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Seeing Species

Re-presentations of Animals in Media & Popular Culture

Debra L. Merskin

Animals are everywhere. They inhabit our forests, our fields, our imaginations, our dreams, and our stories. Making appearances in advertisements, television programs, movies, books, Internet memes, and art, symbolic animals do tremendous work for us selling goods, services, and ideas, as well as acting as stand-ins for our interests and ideas. Yet, does knowing animals only symbolically impact their lived experiences? Seeing Species: Re-presentations of Animals in Media & Popular Culture examines the use of animals in media, tracking species from appearances in rock art and picture books to contemporary portrayals in television programs and movies. Primary questions explored include: Where does thinking of other beings in a detached, impersonal, and objectified way come from? Do the mass media contribute to this distancing? When did humans first think about animals as other others? Main themes include examining the persistence of the human-animal divide, parallels in the treatment of otherized human beings and animals, and the role of media in either liberating or limiting real animals.

This book brings together sociological, psychological, historical, cultural, and environmental ways of thinking about nonhuman animals and our relationships with them. In particular, ecopsychological thinking locates and identifies the connections between how we re-present animals and the impact on their lived experiences in terms of distancing, generating a false sense of intimacy, and stereotyping. Re-presentations of animals are discussed in terms of the role the media do or do not play in perpetuating status quo beliefs about them and their relationship with humans. This includes theories and methods such as phenomenology, semiotics, textual analysis, and pragmatism, with the goal of unpacking re-presentations of animals in order to learn not only what they say about human beings but also how we regard members of other species.

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Media, Minorities, and Meaning

A Critical Introduction

Debra L. Merskin

This book is an examination of how American mass media, including advertising, presents Otherness – anyone or anything constructed as different from an established norm – in terms of gender, race, sex, disabilities, and other markers of difference. Using a mythological lens, the book looks below the surface of media content to explore the psychological, social, and economic underpinnings of a system of beliefs that result in prejudice, discrimination, and oppression. Designed to raise awareness of the foundations of historically-based inequities in the American social, cultural, and economic milieu, the author shows how inequalities are maintained, at least in part, by mass media, popular culture, and advertising representations of Otherness. The book aims to increase awareness of stereotyping in the media, and expose how the construction of people as Others contributes to their marginalization. Written in an accessible and engaging style, with student-friendly discussion questions and resources, this book is suitable for upper-level undergraduate and postgraduate courses.
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Sexing the Media

How and Why We Do It

Debra L. Merskin

Sex in the media is one of the hottest topics of the day. We know that advertising, television, cinema, and other forms of communication use sex to sell us products and pump up story lines. The question is: why are sex and sexuality such effective tools for getting our attention?
Sexing the Media: How and Why We Do It is a textbook that explores answers to this question through historical, sociological, psychological, and ideological perspectives. It explores how media and other social institutions use sex and sexuality (the capacity to have erotic experiences and responses) to advance economic and ideological interests.Cinema, music, music videos, television programs, advertising, and the Internet are discussed as carriers of deliberately constructed messages that contribute to and support a master narrative that privileges heterosexuality and monogamy.
This interdisciplinary text includes contemporary case studies as examples that would be useful in courses in media, cultural studies, sociology, and psychology.