Spectatorship, Power & Knowledge

In today’s society, there are two ways of looking at the media around us. There is the dominant gaze and the oppositional gaze. The dominant gaze is basically something that is seen as the social norm in society and which has been implemented into our brains by the media. Examples of a predominant view in society include women’s sexuality, hetero and homosexual couples, social class (wealth), hierarchy of power, and so forth. However, the oppositional gaze perceives a message that is not necessarily seen in mainstream media. Meaning that it challenges what is considered the “norm” or “stereotype” and makes people question the meaning behind the visuals being shown. Unaware of the gazes in our modernity, we may not always stop to consider the consequences. As stated, “In modernity, the gaze is constituted through a relationship of subjects defined within and through the discourses of institutions” (Sturken & Cartwright, pg. 104). But more than anything else, the images we look at influence our self-identity and inform our perception of the world. With that being said, a popular gaze that we are taking notice of in our culture is love and attachment.

Bruno Mars – Just the Way You Are

Upon listening to “Just the Way You Are by Bruno Mars”, you will soon notice the narrative of the song isn’t about a relationship, but rather a story Bruno’s infatuation with a woman who is lyrically represented as his perception of perfection. In the main chorus, “When I see your face … just the way you are” shows the Bruno’s fascination with her. He also implies that even with all the flaws she might have, her imperfections are what makes her perfect. Everyone’s perception of love can be influenced. For example, to a stranger the girl may look nowhere near perfect because her appearance may insinuate tackiness, or her personality may seem dull. But in the eyes of someone fixated with affection, she appear flawless due to their notion of a perfect being. It’s a situation which Bruno tries to tell in these lyrics. In the lines, “…her eyes make the stars look like they’re not shining her hair, her hair falls perfectly without her tryin’ she’s so beautiful…” is basically professing his adoration for this girl which successfully conveys his overall message that this girl is amazing just the way she is.

Disclosure – Latch
The thrill, desperation, and the obsession.
Another take on the theme of attachment is seen in the song, “Latch by Disclosure”.  Latch focuses on the thrill, the desperation, and then to the achievement of love. The song begins with his desire for her and what she makes him feel. He acts if he has an empty void in him that needs to be occupied. In the line “You, you enchant me even when you’re not around” emphasizes the influence she has on him and that his actions feel controlled by her like a spell.  His desires are further portrayed in the bridge such as “I feel…”, “I wanna…”, “I think…”, “Could I…” which represent his desperation. He’s asking her and confessing his feelings. The main chorus of the song shows him seizing his opportunity to “latch” onto her, emphasizing that he has become hooked, encaptured, and enamored. He is baffled by how much he has fallen for her, but he senses that there is a possibility of not receiving reciprocity of affection as the bridge is repeated. The song ends with the  repetition of the chorus once again to show that his affection is relentless, maybe even against her will/consent because of his certainty and that he has gotten her “shackled in my embrace” and that he “won’t let go” of her.

Ne-Yo – Because of you

Moving to the other side of the spectrum, Ne-Yo’s “Because of You” focuses more on the negative things that happens because of attachment. The song starts out with him enjoying his time with his girl. He then is introduced to another female and quickly becomes attracted to her, and later cheats on his girl. He knows what he is doing is wrong, but can’t help it stating “baby you have become my addiction” showing his attachment to the new girl. This attachment quickly worsens to addiction as he simply can’t get enough of her, shown when he replies to her phone call and leaving to see her at the pool. He also states “she’s the sweetest drug” showing his addictions towards her, comparing her to drugs, a common substance people get addicted to. All the while he is still attached to his own girl, as he lives with her, comes back home to her, and still has sex with her. His attachment is easily shown at the end when he is having sex. While he has sex each girl’s faces are constantly replacing each other showing his attachment as he is thinking about one while doing the other. This goes against the dominant view of attachment to be a loving commitment between two people. Ne-Yo went against the dominant view as he wasn’t committed to his own girl, and is juggling two people at the same time. While subtle Ne-Yo is also addicted to sex, which influenced his decision to later cheat. This videos presents a common lifestyle that happens, with addiction and cheat, that the media tries to cover with its own views.

Eminem ft. Rihanna – Love The Way You Lie

The music video for the song “Love The Way You Lie” by Eminem featuring Rihanna focuses on a very dark, abusive view of attachment. The video opens with the woman in the relationship, waking up to find a name and phone number on her significant other’s hand. Seeing the number initiates a full blown physical fight between the couple. After the fight scene is over, the woman is shown leaving the man, only to be pulled back. The lyrics in the song that sync with this scene specifically say, “ ‘Wait! Where you going?’ / ‘I’m leaving you’ / ‘No you ain’t. Come back.’ ” As if the dialogue were happening in the scene. And then the lyrics follow with “we’re running right back, here we go again.” This implies that this particular scenario has happened more than a few times, which is where the attachment idea shows up first. After the fight, we see the couple pretty graphically making out. One might perceive that the couple are attracted to each other because they are attached to the sexual pleasure of the relationship. Obviously from these scenes, it’s simple to tell that this relationship is extremely dysfunctional, the audience sees the couple at their best and worst, yet one can almost feel the same attachment and obligation to stay in the relationship. Also in the video, one of the first things we see is woman holding her palms open and holding/playing with fire. This suggests that she feels attached to this relationship for the thrill,  the heat, and even the danger, as the man represents the fire. In the video, we see that the man is the dominant figure in the relationship but the chorus states that the woman loves the way the man lies and in some ways this suggests that she enjoys the pain and abuse.

Understanding just how influential the gazes are, it’s important to first understand the theory of spectatorship and what it truly means to look and understand the correlation with the variations of media. After examining both dominant and oppositional gazes through the sample videos shown above, we cannot simply deem them as positive or negative, or even bias to certain criterias, but rather to comprehend the overall meaning behind it. By understanding the theories of spectatorship, “we can form our own identity, not just blindly conform to whatever it is we are being shown… We can now look through the image instead of just reflecting it into our subculture” (Sturken & Cartwright). As a subculture [a group of people who articulate their rejection of [dominant] norms or dominant hegemony through dress, music, and lifestyle] we must be able to change the status quo by removing the limitations, stereotypes and preconceived notions on those in the media and unify them instead.

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The Mass Media & the Public Sphere

The Mass Media & the Public Sphere

                Every year over 100 million people tune into the annual championship game of the national football league, where the two highest level professional football teams of the season battle each other in hopes of attaining the super bowl trophy. Many people even consider this day as a national holiday due the event’s ability to unite family and friends together   to celebrate the “Big Game”. Many people who typically aren’t even football fans still gather and watch the game at their homes, hosting Super Bowl parties and viewing the game on large home televisions. Not only is Super Bowl Sunday the second largest day of food consumption in the United States but one of the most essential days in which companies are able to advertise their products to a mass amount of people. What people are consuming during this massive event is a strong representation of public life in western culture.

Super bowl commercials have become then main attraction for some people who aren’t particularly huge football fans. A wide range of commercials are played throughout the event such as Doritos, Budweiser, Coca-Cola, Cars, electronics, movies, and more. The reason why a majority of the commercials are about junk/social foods; pitching foods high in calories, sugar, fat, and fun, and it’s to trigger the consumption and preference of these products. And it works, the advertising companies make an attractive brand/product surrounding by attractive/appealing things to make us like it at a subconscious level. The messages are affected by the form of its medium, and when these products are associated with emotionally manipulative content they are able to persuade our perception on the product or brand.

We can interpret both positively and negatively on how it contributes to a sense of public life. There is synergy between the super bowl ads and the menu at super bowl parties. This means the viewers have more of an interest to certain products during the super bowl and consumption of these products is at its peak in relation with the events programs and advertisements.  Alcohol, easy to eat finger foods, sodas, and snacks are what a many of these commercials consist of and during the Super Bowl event, these items are served buffet style. You can interpret what is being consumed negatively because the junk foods being consumed can show that the people are unhealthy themselves. With large amount of alcohol being consumed as well, dramatic increase in drunk driving has also been a result. However, this annual event allows people to feel connected and socialize while they eat and watch the big game.  People feel good, eating comfort foods and watching live entertainment with their friends and family.

The Super Bowl event itself promotes competition between groups of people. While people are divided depending on their favorite team they are rooting for, Super Bowl Sunday does bring people together that may have cultural or national differences. “Collective public viewing can interpolate viewers as part of a national audience.” (Sturken and Cartwright) Although people tend to choose a side during the super bowl and one team has to win, people are being brought together to view the national event.

Super Bowl Sunday promotes the feeling of connectedness among its audience. It brings everyone together to laugh, cry, scream, and shout, as they watch this eventful spectacle that inspires awe. Not only is this event a victory for the winning team of the super bowl, but also a victory for brands that were able to advertise in the super bowl marketing. Mass culture is combined by mass media to share interests in what’s being consumed, both visually and physically. Advertisement companies must invest millions of dollars to place in a spot to advertise their products to millions of viewers in hopes of generating awareness and profit in the future. But it’s the dynamics of the Super Bowl game and the sensations brought upon from the event that allow people to socially come together annually.

At the end of the day, America wins the Super Bowl.