But I Just Want to Read… (Thoughts About Media Literacy)

by Sarah on January 27, 2014

When I was in high school, I remember feeling a strong resentment towards my English classes. Despite being an avid reader and lover of the written word, I hated having to analyze and deconstruct every sentence.

Why did it matter who the narrator was? Is the author’s tone really significant, when I just read a good story and enjoy it?

The irony here is palpable, since right now I care a hell of a lot about the meanings behind the words, not just in literature but in all of media. While I know I can only be responsible for myself, it worries me that so many people take what they see in the world – on TV shows, the news, movies, magazines, etc. – at face value.

As such, I’ve lost the ability to “appreciate” the story and ignore it’s broader social context. I can’t do this anymore.

So why do I care?

Let me count the ways.

It’s only recently that I’ve started to find that there’s an activist side (and other activists!) around things I’ve felt strongly about for a long time but which I always thought were just my warped personal views. (Sad, but true.)

For example, I thought that my disdain for things feminine was just improper wiring in my brain. As I’ve discovered, however, the whole concept is truly a load of social conditioning. But for someone who’s grown up being told constantly that women are like this and men are like that and never stopping to question what that means, well… I sometimes feel like I am standing outside the Matrix and so many others are still living in it, never realizing that these ideals are truly optional.

I feel this way too about relationships, particularly traditional “escalator relationships.” I think they have their purpose, and I don’t think all relationships are bad, but I think that the idea that being partnered is the pinnacle of life is something that is fed to us over and over by our culture, so much so that many people can’t separate out their own needs and desires from what we’re all told we should want.

This, to me, seems insidious. We claim to be a society interested in individualism, but without the ability to truly learn how to think for ourselves, which includes thinking critically about the images we are shown and stories we are told, including who is telling those stories and why, we are merely a mass-produced mockery of our own supposed ideals.

And I think, although I certainly don’t know, that media literacy – the idea of learning how to consciously interact with and question the media and advertising we consume every day – is becoming an increasingly critical skill… possibly the most critical skill, if one hopes to break out of the matrix.

Is it as fun as sitting back and enjoying the story? No, of course not.

Staying in the matrix is always the more comfortable option… and it’s certainly more entertaining.

But as my friend Corie says over here, “I deeply believe the stories we tell shape our worlds. That the reality we read about influences the one in which we live.”

And so I thank my lucky stars that I am where I am (else I’d probably be married and having babies and have a mortgage and generally be much less happy than I am now) and I pay the price of eternal vigilance for the ability to craft my life along my own story lines. Media be damned.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Karen J March 31, 2014 at 11:04 pm

Hmmmm! Don’t know how I missed this… I think I was pretty wrapped up in my own shite at the time…
I know what you mean, too…

You’re so right about how important it is to “take a step back” and look carefully (is that a contradiction in terms?) at who’s saying what, and WHY – what they’re trying to accomplish, and (cynic-hat firmly on) whether what they’re saying is either accurate or true, in my world.

“Critical thinking skills” – sorely neglected, these days! and sometimes I really want to turn ’em off and just wallow 😉


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