Sex, Love, and Romance in the Mass Media: Analysis and Criticism of Unrealistic Portrayals and Their Influence

Article excerpt

Sex, Love, and Romance in the Mass Media: Analysis and Criticism of Unrealistic Portrayals and Their Influence. Mary-Lou Galician. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2004. 280 pp. $49.95 pbk.

The first word that comes to mind when describing Mary-Lou Galician's new book about media portrayals of relationships is-appropriately enough-intimate. The book's "intimacy" is established almost immediately, as Galician explains how she embarked on this tine of research after her "own personal romantic failures." It is a somewhat disarming personal admission, one that could be effective in allowing students to connect to the text, which is adopted from Galician's self-help book and seminars. Rarely does one see a textbook author's personality share equal billing with its content, as is the case here, but the result is an accessible, versatile text that offers multiple benefits to students.

The book is presented in two parts. In part one, Galician explains the purposes of the book, presents theoretical foundations for her work, examines romantic myths and stereotypes in our culture, and concludes the section by connecting that material to analysis and criticism of media portrayals. In a general sense, part one provides students with the tools needed to conduct media criticism. In part two of the book, Galician dissects individual myths and offers readers "prescriptions" for healthier approaches to romantic relationships.

The array of resources Galician incorporates into part one-from Plato and Aristotle through Freud and Jung to McLuhan and Lasswell-is noteworthy for several reasons. First, it confirms both the breadth of her research into, and her ability to present multiple perspectives on, this topic. Perhaps more important, communication students can learn several important lessons having nothing to do with portrayals of romance in this section of the book: (a) the myriad of influence from other academic disciplines on the study of communication, especially on media representations; (b) the benefits of exploring multiple perspectives on a single issue; and (c) the importance of words as building blocks that help us understand more complex concepts. Galician's "reverence" for words is evident by her frequent incorporation of dictionary definitions and thesaurus lists of synonyms for key terms in early chapters. The idea that in the critical process one must "walk before she can run" emerges through the organized, logical, and systematic approach adopted in the early chapters.

Galician ends part one with a chapter devoted to analysis and criticism ("Strategies & Skills of Media Literacy"), in which she outlines her seven-step "ife-illusioning" process. …


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