected films of the year and because it contained a powerful message. From the sociological perspective, Black Panther is an interesting work to explore in terms of its meaning for the modern society and its various groups. It is the case because the film presents a fictional story where one of the countries of Africa, known as Wakanda, becomes a proud owner of a precious resource. Consequently, the movie explores an alternative reality where an African nation grows into the most technologically developed state on the entire planet. The film emphasizes the uniqueness of African culture, its appreciation of heritage, the value of familial and social ties, and the strong sense of togetherness. Practically, using the fictional land of Wakanda and its culture as an example of a wise structure of the society and the established social equality, creators of this movie attempted to point out the contrast between the film and reality.
Multiple course concepts can be applied to the selected media artifact and its details and context in terms of sociological influence and meaning. For example, the first-course concept that is necessary to discuss in this paper is that of media functions in general and socialization and social control in particular (Lyon, 2018). These concepts stand for the social impact that the media can achieve. Specifically, by sending messages incorporated into their content, media can control social perceptions and enable socialization of certain population groups as opposed to their marginalization.
The next applicable course concept is media advertising. When it comes to this concept, critical thinking is rather crucial because the advertisement can be viewed as one of many forms messages can take (Lyon, 2018). Also, advertising can be perceived as a “softer” version of the argument (Lyon, 2018). Moreover, this concept can be connected to the idea of flak as one of the effects produced by mass media. Specifically, its ability to stimulate and promote anti-ideologies is important. Such a situation becomes possible due to the capacity of the media to broadcast and popularize beliefs (Lyon, 2018). By disseminating negative images of certain social groups, media shape the social perception of these groups as evil or dangerous outsiders, thus contributing to their marginalization.
Application of the Concepts
The underrepresentation of African Americans in the media has long served as a serious reason for criticism. The film industry has been accused of the exclusion of African Americans from the casts of popular movies and TV shows for decades (Cuby, 2015). Today, the gap in quantity has been addressed in many cases, but the quality of images of Black people continues to be a problem (Meyerhoffer, 2015; Punyanunt-Carter, 2008). As a result, due to negative media portrayal boosting harmful stereotypes, the lives of people of African descent all around the world have been unfairly and unnecessarily complicated (Donaldson, 2015). This fact is known by all population groups, and this is why films that focus on Black history, experiences, outstanding persons, and other achievements are often warmly welcomed.
Black Panther is one of such films. Its uniqueness is in the diversity of images of Black people that it has to offer. This movie addresses the problems of anti-ideology by mentioning the fragmentation of people of color as their weakness. Moreover, the creators of the film attempted to go deeper and produce an alternative version of Black history presenting an African nation whose image differs significantly from the traditional stereotypes. For instance, Wakanda is a rich and resourceful country, with an exceptionally unified collective culture, social equality between men and women, and a fair vision of the purpose of political power. This message can be viewed as a social advertisement and a softer version of the argument supporting the equality of all people regardless of their color and pointing to the current marginalization faced by Black people. In other words, a milder form of social control is carried out via a popular film that includes many African characters as representations of pride, rich cultural heritage, nobility, and self-sacrificial dedication to a good cause.
Limitations of the Media Artifact and Ways of Addressing Them
One of the major drawbacks of this media artifact is its fictional nature. Practically, for biased individuals, the message included in the film can be distorted by the idea that a prosperous, generous, and peaceful African country can only exist in the form of an optimistic legend or a fairy tale that has nothing to do with reality. Moreover, the nobility of Wakanda and its emphasized togetherness have an ironic limitation right within the movie content as this incredibly rich and developed country has been hiding its prosperity and ignoring its impoverished, starving neighbors for centuries. This way, it is possible to see Wakanda as a selfish capitalist nation instead of a peaceful and benevolent culture. In turn, a conclusion can be made that the image of uncorrupt power is utopic and difficult to sustain even in fictional stories.
Since the major limitation is concerned with viewers’ biases, the most relevant way of addressing this issue is the promotion of positive information about African countries and people living in them. As Haile (2018) points out, the movie serves as a great opportunity for everyone to analyze their relationships with others. The world must know that there is not so much negative about Black people and that there certainly is much positive about them. Another adaptation to address the film’s limitations may be the increased possibilities for Black cinema to enter the movie industry. The more popularized the facts about African people’s lives are, the easier it will be for non-Africans to recognize that everyone is equal and deserves fair treatment.
Cuby, M. (2015). How to enjoy pop culture when you’re Black. Vice. Web.
Donaldson, L. (2015). When the media misrepresents black men, the effects are felt in the real world. The Guardian. Web.
Haile, R. (2018). How Back Panther asks us to examine who we are to one another. Longreads. Web.
Lyon, K. (2018). The mass media [lecture].
Meyerhoffer, C. A. (2015). “I have more in common with Americans than I do with illegal aliens”: Culture, perceived threat, and neighborhood preferences. Sociology of Race and Ethnicity, 1(3), 387-393.
Punyanunt-Carter, N. M. (2008). The perceived realism of African American portrayals on television. The Howard Journal of Communications, 19, 241-257.