Can I get a Valium for my media induced moral panic please?

Lectures beginning with a clip of Disney Pixar’s ‘Wall-E’ are bound to be unmissable. Sue Turnbull continues her streak of fantastic lectures that don’t dull the mind of an under-caffeinated 20 something uni student. I do feel the need though to grab onto parts of the lecture that has crept into my mind and stuck – being subjects that I find relevant to the world around me right now. These pertain mostly to the terminology used in regards to ‘anxieties of the effect of media’; the concept of the effect of media, especially on children; and what are the current ‘anxieties’ about the media and how they’re represented.

Playing around on twitter whilst simultaneously trying to watch the lecture led to some stray thoughts. Such as why was the word ‘anxiety’ being used in this context of media and it’s effect? I tweeted Travis Holland, a tutor for the BCM subject and all round cool guy, about why it may have been used and was it being used essentially as ‘anxiety’ in a spectrum of mental illness. The terminology confused me at first, yet as it was then explained to me that it was being used as a word with divergent meanings – anxiety seems to be an appropriate wording for the moral and social panics incited by media. Not to avoid the issue, anxiety can be used in this context detrimentally as well, lessening the seriousness of mental illness and furthering the social stigma of a mental illness when being trivialised and compared to the widespread moral outrage against say, Murdoch Media’ influential headlines and stories. As heinous as ‘News Corp’ and its owner is, it still doesn’t give me the same feelings as my diagnosed anxiety disorder does. Yuck.

The media cops a lot of flack sometimes for being a particular influence on the way people think. Especially when children are involved. Kids TV time used to be full of Kellogg’s, KFC, McDonald’s and Pizza hut advertisements during shows specifically aimed at kids. The children at that age are the ones you see in supermarkets throwing themselves on the floor of that filthy place screaming for a LCM bar full of sugar or chucking a tantrum because poor mum or dad said no to McDonald’s on the way home – God forbid you wanted your child to grow up with a healthy diet.
The arguments against these adverts were a cross between being blamed for childhood obesity and something called ‘Pester Power’ which is essentially when children do the whole public screaming matches for sugar. Pester Power isn’t something to laugh at though, as the government uses that term to explain how crazy manipulative kids can be when it comes to their lollies and getting what they want.
When childhood obesity is brought into the picture though, the argument gets pretty serious against the media. The blame gets thrown onto the advertisers when they start projecting their products specifically at children that are susceptible to junk food. But is the media really the bad guy in all of this?

I’m with you Helen…

Childhood obesity is a prime example of how it’s easier to throw the blame onto external influences rather than look into a child’s home life. Factors such as their home life, their welfare status, their family’s income bracket, their education and the parents education, poverty or the nature vs nurture argument can all have incredible impacts on an issue such as obesity in young ones. And it is social anxieties about the media which cause parent groups and groups such as the “Coalition on Food Advertising to Children” to freak out and find a reason and push blame onto anything but the family unit.

No one gets so angry with advertisers for the cute, overweight kitties. Hey… I did tell you there would be cat videos.

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