Mass Communication refers to the process in which specific messages are passed through mediums of communication from one group of people or organization to another usually through the acts of advertising, journalism and politics but most popularly through television and the world wide web. The impact from both these mediums has resulted in the birth of entertainment culture, an amalgam of many genres and cultures including that of the social and political.
Due to its nature of needing to appeal to mass audiences, it relies on variety, hence creating a continuous and uninterrupted flow of all kinds of information to serve as entertainment to its consumers. Therefore rendering the barrier between the individual roles of social and political culture as obsolete. Mediums of mass communication are the source of such information.
Effectively resulting in the norm of these two vastly different cultures, despite having completely different roles are able to not only exist side by side without abnormalities, but be used to entertain and spread ideas from one group to another showing indications that entertainment culture is a homogenous one, with elements of both social and political culture imbedded within it.
This essay will discuss creative practitioners Trey Parker, Matt Stone and Doug Walker whose creative works best exemplify how the individual roles of social and political culture have become obsolete in context to mass communication due to their use as entertainment. The phenomenon of mass communication transforming the roles of social and political culture into entertainment was brought about by the sudden technological developments within the mediums of mass communication itself, specifically broadcast television and the internet.
Due to the sudden ability to reach out to a far greater audience, it has become the norm for them to play a central role within their consumer’s lives. It is that, according to sociologist John B. Thompson (1998), which has deeply affected the nature of cultural experience of modern societies. Broadcast television has essentially led to an increase of a continuous flow of information in the form of entertainment, examples being documentaries, news, movie adaptions which has led to consumers hence associating them as “major sources of information, ideas and images concerning events which take place beyond their immediate social milieu.
Lev Manovich’s “The Practice of Everyday (Media) Life: From Mass Consumption to Mass Cultural Production? ” (2009) explores a similar idea but instead with self creators on the internet such as youtubers. That they, with their vlogs, tutorials etc have also become sources of information, ideas and images for their viewers despite existing beyond their immediate social milieu. Basically, that entertainment culture has now transformed figures featured in their programmes into points of reference to their consumers despite their relationship extending far beyond the spheres of their respective social circles.
Industries have recognized this phenomenon and many of them have capitalized on the notion to achieve that “extended reach” to their targeted audience. For example, it is easier to publicize a political campaign on youtube as compared to actually organizing one as according to according to ComScore (as cited by Liikkanen and Salovaara) at least “1. 3 billion people watch online videos, viewing on average 162 videos every month. It would make sense to use the entertainment industry as a way to expand on their political culture. However, industries often become inseparable from the medium by transmitting their content. Politicians can now appear as social icons thanks to the entertainment industry expanding their coverage and vice versa. A more concrete example would be Kanye West, a famous social icon who has garnered political fame due to his claims to run for presidency.
It has garnered him has 59,606 subscribers and 1,771,543 video views despite the mere 11 s on his youtube account. He is still able to to voice his personal political attitudes, practices beliefs and ideas about what truly makes for a good society without exemption and immediate rejection by people of political background despite having no connection from the latter not because viewers truly believe in his political agenda but because it serves as a form of entertainment to them.
However, the occurrence of Kanye West bringing social and political culture together to form entertainment culture happens to be incidental while the creative work “South Park”, an animated television serial by creative practitioners Trey Parker and Matt Stone is not. Their episode “Osama Bin Laden Has Farty Pants” was an intentional critique of the social and political culture of post 911 america. Incidentally, the aftermath of the September 911 attacks was also said to be the time when political and social culture started to go hand in hand and hence the creation of the amalgamated entertainment culture.
This was noted by professor Lynn Spigel in her article “Entertainment Wars: Television Culture after 9/11”. According to her, the social culture of Hollywood which had previously allowed acts of violence and terrorism due to the liberties of “free speech”, “creative expression” and “constitutional rights” suddenly took on a more political approach of being more “tasteful” regarding what they broadcasted in order to appease their consumers. Spigel, L. (2004). ) That meant traditional forms of entertainment had to constantly find ways to reinvent themselves in the new U. S life and culture, there was a mixed message going around the broadcast industry. Viewers wanted topics on 911 but too much also proved untasteful and the industry really strived to find a balance between serving “public interest,” but at the same time cater to public taste.
Entertainment in Post 911 America according to Spiegel had become “a profound state of confusion” due to the outright refusal by critics to place the events in a political or social context from which they might be understood and instead just broadcast it all as “entertainment” James Der Derian as cited by Spiegel). Spreading paranoia and fear inducing debates, reports and conspiracy theories through a multitude of television genres, such as the news, daytime talk shows and even prime-time drama.
Parker and Stone created “Osama Bin Laden Has Farty Pants” not only had commentary on the social culture at that time. A simple opening line by one of the characters in a gas mask critiquing the state of extreme paranoia and almost absurd level of fear in america with “Remember the time life used to be simple and cool” before being violently searched as he tried to enter his school bus to attend 4th grade class, a precaution really carried out with children in america at that time.
It also had commentary on political culture, specifically regarding the tense relations between international countries and america due to the latter harbouring dangerous weapons and the increased secrecy of government operations in Bush’s America, demonstrated by the three lines of exchanged dialogue between the american characters and the afghan characters after both groups narrowly avoid a U. S airstrike with the american characters finding out “Over a third of the world hates America. ” and the reason being “Because you don’t realize that a third of the world hates you.
The episode however truly exemplifies how mass communication have turned the roles of social and political culture into elements of entertainment culture by critiquing how the entertainment industry, with its refusal to place 9/11 in a political or social context has essentially contributed to the level of fear and paranoia that had been occurring due to the conflicting nature of what was being broadcasted on mass media with the episode ending with a character pointing out, “I’m confused”.
Even Spiegel realized this when she mentioned that “Osama Bin Laden Has Farty Pants,” was “a “libertarian” hodgepodge of mixed messages”, just executed with the show’s trademark “blank ironic sensibility” thus demonstrating how the individual roles of social and political culture have become obsolete in context to mass communication due to their use as entertainment.
To bring up again Lev Manovich’s theory about how the self creator on the internet can transform into a point of reference to his viewers despite their relationship extending far beyond the spheres of their respective social circles, making one of the key traits of entertainment culture being where figures not even belonging to certain cultures can cross mediums without rejection and instead support. One of the most popular places where self creators engage in this is YouTube.
YouTube allows practitioners to post a variety of genres to serve as entertainment whether content be amatuer or professional and gain monetary value for their work depending on the amount of views and subscribers. It makes sense as to why a creative practitioner would bring their business there as YouTube is currently the most popular video service and the third most popular Internet service overall according to Alexa. com(November, 2013)” With over “1. billion people watching online videos in 2013 alone, viewing on average 162 videos every month.
Doug Walker is such a creative practitioner, playing a character on a weekly web series known as the “The Nostalgia Critic”. His account predominantly focuses on reviewing “nostalgic” television and movies from the late 80’s and 90’s except with a more juvenile approach of mocking and nitpicking as compared to the deep intellectual and analytic content from other famous critics such as Siskel and Ebert.
However, to quote Liz Shannon Miller, Walker’s work has a “flair and intensity that proves captivating” and according to The Sun Times (as cited by Miller) “pulls in at least 800,000 unique visitors and $10,000 in revenue every month. ” Despite the apparent juvenile premise of his web series, Walker has openly addressed relevant social and politica events within his work such as sexism in the media and support for same sex marriage before it became legalized in 2015. His most openly political video however was when he openly criticized YouTube’s fair use policy with his video “Where’s The Fair Use? – Nostalgia Critic”