Media and marketing have embraced each other and have become inseparable since it became observable how certain interests were promoted and protected. In fact, Schiller (1998) suggested that media has taken “advantage of the special historical circumstances of Western development to perpetuate as truth […] freedom cast in individualistic terms […] offering itself as the guardian of the individual’s well-being, suggesting, if not insisting, that the latter is unattainable without the existence of the former,” (p 189).
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At the same view, Silverblatt proposed that “Americans like to see themselves as rugged individualists, in the mold of John Wayne and Clint Eastwood. However, a delicate balance exists between individualism and conformity. People who are too different become cultural rejects (nerds, geeks, etc.). The trick to rugged individualism, then, is to stand out by being the epitome of style. The Marlboro man simply leads the pack of conformists.” (p 224).
This paper shall try to analyze Silverblatt’s two key elements to interpreting media—process and context and analyze the 6-7 key major points that Silverblatt makes about process and context using the methods and questions he outlines in both chapters to interpret a piece of media using Heffernan’s (2008) “Art in the Age of Franchising.”
In Silverblatt’s book, a chapter is dedicated to Ideological Analysis, Autobiographical Analysis, Nonverbal Communication Analysis, Mythic Analysis, and Analysis of Production Elements. This was designed to make people become aware of the relationships between ideology and culture with the premise that culture is generally accepted as “the customary belief s, social forms, and material character of a social group,” and that “ideology is the system of beliefs or ideas that help determine the thinking and behavior of that culture,” (p 3).
He proceeded to suggest that cultural studies focus on texts revealed in terms of social systems suggesting further that there exists an unequal distribution of power in the present culture that makes the obvious race, gender, and class power, that “forces of domination and subordination are central in our social system,” and that this ideology is repeated in a variety of ways that affect audiences reinforcing dominant ideology (p 3). Media serves to promote cultural hegemony although it is seen as “disarming naturalness within a text” (p 4).
Heffernan’s “Art in the Age of Franchising” underscores the fate of a television show “Friday Night Lights” aired at NBC inspired by the 1990 book by H. G. Bissinger and Peter Berg’s 2004 movie of the same name, about a high school football team at fictional Dillon.
With Silverblatt’s premise, this paper will proceed to point out and summarize Heffernan’s “Art in the Age of Franchising.” In her own words, “Friday Night Lights” has not even one intrinsic flaw — a grating performance, clunker dialogue, far-fetched plotting — that might cost it, viewers…” describing in the article a struggling television show about to be halted. She later was able to surmise that, “The fault of “Friday Night Lights” is extrinsic: the program has steadfastly refused to become a franchise. It is not and will never be “Heroes,” “Project Runway,” “The Hills” or Harry Potter. It generates no tabloid features, cartoons, trading cards, board games, action figures, or vibrating brooms. There will be no “Friday Night Lights: Origins,” and no “FNL Touchdown” for PlayStation.”
Compromise to marketing strategies, as may already be repeatedly pointed out by media observers, has become a necessity in order to survive so that even media itself have to not only re-invent but cast itself to a mold that marketing prepared in order to survive as may be understood with the case of Heffernan’s article. At this point, in Silverblatt’s process, distribution or marketing is the key element that needs to be crucially examined.
Further, Heffernan suggested that “in a digital age a show cannot succeed without franchising. An author’s work can no longer exist in a vacuum, independent of hardy online extensions; indeed, a vascular system that pervades the Internet. Artists must now embrace the cultural theorists’ beloved model of the rhizome and think of their work as a horizontal stem for numberless roots and shoots — as many entry and exit points as fans can devise.”
In this instance, media takes several forms as tabloid features, cartoons, trade cards, games, or even history that hype so readily uses in order to force wide acceptance of fiction as real. Heffernan (2008) pointed out two things “the rise of the Internet and the new raucousness of fans” as inevitable factors that need to be addressed if the show wanted to stay. With the show’s seemingly distance from its viewers or fans, Heffernan suggested that “platforms for supplementary advertising aren’t built, starving even the shows fans profess to love of attention, and thus money, and thus life. Aloof and passive fans kill their darlings.” Hence, the media process that Silverblatt proposed was altogether set aside defying the dominant pose the media need to have at all times.
Elsewhere, it was suggested that propaganda, censorship, and bias in news and public affairs programming as well as structural features — media ownership or funding model — affect the information presented as survival and business measures need to be met prior to what is exactly needed to be shown, reported, or discussed about in media.
While the Heffernan article did not present a substantial example of the media product that could be closely related or directly comparable to the bias, faults, or questionable influence discussed in Silverblatt’s media process and content, the article, however, presents the exact problem and overview that are encountered by non-conforming media products or entities in a modern-day “market-driven” situation.
Content will always be presented in ways that people behind certain news, program or show have to slant in order to meet a criterion, or a target, audience-wise or sponsor-wise. In both targets, an objective is met. In Heffernan’s articles, while it laments the future or inevitable demise of Fridays Night Lights, it promoted, at the same time other NBC shows “Battlestar Galactica,” Amazon.com, and other online retailers where the decadent show and its relations could be purchased.
Process, on the other hand, is media itself which takes on a lot of other forms aside from news reporting and entertainment that makes it indistinguishable from marketing ploys. The process is distribution, how the audience, the reader, and viewers are reached as consumers that take not only a certain product for its own, but also for its other forms that are consumed. In the end, the message is “buy it!” if not, “Buy all!”
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Heffernan, Virginia (2008). “Art in the Age of Franchising.” New York Times. Web.
Schiller, Herbert I. (1998). “Mass Media, Power, and Ideology” from Notable Selections in Mass Media. University of Mass-Amherst. Web.
Silverblatt, Art, Jane Ferry and Barbara Finan (1999). Approaches to Media Literacy. M.E. Sharpe.
Silverblatt, Art. (2001) Media Literacy: Keys to Interpreting Media Messages. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger Publishers.