*This is an excerpt from a paper I wrote in 2017 for a my Global Communications course. It is here as an example of some of the topics I have researched and written. If you are looking for more examples of my professional writing, please reach out to me @ firstname.lastname@example.org*
The storybook farmer: a man with a pitchfork, basket of eggs or vegetables and a rusted out old tractor posed alongside him. The farmer is a jolly fellow, with a large gut, twinkling eyes and a piece of straw found between his teeth. He’s uneducated, but still uses general courtesy towards women, children and other men. You see the farmer plowing up his land, and calling Bessie in for a meal of hay, on those sunny warm summer days, as he plods along his 100-acre farm.
The industrialized farmer: a man yelling and kicking Bessie to get back into her stall after yanking out a new born calf. That newborn calf will never see its mother, as the farmer begins the ritual of stealing her milk to feed to humans. The farmer is seen in his tractor drenching his crops with high quantities of pesticides that cause mutant plants. Those mutant plants, created in tiny, dark laboratories, are combined with fish DNA to allow for higher production rates. That same farmer is than pushed into growing seed for giant corporations such as “Monsatan”.
It would seem quite interesting, to any scholar of “Otherness”, how the farmer once started off as a sweet and jolly fellow found in children’s books and toys, only to turn into a corporate pushing, evil citizen in recent decades. However, what may be most interesting is how non-agrarians have framed, idealized and created so many clichés for the agrarian population. How can a culture wear so many hats, straw or cowboy’d, when majority of its population is heavily integrated into the rest of Canada’s middle-class members of society? The basic analogy as to why Canadian farmers, or any agrarian, are heavily documented in media as two very opposing notions is largely caused by the use of frames, idealization and cliché ideas bombarding media.
Frames and Framing:
John Downing and Charles Husband simplify the tactic of framing, by expressing the two aspects that go into creating a media frame. The act of excluding something important from the screen in frame, and the act of concentrating on only what’s in the frame. A quick flashback to the 1990’s news stations, particularly in the southern United States, illuminates the act of framing. News stations consciously chose to report on one negative or positive event that was taking place in an area of a particular ethnicity, framing that incident as their audience’s only interaction with that ethnicity. This allowed the audience to concoct their own ideas of why that particular event was positive or negative, and created the opportunity for them to also create an opinion on that race. By concentrating on only one event or aspect of a particular race removed any genuine background story that would help to illuminate confusion or misinformation. With framing being so heavily entrenched in media, it’s an issue that society needs to be more aware of, as it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
Both the storybook farmer, as well as the industrialized farmer, images fall into the use of framing. Media organizations that would prefer society to remember the farmer as their dear old grandpa, play up the use of a jolly fellow tending to his small acreage and barnful of various animals. While media organizations tied heavily with animal rights or anti-GM technology groups, would prefer their audiences to only see images of farmers hitting their cattle in industrial styled farms. The idea of using a short focal length (or f-stop in photography jargon) amplifies the aspects of a culture that media wants society to see. By reporting continually in a framed style excludes the audience from learning the background story behind a particular culture, ethnicity or industry, and thus blocks any opportunity for shared dialogue between two or more various groups.
As Downing and Husband suggestion, “minority-ethnic media and progressive alternative media are so important” in creating dialogue between various groups. (Downing and Husband, para.6) By encouraging minority or progressive alternative media to grow, encourages society to consider the long-term effects that standardized media has created regarding the views and ideals of certain cultures.
Now consider that media has framed the Canadian civilian on what the farmer looks like, we see how both images are heavily tied media’s cultures idealizations of the farmer and Canadian agriculture.
The storybook farmer and the industrialized farmer are perfect examples of idealization. Idealization is often demonstrated through the discussion of Orientalism. Edward Said describes Orientalism as a “collection of dreams, images and vocabularies available” to describe and expand upon what the Orient meant to explorers of that time. (Hall, para. 4.4) These pioneers continued on their pilgrim’s across the world, documenting and creating images of what they encountered in foreign lands. Most of these images depicted in paintings or poetry, used words and vocabulary familiar to that particular culture that was pioneering across uncharted land. These images of newfound people or cultures were framed and distorted based on preconceived biases. Most of which would have been done completely innocently and without any harm meant to this new culture, however it did shaped and created the impressions of others.
The imagery and ideals of the other cultures created fantasies, both in innocent and kind nature, as well as in sadist or masochistic thoughts.
When considering the storybook farmer, thoughts of an innocent and picturesque lifestyle are some of the first words to come to mind, almost childlike, hence the depiction of this particular fantasy farmer in children’s books. And when we consider the images of an industrialized farmer, ideals of a group of people who lack general respect to other creatures or nature, as well as a poorly developed understanding of their effect on the environment, come to mind.
The fact that the use of idealization in media creates fantasies, more so than realities, also encourages the uses of clichés when discussing various groups and cultures.
Stereotypes and stereotyping not only creates grand clichés, but also patronizes the culture in question. Media conglomerates, such as Disney, have done an exceptional job of using caricatures to exploit various cultures, ethnicities and countries. The act of exploiting cultures allows media to create a unified idea of their particular vision or agenda. With the use of both framing and idealization, media creates clichéd examples of how they’d prefer the audience to see a culture. Mattelart examines this media tactic, most particularly when describing the West vs. the developing world, and the act of exchanging goods. However the exchange of goods is not considered equal in value, with the developing culture being undermined of their particular good, and thus creating the West’s idea that this developing culture is simply that – developing and in need of paternalistic authority. (Black, Week 4)
Both the storybook farmer and the industrialized farmer fall into the category of clichés that were created by patronizing agriculture. The storybook farmer is easily seen as a childish and innocent caricature, with many of it’s idealized characteristics coming from decades before. A large portion of the storybook farmers image comes from our current society’s need to idealize the 1950’s or later farmer – a jolly fellow, who would do no farm to any creature or plant on this plant. The kind of caricature that is depicted as being most likely uneducated and is only farming because they were not smart enough to become an accountant, CEO or doctor.
The industrialized farmer is another caricature created to demonstrate the evils or supposed perils of 21st century agriculture. This caricature is often described as raping innocent animals, so they can steal their milk from their offspring. These industrialized farmers are more sinister than their exploiters (the media) as they themselves are too busy exploiting animals and plants for their greedy needs. The continued idea that these farmers are brainwashed and forced into contractual obligations with evil corporations such as “Monsatan” demonstrates the continued cliché that these farmers, just like storybook farmers, are uneducated. The industrialized farmer is painted in media over and over with the same image of a man beating his cow, however media continues to push that this is not a one time instance, it’s a continued activity of the industrialized farmer, hence the cliché.
Through the use of framing, idealization and clichés media has portrayed the Canadian farmer in two very extreme opposites – the storybook and the industrialized farmer. Both examples of this “Other” culture, creates confusion and pain when discussing agriculture with various groups of people. The members of the Canadian agricultural industry would argue that both images are extremely incorrect and poorly depict what the 21st-century agrarian looks and acts like today.
The media is correct in the fact that farmers are kind, humble and genuinely concerned for their animals and plants, often naming them and treating them with respect that storybook farmer does. The media is also correct that farmers use industrialized equipment such as high-clearance sprayers, agri-chemicals and GMO’s to produce crops. However these farmers are not the immoral exploiters that media would like society to believe.
Without dissecting and acknowledging the tactics that media outlets use, society will forever be stuck considering cultures outside their own as the “Other”.
Hall, Stuart. (1996). Chapter 6: The West and the Rest: Discourse and Power. In S. Hall, D. Held, D. Hubert, & K. Thompson (Eds.), Modernity: An Introduction to Modern Societies (pp.185-200). Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.
Husband, Charles & Downing,John. (2005). Chapter 2, Research on Race, Ethnicity and Media. In Representing Race: Racisms, Ethnicity and the Media (pp.26-58). London: Sage. Retrieved from the Ebscohost e-book database.
Dorfman, A. & Mattelart, A. (1975). Chapter 3, From the Noble Savage to the Third World. In How To Read Donald Duck: Imperialist Ideology in the Disney Comics (pp.48-61). I.G. Editions.
Black, D. COMM415. [PowerPoint Week 4]. Retrieved December 18, 2016 from http://moodle.royalroads.ca/moodle/course/view.php?id=3701 PDF Print.
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