June 19, 2013
Sep 19 - Dana Sleger
Media. What is it? Many categorize it as what shows up on their doorstep every morning, or what they see on the evening news. The fact is media represents a broad communication spectrum that encompasses many channels used to reach a mass audience through print, radio, television, film, and the Internet. With the way technology is advancing, even the marriage of smartphones and social media has become a primary means of communication through Facebook and Twitter platforms.
According to a 2011 study conducted by The Pew Research Center, more than four in ten American adults own a smartphone, and one in five owns a tablet (6). By the press of a button on a handheld device, the web provides instant access to information of any kind, anywhere, to anyone, which means with “more mobility comes deeper immersion into social networking” (6). But let’s be honest, sometimes a smartphone in the hands of the “righteous” is not always a good thing when careless words of judgment and condemnation are released that irresponsibly contradict what Jesus commanded in Mark 12:31: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” This does not at all mean a compromise of beliefs should occur, but dare I say, some Christians need to remove the plank from their Facebook pages before they go on a vile speck attack.
Communication is powerful. The Message version of the Bible offers a very insightful perspective: “Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit — you choose” (Proverbs 18:21). The purpose of this article stems from this scripture. Numerous messages are sent through numerous mediums on a daily basis that can either nourish the soul or have detrimental effects. Filmmakers, newspaper editors, bloggers, musicians, and television producers all have a choice in what they produce, and consumers have a choice in what they consume. Although one of the keys to living in a media-saturated society is practicing a continuous Romans 12:2 renewal of the mind, it is greatly beneficial to examine how media operates to not only gain a better understanding in deciphering various messages, but also to learn how to pray more effectively.
The mountains of media and arts/entertainment are deeply intertwined and serve in conjunction as dominating sources of information through news and entertainment avenues. Conservative and liberal news agencies are well known for biased reporting, and there is no such thing as mindless entertainment when it comes to a theater experience — messages are masked by plots full of comedy, drama and romance. However, this does not mean media should be classified as evil. Yes, there are plenty of negative facets of media, but many times it serves as an introspective classroom of what to do and what not to do.
In his book Communicating for Life: Christian Stewardship in Community and Media, Quentin J. Schultze states: “The mass media are communities of mixed motives that produce mixed blessings. On the one hand, they can reflect the good found in life. On the other hand, the media can highlight some of our weakest tendencies to love money, to express destructively our own egos, to seize power over others, and to pretend that we are serving or even saving people when we are really exploiting them” (121). Schultze goes on to explain that it is crucial to not take a stance of ignorance, and instead, take a stance of cultural engagement: “The idea that we can just disregard the media and live our own holy lives is naïve at best. It may be comforting to believe that flipping a switch or turning a dial allows independence and freedom of thought and action, but it is impossible to turn off a whole culture. . . . Followers of Christ should instead find ways of re-creating media institutions bit by bit until they are open to practices that better serve society” (126, 118).
The Power of Media Influence
With an ability to reach a global audience, the influence media possesses through persuasive words and striking visual appeal creates a powerful force that shapes everything from public opinion to behavioral patterns. This can produce negative and positive effects based on the source of media consumption and the agenda of gatekeepers who control what and how a message is disseminated. Bottom line, when it comes to discussing the impact of living in a media-saturated society, there will always be elements of the good, the bad and the ugly.
It’s no secret the sexualized culture of our time has an insatiable appetite that feeds through various channels of communication. If Hugh Hefner, the creator of Playboy magazine, had a female counterpart in the publishing business, it would have been Helen Gurley Brown, the former editor of Cosmopolitan magazine whose reign lasted from 1965 to 1997. Brown passed away last month, but her legacy will forever be known as “being the first to introduce frank discussions of sex into magazines for women” (2). In a recent New York Times article, Brown also was credited as redefining the look of women’s magazines to feature “a sea of voluptuous models and titillating cover lines” (2).
The influence of her life’s motto — “Good girls go to heaven, bad girls go everywhere” — created the framework for a publication identified as the “bible of single girls,” which is now available in 64 international editions (8). Brown took pride in preaching messages like “if you’re not a sex object, you’re in trouble,” but the ramifications from years of stereotypical images and advice steeped in harmful blatant lust camouflaged as harmless blissful abandon, has taken its toll (3). In a 2008 morality study conducted by the Barna Group, it was found the moral system of the U.S. is “based on convenience, feelings, and selfishness” — the same principles that are promoted in Cosmopolitan (9). Jennifer Pozner, director of Women in Media & News, states that Brown “created one of the most body-shaming, insecurity-provoking, long-lasting sexist media products of the last 100 years” (3).
Unfortunately, the magazine laced with seductive images and explicit cover lines that favor unbridled sexual expression over beauty in modesty is located at nearly every grocery store checkout counter. Although the target audience is adult-oriented, there is significant potential that a young teenage girl or boy raging with hormones and imagination could be negatively affected. They may not follow through with the sexual advice they read, but it takes one suggestive seed to plant a thought, and with the click of a mouse, a whole new pornographic world awaits. It’s a game the enemy knows all too well, and many times, his weapon of choice is the media.
Now, the First Amendment was established to protect the freedom of the press, which includes magazine publishers, so demanding that Cosmopolitan shut down is not a realistic venture. It is a freedom that should be fiercely guarded, and if the tables were turned and someone demanded that a faith-based magazine be shut down, the same protection would apply. However, that doesn’t mean some type of action can’t be taken to guard against an underage audience being exposed to crafted words of seduction.
In reference to the point suggested by Schultze about developing practices for media institutions that better serve society, Nicole Weider is embarking on a campaign to ensure that Cosmopolitan is wrapped in a non-transparent bag. Her goal is that “no one under the age of 18 sees the cover of Cosmopolitan magazine on newsstands or at their grocery stores, and that no one under 18 can legally buy Cosmopolitan magazine” (1). This type of campaign is a massive undertaking, and although it is a work in progress, the 26-year-old Christian is to be commended for engaging in the cultural battle of morality. Recently, Weider gained a powerful ally in Victoria Hearst, who not only is the heir to the Hearst Corporation that publishes the magazine, but she also carries the same values as Weider.
Together, the women are meeting with political and nonpolitical leaders to see that the “Material Harmful to Minors” law is extended to Cosmopolitan. In a recent interview with Fox News, Hearst says: “We are simply asking Hearst to take responsibility for the magazine’s pornographic content and voluntary bag it and make sure that it is sold to adults only. . . . The magazine promotes a lifestyle that can be dangerous to women’s emotional and physical well being. It should never be sold to anyone under 18” (4).
Change is achievable. Reformation doesn’t happen overnight, but when it finally happens, whether it takes weeks or years, the commitment to a virtuous cause fueled with perseverance backed by heaven’s authority, creates a dynamic opportunity for a positive outcome. Weider and Hearst vs. Cosmopolitan is a modern-day David and Goliath scenario. It’s admirable and inspirational to see someone stand before a media giant with a fearless mentality grounded by a genuine belief that all things are possible. As Lance Wallnau states, “Something powerful happens when your authenticity shows up and collides with your passion in an area where you are informed” (7).
1. Pray that the kaleidoscope effect utilized by the media to relay a message through a skewed lens would have a limited effect, and that the discernment of target audiences would be sharpened so communication may be clearly identified as “poison or fruit.” (Proverbs 18:21)
2. Pray that reformers on the mountain of media will have their path enlarged so their feet do not slip, and that they will be blessed with patience, courage, strength, wisdom, knowledge, insight, and a holy conviction to fight a good fight and finish the race of their God-given assignment. (Psalm 18:36, 2 Timothy 4:5&7)
3. Pray that those gifted with communication skills will be teachable and adequately trained for war, but will always engage culture from a heart that is bound by the same love that Jesus displayed to the culture of His time. (Psalm 18:34, Matthew 22:37-39)
1. “About.” Anti-Cosmo Mission. http://www.anticosmomission.com/about/
2. Fox, Margalit. “Helen Gurley Brown, Who Gave ‘Single Girl’ a Life in Full, Dies at 90.” The New York Times. 13 August 2012. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/14/business/media/helen-gurley-brown-who-gave-cosmopolitan-its-purr-is-dead-at-90.html?pagewanted=all
3. Grinberg, Emanuella. “Helen Gurley Brown’s complicated feminist legacy.” CNN. 17 August 2012. http://articles.cnn.com/2012-08-17/living/living_helen-gurley-brown-legacy_1_original-cosmo-girl-s-cosmo-reader-sexual-revolution
4. McKay, Hollie. “Victoria Hearst says her family’s Cosmopolitan magazine ‘pornographic,’ joins campaign to get it brown bagged.” Fox News. 6 September 2012. http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2012/09/06/victoria-hearst-says-her-family-cosmopolitan-magazine-pornographic-joins/#ixzz26It3UeLs
5. Schultze, Quentin J. Communicating for Life: Christian Stewardship in Community and Media. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2000.
6. “The State of the New Media 2012: An Annual Report on American Journalism.” The Pew Center’s Research Project for Excellence in Journalism. 19 March 2012. http://stateofthemedia.org/
7. Wallnau, Lance (lancewallnau). “Something powerful happens when your authenticity shows up and collides with your passion in an area where you are informed.” 18 June 2011, 9:20 p.m. Tweet.
8. Wilson, Craig. “Helen Gurley Brown made ‘Cosmopolitan’ more than a magazine.” USA Today. 13 August 2012. http://www.usatoday.com/life/people/obit/story/2011-08-02/helen-gurley-brown-cosmopolitan-dies-at-90/57039456/1
9. “Young Adults and Liberals Struggle with Morality.” Barna Group. 25 August 2008. http://www.barna.org/barna-update/article/16-teensnext-gen/25-young-adults-and-liberals-struggle-with-morality