One of the more provocative themes in mass communication research involves the notion of media as storyteller and how those stories reflect the culture(s) in which we
live, which the late George Gerbner explored through cultural indicators research.
Please watch this video of the theorist talking about the media as storytellers, specifically in relation to his conclusions about the effects of media violence on
movie and TV viewers and videogamers, which he called the Mean World Syndrome:
Gerbner called what he saw as the resulting desensitization of violence, the Mean World Syndrome, which had the additional human toll of making people more fearful in
Some questions for you:
Before you tackle these questions, please make sure you have read the materials at all of the links in this discussion prompt.
Do children know the difference between the “real” violence on the news and the violence in television’s “entertainment” shows? What does our research say?
What are some of the social effects of violence in the media? Has research proven a conclusive link between violence in the media and violence in society?
Why do adults like media violence? Why do children like media violence? Compare the reasons; what does mass communication theory say are the reasons we like media
Aside from violence, think about what other stories you believe the media tell us. This may be easier to do if you grew up in another culture or if you have lived in
another country, so that you can look at U.S. culture “from the outside in.” It may be harder to do if you are immersed in the culture, simply because the stories we
watch and hear reinforce for us the way life should be.
Describe one or more themes or messages that you think are embedded in our media stories.
Can you think of a way that they may be useful to corporate media producers (the way exporting violence can be useful to producers)?
Do you think the stories reflect institutionalized racism, sexism, or another force?
Is television a mirror of society or does television create/influence the way we live?