Reception Analysis Takes Closer Media Essay

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Reception Analysis takes a closer look at what is actually going on when an audience encounters a media text. It provides an analysis of how audiences perceive a certain media message, what meanings do they drive, how do they associate to it, what events of their and other's life do they relate to it, how do the message fulfill their needs and satisfaction and what effect does that message or text has on their psychological, personal and social make up. Reception analysis sees media as passive and weak and audience as active and strong. The media 'injects' the information to the audience and they automatically accept it, the public cannot escape from media's influence. Texts are decoded in ways that reflect audiences' personal biographies and histories. Audiences react to the same message differently and their behavior and attitude towards the message is different too. People n contemporary society are characterized by great psychological diversity and social categories based on such factors as age, gender, religion, class and race (Stuart Hall, 1980). A group of people who share the same ideas and interests may interpret a piece of media in the same way. I am going to discuss the approaches of classic audience studies towards different media messages in different media artifacts, how do people perceive these messages. I am going to discuss some negative aspects of the mass media message discovered through Reception Analysis, the way people perceive them and how they affect personal, social and cultural life of an individual. (Eagleton, 1989:433-434).

Reception Analysis theories and their Relation to Media Artifacts

The mass media injects particular meanings into consumers and they take it as it comes. This is known as Hypodermic Needle Theory where audience just passively absorbs the mass media message and they perceive and try to adopt it in their socio cultural aspect on the basis of different gender, age, and ethnicity. For example in Pepsi ad portrays a cool "Pepsi Generation" who are engaged in attractive and adventurous activities while they are consuming Pepsi. This ad not only persuade audience to consume Pepsi but it is also creates a sect of people with which many viewers in the society cannot relate.

However the message is not perceived by everyone in the same manner depending on different society groups, age, gender and ethnicity. In the Mountain dew ads in which daring stunts are projected to be achieved after drinking mountain dew and portrays the person who drinks Mountain Dew as a "hero". Though a cautious message/slide runs at the bottom of the frame yet the ad is viewed by different social categories and age group. Children who are unable to read the caution may get inspired by the stunt itself and try to perform the dangerous stunts on their own and drink Mountain dew. Young male groups will encourage the consumption of Mountain Dew to appear as heroic, adventurous and "super cool". Females and elderly would not be interested as much as young males. The ad may be viewed by a person who does not understand the language of the ad, may perceive the message in an entirely different way.

Two step flow of communication is another approach of audience analysis that involves the presence of an opinion leader who may be an active and influential individual of the society. Certain individuals in the society attend to the media message more attentively; they get the information first, and then pass it on to others with their own interpretations and thus influence their opinion. For example in BBC's The Hub, people may perceive various issues in the same way Nik Gowing perceives because he being an active speaker and strong individual may give his own analysis on the issue which may inspire his viewers and fan following in forming their opinion on that issue. The scenarios during the election campaigns also subjects two flow of communication in which voters may get influenced their opinion regarding a particular candidate. For example in the US presidential elections 2012, on Twitter so many celebrities tweeted against Romney's certain public policies, this may have influenced millions of their fans to shape their opinions against Romney and hence voting for Obama. This, when done through media news channels and their representatives can take the shape of media agenda setting.

Cultivation analysis is a theoretical concept of reception and audience analysis that predicts and explains how long perceptions term are formed and changed into beliefs about various aspects of the world due to long exposure to media message (Turner 407). I would explain it with an example of a movie in which cultivation analysis is vividly visible. In Tom Cruise's Rain Man (1988) Tom Cruise plays Charlie who has to take his brother Raymond on a cross-country road trip to get to Los Angeles because his brother because of a television programme on plane crashes is susceptible to the fear of flying. Raymond believes that plane crashes occur quite often. He has formed this belief as a result of exposure to television programmes based on themes such as destruction and violence. There is a seen in the movie where Raymond quotes every plane crash in the last 20 years that occurred to major airlines that shows the intensity of effect that television news story had on his psychology and assumptions, which proves that prolonged exposure to television which today mostly caters thrilling, horror, adventurous and violence themed shows and movies contribute to audience's conceptions about social reality (Harindranath 1998:285).

Another aspect of cultivation analysis can be seen in the form of adoption of violent scenes and negative characters from the movies which are now an integral part of television broadcasting as well. The violent scenes and storylines of the movies can now reach vast audiences through television. Even those who don't go to cinemas can watch the movies on television after a few months of its theatrical release. One example of such adoption of violence from movies can be Batman films, Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Returns. Two horrified incidents have been related to the violent scenes exposed in the movies. One was in Belgium where in 2008 Kim de Gelder attacked Belgian day care centre, killed two babies, an adult and injured 10 more babies. Dressed in the costume of the movie's character joker when got arrested, laughed at the police while quoting the joker's lines (R.E.A.L Organization, July 2012).

The second terrifying incident took place at Aurora Colorado's movie theatre at the opening of The Dark Knight Returns. A murderer went into the theatre and shot at audience randomly and threw gas canisters at the audience, mostly children. This incident took 12 lives and injured 59. The murderer told the police that he was the "joker", had dyed his hair red, and wore a protective mask and protective gear. Both incidents seemed inspired by the violent and shooting scenes of the movie. This is not the first time that murderers have been inspired by these ultra violent movies and television content. Many incidents in the past have been recorded for example the person who attempted to assassinate Ronald Reagan seemed fixated by "Taxi Driver" (Anthony Lane, 2012).


People use media as a source of information and entertainment to gratify their specific needs as we have learned that in the Gratification theory of the media analysis. Though the media does not use the people, people use the media but the content on TV and various mass media can be harmful and aggressive when it comes to audience's personal and social lives. The power of mass media cannot be denied that has made the world a global village, however its negative aspects can be controlled to some extends when it comes to violence and societal disintegration. In my opinion cultivation analysis requires extensive media research because it can help reduce the wrong and violent perceptions that audiences gain from TV content. The content should at least be filtered like TV programmes, movie trailers, songs and TV movie premieres depicting violence and destruction.