Social and Cultural Framing in America
People build a series of mental filters through biological, social, and cultural influences, and they use these filters to make sense of the world. This is called framing. Framing is so effective because it is a mental shortcut, human beings are by nature lazy thinkers, and we don’t like to think too much or too hard. Frames provide people a quick and easy way to process information. Diana Kendall, a sociology professor at Baylor University has studied how mass media has portrayed upper, middle, working, and poverty classes by how they stereotype them in different ways. “Rather than providing a meaningful analysis of inequality and showing realistic portrayals of life in various social classes, the media either play class differences for laughs or sweep the issue under the rug so that important distinctions are rendered invisible” (Kendall 330). The media has created the notion that in society the affluent are rewarded and the working class and poor are punished. TV shows like The Simple Life, Life of Luxury, and The Fabulous Life show how socio-economic classes are either played-up or minimalized and used for laughs. “In a mass-mediated culture such as ours, the media do not simply mirror society; rather, they help to shape it and to create cultural perceptions” (Kendall 331). The media blurs the line between what is real and what is not when it comes to perceptions of economic or social class. Televisions shows, magazines, and newspapers tell us that the only way to move up in the world is to identify yourself with the rich and powerful and to live “vicariously” through them. My mother watches Entertainment Tonight and reads those tabloid magazines, and I constantly ask her “Why Mom? Why do you bother reading up on these people that waste their undeserved riches and get married and divorced at least 10 times?” and she just says “Well I want to know what’s going on in their life, and hear all the gossip”. But WHY?!...
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