The issue of homosexuality is especially tabooed in conservative societies. In the first five posts, I explored how the increased visibility of LGB in media has impacted the gays, lesbians and bisexuals.
New media like social networks allows for many-to-many diffusion of information, as demonstrated in the first post. It allows activist groups to spread their message and increase support in a very cheap and efficient manner. The ability to spread message to the masses helped to gain support in a rapid rate.
Popular culture is everywhere and can be very influential. The high amount of LGB content in pop culture can create an environment that is more receptive towards the gay, lesbian and bisexual community and at the same time, normalising their lifestyle. How is this possible?
“When you confront your cadaver during the first week of school, you will begin to learn emotional aloofness. Prospective doctors become desensitized to death’s symbols -bones, blood, corpses, and stench- symbols that disturb most people. Some students become desensitized earlier during premed courses that required them to dissect or even kill living things. In any event, this phase of medical school can still be disturbing. A psychiatrist who interviewed students found that many of them had nightmares about their anatomy experiences.
No matter how great the initial shock, however, it apparently wears off for most students. Before long you become so desensitized that you can eat lunch around the corpse.” – Robert Holman Coombs
The above example illustrates how time and exposure may remove the shock factor and lead to indifference towards the material that surprises an individual initially. This makes it easier for the heterosexual community to accept those we recognise as different.
However, the effectiveness of the many-to-many diffusion of information and the influence of pop culture are not boundless. This is because humans are thinking creatures. It would be too idealistic to say that the audience would interpret and digest all information given to us by media. According to the selective influence theory, we select what we want to see and will interpret and remember parts of the information differently. This could result in either increased support for the LGB community or amplified anti-LGB sentiments.
In addition, the ability for media users to express their opinions (as shown in post 1) shows that media communication is no longer unidirectional. This allows for both positive and negative feedback.
On the assumption that one becomes more open towards the LGB community, things may still not be all rosy for the LGB community. This is because homosexuals in media are usually misrepresented. It is possible for us to assimilate and internalise the misrepresentations of how the LGB community behave in real life. This problem is more prevalent in people who frequently watch television. Cultivation theory suggests that “heavy viewers among different demographic groups share a commonality of outlooks cultivated by television that are not shared by light viewers from these different groups.”(McDonnel, 2006) As such, people might make erred judgement that homosexuals on television and those in reality conduct themselves similarly. The misconceptions can lead to stigmatisation of the homosexual community.
Moreover, individuals can form unnecessary moral panics due to media. Moral panics occur when one is unable to adapt to significant change and when such change leads to a fear of a loss of control within the normal social structure. Media contributed to moral panics by providing misleading information. Media content often have a masked motive and present stories in a one-sided manner. This aggravates the already strained relations between the conservative groups and homosexuals.
Although media played a significant role in shaping our opinions towards the LGB group, we cannot discount the fact that we may already possess preconceived notions of the LGB community. “Learning that is not apparent in performance at the time of training, but is revealed later when conditions are changed is referred to as latent learning.”(Davidson, 2000)We could have observed some effeminate behaviours in men or masculine behaviours in women and we thought nothing about it. This information could have been stored away in our minds and only recalled when we watch television. So it is possible for us to have already formed our own idea of LGB behaviour. The role media will play here would be to strengthen what we already assumed to be LGB behaviour.
In essence, the impact of media proliferation of LGB content is a mixed blessing. It can create acceptance and tolerance towards the homosexual community and at the same time pervade public stigmatisation towards the lesbian, gay and bisexual community. At the same time, media reinforces our preconceived ideas of the LGB community.
Finding People and their Utterances – http://www.sigir.org/forum/2012J/2012j_sigirforum_P8_weerkampDA.pdf
Surviving Medical School – http://books.google.com.sg/books?id=v-cnTDxFfEIC&pg=PA137&lpg=PA137&dq=desensitization+autopsies&source=bl&ots=0gtzu_QY0t&sig=2W4Lesxf88UZTxGWhovfaoibleE&hl=en&ei=AkYRTrGkDorWiAKi3dmCDg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=desensitization%20autopsies&f=false
The Social Environment and Suicide Attempts in LGB Youths – http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2011/04/18/peds.2010-3020.full.pdf+html?ijkey=2378a7b436dbea6ce39a6475c6079200a9509387
Moral Panics – http://www.aber.ac.uk/media/Students/mtw9403.html
What are ‘moral panics’? – http://www.aber.ac.uk/media/Students/hrb9701.html
(Davidson, 2000) Encyclopedia of Psychology. Vol. 4, http://ovidsp.tx.ovid.com.ezproxy.uow.edu.au/sp-3.6.0b/ovidweb.cgi?&S=HBDAFPPHNNDDILEJNCPKKCGCHLOHAA00&Link+Set=S.sh.18.19%7c210%7csl_100
Justine Chenault confronts an anti-gay protesters at the Democratic National Convention in Denver Pictures & Photos – http://newshopper.sulekha.com/justine-chenault-confronts-an-anti-gay-protesters-at-the-democratic-national-convention-in-denver_photo_352735.htm
bisexual, gay, gsa, human, lesbian, lesbians – inspiring picture on Favim.com – http://weheartit.com/entry/10222799#