consumerism and freedom

Nicholas Mamatas 192106 at
Fri Feb 24 09:42:22 MST 1995

Liberation through consumption isn't a new media ploy.  Some of the
earliest advertisements aimed at people just coming into newly
industrialized areas towards the end of the last century did just this.
New technology, ovens, shredded wheat etc.. were aimed to save
housewives from the drudgery of homemaking, buying storebought
underwear was a sign of sophistication.  Advertising almost always
aimed at an "aspirational" lifestyle, not protraying the target audience the
way it is, but as a little better, better through the use of the product.

One of the side effects of this, in media studies anyway, is to look for
audience resistance to these messages.(see John Fiske, Postmodernism
And Television.)  Raymond Williams was right when he said that
"controlled actions have uncontrolled effects", and people do read things
into advertising and media in general that the media
producers didn't mean to imply, but co-optation comes quickly. (check
rock music for a broad example).  Unfortunately, in the absense of major
anti-systemic fightbacks, a lot of media scholars seem content to do
effects research that shows audiences reading alternative themes into
reactionary media, instead of critiquing the media in a way that helps
empower the public to better resist messages, and to make their own
media. Todd Gitlin has a good article on this that I can dig up.

Nick Mamatas
New School For Social Research

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