Media Marathoning: Teaching Us How to Be Humans

From Student Aleks Flur:

I think the media changes us on some level. Whether we do it consciously or not, we take things from watching hours upon hours of a TV series that stay with us for the rest of our lives. But just what or how much we take is entirely up to us.

We may attempt to build ourselves around a collection of personalities from different shows. We might say to ourselves, “Hey, I’m just like that guy,” or “I want to be him.” (Has anyone else run into an imitation Barney Stinson?)

Or we might simply plant a little seed in the back of our minds, giving us advice on how to interact with people. We see certain situations being played out, and it more or less teaches us how to react in that situation. (I’m sure watching Leonard deal with Sheldon Cooper or Ross fight with Rachel are tough situations that no one is really sure how to deal with.)

But are things like media marathoning responsible for creating who we are, or is it just a catalyst for reflection? Does TV change us deep down inside, or just how we present ourselves to the world? Would we even be the same people without watching so many shows? A recent University of Buffalo study concluded that watching Superman can indeed change our body image–and grip.

I think the evidence is there in those that have found their “niche” in society through media. Whether it’s the hopeless romantic Twigh-hards, hipsters circulating GIFs of short-lived shows on tumblr, or the Ryan Howards of the world who think their boss is an idiot, it’s all the same. Whether consciously or unconsciously, we construct who we are and how we think based in part on the media templates provided for us.

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11 thoughts on “Media Marathoning: Teaching Us How to Be Humans

  1. Interesting post, Aleks! I see your post as an extension of or addition to the Jenkins reading we did. The reader/viewer in your post seems to be less active, but still purposeful. Perhaps we’re not just giving life to the texts through our fan and marathoning activities but the texts are also giving life to us? You seem to have articulated a more mutualistic relationship.

  2. I am so happy that this idea has been introduced to our media conversation, and so early on! It is one that I analyze daily when observing other people interacting with media. Although I study how being consumed by social media affect who we are and how we create ourselves, I think the same principles can be applied to consuming media texts as well. When my studies of this began last year, during Social Media class, I started to recognize that we begin to alter/exaggerate how we present ourselves, and potentially who we are, based on the media outlets we frequently use. In the case of my research, we modify the presentation of ourselves on Facebook based on our audiences and how said audiences are presenting themselves– making us less original individuals. Applying such an idea to media texts, I would say we become less original as well once we begin to mimic how characters in a show act or live. If we become so engrossed in being similar to Barney Stinson (who, I might add, is a fictional character), we start living less as ourselves and more as this idealized version of someone who doesn’t actually exist in real life. But maybe that’s our way of coping with the fact that we cannot take these characters off the TV screen and into our lives. Maybe it is our way of continuing the character’s presence in our lives much after a series marathon has ended.

  3. This is a great post to consider in relation to media marathoning. It really reminded me of the chicken or the egg cycle. Do we seek out shows that remind us of ourselves? Or do the shows we watch influence us to act a certain way? I tend to think that it is the former. Last year, I watched all of ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ in a marathon fashion over the course of a semester. At first, I thought it was just another cheesy 90s show. But by the middle of the second season, I found myself rooting for Buffy and the rest of the Scooby Gang. I think the reason I stayed with Buffy and watched the whole series is because I found resonance in the storylines (at least ones that didn’t directly include monsters). I can relate to the hardships of high school, and the pressures of balancing a bunch of different responsibilities. And even though I love the show, it did not influence me into becoming a butt-kicking fighter of all darkness. Don’t get me wrong, that would have been awesome. But it’s my opinion that viewers find shows that they see themselves in, instead of changing themselves to match their favorite characters.

  4. This is a great point to bring up! It actually reminds me of my mom’s friend who is obsessed with any of the housewives series on Bravo. She imitates their clothing choices and has recently begun to speak like one of the women on the New Jersey housewives.
    It was an obvious change when she began to exaggerate her new presence by getting lip injections. She mirrors the actions of the women on the show and I believe that due to watching the show regularly every week and re-watching on Sunday’s when Bravo re-runs episodes, she has unconsciously constructed a reality TV housewife out of herself.
    Although the show has changed her as a person a little, she hasn’t been changed deep down inside, but how she presents herself to the world. I think that this is the perfect example of how a TV show can alter someone physically and mentally.

  5. 1. I think in my case, I seek out shows of how I want to be or how I wish my life was. I watch, what some consider trashy reality shows, but deep down inside, I think a lot of us want to emulate some of the characters we see on these shows. We want the looks, the money, the fashion or whatever else drives us to want to delve into others lives even if only for an hour a week. I can also relate to some of the problems that the characters are going through on The Housewives series or Love and Hip Hop. It’s also good to know that I’m not the only one going through a particular issue. Sometimes we are even helped with working through certain situations with ideas we may have never even thought of had it not been for being totally involved with “our” shows. I can freely admit that I am an active watcher of several of “reality” shows, so much show that I post comments on Facebook and comment on others posts. I definitely agree with Rachel when she wrote, “viewers find shows that they see themselves in, instead of changing themselves to match their favorite characters”.

  6. Excellent point! I personally think that media does change us/influence us to a certain extent. The shows I marathon (Grimm and Once Upon a Time) do not change me really because they are more so fantasy shows and I guess you could say not realistic. However, some shows that I watch, such as The Kardashians, Ice Loves Coco, E!, etc. do influence me in many ways. I take note of their fashion, the way they act, how they handle certain situations, etc. I recently started watching the show “Awkward” which airs on MTV and I realized that the reason I watch it is because I can relate to all the awkward situations that occur in this poor girl’s life and it makes me feel better about my life and not alone. Even though Jenna, the main character in “Awkward” is fictional, I have to admit that it is nice to know that someone had been through the situations I have been.

  7. Ah! I love this! Yes! I absolutely believe that media, in some way, constructs how we interact in reality. I knew a girl who was VERY much in love with the “Twilight” saga. She wore the same clothes as the character Bella, talked like her (Kristen Stewart), and based her romantic life off of the romance in the book. A severe case, I know.
    I also agree that a lot of us gravitate towards characters that we see a little of ourselves in. I’ll admit, I’m a hardcore Once Upon A Time marathoner. I love the story telling, make-up, costumes and all that, but a few of the characters I feel like I can relate to. That similarity in personality that I feel towards some of those characters keeps me watching and watching and watching.

  8. I believe that media does have a hold on our lives. One can choose to resist it to a certain point, but no one can fully ignore the messages and images we are seeing. I myself find great inspiration in television and movies for the outfits I put together. However, this can have a negative effect. Some people stress over what characters are wearing or how they look or their way of life. People can become obsessive over it, and this can become a serious issue. I believe this is wear we get the idea of media “brainwashing” people.

  9. I believe that the media does have a certain influence on our lives. By media marathoning we have to build some sort of connection with what we are marathoning, or we wouldn’t continue to marathon it. I know this is true for myself atleast. I marathoned The Vampire Diaries and by the second season I was convinced that Elena was my icon. I fell in love with everything about the character and wanted myself in real life to be like her. I think the media has a much greater impact on our personal lives and thoughts than most people give it credit too. It can change the way we view ourselves, or how we want to be as persons. We like to find media that connects with our personal lives, or what we wish our personal lives would be like. If we didn’t feel some sort of connection, we wouldn’t marathon the media to begin with.

  10. I like this concept a lot and I definitely agree that media does have a certain effect on people, particularly the way they may act or dress. I think another thing that goes along closely with this is how media effects how we act in certain social settings. I think it may be possible not only to imitate certain characters manners, but also the way they act in certain situations. I think this could be positive or negative. It could be positive in the sense that sometimes television shows or movies will portray tough situations, and it may be beneficial to see how a person (even a fictional one) may handle it. However, on the other hand, sometimes shows make light of serious situations and could provide a bad model on how to act. I think it comes down to what people have been saying about using discretion to decide what to take in and what not to.

  11. This was a really interesting take on media marathoning because you could think of it in a positive or negative light. To me, I think that it could be both because, where it could help us in certain aspects of reality and life, it could also harm us. For example, though we may marathon educational series of books and other mediums, there are also a lot of marathoning of ‘trash tv’ or programs and books zooming in on the importance of weight loss, looking our best, dressing well, etc. Though these may be positive things in a standpoint where we can positively use this as an effort to better our lives with these suggestions, it could also potentially harm us; which we have all see before- yes, I am talking about body image issues. A particular show where we could potentially downward spiral is the “Keeping Up With the Kardashian’s” show where the girls are extremely successful, beautiful, and very thin. Though they are known for having curvy bodies, even they have their own doubts and insecurities. I’ll end with the question, does this lead to a positive or negative future for viewers everywhere?

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