It is suggested that Lacanian psychoanalytic themes appear, both explicitly and implicitly, within various arguments, critiques, extrapolations, and illuminations characterising the discourse of the ‘The Study of Media’. Write a short analysis which outlines how you believe this media text can be considered and understood in relation to your chosen theme.
Today, the study of Media is broken up into various categories as it has evolved over the years. Going from simple TV and radio broadcasts to the ever growing social media platform and its boom in online presence. Getting a hold of a piece of media text has never been so easy and as technology grows is becoming more personable, allowing you to filter out what you don’t like. I will be looking at how Youtube has grown over the years, becoming a staple source for self made “reality TV” known as Vlogging. In particular, I will analyze the language and symbols presented in the series ‘Latoya’s Life’, created by popular Youtuber Latoya Ali, in relation to Lacanian’s psychoanalytical themes in order to see why her channel is so widely watched all over the world.
Lacan is a dominant contributor to the structure of the Psyche and how, when broken down, expresses what factors control how we live our life as human beings. According to Lacan there are “three major concepts, which correlate roughly to the three main moments in the individual’s development.” The first being the Real, our natural state prior to our introduction to language and the rules of the world. Next is the Imaginary Order, where we enter a mirror stage, thus leaving our primal instinctual needs for our demands in life. The third and final concept is “the Symbolic Order (or the “big Other”). Whereas the imaginary is all about equations and identifications, the symbolic is about language and narrative. Once a child enters into language and accepts the rules and dictates of society, it is able to deal with others” (Murphy S, 2016)
Youtube is a relatively new platform in comparison to a lot of media outlets, alongside social media, which allows users to upload videos of various topics. As creators this allows them to express themselves, accumulating viewers and subscribers whilst creating a space for interaction. Even before discussing the intention of Youtube, the name alone is personal by its use of “You”, which immediately embodies a virtual self. This concept corresponds to the mirror stage and by looking at the language of it helps us to immediately project, what Lacan calls our “mirror image”, into video format through this platform.
Not only has this given complete freedom for viewers to express themselves, almost reverting back to our ‘Real’, but also creates a diverse following in which each group has their own way of communicating. For example many Youtubers have come up to a collective name they call their viewers similar to Artists such as Rihanna, referring to her fans as ‘Rihanna Navy’ or Beyonces ‘Beyhives’, in the case of Youtubers De’rra and Ken they call their viewers ‘DK Gang’. Not only does this language make the videos more personable, as if they were speaking directly to you, but destroys the barriers of distance as we embody our virtual relationships as if it were real life relationships.
This language developed between viewers also allows room for business, which has seen a lot of Youtubers being endorsed by various companies to promote their products, such as Boohoo, FashionNova, Mac and many more. “Pixability revealed that beauty brands control only 3% of YouTube’s 14.9 billion beauty views” (Ivory Content, 2015), whilst the majority 97% is through the promotion of the content creators i.e. the Youtubers themselves.
Latoya Ali created Latoya’s Life in 2014, a spin off channel to her already popular main channel Latoya Forever, where she would put out regular skits and challenge videos. The channel was created to “document her 1st pregnancy” (Latoya,2015), but after the first season her beloved viewers known as the huntys and huncles, wanted to see more of this side to Latoya. Since then she has created 10 season which also brought about her million subscribers. According to Lacan, ‘Only as neo-natal children were we close to this state of nature, a state in which there is nothing but need’ and so it can be suggested that media platforms such as Youtube are reflections of our needs when looking at Vloggers and the lives they live.
With all this said and done, how do I relate to this and how does it impact my mirror self?
We all know that when referring to our mirror self we are looking at the different characteristics of our selves that makes us individuals. “With over 300 hours of videos uploaded a minute, YouTube has something for everyone” (Blattberg,2015). With that said, I know that a major part of my mirror self and influencer is social media, mainly apps that are accessible to me such as Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter. All ways in which I can express my feelings, thoughts and capture memories, very similar in what a major network such as Youtube allows you to do. When looking at Latoya Ali, a key reason in which I am glued to my television once a new video is posted is due to the fact that she reminds me a lot of what I believe my mirror self is like, crazy, family orientated and business minded. Being from similar backgrounds, both with Caribbean heritage, where she is from Trinidad and I am from Jamaica it is very relatable in regards to our culture growing up, reflected in her videos, An example of this is each time she goes to her Auntie Jillian’s house they would often eat symbolic dishes such as ‘curry goat, roti, rice and peas’ which are staple Trinidadian dishes but are also cuisine in Jamaica.
Even though Latoya is from Canada and I am from England, I am still able to understand her dialect of speech as her accent is clear to digest and the slang used is very similar to London slang. However words that I am not familiar with can still be understood through the way in which it is used. “A creature needs some reference to the beyond of language, to a pact, to a commitment which constitutes him, strictly speaking, as an other, a reference included in the general or, to be more exact, universal system of interhuman symbols. No love can be functionally realisable in the human community, save by means of a specific pact, which, whatever the form it takes, always tends to become isolated off into a specific function, at one and the same time within language and outside of it” (Freud’s Papers 174). With that said, within the series of Latoya’s life her following developed their own language in which her husband Adam consistently refers to certain phrases such as “hunty heat”, “hunty and huncles”, “shots fired” and the “hunty shade room”. Using their own code as such adds to the growing of their channel as many more people get involved as they can understand these phrases and thus tuning into every episode as they feel included in the journey.
Even though I relate to Latoya the most, other characters involved in the series such as her husband Adam, her children, her friends and family members, are also contributors to my addiction to watching. “It is in the name of the father that we must recognize the support of the symbolic function which, from the dawn of history, has identified his person with the figure of the law” (Écrits 67). An interesting person to mention is Stud, where his name alone speaks wonders about his character but also ironically symbolizes the way he portrays his mirror self. Looking back at season 10 episode 11, during his conversation with NayNay he was very confident in himself using cocky language shown when he says; “you know you miss this” and also playing the field as he was caught in between flirting with NayNay and subconsciously making Krystle jealous.
Looking at this channel in particular, it is safe to say that Lacan’s theorys are applicable to a certain extent in the fact that it may be argued the order in which the three structures appear to us is being dirsupted or even looped as we get older. The symbolic, through language, is “the pact which links… subjects together in one action. The human action par excellence is originally founded on the existence of the world of the symbol, namely on laws and contracts” (Freud’s Papers 230). Through social media and digital interaction it is almost as if we are starting this transition all over again but through our digtial selves but as it is still relatively new we are still at the stage of exploring our digital Real, as Lacan would put it.
Ault, Susanne,(2014), ‘Survey: Youtube stars more popular than mainstream celebrities amongst Us Teens’, http://variety.com/2014/digital/news/survey-youtube-stars-more-popular-than-mainstream-celebs-among-u-s-teens-1201275245/, Last visited November 20th 2016
Blattberg, Eric, (2015), ‘The demographics of YouTube, in 5 charts’, http://digiday.com/platforms/demographics-youtube-5-charts/, Last visited November 21st 2016
Ivory Content, (2015), ‘vLogs; Rise of the Vloggers’,http://ivorycontent.com/vlogs-rise-rise-vlogger/, Last visited November 21st 2016
Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. New York: Norton, 1977.
Lacan, Jacques. Freud’s Papers on Technique 1953-1954. The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book 1. Trans. John Forrester. Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. New York: Norton, 1991