Monday, February 6, 2012

My own journey of being standardized

This weekend, I just realized how much I have been standardized by the American mass media and culture.

I did not care, at all, about Super Bowl and its advertising three years ago. But look at myself today, I am as “passionate” as everybody else; I watched the ads one by one, and can’t wait to discuss it with my fellows – I have been standardized!

I still remember three years ago, that Monday after the Super Bowl weekend, one professor asked us to discuss Super Bowl ads in class. I didn’t watch it, so I couldn’t join the conversation, and I thought it was ok for me to not watch it. But the most important thing is, I didn’t get it – I didn’t understand why everybody all watched it and seemed to be so enthusiastic about it. As a full born Chinese, all I knew about Super Bowl was that it is about professional football and it is huge, and it costs lots of money to advertise during the break. The next moment in class the professor joked: "as an advertising major, it is almost a sin to miss out Super Bowl ads.” The very moment I felt I was “enlightened”. “So this is what I need to do to fit into the group!” I told myself. That day after I went back home, I opened YouTube and watched all the Super Bowl ads of that year, and tried to form an opinion about each one. I also joined the discussion activities held by my college during the next few days. Frankly speaking, by that time, I was not that impressed by these ads, but I knew they are important, so I have to study it. Personally, I think there are a lot of ads that are much better than those appeared on Super Bowl and worth studying.

Today, all my critical thinking and doubts are gone. I don’t questions the Super Bowl fever anymore. I accepted the fact that this is a big thing for advertising people. Although I am a foreigner and I still don't understand football, I am in this country and I have to fit it by doing what they do. 

It is these two weeks’ reading that made me re-think about socialization and cultural assimilation process I have experienced. Mass media really played a vital role in such process, and it is really powerful. Even a total foreigner can be transformed into a “typical U.S. advertising student.” To me, the interest we have (especially as advertising students) towards the Super Bowl ads, is a kind of ” standardized enthusiasm” that Adorno pointed out. We have always been educated in a way that values critical thinking and questions taken-for-granted things. But, look how we have been manipulated and standardized, and hypnotized today. This not only produces “pseudo-individualism”, but also a “pseudo-diverse” culture of today.              



  1. Amber,

    Although I was born and raised in the United States, I feel like I too (to a certain extent) had a similar experience of finding it difficult to "fit in" and/or "understand" the mass culture of the United States because I was raised in one of its subcultures.

    I was raised in a very strict homeschooling family. As a homeschooled student, I was almost completely removed from the media because of my family's religious beliefs and our homeschooling curriculum. Newspapers, radio, and television promoted a secular behavior which was/is perceived as unacceptable according to the homeschooling curriculum that my family and thousands of other families ascribe(d) to. I was completely unaware of the fact that while I, my siblings, and my peers were being awarded for the standardized behaviors like memorizing Bible verses, going to homeschooling conventions, and participating in homeschooling extracurriculars, I was missing out on the standardized culture of the United States back then (like NSYNC, the Backstreet Boys, Spice Girls, Titanic, Pocahontas, video games. politics, etc. etc.)

    When I enrolled in public school as a high school freshman, I was separated from the support system of the homeschooling culture and received a very negative reception from the "public school kids" until I standardized my behavior to be more like theirs.

    In college, I've written several papers about homeschoolers and this class has led me to realize that maybe a big reason why homeschoolers were so negatively perceived in "normal" society (other than my complete naiveté) was because there was a lot of negative media back then about homeschooled families being unpatriotic or unsupportive of state/community governments because families like mine weren't contributing to the public school system.

    I never felt influenced by the media, until I became part of a culture that seems highly influenced by the media, and I think what Horkheimer said about morality could be applied in a more general sense to how one standardized culture overcame another in both our personal experiences, "What is moral is determined by the positive content of existing customs and habits, and morality consists in formulating and approving what is accepted by the prevailing social order" (p. 162).

    I may be totally wrong but I felt like I could relate with you in my own way, which to me is interesting that someone whose been surrounded by American culture all her life could have a somewhat similar experience as someone from a different country...

    Maybe it's because we both sorta missed out on the direct influence of American mass media communication when we were growing up..

  2. Amber and Rebekah,

    Both of your stories are very interesting and reminds me of the importance of having what is considered the "right" amount of cultural capital depending on the society you are living in. In the U.S., I think maintaining a certain level of cultural capital (i.e. knowledge about social events, consumerist culture, and other things that could be considered part of a "normal American upbringing") hold so much weight within our daily lives and interactions that people who do not have this capital feel pressured to acclimate themselves to it in order to obtain it (through, as you pointed out Amber, taking part in certain American cultural rituals like the superbowl, whether or not the individual wants to participate). I see this especially in the business world where having a shared understanding of a certain level of cultural capital may mean the difference between getting a job offer or not.