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Part II: A Foucauldian framework on Media ’ s influence/control on Society: Why and how are individual /society being disciplined by the power of popular cultural media?

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Part II: A Foucauldian framework on Media’s influence/control on Society:

Why and how are individual /society being disciplined by the power of popular cultural media?

Identifying and interrelating variables from our Kit literature for essay P II. (this integration is impt for your P 2 grade)



    • Biopower of popular culture
  • Foucault: Discipline and Punish (chapter 7)
      • Power to Media Technologies
      • Technologies of managing people who are objectified as categories of age, gender, students, workers, managers, investors and all normalized, objectified groups in society
    • Instrument:
      • Mass produced movies, TV shows, print media
      • Internet
    • Self:
      • Consumer of media: movies, information, etc
    • Place:
      • Society/Home

Mechanisms (creating docility):

    • of objectification
    • of subordination
  • Techniques of discipline:
    • Surveillance, totally infiltrate/ discipline/ monitor minutely
    • Goal : Identification; Classification (normal /abnormal): assessment; behaviour alteration

Power/Media (cont’d)

  • 7. Discourse:
    • On popular cultural norms on all aspects of life imposed on self, e.g., re: body, leisure, life style, gender, race, education, politics, business, etc.
    • Discourse is that of consumer, corporate profit and integrating the self into the business world, but little discourse on citizen/public sphere or of community life
  • 8. Historical Process that unfolds:
    • Objectification, Loss of self, Totalization

F’s disciplinary and biopolitical power: Power over Life

  • To make one follow the norm: quantify, measure, appraise and hierarchize
  • Power to take charge of life: does not separate the state from the citizens
  • Law operates as the Normalizing instrument
  • F differentiates between life and norm
  • Power Is productive and positive – investment and valorization of the body
  • Power administers, optimizes and multiplies and implements the norm
  • Individual bodies are micromanaged in producing them as normalized bodies
  • Body politic of the population is similarly normalized
  • Power is neither inhibiting nor permitting
  • Unofficial institutions regulate through normative power
  • e.g.: peer pressure, unwritten rules of social norms

Law cannot regulate the way unofficial opinion can over life: e.g.:

  • Body size; gender and other social organizational aspects
  • The aim of biopower is that the society must be stabilized and normalized
  • Opinion regulates such issues that affect others in the society through reward and and negative reinforcements
  • Power over life:
  • Means: production of power
  • Location: everywhere and micromanaged
  • Source: unofficial
  • Works through positive/ negative reinforcements

Disciplinary power:

  • Normalizes the individual body
  • Centered on the body as the anatomic politics of the body
  • Optimizes and micromanages the body to make it efficient: e.g.,
  • Diet, beauty regimen, new language learning
  • Discipline is enforced through surveillance
  • Biopower: manages and normalizes the body politic
  • Collect data, categorize and classify, average or normalize to attain
  • even distribution around the bell curve (norm)
  • Manage instances that do not fit the bell curve, i.e., pull in the outliers: e.g.: child being measured by doctors (h/w); BMI; population trend of what is normal; monitor the bell curve to enforce the normal for security: the “society must be defended”
  • Discipline is literal
  • Biopower is metaphorical

Right to death: subtraction of one’s power

  • Right to life: production of power
  • In juridical power liberation is fight against subtraction and disobedience does not work
  • In biopower, resistance and oppositional activities augment the resisters’ power
    • e.g. sexual revolution of the 60s
  • When we think we are resisting, we are increasing our access to power – this complements power – can’t get rid of power
  • How then can you resist power?
  • Micro-subvert it and not being governed by the system by playing the system
  • The care (and practice) of the self

Framework: Media as popular cultural instruments shape Foucault’s ‘Disciplinary society’:

    • Media set socio-cultural norms – of values, behaviour, bodies, gender, knowledge, etc. - which turn Society into a ‘House of Certainty’
    • Disciplinary power is a non-corporeal totalizing
    • force:
      • Individual social bodies unconsciously acknowledge and
      • accept the disciplinary power relations with the media
      • Certainty of control is constructed by the self who spontaneously designs own subjection,
    • Effects :
      • Constant, profound and permanent on the Self
      • Produce a ‘disciplinary’ society

Media’s disciplinary power is invisible and continuous in its control over the self

  • Its two forms:
    • Surveillance
    • Normalization
  • Foucault’s method of inquiry:
    • uncovers the discourse of the disciplining institutions
  • Disciplinary power is a totalizing system:
    • Deployed seemingly innocuously
    • Multitude of capillaries of control
    • Permeates and controls the whole society

Foucault’s Madness and Civilization: The Birth of the Asylum:

  • Movies that present what happens in the Asylum

Michel Foucault Madness and Civilization: The Birth of the Asylum; Foucault vs. Freud

Top 10 Movies That Take Place in a Mental Institution (Audience Choice)

The Truth about Mental Hospitals

Inside Mental Hospital


Turner: Hospital

Three levels of this ‘spatialization’ of disease (Foucault, 1973)

Disease ontologies are differentiated by resemblance and  analogy

Disease is mapped onto the human body, moves from organ to organ, undergoes metamorphosis

Specialization: a disease is circumscribed, medically invested, isolated, divided up into closed, privileged regions, or distributed throughout cure centres, arranged in the most favourable way’ (Foucault, 1973)

 Contradictions between the medical ethic of curing the patient and the medical economy, which derives profit from the life-long maintenance of illness.

Corporate & global medical systems transformed the professionalism i.e., medical dominance (state authorizes) and the consulting ethic (needs Public trust) -


Hospital: Monty Python sketch


The Hospital 1971 part 1, George C. Scott, Paddy Chayefsky, Diana Rigg


Azzarito (2010)

  • Surveillance:
  • The feminine docile body: ‘woman-as-Panopticon.’
  • The power of the media as a surveillance mechanism presenting and reiterating ideals of high-status femininity.
  • The media defines and circumscribes the feminine body as a complement to and/or in opposition to the masculine body in normative ways.

Azzarito (2010) (cont’d):


popular culture constructs unrealistic ideals of women’s bodies

Normal/abnormal: normalizes stereotypes of race and gender

Celebrating slenderness, lack of muscularity and athleticism. Dieting and fitness practices promoted in health, fitness and fashion magazines serve as technologies of the self for achieving ‘perfection,’ an unattainable, monodimensional notion of slenderness with its promise of ideal femininity


Azzarito (2010) (cont’d)


media offers ever more important sites of pedagogizing girls’ construction of their bodies

The Muslim girl’s body remains portrayed not only as a covered body, a ‘silent body,’ but also as an oppressed and constrained female physicality

 Racial and other minorities are often misrepresented by the media, esp. in Hollywood movies



Media can impact viewers to learn their values, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors as media content normalize models of these which then are disseminated as popular culture (see, Bandura, 1986, 1989, 1994, 2001).

Popular views of normal/abnormal of : Who the girls/women are: What types of behaviors; What types of motivations; parents & the nature of relationships within families

‘House of certainty’ is set up for controlling gender related activities and physicality


Merskin (2004)

Foucault’s argument: Discourse and presentation of body and sexuality in popular media are narratives of control by social institutions (Lewis, 2002)

Merskin: Thesis:

In fashion advertisements show girls as sexualized images, infantilizes the women for controlling them with legitimacy. These ads procure such images, offer them to the public in order to sell them.


Merskin (cont’d)

  • Impact of advertisers and mass media on young/adolescent girls and their gazers:
  • Surveillance:
    • Normalizing adolescent as ‘sexually available’ and seeing them as always having sex on their minds, willing to be dominated, sexually violated and become sexual objects.
  • Objectification:
    • Gazing at sexualized girls’ representations subordinates them for male consumers. It turns them into objects of forbidden lust for preadolescent girls

Merskin (cont’d):

  • 3. Discourse: Narratives in Media-content
  • Pornographication
  • Hollywood’s representation of adolescent beauties
  • ‘Teenage tart’ symbolizes adult gaze that sexualizes and seduces adolescents’
  • Young girls are “dressed up” surveilled as adult women
  • Representation of the imaginary relation of adolescents and viewers to the real condition of existence”

Merskin (cont’d)

  • 4. Disciplinary society/disciplining process:
  • Disciplining children: 1954 to 1984: Children’s images in Playboy, Penthouse, and Hustler magazines (6,004) in advertisements and cartoons was 24% of the total image representation of children (Reisman, 1990)
  • Control and profiting : 1980s and 1990s: Marketing adolescent girls as sexualized, as catering to men’s whims and as nymphets to arouse male gazer and enjoying their desirability (Asher, 2002).

Dryburg & Fortin (2010) Ballet & Docile body:

  • Surveillance:
    • Idealized images of the body in media
    • ‘The ballet studio is a panoptic place,’ the barre as “backstage”, is a place of surveillance by instructors, and self-surveillance by dancers looking in the mirror.
    • Self-surveillance of the body as well as the adaptation of social behaviour.
    • The mirror encourages body surveillance and often reminds the dancer that her body does not match the ideal body type
    • Lateral surveillance manifests itself as competitive observation and comparison of appearance and habits between dancers


    • Audience ‘gaze’ of ‘physical appearance’, ‘beautiful lines’ and an ‘ideal body type’.
    • Body scrutinized more closely after being asked to shed some pounds
    • Under weight surveillance, dancers tend to think of themselves as a ‘mass of flesh’ (a blob) rather than as an artist

3. Discourse:

  • Narratives in popular cultural magazines, TV fictional shows, movies (1,791 magazine images of models/ celebrities) (McDermott: 2005) :
  • Physical attractiveness
  • Media role models
  • Ballet dancers’“norm” of accepted ‘physical appearance’, ‘beautiful lines’ and an ‘ideal body type’.

4. Disciplining:

  • Conforming to the ad’s or movie’s requirements
  • Requirements of pleasing viewers (others) to entice the viewer’s Gaze
  • Willingly marketing the docile body although in an art form that is socially appreciated (Ballet)
  • Selling the norm of popular cultural body image
  • dance plays a significant role in feeding dancers’ obsession with their bodies

Stern, B.B., et al (2005):

  • Soap Opera on TV
    • Para-social Attachment
    • Social Learning
    • Behavioral Modeling

Knowledge vs. Deception:

  • Yang M., et al (2006): Variables:
  • Independent variable: Brand names placed in video games
  • Dependent variable: (Effect on) College students' implicit and explicit memory for brands
  • Word-fragment completion test and a brand recognition task:
  • For the brand names placed in the video games:
  • Low levels of explicit memory (recognition rest)
  • Showed implicit memory (word-fragment test)
  • Interrelated variables: Story or characters’ use enhance brand recognition

University and Society

  • Popular culture
  • Intellectualism
  • Anti-intellectualism

A university is an institution of higher

  • education and of research, which
  • grants academic degrees.
    • University shapes intellectuals
    • Its tools: disciplines, professors, curricula,
    • Libraries, readings
    • Outcome: Shaping individual’s minds,
    • thoughts, professions and careers.

Popular culture shapes public

  • assumptions and opinions on
  • Intellectuals.
    • e.g.: movies or Ads shape the popular images of professors, students, and schools.


  • Content and methods of one who pursues knowledge in science and art.


    • describes hostility towards, or a mistrust of intellectuals, and their intellectual pursuits.
    • expressed in various ways: e.g., attack on the merits of science, education, or literature

Anti-intellectualism (contd.)

    • Reflects an attitude that simply takes "intellectualism" with a grain of salt
    • Assumes that intellectuals may be vain or narcissistic in their self-image,
    • “Common people” view intellectuals as a fallible human archetype.

Where does it exist?

    • In every country
    • Most influential in USA
    • New England Puritan writer John Cotton wrote in 1642:
    • "The more learned and witty you bee, the more fit to act for Satan will you bee."

Popular cultural representations: Movies, TV and other pop media

  • Dimitriadis, G (2006) :
  • Representations have cumulative power
  • Conversations privileges certain thought and discourses
  • Dimitriadis, G. (2006) 'On the Production of Expert Knowledge: Revisiting Edward Said's work on the intellectual', Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 27:3, 369 – 382.