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Ideology is an important concept for media studies students to understand as it underpins many of the other aspects of media studies (such as representation).
What is an ideology?
An ideology is a world view, a system of values, attitudes and beliefs which an individual, group or society holds to be true or important; these are shared by a culture or society about how that society should function.
Ideologies that are told to us repeatedly by important social institutions such as the church, the law, education, government, and the media are called dominant ideologies.
Dominant ideologies are ideologies or beliefs that we live by in our day-to-day lives and often do not question – they have become 'natural, common sense' things to do. This effectively dissuades people from rebelling against these beliefs, and keeps a sense of stability in society.
Dominant ideologies include beliefs about gender roles, about the economy, about social institutions.
Consumerism has been a dominant ideology in the western world since the industrial revolution. Consumerism is a world view that a person has more worth if she or he has more material possessions and that we are made happier by consuming more goods.
How ideology relates to media studies
Media texts always reflect certain values or ideologies though sometimes we may not be aware of this. An example might be that in some texts, such as action films like the Die Hard or the Lethal Weapon series, solving problems with force is seen as an acceptable value and reflects a certain ideology.
The media is a successful carrier of ideology because it reaches such a huge audience. The study of the media allows us to consider and question dominant ideologies and look for the implications of different ideology and value systems.
When studying a media text you may look for the dominant ideology present and question whose world view is represented and which group(s) and their associated world view(s) have not been represented.
Some studies of the media concentrate on viewing texts from particular ideological perspectives, for example a feminist perspective.