The Mirror v. Mold Theory

It’s your average chicken-egg scenario.

We have no idea which truly comes first.

While writing my undergraduate dissertation (I know, so academic, so fancy), I came across this duality theory that had me genuinely having an existential crisis. I guess you could say it really put some truth to my Instagram handle.

This is the Mirror v. Mold Theory, and it looks at the connection of influence between society and media, especially when dissecting advertising.

The Mirror Theory suggests that advertising and media as a whole is meant as a reflection, or hold a “mirror” up to society, only showing us commonly held beliefs, thoughts, stereotypes, you name it, that are believed by the whole of society. 

Essentially, this dictates that the culture of society, that human nature is the predecessor for what we see reflected back to us in the media.

That makes sense, right?

In opposition, the Mold Theory explores the notion that advertising and media are what shape the values, beliefs, behaviours, etc., and in turn influence society.

You may be starting to think about your opinion on this yourself, and your head may start spinning because the more you try to justify one or the other, the more you feel like a dog trying to catch its tail, except the dog has one of those little nubs and it just keeps going and going.

It may be one of the most frustrating advertising theories I’ve ever come across because I mean hey, I love my “black and white thinking”, and this is like 50 shades of grey.

Now imagine you’re me, writing my little literature review about gender representation and the adaptation of queer identity in marketing (again, wow, what a little academic I am), and now you have to wrap your head around this theory and how it portrays into the exclusion and underrepresentation within media. 

If you read that and were like, what the actual hell are you on about…you now know my struggle, because I’m the one writing the damn paper and I don’t have a clue what I’M even talking about.

This entire situation feels like the academic adaptation of looking at a word for so long that it starts to look completely fake.

But it has me thinking. It has me thinking a lot about the outliers, the mold breakers of our world. The people who saw the box and thought, “you know what, it’s actually not for me.”

The people who walk confidently in a different direction than everyone else.

Those people are powerful.

But not the type of power you may initially think.

It’s a type of empowerment, an internal energy of strength for different, for better, for something that’s ever-changing and wonderful.

What would I do to be that courageous?

I suppose I’ll just have to wait and see.


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