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Ray Sampang Dr. Alesha Gayle Intro to Acad Discourse SEC 057 10 Oct 2013 Below the Media Influence Media is everywhere. No matter where you go, some form of media is there surrounding you whether it’s advertisements, TV’s broadcasting the news, a news app on your phone constantly updating itself and notifying you that something just occurred, or magazines and newspapers sitting on a table or displayed in a kiosk. These sources of news are available so we are aware of everything that is happening in the world. There are a lot of changes being made in society and we have the news to keep us updated on those altercations. Many things have changed throughout the years and what has been deemed as acceptable in society is one of those changes. Media impacts the American way of life by showing what is accepted in today’s culture. The media impacts the American way of life by shaping what is messaged to the people. The media directs us on how we should view others in our society. An example of this would be about the issue with the Defense of Marriage Act or DOMA. “By 5-4, [the Supreme Court] ruled the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman, is unconstitutional” (Peralta par. 1). Years ago, gay marriage was heavily looked down upon. There wasn’t a state in the United States that legally allowed gay marriages. According to Richard Wolf and Brad Heath from USA Today, if a gay couple were to get married, they wouldn’t be recognized as a legal couple to the state and they wouldn’t receive benefits and programs that can be received from heterosexual couples like federal employment,

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health, tax and other laws (Wolf and Heath par. 10). With the ruling of DOMA as unconstitutional, gay couples can now receive those benefits. Along with that, they can now legally get married in 14 states and there have been predictions that the number of states allowing gay marriage can grow. The media also uses the power of Hollywood to show support for the gay community. Many celebrities like Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have voiced their acceptance of the LGBT community. Celebrities who are openly gay are involved in the “It Gets Better” project which is a way to help those who are being harassed for their sexual orientation. Some have posted videos of themselves onto YouTube telling their stories and sending the message that “it gets better”. Evidently, this news of gay people legally getting married shows that the United States is slowly becoming accepting of the gay community while in the past, it wasn’t looked at closely and was considered inappropriate and wrong. Another thing that is becoming more socially acceptable is biracial couples. Yahoo! writer Lucy Tonic states that “At one point it was considered ludicrous and controversial to make a movie or show a TV episode in which… a white woman and black man get married. This was because, compared to today, strong racial, gender and sex biases still existed strongly within the majority of society years ago” (Tonic par. 4). A very recent example that connects to showing white woman and black man being married is the “Just Checking” Cheerios commercial. The commercial shows a little girl asking her white mother if Cheerios is good for the heart. After the mother reassures her that that is true, it switches to a scene where an African American father wakes up from a nap on the sofa with him coated in Cheerios, signaling that the audience is viewing a biracial household. The commercial received acclaim while also unfortunately receiving heavy online backlash. When discussing the online backlash, Today Show’s Star Jones says “"It allows you to be anonymous and to say the kinds of things that you would never say to

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a person to their face. But a lot of this is generational also. People in my generation are still stuck in giving the side eye to an interracial couple. I think younger people have gotten used to seeing black and white, and Latin and black, and Latin and white. That's not going to be an issue in years to come" (Zaimov par. 6). Exactly, what Jones expressed, Cheerios made the commercial to celebrate the different kinds of families in the United States (Zaimov). Despite the backlash, Cheerios don’t plan on removing the commercial. Just like gay marriages, interracial marriages are being much more accepted in today’s society. There was heavy discrimination during the mid-1900 and blacks and whites couldn’t intermingle with each other. Now, in most places in America, there is very little segregation and blacks and whites can live amongst each other. If this commercial were to come out during those years of segregation, news outlets would’ve been less accepting of the commercial or maybe the commercial wouldn’t have even aired. People’s social capital influences the ways they understand the messages from the media. A way social capital influences understanding of the media are shared belief systems. Gay marriage is something that has been extremely controversial in many religions. When discussing the allowance of gay couples getting married, anti-gay activists will be unsupportive of the gay community due to their beliefs. Pro-gay activists on the other hand would be much more accepting of the gay community. These two groups will look at and understand articles dealing with gay marriages differently. This is also the same with biracial couples. People who were raised during the time where there was heavy discrimination in America may not agree with a marriage like that while others who don’t discriminate may not have a problem with it. Another way people could interpret the media is having money. In Gregory Mantsios’ article “Class in America”, it states that “People do not choose to be poor or working class; instead, they are limited and confined by the opportunities afforded or denied them by a social

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and economic system” (Mantsios). Like stated earlier, there are many ways that media reaches out to us; newspapers, magazines, smartphones, computers, tablets, etc. Unfortunately, some people don’t have the money to purchase some of those things. Newspapers are still a great source for getting information but they are not getting it as fast as someone with a computer would. Also, research can be limited. If someone wanted to look up a product being advertised or certain topics being discussed in an article, they could go on a smartphone, tablet, or computer and delve into more research. A person without the technology can only go off from the limited information that is given to them. If they were to research it, the information would come to them at a much slower pace. Another form of social capital that could influence the way people understand messages in the media is having insider knowledge. As stated in Dalton Conley’s novel, Honky, he says “In society overall it may be that those who are in control have a larger voice, the ability to fill up the newspapers and airwaves with their opinions” (Conley 77). Having insider knowledge gives one the power to express what they know. “That is the privilege of the middle and upper classes in America – the right to make up the reasons things turn out the way they do, to construct our own narratives rather than having the media and society do it for us” (Conley 100). Instead of being fed knowledge, some are privileged to feed other people with their own knowledge. Those are the people that understand the message the most. People’s social capital impacts the ways that we interact with other Americans. Beliefs could make or break bonds with others. People who are around those who share the same beliefs would most likely connect more with one another due to having the same common ground. If they were to be with someone with a different belief system, the outcome may be different. For

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example, if someone who is against gay marriage encounters a gay couple, they could either be really hostile or completely avoid them as much as possible. Where someone lives affects how one interacts with somebody. Dalton Conley gives an example of this in his novel where race also comes into play. “[Black friends in New York] used the term themselves, even called each other niggers, but they spoke the word with a sarcastic bite that negated its content. At any rate, the word never seemed dirty until we heard it used in the white Pennsylvania suburbs. Here, racism was expressed but apparently not thought much about” (Conley 117). The use of words is varying around the country; some areas in the country use a certain word in a different way. This could either create positive or negative interactions. In Conley’s example, the use of the word “nigger” in his home in New York comes off as more of a lighter and less offensive word if two black people were to exchange that word to one another. In the white suburbs of Pennsylvania however, when white people would use the word, it was used more to offend black people. Media is something that will never go away. America is constantly changing and media is something that keeps us up to date with those changes that affect all of us. Media is just one of the factors that have made the society that America knows and lives in today.

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Works Cited Conley, Dalton. Honky. Berkeley: University of California, 2000. Print. Mantsios, Gregory. Class in America. 2010. The Norton Field Guide to Writing. 2nd ed. New York: W. W. Norton & Compnay, 2010. 697-717. Print. Peralta, Eyder. "Court Overturns DOMA, Sidesteps Broad Gay Marriage Ruling." NPR. NPR, 26 June 2013. Web. 16 Oct. 2013. Tonic, Lucy. "How the Media Effects American Society." Yahoo Contributor Network. Yahoo, 5 July 2007. Web. 16 Oct. 2013. Wolf, Richard, and Brad Heath. "Supreme Court Strikes down Defense of Marriage Act." USA Today. Gannett, 26 June 2013. Web. 16 Oct. 2013. Zaimov, Stoyan. "CP Entertainment." Christian Post. The Christian Post, 3 June 2013. Web. 16 Oct. 2013.