Ideology Ideology generally refers to the promoted ‘ideals’ for which society feels the need to conform to. These ideals are influenced by a number of different social institutions. One of these is the mass media.
The concept of ideology is a Marxist theory, which was explored by Louis Althusser. Althusser saw ideology as being a force which shapes people’s thoughts/awareness.
The ‘ideals’ ideology refers to are expressed through the media in a fair number of different ways. One of these is how the media can be seen as dictating the ideal lifestyle to its audience.
Media Influence If we take a look at the offerings on television we can see that there are definite ‘ideals’ being communicated. An example of this is how the media presents family units.
Regardless of the programme you watch, there is a good chance that the lead character’s family is a nuclear unit.
Often this is because the nuclear unit is typically believed to be the most common family structure. Writers will take note of the fact people are likely to have interest in characters that could be seen as representing them. By putting characters into a ‘common’ nuclear family unit, they will reach a large audience.
This leads to programming consisting mostly of nuclear family units, given them the most media exposure. This exposure promotes the idea of the nuclear family unit as being ideal to the audience. This cycle continues, which ensures that the common belief of ideals is strengthened more and more.
As we’ve seen now, the media industry uses the ideals it has already created as a basis for marketing products. Over time the industry has helped shape ideal lifestyles; which gives them a chance to sell products on the basis that they conform to said ideals.