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Analyzing Media Ideology Essay

1000 words - 4 pages

Ideology is a system of beliefs that help to explain, shape, and judge the values of the world (Croteau, Hoynes, &, Milan, 2012). Roland Barthes ideology asks the audience to look at a piece of media or advertisement and accept the narrow view of society that is relayed in the media source; in other words, Barthes asks audiences to look for the denotation, connotation or the literal and sociological meanings associated with the media (Chandler, 2008). Barthes was also concerned with the analysis of myths associated with the media, or the true intentions behind the media (Chandler). The denotation, connotation, and myth of Barthes ideology as well as dominant and cultural war ideologies are evident in the famous Marlboro Man ads.
According to the course text, it is best to look at ads that are at odds with our contemporary opinions as this helps differences in assumptions to be more readily apparent (Croteau, Hoynes, &, Milan, 2012). Following this guideline an infamous ad campaign was that of the Marlboro Man (Tobacco.org, 2011). I can remember as a child seeing the Marlboro ads on the backs of magazines. To me the denotation was always very simple. I saw a cowboy, rigid, hardworking, and smoking a cigarette. In fact as a child the cigarette was always the thing I overlooked in the picture. I was mesmerized by the cowboy, the rough, tough, free cowboy I longed to be.
The connotations of a picture are more open to interpretation because they are based on the observers age, gender, social class, race, religion, etc. (Chandler, 2008). Again, at a young age the ads signified the type of man I wanted to be. These men had no stress, they were enjoying life, riding horses, they were outdoors, and they were wealthy (NPR, 2002). The ads were set up to reflect the image that smoking Marlboro filtered cigarettes made life carefree; the ads were the antithesis for reality (NPR).
The myth analysis portion of Barthes ideology as related to this ad has to do with the idea that life will be better as a result of smoking. The ads featured real cowboys, so the ads were incredibly believable which attracted people to the product (NPR, 2002). The truth is that smoking may be a stress reliever or provide some pleasure, but smoking also leads to cancer and or death (Stop Smoking, 2011). In fact at least two of the Marlboro men used in these ads died of lung cancer (NPR). So the myth that smoking equals carefree happiness is most definitely false.
The dominant ideology debate that some argue is that powerful groups are promoted in media, and the counter argument that media reflect contradictory messages is evident in the Marlboro ads on both sides of the debate (Croteau, Hoynes, &, Milan, 2012). The most dominant ideology at the time these ads ran was that smoking lead to freedom (NPR, 2002). The ads where plagued with rich white men who were getting the most out of life, representing what a good majority of people wanted, a...

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