How the Media Create the Culture
Cultural messages surround us in ways that would be hardly imaginable in the days of our grandparents. Recently, I received a discount offer to subscribe to the Family Circle magazine. Over twenty-five years ago, I would regularly purchase this magazine and would learn about recipes and, more importantly, health issues written in a down-to-earth manner. These articles proved helpful in a number of medical situations with friends and family.
But while some things remain the same, clearly other perspectives have taken center stage. Theodore Dalrymple has written Our Culture, or What's Left of It. As an onlooker of the world around me, I make the following observations.
In the February 2017 issue of Family Circle, the advertisement right after opening the cover of the magazine shows two interracial men resting together on a couch. One sports a tattoo on his arm and they are in a home setting with the words "All homes are created equal." The advertisement comes from IKEA and, clearly, the ad is about much more than the listed $399 price tag for the Hennes glass-door-cabinet. It involves the acceptance of tattoos, a wholehearted acceptance of gay relationships, the distinct possibility of a same-sex marital status, the importance of saving the environment through sustainability, making dreams come true in all arenas of life, and, ultimately, love and affection. At the bottom of the two-page ad is the following:
You deserve a home that you love, where you can live comfortably with loved ones. A sustainable home that looks good, works well and is friendly to your wallet. Because no matter what you do, who you are, or how much you make, you deserve to make the dreams yours.
Whereas in the past, a gay relationship was merely hinted at in gay-oriented magazines such as OUT, gay relationships are now mainstream. Thus, in an advertisement of only six years ago, there were more subtle subliminal messages about the gay lifestyle. So in a travel advertisement, the ad had a picture of a bridge to Key West and above the beautiful blue water and the bridge were the words "The Only Time We'll Tell you to Go Straight" and "Getting to Key West couldn't be easier, Just take US1 straight through the Keys. Of course, when you get here, you can go any direction you want." It isn't until the reader sees the fine print fla-keys.com/gaykeywest, that it is clear who the target audience is.
In the same issue of Family Circle, there is an article that highlights the alleged "intolerance" that Muslims feel in America. So "Modern Life: What Families Today Are Made of" depicts a smiling Muslim family headed by Khalid Latif who is an imam at New York University as well as the executive director of the Islamic Center at NYU.
Nowhere does the reader learn that "[t]he NYU Muslim Students Association, the student community group tied to the Islamic Center of NYU, is a chapter of the greater national Muslim Students Organization, which has been repeatedly tied to the international Islamist group the Muslim Brotherhood by U.S. courts, particularly in the terror fundraising Holy Land Foundation trial" and that the "NYU chapter in particular was the subject of extensive monitoring by the NYPD."
Although "Khalid Latif, New York University’s Muslim chaplain, has been outspoken in condemning the violence in Orlando this weekend, posting a statement of unity on his Facebook and Twitter pages... [h]e has also made statements in the past, however, calling for submission to the threat of Islamist violence in the case of displaying cartoons offensive to Muhammad." Thus, "Latif objected to NYU in 2010 following the announcement of a display of controversial anti-Islam Danish cartoons, arguing that 'the potential of what might happen after they are shown is something else that should be considered and not taken lightly. All over the world Muslims have been coming together over this issue and in New York they would not hesitate in doing the same thing,' he writes, without specifying what they would [do] to object to the cartoons."
Included in the same article is Khalid's statement decrying what he sees as "a continuation of realities that minorities like undocumented immigrants, indigenous peoples, black men and women have faced in the country for a long time but have gone unaddressed." Sprinkled throughout these statements are pictures of a smiling family where we are told that a "jar of pennies" is maintained by his young daughter in case she "meets someone who needs money." And, thus, the reader of this magazine has now imbibed the whole leftist ideology of victimization wrapped up in a warm-hearted, Western impression of compassion communicated by a Muslim imam.
While the nuclear family is promoted vis-a-vis the Muslim family, current television ads rarely depict a traditional nuclear family with a mother and a father with children; instead we have a single father trying to put barrettes in his daughter's hair, or a father putting messages into his son's lunch box. In fact, mothers do not figure too much at all. Clearly single parents, whether by divorce, separation, death, or abandonment now reflect American life.
On the HGTV show about house buying, it is always the men who are demanding that the kitchen meet their stringent requests since they are the cooks in the family. Thus, the stereotype of the woman behind the stove has now been replaced with a stereotype of the man being the chef of the household.
In the Cosmopolitan magazine of September 2016, the cover page has "From Around the World: Prepare for Global Warming." One need not go any further in the magazine -- the message has been made; the assumption is accepted and the science is settled. Another ad hawks the words "Dream It. Dare It. Do It" and shows a confident light-skinned black woman smiling since these words are "a road map to the awesome life you deserve." Details not quite so evident, however.
To Cosmopolitan's credit, there is an article about "Ivy League Addiction" detailing the casual way in which Adderall is taken by so many college students in an effort to succeed. While the author does not want the reader to "think that attention disorders are always faked or that the drug itself is harmful," the article ends by saying "constant pressure to do, achieve, succeed isn't sustainable or, as it turns out, productive."
But my observations are not limited to magazines or television shows. The other day in my classroom, I noticed a male student wearing a shirt with the word "Cookies" on it. I asked what that stood for and received a smile wherein I discovered I had set foot in unknown territory.
But with the advent of the internet, I, too, can become 'ducated. So I discovered that
Cookies SF is an inspirational clothing and accessory brand destined to spark fire within the budding fashion industry. The brainchild of Bay Area recording artist and entrepreneur Berner (Gilbert Milam), Cookies SF was first featured in Berner’s 2011 “Yoko” music video, featuring Chris Brown, Wiz Khalifi and Big Krit. Since its inception as a grassroots expression of creativity, Cookies SF has grown from a small mom and pop Bay Area brand cultivated in the streets of San Francisco to a nationally recognized underground player within the world of fashion, cannabis, sports and music throughout North America.
In fact, the site emphasizes its desire to promote pot.
The company’s groundbreaking accessory line features smoke essentials (e.g., storage containers, custom ashtrays, cannabis rolling trays, etc.), key chains and a variety of innovative smell proof / odorless bags [.]
As founder and co-owner of Cookies SF, Berner wanted to create something unique that would help bridge the gap between streetwear, urban lifestyle, marijuana, hip-hop music and a multi-cultural society.
The final eye-opener was when I asked if my students have enough time for fun given that they really do work more than 40 hours a week trying to pay off college debt or maintain their car insurance or help out their parents. Smiling, I asked if they ever have time for "milk and cookies" -- you know, the 3:00 p.m. looked-forward-to event when Mom would pour your eight ounces of milk in your favorite glass, and give you the two chocolate cookies that you so richly deserved.
A few students nodded but not too many. I thought -- how sad.
But in looking at the Urban Dictionary site, I now understand that milk and cookies might also imply "a ménage à trois involving one man and two women." I will leave the rest to the reader's imagination.
The times they are a-changing -- sometimes for better and sometimes for worse. I have often wondered why conservatives don't emulate the techniques of advertising that evidently work. Clearly, leftists have the upper hand on messaging. On the other hand, while so many conservative ideas are worthwhile, the packaging leaves a great deal to be desired -- in fact, it is decidedly absent.
Eileen can be reached at email@example.com