fleiss - The media plays a powerful role in a portrayal of...

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The media plays a powerful role in a portrayal of public figures. In recent years, this has been especially true with certain types of programming, such as in the instance of reality television shows. A number of interviews with contestants who have been portrayed as “bad guys” has revealed that a great deal of their character is due to how the show is edited and choices that producers make in order to force a contestant to appear a certain way. A more timeless example occurs in political campaigning. Ads run by both proponents and opponents of a side are crucial in swaying public opinion and convincing the majority to vote in a certain way. Recent studies have suggested that as much as 42% of votes cast were influenced entirely by which television ad was “better” or more convincing rather than by an individual’s actual opinion on the matter at hand. Media circuits have immense power when it comes to influencing the general public’s opinion and often utilizes this power to create at best a misleading caricature of an individual or of an issue and at worst a complete fabrication of the truth. One example of this is the case of Heidi Fleiss, better known as the Hollywood Madam who was in 1995 convicted on three counts of pandering. Despite this, her fame and high-profile nature created a much different façade than what may be typical of any other madam. The name Hollywood Madam, first off, is a media creation that makes Fleiss’s figure somewhat exciting and enigmatic. Pairing her name with the title increases her ability to be recognized and makes her known for this precise case. However, unlike other high profile cases such as the murder trial of OJ Simpson, there is something very unique about being considered the Hollywood Madam. Not only do many consider prosecution of this nature to be worthless as it punishes what is essentially a victimless crime, but crimes related to sex and prostitution have somewhat of a sexy Hollywood
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image attached to them. Thus, Fleiss was not simply prostituting to wealthy, famous clients, but was rather providing a unique and sexy service. Because of the general public’s fascination with celebrity life, hearing of such a thing becomes incredibly fantastic. This is emphasized by the fact that when it became rumored that Fleiss’s ‘little black book’ containing the names of many famous, high profile clients was seized. Tabloids published many articles about those names rumored to be inside.
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This essay was uploaded on 04/16/2008 for the course COMM 1 taught by Professor Peters during the Spring '06 term at UCSD.

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fleiss - The media plays a powerful role in a portrayal of...

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