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Media Literacy Is Falling in America

media literacy
Courtesy of glue tree (Flickr CC0)

A lack of media literacy seems to be on an upward trend in America these days. If anything it seems people just don’t get the point of things they are watching. Today, this phenomenon is going to be analyzed. Before everything gets rolling terms should be defined. Media literacy is the concept of how well a person can understand the intended message of a given work, how and why it got there, as well as create their interpretations of the work. An example of this would be a person watching something like an anti-capitalist film and can’t tell that it’s anti-capitalist.

This isn’t to say that any one interpretation reigns supreme over all others. However, the creator of a work usually intended for there to be meaning. If they didn’t there tend to be bias within their life history that can be picked out to further determine what inspired them to create the work and further determine its meaning. Certain artistic styles have meanings as well. All of these analytical skills contribute to what is known as “media literacy.” The point is that the ability to discern what the creator meant, and being able to create one’s interpretation of the work demonstrates a solid level of media literacy.

‘Squid Game’

Part of what spawned this article is the world’s reaction to the show “Squid Game.” It was an anti-capitalist critique of the state of the South Korean debt crisis. Yet, what most people got out of it, was that the games were cool and that we should have more games like this in real life. However, what they missed was that “Squid Game’s” message was extremely blatant due to how it was communicated. They essentially missed the forest for the trees due to a lack of media literacy.

“Squid Game’s” message was communicated in several different moments in the story. The fact that so many people stayed the second time, or the fact

media literacy
Courtesy of Nathan Rupert 9flickr CC0)

that there were that many people in such deep debt that they would need $38 million in the first place. “Squid Game” is a TV show about what happens when the most desperate people in the world have the ultimatum of money or death.

It is also about how and why those people are so desperate and in debt. “Squid Game” was massively misunderstood upon release, however with time some people began to understand the themes and messages. If people want to test their media literacy, they should rewatch “Squid Game” and see what they take back from it.

‘Fight Club’

The trend of lacking media literacy hits especially hard for fans of films that critique patriarchy and the performance of masculinity. “Fight Club” is one such movie. It is about Tyler Durden, an office worker who creates an underground organization called “Fight Club.” Then it morphs into a guerrilla army given “assignments” to destroy things. Ultimately, the entire club is based on two things, toxic masculinity and anti-capitalism.

Fight Club’s recession was full of men who didn’t get the message. The message of “Fight Club” was that ultimately, the performance of masculinity is toxic and will kill the people that go down that path in the end. However, the men that watched the film only received the “inspirational” quotes. They saw the idealized version of masculinity of Tyler Durden and saw nothing else. There is a lot of subtext within the film, and it deserves to be analyzed, however, most of the fans are stuck on the “self-improvement is masturbation” quotes. “Fight Club” and movies like are also very good tests of media literacy


This is the argument to just ”let people enjoy things” and “It’s not that deep.” These arguments are fraudulent and add nothing to the discussion of media literacy. The reason why is that all media deserves to be analyzed and critiqued. To not do so is to disrespect the artist who put the messages there. However, it is ok to just like things as well, no one is asking people to get a Ph.D. in literature studies. Yet, at the same time, people should pay attention to what they are watching and try to see what it is trying to say. It is ok to not get something at first. However, if one tries the best then it isn’t a problem. Some people use media to escape and “turn their brains off.” That’s ok sometimes but not all the time. Some media wasn’t meant to be mindlessly consumed.

Anti Intellectualism

media literacy
Courtesy of Julia Chandler/Libraries Taskforce (Flickr CC0)

There is a growing disdain for the analysis of media in America. The root of this disdain is the growing anti-intellectualism in America. There is an idea that “ the curtains are just blue because they are blue” and that “everything doesn’t have to be a 3rd grade English class.” However, it is in these 3rd-grade English classes that people learn to critically analyze something.

Without these skills, people aren’t able to fully understand the media they consume. By discouraging people that analyze media, they are actively discouraging critical thinking. Critical thinking is one of the most important skills a person can have, it can help create better relationships with loved ones, and can protect people from misinformation. In conclusion, don’t sit there like a couch potato when something is on TV. Pay attention, because it might have something to say.

Written by Kenneth Mazerat


MoviesWithMark: The Boys And The Importance of Media Literacy by Mark

StealthOptional: Netflix creates IRL Squid Game because media literacy is dead by Lewis White
TheGuardian: Critical literacy in a digital world by Elli Narewska

Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Gluetree’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

First Inset Image Courtesy of Nathan Rupert’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

Second Inset Image by Julia Chandler/Libraries Taskforce Courtesy of Libraries Team’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License 

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