Week 2: Ryan Weber

Today the mass media is often criticized as being wasteful and negative. When most people think of the media they think of fashion adds which portray an unhealthy body image for many young people, or promoting unhealthy fast food restaurants, or some only see the media as a form of entertainment to not be taken seriously. The mass media is however something which should be taken seriously in a positive way as well. Movies, commercials, and photo advertisements are all just a few ways that the public can more easily learn about things which are happening in the world around us.
In 2004 a Canadian film maker released a movie in which a man, Morgan Spurlock, consumed McDonalds fast food for every meal of each day. If the employees and the restaurant asked him if he would like to “super size’ his meal, he was required to say yes. Unfortunately only part way through his experiment he was forced to terminate early due to severe health risks. Although his experiment failed, his resulting documentary ‘Super Size Me’ gained massive attention throughout America. It is currently a very common film to be shown in elementary, middle, and high schools throughout the country, including my own. The film caused McDonalds to withdraw their “super size’ menu option as well as really began to spark a conversation in the U.S. about food quality and healthy lifestyles.
‘Super Size Me’ was not the only film to resonate with the entire country. In 2006 ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ was released in which Al Gore hoped to bring the issue of global warming to a worldwide discussion. He succeeded and received an Academy Award for best documentary of the year. Today global warming is a commonly discussed issue which can easily be, at least in part, accredited to this movie.
Movies aren’t the only form of mass media which can benefit our country. The Center of Disease Control, or CDC, has recently released a series of informational advertisements entitled, ‘Start Talking. Stop HIV’. These clips range from a 30 second message encouraging couples of the gay community to be open with their sexual partners to help stop the spread of HIV, to ones nearly five minutes long talking in depth to Men, with their partners, about their own diagnosis. Since the 1980’s HIV has been a serious problem in the Gay community within the U.S. but nobody seems to talk about it. Americans often think of HIV/AIDS as an epidemic that is contained within a region of Africa, but it is a reality, and it is something that many people, both men and women, are living with in the United States, right now. These advertisements are helping to encourage those who have been diagnosed with HIV to not be ashamed and be more open with their sexual partners to help stop its spread. They are also encouraging those who have not been diagnosed to begin the conversation to keep themselves safe.
I remember talking to my father, who was born in 1949, about the media back in the 1950’s. Mass media existed mainly through news papers and magazines. News traveled so slowly it would often be weeks before people in New Jersey learned of a Hurricane in Florida. Now that technology has advanced to where any piece of news and information is available at the tips of your fingers, with smart phones, tablets etc. why would we not continually use these resources to benefit the people of this country. The news is often shown depicting sad events happening in the world, but why not take these sad events and instead of report them, help to fix them through mass media. Although seemingly small, ‘Super Size Me’ helped to eliminate the truly unhealthy “super size’ option at McDonalds around the country, ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ helped spark a national conversation about the issue of global warming, and I hope to see these advertisements from the CDC, ‘Start Talking. Stop HIV’ truly begin to bring light to the issue that is HIV. The media can benefit so many people in the world, if only used the proper way.