Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Questions 2-26

At the end of the Foucault book, he poses a mental exercise to ponder.  “We are often reminded of the countless procedures which Christianity once employed to make us detest the body; but let us ponder all the ruses that were employed for centuries to make us love sex, to make the knowledge of it desirable and everything said about it precious” (159).  The function of discourse is ultimately to exercise control over, and presumably arrive at a masterful understanding of a subject. Foucault contends that it is ultimately us that are enslaved by the discourse as we become unable to conceptualize ourselves outside of it.  How does this concept relate to hegemony?  I’m left with the feeling that I’ve been duped my desire to better understand things, when it ultimately serves to keep me in check, which is a hegemonic function.  The proliferation of discourse on sex forces us to understand sex only through the lens of the discourse, so how can we try to better understand the nature of texts like romance novels if we are unable to think outside of the established discourse.

            Ang and Hermes do a terrific job of articulating the problems and contradictions we all run into when discussing gender and/in the media.  One of those contradictions I frequently encounter is the assertion that all viewers and consumers of media interact with the text and create their own meanings from it.  We accept as fact that there is no uniform, predictable, homogeneous audience response.  How then can we discuss cultivation theory, which suggests that prolonged exposure to a media text will ultimately lead to the adoption of certain ideals that are unrealistic, untrue, exaggerated, etc.  Many scholars assert that females (and possibly males) come to accept unhealthily thin body images as the norm because of their constant exposure to them in the media.  Wouldn’t this conflict with the idea that we are constantly managing and negotiating the meanings within these texts?

            I found the Ang and Hermes discussion of audience studies to be incredibly compelling.  But is it really possible for scholars to ignore the role that certain factors may play in predicting an ethnographic result.  Gender may be more of a slippery slope, for obvious reasons, but I find it difficult to believe that class doesn’t play a giant role in determining how people are likely to receive a text (If for no other reason than Distinction).  We live in a pseudo-fractured society.  Indeed, we share experiences across gender, race, and class lines, and they may not be rigid in determining what we watch and like. But the habitus of an upper class individual will not reflect that of a poor person.  What are the advantages of separating a group by class in order to study their response to a media text?  What are its limitations? 

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