The impact of media on the society extends to both social and political sectors. There are a variety of elements in each and media touches on both sectors and each element. It should be noted that the extent that it affects each element varies as well. It should also be taken into account that while there is a mass effect on everyone that media touches, the extent it affects the individual varies as well.
On a social level, media has its greatest impact. Viewpoints have been shaped due to the representation of different cultures, races, genders, religions, and sexual orientations. The two main elements of this are entertainment and news. While the representations should be taken at face value when it comes to entertainment, some representations have led to unfair stereotyping which becomes a part of social norms and thinking for generations.
One example is how a segment or culture within a race could and has come to represent the public’s view of that race overall—especially in the case of negative elements of that culture. Another example is both unfair standards of beauty for women as well as negative representation of women. In the case of negative representations, there might be individuals or groups that embody that particular element, but media is able to multiply the negative to the point where it becomes a public accept trait of women.
When it comes to unfair beauty standards, women are viewed as beautiful by mainstream media are usually put in favorable roles while women who don’t fix that narrow bracket are often painted as sidekicks, villainesses, comedic, and mentors. Occasionally these women are given a lead in a drama. These standards in magazines, television, and movies have an effect on girls and young women resulting in everything from purchasing fashions to get close to that beauty standard, adopting characteristics, and even depression from failing to meet those standards or feeling they won’t come close.
The same goes for sexual orientation and religions. If you take the most boisterous or the fundamental and extremist element of a group, you can paint them in the worst light. Sometimes this might be the intent of mainstream media while other times it is used build characters for a show. In the case where there is particularly weak writing, prejudices might be played up to make a character more endearing or more of a villain.
While in the case of entertainment everything should be viewed as show, reality TV is often ate up—because of the tag “reality TV” and whatever sensationalistic elements it may have are also ate up. This occurs even if a disclaimer is plastered on the screen before the show begins and when returning from commercial breaks.
The political effect of the media is narrower than the social effect although elements of the social effect can “leak” over into the political. Media can favor one side and pit its viewer base against the other. It can also present fact in the matter it feels and filter out the unfavorable elements if it would damage the or dilute the viewpoint they’re promoting.