Media a politician, making him come across as

Media text A is a photo extract
from a ‘Time Magazine’ article written in 2015 regarding now-president Donald
Trump’s electoral campaign. In the late 1930’s, the ‘Hypodermic Needle’ theory
was created and it is thought that ‘it was generally accepted that the media
have a strong effect on the behaviour, thinking and attitudes of media users’ (Fourie, 2001, p.
suggesting that as media consumers we are brainwashed by producers into
believing pushed agendas and ideology, particularly when it comes to politics. When
dissecting the text, semiotics, the study of signs and symbols, is a good way
of pulling meaning from what is presented in front of us- allowing us to look
past the frame and form our own opinion. Upon first looking at the photograph
of Donald Trump, one thing in particular jumps out at you- the Bald Eagle. The
connotation of a Bald Eagle is patriotism and the American dream- which at the
time was an image that would help Trump win over the American population. The
fact that Trump is almost on the same level as the eagle creates the impression
that he is the answer to America’s problems and the path towards ‘making
America 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. For
example, in media text A, Trump addresses the consumer by looking directly at the
camera with an almost stern expression on his face. The fact that Trump looks
directly into the camera creates the impression that he is looking at the
consumer, making it feel a lot more personal to them as an effort to appeal to
the American people in order to win over some votes. Trump’s stern expression
signifies a no-nonsense attitude you would associate with a business person
rather than a politician, making him come across as somewhat of villain rather
than the answer to America’s problems.

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It was after the publication of
Mythologies, written by Roland Barthes in 1957 that ‘semiotic theory became widely
used within the fields of critical analysis’ (Danesi, 2002, p.
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 up
actually contradicts the symbolic meaning it is meant to reflect. The tether
implies that the ‘American Dream’ is in sight but unachievable and could be
argued to be the foreshadowing of Trump’s controversial term in office. On top
of this, the tethered Eagle suggests that Trump is holding America back from
reaching greatness, almost creating the impression that the American people are
under his control. Another way of looking at the tethered nature of the Eagle
is that the bird is clearly out of its natural habitat which could reflect onto
Trump, a business man, being out of his depth as an electoral candidate.

Another tool that can be used to
analyse media texts is representation. Defined as the description or portrayal of someone
or something in a particular way, representation is something that is
used by media producers to make consumers think a certain way. ‘In Stuart Hall’s
book ‘Representation: Cultural
Representations and Signifying Practices’ the practices of representation
have 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. In
media text A, Donald Trump can be perceived in differing ways, one of which is
a family oriented man. In the background of the image, there are a number of
picture frames, presumably of family members which makes Trump look like a
family oriented man- an image that would potentially sway people in Trump’s
favour. However, the fact that the photographs are blurred imply that this
perception of him itself is blurred and inaccurate, possibly having something
to hide. The important thing to remember with representation is that it is a
re-presentation; the representation show is a version of reality, not reality
itself meaning that one representation might not be a true reflection.

Antonio Gramsci was a Marxist intellectual that
developed the theory of ‘cultural hegemony’ (1988) which ‘helps resolve the
static academic standoff by placing cultural activity in socioeconomic and
political context, recognising both the structural constraints of power and the
creative agency of conscious political activity’ (Artz, 2003, p. 8) essentially meaning
that the ideology of society often reflect the beliefs of the higher social class
(bourgeoisie) implying that the working class (proletariat) are passive when
consuming the media. Hegemony is highly present in politics so when looking at
the media text, you can see Trump’s ideology pushing through. In Trump’s
electoral campaign, he pushed his agenda, saying to ‘ban all Muslims entering
the US- “a total shutdown” should remain until the US authorities “can figure
out what is going on”‘ (BBC, 2017) and when looking at
the Bald Eagle on his desk, you can see Trump’s, albeit misdirected passion for
his country pushing through.

Although typically used for analyzing movies,
narrative is another good way of breaking down media texts. Andrew Tolson
stated that ‘narratives reduce the unique unusual to familiar and regular
patterns of expectations’ (Falconer, 2014,
p. Online)  essentially allowing audiences to know what
structures to expect with the media they are consuming. Theorist Roland Barthes
discussed myth as a big element of narrative stating ‘myth is the preservation
of ideology through the active retelling of dominant cultural stories’ (Brian L Ott,
Robert L Mack, 2009, p. 132) which is an idea
imperative of representation.


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