Aubrey Drake Graham, more widely recognised by the mononym ‘Drake’, is an incredibly commercially successful Canadian rapper, heavily associated with a ‘nice’ and ‘relatable’ public image. In terms of parts of his persona that are constructed, it could be noted that his carefree attitude and ability to appear very ‘grounded’ despite his fame and success, is artificial. In fact, the way Drake presents himself via social and mainstream media could be regarded as somewhat of a ‘simulation’; is it truly realistic to assume that someone so wealthy, famous and privileged, with access to so many opportunities, doesn’t fit the negative stereotypes of musicians of his genre whatsoever? In fact, representations of Drake in the media seem to closely follow the theory of Richard Dyer’s first paradox; that a ‘star’ must be simultaneously ordinary and extraordinary to the consumer. So, through his music and his public image, we regard Drake’s lifestyle as something that is both attainable but, also aspirational- we feel like we are similar to him, but still, we want to more like him. Thus, things like his publicly close relationship with his father become a microelement of his stardom; for instance, he used an image of his father on the cover of his most recent record, which would help him appear more relatable to the general public who form his fan-base. The purpose behind this, from a marketing perspective, is simple- adding ‘family orientated’ to the string of attributes already associated with Drake’s ‘wholesome’ and ‘down to earth’ character makes him more likable to a population of regular, everyday people because their own values are reflected within someone they idolise. Thus, they are more likely to listen to his music, buy his albums and merchandise, attend his concerts, and keep him societally relevant, generating publicity and in turn, generating income. Furthermore, in reference to Dyer’s first paradox, as well as being a relatable character, Drake’s life must also be portrayed as the antonym of ‘achievable’ and ‘acquirable’- hard to accomplish. This is where the idea of Drake as a commodity is introduced; using his name, image and notoriety to push his own products, as well as others, to a consumer base.
The image of Drake as a person may be ‘ordinary’, but the lifestyle he leads is certainly extraordinary. He is successful, rich, famous- and with these traits comes a certain level of idolatry, which allows him to, essentially, dispense his audience to different companies. People want to emulate him; the affluent lifestyle that he leads is always going to be something others aspire to, so, it’s tactical for Drake to use that power for promotion. As with many of the stars of today, he can harness this through product placement on his social media. The screenshot on the left shows an advertisement for Virginia Black whiskey that Drake took part in- when watching the advert, he features heavily, dressed in a suit, and one of his songs plays in the background. By posting the video on his Instagram profile, this gives him and the brand a potential outreach of over 38 million followers- as seen in the image, the video has over 1.4 million views, which, whilst totalling a miniscule amount of his possible viewership, will still go on to generate a great deal of custom for the brand, and for himself.
Can we trust the mainstream media?
Relative to different theoretical models, we can analyse the way that people are affected by, or have an effect on, the media that they consume. For example, Blumler and Katz’s Uses and Gratifications theory causes us to consider that, in some circumstances, the individual is not manipulated by the media, but rather, using media texts as a ‘means to an end’, or, an ‘active audience’. Here, it is theorised that we use the media consciously, and to our benefit, as well as to assist in the formulation of our opinions and sometimes, our respective identities. The later point is where the line is blurred, because it could be argued that this theory is not obsolete, but rather, a far lesser counterpart of our relationship with the media. It is important to consider our role in the consumption of various media texts, and how we can use them to our own advantage; but also to see that, as the consumer, we are heavily influenced by the ‘news’ institutions within the media. For instance, to debate an individual case, a business analyst could actively seek to use an edition of Financial Times to gratify their own desire for financial success. This would be a result of the application of their prior knowledge of finance, which would allow them to use information they are given about the stock exchange, fortunes, etc. for their own benefit. However, the same individual could also peruse current affairs within the same newspaper, which is known to endorse the Conservative party, and as such, be passively affected by that political agenda, as, behind the scenes, all consumers of news media, realistically, fall victim to the ‘gatekeeping’ model. This theory appeals to us that newspapers, as an institution, are part of a domain in which they have overall control over what their readers see. And if an individual subscribes solely to one newspaper, they are, essentially, the recipient of only their content and, subconsciously, their views. Of course, the previous statement is paradoxical, because it is immediately contradicted by the assumption that an individual is, more likely than not, also consuming other forms of news media alongside newspapers. The ‘news’ institution is, after all, not as narrowly confined as it may appear at first glance; we receive our news from television, radio, newspapers, and the internet, all of which are independent platforms under the umbrella term of ‘mainstream media’. The term is approached often with caution and critique, as though demonised by the people, even though its’ definition could not be simpler- a collective reference to mass media outlets. To the individual, however, this concept remains somewhat enigmatic. What is ‘mainstream’? Often, its use is characterised by media bias- when someone is offended or angered by the quality or content of journalism, dispute over the legitimacy of mainstream media begins. This concern is widely expressed through the concept that we live under the shadow of the ‘big six’ media conglomerates, who effectively have influence over a huge amount of the news, social and entertainment media that we consume. The greatest culprit is Comcast, the owners of NBC (a national American broadcasting network), several cable television channels in the United States, and even Universal Studios and all of its’ holdings. As such, it appears to have a huge amount of control over multiple platforms of media content, which introduces the element of mistrust. If the vast majority of our media is produced, regulated and released by six companies (Comcast, Disney, Time Warner, Viacom, CBS, and News Corporation), then how much of it can we really trust? Can we rely on an institution so dependent on hegemony and financial success? If, as theorised by Gramsci, in our capitalist society, those in power are able to maintain that power by controlling our ideology through the media, then perhaps the real question that should be posited is ‘How much can we rely on the mainstream media to help us make good choices?’ rather than ‘Can we trust the mainstream media?’.