Media Mythologies. Revisiting Myths in Contemporary Media
The contemporary media narratives play an essential role in providing the audiences with essential cultural symbols, myths and patterns, mostly by reinterpreting/recycling existing cultural typologies, prototypes and archetypes (Kellner 200; Lyden 2003). This growing significance of both media and the process of myth recycling stems from the post-war Western cultural and technological evolution. Thus, due to essential form and content changes in the production, reproduction and distribution of cultural products since the mid-20th century, media have become increasingly dominant, replacing in dimensions and impact the previous influential institutions in shaping the views, values and behaviours of large audiences. As Peter Horsfield (1987) argues, the media represent a new symbolic environment, which, moreover, has an essential educational impact, shaping, as Douglas Kellner (2003) notices, the people’s views and values, providing “the symbols, myths, and resources through which we constitute a common culture and through the appropriation of which we insert ourselves into this culture.” Thus, the culture we are currently living in is a media-controlled and shaped culture and the manners in which it expresses the message are increasingly sophisticated and predominantly visual. As the influential Jessica Evans and Stuart Hall (1999) argue, when discussing visual culture: “The mechanically and electronically reproduced image is the semantic and technical unit of the modern mass media and at the heart of post-war popular culture”, the image and visual message being employed in a plural and increasingly diversified range of forms on the background of the massified communication and commodification of information.
However, despite the diversity of media channels and complex (and also increasingly interactive) platforms, the storytelling patterns and core messages have remained – paradoxically – roughly unchanged. A few major myth patterns represent the core of contemporary media storytelling, whether we speak of fiction (cinema) or reality based media messages (written or visual press), political representations (image campaigns) or advertising. Recycled (and also rebranded and reinterpreted) myths have proved very useful for contemporary commodified media, in selling a large variety of (media) products.
The current issue of Caietele Echinox / Echinox Journal aims to offer the environment for an academic dialogue and debates concerning the mechanisms, impact and effects of the recycling and wide-ranging employment of classical myth patterns in contemporary media. Departing from an initial theoretical segment – Revisiting Myths in the Information Age: Theoretical Approaches – the thematic sections attempted to cover the different areas in which contemporary media mythologies appear and function. Thus, the volume contains a series of theoretical inquiries on the facets taken by myths in contemporary media, as well as on their significations in relation to current challenges. The studies in the second section, Contemporary Media Narratives and Classic Mythologies, discuss a series of reinterpretations in contemporary media or new media of traditional myth patterns such as resurrection and regeneration, motherhood, other articles focusing on the recycling of powerful symbols such as the water or the labyrinth. As the volume aimed to discuss a diverse range of media, the studies focused both on visual aspects (with an emphasis on cinema, but also television or advertising) and on written press. The studies in the section titled Contemporary Written and Visual Media: Myths, Politics and Ideologies brought a more localised perspective, placing a particular emphasis on post-war communist media in Eastern Europe and Romania in particular. In contrast, the sections dedicated to cinema and advertising brought diverse contributions to the topic, from mainstream to more regional aspects of the myth occurrences in contemporary cinematic and advertising discourses. Finally, the texts in the last section, which focused on the “the ethics of the image”, resulted from a series of workshops organised within a project conducted at “Babeş-Bolyai” University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania, with BA and MA students of the Faculty of Letters.