I can remember rather vividly when I first saw Singin’ in the Rain. Gene Kelly had just passed away and my father was aghast that we had never seen what he considered the best musical of all time. And while I still have favorites that supersede this musical, Singin’ in the Rain is definitely among the top. My father, ever the annoyingly active film spectator (his favorite game to play is spot the director’s mistake), was quick to point out how the movie made comments on the transition Hollywood underwent from silent to talkie. Upon subsequent viewings (enough to memorize the musical numbers – fear not, I shall spare you) and investigating the production of the film, it became even more apparent how much the film was a multilayered simulacrum: the movie showed a world that never truly existed utilizing a musical-within-a-musical to have us believe otherwise, simultaneously creating and commenting on three different unrealities.
(A graduate school psychology final paper, edited for posting, with link containing the full paper.)
When the audience for the media and its content is children, research into the mass media typically focuses on two mediated “sins”: violence and sex. Regarding sex, the concern is that the depiction of sex in and by the media will cause children to think about and engage in more sex than they would were they not expose. However, this is only one possible relationship the audience can have with media texts. The media may indeed inadvertently teach norms to a viewing public, but the viewing public may also seek out the media for a variety of reasons. In their usage of the media, the audience may satisfy some desire, need or simple curiosity, and in gaining this satisfaction they may in turn think, feel or behave in a certain way other than had that gap not been filled. Media usage is another means of approaching the relationship between young viewer, sex in the media and effect on attitudes and behaviors, and such a relationship may be rather prevalent among adolescents as they negotiate their sense of self as a sexual being.
This conception of an active audience using the media and/or its content to satisfy some gap is at the core of the uses and gratifications (UG) theory of mass media. Conceptually the flipside of the concern that the media will affect all viewers the same way, the UG theory would predict that adolescents in the process of sexual identity negotiation would seek out and use those media that are perceived as being advantageous sources of sexual information or other sexual gratifications. Receiving these gratifications may then influence the adolescent’s senses of identity, of sexuality, of sexual identity, and thus may in turn impact attitudes and possibly even behaviors. Hence, the theory is that mediated sexual information/entertainment (MSIE) is selectively sought, interpreted, and utilized as adolescents explore their sense of sexual self. This literature review investigates the research that shows the uses adolescents make of the mass media in terms of sexual data, and the gratifications and possible effects they experience from this usage.