Do you remember when your high school English teacher talked endlessly about the meaning of a blue curtain in whatever novel they had assigned that month? Do you remember when they talked about the quote, “Everyone’s equal but some are more equal than others,” in “Animal Farm” and how you thought that it was pointless to talk about? To be point-blank and honest, you were wrong.
Media literacy and comprehension is the most useful skill that anyone can learn. Literacy means being able to navigate through news sources and artistic media effectively without falling prey to propaganda or agendas, and comprehension deals with understanding the meaning of various media, especially that of allegory and satire.
In today’s modern world, media literacy and comprehension are extremely lacking. This doesn’t just apply to news media, however. This is an across-the-board phenomenon. Anything content-related that you consume can be considered media and if you are not careful, you could fall prey to classic pitfalls, some intended and some not.
An excellent example is the recent Netflix hit, “Squid Game.” The series is a South Korean survival show featuring a fictional set of games that people destitute from debt take part in to hopefully wipe away their debt and win a large sum of money. The contestants in the “Squid Game” must follow certain rules or they are killed and thus, removed from the game. The contestants are routinely given choices, but one option is always threatening to their life. Is any of this ringing bells?
If you read that and don’t realize that director Hwang Dong-hyuk is commenting on the current state of capitalism in the world, then you need to beef up your media literacy skills. There has been a flood of either bad-faith analyses or uninformed missteps about “Squid Game,” primarily those that confuse the concepts of capitalism, socialism, and communism. These critiques have taken situations from the show and claimed that it represents the world under socialism, but this is completely false. The situations that caused the contestants of “Squid Game” to participate in the games are the effects of rampant capitalism and they are things that happen in the real world.
How does one become literate in media? The key is to start small. Take your favorite movie or TV show and then, just write down everything you don’t understand, and include things that you have doubts about. Then, take to Google and research. It’s also important to note that research involves going to reputable and neutral sources. To do basic research on topics, Wikipedia is actually a good source. It’s communally edited so there isn’t any way that any one agenda or viewpoint can make its way to the top. If you need to research something that is considered news, you can go to websites that have the least bias. Notice how I didn’t say, “no bias.” Bias is something that exists in any human product, especially like news. For news research, reputable sources include the Associated Press (AP), Axios, Reuters, and National Public Radio (NPR).
Everything you can do to better navigate our digital world is going to serve you well in the long run. Happy journeying!