Media Texts

Media Texts

Today, social relations grow more and more complicated and so does the communication between people. In fact, one of the major reasons for the consistent changes of the process of communication and interaction between people is the introduction of new technologies, especially the progress of media. The development of mass media, including television as well as cinematography at large, contributed to the spread of the pop culture. Moreover, in the contemporary world, mass media became a powerful tool with the help of which ideas can be conveyed to the mass audience in a very short period of time. In this respect, it is possible to speak not only about a profound cultural impact of mass media on the modern society, but also about ideological impact of mass media which affect practically all spheres of human life. At this point, it is necessary to refer to the concept of discourse which can also be conveyed via mass media. To put it more precisely, the mass media shape and convey political, socio-economic and cultural discourse affecting the mass conscious to the extent that it is possible to speak about the identity formation by means of mass media and various types of discourses mass media spread to the mass audience (Mills, 2004, p.17). In such a situation, even a single film can have a profound impact on the audience and affect the cultural life of people through introduction of new concepts and ideas, though movies can also convey political or social discourses, which also affect culture. At this point, it is possible to refer to such a film as Singing in the Rain (1952), which perfectly conveys the culture and socio-cultural changes at the epoch when the action of the film takes place that may be traced and analyzed by means of the analysis of the film’s discourse.
Traditionally, discourse is defined as a message constructed linguistically in a specific social context. Nowadays, it is impossible to deny the significance of discourse for the human society as the whole (Chambers, 2003, p.31). It is evident that the concept of discourse concerns different spheres of our life and it may be treated as the basis which defines any social relations and rituals. Its influence may be traced in political, economical, religious and all others fields of our life (Mills, 2004, p. 19). The notion of discourse and all the facts related to it are in the center of attention of many researchers who are interested in the development of modern science at large and linguistic and sociology in particular. For many specialists discourse is something more than oral or written speech, for them it is much more complicated phenomenon and metaphorically it may be named a mirror of our society and all the relations which take place between all the members of this society. That’s why we can find such sayings concerning discourse: “The concept of discourse describes the ultimate non-fixity of anything existing in society. One must, of course, not reduce discourse to speech and writing but instead expand it to any kind of signifying relation. This concept of discourse is the terrain on which a concept of hegemony can be constructed” (Laclau 1992, p.254). Taking into consideration all above mentioned, in my work I will dwell upon discourse as the basis of different relations concerning different spheres of our life, particularly juridical, political and religious.
First of all, it is necessary to dwell upon a political aspect and from the very beginning I want to underline that despite the fact that the researches of discourse has been started comparatively not long time ago but still discourse has a great influence as long as social life endures. That is why the roots of contemporary governance of the western world may be found in European history. For example, it is a well-known fact that in the Middle Ages, particularly in the 10th-15th centuries, there was the conflict between Church and State which reflected a highly complicated interaction between two principal modes of discourse and consciousness: morality and power (Chambers, 2003, p.33). Traditionally, the discourse of religious morality permitted the Church to define the proper religious behavior and regulate some other religious norms. Whereas the discourse of power permitted to the State to regulate economical life, civil order and some other questions of political life. As both, the Church and the State, tended to define the areas of human everyday life which corresponded to the exclusive domain of their respected discourses, they, naturally, came into conflict with one another. As a result, the conflict between the discourse of religious morality and that of power was aggravated and it even deteriorated the way political rulers and popes talked to each other.
Also we may find more recent researches concerning the problem of discourse and its role in our life. So, when we analyze the contemporary situation in the national policy we can find out that there are forces which have a simplified, voluntarist view on nations and they try to develop their national ideas on the basis of plain interests and collective needs without deep understanding of the problem that may lead to the growth of nationalism and other negative phenomena (Bhabha, 1994, p.38). Consequently, sometimes “the nation becomes a kind of modern ‘text’ and nationalism a form of political ‘discourse’, rather than an ideology. We are then invited to join in a ‘reading’ of text (and subtexts), as if the key to an explanation of this form of discourse and text lay in a literary analysis of the meanings and devices employed by nationalists and others in their modeling of ‘nation-ness’”. (Smith, 1991, p.361). Another researcher, Bhabha, focus his attention on the problem of truth in politic, which, according to him, causes a struggle between two forces, namely the dominant and the dominated and he estimates that “politics can only become representative, a truly public discourse, through a splitting in the signification of the subject of representation; through an ambivalence at the point of the enunciation of the politics” (Bhabha 1994, p.24). Thus, we can see that discourse may have a serious influence on the policy and even the behavior of whole nations.
However, discourse is not less important in juridical domain. Nowadays, when we speak about juridical discourse we observe the shift that has taken place from a ‘savage’ to a ‘civilized’ subject through the social contract and the basic principle of discourse itself is equality as the main value (Chambers, 2003, p.34). However, the juridical discourse has a paradox by its nature: on the one hand, it must tend to the total explication of its contents and rules, according to a denotative modality, on the other hand, it must be efficacious and fair, according to a connotative modality or, in other words, social connotation. So, the notion of discourse implemented to juridical norms seems to be quite controversial but it has a great social value and the way the problem of such a contradiction is solved determines the degree of social confidence in relation to the juridical system in general.
Finally, it is important to dwell upon the role of discourse in human attitudes, beliefs and rituals and analyzing this side of the problem I want to focus my attention on the phenomenon which was always mysterious, inexplicable and, to a certain extent, frightening but still attracting human minds of all times, so I mean death. From the very beginning it is necessary to emphasize that the notion of ‘death’ is a socially constructed idea but that fear that people feel to death is rather acquainted than natural because I, in person, think that people, while they grow, get certain knowledge, ideas and subjective perception of this phenomenon due to the education and rearing they receive as well as religious beliefs that are spread in the society and, certainly, due to the local language and arts. Traditionally, there are some norms which have to be taken into consideration concerning the role of discourse in death rituals and beliefs (Mills, 2004, p.21). Among the best known and widely spread is a so-called ‘taboo’ status of the topic of dying and death in people’s everyday discourse as well as quite a particular language that they use regarding death. As a result different cultures have different concepts and attitudes to death. For example, we can find death-accepting, death-denying and even death-defying cultures. So, western culture is characterized by different strategies for salvation through activism and asceticism while eastern culture is traditionally characterized by mystical and contemplative strategies. Hence, it is evident that our everyday discourse has a significant influence on our beliefs and attitude to different and even highly abstract notions.
In order to fully reveal the significance of the discourse in the textual analysis and cultural criticism, it is possible to refer to the film Singing in the Rain. In fact, the discourse conveyed the specific culture of the epoch which the film depicts. To put it more precisely, it is possible to trace the basic cultural trends through the discourse of the film. It is worth mentioning the fact that it is not only through the speech and manner of communication of the main characters it is possible to trace the dominant cultural trends, but also through their behavior and actions.
In actuality, it is necessary to focus on the language and speech of the main characters. Obviously, the language and speech of the main characters of the film is quite different from the casual, colloquial language used by average people at the epoch. Instead, the language and speech of the film is intentionally correct and it is even possible to estimate that the language is rather formal than colloquial, even when the conversation between characters is close to friendly (Eagleton, 1992, p.139). In such a way, the film shows the significance of the correct language, speech and pronunciation, which were apparently very significant at the epoch. In fact, the correctness of language, its beauty becomes one of the major conditions of the success of the main characters of the film. For instance, the main character Kathy succeeds not only due to her ability to sing but also due to the beauty of her language, correct, well-organized speech, while her main rival, Lina, seems to be more negligent in regard to her language, speech and pronunciation. Eventually, Lina reveals her inability to sing and the truth comes out.
On the other hand, the discourse analysis reveals basic cultural trends of the epoch. For instance, it is obvious that the film tends to convey the idea of the American dream, the concept which is quite skeptically perceived by the modern audience, but which is very strong in the film (Chambers, 2003, p.37). The obtaining of a higher social status is one of the major goals of the main character and Kathy, as well as other characters, strives for success and prosperity, which are the ultimate goal of their work. At the same time, the film shows the significance of the art, especially cinematography and music at the epoch, which are very popular among the audience. In addition, the film reveals the complexity of human relations. In fact, the discourse raises certain ethical issues. For instance, the intimate relationship between Don and Kathy closely intertwine with their professional work and it is even possible to estimate that their relationships accelerated professional progress of Kathy.
Thus, taking into account all above mentioned I come to the conclusion that discourse plays a key role in various spheres of social life. It is impossible to ignore this fact because inevitably we are a part of this process since we can’t live without taking into consideration traditional beliefs or current political, social, juridical and, consequently, economical situation. On the contrary, we can and we do it even unconsciously because discourse is a part of our life and, as I have already said, it is a basis for different social activities and rituals that makes the further analysis of the phenomenon very important and even necessary for better understanding of the variety of processes that take place in the human society and the society itself it would probably prevent many problems that the modern society has at the moment. At the same time, the discourse helps conduct a detailed cultural analysis and the analysis of Singing in the Rain reveals the richness of the discourse which reveals various aspects of the cultural as well as social life of the epoch.

References:
Bhabha, Homi. (1994). “The Commitment to Theory.” In The Location of Culture. London: Routledge, pp.22-41.
Chambers, S.A (2003) (Telepistemology of the Closet; or, The Queer Politics of Six Feet Under.” Journal of American Culture, Vol. 26, No. 1, March 2003, pp.24-41.
Eagleton, T (1992). Post-Structuralism in Literary Theory: An Introduction. Oxford: Blackwell, p.127-150.
Fiske, John. (1992). “Cultural Studies and the Culture of Everyday Life.” In Cultural Studies. Ed. Lawrence Grossberg, Cary Nelson, and Paula Treichler. New York: Routledge, pp. 159-181.
Laclau, Ernesto. (1993). Metaphor and Social Antagonism. London: Harvester Wheatsheaf, pp. 248-262.
Mills, S. (2004). Introduction in Discourse. London & New York: Routledge, pp.14-25
Singing in the Rain. 1952.
Smith, Anthony. “The Nation: Invented, Imagined, Reconstructed?” In: Millennium: Journal of International Studies, vol. 20, #3, 1991, p.360-373.