On Reading A Video Text

282 words | 1 page(s)

In his essay, “On Reading A Video Text,” Robert Scholes argues that “video texts” are instruments used as “cultural reinforcements” to validate our “ideological positions,” which we understand through unique “cultural knowledge”, and, furthermore, when analyzed critically, they enhance “cultural literacy.” Scholes supports his claims through a 28 second Budweiser commercial. In this advertisement, we see a man journeying toward the destination that we call the “American Dream”: “A young man from the provinces, who gets his big break, his chance to make it in the big city, to rise to the top of his profession” (372).

For Americans, this clip enforces the ideological myth that as a people or individually, we can “lift ourselves by our bootstraps.” How do we know this? Scholes attributes the reason to our cultural knowledge. He believes that if we analyze “video texts” critically, it will supply as much cultural literacy as does classical literature. In his words, “What the epic poem did for ancient cultures, the romance for feudalism, and the novel for bourgeois society, the media – and especially television – now do for the commodified, bureaucratized world that is our present environment” (372).

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Scholes refutes the claim of two critics—William Bennett and E.D Hirsch—who argue that Americans are culturally illiterate by saying “Americans are not without culture; they simply have a different culture from that of Bennett and Hirsch. What they really lack, for the most part, is any way of analyzing and criticizing the power of text like the Budweiser commercial…” (374). Despite the claims of two renowned scholars, Bennett and Hirsch, that Americans are losing their “cultural literacy,” Scholes argues the ability to discern and examine “video texts” is tantamount to achieving cultural literacy.

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