Does the media determine our reality?I have just been given an assignment that asks me to write a persuasive editorial based on the above question using sources such as "The Truman Show", "The...

Does the media determine our reality?

I have just been given an assignment that asks me to write a persuasive editorial based on the above question using sources such as "The Truman Show", "The Matrix" and various other examples. Im struggling to make it persuasive and would really appreciate some help!


Expert Answers
clairewait eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think the similarity between these two movies (in reference to your assignment) is that the main characters in each - at the beginning - are completely unaware that the life they live is not what they think it is.  I think one reason why so many people liked both movies (and for the Matrix, the entire trilogy really) was a result of exactly that premise.  It made movie goers ask the question, "What if the life we're living right now isn't really what we think it is?"

On one hand, the movies present this question to a very serious extreme.  On the other hand, it is true that the media is reponsible for painting unrealistic pictures of actual circumstances - think about the presentation of the oil spill in the gulf for the past few months.  The tourism industry in all those gulf states, but especially Florida, has suffered greatly by the way the media has portrayed the condition of the gulf water and its "probable affects" on surrounding beaches.  I have heard countless stories (some personal, some on the radio, NONE on the TV) of people who planned to vacation on the coast of Florida, called to see what the beach looked like - and received the same answer in all cases: It is fine.  We are okay.  Things are as beautiful as ever - except not crowded as they should be this time of year.  Come!  Come! And those who went confirmed, things were fine.  But the news has us all believing that oil-covered-pelicans and baby sea turtles are washing up on shore with regularity.  For those whose livelihood is determined by tourism - the media is certainly, in part, determining their reality right now.

I think for your essay you could probably start with the extreme idea presented in the two films you mentioned - and show how the real media today may not be as extreme - but is essentially lies sometimes, just the same.  Then you could present examples of where media bias has produced really negative (and needless) effects.

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There seems to be two issues at play here which might be causing the trouble on persuasion.  The first is assessing your own opinion on if the media creates or simply mirrors our reality.  If it's the latter, then the follow up questions would be if it is our own construction, and then, by extension, whether we have control over it.  If you feel it is the former, then, possible questions might be how the media is outside of our control or what can be done to reassert control over it.  I think that once you determine where you stand on these issues, you can use evidence from each film to help support your point of view on it.  The fundamental element in each is that there are forces which help to create our own reality as different from what it might have been intended as, but there can be hope in the form of individual consciousness which raises issue to these conditions.  Being able to identify what your own view is on the issue and the relevant portions of the films that help to substantiate or expand it will be of vital importance in creating the element of persuasion in your writing.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Why not compare and contrast how television media put "slants" upon the perceptions of its viewers?  For instance, the camera can show a small number of protesters, etc. and make the group seem much larger by keeping things out of the picture that would act as backdrops against which to measure.

Another way in which the media influences thought is in its reportage.  To demonstrate this, you can allude to the handling of an incident by networks that are predominately liberal against those that are more conservative. Consider as an example the reportage of the Fort Hood killings by the Army psychiatrist.  While CNN downplayed some of the facts about the killer, Fox News revealed more information.  It was only after so many more viewers turned to Fox for more information that CNN then reported biographical information on the killer.  This information is documented; so, it should be accessible.

Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It may be too grand to say the media determinesour reality; however, we do see the reality they choose to show us through their small (biased, selective) lens.  Clearly several things have to be true before your statement is true.  First, all reality would have to be ascertained through the media.  Even people who are house-bound and see or read nothing but TV or newspapers would have their own realities to compare and contrast with that presented in the media.  Second, all viewers and readers of media would have to accept at face value, without any discernment or judgment-making on their part, the "truth" the media presents.   We've become, I hope, a more savvy populace after the very kinds of incidents delineated above.  So your editorial says simply this:  The media only shapes our reality if we let it.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
It really depends on where you plan to go with this. One argument you could make is that we often don't want something until we see it on tv in some form or another, either in an advertisement or on an actual television show or even a reality show.