Maybe it’s because I am getting closer to finalizing my degree and I feel the need for personal reassurance and validation; maybe it’s because I am unamused with the frequently associated stigma; whatever the reason, I feel an itching desire to answer the question: what is Media Studies? We all know this scenario all too well: you’re at a buzzing social gathering amongst fellow university students and the first question (or third, depending on your mastered social skills) to break the ice is: “so, what do you study?”
It may sound like boastful lies, but if I am the person breaking the ice with such a question, I am always intrigued by their answer, no matter what their degree is. I don’t give preference to someone doing Maths over American Studies, or vice versa, Music over Medicine. Why would I?
The truth is, unless we study these degrees, nobody, myself included, has a clue about what these degrees actually entail. Thus, why would I make assumptions about that person or their academic subject when I am blissfully unaware? Besides, I hold a hippy dippy belief that in society no job is more important than the other. The street cleaner is as necessary as the teacher, the teacher is as necessary as the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister is as necessary as the dog walker.
Every individual has a role in society that suits them according to their interests and passion, and this belief makes each of these roles equally: relevant, fascinating and significant (I told you it was hippy dippy). It is for this reason that, secretly, my is ego severely damaged every time I am exposed to piercing content that devalues Media Studies as a credible degree.
When I tell people what I study, the response is always freakishly similar: Media? That sounds fun. Fun? Sure it’s fun, as fun as the biochemist finds their degree. Like any degree if you are passionate about, you will find vast parts of it enjoyable. But when people say fun, I know they are really insinuating that I sit on my ass making music videos and watching Harry Potter all term whilst in my free time I gallivant around campus picking my nose.
Sadly, this is not the reality. Believe it or not Media Studies is not so much related to films and television as it is to: society, race, history, politics and various other subjects that other ‘serious’ humanities degrees consider. However, I won’t let you take my word for it. In an article by James Curran, a senior lecturer in Media, History and Politics at the University of London, states that ‘the attack on media studies is founded on ignorant misrepresentation’ and that the subject is ‘enormously demanding’.
He observes that the insightful modules offered in UK Universities like ‘Media and Democracy’ and ‘Media, Publics and Protest’ study the media with means to interrogate the underpinnings of society. Now does that sound so moronic? Dear god I hope not.
Now just don’t get me started on defending my joining degree in Cultural Studies…