Type: Narrative Essays
Sample donated: Alfonso Turner
Last updated: August 23, 2019
Media text A is a photo extractfrom a ‘Time Magazine’ article written in 2015 regarding now-president DonaldTrump’s electoral campaign.
In the late 1930’s, the ‘Hypodermic Needle’ theorywas created and it is thought that ‘it was generally accepted that the mediahave a strong effect on the behaviour, thinking and attitudes of media users’ (Fourie, 2001, p. 294)suggesting that as media consumers we are brainwashed by producers intobelieving pushed agendas and ideology, particularly when it comes to politics. Whendissecting the text, semiotics, the study of signs and symbols, is a good wayof pulling meaning from what is presented in front of us- allowing us to lookpast the frame and form our own opinion.
Upon first looking at the photographof Donald Trump, one thing in particular jumps out at you- the Bald Eagle. Theconnotation of a Bald Eagle is patriotism and the American dream- which at thetime was an image that would help Trump win over the American population. Thefact that Trump is almost on the same level as the eagle creates the impressionthat he is the answer to America’s problems and the path towards ‘makingAmerica great again’. In its simplest definition,semiotics is a ‘basic model of communication of: SENDER – MESSAGE –RECEIVER’ (Marie Gillespie, 2006, p. 10)and can range from literal signs to gestures and facial expressions.
Forexample, in media text A, Trump addresses the consumer by looking directly at thecamera with an almost stern expression on his face. The fact that Trump looksdirectly into the camera creates the impression that he is looking at theconsumer, making it feel a lot more personal to them as an effort to appeal tothe American people in order to win over some votes. Trump’s stern expressionsignifies a no-nonsense attitude you would associate with a business personrather than a politician, making him come across as somewhat of villain ratherthan the answer to America’s problems.It was after the publication ofMythologies, written by Roland Barthes in 1957 that ‘semiotic theory became widelyused within the fields of critical analysis’ (Danesi, 2002, p. 33)and is still used to this day in everyday life without people even knowing it.
Although the Bald Eagle can represent freedom, the fact that it is tethered upactually contradicts the symbolic meaning it is meant to reflect. The tetherimplies that the ‘American Dream’ is in sight but unachievable and could beargued to be the foreshadowing of Trump’s controversial term in office. On topof this, the tethered Eagle suggests that Trump is holding America back fromreaching greatness, almost creating the impression that the American people areunder his control. Another way of looking at the tethered nature of the Eagleis that the bird is clearly out of its natural habitat which could reflect ontoTrump, a business man, being out of his depth as an electoral candidate.Another tool that can be used toanalyse media texts is representation. Defined as the description or portrayal of someoneor something in a particular way, representation is something that isused by media producers to make consumers think a certain way. ‘In Stuart Hall’sbook ‘Representation: CulturalRepresentations and Signifying Practices’ the practices of representationhave been established as one of the key processes of the Cultural Circuit’ (Sisir Basu, 96, p. 93)often leading to stereotyping in society due to certain representations.
Inmedia text A, Donald Trump can be perceived in differing ways, one of which isa family oriented man. In the background of the image, there are a number ofpicture frames, presumably of family members which makes Trump look like afamily oriented man- an image that would potentially sway people in Trump’sfavour. However, the fact that the photographs are blurred imply that thisperception of him itself is blurred and inaccurate, possibly having somethingto hide. The important thing to remember with representation is that it is are-presentation; the representation show is a version of reality, not realityitself meaning that one representation might not be a true reflection. Antonio Gramsci was a Marxist intellectual thatdeveloped the theory of ‘cultural hegemony’ (1988) which ‘helps resolve thestatic academic standoff by placing cultural activity in socioeconomic andpolitical context, recognising both the structural constraints of power and thecreative agency of conscious political activity’ (Artz, 2003, p. 8) essentially meaningthat the ideology of society often reflect the beliefs of the higher social class(bourgeoisie) implying that the working class (proletariat) are passive whenconsuming the media.
Hegemony is highly present in politics so when looking atthe media text, you can see Trump’s ideology pushing through. In Trump’selectoral campaign, he pushed his agenda, saying to ‘ban all Muslims enteringthe US- “a total shutdown” should remain until the US authorities “can figureout what is going on”‘ (BBC, 2017) and when looking atthe Bald Eagle on his desk, you can see Trump’s, albeit misdirected passion forhis country pushing through.Although typically used for analyzing movies,narrative is another good way of breaking down media texts.
Andrew Tolsonstated that ‘narratives reduce the unique unusual to familiar and regularpatterns of expectations’ (Falconer, 2014, p. Online) essentially allowing audiences to know whatstructures to expect with the media they are consuming. Theorist Roland Barthesdiscussed myth as a big element of narrative stating ‘myth is the preservationof ideology through the active retelling of dominant cultural stories’ (Brian L Ott, Robert L Mack, 2009, p.
132) which is an ideaimperative of representation.