The selected cultural artifact is Invincible TV Series based on the comic books written by Robert Kirkman. The series was streamed on Amazon Prime Video and produced by Skybound. The paper argues that media and entertainment culture can effectively influence and promote democracy and civic engagement through the power of storytelling and progress. The core theoretical tool utilized in the critical analysis revolves around the activist democracy model, which emphasizes the establishment of a more equitable system through social justice, which is manifested in the representation of different groups and the core message of the series.
In order to properly analyze the relationship between media/entertainment and democracy and civic engagement, it is important to understand the overall context of the selected artifact. Invincible is a one-season animated R-rated TV series, which consists of eight episodes. The story is heavily inspired by DC comic and its popular characters, such as Superman and other Justice League members. The plot revolves around a teenage boy Mark Grayson or the Invincible, whose father is Omni-Man. The latter is a highly powerful alien said to be sent by his race, the Viltrumite Empire, to Earth to be its protector. Throughout the story, Invincible attempts to master and uses his newly discovered powers for the good of the planet, and at the end learns that his father is not sent to protect Earth but rather weaken it to upcoming invasion by the Viltrumite Empire.
One of the major elements of the series is rooted in the fact that it is highly representative, which is important for advancing democracy. It is well-known that the lack of representation is a major problem when it comes to media and entertainment. It is stated that “for decades, whitewashing has taken a diverse, multicultural world and tried to paint it one color” (Helligar). In other words, the whitewashing impacts the consumers of media and entertainment deeply because many subliminal messages are transferred through representation. For example, euro-centric beauty standards and colorism are the results of long and continuous whitewashing in the entertainment industry, which is improving in recent years. The artifact is a highly representative product of entertainment because it depicts a wide range of groups, including African Americans, Asians, Caucasians, Females, Males, and LGBTQ+ community members. Although there have been some criticisms from the latter group, the show still exhibits explicit inclusiveness for all minority groups (Opie). Therefore, Invincible can be described as an example of media and entertainment being an effective vehicle for democracy and civic engagement.
The Role of Media and Entertainment
It is important to point out that media and entertainment play a major role in promoting or limiting democracy and civic engagement. One of the main ways how the given industry can alter the latter elements is by establishing and changing the normalcy. In other words, it can either normalize diversity and inclusion or promote racial injustice and patriarchy. In the case of Invincible, it is important to note that although the show is fully committed to the storyline in the original comic books, it proactively changed the appearance of some characters. For example, the main character is biracial with a Korean American mother and a White father. His girlfriend was originally a Caucasian person in the comic books, but the show producers changed her race to be African American, which shows how media and entertainment can be powerful vessels for democracy and civic engagement.
The series reflects how media and entertainment can improve representation, diversity, and inclusion within a democratic society and bring social justice without ruining or severely altering a good piece of writing. It is evident that the comic book’s writer was not motivated by any form of political agenda and simply wrote an outstanding and interesting story about superheroes. However, media and entertainment took his story and modified it to be better and serve multiple purposes, such as removing its inherent whitewash. Therefore, the role of media and entertainment is evident from the selected artifact, where it brings a multitude of improvements to the original story without altering its essentials and working with externalities.
The Power of Entertainment and Media
The power of entertainment and media in regards to promoting or limiting democracy is manifested in representation, racial equality, inclusion, and diversity. One should be aware that the industry did not change on its own, but rather it was forced through the influences of activist democracy model agents, which focuses on the outcome’s moral value rather than moral dialogue for the establishment of common value (Drale 222). In other words, the activist model considers that the value of the result justifies the oppositional approaches. Such is the example of the Invincible TV series, because it is evident that the main audience, comprised of fans of the original comics, would oppose any form of alterations to the story, including the depiction of the characters. However, the media and entertainment politely disregard their preferences and adds more representation of non-White groups, but preserves the central story intact. The outcome is a highly successful animated series, which is canon to the original, but still succeeds at promoting democracy and civic engagement through representation, diversity, inclusion, and racial equality.
Medium, the means, and technologies of modern communication are objectively tuned to openness and disposition to produce it. It is clear that the unrestrained and open functioning of these means can be hindered, their work can be restrained, distorted, alienated from direct consumers or users, but we are talking about a norm and a normal attitude. In this respect, the role of communicative competence is exceeding, which, along with functional literacy as an elementary user adaptation, also includes knowledge of dispositions. These are the capabilities of the means of communication and, more importantly, the readiness and ability to turn them into reality, to realize them. Communicative competence is an indispensable component of the modern culture of being.
One should be aware of the fact that media and entertainment are not mere consumable products but rather key political instruments. It is stated that “the audience has moved beyond its role as a simple receptor of top-down political communication as traditionally established by elite gatekeepers” (Jones 20). In other words, media abundance and technological improvements allowed people to have more control over the media that they consume, which means that politics in media is even more prominent. It is no longer a distant subject, which was enclosed, but rather an ever-present medium, which pervades every aspect of human life. Therefore, media and entertainment can no longer avoid partaking in being a political communicator, which means that the industry needs to choose what form of politics it is going to communicate.
The media element of democracy is a combination of a number of factors that may not always be subject to experts and forecasters, foresters, whose task is to predict election results and their competitive component. Media and democracy are a consequence of the widespread growth of social tension and the decision to introduce new strategies that will be designed to simplify or complicate and accelerate the course of political processes in accordance with the guidelines required by the customer and consumer of the political market. Here one may encounter a form of democracy such as procedural. A feature of the expression of democracy is the determination of the will of the state, striving for democratic change as a market approach, using financial and economic determinants. The unavailability of the non-involvement option for media and entertainment forces them to be an effective vehicle tow either promote or limit democracy and civic engagement. For instance, Invincible is an ideal example of such dynamics, where it takes a politically neutral or detached comic book and transforms into a vehicle for promoting representation, inclusion, and diversity.
In conclusion, it is important to consider that media and entertainment are and can be effective vehicles for democracy and engagement. At the current moment, media and entertainment have no option of being unengaged due to major technological advancements and media abundance. Politics is no longer enclosed in a shell but rather pervades every aspect of human life and uses media and entertainment as its medium. The selected artifact is a perfect illustration of how media and entertainment can transform a politically neutral story into a product that not only provides entertainment but also promotes diversity, racial equality, inclusion, and representation.
Drale, Christina S. “Communication Media in a Democratic Society.” Communication Law and Policy, vol. 9, no. 2, 2004, pp. 213-235.
Helligar, Jeremy. “This Is What Whitewashing Really Means—And Why It’s a Problem.” Reader’s Digest. n.d.Web.
Jones, Jeffrey P. Entertaining Politics: Satiric Television and Political Engagement. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2009.
Opie, David. “Invincible is Failing When It Comes to William Clockwell and LGBTQ+ representation.” Digital Spy. n.d. Web.