Here’s Looking at You, Kansas


In 2019, research company Onepoll led a survey regarding the travel habits of Americans. They found that eleven percent of their survey respondents had not stepped foot outside of the state in which they were born. On top of this, fifty percent had travelled to fewer than ten states throughout their lives. As someone who was lucky enough to grow up going on many road trips and exploring large swaths of the country, this figure surprised me. Not having travelled does not mean that you do not have the desire to do so. In fact, the same poll showed that nearly eighty percent of respondents wished to travel more that they do currently. These people are not at all narrow minded, they do not have the means to broaden their horizons in this way. The financial and even physical strain of travelling is simply too much for many people.

One thing that I have seen consistently since moving to Portland, Oregon from Kansas is that my friends and colleagues have a great number of ideas about the Midwest and its inhabitants, many ideas that do not align with my personal experience experiences. Some are generally true, some are mildly offensive, and some are downright absurd. I decided to interview ten people including friends, coworkers, classmates, and a stranger about their experiences with and their notions of Middle America and the men and woman who grow so much of their food.

Wait a second, where’s Missouri?

Of the people I interviewed, five were from California, four came from Portland or elsewhere in Oregon, and one was from Washington. All were in their early to mid twenties and ideologically, they all shared similar political and social beliefs to my own. I encouraged productive dialogue and asked each of them a similar set of questions:

  • What images come to mind when you think of the Midwest?
  • What are your personal experiences with this part of the United States?
  • What kind of people live there?
  • What do you think of them?
  • What is something you care about or a part of your identity that you think is commonly misunderstood?
  • What is something you wish more people knew about this?

Farms, Farms, and More Farms

Among everybody I spoke with, the Midwest is synonymous with farmland and quaint rural farming communities. Sprawling fields of wheat, corn, and soy, forests, and plains stretching into the horizon with nothing but a lone windmill interrupting the endless landscape were called to mind. A couple of people mentioned cattle and one named a sports team. None of them were wrong, these are things that I too associate with my home. I was however surprised that no one thought of Chicago, the third largest city in the country by population, or any of the other cities that rival those found on the east and west coasts. Similarly, no one mentioned barbeque or any of the other foods that I cherish from home.

Nobody had every spent a significant amount of time in a Midwestern state but most told me “Oh, I think I drove through Kansas once.” a phrase I hear more often than one might suspect.

The Red Scare

The average Midwesterner is two things, conservative and Christian. That is, according to those I talked to. When asked, five told me that the had a generally unfavorable opinion one or both of these groups but they also knew few people who identified with either. Six told me that, as far as they knew, none of their close friends are politically conservative or Christians and three weren’t sure if they even knew anyone who was. One person had attended a catholic high school but never considered himself Catholic.

This shocked me. I am not Christian nor do I identify as conservative but so many of my close friends and family are. The responses that I received made me consider how many points of view a have little to ow contact with and how different each persons perspective really is. Every person that I spoke to was surprised when I told them that only thirty nine percent of adults in the Midwest identify as Republicans compared to forty three percent for Democrats and that less that half of voters in Kansas were registered with the Republican party. They were also surprised to learn that, statistically, Kansas has a higher non-white population than either Oregon or California.

Bigger Picture

I did not want this experiment to be at all preachy or antagonistic and I was very pleased with the conversations that I had. I hope that sharing my experiences made those I spoke with consider their points of view but I also wanted to be challenged on preconceived notions that I held as well. I did not want this experiment to be at all preachy or antagonistic and I was very pleased with the conversations that I had. When I asked about something they think is commonly misunderstood, everybody had an answer.

A few were upset by the bad rep that California has to some Oregonians. They argued that California has an influx of transplants as well and that many are forced out of the state due to rising costs, they wished that Oregon was more welcoming. One, a purple belted Jiu-Jitsu student, told me that he hears many criticisms of their decision to not attend college and to instead pursue another interest. His decision says nothing about his intelligence, only of his motivations. I listened to someone explain that many Asians are not considered to be people of colour and often are excluded in relevant conversations on the matter. A communications major explained that he has rarely tells people what he studies because so many look down on the subject for being vapid and unimportant.

I strive to be as open-minded as possible but most of the complaints that I heard had never occurred to me as being a problem. How many of my understanding are ungrounded and how many unintentionally hurtful? If you can think of something, I would like you to share something about you that is often misunderstood. What needs further understanding and what ideas do you think should be challenged?


A Letter to My Phone


(Inspired by Abby Zwart’s article titled A Letter To My Cell Phone)

Dear Phone, 

I have decided we need to have this conversation. You have been an important thing in my life since elementary school (even though then you were just a flip phone for the following 5 years). But, it is time we take a break. I don’t want to lose you, I need you. But that’s why we need a break, and I will lay it all out for you here. 

But before I lay it all out, I do want to say just how much I do appreciate you. You are there for me in times of emergencies. Like when I had that car accident last year and I needed to call 911. Or when you help distract me by playing a funny video when I’m having a panic attack. You help me stay close to all my friends and family. You help keep me informed about what’s going on in the world. But these things are what has led into all my issues with you. 

  1. Your screen hurts me in more than one way! 

I have had my doctor mention countless times you physically aren’t good for me. You hinder my sleep with your bright screen (even though I use your blue-light filter AND turn brightness all the way down!). You also cause my eyes to physically hurt, but this is your cousins’, TV and Computer, fault too. According to Melissa Barnett, from UC Davis, there is proof that blue light can hurt your eyes and affect one’s sleep cycle. Seeing your bright blue lights messing with my sleep cycle, which I definitely feel on a nightly basis. If you can fix your brightness and blue light, maybe we wouldn’t need to be having this conversation…  

  1. You’re kinda creepy… 

I usually forget to turn off your GPS feature, and even when I do I have theories you still follow me. At least once a day I get a notification from you asking how X location was, or how long my drive to work would be if I were to leave at X time. If you were a real person texting me asking how X location was or knew my schedule to a tea, I would have dropped you a LONG time ago. While I still have my doubts that you are listening to me 24/7, many have beliefs that you are. Overall, maybe it’s time I don’t have you with me so you can’t see where I am all the time. 

  1. Fake. News. 

You know this is an issue. I see it on my timeline all the time, and heck I am taking a class right now where one of our main focuses is learning about how to avoid fake news! I get that there are times where it is for a comedic aspect, like with The Onion articles, but even those have gotten out of hand recently, in the sense that people are actually believing them. As Sam Wineburg and Sarah McGrew, both from Stanford, mention in their article, big news companies are coming up with fake news sites when someone looks up something, especially if it is politically related. While I try to be good about checking my sources, and the SIFT idea from Check, Please! really helps with that, I’m still not perfect, as I only got an 80% on a test from Check, Please! But with the idea of SIFT, it wants you to be slow, but yet, you are so fast paced. Showing me new articles every second, or having my twitter feed full of new tweets and refreshing so often. But not only is the news you show me bad, news itself is bad for me.

  1. News is bad for me, and you keep showing me it.

The news is scary. It’s reality, and that’s what’s scary. When you show me an article about a plane crash, or some new legislation that Trump is trying to push, I understand they are real, and that’s scary. But yet, you don’t stop showing it to me, even when I don’t want to see it. Now I know I should want to see it, but I can’t handle it constantly. As Rolf Dobelli, from the Univeristy of St. Gallen in Switzerland, mentions, there are several different reasons as to why news is bad for someone, and with me having anxiety issues, those reasons are even worse for me, but you don’t care. New is misleading, irrelevant, toxic, and wastes time, as Dobelli says, and those are only some of the reasons why it’s bad. News makes me anxious, but you don’t care. You want me informed, but I can’t have that all the time. 

  1. Social Media is bad for me, and you want me to be on it.

This one should be a no brainer. Social media is bad for me, and it’s bad for everyone. It is constant pictures of people who “look better than me” and have “more perfect lives than I do”. All I see are people who are rich and famous with no care in the world. I see people who I don’t even like that I knew in high school. I see these toxic people in my life, but that’s all I see. Not only that but it’s so fast paced. As soon as I’m done with one post, there’s another 1 second later. I wish more people knew that social media wasn’t good for them, but yet everyone is obsessed, and so am I.

  1. I am obsessed with you. 

It’s as simple as that. I wake up and reach for you. I go to bed and fall asleep with you in my hand. If I leave the house without you I turn my car around to make sure you are at my side the whole time I’m out, even if it’s a 5 minute car ride. I need to not be so dependent on you, and maybe you need the same. 

I have decided that we need to take a break. As you see from above, you are toxic for me. I can’t sleep properly, I get panic or anxiety attacks almost daily because of you. I have become dependent on you to function normally on a daily basis, and that’s not okay. I need to just take a break and detox. We can still see each other, as I use you for my friends (sorry), but I need to delete half of the apps that you have. I need to not go on Reddit 20 times a day, or constantly refresh my Twitter feed. We need some space right now. Sorry if I won’t upgrade you any time soon, but it’s what’s best for me. I hope you understand…



“Two Months Later”

Hey Phone, 

It’s been a while huh… 

I’ve realized that maybe I do need you still after all. As I said, you are there for me at times of need. In emergencies, in mental health issues, with friends. You do care about me, but yet I still think we need to set some boundaries. So I have come with a list of rules you and I need to follow from now on. 

  1. Starting at 10pm every night, unless I am miraculously doing homework at this hour, you need to give me space. Your bright screen really just doesn’t do me good that late at night, so from now on, we both need our own bedtimes. 
  2. I am going to stop caving into all your news. It isn’t good for me. I know I need to stay informed, and I will but I will only look a couple times a day and will only pay attention to the big important things. 
  3. No more Social Media. Simple enough. 
  4. We need to hang out no more than 3 to 4 hours a day, preferably less if I can handle it. Do I really need you more than not? No. I don’t even need you that much probably, but baby steps. 
  5. Sorry, I’m not letting you have GPS on all the time anymore. Again, simple enough. 
  6. Lastly, for the love of God, please stop showing me fake news! I am going to try wayyy better to make sure I don’t fall for your tricks! 

Well phone, I hope these rules will last and it can help mend our relationship with each other. I believe in me, and I hope you believe in yourself. 




Dobelli, R. (2013, April 12). News is bad for you – and giving up reading it will make you happier. Retrieved March 5, 2020, from 

Gan, C. (n.d.). Is blue light from your cell phone, TV bad for your health? Retrieved March 5, 2020, from 

The all-in-one workspace for your notes, tasks, wikis, and databases. (n.d.). Retrieved March 5, 2020, from Wineburg, S., & McGrew, S. (2019, April 23). Why Students Can’t Google Their Way to the Truth. Retrieved March 5, 2020, from

What Makes a Prince “Charming”?


A fellow classmate asked me about the “Nice” identity I had chosen during the Identity Brainstorm assignment. She asked me, “When you say ‘nice’ [I’m] wondering if you mean ‘nice guy’, as in the men who behave in a more gentleman-like and gentle [manner] with women, who are looked down upon and poked fun at in pop-culture?”. This made me curious about the “nice guy” trope where a man acts chivalrously towards a woman to win her affection.

I wanted to look at the inspiration of this chivalrous ideal, the romantic heroes in classic animated fairy tales. The traditional romantic hero, or “Prince Charming” is a character that is familiar in many fairy tale films. But how has this charming character changed over the years? And what are the traits that define him?

To answer this question, I analyzed three Disney fairy tale films, Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, and Frozen. By looking at the behavior of the male heroes in these films, I could see if “Prince Charming” had changed over the course of time. These films had wide public appeal, so any changes could show how romance, chivalry, and masculinity may have changed with the times.



When choosing films for this project, I used the following criteria to narrow my selection:

  1. The film must be a modern adaptation of a fairy-tale


I chose this criterion because romantic fairy-tales use similar elements in the heroes’ journey. This made it easier to compare characters from one film to another.

  1. The film must be an animated feature film from Walt Disney studios


This criterion was chosen due because of Disney’s incredible impact on modern culture and wide public appeal. Any changes would also indicate how Disney shifted its narratives over time.

  1. A romantic pursuit of a woman by a male character should be a significant part of the film’s plot


A male character’s romantic interest needed to have a major presence in the film. This would allow me to better analyze the male character’s traits, motives, and actions. Unfortunately, this eliminated films such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and The Little Mermaid from my list.

  1. The love between the male and female protagonists is made official at the end of the film










The male protagonist needs to succeed in finding love. This would allow me to assess the film’s message about the ideal aspects of love. Each film may have its own definition of defining what true love is.



Sleeping Beauty (1959)


In Sleeping Beauty, Prince Phillip is the male protagonist and Princess Aurora’s love interest in this film. He is the hero of the movie and fights bravely to rescue Aurora from her curse of eternal slumber.


The first half of the film shows us the heroic traits of Prince Phillip. He first encounters Princess Aurora in the woods where she is disguised as a peasant. Although she runs away initially Phillip is able to catch up to her and manages to win her affection by singing to her. Later that day, Phillip declares his intent to marry Aurora to his father, King Hubert. Hubert is shocked at the news and asks his son would be willing to, “Give up the throne, the kingdom for some… some nobody?!”. Unconcerned, Phillip repeats that he’s going to, “…marry the girl [he] loves” and rides away to meet Aurora again.

In the second half of the film, Phillip is captured by the evil faerie Maleficent while Aurora’s curse takes hold. Maleficent locks Phillip away in her castle, as only a “true love’s kiss” can break Aurora’s curse. Phillip is rescued by three fairy godmothers, who bestow him with a Shield of Virtue and a Sword of Truth. Wielding these weapons, he swiftly fights his way out of Maleficent’s castle and rides over to rescue Aurora. He uses his sword to overcome enchanted vines and later defeats Maleficent in her dragon form single-handedly. He kisses a sleeping Aurora thus breaking her curse. The film ends with Phillip and Aurora dancing together on a castle floor.

Certain physical features and character traits define Prince Phillip as a hero. Phillip is tall, handsome, and romantic. He wields a Sword of Truth and a Shield of Virtue and uses these to slay Maleficent in the film. When interacting with Aurora, Philip is congenial and polite, but later chases after her as she runs away. Phillip is able to win Aurora’s affections after catching up to her by singing and dancing. Aurora would later describe Phillip to her godmothers as, “…he’s tall, handsome, and so romantic.” Phillip later proves to be a capable fighter and fights through many obstacles, including slaying Maleficent. These heroic acts are made in an effort to rescue Aurora from her curse.

Unfortunately, Sleeping Beauty was not a critical success, and reviews for the film were mostly negative. After the incredible successes of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and Cinderella, Disney was hoping to repeat the formula to strike it big. Many reviews called out both the film’s lack of originality and the similarities to previous films. In a review for Film Quarterly, Raymond Fielding wrote, “The film’s characters and story can scarcely be distinguished in style from those of Snow White, except by their total lack of ingenuity”. A New York Times review by Bosley Crowther discussed the film’s lack of wit, “Prince Phillip is a saccharine cartoon likeness of a crooner on the cut of Tommy Sands”. Due partially to the poor performance of the film, Disney Studios would not return to the fairy-tale genre for 30 years.

Beauty and the Beast (1991)


This film has two male leads; Gaston is the film’s antagonist and the Beast is the film’s protagonist. The story follows the main female protagonist Belle as she helps the Beast overcome his curse and his personal demons.


Gaston is described in the film as handsome, gorgeous, strong, and tall. At the beginning of the film, women in the town are seen swooning over him. Even Belle’s father Maurice mentions how handsome Gaston is. He is shown to have great fighting prowess, both bare-handed and with firearms. However, Belle sees Gaston differently calling him rude, boorish, conceited, and primeval. Belle is seen having many unpleasant encounters with Gaston. In one scene, Gaston attempts to get Belle’s attention by taking her book away from her then proceeds to say chauvinistic lines about women learning to read before throwing her book in the mud.



The Beast is described by others in the film as huge, monstrous, hideous, and ugly. Maurice uses these words to describe the Beast after being released from the Beast’s castle. In addition to being physically frightening the Beast is also mean and quick to anger. When Maurice is caught using the Beast’s castle as shelter, the Beast furiously calls him a trespasser and immediately imprisons him into a cell. Maurice is only released once Belle agrees to take his place for life. Later in the film, the Beast gets better at managing his temper and attempts to make up for initially treating Belle so poorly. As the Beast and Belle better understand one another, she describes him sweet, dear, and unsure. Belle later attempts to introduce the Beast to the town pleading, “Please, I know he looks vicious but he’s really kind and gentle. He’s my friend”.

When comparing these two characters to Prince Phillip, one can quickly see that Gaston shares many superficial qualities, such as good looks and fighting prowess. Also like Phillip, he decided to marry Belle after seeing her for the first time, as did Prince Phillip with Aurora. However, it should be noted that Phillip wanted to marry for “love”, whereas Gaston wanted Belle solely for her beauty. In similar “romantic” fashion, Gaston pursues Belle when she’s running away from him. He does this twice in the film, on the street and at Belle’s house, both for the purposes of winning Belle’s affection.

Contrary to Gaston, Beast does not start off the film as a handsome figure. He also does not treat Belle nicely when he first meets her. However, Beast does still follow a few classic conventions of the romantic hero. For example, Beast shares the romantic hero’s noble characteristics. He shows remorse for his rages throughout the film and attempts to right his wrongs each time. First, he transfers Belle out of her cell to a more comfortable guest room after sending Maurice away too fast for Belle to say goodbye. He runs out to defend her from wolves after she escapes his castle in fear. He even gives her the castle library after initially treating her so poorly. The Beast is also virtuous; he never forces, guilts, or manipulates Belle into breaking his curse. Contrary to Phillip, the beast does not slay the main antagonist at the end of the film.

Beauty and the Beast was praised for its modern tone of the story and characters, giving Belle and Gaston’s characters much of the credit.  Gaston’s portrayal as a comically macho and insufferable character was cited as an attributing factor to the film’s modern tone. Janet Maslin of the New York Times appreciated that Gaston’s super macho demeanor, “is initially the butt of the film’s jokes” which made the film, “an amusingly clear product of its time”.

Frozen (2013)


This film has two male love interests, Hans and Kristoff. Hans is the main antagonist and Kristoff plays one of the protagonists.



Prince Hans is very respectful to Princess Anna when he first meets her. He is physically described by Anna as being “gorgeous” and having “great physique”. He also displays noble and righteous traits when Anna puts Hans in charge of the kingdom as her proxy. He provides warm blankets and soup to the people of Arendelle while the kingdom is under heavy winter. When the Duke of Weselton attempts to undermine Anna’s authority, Hans stands up for her and threatens to charge the duke for treason. All these heroic acts are undermined when in a plot twist, Hans coldly tells Anna he doesn’t love her and that he was just using her to ascend to the throne. All of his heroic acts were merely a cover for his true intentions.


Kristoff does not initially act respectfully towards Anna. He agrees to help Anna up the mountain after she buys him the things he needs for the journey. He is described as grumpy in the film and acts this way with Anna initially. When his sled is destroyed during the ascent, he reacts bitterly, telling Sven that he has no interest in helping Anna anymore and that, “In fact, this whole thing has ruined me for helping anyone ever again.” However when the two are not in peril, he lets his guard down and is able to crack jokes with Anna. The trolls call Kristoff “sensitive and sweet” and say that he “runs scared” and is “socially impaired”. Although Kristoff does demonstrate moments of bravery, he does not defeat or engage anyone in combat. However, he does use his survival knowledge to avoid obstacles, including making a snow anchor to safely rappel down a cliff.

The antagonist in this film shares even more traits with Prince Phillip perhaps intentionally so. Hans mimics many of Philips character traits up until his reveal as a villain. He is kind and respectful to Anna in their first encounter and later pretends to fall in love with Anna at first sight. He even leads a charge to rescue Anna, defeating a snow golem to get into Elsa’s castle. Despite all of these very heroic qualities and charitable acts, Hans’s was still the villain of this film. At this point, the question becomes what qualities did Hans NOT have that made him a villain? The answer to this question can be found in all male protagonists in each of the films; all of them were honest in word and deed and chose to act with integrity. For example, Kristoff does not ever lie to Anna or try to guilt her into doing anything. When his sled is destroyed, he does not seek damages from Anna. After Anna promises him a replacement sled, Kristoff never asks her to make good on her promise and he even initially turns it down when she does replace it. Despite Kristoff’s growing feelings for Anna, he respects Anna’s engagement to Hans and leaves when she is in safe hands. He only returns to Arendelle when a growing ice storm threatens Anna’s safety.

The film achieved resounding success on opening release, becoming the number one ranked film on its third opening weekend. It is currently Disney’s highest grossing animated film of all time (Box Office Mojo). Many critics praised the film’s contemporary take on Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale “The Snow Queen”. Stephen Holden of the New York Times chose Frozen as his NYT Critic’s pick stating, “They are significant departures from tradition in [Frozen] that shakes up the hyper-romantic “princess” formula that has stood Disney in good stead for decades and that has grown stale.” Holden cited the film’s version of Hans, “a picture-perfect prince who is revealed to be a scheming, opportunistic cad” as one of these significant departures from tradition. Even less positive reviews noted the stark difference between Frozen and earlier films. Anthony Lane of the New Yorker wrote, “Disney has thus arrived at a mirror image of its earlier self: the seriously bad guys and the top-grade sidekicks—the Shere Khans and the Baloos—are now a melting memory, while the chronic simperers, like Cinderella, have been superseded by tough dames.”


As Disney films adjusted with the times, so did their respective heroic male counterparts. Gone was the charming, handsome, and daring champion of old, making way for a more grounded and less daring hero instead. Male protagonists became less confrontational, and acts of might were less of an indicator of a man’s heroic traits and more an indicator of his darker ones. This trend suggests that a man needs to offer more than just physical prowess and handsomeness. In Beauty and the Beast, Gaston’s good looks are the reason he is revered by the entire town. Gaston makes no attempt to hide his ugly qualities and Belle is the only one who can look past his handsomeness. Frozen takes this idea one step further by having Hans hide his ruthless and deceitful nature behind his handsomeness.

Charisma was also dialed down as male protagonists became less cordial to the female protagonists. This doesn’t suggest that women are attracted to this behavior, for none of the female protagonists responded positively to poor behavior. Rather, this lack of cordiality implies that a good man’s affections develop over time; the heroes do not warm up to their female counterparts until much later in the film. To further this claim, the heroes no longer fall in love at first sight. Only the villains in later films desire to marry a woman at first sight.

These changes to the heroic “nice guy” in Disney films point to changes in how men and women perceive each other in romantic relationships. Prince Charming and the traditional view of chivalry were no longer relevant to the average audience.


Learning Moments

This class has been very enlightening due to the amount of self-reflection we’ve been asked to do for assignments. The identity brainstorm was a fun and eye-opening assignment. Picking ten identities was hard and it forced me to consider what my qualities were beyond the superficial. The identity brainstorm also helped me develop a prompt for this project through comments from peers. Even the course readings helped me become more aware of unconscious habits and biases. For example, the report by the Stanford History Education Group about its media literacy study was interesting, especially when comparing my answers to the study’s participants’ answers. I had to question why I got some questions wrong, or why an advertisement was able to sway me. Moments like these helped get a glimpse about how I react to the world around me at an unconscious level.

I’d imagine knowing my inner traits and characteristics will make me more actively aware when reviewing media, or when performing any critical review. I’ll better know how I might be unduly swayed and can account for my biases when attempting an unbiased review. On a more practical level, having new techniques to recognize faulty logic or suggestive messaging will allow me to tell the difference between good information and not.


Works Cited

Beauty and the Beast. Directed by Gary Trousdale & Kirk Wise, Walt Disney Pictures, 22 Nov. 1991

 Box Office Mojo. iMDb, 15 Feb. 2018

Crowther, Bosley. “Screen: ‘Sleeping Beauty’.” The New York Times, 18 Feb. 1959, Web. 15 Feb. 2018

Fielding, Raymond. “Sleeping Beauty” Film Quarterly Vol. 12 No. 3 (Spring, 1959): pg. 49. Print.

Frozen. Directed by Chris Buck & Jennifer Lee, Walt Disney Studios, 27 Nov. 2013

Holden, Stephen. “Disney’s ‘Frozen’ a Makeover of ‘The Snow Queen’” The New York Times, 26 Nov. 2013, Web. 15 Feb. 2018

Lane, Anthony. “It’s Cold Outside” The New Yorker, 9 Dec. 2013, Web. 16 Feb. 2018

Maslin, Janet. “Disney’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’ Updated in Form and Content” The New York Times, 13 Nov. 1991, Web. 15 Feb. 2018

 Sleeping Beauty. Directed by Clyde Geromini, Walt Disney Productions, 29 Jan. 1959






The Blonde Bombshell and Her Dumb Sister; Unnoticed but Uber-Desireable


I’ve been a blonde-haired, blue-eyed woman my entire life. When I was a child I had white-blonde hair that looked like corn silk, which eventually darkened to a dirty blonde as I aged. As I grew up, I often looked for blonde women in media because I never met very many blonde women in my real life. I vividly remember seeing and hearing about actresses like Marilyn Monroe (arguably the most infamous blonde in media), Robin Wright from The Princess Bride, and Kate Capshaw from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, as well as other blonde characters in things like fairytales (Goldilocks) (Duncan 20). I was often surprised with myself that I didn’t like these characters much. I always related more to other characters who were brave, smart, or outspoken, rather than the scared, soft, homebodies I saw blonde women play. I didn’t understand why I wouldn’t like the portrayals of people who looked like me until I was much older.


For decades, blonde women have been represented one of two ways: as the “blonde bombshell” (overly sexual, extremely attractive, and altogether irresistible to men) or the “dumb blonde” (dumb, ditzy, naïve, and childish). Some classic examples of these stereotypes are characters played by actresses like Brigitte Bardot and Jayne Mansfield (Duncan 20). These representations of blonde women are extremely popular in many different forms of media, but they reinforce some untrue and potentially harmful stereotypes.The first stereotype would be that no blonde woman can be of even average intelligence. The second would be that all blonde women are inherently sexual, promiscuous, and desirable. Many characters play a combination of these stereotypes, which we will see below.

To look at these phenomena I decided to analyze three different media examples that depict blonde women. The sources I chose to examine were a commercial for Nando’s restaurant, Sarah Sanderson from Hocus Pocus, and Phoebe Buffay from Friends. On a basic level, I will be comparing the three sources to see what they have in common and how they differ.  Additionally, I chose three different forms of media (a commercial, a movie, and a TV show) to see how the length of a production influenced these blonde characters and their development. Lastly, I will also be analyzing how the target audience of these sources influenced their character representations.

Source One: “Chips”

“Chips” is a commercial for Nando’s new “bigger, fuller, bouncier double-breasted burger.” Nando’s is an international restaurant chain that originated in South Africa.  The ad features a blonde woman talking on her cell phone while sitting in the restaurant. The woman has large breasts and is wearing a very low-cut top. The woman, who can’t see the french fries on her plate over her chest, calls over a waitress asking about her missing french fries. The waitress turns the woman’s plate around so she can see her food, and the blonde woman, embarrassed, proceeds to make an even bigger fool of herself by drinking her soda in a strange and awkward way. The final frame of ad talks about Nando’s new “bigger, fuller, bouncier double-breasted burger,” while featuring an image of the burger on a table in front of the woman’s breasts.

The blonde character in this commercial has been given very little personality. All a viewer has to base their judgments off of is the woman’s appearance and actions: her presumptuous phone call, blonde hair, large breasts, and stupid questions. In this case, the woman’s character serves as nothing more than a joke and a plug for Nando’s new entrée.

Source Two: Sarah Sanderson in Hocus 


Hocus Pocus is a movie about three sister witches in Salem, Massachusetts that have been resurrected after three hundred years on Halloween night. Sarah Sanderson is one of the witches, played by Sarah Jessica Parker, who las long white-blonde hair. She is the youngest sister and has a goofy, giddy attitude. She and her sister Mary take a backseat and obediently follow their oldest sister Winifred while they craft a wicked plan to catch children and harvest their youth. The sisters are eventually stopped by the same trio of cunning teenagers, who accidentally resurrected the sisters in the first place, just before sunrise on November 1st. The movie ends happily with the good triumphing over evil and Binx, the cursed guardian of the Sisters who happens to be a cat, finally being able to rejoin his sister in the afterlife.

In this movie, Sarah seems to have two different personality types that contradict each other: childish and overly sexual. Being the youngest sister, Sarah serves as a kind of comic relief by being goofy, childish, naïve, and gullible. This can be seen in instances like the rain scene or amok the scene.

Adding to this attitude is Sarah’s white-blonde hair. Research has found that women with lighter hair are often associated unconsciously with “softness and femininity” (Lynch 30). However, this idea is also seen in the overly sexual and promiscuous side of Sarah. Despite her dimwittedness, Sarah is the sister that is desired by the few prominent adult male characters in this movie. In fact, her dense demeanor seems to add to her desirability. This is seen most clearly in the bus scene.  In comparison, Sarah’s sister Mary is just as dumb and isn’t blonde, but she is ignored by men and not sexualized at all.

Source Three: Phoebe Buffay in Friends


Phoebe is one of the main characters from the popular TV series Friends, played by Lisa Kudrow. She has long blonde hair and a constant ditzy demeanor. She often becomes the butt of jokes made by her friends, who all seem to accept her strange and silly ways. The TV show features the lives of six twenty-somethings living in New York City in the 1990 ’s and represents the time in a person’s lives when your future might be unknown, but your friends are constant. When pitching the show, one of the show’s creators, David Cane, stated “It’s about sex, love, relationships, careers, a time in your life when everything’s possible. And it’s about friendship because when you’re single and in the city, your friends are your family.” The show aired for 10 seasons, producing 236 episodes. Phoebe was featured in every episode produced and takes part in some crazy plots.

Phoebe seems to be the one character of the sources I’ve looked into that doesn’t relate her hair color to her personality. giphy5Yes, Phoebe is often odd, eccentric, dumb, and gullible, but her hair color doesn’t seem to play a role in this. Lisa Kudrow was cast as Phoebe on her addition alone, not because the show’s creators envisioned her for the role. Additionally, Rachel, another character on the show who’s a brunette, acts more like a stereotypical dumb blonde than Phoebe does. Rachel was spoiled beyond belief (her reform to become a functioning member of society is a major plotline of the show) and was incredibly dumb. In her defense, her lack of smarts was because she never had to work or try for anything she had wanted in the past.

How do These Characters Compare to One Another?

None of the three characters act very similarly to one another. While they do have some traits in common, like a low IQ level, they tend to act very differently. The “Chips” woman might be dumb but her phone conversation, appearance, and attitude suggest that she’s spoiled and self-centered. Both Phoebe and Sarah seem odd or eclectic to a normal person, but while Sarah acts childishly and naively, Phoebe acts like an otherwise normal member of society, save for a quirky personality and some odd habits. The most interesting contrast between these three characters is their sense of sexuality and promiscuity. Both the “Chips” woman and Sarah are sexualized based on their appearance, but Phoebe is not. She’s regarded just like any of her friends when it comes to dating, blonde or not.

How Does the Length of the Source Effect its Character?

The different lengths of these three sources (one minute, two hours, and ten years) really dictate how we perceive these different characters. In the Nando’s commercial, we only have a few seconds to form an impression about the blonde woman, and we’re given no further information about her life, personality, or attitude. As a viewer, we’re forced to make a quick impression about this woman based on what stands out to us: her hair, her voice, and her breasts. When we’re given more time to learn about a character, like in a movie or a TV show, we get to know them and form more honest feelings about who they are. In the two hours we see Sarah on screen, we learn little about her backstory. However, because we can see how she interacts with the people around her, we can form opinions about her based on her actions. We form a deeper connection with her and find more value in her character than a forgettable woman in a commercial. With a TV series like Friends, though, we get to know Phoebe better than most real-life people. Longtime viewers of the show watched Phoebe for years and learned more about her life and backstory than most of the people they’ve met in their own lives. This deep connection allows us to move past the obvious stereotypes we see and the initial assumptions we make. Time allows us to move past the superficial and into the substantial part of a person.

How Does the Target Audience of the Source Effect its Character?


Nando’s designed this commercial to promote their new entrée, which implies their target audience was existing, and to an extent potential, customers. It seems unlikely that Nando’s designed the commercial to target a specific audience, where it’s more plausible to believe that Nando’s just wanted an entertaining (and slightly controversial) commercial to draw in new restaurant-goers. However, you could also argue that they were targeting male customers, as not many women would appreciate the focus of the commercial. Research has found that men high in hostile sexism, an attitude that believes that women try to control men through feminism or sexuality, and benevolent sexism, an attitude that appears chivalrous but paints women to be weak and in need of protection, find sexist jokes more funny and less offensive than others, especially women (Greenwood and Isbell 341). This could imply that the creators of the commercial intended to target a male audience, however, their product (a new chicken burger) isn’t intended just for men.


Because Hocus Pocus was a children’s movie, its target audience was, quite obviously, for children. However, the movie also gained a large following with parents, and later the many adults who rewatch the movie each Halloween. This could be due to the light-hearted story the movie presents, but it seems most likely that the mix of childish and adult humor (despite the contradiction of the two ideas) is what led to its popularity. giphy6In this case, I would say that the movie’s target audience might have had some effect on the portrayal of its blonde characters. The creators of the movie wanted to create a movie that was entertaining for kids and their parents, so the subtle addition of crude or sexual humor makes sense. Who better than to serve as this comic relief than Sarah, the youngest (and conveniently blonde) sister?



According to Friends creators and directors David Cane and Marta Kauffman, the show was created to appeal “to everyone”. The show’s original broadcasting company, NBC, wanted a popular sitcom that represented feelings and situations everyone had known before, especially when they were young and new to “real-life”. It doesn’t seem likely that Phoebe was created specifically to be a blonde, and most likely happened by chance when Lisa Kudrow auditioned for the role of Phoebe.


By analyzing these three sources it can be seen that the “dumb blonde” joke has become much more than a quick chuckle. This idea and the other stereotypes surrounding blonde women is present in many different types of media in our everyday lives. We take in these ideas subconsciously and often accept them for truth, often without realizing it. While these representations are often funny and entertaining, they do more harm than good. Many children look to the media to see people like themselves, creating role models and idols from strangers and fictitious characters. If all a young blonde girl has to look up to in the media is a dimwitted sexpot, then what will she become later in life? Will these ideas hold her back? Will they create a kind of low standard or ceiling that prevents her from moving forward? Not always.

I knew I could do more in my life than seduce men and clean a kitchen. It could be said that every blonde girl knows this and doesn’t take these ideas to heart; otherwise, we’d have a whole class of housewives with blonde hair and a low IQ. But, wouldn’t it nice if what the media had to say about blonde women could actually help them? That they could feel inspired to do more, to be better, because of their appearance? That they could feel proud of what they have, not defiant against the preconceived ideas society has about them just because of their hair? That they’d never have to doubt their ability to be taken seriously by men, just because of their hair? These are things that no girl should have to worry about in any situation, let alone because of their hair color.

Learning Moments

At one point during the term, our weekly course texts were a series of videos that detailed different tips, tricks, and methods to analyze sources of information. I found that week to be a learning moment for myself because I had never received any kind of formal teaching on these ideas before. Those texts helped me analyze sources and other pieces of information not only for this class but for my other classes as well. Heck, I even used some of these tips while doing some research for my job.

Another week, our course texts presented us with an idea I had never encountered before. We read about instances where the “doltish dad” stereotype had been presented in media. I had never thought of this idea before, and to say it was an eye-opener is an understatement. It made me realize that there are many more of these subtle, almost hidden stereotypes that most people aren’t aware of, as well as the damage they can cause for the groups they feature. It was a great learning experience because I had never considered these things before, which gave me a new way to look at my research as I continued to work on this project


Duncan, Stephen R. ““Not Just Born Yesterday: Judy Holliday, the Red
Scare, and the (Miss-)Uses of Hollywood’s Dumb Blonde Image.” Smart Chicks
on Screen: Representing Women’s Intellect in Film and Television, edited by
Laura Mattoon D’Amore, Rowman & Littlefield, 2014.

Greenwood, Dana, and Linda M. Isbell. “Ambivalent sexism and the dumb blonde:
men’s and women’s reactions to sexist jokes.” Psychology of Women
Quarterly, vol. 26, no. 4, Dec. 2002, p. 341. Accessed 8 Mar. 2018.
Lynch, Maura. “NOT SO DUMB BLONDE.” Women’s Health, vol. 14, no. 4, May 2017, p.
30. Accessed 8 Mar. 2018.


Autism in Pop Culture: The Movie!


I learned so much from our class this term! My two favorite lessons from Pop Culture really challenged me to dig deep – first, the deconstruction of the Axe commercial taught me a lot about just how much research and production can fit into such a short message, and then the blog project that forced us to critique news stories helped me further define the differences between news and entertainment. These two projects – as well as others in the class – helped me research and find the book I wanted to use for a book report, narrow my focus for a 2-minute speech I have to give about urban equity, and even become so effective in my internship in state government that I got an unexpected stipend and a job offer!

But perhaps the thing I cherish most from this class was the opportunity I got to take a hard look at an important identity in pop culture: autism. Although I myself am not autistic, my youngest son is. The reason I am back in school is so I can make it my life’s work to educate others about what it means to be autistic, and how those on the autism spectrum can make the world a better place. I got a small taste of what that might be like with our final project, and I invite you now to sit back, relax, and enjoy my newest flick: Autism in Pop Culture.

The Stereotypical Portrayal of Japanese Actresses in Hollywood




Me in a kimono at age 6

Growing up, my parents would constantly remind me to embrace my unique individual qualities and be proud of where I come from. They told me to never feel ashamed of who I am and what I look like. I can truly say that I have never felt embarrassed of being half Japanese. In fact, I have always had a big interest and love for my Japanese culture, from dressing up in a kimono and going to Japanese festivals when I was a little girl to working to get my minor in Japanese now. For this project, I decided to explore my Japanese identity with the hopes of learning more about myself and how people, like me, are being represented in today’s popular culture.

After I chose my identity, I wanted to narrow my artifacts and choose one that I wanted to explore. This was an easy choice for me because I am a huge movie lover where some of my best memories include going to the movies with my family. One of my favorite movies as a young girl was Memoirs of a Geisha because I loved the storyline with Japanese geishas. At the time, I thought it was such a beautiful movie as it embodied my Japanese culture. However, as I got older, my perspective toward the movie changed as I soon took notice of the many wrongs of the movie. Knowing that I wanted to explore this movie for my project, I began to think about a topic focusing on Japanese actors and/or actresses along with similar movies that I could analyze. Finally, I came up with “looking at the roles that Japanese actresses play in Hollywood movies.”

Along with Memoirs of a Geisha, I chose two other movies featuring Japanese actresses that played different characters: Babel and The Wolverine. After analyzing the roles played by the actresses, I started asking questions such as, “Why are they given these type of roles?” and “How do these roles play an influence on the audiences’ perspective and beliefs about Japanese women/girls?” These questions then led me to see if there was a connection between the roles Japanese actresses play and the common stereotypes surrounding Japanese women. My research then led me to come up with my argument. Despite improvements in role diversity for Japanese actresses, the characters they have played in Hollywood films have reinforced common stereotypes and portrayals of Japanese women, ultimately, bringing them into a negative light.

With this blog post, I will, first, analyze all characters played by Japanese actresses, talking about their personality and behavior, in my three chosen movies. Next, I will talk about how two of the movies negatively reinforce stereotypes about Japanese women with the last movie representing an improvement in roles played by Japanese actresses by challenging stereotypical portrayals of Japanese women. Afterwards, I will look into an important question related to my topic, which is: “How has Hollywood created a barrier of exclusion toward Japanese actresses?” Finally, I will conclude with my overall thoughts regarding this topic and my favorite learning moments of the class.

Let’s take a look at the three movies.

Memoirs of a Geisha

Memoirs of a Geisha is an American drama and romance film that tells the story of Sayuri’s journey of becoming a Japanese geisha. However, I won’t be talking about the actress who plays Sayuri because she is not Japanese. This is something I will talk about in the latter portion of the blog post.

The character I will be focusing on is Pumpkin [Youki Kudoh], one of the geishas at Sayuri’s geisha house (who is also the only geisha character to be played by a Japanese actress). We first see her character as a childhood friend of Sayuri as they both worked as servants at the geisha house as young girls. As both become geishas, Pumpkin struggles with becoming successful and becomes jealous of Sayuri’s success. Her jealously increases further when Sayuri is adopted by the head woman of the geisha house, something she was working towards her entire life. She then turns on Sayuri and becomes a rival. Throughout the movie, Pumpkin tries to sabotage Sayuri’s geisha career and even betrays her by trying to ruin her relationship with her true love.

giphy (1)This movie itself sparked assumptions and beliefs about geishas in a negative connotation, reinforcing the stereotype that geishas are similar to prostitutes who entertain men with sex. With the character Pumpkin, the movie further shines a negative light on Japanese women as she represents a common portrayal of Japanese and other Asian women. This portrayal is known as the “Dragon Lady.” According to Herbst, a dragon lady is portrayed as an overbearing, aggressive, deceitful, cold, and mysterious woman who will often do whatever it takes to get what she wants (72). In this case, Pumpkin is one of the dragon ladies in the movie. While Sayuri (played by a Chinese actress) is the heroine and victim in the movie, Pumpkin is seen as a backstabbing, conniving “dragon lady” who is spiteful and malicious because of her jealousy and resentment towards Sayuri.


Babel is an American drama film that features four stories of characters in different places around the world such as Morrocco, USA, Mexico, and Japan. The four stories are interrelated, being connected to an incident to an American couple in Morrocco. In the movie, there is a Japanese actress named Rinko Kikuchi who plays Chieko, one of the four people affected by the incident. Chieko is a deaf-mute teenage girl who is struggling with the loss of her mother due to suicide. She also has a broken relationship with her father. All of these factors contribute to her troubled personality by often getting angry and doing reckless things. giphy (2)

Throughout the movie, she tries to seduce many guys by exposing her body. For example, she tries to get her dentist to touch her inappropriately, flashes a group of boys at her school, and takes off her clothes for a detective who is trying to ask her questions. She is rejected every time, causing her to continue her sexual advances. The movie shows that we live in a disconnected world where people speak different languages and have contrasting beliefs, causing problems of understanding and communicating. Chieko, struggling to communicate due to her inability to speak, chooses to use her body as a form of communication. However, her frequent sexual advances overshadow her struggles of not being able to express her anger and frustration to people in words.

Rinko’s character in very unique because you don’t see typically see Japanese actresses playing these type of roles in Hollywood films. However, her character reinforces yet another common stereotype surrounding Japanese and Asian women. There are many names to this stereotype such as “geisha girl”, “lotus flower”, and “china doll.” This stereotype describes Japanese women as being “submissive, childlike, silent, and eager for sex” (Hagedorn 74). They are willing to use their body to get anything they desire. Chieko embodies this stereotype in the movie as she can’t speak due to being deaf-mute, throws tantrums when she doesn’t get what she wants, and frequently engages in sexually proactive behavior. The purpose of her character was to explore pain and loneliness, but instead, people may have created sexualize and objectified image of Japanese women because of her actions.

The Wolverine

The Wolverine is an American action and adventure film that follows the story of Wolverine, who is brought to Japan to visit an old friend that is dying and to deal with personal issues from the previous installments of the series. The Wolverine features two leading Japanese actresses that play two different roles. Rila Fukushima plays Yukio, a Japanese fighter/samurai who has the power to foresee people’s deaths. Throughout the movie, she stays by the Wolverine’s side as his partner-in-crime and bodyguard at times by protecting and defending him whenever turmoil occurs. Susan George, a film reviewer for a Science Film and Television journal, noted that Yukio was one of the highlights of the film because of her determination and her amazing sword-fighting abilities. (George, 118). The other Japanese actress is Tao Okamoto who plays Mariko, the love interest of Wolverine who later becomes the CEO of her grandfather’s powerful technology company in Japan. Both actresses play characters that have a significant effect on the movie’s plot.

Out of all three movies, this one doesn’t create negative assumptions or beliefs surrounding Japanese women. Even though Rila’s character depicts a common portrayal of Japanese people in Hollywood movies (samurais), this movie challenges stereotypical portrayals of Japanese women. The character of Yukio shows that Japanese women can be strong, courageous and brave. They can also be independent and stand up for themselves.

Mariko shows that, while Japanese women are gentle and beautiful, they can also have high-level job positions, such as a CEO, and be successful in their career. In addition to this, the movie does a great job in maintaining authenticity by filming majority of the movie in Japan, casting Japanese actors and actresses, and incorporating aspects of Japanese culture. This film was a step into the right direction in terms of what Hollywood films depicting Japanese actresses should look like. Even though many unrealistic aspects of the film, the two characters allowed audiences to see that Japanese women are more than just “dragon ladies” and “geisha girls” and that Japanese actresses are fully capable of playing a variety of roles.

How has Hollywood created a barrier of exclusion toward Japanese actresses?

Reported by USC Annennberg School and Communication, only 1% of leading roles goes to Asians (Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Filipinos, Indians, Malaysians, etc.) (qtd. in Calderon). You can imagine the percentage of only Japanese people is pretty low. For Memoirs of a Geisha, the main actress and two of the leading actresses are Chinese. In the movie, Japanese actresses don’t have prominent roles despite being a movie about Japanese culture.

The barriers of exclusion towards Japanese actresses has been further built as non-Asian actors/actresses have been given roles of Japanese characters. This is known as “whitewashing.” The most recent example of this was in the movie Ghost in the Shell, based on a Japanese manga. Scarlett Johansson was casted as Motoko Kusanagi, the protagonist and main character. The film was criticized for “whitewashing” and racism. So, why don’t filmmakers choose to avoid criticism by allowing Japanese actresses to play Japanese characters?

Well, can you think of a big name Japanese actor or actress in Hollywood? I can think of maybe one, but there are definitely not enough. The primary goal for filmmakers is to make a movie that will maximize profits. Using big name stars will help them achieve this because everyone knows who they are. Using unknown actors and actresses is risky since people are unsure of their acting abilities and don’t want to risk spending their money on tickets. However, research has shown a deeper reason for this barrier of exclusion.

Screen Shot 2018-03-10 at 12.13.53 PM

Institutional racism in Hollywood’s film industry has been discussed and debated about for quite some time. Jeffrey Mio believes that filmmakers will cast people who they feel comfortable with because we have a tendency to be attractive to those who look and share similar characteristics as us (qtd. in Brook). In another study conducted by the USC Anennberg School and Communication, they found that out of 1,000 Hollywood films, only 3.4% were directed by Asians (4). While filmmakers argue that they only choose actors and actresses that are the most qualified to fit the role, many think it means they’re casting people they’re most used to being around.


With Pumpkin (Memoirs of a Geisha) being an evil, malicious “dragon lady” to Chieko (Babel) being a submissive “geisha girl” who frequently used her body to try and get what she wants, these two characters reinforced common stereotypes about Japanese women. On the other hand, Yukio and Mariko (The Wolverine) are two examples of the roles Japanese actresses should be playing. However, with this barrier towards Japanese actresses, it’s difficult for them to even acquire roles in Hollywood films. Therefore, it seems like they have no choice but to take stereotypical roles because they want to establish themselves in this seemingly prejudiced industry. There are two steps that can be done to help Japanese actresses in Hollywood.

1) Give them non-stereotypical roles. I’ve watched many Japanese movies and dramas, so I’ve seen the amazing talent Japanese actresses possess. Due to the limited roles they are given in American movies, audiences don’t see their versatility of being able to play a variety of characters.

2) Cast more Japanese actresses. Everyone starts from somewhere and should be given a chance to prove themselves. Filmmakers might be missing out on a hidden star because they are choosing big name stars over lesser known Japanese actresses. Japanese actresses shouldn’t be discouraged or disappointed because what they look like is preventing them from being successful. As my parents told me, they should always feel proud of their Japanese background no matter what and shouldn’t let anyone take that away from them.

Learning Moments

In week 3, there was an article written by Douglas Rushkoff that talked about how the Pokemon show not only entertained kids, but pushed them to Pokemon products. As a kid, I was a huge Pokemon lover. I played the games, watched the show, had Pokemon stuffed animals, and collected Pokemon trading cards. Therefore, I couldn’t help but realize that I fell into that trap. This article really opened my eyes as it made me think about the subtly advertising that television shows will include in episodes to promote their brand/products. This is something I will take with me towards the future because I am a business student and this is a marketing technique that I may come across in another class. I will also be more attuned to subtle marketing plugs that television shows might use to advertise a good or service.

In week 6, there was an article about Melissa Zimdars’ list of popular but unreliable news sites. In my FRINQ class, I had previously learned about verifying sources, but I thought her document provided great tips for analyzing websites. This document will be very helpful to use in my future classes if I ever want to use information from a website, but I’m not 100% sure if the site is reliable or credible. It makes me really wonder about the credibility of sites that I’ve clicked on in the past and if I actually used statistics or other information from a fake sources. Since I have been tricked before by clickbait and fake news before, I can refer back to the document to always check first.

Works Cited

George, Susan A., -. “The Wolverine by James Mangold (Review).” Science Fiction Film and Television, vol. 8, no. 1, 2015, pp. 117–120.

Hagedorn, Jessica. “Asian Women in Film: No Joy, No Luck.” Ms. Magazine, vol. 4, no. 4, 1994, p. 74.

Herbst, Philip. The Color of Word: an Encyclopaedic Dictionary of Ethnic Bias in the United States. Intercultural Press, 1997, p. 72

Brook, Tom. “When white actors play other races.” BBC, 6 Oct 2015,

Calderon, Josue Lopez. “7 reasons why we need an Asian-Latino alliance” Huffington Post, 31 May 2016,




Looking in the Mirror of Vegetarians in the Media



For more than a year I have been a strict vegetarian. Though I have turned back and forth from eating and not eating meat and dairy my whole life, I now feel I am committed to this lifestyle of advocacy for animal rights. It has been a slow and challenging process for me, but worth the benefits the Earth and animals receive from my actions. This past year of being fully committed to a vegetarian lifestyle has exposed me to many aspects about vegetarians and vegans that I had never considered in the past. For one, I have gained a whole new love for fruits and vegetables, but I have also noticed just how few of us there are. Even though awareness and accessibility of a vegan diet has gained popularity the majority of people still eat meat, advocate for an omnivorous diet, and actively criticize those who do not. My curiosity about why people are so supportive of meat and dairy industries has grown a lot over the past year, and has become exponential these past few months.

After beginning lessons in my University Studies Popular Culture Class at Portland State University, I decided to further explore how vegetarians are represented in different kinds of media. Throughout this term we gained knowledge and skills to help us interpret messages in the media, as well as the way these messages are being sent, whether directly intentional or not. Through lessons on the news, Hollywood, advertising, and finding credible resources on the internet I have found many concerning and interesting things about the media, and I have concluded that across various forms of popular media, vegetarians and vegans are consistently stereotyped to be used as a device to strike powerful emotions in viewers. I decided to extend my research to analyze representation of vegetarianism in the Hollywood movie “The Last Song”, the popular comedy show “Parks and Recreation”, and in a popular advertising campaign for PETA.

Vegetarians in the Movies

To begin my research, I searched to find original media sources that portrayed a person as vegetarian. I started in Hollywood. A movie that came to mind was one I had recently seen and have enjoyed watching for a long time, “The Last Song”. This movie directed by Julie Anne Robinson was made from the best-selling novel by Nicholas Sparks. Sparks is known for his timeless love stories including the notably famous movie and book “The Notebook”. The movie was released in 2010 which likely most popular with young teen girls like I was at the time because it was one of Miley Cyrus’s first roles breaking free from her popular Disney show “Hannah Montana”. [1]

Miley’s character Ronnie in the movie is a 17 or 18-year-old girl with lots of attitude towards her family, but a lot of love towards animals. The plot consists of Ronnie moving to North Carolina with her brother to live with their father for the summer. There she transitions from a moody teen to a sensitive, sweet girl who falls in love with an equally sweet guy. The reason I chose this movie, is because Ronnie is the only person in the whole movie who is a vegetarian. Since she is the main character of the movie, her dietary choices are referenced a number of times throughout the film. This, I believe, is used as a plot device to create uneasiness between her and other characters. For example, the first meal shown in the movie is breakfast made by Ronnie’s father and brother. When she walks by her family in the morning and she sees breakfast, she refuses the food and leaves the room with no explanation, leaving it to her brother to explain to their father (who they have not seen in years) that she has been a vegetarian for the past year and a half. This awkward scene sets the stage for Ronnie’s relationship with her family, making her the black sheep. It appears the Ronnie’s vegetarianism is used symbolically to separate Ronnie from her family in some way other than just her emotions.

Though it is very interesting to see how much Ronnie’s emotions are linked to her refusal to eat meat. This was done in “The Last Song” by introducing other issues of animal rights. Immediately after following her awkward breakfast encounter, Ronnie goes to the beach to discover a raccoon eating turtle eggs. She immediately is distressed by the turtles being eaten and makes it her mission to save them. This mini-plot in the movie is how she meets the boy she begins to fall in love with, Will, played by Liam Hemsworth. The producers choose to use the threatened environments of sea turtle habitats in real life as a plot device to bring the couple together, which would likely not have happened if Ronnie was not a vegetarian. Though what is very interesting about this scene is the disregard for the raccoon. No attention was payed to the raccoon besides pointing out that the nocturnal animal was sick, and it should not be out in the daytime. Unfortunately, raccoons are not as cute as baby sea turtles, so viewers would much less like to hear about their misfortunes. This kind of depiction of animals and animal lovers tends to be quite unrepresentative of what the typical vegan or vegetarian person may believe though it may seem that way initially.

My curiosity about the depiction of animals and vegetarians continued to grow, so I looked to further resources to shed light on some of my observations. The representation of vegans in vegetarians seems to be off-center from reality more often than not, so what message is trying to be sent? Steven G Kellman, a linguist, author, and critic wrote a paper exploring traditional practices of vegetarianism, and how vegetarianism and veganism has evolved over time. In ‘The Only Fit Food for a Man is Half a Lemon’: Kafka’s Plea and Other Abberations Kellman claims the action of not eating meat in traditional practices was seen as an almost rebellious act against the company at the dinner table. This early historical context has now been translated into a stereotype of the modern vegetarian which can be seen in Miley’s character in “The Last Song”. Ronnie is the rebellious teen that keeps her distance with people by choosing to eat differently than they do. In some cases, this makes for extremely uncomfortable situations. This can be seen in a later scene in the movie where Ronnie has dinner with Will’s family where they serve meat and there is an awkward silence at the dinner following Will’s confession to Ronnie’s vegetarian diet. It seems that there is a pattern of vegetarians making people uncomfortable in the media. [2]

Vegetarians in Television

A second example I found that represents vegetarianism a little differently is an episode from the sixth season of “Parks and Recreation”, a comedy show aired on NBC. The episode entitled “Doppelgänger” makes jokes on each of the main character’s personalities by creating a character who plays the same office role as the original character, has many similar personality traits, but is opposite in every other way. One of my favorite characters on the show is Ron Swanson, played by Nick Offerman. Ron is a burly man that has strong opinions on many things including government, woman, and especially meat. Swanson is the farthest thing from a vegetarian, but of course his doppelganger in the Parks and “Recreation episode” is Ronn Dunn, a committed environmentalist and extreme vegan. Immediately Swanson is turned off by the sandal wearing, try-hard vegan that embodies everything that he hates. Ron Dunn played by Sam Elliot is an overly enthusiastic vegan whose lifestyle is depicted as extremely obnoxious to the viewers. At first this depiction of Ronn Dunn made me laugh because I loved seeing Ron Swanson’s face of disgust, but I realized that this depiction of vegans says quite a bit about how our culture views vegans as a whole, especially the meat-eating part. This continues to depict the average vegetarian as a someone who tries much too hard and rubs their lifestyle in the faces of other people. While Ron Swanson’s reaction give support to many people who are quick to criticize vegetarian and vegan diets. [3]

A blogpost in New Vegan Age by Jon Zukowski called Vegans and Vegetarians in pop culture: “You don’t win friends with salad” outlines a few common harmful stereotypes of vegans and vegetarians in the media with examples to explain them. I found that the stereotypes he listed could fit into at least one of the characters I was looking at throughout my research. Zukowski lists three of the most common stereotypes he identifies across many examples of vegetarians and vegans in the media: “The Oversensitive Girly Vegan”, “The Killjoy of Communal Fun”, and “The Flaky Poser Hippie”. Ron Dunn’s character in “Parks and Recreation” fits in perfectly to both “The Flaky Poser Hippie” and “The Killjoy of Communal Fun”. He is depicted as someone with extreme environmentalist views who definitely kills Ron Swanson’s fun just by being there. This type of stereotyping may be funny, but it also continues to excuse people making fun of or being overly critical of a vegetarian diet. [4]

Advertisements Using Vegetarians

For my last analysis of media, I wanted to look into advertisements. In Portland, Oregon I have noticed a large billboard of Alicia Silverstone for PETA (People for Ethical Treatment of Animals). This picture is from a campaign photo and video shoot launched in 2016 for “Alicia Silverstone On the Wool Industry’s Money Over Mercy”. The video for the campaign switches between an interview of Alicia in a beautiful countryside and a gruesome video showing how fir can be made. The difference between the video of Alicia and the video of the animals is quite shocking, which is likely the intention of PETA. This sort of scare tactic is likely to be used to sway the viewer to take the advice of Alicia to go vegan and not use animal products. [5]

Image result for id rather go naked than wear wool[8]

The question that stirs around in my mind after viewing this video and looking at a gigantic naked picture of Alicia: how effective is this kind of campaigning? According to on an article written by L. Grauerholz, it seems that it is not very effective. Unfortunately, only four percent of animal commercial imagery is arguing against meat products. A lot of this imagery uses disturbing images like PETA does in the Alicia Silverstone video showing the mistreatment of animals in commercial farms. It seems this scares people more than convinces them to steer clear of meat because this message is so abrasive. Most animal imagery is catered towards meat eaters and pet owners and either see an animal as a tool or as meet, rarely as an equal. [6]


The problem with the general negative representation of vegetarians and vegans in the media stems from the long time stereotypical depiction of this lifestyle, and the little air time positive aspects of veganism has in the media. It is astounding how a diet that could stop the painful murdering of millions of animals, reduce a huge amount of greenhouse gas emissions, and advocate for healthier eating is so hugely criticized in the media. I have concluded this is largely rooted the history of our society. We have been eating meat for so long, and the industrialization of meat production is actually relatively young, but it has been incredibly damaging. Many people do not realize this, that is why advocating against meat-eating must be made fun of or seen as extreme too often. There have been an increasing number of documentaries, research, and popular media that aims to raise awareness of the terrible conditions animals are under and the issues it is causing for the planet. Though awareness is continuing to grow as concerns for the planet and our health grow, but there is a long way to go before a meat-less diet is status quo. During the course of this class I realized this is the case for many groups of people in popular media. A report I was introduced to written by Dr. Stacy L. Smith and many others outlined the portrayals of gender, race, and LGBT status in 700 of the most popular films from 2007 to 2014. In their analysis, the researchers found that over all that many minorities, females, and members of the LGBT community face immense underrepresentation in these films. Very few star, hire, or create members of these underrepresented community. This seems to have a negative impact on society as a whole by creating a divide between cultures that is not necessarily always there in reality. Popular Culture has given me a much deeper insight into the underrepresentation of many groups including ethnic minorities, LGBTQ community, and vegetarians. I hope to continue working on my critical thinking skills online, and advocating for representation of all race, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and even diets. [7]



[5] Advertisement campaign shot by Brian Bowen Smith. “Alicia Silverstone On the Wool Industry’s Money Over Mercy” (November 21, 2016). Published by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals).  URL:

[6] Grauerholz, L. (2007). Cute Enough to Eat: The Transformation of Animals into Meat for Human Consumption in Commercialized Images. Humanity & Society, 31(4), 334-354. file:///Users/laraandenoro/Documents/cute%20enough%20to%20eat.pdf

[2] Kellman, Steven G. (2010). ‘The Only Fit Food for a Man Is Half a Lemon’: Kafka’s Plea and Other Culinary Aberrations. Southwest Review, 95(4), 532-545.

[1] Miley Cyrus’ character of Ronnie Miller in the movie “The Last Song”. The director of the movie is Julie Anne Robinson, and the screenplay written by Nicholas Sparks with the help of Jeff Van Wie. The movie originally aired on March 31, 2010. Based off of Nicholas Sparks’ 2009 novel. The movie was produced by Touchstone Pictures Offspring Entertainment and Distributed by Walt Disney Studios.

[3] Parks and Recreation: “Doppelgangers”. Season 6, Episode 4. Aired on NBC, Directed by Jay Karas, written by Greg Daniels and Michael Schur. Released October 10, 2013. Produced by Deedle-Dee Productions. URL:

[7] Smith, Dr. S.L., Choueitie, M., Pierper, Dr. K., Gillig, T., Lee, Dr. C., & Deluca, D. Inequality in 700 popular films: Examining portrayals of gender, race, & LGBT status from 2007 to 2014. Media, Diversity, & Social Change Initiative. 1-30.

[8] | @Peta

[4] Zukowski, John A. (2012). Vegans and vegetarians in pop culture: “You don’t win friends with salad”. New Vegan Age.

Professional Women on the Big Screen


“You can’t have your cake and eat it too” seems to be the mantra for Hollywood’s directors and producers depicting professional women on the big screen. I was raised in a single-parent household. My mother emphasized the importance of academic achievements, career mindfulness and being financially independent. I was never told women would eventually have to choose between romantic relationships or a career; that success would bring inevitable emotional despair. I wholeheartedly believe women can achieve professional success while maintaining a healthy balance between their profession and their private lives, but apparently, Hollywood doesn’t agree. In movies, success comes at a price, often, of a personal nature.

When a successful career woman is depicted on screen, she’s usually a miserable bore, with too much book sense and not enough common sense. She’s humorless, feared by her subordinates and disliked by her co-workers. She’s most likely “too busy” to date, probably has never been married, or has gotten divorced, and doesn’t have a maternal bone in her body. She dresses in muted colors, hairstyle is immaculate, rocks dangerously high heels and a cellphone is permanently glued to her hand. Her work is her life, her private life takes a back seat or is altogether non-existent. I used to believe that all exposure was good exposure. In cases like these, depictions of professional female characters on screen do more harm than good. 1) It strengthens the stereotype that women are not successful leaders. 2) It reinforces the belief that being true to yourself, and taking pride in your accomplishments is not enough to secure a romantic partner. 3) You MUST secure a partner!

I decided to explore 3 movies depicting professional women. “The Proposal”, “Jurassic World”, and “Ghostbusters” (2016). To explore these representations further, I set out to answer a few questions; What do these representations have in common?  How are the different?  Who oversaw these creative decisions? Last but not least, does the target audience influence representations? I will also be including whether these movies passed the Bechdel Test, which is a way of evaluating whether a film or other work of fiction portrays women in a way that is sexist or characterized by gender stereotyping. To pass the Bechdel test a work must feature at least two women, these women must talk to each other, and their conversation must concern something other than a man. [1]

Let’s run through the movies’ sequence of events. Warning, spoilers ahead.

The Proposal
Margaret [Sandra Bullock] is a publishing executive. She dresses sharp; dark colors, pencil skirts, ponytail, 6’ heels. She’s great at her job, and multiple characters allude to her best in the business. She’s in her early 40’s, not married, no children, and no family. Even though she’s successful in her career, her co-workers seem to be terrified of her. She has a reputation of being ruthless and humorless. She fires a subordinate when he fails to meet her standards. Irate, he calls her a “bitch”, but she seems unfazed and embarrasses him with her response. Margaret is consumed by her work, so much that she forgets to make it to her immigration appointments, which results in her visa expiring. She bribes her assistant to marry her to stay in the country.

Andrew [Ryan Reynolds] is her condemned assistant. He is younger, good looking, funny, and quick witted. They travel to Alaska to attend a family reunion, and inform them of the upcoming nuptials. His family welcomes her and suggest they have the wedding there. She beings to bond with him and his family, and her demeanor changes. She loses her heels, and her cell phone, wears jeans and a sweater. She realizes that love is what she has been missing from her life. Margaret falls for her assistant, and decides to let him off the hook.  He falls for the “new” version of her, and they end up together.

Power suit/Heels? Check.  Humorless/stiff? Check.  Single/no kids? Check.

Margaret is a career driven, strong character, but instead of being respected, much like she would be if her character was male, she’s feared.  Everyone around her walks on eggshells, because apparently, you can’t be the Boss without being another B word too.  The movie highlights how her cold and calculating demeanor has served her well career-wise, but puts off prospective partners. The movie makes the assertion that a woman’s life is not complete without a romantic interest, and she’s responsible for changing to a more approachable version of herself in order to attract a mate. She only becomes attractive after her character is softened.

-The Proposal did not pass the Bechdel test.-


Jurassic World
Claire [Bryce Dallas Howard] is the operation’s manager for Jurassic World, a resort that offers tours and shows of cloned dinosaurs. She’s very successful and very busy, we know this because she’s always on her phone. She’s dressed in a muted color suit, her hair and makeup are immaculate, and she wears really high heels, even when being chased by dinosaurs. Just like Margaret, her work keeps her so busy that has forgotten her nephews were visiting her that day. Claire quickly hands them off to her assistant when they arrive, setting the stage to showcase she’s not maternal. She’s awkward around her nephews, yet there’s a scene where she looks at a baby longingly. Claire is tasked to recruit Owen [Chris Pratt], current Raptor trainer, to evaluate the paddock of the park’s new hybrid dinosaur.

Her co-star is charming, smart and witty. He lives “off the grid”, rides a motorcycle, and makes it clear that her serious personality is the reason why he didn’t ask her on a second date. The new hybrid dinosaur escapes his enclosure, and Owen is tasked by the park’s owner to find it. Claire follows Owen to find her nephews. From this point on, all decisions regarding their safety and plan are made by Owen. Even though she’s criticized for being too smart, they often rely on his training skills, not her intellect, to make the right decisions.

Power suit/Heels? Check.  Humorless/stiff? Check.  Single/no kids? Check.

Claire is a smart and independent character, yet she’s soon reduced to following her co-star’s lead. The humorless/stiff personality angle is relied upon tirelessly. In one scene, the nephews blatantly state that they’d prefer to go along with Owen instead of her. Nevertheless, they rescue her nephews, evacuate the island, and fall in love.  All in a day’s work.

-Jurassic World did not pass the Bechdel Test.-


Physicists Abbigail Yates [Melissa McCarthy] and Erin Gilbert [Kristen Wiig], alongside mechanical engineer Jillian Boltzmann [Kate McKinnon], and MTA worker Patty Tolan [Leslie Jones] attempt to rid NY of a ghost infestation. Erin tries to convince Abby to stop selling their book online, a book written years earlier where they both express their beliefs in ghosts. Having since moved on from researching the paranormal, and expected to receive tenure at Columbia, Erin promises to introduce Abby and Jillian to a potential client if the book is removed from circulation. After experiencing a paranormal apparition, (and being fired from their respective teaching jobs), they decide to pursue their passion, and find some ghosts!  After witnessing an apparition, Patty joins the team offering her expertise in NY history. They form the Ghostbusters, and eventually save the city from impending doom.

The four female leads are dressed conservatively, yet their wardrobe is fun and eclectic. Throughout the movie, constant references are made addressing their intellect, degrees, career goals, areas of expertise and current individual projects they’re working on. Their accomplishments are not a source of shame or ridicule, and they do not obtrude their social life or relationships, it actually bonds them to one another. The only reference to a love connection made is between Erin and the office’s assistant, but it’s mostly platonic and it does not affect the plot of the movie.

Power suit/Heels? Negative.  Humorless/stiff? Negative.  Single/no kids? Not mentioned.

The women in this film do not dilute their personalities, or downplay their accomplishments in order to fit a set standard, or to gain others’ approval. They work together and achieve career success, along with government funding to continue their studies/experiments.
-Ghostbusters passed the Bechdel Test.-


What do these representations have in common and how are they different?

In The Proposal and Jurassic Park, both female leads are depicted almost identically. They dress similarly, they’re “stiff” workaholics, aloof and detached from those around them. Their personalities are constantly mocked due to their perceived rigidness. Finally, they are only found attractive by their romantic interest after becoming vulnerable and adjusting their behavior. The most interesting contrast I noticed was the consequences of dedicating themselves to their careers. In Ghostbusters, it gave the main characters a purpose, and ultimately facilitated success and friendship. In the other two, it hindered their ability to empathize with others. Their accomplishments were diminished by the constant reminders that they were not amiable, funny or maternal enough.

Who dictated these creative decisions?

Before embarking in this journey, I had a sneaky suspicion that the reason why I disagreed with the way professional, strong women are represented in the media, is because the people producing these images are mostly men. The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, generates several large annual studies documenting women’s representation and portrayals, as well as substantial investigations of the business environment surrounding women in film and television. Dr. Martha M. Lauzen is the researcher behind It’s a Man’s Celluloid World (2016) and The Celluloid Ceiling, an ongoing study tracking women’s employment on top grossing films for the last 19 years. [2][3]

Of the top 250 films in 2016:
92% had no women directors
77% had no women writers
58% had no women exec. producers
34% had no women producers
79% had no women editors
96% had no women cinematographers

Male characters were more likely than female characters to have work-related goals (75% vs. 54%). Female characters were more likely than males to have goals related to their personal lives (46% vs. 25%).

The Proposal was directed by Anne Fletcher (who also directed The Devil Wears Prada & 27 Dresses) and produced by Todd Lieberman & David Hoberman. Jurassic World was directed by Colin Trevorrow and produced by Frank Marshall & Patrick Crowley. Ghostbusters was directed by Paul Feig and produced by Amy Pascal & Ivan Reitman. Even though lack of representation is an obvious and serious problem in the film industry, behind the scenes personnel is not a definitive variable for predicting accurate depictions.

Does the target audience influence representations?

Unfortunately, MPAA movie ratings (PG, PG-13, R, etc.) do not come with an appendix explaining target audiences. In my experience, romantic comedies are targeted towards middle aged women, action films toward young-middle age men, and regular comedies have a broader range for an audience. The representations in our first two movies are similar, probably marketed for middle age women and young/middle age men, tying the two is the love connection between the characters. Ghostbusters could also be directed toward middle age women due to the all-women cast, however a younger female audience is probably equally targeted. Overall, target audience is not a definitive variable for predicting accurate depictions.

A woman’s professional success will be experienced differently based on a multitude of variables; age, ethnicity, class, and sexual orientation are just a few among many others. While in the military, I had the honor of serving side by side with assertive and inspiring female leaders; women who worked tirelessly to serve their country, as fiercely and with as much dedication as they offered their own families. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it. Needless to say, I find any notion that limits women’s capabilities down to their reproductive capacities not only insulting, but simply ridiculous.

Even though film/TV may never truly encompass the wide range of possibilities, two steps can be taken to change the way successful career women are depicted by Hollywood. 1) The audience should demand accurate and respectful representations. We could start by redefining the definition of success, which is almost always represented by women in “executive” positions, and completely unrelated to career fulfillment.
2) More women behind the scenes. Women must be able to express and reproduce their own experiences; professional single women, wives and mothers, happy or unhappy, the good, the great, the bad and the ugly. Depicting a more realistic approach to balancing work and their social lives will undoubtedly empower audiences, highlighting the fact that it doesn’t have to be “either or”. You truly can have your cake and eat it too!

Learning Moments

Week 2. In an essay describing how Muslim women are represented in the media, Diane Watt asserted that “the meaning of an image is not inherent on the image, but is a process of exchange between image and viewer. Beliefs inform interpretation.” I found that to be such a powerful and true statement. If images aid beliefs, and beliefs inform interpretations, then representations matter! It brought home the point that not every representation we see is accurate, and it’s our duty to not be persuaded without doing our research.

Week 6. The article “News: Balance Bias with Critical Questions” was a fantastic read. The writer not only highlights that every reporter (at times influenced by their company) bring his or her own bias into writing, but it also provided a list of concrete questions to help determine whether we are getting the whole story. I will be using these strategies to further dissect news stories I come across in my daily life.


[1] The Bechdel Test Movie List. (n.d.). Retrieved February 26, 2017, from

[2] Lauzen, M. M., PhD. (2017). The Celluloid Ceiling: Behind-the-Scenes Employment of Women on the Top 100, 250, and 500 Films of 2016. Retrieved February 26, 2017, from

[3] Lauzen, M. M., PhD. (2017). It’s a Man’s (Celluloid) World: Portrayals of Female Characters in the Top 100 Films of 2016. Retrieved February 26, 2017, from

Violent Gamers


I love to play video games. It’s something that lets me forget about the stresses of life and interact with friends, wherever they may be. I play enough video games to consider myself a bit of a gamer and noticed that popular culture tends to portray gamers as violent because of a supposed link between video game violence and gamers. However, the connection between violent video games and violence has yet to be fully proved.

Law & Order, there is none in Gaming

In early 2015, an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit portrayed white male gamers as terrorists against the diversification of the video game community. To set the scene of the episode, two white males walk up to a female booth host at an FPS gaming event. Later, they attack her when she walks into the empty bathroom.

A female game developer, Raina, is kidnapped, beaten, and raped by three white males in the name of anti-female gamers. The episode shows the three kidnappers sexually abusing Raina and streaming videos of the abuse over the dark web. The first stream shows Raina being tied up, withgreen text that says “Game on NYPD”.

The next video shows one of the kidnappers ripping open Raina’s blouse and slapping her across the face. At the end of the video, text fades in that reads “level completed”.

The next stream ends with Raina being thrown onto a pile of pillows with the three kidnappers taking off their clothes around her. It is implied that the stream continues as they rape her.

In the end, Raina was rescued. She left the game industry saying “women in gaming… What did I expect?” (Law & Order).

H3H3Produces an Analysis

The episode got a lot of backlash from people saying how unrealistic the episode is. They felt the writers of the show took the recent gamergate issues and blew them out of proportion. Four people of the gamergate group threatened three females involved in the gaming industry. While the threats were illegal and horrific, the three victims of gamergate were never harmed the way Law & Order portrayed. Below is a satirical review of it, by H3H3Productions.

I must note, the man in the video – Ethan Klein – is acting more upset than he really is. That’s his format; he tries to discredit the plot of the episode while acting as outrageous as possible. However, Ethan does point out the wild assumption that gamers are violent.

In the video, Ethan says the episode “berates and belittles” the gaming community. Soon after, he points out the cinematic psychological effect of putting flashes of chanting/cheering and a sexual assault together. This connecting of scenes can cause a connection in the audience’s minds. Flashes of white men cheering and white men attacking a woman who is part of the game industry can cause the audience to connect the idea that white men enjoy the assault of female gamers.

Ethan watches a scene where the woman who was attacked is telling the detective that the assailants were pasty white and skinny. The detective then says that the description fits “80% of the crowd.” This sets in the portrayal of gamers being white male. However, violent gamers are not always locked into while males. The reason Law & Order used white males in their episode is because the demographic of the broad video game community is mostly white male.

Bernie, Hillary, & Donald

Political figures have a loud presence. They speak about popular issues, and what their opinions are. They tell us they can make our lives better. They rally the masses to support them and their ideals. Political figures have been able to get everyone to believe that video game violence causes violent people. The following video is from a YouTube channel called NerdAlert. The host, Kim Horcher, discusses the views of the top three runners from the 2016 presidential race.

The most popular government figures of 2016 see violent video games as influential to people. Hillary Clinton made “five major proposals” to make buying video games more difficult (NerdAlert). Most of what she wanted to do was to ensure the current laws on age-ratings were being upheld. Nothing wrong with that. But then she went on to say, “’we need to treat violent video games the way we treat tobacco, alcohol, and pornography’” (NerdAlert). That feel pretty extreme to me. Bernie Sanders mentioned video games with television and movies in saying that they desensitize people, specifically to death and killing. U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted “Video game violence and glorification must be stopped – it is creating monsters!” (NerdAlert). These three all believe violent video games can cause violence in gamers. They, being a part of popular culture, encourage and support the portrayal of violent gamers even though the research says that video game violence does not cause people to act violently.

Violent Gamers, it’s just Science

A TIME Health post, written by Alexandra Sifferlin, summarizes research that answers the question: Are violent video games linked to aggressive behaviors in players? According to the TIME article, the research says “that playing violent games is linked to aggression, but that there’s insufficient evidence to link the games to actual criminal violence” (Sifferlin). So it seems that research from 2003 to 2015 has concluded that young adult gamers are more aggressive than those that don’t play video games but they are not more violent.

Here is a video from 2014 discussing the popular controversy in the news on the correlation between video games and violence:

The video, published by YouTube channel Health Triage, mentioned how there have been more news coverage and articles on research that linked video game violence to violent players than research that did not link video game violence to violent players. This doesn’t mean there are more studies that determined violent video games cause real life violence. It just means that they were discussed more over popular media, making them more popular in our culture. The popularity causes more people to see a gamer as violent.

The host specifically covered research conducted by Dr. Chris Ferguson. He “studied 103 young adults” that were randomly split up into four test groups; (1) could not play any video games, (2) could only play a nonviolent video game, (3) could only play a violent video game where they played as a “good guy”, and (4) could only play a violent game where they played as a “bad guy”. Then, the young adults had to do “frustration tests… they had to engage in some activity which would make it more likely that they would get frustrated and perhaps aggressive. And [Dr. Ferguson’s] study shows no link between video games and aggression” (Healthcare Triage). Dr. Ferguson also wrote that the test subjects that had previously played video games had “fewer hostile feelings” during the frustration tests (Healthcare Triage). What is interesting to note, is that Ferguson’s research showed the people who have played video games over time were harder to enrage or frustrate than those who recently began playing video games. In all of the studies that Health Triage analyzed, there was no data that adequately proves video game violence causes gamers to be violent.

A survey that the host talked about covered the studies that gathered data on the test subjects’ thoughts after playing violent video games. The studies could only gather thoughts that lasted “4 to 30 minutes.” Out of the thirty or so surveys conducted, only twelve gathered data over extended periods of time. Of those twelve, only one could prove a connection between violent video games and violent tendencies. The rest either didn’t have “any data on family relationships or mental well-being” or they concluded that the family relationships or mental well-being played a larger factor in the violent tendencies than video games (Healthcare Triage). By not gathering data about each test subject’s family relationships or mental well-being, the correlation is not valid because there could be underlying reasons why the subjects were easily angered.

So we hear gamers are violent. It’s on television. It’s in the news. It’s in our government. Popular culture has done a great job at portraying gamers as violent people. Yet, research says otherwise (well, research that holds credible statistics). I know I am not a violent person. I play video games, especially now that I got my hands on a Nintendo Switch and spring break is upon me, and I have yet to see myself (or my gamer friends) become more violent as they continue to play violent games. I have no doubt that I will not become a crazed man and start swinging swords or stealing cars or ram into things and drive up the side of a mountain, because violent video games do not make violent gamers.


Learning Moments:

  1. Analyzing media artifacts. Learning to dig deep into a news article, an advertisement, or a movie will prove useful when I want to understand more about what or why the artifact was published. One of the optional discussion prompts in the course blog wanted us to analyze a magazine advertisement. Clicking “Learning Moments” above will take you to a document showing the ad, my analysis process, and the comment that I posted on the blog. It also has my second learning moment in it as well.
  2. Developing research questions and finding solid answers to those questions. After doing some initial research, I was able to formulate some better questions that can give me more of what I am looking for as I get deeper into research. This skill will continuously be put to use in my career as an engineer.

Works Cited

  1. Imitation Game Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (Season 16, Episode 14) written by Dick Wolf and Céline C. Robins, directed by Jean de Segonzac, Wolf Films, 2015
  2. “Violent Video Games Are Linked to Aggression, Study Says” Sifferlin, Alexandra. TIME Health. 17 Aug. 2015, Web.
  3. “Video Games Don’t Cause Violent Behavior”, Healthcare Triage, YouTube, 2015,
  4. “What Bernie, Hillary, & Trump Say About Video Game Violence”, NerdAlert, YouTube, 2016,


Latino Students in the US as seen through Mass Media



  Mass media in this modern age has plagued the lives of consumers to an absurd extent. It is so absurd that it hinders and constructs the way individuals see life. Though the media we consume is often times invited by us, we become oblivious to what we are exposed to and how what we see can become ingrained in our minds. The creators within mass media assert their individual views of others by portraying them in certain ways, often times following the stereotypes pertaining to race, sex, religion, and so on. Stereotypes seen in mass media help develop preconceived notions, which ultimately do more harm than good.

  Nothing brings more pride to me than being Latino, however, as a young Latino student in the US education system, I was left distraught at the thought of being treated as less than. I was always questioning why I had to attend summer school, despite having good behavior and great learning ability. It took a lot of maturing and thinking to realize that I was part of a group full of stigma and stereotypes. It is clear that mass media and pop culture portray Latino students in the US as more problematic and less capable than other students. I am one of those Latino students in the eyes of the mass media.

Where do these stereotypes arise?

  Sadly, the way that I and other Latino students are viewed in mass media can originate from prejudice behavior of educators. In John Benson’s “Lower Expectations And Stereotypes, Biggest Challenges For Latino Students,” Benson highlights a quote from the president of The Education Trust, Kati Haycock, where she notes that “many educators, and frankly many other members of the public, believe that poor kids and Latino kids and African-American kids just aren’t capable of learning to the same levels of other kid.” Haycock learned of this while gaining some insight going around the nation promoting high academic achievement for all students. The predetermined mindset she saw the educator reflect automatically sets Latino students up for failure. By not allowing the students to truly show their capabilities with an open mindset, educators and company succeed in proving the stereotypes they set right. Educators also prevent Latino students from succeeding above expectations by not providing the right challenge. In dialogue with a teacher in North Carolina, Haycock hears that teachers and educators are afraid Latino students would fail if pushed too hard. A decision and appraisal made subjectively by educators without student input, which then reflects in the media.

How are Latino students portrayed?

  The gif from above is from the movie Stand and Deliver. Stand and Deliver is a movie that I have always loved watching as it has an emphasis on Latino students. Stand and Deliver is based on a true story where a Latino teacher in Eastern LA decides to take the role of a math teacher after the original math teacher announced his departure. Taking on a class full of Latino students, the teacher works them up from Math 1A all the way up to Calculus using his creative style as a teacher to encourage their efforts and participation. Again this movie is based on a true story, meaning that what is portrayed on the film may offer different aspects to the story.

  The story this movie presents is incredible and definitely worth watching, but after seeing this movie many times and again now for my research, I see new things. The story about the students making their way all the way up to calculus is great, but the way the students are presented in the journey is different. As seen in the gif above, they are represented as disrespectful, especially in the first encounters of the movie. Along with that, it seems like the narrative of the movie is about a teacher dragging students to success. A typical movie theme. There are also some harsh realities in this film reflected in real life and of course, media. When taking the AP test, the whole class passes, but they are then discredited by The Educational Testing Service. The teacher, Escalante, believes in them so he initiates a test-retake where they pass again. The message that this shows is that there is very little belief in Latino students in the education system and public, but the belief that there is comes from Latinos.

  In a similar fashion, Freedom Writers, also based on a true story, shows some of the same patterns. The teacher, in that case, Erin Gruwell goes through a similar process in guiding her students to success. She goes above and beyond to connect with her students, including Latino students. The Latino students throughout the movie are shown to be very vocal and somewhat aggressive. Another reality expressed in the movie, similar to Stand and Deliver, is the fact that the Latino students along with other minorities are relegated to lower standards of learning. If it weren’t for Erin Gruwell, that would have remained the case.

  Both the movies are fantastic, but they do not depict Latino students for what they really are and the drive they carry. The movies instead romanticize the idea of a teacher doing the unthinkable with unlikable and unteachable students.

Why is this important?

  The stereotypes perpetuated by the mass media affect Latino students in the US by derailing their character and opportunities for success. Latino students then become easy targets for labels that carry stigma. For example, Latino students face disproportionate discipline making them seem like a bad demographic altogether; the labels attached to the disproportionate discipline can then spiral the students into a self-fulling prophecy where they believe and act on the labels they are given (Moreno and Segura-Herrera 40-41). Due to school’s discretion, they are also able to appraise students with having a Specific Learning Disability and Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, which can be abused to relegate Latino students back into their stereotype of less capable to learn (38-39). The influence of the mass media is detrimental to the Latino students.

What is the reality behind Latino Students?

  The reality is that the US has thousands of Latino students, each with special stories that are worth hearing. Gaspar Marcos has a very special one as he immigrated to the US alone after his parents died. He works to provide for himself and attends school on a daily basis, hence the name 19 hours. His teachers recognize his brilliance and hard work, however,  they are well aware that in the eyes of the public and mass media, he is a dangerous kid. I encourage you to watch the video (above) and see how by following him for a day, he dismantles stereotypes.  

  The reality is that Latino students are breaking the stereotypes they are given. Jens Manuel Krogstad gives “5 Facts About Latinos and Education,” focusing on the trends since 1993. The article includes the biggest trends such as the dropout rate for Latino students in high school dropping from 33% to 12%. Krogstad also notes that Latino enrollment in college has increased from 22% to 35% (Krogstad). These statistics exemplify the way Latinos are becoming immersed in the US education system. Another important figure from the article states that in 2014, 66% of Latino students got a job or joined the military to help provide for their families instead of proceeding straight to college right after high school. This indicates that the stereotypes from the mass media are unjust as they ignore the socioeconomic status of Latino students and their families.

Two things I learned:

  Throughout this research and writing, I learned to analyze things objectively. After seeing both the Freedom Writers and Stand and Deliver again for this project, I noticed the way the stories were portrayed to make a teacher heroic and Latino students (amongst other students) a byproduct of the teacher’s success and not their own. A perspective that can be overlooked by two wonderful stories. I additionally learned that within the last five years, more than 100,000 children immigrants have arrived in the US without parents (Caramo). That was something shocking that I learned and means that there are many more stories like Gaspar Marcos out there.


Works Cited

Carcamo, Cindy. “Nearly 1 in 4 students at this L.A. high school migrated from Central America — many without their parents.” Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 15 July 2016. Web. 14 Feb. 2017.

Freedom Writers. Dir. Richard LaGravenese. Paramount Home Entertainment, 2007. DVD.

Krogstad, Jens Manuel. “5 facts about Latinos and education.” Pew Research Center. Pew Research Center, 28 July 2016. Web. 15 Feb. 2017.

Moreno, Gerardo, and Theresa Segura-Herrera. “Special Education Referrals and Disciplinary Actions for Latino Students in the United States.” Multicultural Learning and Teaching 9.1 (2013): n. Pag. Web.<;.

Ramos, Zuania. “Lower Expectations And Stereotypes, Biggest Challenges For Latino Students.” The Huffington Post. The Huffington Post, 14 Jan. 2013. Web. 14 Feb. 2017.

Stand and Deliver. Dir. Ramón Menéndez. By Ramón Menéndez. Warner Bros., 1988. DVD

19 Hours. Prod. Adam Perez. 19 Hours. LA Times, Summer 2016. Web. 13 Feb. 2017.

Human Resources in Flux: How Popular Culture Changes Us



Over the last ten weeks I’ve had the privilege of being a part of the Popular Culture sophomore inquiry class, in which I was given the opportunity to research a part of my identity in the scope of popular culture and to draw meaning from what I found. In this blog post I hope to illustrate my journey, my findings, and what I believe I’ll be taking away from this class.

The Popular Culture Depictions

To start off, let’s talk about the popular culture research I mentioned. The first phase of this research involved consuming media containing portrayals of an aspect of our identity that we chose. I chose to research my identity as an aspiring human resources (HR) professional, though I sought out media containing depictions of current HR professionals. I know it sounds rather niche, but I found a bounty of depictions without much searching at all. The depictions that I selected for my research were Toby Flenderson from The Office, Catbert from Dilbert, and the Bobs from Office Space.


“Why are you the way that you are?” -Michael Scott

Toby Flenderson was a well meaning but unfortunate character who is, also unfortunately, the unofficial mascot of the HR profession. If you do anything involving HR, chances are that you will acquire Toby as a second name and become rather familiar with Michael Scott quotes. In the show, he was repeatedly shot down and isolated from the rest of the office, while also being the all-too-often recipient of bad luck and situations. His life is shown to be not going where he’d like despite all his efforts, and while many of The Office’s characters had a happy ending, Toby gets a narrative about crippling depression and failure to switch career paths. The figurative pity party is always going over at Toby’s house, I realized, and his theme of poor choices aligned perfectly with the classic stereotype of the HR profession.

Catbert, from Scott Adam’s Dilbert, was quite a change in pace from Toby. Catbert, The Evil Director of Human Resources, is a fan favorite. His malevolence knows no bounds, and his playful yet insidiously harmful initiatives are the subject of many of the comics in which he appears. The other characters are shown to have their trust in him and HR betrayed time and time again, as Catbert toys with them to the point of making them question if they’re actually insane.


I found that Catbert represents another bundle of stereotypes that HR professionals face, that is the idea that they’re counterproductive and mad with power.

The Bobs, of Mike Judge’s Office Space, are of a similar flavor to Catbert, though toned down several notches. Interrogative and uncomfortable, the Bobs wield the metaphorical executioner’s axe. They’re called in to facilitate a massive reorganization, in which their work was rather questionable. They promote the main character, Peter, almost immediately after he tells them that he does fifteen minutes of work a day, and they take advantage of an eccentric employee by cutting off his salary without telling him, so as to “avoid conflict”. The Bobs showcase incompetence and misplaced power, more stereotypes of the HR profession.


“What would you say you do here?” -The Bobs

Perhaps you’re noticing the same themes that I did after viewing these depictions. Toby was his show’s punching bag, Catbert was a sadist, and the Bobs were the poster boys of uncomfortable situations. In other words, they were all different flavors of negative, with the overlaps being that they weren’t helpful, weren’t good decision makers, and certainly weren’t well-adjusted. Not a good look for HR professionals. As a solutions oriented person my mind went searching for the cause of this, of which there isn’t a straightforward answer unfortunately.

Digging Deeper: What Do These Show?

However, my curiosity did find some relief when I sought out my secondary research, information that was to be related to my previously acquired popular culture research. The research that I selected to focus on was Jess Bradfield’s article Toby v. Catbert: Perceptions of HR, Stephen Gibb’s paper Evaluating HRM effectiveness: the stereotype connection, and Stefan Stern’s article What is HR Really for?. The common themes that I derived from these articles are that the HR profession is not yet fulfilling the expectations of their stakeholders, has a range of largely negative stereotypes as a result, and is in a state of flux in the pursuit of becoming more effective.

In short, what I discovered about HR professionals from my research is that the field isn’t well regarded due to the negative influence it can have on people’s lives, and that this is reflected in our popular culture. This reputation has been one of the primary motivators for the advancement of the field, which matters because it’s a strong example of how popular culture and popular opinion feed off of each other and influence tangible change.

What do I mean by that? Consider how popular culture is both a reflection of popular opinion and vice versa. Also consider how due to this relationship they hold each other largely stagnant, as those without experience in the subject will have little else to draw their opinion on, continuing the cycle. With this in mind, those who are the subject of a stereotype perpetrated by media find that they must either live under its shadow, or work to change the stereotype itself. When it comes to my research into the portrayals of HR professionals, this is absolutely true for how they’re handling it. Then, as popular opinion slowly but surely shifts, the stereotype will as well.

Taking Action Against Stereotypes

I recognized a similar phenomenon in one of our course readings, that is Hanna Rosin’s article The Evolution of the Doltish Dad. In her article, Rosin examines the portrayal of fathers throughout the history of television in relation to real fatherhood. The stereotype which she primarily focuses on is the “Doltish Dad”, who is an incompetent but well-meaning father who audiences are meant to find comedic and relatable. She goes on to detail the issues that this stereotype creates for the rapidly increasing stay-at-home father demographic, and how some shows and ads are bending the status quo to reflect the change.

This article, I realized after completing my research and pondering it for some time, is a clear example of what I found, and it even helped me to put it into words when I had struggled to do so before. That is, that popular culture and reality push each other to evolve and spark change in each other. It even shows that those who are the subject of the stereotype, the stay-at-home fathers in this case, sparking the change in the same way that I found HR professionals are struggling to do now.

We see this in the article as Rosin recounts how stay-at-home fathers campaigned to change a stereotypical ad, as the ad was harmful due to “…showing a group of football watching dads ignoring their infants as the diapers grew heavy and smelly” (Rosin). Rosin continues recounting, “Huggies pulled the ad and shot a new one. The updated version is arguably equally condescending”, and finishes with, “at least it shows a room full of fathers tenderly rocking their infants instead of neglecting them” (Rosin). While it is a rocky account of progress, it is progress nonetheless.

It was in seeing this and considering it in the context of HR professionals and my research about how they’re struggling to change their own stereotypes through action as well that I made the connection. It was a lovely connection to make as well, as it was a bit of a lightbulb moment in that I then understood why this mattered. It was that it reinforced the fact that popular culture is very much a part of us in that it inspires tangible change, whereas before I was stuck in a mindset that popular culture is akin to a far-off entity, present but not noticeably of our world. After all, we all know that many stereotypes are simply overblown and overdone jokes or just plain not true, so how could it be a part of reality? I found that it was how we acted upon the stereotypes that connected it to us that made it matter, how we real people changed minds and our world based upon what we saw.

The Dream: Why We Care

Oftentimes, as I found in both Rosin’s article and my research about popular culture and HR professionals, it is the subject of the stereotype that will act upon it. They act in order to positively influence or dismantle said stereotype. Why, though? Rather, why care what a character sharing a trait with you in an ad or TV show does? These were questions that I began to ask myself as I considered my own future as a HR professional, with the weight of the stereotypes resting upon my shoulders growing ever more burdensome as I let the negativity and complicated road to improving it stew in my mind. I’ve been aware of the stereotypes for years now, and as I sheepishly soul searched for my future profession and found that the things I wanted could almost all be found within a career in HR, the stereotypes upset me more and more. I couldn’t make myself not care, and could only place anxiety as the reason why.

I’ve found some insight into why I felt, and still do, feel this way in the form of a documentary which we watched in the class, that is John Berger’s Ways of Seeing. In Ways of Seeing, Berger focuses on the imagery and messages of advertisements and connects them as they are now to the elite paintings of centuries ago. It discerns the fact that while they look similar, the paintings of old are a celebration of us as we are, and the ads of today push us to want a better version of ourselves, which he calls “the dream”. The dream is of us being the envy of others, the champion of ourselves and friends, respected and well fulfilled. We can have it all, the ads say, if we buy it.

While in Ways of Seeing the dream is strictly discussed in relation to advertisements, I believe that the dream is present in all forms of media, and even in our institutions. The dream, though manufactured, has permeated us deeply. I believe that my previously mentioned upset is being largely fueled by the dream. I look ahead and want a life in which I have opportunity, passion, and fulfillment. I want a better me. The stereotypes surrounding HR put quite a damper on the dream, and being an exception won’t cut it, as that doesn’t fulfill it. It’s exacerbated by college culture, where all of us are chasing the dream in our own ways. For many, the dream seems straight ahead if you can make it, teaching, nursing, engineering, all well received and loved fields. For me, that road is dark, and pretty poorly paved. In other words, the stereotypes bothered me so much because their existence made me feel like I was throwing away my chance at the dream, which I realized after watching Ways of Seeing. It made sense to me then, when considered with my research, why the subjects of stereotypes throw themselves into dismantling them. It destroys the dream for them.

Moving Forward

I’ve realized many things in this class, and had numerous other things of which I was already familiar reinforced. I learned that popular culture, popular opinion, and tangible change go hand-in-hand from my research and Rosin. I learned about the dream, and that the subject of stereotypes will often be the ones to enact the previously mentioned change to said stereotypes, fueled by visions of the dream lost to them. Most importantly, I learned about myself in the scope of these learnings, and was given insight into myself and how to move forward.

As I transition out of this class, I hope to hold these learnings close, armoring myself with knowledge as I make what may be an uncomfortable transition. I will be able to look upon the stereotypes and understand why they’re there, how they fuel change in my field, and how it is the pursuit of the dream which drives our need to make these changes. I will understand that the dream is constructed, but I’ll be lenient with myself as I grew up with it. Lastly, I hope to be mindful of the profound influence popular culture has on our lives, and to be able to discern future insight from it.

Works Cited

Berger, John. Ways of Seeing. BBC Two. Jan. 1972.

Bradfield, Jess. “Toby v. Catbert: Perceptions of HR.” Pulse 16 Jun. 2016, Accessed 19 Feb. 2017.

Daniels, Greg. The Office. Deedle-Dee Productions and Reveille Productions, 2013.

Judge, Mike. Office Space. 20th Century Fox, 1999.

Gibb, Stephen. “Evaluating HRM effectiveness: the stereotype connection.” Employee Relations, Jan.-Feb. 2000, p. 58. AcademicOneFile, Accessed 19 Feb. 2017.

Rosin, Hannah. “The Evolution of the Doltish Dad”. Slate, 15 Jun 2012.

Scott, Adams. (Comic strip). Andrews McMeel Publishing, 7 Aug 1995, Web.

Stern, Stefan. “What is HR Really for?” Management Today, 1 May 2009, p. 52.AcademicOneFile, Accessed 19 Feb. 2017.

The Portrayal of Black Women in Reality TV Shows



            Reality television is defined as, “A genre of television programming that documents supposedly “unscripted” real-life situations, and often features an otherwise unknown cast of individuals who are typically not professional actors, although in some shows celebrities may participate.” For my blog post, I chose to analyze three different reality TV shows. The shows are The Bad Girls Club, Real Housewives of Atlanta, and Married to Medicine. Reality TV shows portray black women in a negative stereotypical way, such as loud, angry, aggressive, trashy, and “ghetto”.

The Bad Girls Club:

BAD GIRLS CLUB -- Season:11 -- Pictured: (l-r) Teresa, Jazmone, Milyn, Tiana, Stephanie, Sarah, Gina -- (Photo by: Gavin Bond/Oxygen)

Season 11 Cast, The Bad Girls Club, Oxygen, 6 August 2013

 The Bad Girls Club (BGC) is a reality TV show that airs on Oxygen. The show was made by executive producer Johnathan Murray and Bunim/Murray Productions (BMP). The show puts 7 “bad girls” in a mansion together, the location of the show changes every season. Something interesting that I found out was the cities the show is filmed in typically have a high minority population, for example, Atlanta, Miami, and Chicago. They stay in the mansion for about three months and they live a pretty luxurious lifestyle. The show mainly focuses on arguments and physical fights between the cast. The purpose of the show seems to show the journey these “bad girls” take, a lot of them feel changed and very impacted in a good way by the time the show ends, almost a rehabilitating experience in a way.

Black and minority women are generally stereotyped to be more of the aggressors, loud, and angry ones while white women in media are generalized as sweeter, kinder, and almost more “angelic” in some ways. On BGC, black and minority women are undoubtedly in the negative light especially compared to their white counterparts. On the show they’re portrayed as always being mad, angry, easily irritable, violent, loud, trashy and “ghetto”.

A detail about BGC that was pointed out by Elijah Mercer in an article titled, “Good Girls Gone Bad: Race and Gender in Oxygen’s The Bad Girls Club, is that with each consecutive season the cast for the show was more racially diverse. The first season of the show had only two black women. By the ending of the 7th season, 30 out of 62 total cast member were from a minority racial group. (When his article was written only seven seasons of the show had been aired, the show is currently on its 16th season now). Two seasons, four and seven, had some of the most diverse casts, they also had the most-watched episodes and highest ratings, the most drama, conflicts, and fights. This suggests that predominately black casts equate to more drama and conflict which lead to higher ratings. “Increasingly casting more minority women, there will without a doubt be more violence, physical fights, and drama…Boylorn and Hooks affirm this notion by arguing that images of black and minority women on television have been historically manipulated to leave a particular impression on audiences” (Mercer).

The Real Housewives of Atlanta:


Season 9 Cast, The Real Housewives of Atlanta, Bravo, 6 Nov 2016


The Real Housewives of Atlanta (RHOA) is a reality TV show that airs on Bravo. The show follows the professional and personal lives of about 7 to 8 women living in Atlanta. RHOA is one of them many shows in The Real Housewives franchise other ones take place in cities like Orange County, New York, and New Jersey. The cast of RHO is a predominately black cast.

The RHOA is the highest rated show in The Real Housewives franchise and it’s also the most-watched TV series on Bravo. But even though it’s the most watched series in the Real Housewives series its looked down upon by society and even other women on in the franchise. Bethany Frankel from RHONY said RHOA, “is a mixture of ‘MTV Cribs’ and ‘Jerry Springer’”. Although the cast of RHOA acts exactly like the casts on other Real Housewives series they’re viewed as loud, ghetto, trashy, angry black women. On the Season Six Reunion episode two of the cast members, Kenya Moore and Porsha Williams, had a brawl. Many viewers thought this fight was heavily instigated by the host Andy Cohen who even provided Moore with a bullhorn. This altercation was also promoted for weeks. A civil rights group ColorOfChange is asking Bravo to enforce a policy of no excessive physical altercations like VH1 has. The group stated, “Research shows that dehumanizing portrayals of Black people on television lead to real-world consequences for Black folks — influencing how we are treated by doctors, judges, teachers and lawmakers. No matter how entertaining, this should be the last fight between Black women that Bravo profits from”.

What is revealing to me is that RHOA is the most viewed series in the franchise. With a predominately black cast, it almost seems like the producers of these kinds of reality TV shows are trying to make a correlation between having a predominate minority cast and the amount of drama and conflict is on the show. As seen with these reality TV shows, having an increased minority cast has proven to result in more drama and conflict. But the race of the cast has nothing to do with why this is true, it’s how the producers choose to produce the show and how they portray each cast member. The women on RHOA act like the women on all other Real Housewives shows so just because they’re black they’re being judged. Black women are stereotyped as being angry, loud, ghetto, and aggressive so when shows like these are put out in media it only adds to the negative image black females have in our society. Generally speaking, all the Real Housewives shows all women in a negative light but the cast of RHOA is seen the most negative way just because of the world we live in.

Married to Medicine:


Season 3 Cast, Married to Medicine, Bravo, 7 June 2015

 Married to Medicine, unlike other reality TV shows with mostly black cast members, like Basketball Wives, Love and Hip-Hop, and Real House Wives of Atlanta, all the women on this show are college educated. Married to Medicine is a reality TV show that also airs on the TV network Bravo. The show follows the lives of seven women living in Atlanta, Georgia. Three of the seven cast members are doctors while the rest are married to doctors. Just like all other reality TV shows Married to Medicine is filled with drama and conflict. Even though these are all professional women on the show, that’s not how they’re seen or portrayed as. During an upscale party celebrating the birthdays of Kari and Mariah husbands’, Mariah and Toya, both college educated black women, got into a fight that ended up with Mariah being kicked out even though it was her husband’s party and the event was also shut down.

The show had a petition made against it by a group from Howard University College of Medicine. The petition stated, “Black female physicians only compose 1% of the American workforce of physicians. Due to our small numbers, the depiction of Black female doctors in media, on any scale, highly affects the public’s view on the character of all future and current African-American female doctors…heavily associates Black females in medicine with materialism, “cat fights”, and unprofessionalism”. What is interesting/revealing to me is how the producers went about this show. There’s plenty enough reality TV shows out there that show black and minority women in a bad light, why does another one especially about doctors and educated women need to be made? Like the Howard University petition mentions there are only 1% black female physicians in the American workforce, so why not make a show that promotes why people should be doctors and go to school. Shows that would teach young black and minority women that they are more than what these stereotypes media constantly pushes and portrays them to be.

If viewers see how these black women act, how will people be able to trust them with their lives’ and health? The show can only do harm to such a small community of black female physicians. All this show does is keep stereotypes about black women around. Black women are already looked down upon so much by society so when stuff like this is on TV it is more detrimental to our images than compared to people of other demographics. This show will make it easier for the audience to associate professional and college educated black women with unprofessionalism, not being able to control themselves in public places, and lacking the skills to avoid conflict. As a young black woman who wants to pursue a career in the medical field all I feel this show does is taint our image. It’s already hard enough for black women to get into medical school, we don’t need another obstacle.


Our society and many forms of pop culture have portrayed black women in a negative light. The form of pop culture I chose to focus on was reality TV shows. All three very popular shows, The Bad Girls Club, Real Housewives of Atlanta, and Married to Medicine have portrayed black women in a negative stereotypical way. Black women are seen as angry, loud, aggressive, trashy, promiscuous, and “ghetto”. As a demographic that’s very disadvantaged in many ways in our society I feel as those we need more positive representations of black women in pop culture.

Learning Moments:

A learning moment I had this term was the “Searching for Resources” assignment. I usually only use Google Scholar to find sources for research papers and I always have trouble narrowing the search down but this assignment definitely benefited me a lot. I was not really familiar with the online PSU library before this assignment but now I feel like I’ll be able to apply these new skills to future classes and assignments. With this tutorial, I was able to learn how to look for different forms of artifacts and how to so more specific searches. Another learning moment I had during the term was the Week 6 discussion post, “Finding, Evaluating, and Analyzing Primary and Secondary Sources”. It was really interesting to see how much could be analyzed from such a short ad. Also, it was cool to see how everybody was able to interpret the ad in their own way.


Abrams, Lindsay. “What Does ‘Married to Medicine’ Say About Black Female Doctors?” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 01 Apr. 2013. Web

Anderson, Matt, Nate Green, and Mariah Huq, prods. Married to Medicine. Bravo. Atlanta, Georgia, 24 Mar. 2013. Television.

Hersh, Glenda, prod. The Real Housewives of Atlanta. Bravo. Atlanta, Georgia, 7 Oct. 2008. Television.

Mercer, Elijah. “Good Girls Gone Bad: Race and Gender in Oxygen’s The Bad Girls Club.” Inquires Journals 4.7 (2012): 1-3. Web.

Murray, Johnathan, and Mary-Ellis Bunim, prods. The Bad Girls Club. Oxygen. 5 December 2006. Television.

Tomboys and Girly girls-The Portrayals of Femininity in Disney Princess Films


There is this odd, stereotypical binary to women in media. It seems like you are either a “traditional” woman, who likes makeup and dresses and is content with a quiet, empty-headed domestic life; or you are a “strong female character” type, who likes guns and violence, is one of the guys, and denounces the other type of woman as inferior.  Interestingly, as time goes on, it seems the traits of the latter have become more popular to show in media while actively demonizing the qualities of the former.

In children’s media, these traits tend to be described  as being a girly or as being a tomboy. These portrayals, much like for older women, help give girls good role models, and, more importantly, somebody to identify with. But while adult media has changed in their portrayals of women, has children’s media changed over the years in their portrayals? Have they diversified enough to have enough good role models for younger girls? In the Disney Princess line of films, while the earlier era of films portrayed mostly girly and more two dimensional versions of women, latter Disney films have done a better job of capturing the various states of being a girl in a way that respects both identities.

Disney and the Portrayal of Girl

The Walt Disney Company is probably the most recognizable brand of media for children in the world. They started out with a princess film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which helped rocket them to stardom (ABC News, 2015) , and they haven’t stopped with princesses since. In the beginnings of its line of princesses, Disney’s portrayal of women tended to align with the what are now the stereotypical versions of princesses. Our protagonists were kind, ladylike, good with animals, cared and doted on the people around them in a motherly fashion. But they were also emotional, air headed, and not resolved to fix their own fates, preferring to rather wait for somebody else (usually the men) around them to take initiative and bring them out of their misery holes.

Take Cinderella (from Cinderella), for example. She was extremely kind to the animals and people around her, even to her cruel stepsisters and stepmother. She is beautiful, gentle, quiet, and graceful. But at the same time, she does not take any action to escape her step-mother’s clutches. This is not like the recent film Tangled, where Rapunzel has been subtly emotionally manipulated and kept in isolation to think her life is normal. Cinderella presumably has access to the outside world to fetch various sundry items for the house or for meals, and knows her relationship to her family is wrong and longs to escape it. But her forms of escape are always provided by others- her animal friends make her dress for her, her fairy godmother intervenes when her dress is destroyed, and so on. In the end it is the random chance that a shoe was all she left that allows her to marry the Prince, the man who ultimately saves her. So while the fact that she is feminine in and of itself is not a bad thing (one could instead argue it’s a positive trait for girls who do enjoy more traditional forms of expression), she also shows many passive, weak stereotypes that could prevent her from being a great role model for kids.


Beautiful story, but weak role model

What about later generations? The Disney Renaissance, typically categoriszed as animated films released between 1984 and 1994 (Puig, 2010), saw a rise in a more diversified princess base. They were no longer afraid or unwilling to work themselves out of the situation, were more willing to use “male codified actions”, and were more willing to be less feminine overall (Descartes & Collier-Meek, 2011). Belle from Beauty and the Beast is a perfect example. Her love of learning, stubbourness, and drive for adventure are all more tomboyish qualities, and yet she still manages to retain her grace and gentleness, and her beauty. This is unique since as a kid in the nineties, you were either a stereotypically rough and tough tomboy, or a prissy girl. She showed you could be “woman-like” and still kick butt.


She’s beauty, she’s grace, she’ll still drop you on your face

And yet that did not excuse her from having her own odd faults and stereotypes that stemmed from her being a woman. Like most Disney films in canon up to that point, the film ended with her falling and love and getting married to the Beast, and her love for him (something typically drawn from women, and not typically sourced from stereotypically gruff men), were what ultimately saved the day. Though she was the one who did it, it was in kind of a cliched manner expected of a woman and not as great as it could have been.

It’s not entirely surprising that they ended the film with a more traditional, done-before route. As we analysed advertisements in class this year, we realized that some brands need to maintain and allure of their values in order to draw customers back. Since Disney definitely wanted to maintains its controversy free, traditional allure to appeal to parents, they wanted to stick with familiar story telling.

Knowing this about Disney then, it’s not too shocking that Brave, Disney’s first princess film where she did not end up getting married, and where that wasn’t the entire point of the plot, was actually made by Pixar. The princess Merida is very unlike the other princesses. She is not conventionally beautiful; she has a round face, wild curly orange hair, and a simple navy dress. She is not graceful or gentle or interested in princess-y affairs, and is the poster child for the word “tomboy”. But this aspect is not shown as the pinnacle of how to be a girl. It actively shows the negative aspects of some of her tomboy characteristics, such as her obstinance in refusing to listen to her mother, while still cherishing them as aspects of her personality.


King Fergus succinctly describes Merida’s personality

But where this film goes a bit beyond is in the inclusion of the secondary protagonist, Merida’s mother Queen Elinor. Queen Elinor, though a women not a girl, is incredibly feminine. She is totally into the whole archetype of being queenly. She wears fancy dresses, is elegant, and never participates in rough sports-in short, much more similar to princesses Belle and Cinderella than Merida is! But the film chooses not to exile her for embracing more traditional roles and attitudes. She still has an immense amount of power in the land, and is a strong woman who knows what she wants and how she will get it, despite how she chooses to act and portray herself. Brave, in this sense, is the most modern of the films since it reconciles the two ways of “acting” as a woman, and tells the audience that both are perfectly acceptable.

The Impact of Representation

So now we have a full gamut of different types of ladies for girls to watch on screen. We have the very girly characters that were generally weak and ineffectual of early Disney. Then there the more varied, but still tied up with men, girls in the Renaissance. Finally, there is the split binary where both are acceptable and strong of the Revival. But why does this matter?

I talked about princess Belle at length in this post, and I criticize her the most because she’s really my favourite. I loved Belle as a child because I was just like her. I was not blonde, or into pink or dresses, and preferred reading books and going on adventures to staying in a stuffy castle waiting for some dude. She showed me that personality were totally valid, and also that maybe embracing some of the effeminate aspects of my personality did not mean that I could not identify as a tomboy.

This phenomena of having somebody to identify with, to show that how you express yourself and your gender is okay, reflects across all little girls. I’m sure most of the women in my class had a favourite princess when they were younger that was their favourite because they reflected some aspect of their own demeanor. Let’s hope in the future, we don’t have to hold the crux of the weight of creating representation on one company, and instead, we can create a more diverse media to represent a wide range of girls.




ABC News (December 1, 2015). Behind the Magic: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. ABC News. Retrieved from:

Disney, Walt (Producer). Geronimi, C., Hamilton, L., and Jackson, W. (Directors). (1950). Cinderella. United States: Disney

Conli, R.,Lasseter, J., and Keane, G. (Producers). Greno, Nathan and Howard, Byron (Directors). (2010). Tangled. United States: Disney

Puig, Claudia (26 March 2010). ‘Waking Sleeping Beauty’ documentary takes animated look at Disney renaissance. USA Today. Retrieved from:

England, D., Descartes, L., & Collier-Meek, M. (2011). Gender Role Portrayal and the Disney Princesses. Sex Roles, 64(7-8), 555-567. doi:10.1007/s11199-011-9930-7

Hanh, Don (Producer). Troutsdale, Gary and Wise, Kirk (Directors). (1991). Beauty and the Beast. United States: Disney

Sarafian, Katherine (Producer), Andrews, Mark, and Chapman, Brenda (Directors). (2012). Brave. United States: Disney

Instagram, The New Beauty Standard For Women


Image result for instagram beauty standards

When I was younger, I would always look to magazines and movies to see what other women were wearing, and determine how I was supposed to look. Magazine covers used to be the old beauty standard, but that has changed with the popularity of social media sites like Instagram. Instagram has allowed us better access to look at other’s lives.  The main focus of young women when using Instagram is how many “likes” they get on pictures, comments or how many “followers” they have. It seems that the popular women, with the most followers are setting the new beauty standard for women because of the attention they are getting for how they look. Unfortunately, many of these women do not actually look like this in real life, because of photo edits and filters, not to mention plastic surgery. Instagram has become a new beauty standard and is causing an increase rate of insecurities for women. Many of these beauty standards are unrealistic, but companies use these standards to help further sell their products.

So what exactly are these beauty standards that are being marketed by Instagram?

Many businesses have noticed the popularity these women get from social media, and have strategically used them to sell their products and further encourage unrealistic beauty standards. These companies claim that their products gain the results that these women already have to start with. One of the major products that push for unrealistic beauty standards are waist trainers, sold by companies such as “Tiny Little Waist”. Many celebrities and Instagram famous women are paid to post pictures of them wearing the waist trainer, and claiming that they got an hour-glass figure while using the product. This is very smart on the companies end, because when people see that celebrity with their skinny waist, getting all the likes and followers on Instagram, they instantly associate it with the waist trainers. The women claim that the waist trainers reduced their waist 2-6 inches, just by the first day. Not only are waist trainers being promoted by this company, but also butt shape wear that claims to give you a “perky desirable butt.”


Another popular fad on Instagram is “Fit Tea” which is a detoxifying tea that claims to boost energy and help you achieve a flat stomach. Women who use this product claim that they have never looked or felt better. Many women with a social media platform, post half naked pictures, showing their flat stomachs and claiming that the tea is how they got it. The pictures receive thousands of likes, which further promotes the product. The problem is not the product these companies are marketing, but how they are going about it. Many of these women pose in different angles to appear more flattering, and use different filters. The women these products are targeting seem to be in a 16 to 28 year demographic based on the personnel that the companies use to market these products.bpbp3

Advertisements can be deceitful when they are selling their products, but many women fail to see that because the mass amount of women who are claiming that the product works, because they are getting paid for it.

After researching these products, I really wanted to understand the impact that these social media sites had on other young women, and how it affects the way they act in society.  One of the best studies I found was an article called “Follow Me and Like My Beautiful Selfies: Singapore Teenage Girls’ Engagement in Self-Presentation And Peer Comparison On Social Media”. The article describes how teenage girls are looking at Instagram to use as measure for their own beauty. The study that  article wrote about showed how girls were going to extreme measures, such as spending an extreme amount of money on makeup and clothes, and posing half naked, in order to receive an increased amount of likes on Instagram. With less likes than expected, many young women find a drop in their self-esteem. A study has found that eating disorders are found to be associated with the use of Instagram and other social media sites (Sidani, 2016). Women see other women who get a lot of attention for how they look, and desire to look like those women too. Many of the products advertised on Instagram are to look skinnier, and are promoted by popular celebrities, many of which young women look up to.051aad6a3b596b492075d7037721ded0801627-wmImage result for girls looking on social media


During week 3, we examined commercials that we found effective. Many of the commercials that were found most effective were because we could identify with them on a personal level. These commercials portrayed a childhood memory or something we found to be attractive. These advertisements used popular athletes and actors. The commercials also contained messages that were subtle. Many of these advertisement techniques have been translated over to Instagram in order to sell more products. For example, when companies are selling “fit tea” they may not say it will make you skinny, but they use thin/fit women to advertise their product.

So what can we do in order to change these unrealistic beauty standards?

  • Educate young women on products that are being sold.
  • Women need to find self-love
  • Young women should be taught that celebrities look the way they do because of plastic/cosmetic surgery, not the product they are promoting.
  • Support companies that promote self-love.
  • Stop idolizing “Instagram Models” and find better role models.

Image result for self love

My research has caused me to find that the beauty standards that are being set on these social media sites are causing women to have extremely low self-esteem. This low self-esteem is what many companies promote and feed off of in order to sell their products. Women are constantly comparing their lives to the pictures they see on other women’s Instagram accounts. If a young woman was to spend a couple hours getting ready, takes a picture, posts it on Instagram, and doesn’t get very many likes, she may believe herself to be unattractive and there for have low self-esteem. This may cause her to spend serious money to change herself, so that she is approved by others. Companies are aware of this, promote it, and take advantage of it. As consumers, we need to be aware of what companies and people are trying to promote, and the reason behind it. Women need to stop comparing their lives and looks to other women, and realize that most of those women in those pictures do not actually look like that in real life.




Works Cited

“The Beauty of Self Love – The Skinny Mirror.” The Skinny Mirror. N.p., 2015. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.

Chua, Trudy Hui Hui, and Leanne Chang. “Follow Me And Like My Beautiful Selfies: Singapore Teenage Girls’ Engagement In Self-Presentation And Peer Comparison On Social Media.” Computers In Human Behavior 55.(2016): 190-197. Academic Search Premier. Web. 6 Nov. 2016.

Sidani, Jaime E., et al. “The Association Between Social Media Use And Eating Concerns Among US Young Adults.” Journal Of The Academy Of Nutrition & Dietetics 116.9 (2016): 1465-1472. Academic Search Premier. Web. 6 Nov. 2016.

Stronge, Samantha, et al. “Facebook Is Linked To Body Dissatisfaction: Comparing Users And Non-Users.” Sex Roles 73.5-6 (2015): 200-213. Gender Studies Database. Web. 6 Nov. 2016.


Young Adults Living with Parents…”As Seen on TV”


Every day we make quick, snap judgments about the world around us based on preconceived ideas about products, politics, music, and people. One of the biggest contributors to these presumptions is mass media. Groups of people are often viewed in certain ways due to the way they are represented in television and movies.One such group Blog_Post_GIFis the community of young adults who live with their parents. Fifty years ago, this group was represented as a normal part of the nuclear family; however, modern media has inaccurately changed the image of young adults living with their parents into lazy opportunists, as depicted by movies like “Failure to Launch.”

What the Media Says

The first artifact that I analyzed was the show “Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.” This show depicts a family of four (Ozzie, Harriet, and two boys: Dave and Rick). The show ran from 1952 to 1966 so viewers got to see the two boys grow up, get married, and eventually move out. Before they moved out, though, they got stable jobs and dated. One episode stuck out in particular. In season nine, episode 4, both boys act independently despite living at home. They have their own funds to spend on meals and entertainment (even though they mom makes meals, too). There are even some episodes that they don’t appear much in because they are living their own lives. More importantly, their friends and girlfriends take no notice of the fact that they live at home. This would suggest that living with one’s parents as a young adult is not unusual. Rather, it is socially acceptable.The creator and writer, Ozzie Nelson, must have felt that young adults should stay home until they are ready (in this case get married). To many, though, this show is dated and just reflects the 50’s perfect suburbia. Thus, Nelson’s depiction of his household might be perceived as more of an ideal than a reality. Also, there might have been some bias since Nelson wrote and starred in the show. Nonetheless, Dave and Rick were depicted positively. They were made out to be hard working adults getting ready to leave the nest.This might have been a comedy, but the comedy didn’t come from the young adults, it came from a realistically quirky family.


Season 9, Episode 4:

It’s hard to believe that the 50’s and 60’s were 50 plus years ago. In that much time, it makes sense that media would change its depictions of many different groups. For stay-at-home young adults, though, the perception almost flipped completely. My second artifact was the 2006 movie “Failure to Launch.” This movie stars Matthew McConaughey, who plays a 30-something old adult who still lives with his parents. He has two other friends who also live with their parents (Demo and Ace). They live a very comfortable lifestyle. In the beginning, Tripp doesn’t have to worry about cooking, cleaning, errands, or other major responsibilities. The movie also barely shows the guys working. Instead, they are shown hanging out, hiking, rock climbing, playing paintball, and playing video games. This was a purposeful choice that shapes the image of these characters. When it comes to independence, he is in the sense that his social life is completely separate from that of his parents; however, he is extremely dependent on them for life’s necessities. The characters in the movie itself described them as lazy and selfish adults who took advantage of their parents and other people. In fact, Tripp’s own parents want him to move out. It is a comedy, but it consistently reinforces the stereotype that it establishes. I agree that some pressure is taken off by living with my parents, but I still have to work hard. Unlike the characters in the movie, I do have to help around the house, work hard at work/school, and balance my social life.



The last artifact that I looked at was a series of interviews called “Grown and still at home: Why young adults are moving back home and staying longer” conducted by Yahoo Finance in 2015. The interviewer speaks to several young adults and their parents, whom they live with. All of the young adults had jobs but did not feel like they were financially able to be completely independent. Everyone who was interviewed pointed to the economy as the primary reason for living together with their parents. Each young adult in the interview said that they didn’t contribute much to the bills and barely did chores. Understandably, it can be difficult to gain stability in the economy, so contributing to the bills might be difficult. It’s interesting, though, that they brought up chores. It kind of showed a struggling, maybe even lazy, view of young adults living with parents. Yahoo chose who they wanted to interview and what to ask, which means they agree with the image that they depicted of this social group. Overall, Yahoo gave a more balanced view of young adults who live with parents; but the lazy opportunist stereotype was also presented.

By looking at media from the early days of television, pre-recession entertainment, and post-recession news, a trend becomes noticeable. In the mid-twentieth century, young adults were not looked down on for living at home. As time went on, society changed and so did its views. By the early 2000’s, that perception had transformed into the stereotype we see today: lazy opportunists. The Great Recession brought economic hardships, which justified this behavior. Unfortunately, it appears that negative stereotypes still persist.


For many young adults, moving away from one’s parents is just a part of life, but some decide to stay home with them a little longer. The reasons vary from person to person, but there are an increasing number of young adults living with their parents. In fact, the Pew Research Center reported that the percentage of young adults age 18 to 31 who live with parents is 36% (as of 2012) compared to 32% in 1968. Economic struggles and declining marriage rates are cited as major reasons for this trend. Enrollment has also increased a bit since the Great Recession. Economically, the unemployment for young adults is much higher proportionally than the rest of the population. To illustrate, those in the workforce age 16 to 34 have an unemployment rate of 51% despite making up around one-third of the population (Fry). Interestingly, employment has always been higher for young adults (Desilver). Could this trend be attributed to more than the economy?

It is possible that the changes within families are a factor. One of the most significant change was that “the share who were married and living with a spouse fell” dramatically (Fry). In 1968 about 56% of 18 to 31 year-olds were already married. The percentage was done to around 23% by 2012. Culturally, this makes sense. After World War II, “family structure in the 50’s was based around one central necessity: a secure life.” (Hussung). This lead to a very stable nuclear family and “children became emotional rather than economic assets.” (Hussung). Culture and family structure changed dramatically over the following decades. These attitudes meant that children were allowed to stay home until they were ready (in this case married and working). That has changed a bit from the idyllic 50’s. Now empty nest homes are much more normal. Also, singleness is now viewed as “…flexible in terms of moving in and out of their parents’ home…” (Qian 12).SDT-millennials-with-parents-08-2013-02.png More people might be staying home because they want to wait until they are able to explore life’s possibilities. Personally, I’m not avoiding responsibility. Rather, I’m just trying to find my barings before venturing into a quickly changing world.


The media has increasingly depicted young adults in a negative way. Through TV, movies, and even news, these young adults have been painted as lazy opportunists. Statistics and trends have offered another explanation for their decision to live with their parents. Economic and family conditions have changed dramatically since the idyllic 50’s. Maybe young adults just need some support while they begin to navigate the complicated world of work and social possibilities.

Learning Moments

This has ended up being my favorite SINQ classes because it has changed how I view everyday things. For starters, the “Influence of Advertising” unit in week 4 showed me the hidden messages behind the bombardment of media. I found the video “Ways of Seeing” especially enlightening. The video pointed out that advertising tries to sell you a fantasy by depicting a bright future and an unsatisfactory present. Now I can’t look at commercials without doing some analysis. One can almost imagine the marketing group’s pitch for the ad.

Another learning moment was in week 7 during the lesson on intellectual property. Before, I saw that issue as pretty straight forward. Anyone had the right to protect their ideas and thoughts. After watching the video, “Art in the Era of the Internet,”I understood that the issue is not black and white. Really there are instances where people should allow their content to be used so that creativity can be allowed to flourish. In other instances, people might want their content shared to spread awareness, but not taken advantage of financially. I really appreciated this class for expanding my perspective.


Ahn, Jeanie. Grown and Still at Home: Why Young Adults Are Moving Back Home and Staying Longer. Yahoo Finance. N.p., 30 Oct. 2015. Web. 01 May 2016.

DeSilver, Drew. For Young Americans, Unemployment Returns to Pre-recession Levels. Pew Research Center RSS. N.p., 2015. Web. 10 May 2016.

Failure to Launch. Dir. Tom Dey. Perf. Matthew McConaughey, Sarah Jessica Parker. Paramount Pictures, 2006.

Fry, Richard. A Rising Share of Young Adults Live in Their Parents’ Home. Pew Research Centers Social Demographic Trends Project RSS. N.p., 2013. Web. 17 May 2016.

Hussung, Tricia. The Evolution of American Family Structure. Concordia University St Paul Online. N.p., 2015. Web. 10 May 2016.

The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. Prod. Ozzie Nelson. Dir. Ozzie Nelson. Perf. Ozzie Nelson, Harriet Nelson, David Nelson, and Rick Nelson. Viki. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2016.

Qian, Zhenchao. During the Great Recession, More Young Adults Lived with Parents. US2010 Project (2012): 1-29. Web. 17 May 2016.

Science and Religion: What Does Pop Culture Have to Say?


In the age where modes of media rapidly change and contribute to the shaping of culture, we as consumers and creators of culture ought to develop deeper understandings of the ideas that surround us. As a Christian and science student, one topic that I continually research is the religion and science discussion. This ever-changing story between religion and science—where they meet, where they disconnect, and what this relationship will look like as ideas advance—remains an increasingly prominent topic within contemporary society as a whole. The most dominant image within popular culture today is the idea of a great schism between religion and science, providing consumers of media with a skewed, incomplete image of this complex and long-standing relationship. Ultimately, failure to highlight the day to day reality in which the ideas of religion and science have intersected and cooperated can be stifling, putting an unnecessary limit to the degree in which a diverse society can work together.

The great discussion between science and religion contains a vast amount of branches and levels. Probably the most popular and flamboyant topic is about evolution and religion. However, it goes beyond evolution, present in all fields of science and in many forms. Ethics, research, philosophy, and even aspects like work team diversity are in some way impacted by the interactions of science and religion.

In 2014, one of the hottest topics to surface in this great discussion between science and religion was the live debate between scientist Bill Nye and intelligent design advocate Ken Ham. The purpose of this meeting is straightforward: it was an intellectual faceoff between two well-known thinkers in the creation discussion, debating topics like the age of the earth and differing worldviews in relation to science (Youtube).

On the debate’s cover image, the epic black and white portraits of Ham and Nye are pictured and divided by a solid orange bar, reminiscent of a scoreboard for a wrestling match. The purpose, content, and form of this debate sends a clear message to its vast audience: their fields of expertise are inevitably opposed. This message isn’t just offered to Ken Ham and Bill Nye enthusiasts; it’s also present in the popular Christian movie, God’s Not Dead.

In the main storyline, college student Josh Wheaton embarks on a journey to combat his angry atheist Professor Radisson and prove God’s existence to his entire philosophy class (Cronk). While the movie functions to reinforce the ideals of its Christian audience, the string of fiery debates between Christian student and atheist professor also relays the message evident in the Ham/Nye debate that this is a war—one wins, and the other loses. The story unfolds over the media like a dramatic relationship doomed to end in separation. To put it more broadly, the prevalent spirit of debate between religion and science within popular media transmits the idea that science and religion have no common ground, and therefore, animosity is inevitable.

From the front of popular culture media, it seems that this great, tense debate is the only way religion and science can interact with one another. However, this isn’t the case in all avenues, nor is it an idea reflected in all members of society. In a study by Baylor University, participants offered their response to the degree in which they agreed or disagreed to the question, “Are religion and science compatible?” The highest percentage, 48.4%, answered that they disagreed with this statement (Baylor).

In addition, research centers, such as the Krakow School in Poland, study the interactions between science and religion and how they can work together, highlighting that religion has played a role in the advancements of science, medieval reasoning to modern methods of science (Brozek). Searching beyond the surface reveals that there is more to the relationship between science and religion than debate and discordance.

Along with studies and research, TV shows and media sites are recently presenting a more multifaceted view. National Geographic aired a new series in 2016 called The Story of God, narrated by Morgan Freeman. In the episode, “Creation,” he interviews scientists and researchers from different backgrounds regarding their ideas on the relationship between religion and science.



Vatican Observatory astronomer and Catholic priest Giuseppe Tanzella-nitti offers his view on the evolutionary aspect of this discussion: “Creation, from a theological point of view, is perfectly compatible with the Big Bang, because you need [always] a first cause” (National Geographic).   

Similarly, the website “Closer to Truth” provides a thread of interviews and resources in which scientists and researchers from various backgrounds explore this topic. Molecular Biologist and Evangelical Christian Denis Alexander states,

“I see the relationship between religious knowledge and scientific knowledge as complementary. They’re very complementary narratives about the same reality. And the important thing is to not mix…the languages of the different narratives up.”

 Alexander views this relationship as complementary—each with different roles (Alexander). TIME magazine’s article, “God vs. Science” by David Van Biema exhibits this same motif of science and religion as complementary. In the article, what first begins as a reflection on the prevalent societal idea of a “caged death match between science and God,” turns into a dialogue between well known contributors to science, Richard Dawkins and Francis Collins (Biema).


Francis Collins

Houghton Mifflin provided this photo of Richard Dawkins, authror of `The God Delusion.' (AP Photo/Houghton Mifflin)

Houghton Mifflin provided this photo of Richard Dawkins, authror of `The God Delusion.’ (AP Photo/Houghton Mifflin)

Collins concludes,

“I find absolutely nothing in conflict between agreeing with Richard in practically all of this conclusions about the natural world, and also saying that I am still able to accept and embrace the possibility that there are answers that science isn’t able to provide about the natural world… that in no way compromises my ability to think rigorously as a scientist.”

Similar to Alexander’s counsel to distinguish between the languages of science and religion, Collins states that faith doesn’t diminish the capacity to do science.

Perhaps the greatest aspect popular culture consumers must be aware of is this: the most flagrant aspects of the science/religion discussion do not speak for the discussion in its entirety. While the debate between religion and science does exist, consumers of popular culture must recognize that the negative, antagonistic tone sometimes carried furthest and highest throughout the media is not true or accurate in all cases. It is not always a war.

In reality, the field of science is diverse, filled with people from many different backgrounds and worldviews. Collaboration between all these different views is what sparks continual conversation and further advancement of bright ideas. Media’s spotlighting of society’s loudest, sometimes most negative voices within the realm of religion and science doesn’t offer the full picture of how science and religion interact daily amongst people. Popular culture ought to reflect society’s diverse attitudes toward the religion and science discussion by portraying the many different ways in which this relationship continues to play out, including instances of opposition as well as compatibility. Debate is “healthy,” as Alexander says, insofar as it gets members of society thinking and collaborating. However, when the image of hostility or war between science and religion displayed in media is considered the whole picture of the story, discussion is stifled. Deliberation has been and continues to be a valuable tool in society’s propagation of new and bright ideas, and this should continue as religion and science continually cross paths.


Learning Moments:

From this class, I learned how we as popular culture consumers are heavily affected by our input of information. In week one, we discussed how the internet can be a tool to filter out viewpoints different from what we’ve been accustomed to.  We can tend to use sites, apps, and modes of media that best fit our views. In order to avoid this narrow influx of knowledge, diversity amongst thinkers and deeper, wider research is important to implement. I think that strongly relates to what my popular culture essay is all about: being aware of the diversity of knowledge regarding the topics that most affect us. Before making a judgment about a big contemporary topic or issue, different sources ought to be considered beyond mainstream headlines in order to gain a more substantial, multifaceted understanding of the situation.

The second lesson I learned from this class is our tendency as pop culture participants to detach a person from their portrayal in media. The excerpt, “Eliminate the Middleman” by Sara Vowell showed how we can create distorted impressions about people based on how they’re covered in the news, all while becoming less aware of their normality. Her work with George W. Bush was most interesting to me, as it shed light back onto the reality that there’s a lot more to people than what media portrays—but strangely, “a lot more” is really just the heart beneath the face on our TV screens. She shows a different side of Bush when she mentions his regular morning habits like drinking coffee and that he loves his dogs. Linking the face with the real person is difficult but important in today’s culture, considering that an extensive amount of interaction is now electronic. The synchronized meeting was a really good way putting this to practice: even on an online interface, it brought more original and lively elements to our discussions, reminding us that behind each of our profiles and screens is a real person.



“Are religion and science incompatible?” Baylor Religion Survey, 2007.

“Bill Nye Debates Ken Ham,” Youtube. Feb 4, 2014.

Brożek, Bartosz, and Michael Heller. 2015. “Science and Religion in the Kraków School.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science. 50: 194–208.

David Van Biema. “God vs. Science,” TIME. Nov 5, 2006.,9171,1555132,00.html

Denis Alexander, “Are Science and Religion at War?” Closer to Truth. 2016.

Harold Cronk, God’s Not Dead. 2014.

National Geographic, “Creation.” The Story of God with Morgan Freeman. April 24, 2016.

The Portrayal of Introverts in Popular Culture


Introversion is a widely misunderstood personality trait. On television, introversion is typically portrayed in a negative way. Television characters that display traits consistent with introversion are usually better known for their abrasive personality and lack of social skills. Those negative qualities could be true of an introvert or an extrovert, so it is unfair of television writers to make them so exaggerated in introverted characters. It can be difficult for an introvert to find an inspirational role model on television, instead we get the message that something is wrong with us and we need to fix it. An important point to note is that introversion and extroversion is on a spectrum, not an either/or scenario.

Introversion is misrepresented in popular culture because it is often confused with shyness or social anxiety, it is often combined with disorders and mental illnesses, and it shames introverts into pretending to be someone they’re not.


The main character on the FOX show Bones is Temperance “Bones” Brennan, and she is an introvert. One of the most universal introverted traits is the desire to work alone or in small groups. Especially in earlier seasons, she is seen working alone in her office studying remains or evidence and this is where she thinks best. Another common trait amongst introverts is the preference for solitary hobbies. In the show, her main hobby is writing best-selling fiction novels based on her work. A defining trait for introverts is the preference for minimally stimulating environments, so her choice to work in a lab is a good fit for her personality. There she does not have to worry about lots of noise or frequent group work. While she does consult and collaborate with each of her coworkers, everyone has their own specialty and largely works alone.

Temperance Brennan is a good example that introversion and shyness are not the same thing. Susan Cain describes the difference in her TED Talk The Power of Introverts as “shyness is about fear of social judgment. Introversion is more about, how do you respond to stimulation, including social stimulation”. One of Temperance Brennan’s defining characteristics is that she is brutally honest and does not care what anyone thinks of her. Throughout the show she frequently says or does impolite or awkward things if it means getting the job done, something a shy person would avoid.

Some of her introverted traits are fairly accurate for a fictional television character, but some of them are exaggerated for drama or comedic effect by the writers. A stereotype that the writers perpetuate is the idea that introverts cannot be good leaders. Because she lacked the interpersonal skills necessary for the politics and bureaucracy for the job, she was passed up for a promotion to be in charge of the lab in season two. In this case she is not a good representation of introversion because her lack of social skills is the result of her parents and her older brother abandoning her as a teenager, not because she is introverted.



Sheldon Cooper is introverted and one of the main characters from the CBS show The Big Bang Theory. He has a strong preference to work alone; for example, he can get upset if someone tries to help him solve an equation. He enjoys his small group of friends, and it was not easy for him to adjust to more people being added over the years. He enjoys both solitary activities such as playing with his trains and small group activities such as playing Dungeons and Dragons. He is seen feeling uncomfortable in large group settings such as parties or crowded bars, and when he is in those situations he clings to his close friends. He is usually not seen spending time alone, but that is because The Big Bang Theory is a half-hour sitcom and that would be a waste of airtime. I believe that Sheldon is not shy because he boldly manipulates his relationships via contracts. He does fear social judgement from his friends when he uses the contracts to get his way. I also think he is not shy because he is known to be very blunt, and he has no problem correcting strangers’ behaviors.

On this show, introversion is misrepresented because it is a comedy. So any introverted character is going to also have a quirky personality or another defining characteristic that outshines the natural benefits of being an introvert. I think this is a necessary part of television because it can be difficult to translate introverted traits on screen. Related to several of the characters on this show, one such benefit is described by Susan Cain in her TED Talk. She said that “when psychologists look at the lives of the most creative people, what they find are people who are very good at exchanging ideas and advancing ideas, but who also have a serious streak of introversion in them”. While many viewers see similarities between Sheldon’s personality and Asperger’s Syndrome, the writers have denied the diagnosis. Shaila Lias is a blogger who wrote an article titled “Introverts on TV: A Look at CBS’s The Big Bang Theory”, and in it she comments on the writers’ denial of Asperger’s. She writes “by denying that Sheldon is actually someone with Asperger’s they further the misunderstanding that any person who doesn’t always want social interaction, doesn’t understand it. It adds to the discourse that introverts are socially awkward and rude. And that they can’t understand social conventions”.

Raj Koothrappali is not an introvert, he is an extrovert. He loves to throw parties, arrange scavenger hunts, and be around friends all the time. His character provides a good contrast to Sheldon’s introversion, and also reinforces the fact that shyness or social anxiety are not the same as introversion. In the first few seasons, Raj seems to experience Social Anxiety Disorder. Elements Behavioral Health, which provides mental health services, explained Social Anxiety Disorder as “an overwhelming fear of being humiliated in front of others. For some, this extreme self-consciousness means even simple actions such as eating in public or talking to a store clerk can be overwhelming… and can sometimes lead to substance abuse by those attempting to medicate away the negative feelings”. Raj exhibits this though his selective mutism around women he finds attractive, and his use of alcohol to self-medicate the issue. In later seasons he resolves his selective mutism and seems to have shyness rather than social anxiety disorder.


Sherlock Holmes it the title character from the BBC show Sherlock. Similar to Temperance Brennan and Sheldon Cooper, Sherlock Holmes is an introvert and he is not shy. When it is necessary he presents his unbiased thoughts. He is well-known for his bold behavior and lack of good social skills. He does not fear what other people may think about him, and so he is able to be brutally honest. He is often seen alone or with his best friend, particularly when he is working on solving a crime. He concentrates best when he can be alone with his thoughts and think scenarios through. He, like most introverts, prefers small groups or close friends instead of big social crowds. This can be seen in his close friendship with his best friend John Watson. A common trait of introverts is the tendency to dislike small-talk, which Sherlock exhibits. Most of his conversations are intellectual or purposeful in nature, not about meaningless small-talk topics. Therefore, I believe he dislikes small-talk because of its lack of purpose, not because he is afraid to talk to people. Common for introverts, many of his hobbies were of a solitary nature. For example, he played the violin, which can be played in a group but that is not a necessary component. The common introverted traits that Sherlock exhibits are just that, common. They are not true of all introverts and some have no scientific basis, but they common traits that many introverts can identify with.

Sherlock Holmes displays many traits consistent with introversion, but they are exaggerated to the point the character is often labeled as being psychopathic/sociopathic or as having a form of Asperger’s. This seems typical of introverts on television. The are commonly labeled as having a mental health issue or other disorders because their traits are exaggerated to the extreme. Any negative portrayal of introverted traits does not necessarily imply anything about extroverts. They are not exactly opposites, so a quality about one does not make the opposite quality true for the other.  

The Science Behind Introversion & Extroversion


There is scientific explanations for why a person is more introverted or extroverted. As science progresses, new reasons become discovered. According to a Medical Daily article by Lecia Bushak titled “The Brain Of An Introvert Compared To That Of An Extrovert: Are They Really Different?”, in 1960 psychologist Hans Eysenck had a theory that levels of arousal was what differentiated introverts and extroverts. It was his belief that introverts were easily over-stimulated by the world while extroverts required a lot of stimulation to feel energized. Bushak also wrote that “in 2005, researchers concluded in a study that it all might be linked to dopamine — the reward system in the brains of extroverts responded differently than those of introverts”. Then in 2012 a Harvard University study completed by Randy Buckner led to the discovery that the gray matter in the prefrontal cortex, “a region of the brain that is linked to abstract thought and decision-making”, was larger and thicker in introverts and there was less gray matter in extroverts.

Learning Moments

One learning moment came this week when I was searching for an article about plagiarism for the Week 7 Course Blog prompt. In my research I found out that at most universities, it is considered plagiarism if a student uses the same essay for two different classes. I found an article titled “Self-Plagiarism: Is it Really Plagiarism?” by Robert Creutz, and it explains this dilemma. I never considered that resusing my own essay would be plagiarism and grounds for disciplinary action by the school. Fortunately, I never had the opportunity to reuse an essay. I still feel as though labeling that as plagiarism is harsh, because how can you steal from yourself? I do understand the reasons why it is considered plagiarism, but I do not completely agree with it. Either way, that is one learning moment from this course I will never forget.

Another learning moment came from researching my topic. Introversion is largely considered a psychological topic. During my research, I found several articles that discussed the science behind introversion and extroversion. I have always felt as though my introversion was an unchangeable and natural trait. Now I know that it is possible to move along the introversion-extroversion spectrum, but it is hard to change how someone’s brain works. The science seems to conclude that it has to do with some combination of arousal, stimulation, dopamine, gray matter. Having a scientific background does not excuse the way this personality traits is exhibited, but I do believe that it legitimizes the causes.


Bushak, L. (2014, August 21). The Brain Of An Introvert Compared To That Of An Extrovert: Are They Really Different? Retrieved May 2, 2016, from

Gatiss, M. (Producer). (2010, July 25). Sherlock [Television series]. BBC ONE.

Hanson, H. (Producer). (2005, September 13). Bones [Television series]. FOX.

Introvert, Shy, Socially Anxious: What’s the Difference? (2015, May 05). Retrieved May 1, 2016, from

Lias, S. (2013, November). INTROVERTS ON TV: A LOOK AT CBS’S THE BIG BANG THEORY [Web log post]. Retrieved May 1, 2016, from

Lorre, C., & Prady, B. (Producers). (2007, September 24). The Big Bang Theory [Television series]. CBS.

TED. (2012, March 2). Susan Cain: The power of introverts [Video file]. Retrieved from

Homeschoolers in Hollywood


It’s 11:30am and I’m at the grocery store with my mom. We’re heading for the checkout lane and I grit my teeth and clench my stomach, resigned to what’s about to happen. I watch the groceries glide along the conveyor belt and reach the checker. It begins.

“Why aren’t you in school?”

My mom looks at me, giving me the eye that I had better be polite to this lady.

“I’m homeschooled.”

A torrent of questions follow. These usually include the following:

  • How do you meet and socialize with other children?
  • Do you have friends?
  • Do you wear your pajamas all day?
  • Do you ever wish you went to real school?
  • Do you ever want to get out of the house? (“Hello, I am out of the house” is what I would say if my mom weren’t there)
  • What church do you go to?
  • (to my mom) How do you do it? I tried homeschooling my kids, but they just drove me nuts. (to me) Do you drive your mom nuts?

I understand these people and these questions. Most children attend public school. I am the rarity called the homeschooler. I have prepared answers to these questions, but they get asked so often, I get tired of responding. Now that I’m at university, the questions have subsided. I’m in the system now. This popular culture class has given me the opportunity to reflect on the twelve years I was homeschooled. Researching how the media stereotypes homeschoolers led me into another interesting observation. Today’s homeschoolers have embraced the media to challenge the mainstream media’s biased perception of homeschoolers. However, the success of these rebuttals is open to question, as many of these types of media reinforce or create yet new stereotypes homeschoolers must face.

Stereotypes: Fact or Fiction?

Type “homeschooler” into Google Images. You’ll get a family of five or more kids wearing long dresses and overalls, a kid in thick glasses winning a spelling bee, and this humorous sign warning of the dangers of interacting with a homeschooler:

Many crazy stereotypes get added to the “homeschooling” stereotype pot, often contradictory ones at that. We’re conservative and liberal. We’re not at regular school because we’re endowed with superior intellect and because we’re idiots who can’t keep up with our grade level. The only “fact” the media can agree on is that we have social issues and live sheltered lives. I don’t identify as any of the above. I lie in the middle of the political spectrum, thinking for myself instead of for a party. I’m not a dummy (4.0 student so far), but I’m by no means a genius. I’m Christian, but grew up in a nonreligious family. As I researched and combed through all these stereotypes about me, I got to wondering: am I an anomaly? Will facts show that I am just that outlier on the graph of homeschoolers?

To summarize my research in a sentence, I’d say that we’re not as bad as the mainstream media presents us, but we’re not as great as we tend to think ourselves to be. First of all, homeschoolers are not so rare as they used to be. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) charted the number of homeschooling students between 2003 and 2012. Based on their criteria for a homeschooling student, the NCES estimated that the number of homeschooling students increased by 61.8% across the United States — that’s about 677,000 new homeschoolers! We’re pretty smart, but not child prodigies either. According to a summary research article — which cites original, already conducted research — the homeschooling environment can “provide supportive learning settings,” but homeschooling students “are more likely to fall behind expected grade.” We’re not that awkward and unable to fit into normal life. Many homeschoolers have adapted easily to the university system. Stanford regularly recruits and admits homeschoolers, finding that “the brightest homeschoolers bring a mix of unusual experiences, special motivation, and intellectual independence.” So, when it comes to picking out the homeschooling facts from the homeschooling myths, one can say that homeschooling works and doesn’t, has its advantages and disadvantages, just like public school. But despite these facts, the media still continues to perpetuate homeschooling myths.

Homeschoolers According to Hollywood

The moon setting over an amorous couple in Paris, the Eiffel tower sitting picturesquely in the background. A gondolier singing an Italian ditty in the Venetian canals. The slanted-eyed Chinese villain with a Fu Manchu mustache. The socially inept, nerdy homeschooler who difficultly attempts to navigate popular culture. However humorous we find these stock characters, we must acknowledge them for what they are: stereotypes that have two-dimensional views of reality. Movies are artifacts constructed by Hollywood — one of the largest producers of media consumed by the masses — informing us how to consider, treat, and value differences and others. So, to start my research on homeschoolers in the media, I watched movies.

I started with Mean Girls, the popular 2004 blockbuster directed by Mark Waters and starring Lindsay Lohan. The film is about a homeschooled teenage girl navigating her way around that frightening rite of passage: high school. The first few minutes of Mean Girls quickly establish what a homeschooler is: nerdy, intellectual, backwater conservative “freaks.”

When protagonist and narrator Cady Heron then assures us she is not like this, it seems like the film has rejected this stereotype. But the content of Mean Girls itself dashes this hope. Cady doesn’t understand popular culture references and is socially inept when trying to fit in at her new high school.


Cady’s friends are shocked at her having been homeschooled, finding this as interesting and rare as the fact she grew up in Africa. Director Mark Waters and screenwriter Tina Fey explain that the film was originally going to be called Homeschooled and feature Cady as an American homeschooled student, instead of being raised in Africa. But Paramount objected, thinking that the audience might assume that “it might make her too religiously weird if she were homeschooled here.” This remark is telling, showing how the media feels pressured into continuing to uphold certain stereotypes.

Homeschoolers According to (Homeschooled) Hollywood

In 2008, Sony Pictures — an established studio in the Hollywood studio system — founded the label Affirm Films, a studio aimed at attracting a Christian audience. Their 2014 release Mom’s Night Out centers on stay-at-home, homeschooling, mother-of-three Allyson and her attempt at having a stress-free girls’ night out. The film was written by and directed by former homeschoolers, Andrew and Jon Erwin. Before watching the movie, I watched a promotional film for Mom’s Night Out, in which Andrew Erwin sings the praises of homeschooling mothers, claiming he couldn’t have become a successful Hollywood director had his mother not pulled him from public school and homeschooled him.

After watching this video, I had great hopes for Mom’s Night Out. As a homeschooler who has broken into the Hollywood system, Erwin was in a unique place to represent homeschoolers like never before.

The first mention of homeschooling in the film is a negative one, unfortunately, perpetuating the stereotype that homeschoolers possess a “mightier than thou” attitude toward children who attend public school. When reporting her missing car, Allyson describes her bumpersticker “My homeschooling student is smarter than your honor student.” This antagonism pits supporters of the public school system against supporters of homeschooling, and vice versa. Homeschoolers may find characters like Cady Heron offensive, while non-homeschoolers may find Allyson’s self-righteous attitude annoying.

However, neither represent homeschooling well and depict reality. According to a survey conducted by the NCES, 85% of homeschooling parents opted to homeschool their children due to “concern about environment of other schools,” while 16% cited “dissatisfaction with the academic instruction available at other schools” as the motivating factor of their decision to homeschool. So yes, homeschooling parents believe they are making a sound decision to school their children at home. But by touting around a “I’m so much better than you for homeschooling my children” attitude, we do a disservice to ourselves and homeschooling. I have known several homeschoolers with this smug attitude, but from personal experience I can say the media has blown this stereotype out of proportion. We should realize that when we possess this antagonism, and when we create characters like Allyson, we are potentially turning more people off homeschoolers than gaining respect for it.

For me, the main disappointment of Mom’s Night Out was Allyson’s reason for homeschooling her children. Allyson is a germaphobe and obsessed with having control. When her children make her a surprise breakfast, instead of enjoying the sweet moment, she freaks out at the thought they might get salmonella.

Later on, Allyson’s husband knows all is not well when he comes home to find his house a mess. Allyson is hiding in her closet, crying and watching an animal video on YouTube on repeat to block the messy house from her mind. The Erwin brothers imply that it is this need to have control over her children’s lives that partially motivates her decision to homeschool. Allyson’s germaphobic and controlling character is supposed to be comedic. However, this kind of comedy is dangerous. Because of it, we don’t take Allyson seriously. Her decision to homeschool her children based on these irrational fears are absurd, so we might assume homeschooling itself is absurd. Erwin had the opportunity to use the mainstream media to represent homeschoolers well and possibly dispel some homeschooling stereotypes. But instead, Erwin further perpetuated these stereotypes and ultimately did homeschooling a disservice.

The Blimey Cow Solution (?)

We live in a highly connected world thanks to the Internet. If we have something to say, we can get it out to the world. Alternative media gives voice to the individual, a direct link between communicator and audience, instead of via the circuitous route of the Hollywood/mass media system. Homeschoolers have embraced alternative media like YouTube to directly represent homeschooling. Some of these homeschoolers are brothers Josh and Jordan Taylor, creators of the YouTube web series “Blimey Cow.” The Taylors first viral video was their video “You Might be a Homeschooler If…”

The success of this video led to many more “You Might Be a Homeschooler If…” videos, and other videos debunking homeschooling stereotypes. Performing parody skits, the Taylors caricature and overemphasize the stereotypes. With Jordan Taylor’s authoritative and ridiculing narration juxtaposed with these skits, the stereotypes now seem absurd. The Taylors, both homeschoolers, don’t seem at all like the stereotypes.

So, is “Blimey Cow” the solution? Should all homeschoolers drop what they’re doing, make a video, and post it on YouTube? Unfortunately, “Blimey Cow” has some similar problems to Mom’s Night Out. Like the Erwin brothers, the Taylors unintentionally perpetuate their own homeschooling stereotypes. For instance, in the video “Seven Lies about Homeschoolers,” Jordan Taylor claims that “most homeschooling families vote Republican. That’s a stereotype that’s actually true.”

That was a pretty general, board statement, so I did some research to see if that was true. While no survey or published research exists on the political demographics of homeschooling families, political scientist and Stanford professor Rob Reich says the homeschooling population has become more diverse. “No longer the preserve of left wing unschoolers and right wing religious fundamentalists, the great range of people who have chosen to home school their children make it difficult to draw even broad generalizations about the phenomenon.” So, the Taylors cannot make this claim without denting their up-to-now intact reputation for dispelling stereotypes. Homeschoolers stereotyping homeschoolers is dangerous because it factionalizes homeschoolers and without a united front, we cannot hope to change the mass media’s ideas of homeschoolers.


Society will not stop stereotyping us if we don’t stop stereotyping ourselves first. We must acknowledge that like all groups and identities, we are individuals in a cosmopolitan community. There is no one type of homeschooler. Homeschooling is growing more popular; it has become more mainstream, and so hopefully we can look to a better future for homeschooler representation in the media. But we must present ourselves well first. Now more and more often, when I tell someone I was homeschooled, I get answers like:

  • That’s so cool! I know someone who was homeschooled!
  • Me too!
  • Tell me more about what you did as a homeschooler.

The media is a platform where we can directly communicate who we are to others. Let’s use it to our advantage.

Learning Moments

My biggest take-away from this course has been that the media may be a reflection of reality, but like all reflections, it is one-dimensional and distorts certain aspects of an issue. For instance, in the excerpt from This American Life we heard this term, we learned how the press convoluted Al Gore’s Love Canal comment. The media misquoted and pulled the sentence out of context. Because news readers and television viewers were not present at the speech, we were “forced” to see the event through the lens of the media. I learned we must critically analyze the media we consume. The media may reflect reality, but it offers a certain reflection of reality as envisioned by someone else.

During this term, I was afraid of becoming overly cynical and critical. I feel we have to try to approach the media with as much of an objective mind that we can muster. We can’t accept everything we read or see, but it’s just as dangerous to assume everything we read and see was created by a malignant entity with evil intentions. My second biggest learning moment this term was realizing there is hope in attaining better balanced, and more inclusive media. With platforms like YouTube, personal blogs, and social media, we can directly share our experiences with the world, instead of allowing the mainstream media, the “middlemen,” to provide us with a prepackaged interpretation of the world around us.

Works Cited

Blimey Cow. “Seven More Lies About Homeschoolers.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 18 November 2013. Web. 27 May 2016.

—. “Messy Mondays: You Might Be a Homeschooler If…” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 30 March 2012. Web. 27 May 2016.

“Digest of Education Statistics 2013.” National Center for Education Statistics: Institute of Education Sciences. U.S. Department of Education, May 2015. Web. 27 May 2016.

Foster, Christine. “In a Class by Themselves.” Stanford Magazine. November/December 2000: n. pag. Web. 27 May 2016.

“Homeschooling in the United States: Statistical Analysis Report.” National Center for Education Statistics: National Household Education Surveys Program. U.S. Department of Education, February 2006. Web. 27 May 2016.

Jamaludin, Khairul Azhar, Norlidah Alias, and Dorothy DeWitt. “Research and Trends in the Studies of Homeschooling Practices: A Review on Selected Journals.” TOJET: The Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology. 14.3 (2015). Web. 27 May 2016.

Mean Girls. Dir. Mark Waters. Perf. Lindsay Lohan, Jonathan Bennett, Rachel McAdams. Paramount, 2004. Film.

“Mission Statement.” Affirm Films. Sony, n.d. Web. 27 May 2016.

Mom’s Night Out. Dir. Andrew and Jon Erwin. Perf. Sarah Drew, Sean Astin, Patricia Heaton, and Trace Adkins. Affirm Films,  2014. Film.

Mom’s Night Out Movie. “Mom’s Night Out: From One Homeschooler to Another.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 17 April 2014. Web. 27 May 2016.

Reich, Rob. “More Oversight Is Needed.” The New York Times. The New York Times Company, 2 December 2015. Web. 27 May 2016.

Reitz, Michael. “How the Media Gets it Wrong about Homeschooling.” Practical Homeschooling. Home Life, Inc., 2004. Web. 27 May 2016.

Unknown User. “Mean Girls – Homeschooled.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 30 October 2010. Web. 27 May 2016.

Plastic Surgery – A Cultural Reflection in South Korea


by Chau Nguyen

Gangnam district

According to the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ISAPS), the U.S, Brazil, and South Korea are the top three countries with the highest cosmetic surgical procedures in 2014. South Korea, although was ranked in third place, is actually the plastic surgery capital of the world. No exact number could be found online, but you can calculate the number of surgical procedures for every 1000 citizens by taking the total number of procedures, dividing it by their total population in 2014 (which can be found here), then time 1000. It is true that South Korea has he highest number with 9 procedures for every 1000 citizens.

Plastic surgery is a controversial topic not only in South Korea but in any country that people can have access to this service. To make plastic surgery become such a high demand industry, Korean media must have played a big part. What interests me the most is not their marketing strategy, but the mindset of Korean people on this topic. What makes it be widely accepted and spread across Korean generations (and probably among other Asian countries as well)? After doing some research, I have found that the Korean entertainment industry often sets beauty trends and standards that are followed by their citizens. These admired beauty standards combining with the social beliefs in South Korea has made plastic surgery a necessity, to the point where it can improve someone’s chance to get a job.

So, what are Korean beauty standards? Let’s take a look at this music video, Lion Heart, by Girls’ Generation, one of the most popular Korean idol groups.

The female singers in this video all have something very similar to each other: small V-line face shape, round fore head, double eyelids, tall nose bridge, beautiful smile/teeth, fair skin, thin body, bright and youthful makeup, colored hair, colored contact lenses and a cute yet sexy look. These characteristics are considered the modern beauty standards in South Korea. And thanks the booming entertainment industry, Korean people not only idolize these celebrities’ look but they are also obsessed with them. In the article, The K-pop Plastic Surgery Obsession, written by Zara Stone for The Atlantic magazine in 2013, the author mentioned about James Turnbull, a writer, lecturer in Korea on feminism and pop culture, who is also the owner of the popular blog The Grand Narrative. Turnbull noted that the main idea of producing idol groups is for the audience to like the stars’ appearance and to want to look like them.

In this plastic surgery advertisement, the after-surgery picture shows the model with the similar features: double eyelids, small V-line (or “contoured” face shape), tall nose bridge, and fair skin. Her before picture depicts her looking dull and unhappy, while the after picture is the opposite. To most of us, she looks beautiful in the before picture, but according to Korean beauty standards, her look could be improved. Notice the texts in the ad: “facial contouring that makes you Beautiful like flowers”,“make over Beautiful Face”,  “Contour your face to find your hidden beauty”, “TL Plastic Surgery Where you can find your true beauty.” These words constantly remind the audience how their natural born features could be  undesirable, that doing a facial contouring procedure will help them find their “true beauty”. Beauty is no longer a product of nature, it is now a product plastic surgery clinics and the K-pop industry.

But has this kind of beauty standard always existed in South Korea? I don’t think so. If you look at the picture of Miss Korea  in 1960 and Miss Korea in 2012. The Korean beauty standards in the 1960 still reflected what a normal Korean person would look like (slanted eyes, round face, flatter nose).

Mihija Sohn, Miss Korea 1960, and Sung-hye Lee Miss Korea 2012. (The Atlantic)

Mihija Sohn, Miss Korea 1960, and Sung-hye Lee Miss Korea 2012. (The Atlantic)

After the Korean War, Dr. David Ralph Millard, the chief plastic surgeon for the U.S Marine Corps at that time, went to South Korea in 1954 to help treat Korean accident and burn victims. He later perform the first recorded double eyelid surgery with his reason being to help Asian women minimize the sleepy, unemotional look from their slanted eyes .Despite the fact that his first clientele wasn’t Korean celebrities but prostitutes who wanted to attract American soldiers with their new look, once the first plastic surgery clinic opened in 1961, the number of double eyelid surgery procedures kept multiplying (Stone, 2013). However, not until the entertainment industry flourished that plastic surgery has become such a popular phenomenon in South Korea.

In the early 90s, Lee Soo Man founded one of the first and biggest entertainment agency, S.M Entertainment. The company created many legendary Kpop groups including H.O.T, S.E.S. It now owns Exo, Super Junior and Girls’ Generation. Along with other agencies, J.Y.P and Y.G, S.M has been recruiting young talented boys and girls in their early teenage years. They then have to go through a strict training and not all trainees are guaranteed to be able to make a debut. The group members often have plastic surgery done prior to their debut to make sure they look aesthetically pleasant and suit the Korean beauty standards. When they get famous, they automatically become the trend-setters and many young children will try to copy everything that they do.

In the article, About Face written by Patricia Marx for The New Yorker magazine, Eugene Yun, a private-equity fund manager, told Marx that in Korean language, instead of saying my husband, wives say “our husband”. This, in fact, is a form of antithesis individualism. When Korean people go to restaurant, they often order the same thing. When they go shopping, they want to buy the most popular item. If you have a chance to improve yourself, to look better, you should because everyone else is doing it, so why shouldn’t you?! Hailey Kim, a Korean-American 17 year-old girl, explained to Zara Stone the reason she had a nose job and double eyelid surgery was because she thought her face didn’t look right before (slanted eyes and flat nose). Her mom, aunts and cousins all had surgery done in Korea and gave her full support to follow their footstep.

South Korea is a very competitive society where people compete with each other on materials, money, social status, health and physical appearance. They want to try their best to do everything in their life. That could be measured by surpassing your friends, family, neighbors on whatever they do or have in life. Eunkook Suh, a psychology professor at Yonsei University, in Seoul, stated “In Korea, we don’t care what you think about yourself. Other people’s evaluations of you matter more.” It is because Korean people’s mindset is heavily influenced by Confucianism. He also said that a lot of Korean people believe in an increment theory rather than an entity theory when evaluating someone’s potentials. In another word, practice makes perfect. Maybe you weren’t born with a certain talent, but if you keep practicing that skill set, you will eventually be good at it. And If you weren’t born looking like a K-pop star, or having one of their features, you can now do so with plastic surgery.

Nowadays, having a higher education, good work ethics or talents is not enough for the young Korean people to get a good job, especially women. Kang Nayeon, a high school student from Gumi, a small city outside of Seoul, said that some companies didn’t like to hire people that had had nose job and eyelid surgery, but they still preferred hiring pretty people. And that is why parents allow and sometimes encourage their children to have plastic surgery done when they are younger so when they grow older, it will look more natural on them. An eyelid surgery as a high school graduation gift is very common thing in South Korea.

In conclusion, plastic surgery has become a necessity for Korean people to improve not only their look and self-esteem, but also their chance to get a good job. If someone abuse it, by having too many procedures, they might get frown upon, but having some subtle changes like double eyelid surgery, a nose job, botox or filler would be considered normal. Korean beauty standards in this case is a reflection of their popular culture and social beliefs. Regardless of what the rest of the world think, Korean people will still pursue their beauty standards by one way or another. I think everyone should have the freedom to define their own beauty and decide on how to look their best. However, people should raise concerns about the safety and regulation issues within the plastic surgery industry in Korea to decrease the number of incidents and illegal practices.

Learning moments

This class has sparked my interested in writing and although I don’t have the best writing skills, I can see my improvement throughout the term by reading my own writing and going through the thought process. I think being able to write about a topic that interests me is the biggest help, along with all the required readings and online resources.

My favorite blog post was about analyzing advertisements, I think everyone’s posts were very interesting and diverse. Writing peer review letters was another good learning moment for me because I got to apply what I learned and interpret it in form of suggestions. It also helped me remember different concepts and methods when writing an essay.


Giunta, Stephen Xavier. “ISAPS International Survey on Aesthetic/Cosmetic-Procedures Performed in 2014.” Stem Cells in Aesthetic Procedures(2014): n. pag. IASP. 2014. Web. 20 Nov. 2015. <;.

“Lion Heart – Girls’ Generation.” YouTube. SMTOWN, 17 Aug. 2015. Web. 3 Nov. 2015. <;.

Marx, Patricia. “About Face.” The New Yorker. N.p., 23 Mar. 2015. Web. 10 Nov. 2015. <;.

Stone, Zara. “The K-Pop Plastic Surgery Obsession.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 24 May 2013. Web. 10 Nov. 2015. <;.

“TL PLASTIC SURGERY Facial Contouring.” YouTube. TPL Plastic Surgery, 1 Jan. 2015. Web. 3 Nov. 2015. <;.









Finding Identity in the Media


Consumption of mass media is an almost ritualistic part of our days. We consume movies, television shows, radio shows, news articles, music videos, youtube videos, and the list goes on. The media portrays all different types of people from all different backgrounds. I strongly identify with being a woman and my Chinese-American identity. I decided to look at how the media portrays this image. Looking at different movies and my own experiences, I concluded that the American media uses stereotypes and generalizations to build the image of the Chinese women. The lives of Chinese people are often portrayed from a biased view. By looking at media produced by Chinese and Chinese-Americans, a more honest picture of the Chinese-American identity began to appear.

Chinese women are exotic. They are petite, oriental creatures. Chinese women are submissive. They are obedient and unassertive and unassuming. Chinese people only eat rice and noodles.They are smart, disciplined, and must maintain the family’s honor. These are all ideas and messages that I have seen in the media. Lucy Liu, a Chinese-American actress, is one of the few actresses in Hollywood that shares my identity. She is also arguably the most famous too. She is well known for her roles in Charlie’s Angels, Kill Bill, and Elementary (Lucy Liu). The characters she plays are usually smart and strong. But also sexualized. For example, in Charlie’s Angels, Liu plays a detective who uses “martial arts, tech skills and sex-appeal” to solve a crime (Charlie’s Angels). Liu also usually plays supporting roles. Liu plays Dr. Joan Watson, a modern version of Dr. John Watson, in the hit tv show Elementary. And while her role is prominent, she is still second to the lead character Sherlock, played by Johnny Lee Miller (Elementary). Playing supporting roles is all too common for Chinese people. In her post at, “katmelon” gives numerous examples of Chinese people playing only small roles in film. One example she gives is the character of Miriam Wu in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. In the books, Miriam plays a “strong lesbian, fearless with regards to her sexuality. Yet, she is relegated to an (almost) non-speaking role in the movie.” This pattern of putting Chinese Women in only supporting roles furthers the stereotype that they are submissive and unassertive. By putting them in the background, the media is essentially silencing them.

Mulan is one of the few movies that has a Chinese women as the lead character. The animated film was released by Disney in 1998 and received mostly positive reviews. The film, intended for children, makes an attempt to diversify the Disney Princess pool by adding a Chinese character. However, Disney Studios generalized and stereotyped the Chinese culture in its attempt. Originally based on the Chinese legend of Hua Mulan, Disney studios changed many aspects of the story in order to make the film more culturally relatable to the American audience (Xu). In the article “Cultural Deformations and Reformulations: A Case Study of Disney’s Mulan in English and Chinese,”  a “comparison between the film and the ballad clearly indicates that additions, omissions, specifications, explications and alterations are employed in the design of characters and plot structure in Mulan.” The film is essentially a mash of different parts of Chinese culture. Cantonese and mandarin terms are used interchangeable and historic time frames are also mixed. Disney Studios disregard for accurately depicting the culture supports the argument that the media generalizes and stereotypes my identity.

The most honest and real depiction of my identity came from media made by Chinese-Americans. A wonderful example of my identity being depicted sincerely came from An Rong Xu. Xu is a Chinese-American photographer, filmmaker, and artist who lives and was raised in New York City. In a New York Times article, she shares a photo essay on the experiences of other Chinese-Americans. Candid photos paint a powerful narrative: that Chinese-Americans are just as American as everyone else. 

lucy-liu-covers-emmy-magazine-04  VS 7Photo Credit: Brian Bowen Smith                      Photo Credit: An Rong Xu

A side by side comparison of how the media presents a Chinese women and how An Rong Xu expresses her identity drives the point home. In the media, the images are very glamorous and posed. Brian Bowen Smith is a pulitzer prize winning photographer. A lot of the work he does are portrait shots of celebrities and business people. His job is to make his subject look attractive, fashionable, and appealing.  Xu’s subjects are usually candid and in an everyday situations. Her photos are intended to show her identity with others. Both people are photographers and both are shooting a Chinese person. However, the images are radically different.

The media likes to separate Chinese-Americans from other Americans. I have always felt categorized as different from my classmates. It was confusing because, in my heart, I felt like I was equal yet somehow I wasn’t. I think the media’s exclusion of Chinese women from mainstream media as well as its inaccurate portrayal of us is to blame. It’s important to realize that the media does not depict an accurate picture of one’s’ identity. The media relies on stereotypes and cliches to get their point across easily. Seeking out sources outside of the mainstream media is where you will find a better understanding of identities.

Portland State has a very diverse student body. But I usually do not have the opportunity to learn and interact with my classmates. This class has been a great opportunity to read and share experiences with my classmates. The blog posts and group discussions allow me to talk with you guys in a way that I don’t normally in a real classroom. This term we’ve discussed a lot of drawbacks media can have. We’ve talked about wikipedia and discussed whether or not it is a reliable source of information. We’ve looked at the news and how they can be biased based on their word choice. However, I’ve learned and practiced a kind of media that can be a wonderful tool to connect and share your ideas. The big learning moment of this term is  really building on how to be literate in media. As I said, media can be tricky and it’s important to be able to decipher the good types of media from bad media.


“Charlie’s Angels.” IMDb., n.d. Web. 16 Nov. 2015.

“Elementary.” IMDb., n.d. Web. 16 Nov. 2015.

“Lucy Liu.” IMDb., n.d. Web. 16 Nov. 2015.

Xu, An R. “Embracing My Chinese-American Identity.” The New York Times 29 Mar. 2015, New York ed., Op-Ed sec.: SR5. Print.

Xu, Mingwu, and Chuanmao Tian. “Cultural Deformations and Reformulations: A Case Study of Disney’s Mulan in English and Chinese.” Critical Arts 27.2 (2013): 182-210. Web..




“Who’s the nerd now?”


From Outcast to Social Norm: The Evolution of the Nerd

Picture a Nerd. What do you see? Pasty skin, thick glasses and a pocket protector? Maybe you imagine someone who is socially awkward, keeps to themselves, or possibly someone chilling in the school cafeteria enjoying a competitive game of Magic the Gathering. Imagine these stereotypes while you still can, because they are being revamped, updated and upgraded. Popular media, fashion and social popularity have enabled nerds to transform into something beautiful and desirable. Nerds are evolving – becoming a social norm in today’s popular culture.


“A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…“  (Star Wars, 1977.)

Take a look back to the beginning… How are nerds so different now, compared to how they were in the past? What has enabled them to evolve into something so popular, so fresh, and so sought after? It’s best to take a gander in Popular Media, starting with Revenge of the Nerds.

This is a movie that fulfills all nerd stereotypes. Revenge of the Nerds is a film that strives off the segregation of nerd vs jock. The Freshmen hall is taken over by a group of jocks who accidently burn down their own home, leaving the unfortunate Freshmen body left to live in the College Auditorium. The class is asked to join fraternities, so they can relocate. All students find a fraternity, except a small group of students, who are segregated as nerds. This movie reflects the change of how we view nerds in popular culture. The nerds fight back and form their own fraternity. They develop the courage and power to be proud of what they are and the media loves it. This movie has all the college humor; from panty raids and booger jokes, to underage drinking and sexual misconduct – but it revolves it around a group that is less than popular: Nerds! Revenge of the Nerds kick-starts the beginning of nerd popularity and nerd pride.

Gibert: “I just wanted to say that I’m a nerd, and I’m here tonight to stand up for the rights of other nerds. I mean uh, all our lives we’ve been laughed at and made to feel inferior. And tonight, those bastards, they trashed our house. Why? Cause we’re smart? Cause we look different? Well, we’re not. I’m a nerd, and uh, I’m pretty proud of it.”

The popularity of this movie encouraged more and more nerd Protagonists in the media. A more recent and comparable example, The Big Bang Theory, is an extremely popular sitcom about nerds, just being nerds. This show survives on continuous cheesy geek jokes and fulfilling stereotypes. It’s a show about a group of nerds who don’t have to get cooler as they get older; they are already kings by being nerdy as ever. These nerds are funny, smart, and cool! The show sells so much merchandise; how many of those “Bazinga!” shirts have you seen floating around? The audience loves the lives these nerds portray, making nerds more and more popular. The more popular the nerd becomes, the more the nerd population will grow. Soon, the nerd will become just like anybody else: Normal.


“In my mind, a nerd is someone who is passionate about (and very good at) something – be it math, Irish literature, D&D, botany, whatever. Somewhere along the line, this changed to being part of a certain culture, watching this TV show and wearing that type of clothing…”  (Westcott, 2012.)

As the popularity of “nerditude” increases, we witness the lowering of the nerd bar. “Recently, the number of Hollywood celebrities who claim to be or have been nerds has skyrocketed.” (Hwang, 2013.) Nerds have been becoming so popular and so cool that celebrities want to be them. Celebrities have no fear of being ridiculed by fans because nerds have become so socially acceptable. Take a look at fashion. “Revenge of the Nerd fashion reflects the times we live in.” (Vogue, 2015.) Overall, fashion expresses what’s “popular.” Thick, black framed glasses are being worn on the red carpet. Nerd culture sells. We are experiencing the rise of “fake nerds” and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. The more the nerd, inside and out, becomes more socially acceptable, the more the nerd becomes a social norm.


What is this image trying to sell? We learned earlier in our course how to analyze advertisements. This is very straight forward. Thick framed glasses, goofy bowtie t-shirts and cardigan sweaters are in. Nerds are sexy, and Forever 21 knows it. It’s time to make profit on what’s popular. We also learned about the influences that advertisements have on us. Fashion is an identity. If looking like a nerd is in fashion, why wouldn’t you want to look like one? This model is clearly attractive, even when wearing an attire, that in the past, was considered not so attractive. This further encourages the idea of nerds becoming a social norm.

“Be nice to nerds. Chances are you’ll end up working for one…”  (Charles J. Skyes, 1996.)

With the rise of the internet and advancement in technology, all due respect goes to our nerds. “That’s the only way that the world can solve its big problems: by mainstreaming oddball people and ideas that might have been shunned in a prior generation.” (Hwang, 2013.) We need brains to help us with technology. It’s as if the roles have switched; instead of being attracted to muscles, we’re attracted to that big sexy brain. Instead of watching football, why not try watching “Lets Plays”? Instead of organizing strategies in sports, why not organize strategies in “Larps”? Lets Plays are videos on Youtube of someone playing through a game. A Larp is Live Action Role Playing; so a bunch of people get together and act out DnD related activities with foam weapons and fun costumes. Larping has become so popular there is even a website, that allows you to search for local larping communities; and trust me, there are a ton.  How fun is it to dress up as your favorite video game or comic book character and meet up with like-minded people at organized events such as Comicon? These are examples of nerdy things that are becoming more and more popular. This is the rise of nerd culture.

How do the nerds feel about all of this attention? If nerds are becoming mainstream, are they no longer special? There’s this thing called Nerd Pride that has also developed with the growing popularity of nerds. Nerds have fought against popular culture for many years, lost many battles, and have now finally won. New nerds keep popping out of the wood-works who have never had to deal with nerd prosecution. These “fake nerds” are those who think nerds are cool and so desperately want to be nerds. “Singles on dating websites define themselves in their profiles as “nerds” and “geeks” – in a positive way.” (Westcott, 2012.) It is a known fact, due to Nerd Pride, that nerds get highly irritated by the increasing amount of “fake nerds.”


This rise in popularity has allowed nerds to have their very own holiday: Geek Pride Day, May 25th. This day was chosen to coincide with the first Star Wars Film, which was released on May 25th, 1977. It is a world-wide celebration of nerdom; where you can celebrate anything and everything worth “geeking” out over. Tech brands go nuts using this day to increase sales and advertisements. There’s money in nerds, whether it be from fashion or technology – the growing acceptance of nerds is income.

“As more and more people become enthusiasts, traditional “nerd” and “geek” interests – Star Trek, comic books, anime, video games – are moving into the mainstream.” (Westcott, 2012.)

The idea of the nerd has evolved. Past nerds were socially awkward and afraid of being outcasts – while present day nerds are sought out and viewed as attractive. Being a nerd now is mainstream. Movies that have been making the most in box office have been comic book and video game movies. There is a ton of money in the video game market. The more nerds, the more profit. Nerds are no longer side characters, but main characters in media. They are the protagonists, the heroes. They inspire the rise of the internet. There are many people who are calling themselves nerds, because they so desperately want to become nerds.

Why does this all matter? It’s proof that society is changing, adapting and evolving. Society is growing and essentially becoming more “open-minded.” Those who were once ridiculed are now honored. Gender roles have been switching, advertisements are focusing on improving the world rather than selling something, and social identities are adjusting. Nerds are evolving and becoming a social norm, and that is amazing.  Nerds may not be enjoying the rise of the “fake nerds,” but they are definitely appreciating the social freedom popular culture has given them. The rise of nerds in the media has granted them power; but the more nerds become mainstream, the more they become just like everybody else: A Social Norm.


Works Cited

Edmundson-Cornell, Harry. The Big Bang Theory and Geek Culture. 4 Jan. 2014. Web. 18 Nov. 2015.

Fox, Jessie David. The Evolution of the TV Nerd, From Potsie to Urkel to Abed. 12 March 2013. Web. 28 Oct. 2015.

Hwang, Victor W. A Huge Global Epidemic: Fake Nerds. 3 Jun. 2013. Web. 28 Oct. 2015.

Kempley, Rita. Nerds Come Into Their Own, At Last. The Washington Post. 10 Aug. 1984. Web. 8 Nov. 2015.

Kim, Monica. Revenge of the Nerds: Why Geek Chic is the Next Fashion Phenomenon. Vogue Magazine. 25 Aug. 2015. Web. 8 Nov. 2015.

Revenge of the Nerds Quotes. IMDB. Web. 18 Nov. 2015.

Sifferlin, Alexandra. What to Know About Geek Pride Day. Time Magazine. 25 May 2015. Web. 8 Nov. 2015.

Star Wars Quotes. IMDB. Web. 18 Nov. 2015.

Westcott, Kathryn. Are “Geek” and “Nerd” Now Positive Terms? BBC News Magazine. 16 Nov. 2012. Web. 28 Oct. 2015.

West, Randolph. Skyes, Charles J. Charles J. Skyes – Some Rules Kids Won’t Learn in School. 19 Sep. 1996. Web. 8 Nov. 2015.


Obsessions, Compulsions, and the Media


Willow Rickert-Osborne
Pop Culture 254

When examining the media and its content it’s often found to be loaded with stereotypes. The effect of these over exaggerated characters are supposed to liven the television show or movie they are placed in. However, sometimes these stereotypes are damaging to the viewers. For example, obsessive compulsive disorder is the focus of this paper and was analyzed through three different popular culture artifacts: As Good As It Gets, Monk, and The Big Bang Theory. After dissecting each primary source there were a few comparisons that lead me to my conclusion: characters with OCD stay the center for comic relief while half of the disorder is disregarded. Because of this, the media is reinforcing negative and unrealistic stereotypes as opposed to breaking them.

To give some context on the disorder Heyman et al states that OCD is a widely common mental illness (424). Symptoms associated with the illness include the patient suffering from obsessions and compulsions (most of the time). Sometimes obsessions and compulsions can be separate. Thus, recurring similarities are “…anxiety about harm… a need for symmetry or orderliness, often associated with counting, ordering, and arranging compulsions; unwanted fears and images about committing aggressive or sexual acts; and compulsive hoarding” (Heyman et al 425). In other words, OCD is a branch of an anxiety disorder that causes the brain to have unwanted thoughts that result in some of these compulsions listed above.


The first pop culture artifact I chose to analyze is As Good As It Gets, a movie filmed in 1997 with Jack Nicholson as the main character: Melvin Udall. In order to see how the media wanted this movie presented to the public it was important to watch one of the main trailers. Some of the focal areas of emphasis in the trailer start off with the Melvin Udall being extremely rude to his neighbor. After that, Mr. Udall is automatically called appalling by the narrator, a freak show, and the worst person on the earth. Watching the trailer doesn’t give the same effect as just listening the words. This is because while the narrator says these negative comments about Melvin, he is acting out in ways that are considered funny or immature. For instance, in the trailer Melvin is seen dancing around in his favorite restaurant mocking the people who are sitting in his seat, which he sits in every day, and jumping over cracks in the sidewalk. Thus, in order to really see how damaging the trailer can be it’s important to analyze it. According to college professor Bill Hudenko, Jack Nicholson did a great job at portraying the disorder in daily life compared to other media depictions. Therefore, Melvin definitely exemplifies the characteristics of someone who has obsessive compulsive disorder. A few reasons he does a successful job portraying the disorder lies in his actions. For example, Melvin has to lock his door three times before he leaves his house, his candy is separated and color coded, and he eats breakfast at the same diner every day. While you read this you may be wondering why I chose an artifact that is almost twenty years old as opposed to something current. Well, I wanted to choose an older artifact so I could compare it with some of the newer ones that will follow. While I think the movie As Good As It Gets is trying to make an attempt at raising awareness about the disorder it does it in a more negative light when compared to Monk or The Big Bang Theory. Despite the fact that Jack Nicholson successfully depicts some of the common actions that people with OCD experience he is still portrayed as an unfriendly bully who is misunderstood.


Another primary source that displays the identity of obsessive compulsive disorder is the television show Monk. This show’s main character is a detective living a perfectly normal life with this disorder. He displays some of the more common compulsions like washing his hands and organization in comparison with As Good as It Gets. In one episode Monk was at the doctor’s office and there were a few vials of blood on the counter. Of course the blood wasn’t evenly placed in the vials, so he mixed the different blood types together in order to get them to be level with each other! He does this with decaf and regular coffee pots in another episode as well. However, the whole point of this series is to show that people with this disorder can lead normal lives and have careers. While it is a comedy it can still be inspirational to its viewers because it gives the audience the idea that obsessive compulsive disorder is something that can be conquered and functioned with on a daily basis.


Lastly, Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory shares signs of obsessive compulsive disorder as well. This can be seen in almost every episode when he goes to visit his neighbor Penny. He has to knock on her door three times while saying her name in order for it to feel right. There was one episode where she came to the door before the third knock and he had to ask her to shut it so he could finish his ritual. Sheldon also is very serious about where he sits on the couch as well as his spot in the parking lot of the college where he works. His consistency and dramatic attitude if that consistency gets broken is common in patients with obsessive compulsive disorder.
sheldoncooper1 9_3

After reviewing all three of the pop culture artifacts it’s important to recognize that there is some truth in these stereotypes. For instance, a lot of the compulsions are very typical for people who suffer from this disorder. However, these tics are not as funny as they are portrayed in the media. Experiencing these compulsions can be extremely isolating and emotional and that is something neither one of these sources addresses. Also, the other side to the disorder is never discussed which would be the trigger for these compulsions: the obsessions. According to Heyman et al. in the Clinical Review, the obsessions are uncontrollable thoughts that the patient has and in order to eliminate the stress/anxiety from these unwanted thoughts they are acted upon through the compulsions. Thus, compulsions are unwanted actions that are uncontrollable. In other words, this disorder is something that cannot always be contained physically or emotionally.

Despite the issue that the media does not fully portray this disorder within it’s characters it is also important to realize that it can. As of now our stereotypes on mental illness in the media give the general public a preconceived idea on how people with mental illnesses act and what type of people they are. The result of this is a growing judgmental society. For instance, so far violence is one of the most common stereotypical characteristics of a person who has a mental illness (Stuart 5). This isn’t just addressed in tv shows or movies either. The news is another culprit for the negativity that surrounds mental illness. In short, news reporters want to draw in a large audience, so over exaggeration is very typical within news stories. However, there are some reporters out there that are honest and true to the story, but still choose the negative story because it will attract a larger audience (Stuart). While these are common issues in the media that shape our perceptions from early on we can start to change how our ideas are formed about mental illness. We can achieve this change in perception by putting more emphasis on positive stories or even a balance between the negatives and positives. By doing this we won’t be prone to believe people who suffer from disorders are so different from the general public.

Learning Moments:

Before this class I was pretty ignorant to the media. I think that’s one reason why I chose this SINQ. I was a hermit. I don’t have Facebook. I don’t have television. I didn’t have the knowledge to analyze the media because I wasn’t constantly interacting with it. However, this class forced me to become comfortable with this all consuming pop culture. For example, in week three we were given a hand out that would help us during the process of dissecting an ad: Deconstructing an Advertisement. This assignment was engaging on a level I had never been with advertisements. In order to test out our new knowledge we were prompted to use this handout and analyze an advertisement for e-cigs. After this, I started to really think about the ads I am subjected to on a daily basis and why or why not they interest me. Some more resources that encouraged this basis for analysis were given to us in week two which were three videos focused on analysis moves. These included “acknowledging bad habits”, “identifying purpose and form”as well as “microscope”. The first move, “acknowledging bad habits, stressed that they key to truly making a strong analysis is to be an objective thinker, while “identifying form” forced us to understand who the ad was for and “microscope” encouraged us to see details and realize that they are there for a reason. Analysis wasn’t something I was particularly good at. However, by having these resources under my belt I feel more confident when it comes to analyzing pop culture media.

As Good as It Gets. Dir. James L. Brooks. Perf. Jack Nicholson, Helen Hunt, and Greg Kinnear. Tristar, 1997. Film.
The Big Bang Theory. CBS. 24 Sep. 2007. Television.
Deamer, Kacey. “Cleaning Up OCD Stereotypes”. 15 November 2009. 29 October 2015. Web.
Heyman, D Mataix-Cols, N A Fineberg. “Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder” Clinical Review. 333.7565 (2006): 424-29. Print.
Monk. USA. 12 July. 2002. Television.
Stuart, Heather. “Media Portrayal of Mental Illness and Its Treatments: What Effect Does It Have on People with Mental Illness?” CNS Drugs. (2006). 99-105. Print.

Shrinking the Persona of the Shrink



Images of psychotherapists in popular media span a vast range of archetypes, some are cold and clinical, others are compassionate or wise, or even evil, depending on the needs of the larger story. These characters can be hapless buffoons or destructive mad scientists, but in truth their main purpose in a story is almost always to support the character development of others.

It is difficult to pinpoint a consistent stereotypical psychotherapist in popular media, but we can identify a few common themes. These themes show up as polarizations within the characters. The most common division I see is the polarity of the cold, clinical psychoanalyst and the warm, friendly and supportive therapist. We can see an example of the clinical type in the prison psychiatrist, Dr. Silberman, in The Terminator movies. In The Terminator series, the protagonist in this story, Sarah Connor, is the mother of a future military leader who is destined to play a key part in a battle between humanity and an army of robots equipped with artificial intelligence that have turned on their creators and attempt to exterminate humanity. Sarah is made aware of her special role by a soldier in her son’s army who has travelled back in time to protect her from a robotic Terminator (also from the future) sent back to kill her. As a result, Sarah has embarked on a personal mission to prepare her son, John, for his destiny, while also doing anything she can to avert the coming battle. Her attempt to destroy the company that will ultimately develop the deadly robotic technology lands her in a maximum security mental asylum. Dr. Silberman is cynical and dismissive of her story, although he thinks it is creative enough to warrant a book, which would advance his career. A letter appearing in The Psychiatrist discusses the negative view of psychiatry offered in the movie Terminator 2 – Judgement Day, also pointing out how the Terminator robot itself embodies the qualities of coldness and lack of understanding of emotional processes (Sheldon, L. 1992). I feel that Dr. Silberman is also made to represent the force of doubt. His doubt in Sarah’s story echoes the people in our lives who doubt our dreams…the voices of reason that keep us trapped in the mundane expectations of the world. Like Dr. Silberman however, these voices of doubt speak not out of concern for us, but rather out of self-interest. People around us benefit when we ignore our sense of destiny (or at least they think they do), and will generally do everything in their power to hold us down if our ambitions take us to a place that is unfamiliar and frightening to them.

Contrast this cold, clinical stereotype with the character of Dr. Maguire in the movie Good Will Hunting. In this story Will, a Boston laborer who is also an unrecognized genius, works as a janitor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and anonymously solves a difficult mathematics problem posted on a public chalkboard. Eventually he is discovered by a professor at the Institute, but Will is also in trouble with the law and does not appear to be moving his life in a positive direction. The professor arranges for his release from jail and sends him to a psychotherapist named Dr. Maguire, who is eventually able to open up the highly sarcastic and defensive Will by revealing some of the demons of the Doctor’s own past. Prior to meeting Dr. Maguire, Will has managed to offend and frustrate several therapists, sabotage several job interviews arranged by the professor, as well as a promising romantic relationship. Dr. Maguire helps Will discover what is important to him, and find to the courage to pursue the relationship he was pushing away. Where Dr. Silberman is continually thwarting Sarah Connor’s efforts at self-actualization (once promising to have her transferred to a minimum security facility if she behaves, then reneging on the promise), Dr. Maguire is continually leading Will into more empowerment until eventually Will is able to leave both his blue collar friends and the professor behind in order to make his own way in life.


Good Will Hunting: Dr Maguire and Will

Another contrast could be found in the competence of the two doctors. Where Dr. Silberman is bureaucratic, small-minded, focused on personal career ambition and unable to grasp his patient’s reality, Dr. Maguire is wise, compassionate, rich with life experience and willing to walk the same journey as his patients. It is interesting to note that the cold, clinical approach to psychiatry was the hallmark of Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, whereas the warm and emotionally supportive method was developed much more recently by Carl Rogers who founded the much more popular school of humanistic psychology.


Having learned in class to determine the intended audience of a work, I can see how Dr. Silberman speaks to an audience distrustful of psychotherapists and the clinical, Freudian approach in general, whereas Dr. Maguire is speaking to the part of the audience still open to receiving help, an audience that still has hope for the humanity of the psychiatric profession.

Another polarity seen in popular images of psychologists touches on the issue of morality. In the television series The Sopranos, mafia boss Tony Soprano begins seeing a psychiatrist, Dr. Jennifer Melfi. Dr. Melfi is in many ways a more realistic portrayal of a typical psychotherapist than any I have discussed so far. She is continually concerned about the ethical lines she might cross in her relationship with Soprano, often turning to a colleague for advice and perspective, and agonizing over the small breaches of ethical protocol she inevitably finds herself committing. In contrast to this, we find Dr. Vogel in the Showtime series Dexter. Dexter (the title character) is a psychopath who works as a forensic expert for the Miami police department. He relieves his compulsion to kill by following “The Code” handed down to him by his father, who was a police officer. The Code requires Dexter to only kill other serial killers who have escaped justice and will clearly kill again, thus making his condition serve the public good. In the final season we meet a psychiatrist named Dr. Evelyn Vogel. We then learn that Dr. Vogel was approached by Dexter’s father when Dexter’s psychopathy began to manifest as a child, and that it was Dr. Vogel who created “The Code”.

Dexter Vogel

Dexter: Dr Vogel and Dexter

Dr. Vogel is decisive, confident and willing to gamble with not only the mental health, but the very lives of others, in order to manifest her vision. We see in Dr. Vogel not a therapist, but rather a sort of psychiatric mad scientist. It speaks to a very cynical view of the Psychiatric profession.

In class I was taught to identify the purpose of a media presentation, and I think the purpose of Dr. Vogel’s character is to highlight the moral dilemma that Dexter embodies by showing his creator, a cold, but still sympathetic character who pays the ultimate price for her gamble in the end as she is murdered by one of her patients. Dr. Vogel jolts us out of an assumption that psychologists and psychiatrists follow a strict code of ethics, and in this case it is revealed that Dr. Vogel has thrown away her own code of conduct in order to give one to Dexter. There is compelling justification given for this course of action however: Dexter is a psychopath, and there was little hope of actually curing him, so given the choice of either committing him to a life of institutionalization or allowing him to kill until he was stopped by the police, Dr. Vogel chose a third option; to channel his condition in a way that served the public good by programming him to kill only other killers. This decision by itself will divide an audience, as some will favor the effectiveness and efficacy of vigilante justice where others will be appalled. To increase the tension even more, we have a long history with Dexter by this point in the series, and know him to be basically kind, likeable and well-intentioned. This clouds our vision and makes us forget that he has also mistakenly killed the wrong man once, and innocents have died in order to protect his secret. We also overlook that he has repeatedly sabotaged police investigations in order to prevent killers from being apprehended so that he could take their lives himself.

That such ethically problematic practices exist in the profession is certainly true, as in the case of psychiatrists assisting in the design of torture interrogation techniques in the Abu Ghraib prison camps holding suspected Iraqi terrorists (Clark 2006), but the greater truth is that psychotherapists receive extensive training in ethics and codes of conduct before they are licensed.

A variation of this analysis is presented by Ronald Pies in his article Psychiatry in the Media: The Vampire, The Fisher King, and the Zaddik where he cites three distinct archetypes embodied by psychotherapists in movies and television. The first archetype, the “Vampire”, corresponds to the evil mad scientist, pointing out that, for instance, the cannibalistic serial killer Hannibal Lector in the movie Silence of the Lambs was in fact, a psychiatrist, and that his ancestry is later traced back to “…Giuliano Bevisangue, a fearsome twelfth-century figure” pointing out that “The name Bevisangue may be understood as a condensation of the verb bevere (to drink) and sangue (blood)” (Pies, R. 2001).

The second archetype, the “Fisher King”, corresponds somewhat to the warm, supportive Doctor, but is also bound to the “wounded healer” archetype. Dr. Maguire in Good Will Hunting clearly fits this role, drawing on his own unresolved pain from the death of his wife in order to pull Will out of his cynicism and defensiveness, so that he will find the strength to take control of his life. Will eventually sees that neither the professor who wants to use him to further his academic career, nor his blue collar work/drinking buddies can show him what his future holds, and finally leaves town to pursue a relationship with a woman, and give himself a fresh start.

The third archetype, the “Zaddik”, is a reference to the Jewish mystical tradition. Pies says that “the Zaddik or ‘holy man’ mediates between heaven and earth, between God and man” and that he “helps his people break through the ‘blockage’ that ordinarily separates man from God.” In order to accomplish this however, the Zaddik must know and be touched by evil. This is an interesting image because it implies to me that the Zaddik/Psychotherapist must risk becoming a Vampire, but chose instead to become a Fisher King.

With these various and divergent stereotypes, it may seem that there is no common thread connecting the character of the typical psychologist, however if we step back and notice the role they all play in their respective storylines, a pattern begins to emerge. None of the therapists mentioned were main characters, yet they all played crucial parts in developing and revealing the depth of main characters. In private therapy sessions we are able to see into the thoughts and feelings of lead characters, hear about childhood experiences shaping their worldview, and witness their greatest weaknesses. A therapy session provides a tremendously useful setting for character development, and a therapist makes a wonderful foil for a character to emerge and gain definition. In Terminator 2 we see Sarah turn the tables on Dr. Silberman, using him as a hostage in her escape from the prison, wielding the hypodermic needle once used to inject her with antipsychotic meds, now filled with floor cleaner and resting on the good doctor’s neck. Now it is Sarah who will not release the Doctor.


Terminator 2: Dr Silberman and Sarah

In truth, I believe this function mirrors the real-world purpose of psychotherapy in many ways, as we often go into real-world therapy (whether we admit it to ourselves or not) in order to develop our own strength of character and overcome personal weaknesses. We enter therapy because we need better boundaries, or because we find ourselves swallowed up by the storms of life, or because we feel an emptiness or confusion about what we should be doing. In short, we enter therapy because we don’t know who we are, and in the stories of television and cinema we watch a character enter therapy so that we may learn who they are, in a focused and controlled way. I believe this is the proper role of psychotherapy in general – to “get out of the way” and allow a patient’s identity to emerge and achieve greater definition. If, as Aristotle intimated, “art imitates life” then I can see this principle playing out wonderfully in the use of psychotherapists in popular culture.




Clark, Peter A. “Medical ethics at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib: the problem of dual loyalty.” JL Med. & Ethics 34 (2006): 570.

Dexter. Creator James Manos Jr.  Showtime. 2006 – 2013. Television.

Good Will Hunting. Dir. Gus Van Sant. Perf. Robin Williams, Matt Damon. Miramax. 1997. Film

Pies, R. (2001). Psychiatry in the media: The vampire, the fisher king, and the zaddik. Journal of Mundane behavior2(1), 59-66.

Sheldon, L. (1992). Terminator 2—Judgement Day. The Psychiatrist16(5), 311-312.

Terminator 2: Judgement Day. Dir. James Cameron. Perf. Earl Boen, Linda Hamilton. 1991. Film


The Erasing of Racial Representation in Popular Media


Recently, the movie Aloha starring Bradley Cooper has received a lot of media attention. Various news articles highlighted the movie’s whitewashing of the Hawaiian race and the misuse of the Hawaiian language. To add to the controversy, the creators of the movie chose Emma Stone to play the role of a half Chinese woman named Allison Ng. Sadly, this is not the first movie to have whitewashed characters of colors. Various movies before and after Aloha have chosen to cast white actors in roles that were clearly meant to be played by an actor of color. Movies such as 21, The Lone Ranger, and Argo have cast white actors to play Asian, Native American, and Hispanic characters.  As an Asian American woman, I chose to focus on  the act of race-bending characters who are Asian as well as those who are African, East Asian, Jewish, and Middle Eastern,  in movies such as Cloud Atlas, Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, and Exodus: Gods and Kings. I wanted to look further into why having a white actor act as a colored character appeals to the masses, and see how these ‘colored characters’ are portrayed through their appearance, speech and demeanor.

I began my research by watching the three movies I have chosen. I tried my best to keep myself from being biased and focused on gathering details to use as examples of whitewashing in the three movies. The first movie I saw from the group was Exodus: Gods and Kings. The movie is based on the biblical story of the Exodus, and how Moses brought the Jews out of Egypt. It created controversy when it was announced that Christian Bale, an English actor known for his role as Batman, is going to play the part of Moses. To add to the controversy, the main cast of characters that are supposedly Egyptians and Jews are mainly white actors. Though some may not think that it was a big deal to have white actors portray characters from Egypt, others saw it as a racist movie. When director Ridley Scott was asked why he had the main cast be primarily white actors, Scott replied:

“I can’t mount a film of this budget, where I have to rely on tax rebates in Spain, and say that my lead actor is Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such […] I’m just not going to get it financed. So the question doesn’t even come up.” (Foundas, 2014)

After reading Scott’s statement, I began my research to find more information to confirm whether or not movies with actors of color make less than those with white actors. The average gross revenue of a film with a leading white actor is 73 million dollars. While the average gross revenue for a film starring a nonwhite actor is 63 million dollars. (Lee 2014). This brings to attention the selectiveness of the audience and how it impacts which movies are finalized and funded. Hollywood is a business that needs to profit and films with nonwhite actors are not that profitable. Even though movies with nonwhite characters sometimes make a profit from their revenue, it is usually because these movies are made with a lower budget and therefore it was easier to make a profit.


(From Left to Right): Sigourney Weaver as Queen Tuya, Joel Edgerton as Ramses, Christian Bale as Moses, and Hiam Abbass as Bithia.

The further I went into my research on why casting of white actors to play characters of color are needed, I saw that besides money, the concept of the movie also plays a part. For example, Cloud Atlas was created from a book with multiple storylines that connects characters from different timelines, race, and gender together. When this movie was in its planning stages, the writers: Lana and Andy Wachowski, wanted the actors within this movie to transcend the notion of gender, race and time. Therefore, the directors made a decision to cast only six actors and have them play multiple roles throughout the movie. In addition to white actors playing Asian characters, the two women of color, Halle Berry and Doona Bae also played white women in different timelines. Doona Bae also took on the role of a Mexican woman, while Halle Berry played a Korean doctor in Neo Seoul. While the efforts to send a message that we are all alike, and we are all just organisms on Earth, the movie received negative comments on its decision to portray white actors as Asian characters.


Doona Bae as Somni 451 and Halle Berry as Korean doctor, Ovid

    13 14

Doona Bae as Tilda Ewing from 19th Century, and Mexican Woman in 1970s


The Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA) felt that the makeup used on the white actors to make them look Asian was offensive and stereotypical. They reported that during the pre-screening of the movie, the audience found it funny that the commander of Neo Seoul looked “terrible, like a Vulcan or Star Trek” (Peberdy, 2014). It was due to the ridiculousness of the prosthetics on the white actors to make them look a certain race that offended the viewers of this movie.

15 16

      British actors Jim Sturgess and Hugo Weaving as Hae-Joo Chang and Boardman Mephi 

While Cloud Atlas received negative comments on their use of prosthetics to alter the race and gender of their characters, movies such as Prince of Persia: Sands of Time choose to present their white actors in darker skin colors. Prince of Persia was made into a movie by Disney Channel after a popular video game of the same name.  The setting of the movie is a mythic land of magic and wonder, but even though it is a fantasy game, the creators of the game animated the characters to look like they are of Middle Eastern descent. However, when Disney began production, they chose the well-known actor, Jake Gyllenhaal, to act as the pauper turned prince. In order to make the white actor more believable as the ‘Prince of Persia’, Jake Gyllenhaal was deeply tanned to match the ethnicity that he is supposed to be. The same technique is used for the major characters throughout the movie to gloss over the fact that they were nowhere near the correct race of the characters they are portraying. The changing of an actor’s skin tone to match their character’s race is called black face (for African, Hispanics, and Middle Eastern characters) or yellow face (for Asian characters). This method was also used on the main characters in Exodus: Gods and Kings and Cloud Atlas to create authenticity.

As I continued watching all three movies, I saw repeating motifs that were present in all three movies.

  1. Despite the main character being portrayed by a white actor, their love interest will always be a woman of color. In Exodus, Christian Bale who played Moses was married to a woman named Zipporah who was played by a Spanish actress, Maria Velverde. In Prince of Persia Jake Gyllenhal who played Prince Dastan was coupled with a princess from another country, who was played by a British actress, Gemma Arterton, and in Cloud Atlas, two of the characters played by Halle Berry were coupled with characters played by Tom Hanks. Additionally, Doona Bae who played Somni-451 in Cloud Atlas became the love interest of Hae-Joo Chang who was played by British actor Jim Sturgess. (Peberdy 2014)
  2. Even though the main cast of each of these movies are played by white actors, actors of colors are often in the background as slaves, servants, or employees to the white actors. This image reflects the notion of the power of the white race over minorities.
  3. The women of color are treated as exotic in all three movies. They are portrayed in scantily dressed clothing, are usually submissive and are often sexualized by the white characters within the three movies.


Jake Gyllenhal and Gemma Arterton in Prince of Persia


    Doona Bae as Somni 451 in Cloud Atlas

  1. The men in power are always white. This is evident in Exodus, where the pharaoh is played by Australian actor, Joel Edgerton, and his advisors and generals are also white actors. In Cloud Atlas, in a dystopia called Neo Seoul, which is supposedly the future Seoul, South Korea, white actors in prosthetics to make them look like Asian men are the employers and military leaders of futuristic South Korea. Prince of Persia showed that the majority of the royal court are played by white actors and the subject are played by Arabic actors.



From my research, I was able to discover the large number of movies that have used race-bending to create an appeal for the audience. My research also led me to connecting with the topic of media literacy. If I was not more aware of understanding the media, I would not have been able to see the repeated portrayal of a white man in power in the movies I saw. This was something that had not crossed my mind until I did research on this topic. For this reason, I believe that media literacy could help break through the barriers that often shield us from seeing the truth. Additionally, this term helped me realize that even though we have made important progress in representations in the media, we still have a lot of room left for improvement. I learned from the various topics posted in the group discussions that even though representations of certain races, gender, and sexuality are becoming more common, it is important that these genders, races, and sexualities are portrayed correctly and not stereotypically.

As I wrap up this research on race-bending and whitewashing of colored characters, I hope that in the future this practice will seem outrageous and ridiculous. If this practice is to be continued, more and more actors of colors will face difficulty breaking away from the stereotype that they can only be in a major movie if they accept mediocre and minor roles. This will show the audience who are eager to see their own race represented on the big screen that even in the imaginary world of film, they are unimportant and replaceable. Therefore, I hope that in the future, Hollywood will be able to create movies that equally represents the diversity and uniqueness of the world they are trying to portray.





-Works Cited:

Foundas, Scott. (2014). “‘Exodus: Gods and Kings’ Director Ridley Scott on Creating His Vision of Moses.” Variety, 25 November.

Lee, Kaden (2014). Race in Hollywood: Quantifying the Effect of Race on Movie Performance.

Peberdy, Donna (2014). Narrative trans-actions: Cloud Atlas (2012) and multi-role performance in the global ensemble. Transnational Cinemas, 5(2), 167-180.





Who is the Real Alaskan?


A solitary man travels across the snow-covered tundra by sled, with ice crystals forming on his beard, malamutes relentlessly tugging him along, the northern lights performing its spectacular light show up in the twilight, a log cabin just barely on the horizon, his only sanctuary to protect him against the brutal subzero temperatures. This is an image commonly conjured up when imagining what Alaskans are like: a rugged, individual man’s man traversing an unforgiving land and surviving on only his wits and the little that nature provides him. A powerful, romantic image to be sure, one additionally peppered with kind Eskimos, cartoony igloos, and man-eating bears. But how accurate is such a description of the typical Alaskan? Are all 700,000 citizens eccentric loners struggling in the wilderness? If not, why does such a stereotype persist in our collective mind?


Girly men need not apply. Actual hair shown.

There have been a plethora of reality shows that have been produced in Alaska, all telling essentially the same story: real men escaping the trappings of modern life and braving the harsh elements of “The Final Frontier” in order to live however they want to live. One such show, Edge of Alaska, portrays the small community of McCarthy as a haven for lawlessness and populated by rugged, masculine individuals surviving a brutal, wintry landscape.  Many activities in the show, such as hunting and tracking animals, are dramatized for the sake of engaging television audiences rather than telling an accurate story. There is one episode where a man tracks down a lynx, explaining how dangerous they are, even though cases of lynxes attacking humans are extremely rare, if not nonexistent.

With ominous music playing and frantic camera edits showing harrowing scenes of the Alaskan frontier, Edge of Alaska creates an atmosphere of danger by claiming that the town is 100 miles from a police station, even though there is indeed a police station right in town.  The citizens interviewed for the show were handpicked for their eccentricities that would fit the narrative of Alaska being the home for outcasts, thereby omitting some of the more conventional lives that would dispel such notions. The husky-voiced narrator constantly reminds viewers how no one but half-crazy outlaws would inhabit such a place, perhaps unwittingly attracting real criminals to an otherwise quiet rural setting.

guy“Finally, a place where I can be accepted for who I am.”

Just about every show about Alaska portrays the state this way, but just how independent and iconoclastic are Alaskans? A libertarian, anti-government attitude persists among Alaska’s citizens; however it turns out that of all fifty United States, Alaska receives the most federal money per capita despite paying the least in federal taxes. The image of the lone bushman living solely off the land is put into question knowing the fact that over half of Alaskans live in metropolitan areas such as Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Juneau.[1]

It notable that the quintessential Alaskan is considered to be a hyper-masculine white male, thus relegating Native Alaskans to the sidelines. This is ironic, for it is known that Native Alaskans were the original inhabitants of this great land. This omission suggests that the romanticized myth of the Great White Hunter conquering his surroundings originates from the imagination of contemporary white men. Alaskan cultural studies have demonstrated that Native storytellers “show a complex, mutually supportive relationship between humans and nature” whereas “Euro-Americans frequently position Alaska as … a mythical, yet-to-be-discovered, precultural, prediscursive, and precommercial space still waiting to be conquered.”[2]


The Great White Hunter

So, with the Alaskan stereotype being a white invention, to what purpose does it serve the contemporary Caucasian? Perhaps post-industrial man has regarded the cultured, comfortable urban life as too far removed from what he perceives as the more superior experience of battling an unforgiving wilderness. Perhaps modern man considers his disposition as too domesticated and effeminate, yearning for a mythological time where real men would test their mettle against the elements thus proving to themselves that they were true paragons of masculinity.

Alaska, then, would provide the perfect setting for such macho aspirations to venture in a land not yet civilized or tainted by modern society. Alaska would serve as a vision of what America used to be, back in the days of pioneers and gold panners. Alaska would exist in the dreams of men as a place where one could truly reclaim one’s manhood outside of an increasingly artificial suburban wasteland. “So  many people live within unhappy circumstances,” a young Christopher McCandless writes, “and yet will not … change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security …, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future.”[3] He, like many men, sought something more raw, authentic, and liberating.

The Alaskan tourism industry thrives on such notions, attracting people from all over to escape from their mundane lives and experience real, risk-taking adventure. It is ironic for all its perceived rugged individualism, Alaska’s economy relies heavily not only on government (its largest employer), but on its increasingly lucrative tourism business.[2] With its presumption as being more American than America, Alaska fills a psychological need for Americans to relive their collective memory of a land unsettled and free.

gal                                More American than you could ever dream.                                                          

A television show such as Northern Exposure takes this need and not only satisfies the hunger, but pokes fun at it, and explores it with unparalleled depth not seen in other Alaskan-themed shows. The premise of the show is essentially an isolated Alaskan setting that accommodates for each person to be an unapologetic, eccentric individual. It identifies each character’s ideology and temperament based on social class, background, and how they treat one another. For instance, some of the more urbane, elitist characters who try to impose some kind of unilateral law and order in the rural town setting are constantly rebuffed by the more community-minded characters.

Using Alaska as a setting for a story, the authors were free to write colorful characters getting into absurd situations due to the wild, untamed aura surrounding it. Alaskan stereotypes are subverted, not only for the sake of humor but for the sake of revealing the true humanity of the characters portrayed. The show represented a place where people could ultimately get along despite their differences in a beautiful, unspoiled wilderness.[4] This familiar nostalgia of a place of where community and empathy are paramount is in direct opposition to the anxiety-ridden, alienating realm of contemporary society that we exist in today.

In conclusion, it is apparent to me that the Alaskan stereotype is a manifestation of the rural American folk hero (ie Paul Bunyan, Johnny Appleseed) from the minds of modern, urbanized man. The mythos persists for both psychological and economical reasons, providing a pre-civilized state of being for the American who tires of his domesticated livelihood, and providing revenue for a state that continually exploits this branding to attract such people.


Doing this research assignment I learned a lot about the American consciousness with its cultural peculiarities emphasizing masculinity yet with society simultaneously promoting domestication. I understand why people of all walks of life travel up to Alaska, whether for embarking on wild adventures, appreciating nature, or attempting to find themselves as well as seeking greater truths about life. I amusingly realized how many of the common stereotypes and myths about Alaskans were propagated by Alaskans themselves, including myself. I take a lot of pride in where I come from, so I guess any chance that I can talk up my homeland, it is apparent that I am willing to use any means necessary!

There is a lot of truth to the soul-searching aspect for travelers in Alaska. I have met many a person abandoning their comfort zones to come up there, some of them choosing to stay and become real Alaskan citizens. It is fascinating how this state serves as an outlet for people wishing to escape the confines of their daily humdrum. These facts further enhance my feelings of being blessed for being born and raised in such a great, unique land.


Works Cited & Sources


[1] Drutman, Lee. “Alaska: Land of Contradictions.” Pacific Standard.  n.p., 2 Oct. 2008.  Web.

[2] Hogan, Maureen P. &  Pursell, Timothy. “The Real Alaskan: Nostalgia and Masculinity in the Last    Frontier.” Men and Masculinities 11.1 (2008): 63-85. Web.

[3] Krakuer, Jon. Into the Wild. New York City: Villard, 1996. 56-57. Print.

[4] Gatzke, Jennifer. “Northern Exposure: A Site for Hegemonic Structure?” Department of Anthropology. University of Idaho, April 2003. Web.

Everything is Terrible!. “Alaskan Hunks.” Web Advertisement. Vimeo. Apr 2015.

“Pilot” & “Brains, Know-How, and Native Intelligence.” Northern Exposure. CBS. 12 & 19 July 1990. Television.

“Winter’s Grip.” Edge of Alaska. Discovery. 9 July 2014. Television.

The Black Career Woman


The portrayals of black women have changed considerably over the past few decades. As professors Jennifer Bailey Woodard and Teresa Mastin (2005) state, portrayals of black women were only relegated to “the mammy [think Hattie McDaniel], the matriarch, the sexual siren and the welfare mother or queen” (p. 266). However, now media portrayals are starting to take into account the new roles that black woman are taking on in society such as the career woman, a portrayal that I identify with personally. Nevertheless, upon examining the portrayals of black career women in the media, I discovered that while the functions of these women vary (ranging from lawyers, police officers, doctors and more), there are two commonalities that are consistently displayed among them – they exhibit some form of the “black boss lady” stereotype and they are portrayed with straight hair.

Hattie McDaniel who played typical “Mammy” roles.

To begin, lists the trope “Black Boss Lady” as being more or less comprised of these characteristics:

  • Rules “with an iron first” (authoritative)
  • Probably oversees men
  • Incredibly competent as she’s had to prove her worth as “black” and “woman.”
  • Generally characterized as “by the book” at first glance, but with time is revealed to be quite complex.
  • Race is never mentioned (only her status as a woman is acknowledged).
  • Professional dresser (almost masculine)
  • Never exhibits the “Sassy Black Woman” trope

I decided to analyze three characters from three different popular shows featuring black woman as the lead: Olivia Pope on Scandal (portrayed by Kerry Washington), Jessica Pearson on Suits (portrayed by Gina Torres) and Abigail “Abbie” Mills on Sleepy Hollow (portrayed by Nicole Beharie).

Olivia Pope is a lawyer who runs her own business as a type of “fixer” and fits the “black boss lady” stereotype to a T. She is authoritative, outspoken and is a fantastic dresser (professional yet stylish). In fact there was a special line of clothing put out based on her clothing at The Limited a year ago. Olivia is both feared and admired and she does not hesitate to show her authority. For example, during Scandal’s premiere episode, Olivia showed no real regard for an employee whom she chose to hire and upon meeting the woman had no problem telling her outright that she was showing too much cleavage. Nonetheless, Olivia is professional, displaying a “business as usual” demeanor, yet in no way does she exhibit the “sassy black woman trope.” In addition, while I have not yet seen every episode of Scandal, the few that I’ve seen so far have not made mention of her race.

Similar to Olivia, is Jessica Pearson, who is a named partner in her law firm. Jessica exudes femininity yet power. Unlike typical female lawyer attire (consisting of pant or skirt suits), Jessica wears dresses with dramatic hemlines, bold prints and high heels which, already being a tall woman, causes her to tower over (at least be eye level with) her mostly male colleagues. In spite of this, Jessica is not treated like a siren. She rules with an iron fist and is the go-to person for any decisions that need to be made. She makes it known that she is not a pushover in any form and has no problem cutting anyone down who goes behind her back or approaches situations in a way that she does not like. For example, in one episode she calmly yet coldly chided a co-worker for not obtaining a client a certain way “like a man.” However, just like Olivia, she never exhibits the “sassy black woman” characteristics. In addition, while Suits has been on for five seasons, there are very few occasions where Jessica’s race is mentioned. One reference is made in the episode titled, “No Refills” where she converses with a fellow black female colleague about attending a convention featuring a well-regarded and successful black female doctor.

Finally, there’s Abigail Mills who does not quite fit the “black boss lady” in its entirety as she is not a boss, however, she is still someone of authority being a lieutenant in the police force. Abigail is level-headed and a logical thinker (in spite of encountering supernatural events regularly). She is also intelligent, outspoken, and very “no-nonsense.” She has no problem taking control of situations and people if necessary. For example, she was willing to extend investigative access to a specific event to a reporter but made it very clear that it would only happen on her terms. Even in moments of anger and fear, she always demonstrates poise and a sense of responsibility (probably resulting from her police officer training). Like Jessica and Olivia, Abigail fails to display the “sassy black woman” characteristics. In addition, despite the fact that Sleepy Hollow has a cast that is rich in diversity, Abbie’s race is only mentioned very sparingly. For the two times that it’s been mentioned on the show so far, it’s been to detail historical accuracy for the treatment of blacks in her partner Ichabod’s (a white man who is over 200 years’ old) time.

While viewing these women, the final (and most important) commonality that I linked between them is their straight hair. As a black woman I know that their texture is most likely doctored in some way either with a flat-iron, relaxers, or wigs. This relays an idea that straight hair equals “professional” and “successful” and perhaps even “acceptable.” Julia Robins, a writer for Ms Magazine also discovered this, noting the few episodes where both Kerry Washington and Viola Davis (from How to Get Away With Murder) were featured very briefly with their natural curly hair. Strangely enough, the audience only got a glimpse of this when both characters were either at home or on vacation. She suggests that “Washington’s natural curls are associated with sex and fantasy, while her straight hair has been repeatedly associated with power and success.”

It appears that the media characteristics of the “black boss lady” trope and straight hair are in fact both reflective of the real world standards that black women encounter in the professional world. bell hooks notes this in her essay “Straightening Our Hair.” She states that the “need to look as much like white people as possible, to look safe, is related to a desire to succeed in the white world.” (p. 2) bell details her conversations with other black career women where they expressed their leeriness of going natural out of fear that they’d lose the approval of others (p. 3) Unfortunately, this is not just an invention of the black culture as bell notates that while interviewing at Yale, she was advised against wearing braids or “large natural” hairstyles for the interview by other white women (p. 4). Robins also notates how NYMag categorized Olivia Pope’s hair in an article about Scandal hairstyles. The message of curly hair was “escaping my life” while her straight hair said “The Pope is back.”

Ella Louise Bell, a professor currently at Tucker University, conducted extensive research on black career women and their experiences living as black women in a mostly white world. She discovered a few interesting things: 1) In research, black women are generally placed under the categories “women” or “black,” thus “the combined category ‘black women’ is often invisible.” (p. 460) 2) black women often have to assume a “corporate identity” which is generally identified by being “masculine and white.” In fact, here are the exact words of one participant in the study:

The white world is where I feel at the most risk. I show my white side here, which means I must be more strategic, not as spontaneous. My white side is precise and accurate. Plus, I do not want to share events from my black experience in the white world. There are no other blacks to legitimize my experiences…” (p. 473)

Bell points out the negative stereotypes of black women, mainly “aggressive, controlling, authoritarian, militant, and hostile” and that black women often find themselves falling into this stereotypes as they try to adjust in a bi-cultural world (p. 475). I see semblances of these stereotypes in the characters I observed, even Abigail, who, once again, is not in a position of power to the same degree as Jessica and Olivia, however, she is “militant,” and using the participant’s quote above, she is very strategic and precise.

I believe that these type of subliminal messages in society provide an explanation behind the somewhat stereotypical portrayals of Olivia, Jessica, and Abigail. These are black women who are striving for successful careers in a mostly white world and in order to do that with some degree of success, they must wear straight hair, exhibit certain specific corporate characteristics and never (or rarely) mention anything about race – in other words, to appear white. To break these “rules” would upset the balance of the bi-cultural world that black career women find themselves tiptoeing in on a constant basis. The commonalities reflected in these media portrayals is the need to conform in order to be accepted and succeed in a white culture.

Learning Moments

One significant learning moment for me was our discussion on media literacy at the start of the term and the importance of thoroughly examining articles to determine (and question) their relevance, accuracy and any hidden agendas. For example, reading the article “The Urgency of Visual Media Literacy in our Post-911 world: Reading Images of Muslim Women in the Print News Media” by Diane Watt really struck a cord with me regarding media literacy. Especially when Watt pointed out pictures can actually be deceiving because they can be pulled out of context and twisted to fit the agenda of the article/author. Her borrowed image of a Muslim girl standing in a crowd of other Muslim women shrouded in black seems to signify “oppression,” but Watt points out that “these are Turkish Shia’a women observing Ashura, which is an Islamic holy day of mourning. In general, mourners are expected to wear black. In light of this information, the women’s attire makes more sense to those who might otherwise have automatically assumed it to be a sign of female oppression” (p. 6). This article made me realize that a lot of times, the media does NOT give us the full picture. It is up to us as consumers to research the sometimes hidden context. It would be folly for us to rely entirely on the media.

Another significant learning moment for me was the use of stereotypes in the media; specifically, how many stereotypes were actively utilized in the media that I was not actively aware of until this term (I was already quite familiar with the “Doltish Dad” stereotype). TV Tropes played a large part in this (I was unaware of the site until this term). For example, the article that we read titled “Star Types and their Stereotypes – Maggie Q and Lucy Liu” by Mike Hale and his summation of Asian women being either portrayed as a “sexy nerd” or “dragon ladies and ninja killers.” Being a black woman, this is not something that I really paid attention to (because I don’t identify with it). This article was eye opening, especially since it listed TV characters that I actually watch and like such as Lucy Liu in Elementary and Sandra Oh in Grey’s Anatomy. This realization gave me a heightened awareness to stereotypes on TV (since all races and both sexes have them). And it’s also given me a desire to truly scrutinize TV characters to see if they’re only in the show to fulfill a stereotype (i.e. a doltish dad in a sitcom). As this article pointed out, some of these stereotypes are changing but while an Asian female character (for example) on TV can be more “evolved” she may still have some semblance of this stereotype bubbling under her surface.

Finally one of the most important learning moments for me was the portrayal of my identity (black career woman) in the media. Prior to this term, I was all too aware of black women choosing straight hair for a variety of reasons but reading about the bi-cultural influences for this choice and the similar personal characteristics that black female characters in a position of power portray on TV was eye-opening. As a black woman living in a bi-cultural world, I was astounded by some of things that other black women were saying in the study by Bell (1990) because many were reflective of my own experiences in a professional (mostly white) world.


Bell, E.L. (1990). The Bicultural Life Experience of Career-Oriented Black People. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 11(6), 459-477. Retrieved from http://

Black Boss Lady. (n.d).  In  TVtropes. Retrieved July 29, 2015 from pmwiki.php/Main/BlackBossLady.

Davis, A.P (2014, September 28). The Most Important Hair on Last Night’s Scandal. Retrieved from

hooks, b. (1989). Straightening Our Hair. In bell hooks (ed). Talk Back: Thinking Feminist, Thinking Black. New York: South End Press.

Robins, J. (2015, February 3). Kerry Washington’s “Professional” Hair. Retrieved from

Woodard J.B., and Mastin T. (2005). Black Womanhood: “Essence” and its Treatment of Stereotypical Images of Black Women. Journal of Black Studies, 36(2), 264-281. Retrieved from

Sexy, Sassy, Spicy: The Portrayal of Latina Women in American Television


Sexy, sassy and spicy are the three s’s commonly used to describe Latinas portrayed in film, television, and sometimes even daily life. However, there is often another s-word that is often forgotten when describing portrayals of Latinas: stereotyped. Latina characters have been a part of American media since the beginning of the film industry, with the beautiful Dolores del Río playing the exotic and passionate lover in the 1920s, and Carmen Miranda playing sexy and bombshell characters in the 1930s and 1940s.

Those same limiting roles of promiscuous, fiery and exotic women they had back then still prevail to this day. Josefina Lopez, the writer of Real Women Have Curves, agrees by affirming that “most of the time when we see Latinas, we see male fantasies in an exoticized, eroticized Latina. This whole hot señorita thing has always been around, since the beginning of time” (Latinos Beyond Reel). These “hot señorita” roles can also be seen in many recent television shows. This is becoming a real problem because Latino/as make up about 17 percent of the US population, making them the largest ethnic group in the country with over 53 million people and counting (Negrón-Muntaner 1). Despite the glaring fact that Latino/as have a fast growing presence in American culture, television has yet to fully embrace the idea of positive, non-stereotypical Latina characters in its contemporary shows of Modern Family, Orange is the New Black and Jane the Virgin.

The spicy Latina stereotype is emulated in the television show Modern Family created by Steven Levitan and Christopher Lloyd in 2009. The stereotype is seen though the character Gloria Delgado-Pritchett played by Sophia Vergara. Gloria is portrayed as a sexy trophy wife that wears a lot of provocative, skin-tight clothing and high-heeled shoes. She often also has trouble pronouncing English words. Nearly every episode of the show incorporates an argument between Gloria and another member of her blended family, but more often than not it’s with her much older husband, Jay. These arguments are often for comedic effect, but they constantly reinforce the stereotype that Latinas are spicy and hot-headed.

In the episode “Disneyland,” Gloria is criticized by Jay for not bringing practical shoes to wear on the vacation, as she only brought heels, and that offends her. Near the end of the episode the conflict is resolved when Jay brings Gloria slippers for her to wear, which is sweet until he tells her to calm down and not “go all Latin on him,” insinuating that she would yell at him loudly in incomprehensible Spanish. That remark can very easily be taken offensively by Latinas because not all of them behave like that. The identity of Latina incorporates people of more than 20 Spanish speaking countries, so generalizing all of them in such a way is hurtful.

Link to the “Disneyland” episode where Jay tells Gloria to not “go all Latin” on him:


Even Sofia Vergara has faced criticism from the Latino community for her portrayal of Latina women. Lifestyle and popular culture blogger Tanisha Love Ramirez criticizes Vergara’s support of her character Gloria and points out that, “The problem here is that the idea of the curvy, sexy and sultry Latina denies many Latinas their cultural identification based on their physical appearances and sexual attractiveness, alone.” Not only does the portrayal deny Latinas of their cultural identification, but it perpetuates a stereotype that has long been engrained in American media.

Four years after the creation of Modern Family, Orange is the New Black (OITNB) premiered on Netflix, featuring a plethora of supporting characters from different cultural backgrounds, including Latinas. While technically not a “television show” in the traditional broadcasting sense, OITNB still has episodes and seasons and is available for purchase from cable providers like Xfinity On Demand. OITNB features seven reoccurring Latina characters of Gloria Mendoza, Dayanara Diaz, Marisol “Flaca” Gonzales, Blanca Flores, Maria Ruiz, Aleida Diaz, and Maritza Ramos. These characters perpetuate Latina stereotypes of sexy, sassy and spicy women as Flaca and Maritza are often shown being insubordinate to the prison guards and Dayanara is impregnated by one of the guards. Gloria, Maria and Aledia embody spiciness as they are often quick to temper and aren’t shy about it. The portrayal of these women can be considered offensive to Latinas because of how they are in prison and how they behave in it.

While those stereotypes are active and present in OITNB, the show is actually a step in the right direction for portrayals of Latinas because the characters show development, which is unlike Gloria Delgado-Pritchett from Modern Family who after all this time is still the sexy trophy wife. At least with OITNB characters like Flaca, who adores Depeche Mode and the Smiths, have interests outside of their cultural norm.

Blogger Alex Abad-Santos expresses that “It might be hard to understand why Flaca’s musical taste matters unless you’ve grown up watching television shows where no one looks like or behaves like you,” which is a reality for Latinas because they hardly see positive, accurate representations of themselves on television. OITNB has set somewhat of an example in creating Latina characters that are relatable and humanistic; therefore, paving the way for television shows like Jane the Virgin.



Jane the Virgin premiered on the CW in October 2014. The show features an almost all Latino cast, which has only been seen a few times in the new millennium with the George Lopez Show, Ugly Betty and Devious Maids. The main Latina characters are Jane, Xiomara and Alba Gloriana Villanueva, and out of the three, Xio is the most stereotypical. This is due to the fact that she embodies the sexy Latina trope, wearing tight, revealing clothing and often flirting with many men, which is seen throughout the show and through flashbacks. The other two women are less stereotypical, making them more believable in the melodramatic, farcical world they belong to.,0,2600,1733/  20141008hdVirginMag.jpg

Jane (left) and her mother Xiomara (right).,0,2600,1733/20141008hdVirginMag.jpg

The show itself is one of the most progressive and nuanced shows featuring Latina characters. Ivonne Coll, who plays Alba Villanueva describes it as “not a Hispanic show, but it is a show about a Hispanic family,” which tells the audience that the show is meant to appeal to viewers of all ethnicities rather than it being a token show focused solely on Latinos and their culture (Ryan). This in part is do to the show’s writers who welcome suggestions from the actors to make it seem more authentic than over the top. Avid watcher, Amy Zimmerman, praises the show and believes that “by making Jane an actual human, as opposed to a stereotype or the butt of a joke, the series begins to normalize the notion of a female, Hispanic lead on a mainstream television program,” which is accurate. The only real stereotype is Xiomara, and she isn’t even the title character.

Though snubbed by the Emmy’s, Jane the Virgin was recognized at the 2015 Golden Globes when Gina Rodriguez, the actress that plays Jane, won for Best Actress in a TV Comedy. In her acceptance speech, Rodriguez emotionally announced that the award “represents a culture that wants to see themselves as heroes,” which shows that maybe Jane the Virgin can truly enlighten television producers and set a precedent for including more Latina heroes and less stereotypes in future shows (Entertainment Tonight). Granted, Jane the Virgin is not completely free of stereotypes, but perhaps the leaps and bounds it has made will spawn more progress.

There is no denying the fact that Latinos account for a fairly big percentage of US population, yet it is clear that American television has been having a hard time accepting it. It continues to portray Latina women using the tried and true s’s of sexy, sassy and spicy, even though it puts Latinas in a bad light. The perfect example of that is Sofia Vergara’s role of Gloria Delgado-Pritchett, who is still the same sexy, spicy character she was six seasons ago. Thankfully there has been a smidgen of progress with shows like Orange is the New Black and Jane the Virgin that have given their characters depth and development among the stereotypes they still perpetuate. Hopefully some day in the near future young Latina women will be able to turn on the television to see positive and accurate representations of themselves that can be described with three different s’s: smart, successful, and strong.

—-Learning Moments—-

Being a Latina in the United States can be hard, especially when you are constantly surrounded by stereotypes that tell you you have to act and look a certain way or you don’t exist. Researching how my identity of being Latina is portrayed in television shows that I, along with my peers, are familiar with was a real learning experience. I was most influenced to write about my Latina identity though the first blog assignment that I had for this Popular Culture class where we had to read the article “The Evolution of the Doltish Dad” by Hannah Rosin. I was inspired because Rosin describes how fathers have been portrayed in the same goofy way for decades and that only “until very recently, a guy who wanted to stay at home or be earnest about fatherhood could not see his image reflected on TV, which essentially meant he did not exist” (Rosin). That quote really struck me as I could relate to feeling like I didn’t exist in the eyes of the society I live in because I wasn’t a stereotypical Latina with Sofia Vergara’s body. I appreciated that Rosin draws attention to the portrayal of dads because of how the stereotypes have “become a genuine block to social progress,” which is my reasoning for writing my blog post as well. If Latinas are a part of the largest growing ethnic group in America, then that needs to be represented in television. Unfortunately, our stereotypes are in the way of that, among other things.

The other blog assignment that I learned a lot from was in the third week when we read a transcript of the radio program The American Life featuring journalist Sarah Vowell. In the piece Vowell discusses an incident where Al Gore was misquoted during his political campaign and how it snowballed, causing him unnecessary negative attention. At one point, Vowell poses the question, “If it’s not accurate, is it not true?” (Glass). I was struck by Vowell’s question because it really make me think about not only journalism, but other forms of media portrayals. I formulated my own answer to that question in this blog post about Latinas and how the portrayals of them in television are not accurate and therefore not true. Unfortunately most writers write what they know to be true, which in my case happens to be stereotypes. If there were more enlightened or authentic Latino writers on those television shows, then maybe the portrayals would e more accurate and ultimately true.

These assignments and this class really taught me a lot. They taught me to question the media outlets and their purposes, and they taught me to question and analyze how I am portrayed in them. And that I did.

By April Hernandez


Abad-Santos, Alex. “Orange Is the New Black’s Latina Characters Are Women We Hardly Ever See on Television.” Vox. Vox Media, Inc., 12 June 2015. Web. 27 July 2015.

“Chapter One.” Jane the Virgin. Writ. Jennie Snyder Urman. Dir. Brad Silberling. 13 Oct. 2014. Xfinity On Demand. 10 July 2015.

“Chapter Seven.” Jane the Virgin. Writ. David Rosenthal. Dir. Janice Cooke. 24 Nov. 2014. Xfinity On Demand. 10 July 2015.

“Chapter Ten.” Jane the Virgin. Writ. Meredith Averill and Christopher Oscar Peña. Dir. Elodie Keene. 19 Jan. 2015. Xfinity On Demand. 10 July 2015.

“Disneyland.” Modern Family. Writ. Cindy Chupak. Dir. James Bagdonas. 9 May 2012. Television. 11 July 2015.

“Do Not Push.” Modern Family. Writ. Megan Ganz. Dir. Gail Mancuso. 1 Oct. 2014. Xfinity On Demand. 11 July 2015.

“Dude Ranch.” Modern Family. Writ. Paul Corrigan, Brad Walsh and Dan O’Shannon. Dir. Jason Winder. 21 Sept. 2011. Television. 9 July 2015.

Entertainment Tonight. “2015 Golden Globes: Gina Rodriguez Made Us All Cry With Her Incredible Acceptance Speech.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 12 Jan. 2015. Web. 24 July 2015.

Glass, Ira, and Sarah Vowell. “Transcript: 151: Primary.” This American Life. Chicago Public Media. Chicago, Illinois, 28 Jan. 2000. Transcript: 151: Primary. Web. 6 July 2015. Transcript.

Latinos Beyond Reel. Dir. Miguel Picker and Chyng Sun. Perf. Yancey Arias, Josefina Lopez, Luis Antonio Ramos, and Lisa Vidal. Open Lens Media, 2012. DVD.

“The Long Honeymoon.” Modern Family. Writ. Danny Zucker. Dir. Beth McCarthy-Miller. 24 Sept. 2014. Xfinity On Demand. 11 July 2015.

“Low Self Esteem City.” Orange is the New Black. Writ. Nick Jones. Dir. Andrew McCarthy. 6 Jun. 2014. Netflix. Web. 6 July 2015.

“Mother’s Day.” Orange is the New Black. Writ. Jenji Kohan. Dir. Andrew McCarthy. 11 Jun. 2015. Netflix. Web. 9 July 2015.

Negrón-Muntaner, Frances. “The Latino Media Gap a Report on the State of Latinos in the U.S. Media.” Columbia University, 19 Jun. 2014. Web. 19 July 2015. PDF file.

Ramirez, Tanisha L. “Sofia Vergara Loves Playing Stereotypes.” The Huffington Post., 5 Mar. 2013. Web. 17 July 2015.

Rosin, Hanna. “The Evolution of the Doltish Dad.” Slate. The Slate Group LLC, 15 June 2012. Web. 29 Jun. 2015.

Ryan, Maureen. “‘Jane The Virgin’ Helped Change TV, But The Struggle Is Far From Over.” The Huffington Post., 6 Apr. 2015. Web. 28 July 2015.

Zimmerman, Amy. “‘Jane the Virgin’ is The CW’s Best Show Ever.” The Daily Beast. Newsweek/Daily Beast, 28 Oct. 2014. Web. 28 July 2015.

Living in the United States as an American-Iranian


My mother is Iranian and my father is from the Midwest. I was born in Portland, Oregon and raised learning about my parent’s languages, cultural beliefs and customs. Additionally, because my grandfather, an immigrant who is largely monolingual in Farsi took care of me for years, my Iranian background feels very present for me though I have never been there. I am a bicultural American-Iranian, twenty-something who loves sports and played on team sports for years. My family and I have worked with community organizations to help those in need. I spend a lot of time taking care of my grandparents. We enjoy the outdoors and taking walks with my dog. In short, there is nothing unusual and extreme in my life. My parents and extended family are very clear that this country is our home and we belong here. However, when I turn to the news stories, movies or media, I cannot find me or people like me anywhere. To the extent that Iranian-Americans are presented at all in the media, they are the terrorists, the dark figures who are so against the western culture that they want to destroy it from within. The stereotypes of Iranian extremists saturating the media’s portrayal of Iranians drawn from political tensions over the past decades have created a negative image of Iranians and marginalized the significant contributions of Iranian-Americans in the United States.

More recently, The Shah’s of Sunset, a popular reality show on Bravo Cable, adds another unfavorable extreme theme to the image of young Iranian-Americans here, this time focusing on a group of young Iranian-Americans as crazed materialistic people with shallow values. In contrast to these two extremes, Iranian Americans overall are among some of the most educated groups in the US. They have had major accomplishments in the sciences, engineering, literature, entertainment and sports, but these achievements do not get nearly as much attention as they should. Instead we are still in an era where after any tragic bombing or attack on our cities or Europe, the first groups suspected are young Iranians. Popular media stubbornly continues to show Iranian-Americans in an unfavorable way. These negative images work to the disadvantage of young people like me searching for a positive place in our society here today. I find as I meet a new group of students or apply for a job, I am responding to questions such as do Iranians say they are Persians to hide they are Iranians? Did you watch the movie 300? Does your family feel awkward here during Christmas? Do you celebrate Thanksgiving like us?

In the US people often think that the tension between the US and Iran started around the hostage crisis of 1979. But actually the tensions started much earlier. Many historians look to the US overthrow of a democratically elected prime minister, Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953 as the most important event causing the resentment of many generations of Iranians against the US. The CIA took part in a coup that imprisoned Mossadegh and brought back the Shah. Years later the return of Khomeini and student demonstrations in Iran resulted in the overthrow of the Shah’s regime and takeover of the US Embassy in 1979. What the media picked up immediately was the drama of the hostages on a daily basis, and the public demonstrations next to the Embassy in Tehran with burning US flags. Those images are the lasting images of those times. Little attention was paid to what were the reasons behind such apparent hatred. What the US media did not cover were the root causes of resentment toward the US among those students. In their mind, the US had by its meddling overthrew a popular democratically elected prime minster, who had successfully nationalized Iranian oil. This did not serve the West. Winning nationalization of the Iranian oil meant that the west could no longer export Iran’s natural resources with paltry sums in reimbursement to the Iranian government (Kinzer). For this success, the U.S. forced the only democratically elected prime minister in Iran out of power setting Iran back in its development of democracy at home.

Years later, as a result of the hostage crisis, the tension between Iran and US reached an all-time high and those of Iranian identity and non-immigrant visa could not renew their visas. Many Iranians had to present themselves at immigration offices. The discrimination that Iranians faced in the United States during this time made them want to blend into the US culture much more than they had before. (Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans: Iranian-Americans by Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans, page 6). Years later with the events of 9/11, the tensions against Iran and Iranians grew again. “Even though Iranians did not have a part in the terrorist attacks on the United States, in his State of the Union address in January 2002, President George Bush labeled Iran, Iraq, and Korea as part of the “axis of evil” countries that were sponsoring terrorism and seeking weapons of mass destruction” (Id). Once again the borders were closed off to Iranians and the Iranians pulled together and shied away from attention to minimize problems. Iran to this day is blamed for the 9/11 – for example see the default judgment entered against Iran for billions of dollars in a case brought by the families of victims brought in a court in New York, though they dismissed the Saudi Arabian government (though most of the terrorists were Saudi nationals) (CBS NEWS 2011).

During the past three decades, there have been countless Iranian engineers, mathematicians (Maryam Mirzakhani won the Fields Medal in mathematics in 2014), reporter (Christin Amanpour), actors, sports figures (Agassi) who have had great achievements in their field in the U.S. There is little media coverage about their background as Iranians or Iranian-Americans. To the extent that they have an opportunity to talk about their background and heritage they seem to shy away from it themselves. As my first artifact, I watched an interview of Agassi with CNN Anderson Cooper in which he only very briefly mentions that his father was an immigrant from Iran though he speaks extensively about his father and how he raised him to be the number one tennis player in the world (CNN Interview 2010).

Agassi also wrote a book about his own life called OPEN. But even in the book, an autobiography, he refuses to talk much about half his heritage as an Iranian-American. He only mentions his dad’s birth place one time even though much of the way that he was raised may have had to do with his dad’s background and as an immigrant to this country (Agassi). As an athlete with an Iranian-American background I look with interest to any professional athlete of the same background and there are so few who talk about their background in the media. I am disappointed of the fact that the once a number one tennis player in the world would not acknowledge that he has a similar background to mine. The interview with Agassi was to sell his book and I assume that he did not think it was too good for selling his book if he emphasizes the fact that his dad was Iranian.
By contrast some actors and entertainers who are interested in showing their bicultural background are passed up and never given the opportunity for roles other than bad guys with bombs strapped around their body in movies or films. Precisely on this point, in a fairly recent presentation Maz Jobrani an Iranian-American comedian shared his story on TED TALK (a nonprofit dedicated to creating a global community). This TED TALK was my second artifact. Maz says that his hope is the standup comedy show he has created will break the stereotypes about Iranian-Americans and Muslims. He labeled his comedy show “Axis of Evil” a tongue-in-cheek reference to the phrase coined by President Bush in tying Iran with other countries that have been viewed as irresponsible and untrustworthy. Maz is trying to break that stereotype and explain that he and others like him have nothing  to do with what one or two people out of masses may do to leave a bad image. Maz, described the turmoil he feels every time there is a bombing and tragedy in the U.S.. He fears that each time the culprit may be Iranian or Middle Eastern and that the U.S will once again turn negatively towards Iranian or Middle Easterners and Muslims. Maz claims that he gets people’s attention by relating it straight to what they may have felt and create a place where they can laugh about it and reduce tensions (

What I found most intriguing and surprising is how much I enjoyed listening to Maz talking about how he felt in this country as an Iranian-American. It seemed a big weight was lifted off my shoulder just to know other people struggle going through the airport or, are worried that any terrorist activity that happens is tied to Iranians. I know from my own experiences how much we worry about these issues and problems that he talked about in such a funny way. I hope that he continues this work. I do not look as the stereotypical Iranian, so some of the stereotypes do not directly affect me, but my name is part Middle Eastern and I want to keep it and so I have to explain who I am and my background all the time to people who seem surprised and a little taken back by it all. I like the positive spin he put on his talk. The audience seemed to enjoy and nodded their heads in understanding.

The third artifact that I found in how Iranians are portrayed in the media, if at all, was the reality show called Shahs of Sunset first shown in March 2012. It was released and the show received much criticism even before it release from many Iranians, and particularly those in the Los Angeles because of its characters replace one stereotype of Iranians as savage fundamentalist with another as shallow materialistic people. Despite the criticism the show is soon to enter its fourth season. The reality show follows the lives of Six Iranian American friends grown up in Beverly Hills covering their everyday life in luxury. They use lines such as “we do not work in the buildings, we own them!” The actors talk about the only pay check they get is the one from their parents though they are in their 30s. They are drinking constantly and it seems their focus is one party after another. They are surrounded by gold and red furniture with expensive watches and piles of large jewelry around their necks and fingers. They seem obsessed with their cars, furnishing and fashionable clothes and nothing else. They are not modest in the way they dress or behave unlike any Persian-Americans that I have seen here. The actor’s claim that they are doing a favor for the Persian-Americans here breaking stereotypes of all Persian-Americans as potential terrorists. The actors claim that they are showing daily life and humanizing the Iranians.

The Critics of Shah’s of Sunset are worried that the show is more stereotypes and commercialism just like other trash reality shows, but this one is also bent to make it more exotic, more oriental in the same formula as early years of Hollywood’s infatuation with stereotypes of Arabs, here Iranians and the Middle East to sell its films to intrigue the audience (Prodanovic). On the other hand there are those who think there are some useful aspects to this reality show. An Iranian-American sociology professor, Neda Maghbouleh originally of Portland, Oregon now teaching in Canada wrote an article in Salon in which she took the position that even though the Shah’s of Sunset has many faults including its focus on material goods and shallowness of its six Iranian-American characters living in Los Angles, the show nonetheless has some merit in creating a better understanding of Iranian culture among American audience. She writes that she knows defending this show among Iranian intellectuals is a minority position, but what she thought was important were two points. The first is that show demonstrates the close fabric of Iranian family between generations as the elders regularly appear in the show and are included in events with the younger generation. The Iranians view their families’ connection and closeness as among the most important factors in their lives and this runs against stereotypes of Iranians in such films as Not without My Daughter. Second, the show presents interaction between both Muslim and Jewish Iranians and to many Americans the fact that there are other religions in Iran is surprising. But Iran has had a history of tolerance of other religions and particularly the Jewish faith (Maghbouleh).

In Shah’s of Sunset the participants believe that by showing the luxury life that they lead in Beverly Hills the mainstream America will be so impressed by their success that falsified negative images of Iranian as ”terrorists or hostage takers” will suddenly disappear. They seem to think that presenting themselves in tight glittery clothes is somehow classy and in stark contrast to fanatical religious conservatives. Many Iranians-Americans, including the Iranian mayor of Beverly Hills absolutely hated the show because they believe it is disgraceful, and another misrepresentation of Iranians. However, the participants in the show defend their action because they claim they are humanizing Iranian-Americans. The audience claims that the show is wrong in emphasizing luxury and material riches as what is Persian identity. In looking at this show and the interviews, I felt that they had actually robbed the Persian history and culture and gave Iranian-Americans little reality of the truth.

It appears though there are a significant number of Iranian-Americans living in the U.S. they or their children are shown more as merely stereotypical cartoon-like characters of what the average American may view as Middle Eastern. There have been years of tension between the two countries and both sides mistrust each others’ government. I am uncertain whether either extremes, Iranian-Americans as conservative religious fanatics or, shallow materialistic spoiled adults help erase negative stereotypes about the Iranian-Americans. My hope is that Iranian-Americans in the U.S. who are people like everyone else trying to help their families and communities will eventually be presented more accurately in the media. I do not see myself or people like me in the media. Until there is a more fair representation I think the media is hurting our connections instead of bringing us together.

Works Cited
Agassi, Andre. Open: An Autobiography. New York: A. Knopf, 2009. Print.
AP. “Judge: Iran, Taliban, Al Qaeda Liable for 9/11.” CBSNews. CBS Interactive, 23 Dec. 2011. Web. 08 Feb. 2015.
Did You Hear the One about the Iranian-American? Perf. Maz Jobrani. Ted Talks. YouTube, 19 Aug. 2010. Web. 08 Feb. 2015.
Kavanagh, Jim. “Andre Agassi’s Life Is an ‘Open’ Book.” Anderson Cooper 360 RSS. CNN, 4 Sept. 2010. Web. 2 Feb. 2015.
Kinzer, Stephen. All the Shah’s Men: The Hidden Story of the CIA’s Coup in Iran. New York: Wiley, 2003. Print.
Maghbouleh, Neda. ““Shahs of Sunset”: The Real Iranians of Los Angeles?” Saloncom RSS. Salon, 30 Nov. 2012. Web. 1 Feb. 2015.
“PAAIA Releases Report on Iranian American Immigration and Assimilation – PAAIA.” PAAIA Releases Report on Iranian American Immigration and Assimilation – PAAIA. PAAIA, 2014. Web. 17 Feb. 2015.
Prodanovic, Branka. Creating Exotic Beings: An Analysis of Shah’s of Sunset and (n.d.): n. pag. Trashculturejournal. WordPress, 2013. Web.

The Portrayal of Indigenous Women in Popular Culture


*Throughout this post, I use the terms Indigenous, Native American, Indian, and Native to refer to Indigenous people. I use Indigenous when my statements may apply to Indigenous people/ women as a whole, and use the others when specifically referring to people Indigenous to the U.S.

Indigenous involvement in film and media has long been a colonized perception of a race, generalized down to a couple of stereotypes. Despite the fact that there are 566 individual federally recognized tribes in the United States[1] and many more who are not federally recognized, all with very distinct cultures and practices, popular culture trends represent Native people in very narrow lenses. Instead of representing real tribes or Indian people, popular culture prefers costumes and fantasies in place of Native people and this has serious implications for Native American youth and most significantly, young Native girls and women. Popular culture perpetuates two stereotypes of Native American women: the noble and subservient savage and the sexy Indian princess, both inherently “savage” and derogatory in representation. Both stereotypes create a dangerous image for popular culture to view Native American women and worse, create a toxic image for young Native women to view themselves through media, beginning with films like Disney’s Pocahontas, and growing with various exploitations of Native women through racist and sexualized costumes.

Disney’s Pocahontas is intended for young boys and girls who, from a young age, experience the image of the mystical Native American. Set in early colonial times, Indians are introduced as peaceful caramel-skinned communities who are knowledgeable about land tending and have the ability to talk to animals and plants. Perhaps the most clearly racist aspect of the film is the wording expressed towards the Native people, “savages,” “heathens,” “pagans,” “devils,” and “primitive,” all terms that connote something wild, primitive, and inferior.[2] The film is oriented around young Native American “princess”, Pocahontas, who disobeys her father, Chief Powahatan, and becomes enthralled in a fatal love triangle with settler John Smith and tribal member Kocoum. Pocahontas is also in a love triangle of cultural sorts, ruptured between the New World and her traditional culture. The main implication with the film is that Pocahontas is a historical figure who, historians agree, had no romantic contact with John Smith and was not a princess, because tribes do not have royal hierarchy. Also, John Smith and Pocahontas’ hasty relationship would have been really quite unlikely in the culture she was really from. According to Dr. Cornel Pewewardy’s The Pocahontas Paradox: A Cautionary Tale for Educators, [the relationship] “most likely would not have happened during the time period in the movie, as it was a cultural norm for all tribal members to adhere to any strict directive from a parent.”[3] By disregarding this cultural norm and having Pocahontas betray her father, Disney marketed a very New World love story with the Pocahontas film that exemplifies that love conquers all, including culture and traditions. This observation is shared with Indigenous scholar Dr. Cornel Pewewardy who says, “In short, Disney has abandoned historical accuracy in favor of creating a marketable New Age Pocahontas who can embody dreams for wholeness and harmony.”[4] This film also displays both stereotypes of the noble savage woman and the sexy Indian princess. Pocahontas is able to talk and get advice from a wise willow tree, and expresses her feelings to her pets that she can also talk to. Reinforced with the lyrics to Pocahontas’ “Colors of the Wind”, popular culture assumes the stereotype that Indian people are inherently noble and spiritual. In the film, Pocahontas is a beautiful, voluptuous woman who has all of the euro-centrically “beautiful” features of a Native American, nice high cheekbones, long dark hair, beautifully sculpted eyes and lips, golden skin that is not too dark for Eurocentric values, and a slim hourglass body. She is always dressed in beautiful Indian garb, though none of it is culturally correct, and her long full figured legs are always revealed.

Disney’s barbie-doll figured Pocahontas

Pocahontas’ sexy Indian princess image shows popular culture that Native women are nothing more than beautifully seductive women and that is a toxic contribution to Native image. When young Indigenous girls and boys view this information, the sexualized stereotype is also pressured on them. According to the U.S Department of Justice, “American Indians are 2.5 times more likely to experience sexual assault crimes compared to all other races, and one in three Indian women reports having been raped during her lifetime.”[5] The alarmingly high rate of sexual assault against Indigenous women is disturbing and is due to how America views Native American women, which is informed by popular culture’s lens. Also according to the US Department of Justice, “at least 70% of the violent victimizations experienced by American Indians are committed by persons not of the same race, a substantially higher rate of interracial violence than experienced by white or black victims.”[6] This is particularly troubling in the conviction process because jurisdiction lines become unclear since U.S tribes have sovereign legal systems.

Another popular culture artifact that has contributed to the misrepresentation of Native women is that of the Indian costume. Every year around Halloween, the Internet is bombarded with social media uploads of people in stereotypical Indian costumes involving redface, a tan mini-dress, and fringes on everything. But this costume didn’t get popular on its own, Native American Halloween costumes have perpetuated mockery for a long time. The origin of such a costume dates back to the white colonist playing Indian at the Boston Tea Party. Here, “at the earliest stage of “playing Indian,” the participants in the Boston Tea Party took on indigenous dress and war paint in order to rebel against British taxation and British identity.”[7] More recently, the popularity of wearing Native costumes, tacky clothing with dream catchers, feathers, “tribal” prints and headdresses peaked recently around 2011, when clothing designers like American Apparel and Urban Outfitters opted for the look to convey a spiritual and down to earth look. It is also far too common that Halloween specials of television shows choose to have one of their female characters dress up in a “sexy Indian princess” costume. In an episode entitled It’s Really Complicated (airdate: 11/26/12) of the show Gossip Girl, main female character Blair doesn’t even need to wait for Halloween to dress up in a sexy Indian princess costume, using the costume in her strip tease for her currently separated beau in an effort to get him back. This clearly sends the message that Native women are nothing but a costume, meant to be flaunted and objectified.

It’s Really Complicated (airdate: 11/26/12)

This is all on the show’s Thanksgiving special episode, and the implications here are pretty obvious. On a day that already serves as a memorial to a time of early colonialism and betrayal for Native people, it is portrayed as normal to dress up and mock Native culture by sexualizing the image of Native American women. I can understand that costumes are meant to be a fun way to experience another identity, but when that identity is someone’s race, culture, and life, a very clear line is crossed. For years the sexy Indian princess trope has been marketed to popular culture, and results in Native women being seen as nothing more than a fantasy, a form of invisibility.

Despite the countless negative misrepresentations of Native people and particularly Native women through film and media, Indigenous film-makers like Lisa Jackson, Anishinaabe, and many others are defying long perpetuated stereotypes. Within the film industry, a break out of Indigenous film-makers are defying Native involvement and replacing stereotypical representations of Indigenous people with films of just the opposite; films made by and for Native people. Currently more prominent with Canada’s First Nation’s film-makers than those in the states, the Indigenous film circuit is a fast growing movement that is revolutionarily Indigenizing how popular culture may view Native people. With her short film SAVAGE, Lisa Jackson explored her mother’s experience in the residential, or what we would call in the U.S, boarding school system. She says of the project, “SAVAGE is my response to the challenge. I’ve used my “obstructions” to bring a fresh take, at times even a humorous one (yes, there are zombies), on Canada’s residential school history, which–sadly–is still unknown to many Canadians. With SAVAGE I’m trying to subvert stereotypes about “Native issues” and use an unconventional approach to get underneath preconceptions and deliver an emotional experience.[8]

Popular culture is flooded with misrepresentation of Native people and perpetuates objectifying stereotypes surrounding Indigenous women. In a society where this leads to the sexual assault rate against Native women being nearly three times higher than that compared to any other race, it is so vital that there is real Indigenous representation in media. Native youth deserve positive Indigenous characters and historical figures in the popular culture surrounding them. Native girls and women deserve more than invisibility and abuse. Indigenous people are so much more than the cycle of stereotypes that are perpetuated in popular culture and though there is a long way to go, the Indigenous film circuit is a fast growing industry and a promising step in the right direction to re-orient popular culture’s representation of Native American women.

Link to SAVAGE, a 5 minute short film by Lisa Jackson, here:



[2] The Pocahontas Paradox: A Cautionary Tale for Educators, Dr. Cornel Pewewardy

[3] The Pocahontas Paradox: A Cautionary Tale for Educators, Dr. Cornel Pewewardy

[4] A Barbie-Doll Pocahontas, Dr. Cornel Pewewardy



[7] From Subhuman to Superhuman: Images of First Nations Peoples in Comic Books, Dr. Cornel Pewewardy


Mind if I Watch?


Gabrielle Meik
Queer Women in Entertainment Media

The sexualization of LBPQ (lesbian, bi, pansexual/polysexual, and queer) women in the media is both rampant and incredibly harmful. This phenomena is rooted in the same ideas that cause the sexualization and objectification of all women: that our bodies and our sexuality are not ours, but exist for the consumption or entertainment of men. Queerness removes the exclusive focus of women’s sexual attraction from men, either excluding them altogether or expanding to include people of other genders. This anomaly is sought to be rectified by positioning queer women’s sexuality as a heterosexual male fantasy or a show performed for their entertainment.
While the representation of LBPQ women and girls in movies and television is rapidly growing, there is much left to be desired. Minority representation in mainstream media is vitally important to those who are being represented. Not seeing images of yourself reflected in the media you consume can cause feelings of isolation and low self esteem, and the main goal of viewers and activists pushing to increase the media’s representation of minorities is to curb these negative impacts on the mental health of minority viewers. Regardless, even with the increasing number of media portrayals of LBPQ women, many of these characters were written without a queer female audience in mind. The impact that this difference in target audience has on the content itself is very noticeable.
This phenomena can be analyzed by comparing three different media artifacts, all featuring LBPQ women, but approached from vastly different angles and targeting different audiences.
The sexualization of LBPQ women characters is most noticeable in primetime network television. These shows target a very wide and mainstream audience and in general stray from topics that could be seen as overtly political or revolutionary, adhering to social standards fairly strictly in order to avoid causing offense or controversy.
A good example of this is a fifth season episode of the long-running TV medical drama House entitled Lucky Thirteen, written by Sara Hess and Liz Friedman. The episode focuses on curing a female patient with whom Dr. “Thirteen” Hadley, Dr. House’s employee, had a one night stand.  The episode’s opening scene  depicts the women kissing passionately and undressing each other, mostly relying on disembodied shots of their midriffs, legs, breasts, and mouths: this strategy of visually cutting women’s bodies into small pieces is a classic hallmark of objectification.

Many comments about the attractiveness of both women are made by male characters throughout this episode, and in Dr. Hadley’s case, throughout her whole run on the show. Dr. House shows interest in this patient specifically because she slept with Dr. Hadley, and at one point in the episode interrupts a medical examination to sexually harass the patient, asker her invasive and inappropriate questions about having sex with Dr. Hadley. Dr. House asks the patient questions such as “you had sex and then a seizure, it could be a particular activity or position that set it off,” asking if the lights were on, and requesting that she rate the sexual experience on a scale from one to ten. While Dr. House is not generally portrayed as a likable character and this behavior is clearly sexual harassment, the patient responds by calmly answering all of his questions. This scene seeks to normalize this behavior, both through comic relief and the fact that the patient did not react with offense or anger.
In addition, this episode, as well as the rest of Dr. Hadley’s character arc and romantic history, insinuate that her attraction to women is purely sexual. Dr. Hadley’s promiscuous sex with female strangers coincides with drug abuse and her struggle to cope with her diagnosis of a terminal illness to position her sexuality as reckless and exclusively physical, devoid of human connection or personal meaning. Throughout the show, Dr. Hadley fosters romantic relationships with men, but never with women. The stereotype that same-gender relationships are inherently and exclusively sexual is a very harmful one that contributes to this pattern of objectification.
While this episode is an example of the sexualization of women in television made to appeal to a broad and mainstream audience and whose survival depends largely on ratings, Jenji Kohan’s Netflix Original Series Orange is the New Black does exactly the opposite. Because of its subscription-based nature, Netflix’s profit is only subtly and indirectly influenced by the success and popularity of Orange is the New Black. The fact that liking or disliking this particular show is more than likely not going to be the difference between someone canceling or renewing their Netflix subscription allows its creators––Jenji Kohan, Lauren Morelli, Sara Hess, Sian Hedder, Tara Herrmann, and Nick Jones––to generate content without worrying about appealing to a massive and mainstream audience.
Throughout the series, Orange is the new Black depicts graphic sex scenes between women characters on a regular basis. Despite the nature of these scenes, the way they are handled is distinctly authentic and realistic. Sexual situations between the women of Litchfield are often awkward or funny. Characters will have honest, candid conversations during sex and be depicted in positions or situations that are by no means designed to be appealing or exciting.

Warning: NSFW video

In addition to this approach to the act of sex itself, the LBPQ women featured in the show also deviate from the widely accepted standards for sexual appeal. These women vary greatly in terms of body type, race, and age, and few of them would be considered conventionally attractive in light of social standards which savagely deny the beauty of women of size and color. Hair, makeup, and wardrobe decisions made during filming were also made, quite obviously, without either aesthetic or sexual value in mind. Characters are shown wearing almost exclusively shapeless and loose-fitting prison khakis. The women of Litchfield who choose to wear whatever cosmetic products they can purchase from the commissary are obviously doing it for their own personal enjoyment, as the environment itself does not place value on appearance.
This unapologetically honest approach to LBPQ women’s sexuality is part of what makes Orange is the New Black so provocative and controversial. While these decisions were made with the freedom provided by using Netflix as a broadcasting platform in mind, they did not seem to compromise the show’s popularity or critical reception. The series received no less than 12 Emmy nominations, and is rated at 8.5/10 on IMDb and 97% on Rotten Tomatoes.
On the other end of the ratings spectrum is Jamie Babbit’s satirical romcom But I’m a Cheerleader, which was a flop at the box office and a ratings disaster: the movie was given an unimpressive 34% by Rotten Tomatoes users.  But I’m a Cheerleader takes place at a residential inpatient conversion therapy facility. The main cast consists of queer teenagers sent to the camp by homophobic parents. This setting is automatically overtly political, and concepts explored in the film––such as prejudice and the innateness of gender and sexuality––are heavily controversial, which serves to alienate a substantial demographic of a mainstream audience. Despite its critical reception, But I’m a Cheerleader is widely regarded as a popular cult classic among LGBQ+ audiences.

The combination of these factors allows us to infer that this film was written with a queer youth target audience in mind. Tyler Coates describes But I’m a Cheerleader as “a movie for queer people, about queer people, by queer people.” Because of this, the sexualities of leading characters Graham and Megan are approached from a distinctly queer perspective. Not only does the portrayal of these characters not cater to the heterosexual male gaze, but they are distinctly parodied within the film. Romantic interactions between female characters are emphasized and generally appear sweet and chaste, distinctly sexual interactions do not happen, and the topic of sexuality itself is approached from an almost exclusively comedic standpoint.
In analyzing these three pop culture artifacts, it appears that the root of the sexualization of queer women in entertainment media is the intention to receive positive ratings. This also accounts for women creators generating content that objectifies and sexualizes their women characters. In the current social climate, women’s sexuality is only uncontroversial when men are the focal point, and writers will keep this in mind on the quest for good ratings. A wide viewership and positive critical reception are necessary for the continued production and broadcasting of a television series and lack of box office revenue for feature films is a recipe for financial disaster. This phenomena reflects broadly on the general social ideas surrounding women’s sexuality. The compulsion to center queer women’s sexuality exclusively around men is not only degrading and dehumanizing on a personal level but contribute to acts of violence such as corrective rape. While the portrayal of LBPQ women in movies and television is not the root of the problem, the relationship between popular culture and the social status quo is such that the media will reflect societal attitudes as well as influence the way that we think.

Works Cited

Hess, Sara, and Liz Friedman. “Lucky Thirteen.” House. Fox. KPTV, Portland, Oregon, 21 Oct. 2008. Television.

Kohan, Jenji, Lauren Morelli, Sara Hess, Sian Hedder, Tara Herrmann, and Nick Jones. Orange Is the New Black. 11 July 2013. Netflix. Web. 8 Mar. 2015.

But I’m a Cheerleader. Dir. Jamie Babbit. Screenplay by Brian Wayne Peterson. Perf. Natasha Lyonne and Clea DuVall. Lionsgate, 1999. DVD.

Coates, Tyler. “Was It Good For The Gays: ‘But I’m A Cheerleader'” Decider. N.p., 4 Mar. 2015. Web. 09 Mar. 2015.

Higgins, Marissa. “The Problem With the Sexualization of Lesbians.” The Huffington Post., 06 Apr. 2013. Web. 09 Mar. 2015.

Josephs, Anya. “The Sexualization of Queer Women in Media | SPARK Movement.” SPARK Movement RSS. Sparksummit, 29 Nov. 2012. Web. 09 Mar. 2015.

Matthews, Cate. “Here’s Why ‘Orange Is The New Black’ Sex Scenes Are So Believable (NSFW).” The Huffington Post., 19 Sept. 2014. Web. 09 Mar. 2015.

Looking in the Asian Student Mirror


Asian Students in Media
By Nhuy Hoang

Films, T.V., and other forms of popular media often portray Asian students as awkward, bright, school-oriented scholars with “tiger parents” that not only encourage, but pressure, their children to be the very best. I would say that this stereotype holds true for me based on my personal experience, but I wouldn’t go on to say that it is true for all Asian students. This stereotype does not seem all too bad (what’s wrong with being smart?), but it also depicts Asians in a negative light: as quiet, cold, and unnatural. The purpose of this essay is to get a better understanding of how Asian students are portrayed in media, and why. Also, how realistic are these stereotypes that popular culture has made so universal, and why has the general public accepted these stereotypes as a good representation of such a diverse culture? In order to answer these questions, I will be analyzing three different T.V. shows and films that include an Asian student, whether in a positive or negative light.

The film, “Pitch Perfect”, is an example of a form of popular media that depicts Asian students as an oddity. The film focuses on Beca Mitchell, a young, American student that joins the Barden Bellas, an acapella group at Barden University. One of her fellow club members and classmates, Lilly Onakurama (played by Hana Mae Lee), is an outspoken, awkward Asian student that can barely be heard during auditions and performances. Lilly dresses conservatively compared to the other girls, and she has a haircut that is referred to as the “China doll bangs”. Nisha H., a recent college graduate, says that “it’s not clear how Lilly got the stamp of approval to join the Barden Bellas, [considering that] her defining characteristic is that she cannot speak or sing above a whisper.” Nisha mentions that this characteristic causes her character to continuously be ignored throughout the film, demonstrating how unimportant and unrelatable her identity truly is. This portrayal of Lilly would have been tolerable had the only other Asian in the film been portrayed as a normal person. However, Beca’s roommate, Kimmy Jin (played by Jinhee Joung), was unrelentlessly detached and rude.

When Beca first meets Kimmy, Kimmy is unresponsive and evilly glares at Beca. Beca goes on to question whether she can speak English, and Kimmy, still unresponsive, just keeps on glaring. Most of Kimmy’s screen time is spent giving evil stares, saying blunt and offensive remarks, or doing school work to drone out Beca. She is only smiling and happy when she is surrounded by her Korean friends, which suggests that she only gets along with her race. My first time watching this movie, I didn’t like either Lilly or Kimmy’s characters. It seems like the writers specifically made them the odd characters because they are Asian. Asians are often generalized as introverts, people that survive independently and in solitude. According to the popular online dictionary, Urban Dictionary, introverts are often mistaken to be rude, unfriendly, or even stuck up simply because they tend to keep to themselves. I would agree that this is the vibe I received from both of these students my first time watching the movie. Why, though? I most certainly don’t consider myself to be like Kimmy and Lilly; some days, I like to be alone, but for the most part, I am outgoing, loud and engaging. Lilly is given many odd lines, such as “I set fires to feel joy”, and “I was born with gills like fish”. In one scene, she is seen laying in a pile of puke making a snow angel.

Toward the end of the movie, Beca and her crush are watching a movie when Kimmy returns home with two of her Asian friends. Kimmy says to her friends, “The white girl is back,” right in front of Beca, and then glares at Beca’s friend until he gets up and leaves. This scene alone demonstrates that Kimmy had a specific issue with Beca because she was white. Perhaps it was because of Beca’s initial assumption that Kimmy’s unresponsiveness was due to her not being able to speak English. Lilly and Kimmy are both minor characters in Pitch Perfect, since their actions do not largely affect the outcome of the movie. However, their strikingly odd actions and words don’t go by unnoticed. They are special because they carry with them something that the other students don’t: the Asian culture. They appear to be the only two Asians on the whole Barden University campus. This film makes both of these girls seem like an anomaly, but the truth is, they are perfect examples of how Asian students are portrayed in everyday media: socially awkward, but smart in school.

Glee is an American comedy-drama T.V. show that focuses on the fictitious McKinley High School Glee club, a club where musical students join together and learn to work as a team to win choir competitions. Mike Chang, a Chinese character played by Harry Shum Jr., is one of the first Asians to join the club, along with his Asian girlfriend, Tina Cohen-Chang, played by Jenna Ushkowitz.

In the 47th episode of the show, Mike receives an A- on a chemistry test, and his dad, enraged yet worried that his son will not be able to attend Harvard, pushes his son to give up the glee club, and his girlfriend, to focus on his studies. Mike promises to change his habits, but eventually decides to follow his dreams and try out for the main role in the school performance of West Side Story. When confronted, Mike admits to his mother that his real passion is being a dancer, not a doctor. Surprisingly, she reveals she also gave up dreams of becoming a dancer, and that she does not want the same fate for her son. Much like Lilly and Kimmy, Mike and Tina are both minor Asian characters, placed in a school setting where white people are the majority. Mike is portrayed as your typical, smart Asian student, whose parents shun him for receiving a grade that, I think, any hard-working student would be satisfied with. The fact that the episode was titled, “Asian F” goes to show that according to popular culture, only Asians have these kinds of standards for their children. This episode also sheds light on one of the few things that push most Asian students to do and be their very best in school: their parents. Both of Mike’s parents want him to become a doctor – a very demanding, but lucrative, career. His father scolded and lectured him for choosing the arts over chemistry, and his mother openly supported his father in the beginning. You can only imagine how stressful it is for a student like Mike, who’s already managing clubs, sports, and a girlfriend, to handle his parent’s demands to be perfect – especially when those demands are not even in sync with his desires. According to Urbandictionary, a tiger parent is one that is “overly strict with [their] child in order to foster an academically competitive spirit”. Usually, this form of parenting is used with the intention of pushing a child toward financially successful careers, but can often result in the child “feeling emotionally unfulfilled and/or socially inept” (Urbandictionary). Mike is not close to his dad, and this stems from his father’s “tough love” style of parenting. His mother, on the other hand, is kind and forgiving, and this enables Mike to open up to her at the end of the episode about his dreams. The most interesting part of this episode was not the way that Mike Chang was depicted as your stereotypical Asian, but rather the fact that his mother was encouraging and open to him choosing his own destiny, straying from how society says she’s supposed to be. It’s interesting to see how Mike is your typical Asian student, but his mom is not your typical Asian “tiger” parent.

Unlike Lilly and Kimmy from “Pitch Perfect”, and Mike and Tina from “Glee”, London Tipton from the sitcom, “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody”, does not follow the stereotypical Asian guidelines. London, played by Brenda Song, is portrayed as ditzy and often times, careless. London is outgoing and full of energy, unlike our Asian characters from Glee and Pitch Perfect. London comes from an unstable family history: her father has remarried dozens of times and lacks an emotional presence in her life, while the only thing that London knows about her mother is her Thai origin. London, although extremely privileged and heir to the Tipton corporate empire, is unhappy because she has never had an adult role model in her life. She reveals to her best friend, Maddie Fitzpatrick, that she copes with the emptiness by buying and wearing designer clothing. Just like Mike’s mom, London’s parents are extremely lenient, and allow London to do whatever she wants. Since London does not have the typical Asian “tiger” parents, or any other sort of pressure pushing her to excel in school (because she is already so rich), she doesn’t take her education seriously. London enrolls at Maddie’s Catholic school, and is eventually expelled for not attending her classes. She attends Cheevers High School, and then, at her father’s discretion, is moved to Seven Seas High, a high school program on a ship, in order to prevent her escaping to another place. Despite all of these efforts toward a good education, London gets by in school by having Maddie do all her work for her. She does terrible in school, she is overall considered to be “stupid”, and she is overly privileged, leading to her lack of concern for her education. This goes against the common stereotype that Asians are smart and tend to do well in school. Contrastingly, Maddie is a middle-class, blonde-hair, American girl, played by Ashley Tisdale. Maddie is extremely logical and smart, and is often seen puzzled by London’s idiocy. The most common “blonde” stereotype is that blondes are stupid. However, in this popular T.V. series, the Asian is stupid and the blonde is smart. This causes me to believe that the writers did this on purpose with the intention of erasing the invisible lines of race separation, because it defies not only Asian stereotypes, but blonde stereotypes as well. It is important to understand that anyone of any race or color could face what London faces, and in this show, her being Asian has no impact on the outcomes of her decisions. Since the show aired in 2005, London Tipton has appeared on every single episode. The fact that London is a major character alone differentiates her from the usual depiction of Asian students in popular media. Although the main setting of this show is in a hotel rather than a school, the same stereotypical theme is present: Asians tend to be weird, quiet and smart, and they have tiger parents that push them to do well in school. London is loud and normal, but stupid, and this is mainly attributable to the lack of discipline she’s received from her parents.

It is clear that popular culture depicts Asian American students and their culture in a variety of ways. I grew up with the mentality that I had to be the best at everything I did, especially in school. I would say that this was due to the amount of pressure that my parents placed on me at a young age, and that this pressure has only grown as I got older. However, although I fit in with the stereotypes outlined in this essay, I don’t condone their excessive use to mock the Asian community. Usually, when these stereotypes are subtly incorporated into storylines and plots, they’re meant to be comical. The way that Asians are mocked in media is supposed to be satirical, and is expected to be something that everyone laughs at, and then brushes off. For example, when Peter Griffin, the main character of “Family Guy”, pulls out an Asian student instead of a calculator for his SATs, most people laughed for a minute, and then carried on with their lives.

Does this scene necessarily put down the Asian race? I wouldn’t say so. Many would argue that this is a compliment, and should be taken as such (there’s nothing wrong with being considered smart!). But what about all the Asian students out there who don’t think they have brains like calculators? What about all the Asian students that love dancing, like Mike Chang, or even shopping, like London Tipton? Should they be okay with a stereotype that basically says they must be smart to fit in? How about a stereotype that says Asian students must be quiet and strange to be considered normal? I don’t think so, and I believe that popular media needs to take more steps toward a less bias and discriminating storyline for its Asian characters. Regardless of whether or not these stereotypes pertain to them, or whether or not they find these stereotypes offensive, Asian students must stop accepting these as the norm in order to promote a change in the direction of popular culture.

Works Cited:

H, Nisha. “Pitch Perfect and its Far-From-Perfect Portrayal of Asian American Women.”Racialicious the Intersection of Race and Pop Culture. N.p., 12 Oct. 2012. Web. 03 Dec. 2014.

Murphy, Ryan, Brad Falchuk, and Ian Brennan. “Asian F.” Glee. Fox. 19 Mar. 2009. Television.

Pitch Perfect. Dir. Jason Moore. Perf. Anna Kendrick. 2012. Film.

Kallis, Danny, and Jim Geoghan. Suite Life of Zack and Cody. ABC Kids. 18 Mar. 2005. Television.

The Aggressive Male Gamer


Jacob Demming


Final Draft

The Aggressive Male Gamer

Ever since the 1970s, video games have evolved from refrigerator sized cabinets to hand-held devices that fit in our pockets. With games becoming more available and diverse in content, more people joined; playing games from puzzles to first person shooters. From this hobby emerged people who identified themselves as “Gamers”, a majority being males.(TV Tropes) But in more recent times, male gamers have been represented more as a sexist and more violent group of people. This is problematic since it perpetuates a negative image that is simply untrue for the majority of this large demographic. I believe male gamers are falsely represented in popular culture, focusing only on negative aspects or events leads to the identity being seen as malicious. It’s important to note that this essay’s purpose is not to compare female gamers to male gamers; but to simply analyze the messages that are being sent about the identity of male gamers.

To exactly define who is a gamer is a complex topic since different people have different definitions. This often leads to confusion about what kind demographic makes up the identity. The Webster’s dictionary defines a gamer as, “a person who plays gamesespecially:  a person who regularly plays computer or video games.”(Webster) This definition, although broad, helps show that the identity can be applied to a large demographic.

Another definition of gamers comes from Urban Dictionary, the second most popular definition since April of 2005 states:

“The term “Gamer” by itself can apply to nearly anyone who plays video games on a regular basis or even once in a long while … there is a large amount of debate about who and what gamers exactly are. The best way to define the term “gamer” is not to define it at all but accept that there are in fact many types of gamers out there and there is no blanket term that can cover them all. “ (Urban Dictionary, 2)

With these definitions so far being non-gender specific, where exactly does the word “male” come into the picture?

The association of the words “male” and “gamer” is best described by TV tropes, a site known for analyzing and documenting tropes in popular culture. On their website, the trope “Most Gamers are male” states that males age 15 through 25 make up the primary demographic for videogames(TV Tropes). However, the trope page also notes that the demographic is dated back to the early 90’s and doesn’t represent the shift in the demographic of gamers. The page goes on to describe how in 2013, females represented more than half of people who play videogames are female.(TV tropes) This is an interesting contrast to the earlier description of gamers being mostly male. But just how are male gamers being represented in the media today?

In a recent interview on the Colbert report, Anita Sarkeesian, a feminist and critic of “gaming culture” talked about recent events under the name GamerGate. When asked about her thoughts on corruption of gaming journalism, she states that the real issue is:  “…men going after women in really hostile and aggressive ways… terrorizing women for being involved in this hobby”(Colbert Report). Although she doesn’t give any specific examples of these “really hostile and aggressive ways, “but the usage of such words as “terrorizing, hostile, and aggressive” creates an association with these words and the identity of male gamers. Since her statement specified “men”, it generalizes the identity as a whole. Although the Colbert report itself is a satirical show, it’s a nationally broadcasted program and as such is seen by many viewers.

However, the association of male gamers and these negative descriptions is not a new trend; there have been other occurrences of similar statements from other media outlets.

An example of male gamers being represented as hostile and aggressive can typically be seen in the news after violent crimes. Brian Ashcraft, a writer for Kotaku, wrote an article in 2012 about the outcry against violent videogames in the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting.  Ashcraft talked about the social media hunt to find “…clues they could pin the shooting on.”(Ashcraft)

“…during those initial reports, a mob of angry Facebook users noticed that Ryan Lanza [the shooter] had liked Mass Effect [a rated M game] on Facebook. Coupled with news reports that a Fox News expert connected the horrific shooting to video games, some felt like this was proof positive that games were to blame.”(Ashcraft)

Unlike the Colbert report, this incident involved videogames that were specifically violent, containing mature themes and guns. However the correlation that the shooter was a male videogame player surely didn’t help the identity of other male gamers. Other tragedies like this have happened in the past, and videogames are frequently used as a scapegoat. (Ashcraft) Events and news coverage like this leads to an association with male gamers and violent crimes, a false representation of the identity as a whole. Besides the claims of male gamers being aggressive and hostile, there has been more recent news coverage portraying the male gaming demographic as sexist and women-hating.

In October of 2014, the New York Times published an article titled, “How Sexist Is the Gaming world?” again, featuring Anita Sarkeesian. A key part of the article tries to explain why male gamers are “harassing women online”

“While the online attacks on women have intensified in the last few months, the dynamics behind the harassment go back much further. They arise from larger changes in the video game business that have redefined the audience for its products, expanding it well beyond the traditional young, male demographic.”

Sarkeesian’s claims come from the numerous death threats she has received from “opponents or her recent work challenging the stereotypes of women in video games”. While this sort of behavior is unacceptable in any situation, these threats are used to generalize the male demographic of gamers. Specifically, these generalizations paint male gamers as those who attack women and harass women online. It sends a message to readers that male gamers do not want women in gaming, that they harass women who try to play games. Though these statements only represent the tiniest fraction of those who identify as gamers. Using several examples to represent all male gamers is an inaccurate way to show the demographic. I’m not saying that there is absolutely no harassment towards female gamers, but these repeated articles denouncing the identity leaves me feeling bad for even associating myself with being a male gamer. With all these negative articles, there must be some positive media about the gaming identity, right?

A very interesting aspect about the male gamer identity is the lack of positive news coverage from major news outlets. These stories are almost never seen outside of videogame news websites, leaving the public in the dark. Between CNN and the New York Times, the last gaming article that showed gaming in a positive light was back in 2013. The last article in question was written by Christopher Dawson for CNN. In his article, Dawson discusses the numerous game organizations that donate to charity like Extra Life, Electronic Frontier Foundations, and the Humble Bundle(Dawson). These charity events by gamers are frequent events as seen by the upcoming events calendar on the Childs Play Charity website ( The lack of coverage of positive news relating to gamers, hurts the identity for both males and females. More coverage of gaming charity events could help show the diversity of those that identify as gamers. When comparing the amount of negative and negative publicity gaming receives from news outlets, it’s clear that male gamers are seldom presented in a positive manner.

To conclude, popular media shows that male gamers are sexist, ignorant, and aggressive when these labels only apply to a miniscule section of the demographic. There are many aspects about gaming culture that is simply not talked about while negative aspects about the identity are highlighted and frequently talked about. This representation is harmful because it generalizes an entire demographic of people in a negative way, causing people to feel ashamed to identify themselves as a gamer. News outlets like CNN or Fox News need to focus on other parts of gaming culture instead of blaming videogames for violence in youths. From this, society can see a more accurate picture the identity of a gamer, for both male and female alike.

Works Cited:

Ashcraft, Brian. “Mob Blames Mass Effect For School Shooting, Is Embarrassingly Wrong.” Kotaku. N.p., 15 Dec. 2012. Web. 15 Nov. 2014. <;.

Dawson, Christopher. “Playing Video Games to Raise Millions for Charity.” CNN. Cable News Network, 28 Oct. 2013. Web. 15 Nov. 2014. <;.

“Gamer.” Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 2 Dec. 2014. <;.

“Gamer, Definition.” Urban Dictionary. N.p., 09 Apr. 2005. Web. 15 Nov. 2014. <;.

“Main/ Most Gamers Are Male.” TV Tropes. TV Tropes, n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2014. <;.

Schulten, Catherine. “How Sexist Is the Gaming World?” New York Times, The Learning Network. The New York Times, 17 Oct. 2014. Web. 15 Nov. 2014. <;.

“The Colbert Report: Gamergate – Anita Sarkeesian.” YouTube. Comedy Central, 30 Oct. 2014. Web. 15 Nov. 2014.

Feminism & YouTube


Lauren Wilbur

As a millennial with Internet access, I am constantly wading through media –especially media that has been tailor fit to my exact interests thanks to the World Wide Web stalkers known as advertisers and promoters. One of my most prominent interests is feminism. For the purpose of this paper, I define feminism as equality for all people. I consider myself to be a feminist, I have feminist friends, I follow feminist blogs and groups, and I read a lot of feminist articles. While some of my media outlets are more serious than others, there are also an abundance of feminist YouTube videos that I’ve come across. The content is generally short and sweet, easy to follow, and interesting to watch – a surefire way to get me, someone with a short attention span, to pay attention to until the end. The three YouTube videos I will be referencing today show an interesting paradox between content created for a male audience and content created for a female audience; if you’re a male, feminism is portrayed as something to mock, but if you’re a woman, feminism is portrayed as smart and serious.
The best example of a YouTube video mocking feminism is ‘Polisub: How to Turn on a Feminist.’ This video depicts a man and a woman on a date. The man is explaining to the video’s probably male-centric audience how to pick up a feminist by highlighting points like Hillary Clinton, equal pay, and establishing good eye contact. When the woman picks up on each of these less than subtle tactics, she throws her head back towards the camera and moans or shows ecstasy in some other way until, at the end of the video, the man has clearly gotten the woman to sleep with him.
While yes, some feminists do enjoy – and potentially get turned on, by Hillary Clinton, equal pay and eye contact, not all do. This video generalizes those experiences until they become mockable, further substantiating the ridiculousness that is portrayed. The woman is still viewed as a sexual object who is being lured in by the man who is saying exactly what she wants to hear. Also interesting to note is her appearance – she is blonde and well dressed, the stereotypical male object of desire. While this could simply be a way to say ‘look, feminists are pretty too!’ from a cynical point of view it could also mean that this video further perpetuates a man’s desire and assumed ability to get any pretty woman he wants into bed.
Contrasting the videos geared towards men, videos discussing feminism for women audiences are set up very differently. While the videos still have elements of fun in them, such as the crude language in ‘Potty-Mouthed Princesses Drop F-Bombs for Feminism,’ the videos are generally more fact-based and show statistics, talk about real life personal experiences, and are used to educate as opposed to mock. Generally these videos are viewed by feminists and, those who can relate or find the information valuable, share these videos to educate those around them. While this may not always work, the goal of getting the word out about equality is still a worthy cause.
In ‘Potty-Mouthed Princesses Drop F-Bombs for Feminism,’ the whole stereotype of young girls wanting to grow up and be proper, beautiful princesses is stopped in its tracks. Yes, these girls are cute. Yes, they’re wearing princess costumes. Yes, there are typical ‘girly’ colors all around. However, as they cuss like a sailor and spout out facts about feminism and equality it is clear that they are no princesses – at least not in the conventional sense of the title. These girls are spirited, intelligent, strong and they can dress however they damn well please – that doesn’t take away from their independence.
A boy is shown in this video as well, dressed in his own princess costume and stating that being called a girl shouldn’t be an insult – that being a girl does not make someone weak. Further highlighting the extreme between what is being seen and what is being said, this video portrays ‘damsels in distress’ who speak crudely and a boy in ‘girl clothes’ who preaches equality. That’s enough for anyone to stop and take notice and, given the amount of views, quite a few people did. These feminists become relatable because of the humor, but the important message of equality is still being taught through the seriousness of their message. They may be cute, but they also know their stuff.
The tone in “WHY I’M A… FEMINIST *gasp*’ is also more serious and is directed to a female audience. The woman in the video uses personal experiences, statistics, news headlines, pictures and definitions to make her point – that feminists are great, and feminism is not only crucial, but something to be celebrated. While she is still dressed nicely and wearing makeup, she also lifts her arms to show off her hairy armpits in the video. She labels feminists as women who can do what they want, stereotypes and social stigma need not matter. She comes off as intelligent and passionate, not crazy.
A man also appears in this video to further drive in the points that the woman had been making. He asks the audience, would they words matter more if I had just said them? The question really makes one think about the inequality assigned between men and women’s words. Would the facts from a man’s mouth make more of a difference? Be more credible instead of just another annoying speech from a man-hating, crazy feminist?
Every time I view the previous two videos I’m riding on this wave of empowerment and then the reflex to have it all come crashing down shows up the second the human being with a penis shows on the screen, regardless of their message. I can’t help but wonder how much of that reflex is caused by the media – countless of items broadcasting patriarchy, inequality, male dominance, etc. are bound to take root in a person’s brain eventually. Even research on YouTube has shown that a level of gender inequality for top videos exists, further finding that the videos showcasing women only do well when they express the proper amount of femininity (Wotanis & McMillan)
Perhaps my examination of the men in these videos is too cynical – pointing out the connections to worldwide sexism and privilege as opposed to recognizing them as allies. With the growing rate of male feminists, especially celebrities like Ryan Gosling and John Legend, men supporting women’s equality has become slightly less taboo. It’s no longer an insult for a man to be a feminist, but a supporting hand.
As a feminist, it can be difficult to watch the various videos that pop up on my social media feeds. I get the facts, I get the empowerment, I get the girl power. But, although some of the mocking videos do get a laugh out of me, I think it’s such a shame that people turn feminism into something to be made fun of – something someone shouldn’t want to be or something that can’t be taken seriously. I identify with the women trying to educate those around them of equality, but any time I identify in any way with a feminist being mocked – it’s hard not to feel ashamed of my beliefs, or like being a feminist is something to hide and not be proud of.
Overall, it is safe to assume that all media must be consumed with a grain of salt. Who is the intended audience? Is this information true? Am I being manipulated? Is this viral because it’s good, or viral because it’s bad? It’s complicated to be a millennial when these dilemmas are thrust upon us daily. Within the context of these media sources, however, the most obvious contrast is the intended audience – male or female. It can be concluded that, when videos regarding feminism are directed towards men, feminists are portrayed as crazy, self-indulgent and mockable women. However, when videos regarding feminism are directed towards women, feminists are portrayed as independent, strong, sassy men and women.


FCKH8. (2014, October 21). Potty-Mouthed Princesses Drop F-Bombs for Feminism by Retrieved December 2, 2014, from

Funny or Die. (2014, April 17). Polisub: How to Turn on a Feminist. Retrieved December 3, 2014, from

Lacigreen. (2014, April 23). WHY I’M A…FEMINIST *gasp*. Retrieved December 3, 2014, from

Wotanis, L., & McMillan, L. (2014). Performing Gender on YouTube. Feminist Media Studies, 14(6), 912-928. doi:10.1080/14680777.2014.882373

Reflections of a gay Mormon


Blake Latimer

2 December 2014

 Reflections of a gay Mormon

“Hello. My name is Blake, and I’m a gay Mormon.” The last two words put together could sound puzzling to some. I grew up in a large suburb just outside Salt Lake City, Utah. My family went to Church every Sunday and to Temple often. Yet at the age of 13, I knew I was gay. I grappled with this for three more years before I started distancing myself from the church, but I could not shake that foundational belief; gay is bad. At least that’s what I thought growing up. Let’s face it; Gay Mormon is not something that we think as being represented in the media, and certainly not in a positive light. Ensign, the LDS (Latter Day Saints/Mormon) Church based magazine, published a statement from the Church:

We want to help these people, to strengthen them, to assist them with their problems and to help them with their difficulties. But we cannot stand idle if they indulge in immoral activity, if they try to uphold and defend and live in a so-called same-sex marriage situation. To permit such would be to make light of the very serious and sacred foundation of God-sanctioned marriage and its very purpose, the rearing of families. (Ensign, Nov. 1998, 71).

I am one of “these people”. Slowly but surely, the media is helping to chip away at a relatively silent voice in the gay community.

The media is taking notice of this hot button issue on several levels. In Latter Days, a small budget film released in 2003, the premise is about two men who fall in love. The gay stereotype character is portrayed as promiscuous, flirty and flamboyant. When the film was made 10 years ago, I think that there was an even greater stereotype than there is today. The missionary is innocent, good and God-fearing. The stark differences between the characters lends to an interesting but sometimes unbelievable storyline. How much of Latter Daysthis could be true to real life though? The answer: much of it. The movie uncovers some dark topics that are prevalent in the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) community. Of specific interest is the missionary character’s attempted suicide after his excommunication. Many gay youth, in particular Mormon gay youth, attempt to and often succeed in committing suicide. According to, “LGB (lesbian, gay and bisexual) youth are 4 times more likely, and questioning youth are 3 times more likely, to attempt suicide as their straight peers.” Now imagine compounding Mormonism on top of this. The combination of those two factors alone could make many just another statistic. I do wish the film had addressed ways to get help, though I suppose there were not as many resources available 11 years ago as there are today. I believe the gay community will see this movie as much more empowering than the LDS Church will. I identify more with my LGBT family than with my Mormon faith so watching the missionary separate from his church in this film was rough. Latter Days rates a 7.3/10 from more than 12,700 users on IMDb, the Internet Movie Database, and the consensus seems to be that it is a “Surprisingly touching” and “heartwarming” film ( I don’t think the goal of this movie was to make money. In my opinion, it was much more about making a statement that there are gay Mormons in our communities and this movie provides many of them with a voice. I think this influenced the content by allowing the film to not shy away from being provocative and edgy. The Mormon community is not shown in a positive light, nor is the stereotypical missionary character that plays the love interest. However, by the end of the film the stereotypes have eroded and “true love conquers all” is the message. The “good side” of the church is also not shown which is definitely intentional. A viewer might conclude that the creators of this film had a negative experience with the Mormon Church. The expectation is to get an emotional reaction from the audience.


The music industry has taken note of at least one artist who is bringing light to the situation. Rolling Stone’s headline reads, Neon Trees Tyler Glenn: “Gay, Mormon and Finally Out”” (25 March 2014), with a stark picture of a bleach blonde pop star in a glowing green jacket. Glenn still identifies as Mormon, even though he has known he was gay since he was just six years old. Instead of dealing with this fact, he threw himself into his religion. He went on a two-year mission to Nebraska, baptizing 17 people during that time. I find this interesting because it almost seems to be a way to avoid dealing with one’s reality, and instead focusing on what you’re “supposed” to be doing. In other words, did he go on his mission to delay dealing with his sexuality until he came back, or possibly see if he could repress those feelings altogether? My reaction to the article is that the church will not support Glenn. I think many members of the church may choose to boycott the band and take a stance, perhaps not allowing their children to listen to Neon Trees music. Remember how heavy-handed the church was involved with Proposition 8 in California? The church fought hard against same-sex marriage. I certainly don’t believe that the church will act any different towards Glenn, just because he is a pop star. Rolling Stone was sensitive to Mormons in order to portray Glenn in the best possible light. If Glenn can be portrayed as a pioneer, perhaps they believe the Mormon Church will not turn its back on him. What is not shown at all is the church’s official stance on homosexuality. A missing aspect of the article is what the church believes. Readers can draw the conclusion that, yes, the expectation is to sell magazines, but to tell Glenn’s story in an objective and factual way.

Tony-award winning musical, The Book of Mormon, does not rely on flashy costumes or star power to make its statement. Instead, it uses stereotypes and humor to convey the message of Mormon hypocrisy and injustice. Missionaries in their familiar black suits and pressed white dress shirts, nametags glistening in the stage light. In Act 1, the cast sings a song entitled, “Turn it off”. This is referring to ways to deal with the strict Mormon life. The missionaries teacher, Elder McKinley, tell them to “turn it off like a light switch”. He is referring to his own sexuality. Towards the end of Act 2, the LDS church turns its back on Untitled.png2the villagers that have been baptized, telling them they are not really Mormon. That was my experience growing up in the church: we shunned those who were different from us or didn’t share the same teachings or beliefs. This content definitely reflects a jaded view of the LDS Church. I think Mormons may see this play as a slap in the face, while others will see it as pure comedy. No one really comes out looking good in this play. The missionaries are portrayed as young, dorky soldiers, while one of the church leaders is repressing his own homosexual desires. The teachings of the church seem far-fetched at times. That’s why The Book of Mormon makes fun of it. Mormons are shown is this way because the writers have a certain opinion about the LDS Church and wanted to convey it. What is not shown is the positive side of the church and how much it does for the community, but then again, that’s not really the point. The technique used to draw our attention in and keep us entertained is through comedy. I think the expectation is that the audience is left with a more comical view of the Mormon Church and a feeling of maybe not taking it all so seriously.

My research has uncovered some serious and dark topics, full of repression, suicides and angst. The more I read and the more artifacts I find, plus what I have experienced first Untitled.png3hand, the Mormon Church does not appear to be too tolerant of the gay community. In fact, the church directly fights against the rights of the LGBT community (think Proposition 8). According to, 35 States, plus Washington, D.C. and St. Louis, Missouri have ruled in favor of same-sex marriage and the number continues to grow. Will the Mormon Church evolve with the times or will it continue to turn its back on so many, just as it has in the past? While I acknowledge my foundational upbringing, I no longer identify as Mormon. What I have found by looking in the pop culture mirror is one of mixed reaction and acceptance, at best.

 Works Cited

“What is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ attitude regarding homosexuality and same sex marriage?” LDS Church, Nov 1998.Web. 15 November 2014.

Latter Days. Web. 6 November 2014. <>

“Facts about Suicide” The Trevor Project. Web. 6 November 2014.

“Latter Days (2003) – IMDb.” The Internet Movie Database (IMDb). Web. 6 November 2014.

Ganz, Caryn. “Neon Trees’ Tyler Glenn: Gay, Mormon and Finally Out”. Rolling Stone, 25 March 2014. Web. 6 November 2014.

“The Book of Mormon.” EUGENE O’NEILL THEATRE, Web. 6 Nov. 2014.

“States” Freedom to Marry. Web. 25 Nov. 2014.

The Real Foodies


The Real Foodies.”


Lauren Befus

Popular Culture: Looking In The Mirror Essay

February 23rd 2014


With the upsurge of television cooking programs in the last two decades, a new real life sub culture has evolved. Popular culture has deemed this culture as “foodies.” Seeing as this group has emerged from the increased popularity of cooking programs, the majority of members who identify themselves as foodies say that their love of food and of cooking emerged from these television shows. As is typical of our society, we have seen a new “fad” or “trend” come forth and have focused purely on the strange outliers or extremists of that community and based our opinions on them. Foodies are largely seen as pretentious, snobby and out of touch with the real world. I consider myself a foodie and I am not any of those previously stated things.

To understand how foodies are wrongly portrayed in the media and misunderstood in our every day lives, we first have to define what pop culture says a foodie is. To define what a foodie is and to analyze how popular culture can manipulate it into having negative connotations, I’ll present two definitions of the same word. In the dictionary a foodie is defined as “a person keenly interested in food, especially in eating or cooking”. This is a relatively tame description compared to the popular online faux dictionary called Urban Dictionary. Two of Urban Dictionary’s most popular definitions of foodies are “A douchebag who likes food.” and “A fat kid pretentious enough to think up a special word to describe their desperate longing for anything to shove down their face. They’ll often claim to be “food enthusiasts” or to have “refined tastes,” but they’re usually lying”. As any one could tell from these popular sources, the jump from someone who likes food to a so called lying pretentious douche bag is a relatively short one. So who are the people who make up the majority in foodie culture?

Some people would say the vast majority of foodies would be likely to say something like this: “Can I crash on your couch? I just sublet my apartment to have dinner at Persay.” This statement was said in a popular YouTube video entitled “Shit That Foodies Say.” ( I think phrases like this one are what contribute to popular cultures idea of foodies being out of touch or snobs. I do not feel like I can relate at all to this statement and the notion of subletting my apartment to pay for a single meal. This YouTube video is obviously using extreme statements to garner a reaction from it’s viewers. As we know, sensationalistic headlines and statements are often used to attract attention. What I would argue is that this view is completely unrealistic and does not reflect my life or my choices, yet I’m considered a foodie as well. I don’t feel represented whatsoever when I hear these kinds of statements being said about foodies.

Regarding the economic issue surrounding foodies, supposedly most of us spend absurd amounts of money to eat well. This popular myth is for the majority of foodies, simply untrue. There are even books that debunk this myth that we are all spend thrifts.The book called, An Economist Gets Lunch, written by Tyler Cowen who is a leading economist, is a great example.



You can be on a budget and also make delicious, interesting and creative food choices.


The backlash was swift against this generally overwhelmingly positive force. A movement of mindful nutrition, joy in simple food and a movement that promotes passionate debate about food. I believe that the backlash against people who are interested and thrilled with food is a typical knee jerk reaction to anything popular that comes to the foreground of society’s conscious. From past experiences with trends or things that become popular very quickly, for every 5 people who like something and stay silent, you’re going to have one person vehemently apposed to it for a multitude of reasons. One of these people is Steven Poole who wrote an article for the guardian’s online site ( ). According to Mr. Poole, “ Western industrial civilization is eating itself stupid. You can’t watch cooking on TV or in front of your face, you can at least read about it. Vast swaths of the internet have been taken over by food bloggers who post photographs of what they have eaten from an edgy street stall or at an aspirational restaurant, and compose endlessly scrollable pseudo-erotic paeans to its stimulating effects.” I would not argue with that statement and in fact, I agree with the latter part. My argument is simply: so what? In this age of reality television, rapid consumerism and many empty hobbies that are without a positive outcome, why are we attacking something that helps our national economy, promotes local food consumption and glorifies people who are inventive and hard working?


I also observed popular culture subconsciously teaching us to self shame ourselves as foodies. There are many backhanded and passive aggressive phrases that are used in day to day life concerning foodies. One popular article from the New Yorker interviewed a woman who states this self blaming attitude accurately: “But it’s like when my boss says, ‘Oh, you’re such a foodie.’ I’m like, Oh God. When I hear the word foodie, I think of Yelp. I don’t want to be lumped in with Yelp.” This stereotyping and generalization is undoubtedly subconsciously shaming to those who call themselves foodies.

With all of the negativity surrounding foodie culture, I am still proud to say that I am one. Firstly because I know that I have not gained a so called snob attitude since fully realizing my love of food and cooking. Secondly because it has been nothing but a positive force in my life. I use cooking and food as an outlet, a time of mediation for myself. I get excited thinking about what I could make and whom I could serve it to. In my mind, cooking is just another way for me to nonverbally show someone how much I care for them. Unlike many popular portrayals of foodies, my world does not revolve around food but my life is made much better by it. Many, like Steven Poole, negatively liken foodie culture or the new culinary culture to an art form. I feel like it absolutely is. I’m not ashamed to say that food and cooking are the only ways I feel able to make something that is metaphorically full of emotion. I feel like the time I use to make a meal and the amount of effort I put into it, is directly correlated to how great I want the person I served it to to feel. I can neither paint, draw or write as well as I can create a meal and that meal has the same amount of inspiration and thought behind it that my writing would have. Why is popular culture condemning something that only a rare few people go to extremes on? I liken that statement to people’s attitudes towards tattoo’s or piercings for example. Many have taken both to extremes yet the vast majority of people who have tattoo’s or piercings are moderate, normal people. I hypothesis this is because the trend is a relatively new one and still forming it’s social identity.

In conclusion, I would say that I’ve learned from my own experiences that it’s incredibly important to read in between the lines of fads or trends. Are we as a society just looking at the outliers of a cultural trend because they attract the most attention? From my research on how foodies are treated in popular culture articles, videos and blogs I would say that overall, society as a whole, has not made the effort to delve deeper into the majority of moderate, thrifty and un-self absorbed foodies that make up the majority of the group. I would also state that it is a good thing that food is replacing other outdated art forms and that it gives another type of person the ability to be creative. I consider myself one of these people and wish I could see myself more accurately portrayed in popular culture.


Cowen, Tyler. An Economist Gets Lunch: New Rules for Everyday Foodies. New York: Penguin, 2013. Print.

Idov, Michael. “New York Magazine.” N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Mar. 2014. <>.

Poole, Steven. “Let’s Start the Foodie Backlash.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 29 Sept. 2012. Web. 10 Mar. 2014. <;.

“Shit Foodies Say.” YouTube. YouTube, 21 Feb. 2012. Web. 10 Mar. 2014. <;.

Album Covers Through Jazz

For my final action project I decided to further my research on my identity as a Jazz musician and expand on my appreciation for the artwork that came alongside the music through a journal. I was prompted to do this when revisiting John Berger’s “Ways of Seeing” as the advertisements displayed in the 1970 video reminded me of vinyl covers of Jazz music from the same time. I had concerns regarding the sheer amount of monumental albums for both music and for the artwork sake, but when researching the artists and musicians found many albums were found on both lists. I really enjoyed researching the personnel as well as the designers of the albums as I found a lot of shared personnel I was unaware of. This coincided with my Looking Into The Pop Culture Mirror assignment as it provided insight into the local jazz ecology at the time.

Below is a link to the journal as a pdf-

If the PDF cannot be opened here is the project as a google drive link as well-

Fact-Checking and Falsehoods: A Brief Guide

In this age of advanced technology, the average person has access to more information than ever before. But that wealth of information comes with a heavy price. Through social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, misinformation can spread with unprecedented speed, leading to extreme polarization and a dangerously misled, distrustful populace. According to a Pew Research Center study just after the 2016 US election, 64% of adults believe that fake news causes a great deal of confusion, and 23% admitted to having shared it themselves, whether intentionally or not.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Through the use of a few simple verification strategies, you can combat misinformation on your newsfeed and social media pages. This is how to recognize internet falsehoods, based on the Check Please! online curriculum written by Mike Caulfield.

  • The Wikipedia Check

Growing up, many of us were taught never to use Wikipedia as an academic source due to its crowd-sourced editing methods. While it’s true that its factual content should often be taken with a grain of salt, Wikipedia is not without its uses. When reading any article from an unfamiliar news source, take a few seconds to do the following. Copy and paste the website domain name into a web search, followed by “Wikipedia”. This will bring up the Wikipedia page for that news source, which can tell you information such as the publication’s age, readership, and budget, as well as its political leanings and any controversies it has been associated with. This information is invaluable when it comes to evaluating the legitimacy of a news source.

  • Stop, Don’t Scroll

When you see a story or a piece of information presented on your social media feed, don’t just scroll past it – stop and look it up. Oftentimes, fact-checking sites such as Snopes will have checked viral posts and will tell you whether the post is misleading. If not, check whether you can find any news coverage or articles about the supposed event and try to locate the earliest coverage. If you can’t find anything, chances are that it isn’t true.

  • Reverse Photo Search

Sometimes, you’ll see photos on the Internet that seem suspicious, whether due to something about the photo itself or the context in which it is presented. In this case, it is possible to do a reverse photo search on Google Chrome. On a computer, right-click the photo; on a smartphone or tablet, press and hold on it. A task bar will pop up, with the option to search Google for the image. Click on this option. From there, you can find webpages associated with the image. This makes it possible to track down the picture’s original source. If it’s a credible news source, you’re good to go!

  • What Are Your Sources?

These strategies are an invaluable way to recognize misinformation, but an equally important part of being well-informed is having reliable news sources. Think: where am I getting my information? If the answer is “primarily social media”, you’d be much better off identifying an independent, professional, and balanced news organization.

The internet has brought about a lot of good things, but it has also brought into being a chaotic and overwhelming information marketplace, where it can be difficult to know who to trust and what to believe. These are just a few strategies to make the Internet more manageable. Hopefully, they will help you be better equipped to navigate this ever-changing landscape.


Anderson, Janna, and Lee Rainie. “The Future of Truth and Misinformation Online.” Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech, Pew Research Center, 17 Aug. 2020,

Check, Please! Starter Course (

Number 1 Health Issue: Obesity

Ryon Hurley

I believe that obesity is America’s number 1 health issue because it is occurring more frequently and because that is all we hear in health classes today.  Obesity is defined as being over the considered healthy weight which is determined by the body mass index chart (BMI).  When you go to your regularly scheduled doctor’s appointment they will measure your height and weight and then chart it on your graph which has a trend line showing the average BMI a human should be and they compare you to it and determine whether you are overweight or not.  There are many reasons why a person would be considered or become overweight and it can either be from genetics, lifestyle choices, or limited choices.  Since obesity has been such a controversial topic the U.S. decided to consider obesity as a disease.  The U.S. did this in order to allow people with obesity to seek health coaching, diet plans, and medical help all through doctors appointments covered by insurance.  The world is becoming more obese and we are the only ones that can help.

The most common way to become obese is from eating habits and lifestyle choices.  The U.S. in particular is known for having fast food restaurants, fried food, and processed foods.  All of these types of food are harmful to or health and are  unhealthy especially when ingested everyday or in an irregular amount.  These types of foods should not be incorporated in your diet; instead you should find more natural products and items from the grocery store in order to make a healthier diet.  In the U.S. there are 7 states that have a 35 percent obesity rate for their population.  These states include Alabama, Arkansas, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and West Virginia and majority of them are located in the southern part of the east coast with a few being located in the northern section of the east coast (Henry, 2018).  Henry also mentions that in the year 2000 there was no state that had an obesity percentage higher than 20, but just 20 years later 7 states now have 35 percent or higher (Henry, 2018).  Graphs showing the obesity rate, diabetes rate, and physical inactivity among adults and different ranges of children can be found here:  The graphs are updated a few years ahead of Henry’s article and now shows that 9 states are above 35 percent of obese citizens.  People find it difficult to resist fast food restaurants due to how cheap and fast they are but also because they taste good due to the extra chemicals and sugars added to them.  When you incorporate fast food or processed foods into your diet and then on top of that aren’t exercising than you are on the fast track to becoming obese.  The history of obesity and why fast food and processed foods are bad can be found here:  Fast food and processed food are seen as a huge success but have ultimately brought harm to the diet of the world and has caused bad habits and overeating.  

The other side of obesity comes from genetics and limited resources and these two are the main reasons as to why obesity is considered a disease.  Different genetic reasons for obesity include monogenetic obesity and different mutations in the genome that inhibit weight loss or slow down metabolism.  Other forms of onsight obesity is type 2 diabetes and heart disease which comes from being overweight and is mostly seen in older generations.  With obesity being a disease physicians can now prescribe obesity pills, provide coaching, diets, and surgeries which will also be covered by insurance (Pollack, 2013).  Lifestyle choices and limited resources are key roles in the beggining steps of becoming obese and if these can be tackled early then it will be even easier to avoid obesity.  Exercise and healthy food are key to a healthy lifestyle and are relatively easy to incorporate in your lifestyle if you want it.  Along with this there does come problems with money and environment.  The places you live and the amount of money you have play a huge role in your lifestyle and determine how safe it is to be outside and what food you can buy.  Throughout my sophomore inquiry class on healthy people healthy places I learned that the current system for providing money and food stamps isn’t enough to provide a healthy lifestyle and that where you live can impact the quality of the food and safety of people.  

We once lived in a time where food didn’t come by easy and laziness wasn’t how people acted, but now food is not all natural and comes in an abundance which leads to over eating and laziness.  In order to fix this problem we need to encourage people to seek help from professionals and the government needs to regulate the amount of unhealthy food and also help these people benefit from food stamps by providing enough food for healthy options.  Obesity can only be decreased by you and if you find it in yourself the drive to lose weight or be healthy than we can all lower the percent of obesity and live a healthier lifestyle.  Do you want to live longer?  Then eat healthy, exercise, and seek help.


Henry, T. A. (2018, November 26). Adult obesity rates rise in 6 states, exceed 35% in 7. Retrieved from

Pollack, A. (2013, June 18). A.M.A. Recognizes Obesity as a Disease. Retrieved from

Obesity Rates & Trend Data. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Adam, Maya. (2016, January 15). Retrieved from

Number 1 Health Issue: Obesity

Ryon Hurley

I believe that obesity is America’s number 1 health issue because it is occurring more frequently and because that is all we hear in health classes today.  Obesity is defined as being over the considered healthy weight which is determined by the body mass index chart (BMI).  When you go to your regularly scheduled doctor’s appointment they will measure your height and weight and then chart it on your graph which has a trend line showing the average BMI a human should be and they compare you to it and determine whether you are overweight or not.  There are many reasons why a person would be considered or become overweight and it can either be from genetics, lifestyle choices, or limited choices.  Since obesity has been such a controversial topic the U.S. decided to consider obesity as a disease.  The U.S. did this in order to allow people with obesity to seek health coaching, diet plans, and medical help all through doctors appointments covered by insurance.  The world is becoming more obese and we are the only ones that can help.

The most common way to become obese is from eating habits and lifestyle choices.  The U.S. in particular is known for having fast food restaurants, fried food, and processed foods.  All of these types of food are harmful to or health and are  unhealthy especially when ingested everyday or in an irregular amount.  These types of foods should not be incorporated in your diet; instead you should find more natural products and items from the grocery store in order to make a healthier diet.  In the U.S. there are 7 states that have a 35 percent obesity rate for their population.  These states include Alabama, Arkansas, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and West Virginia and majority of them are located in the southern part of the east coast with a few being located in the northern section of the east coast (Henry, 2018).  Henry also mentions that in the year 2000 there was no state that had an obesity percentage higher than 20, but just 20 years later 7 states now have 35 percent or higher (Henry, 2018).  Graphs showing the obesity rate, diabetes rate, and physical inactivity among adults and different ranges of children can be found here:  The graphs are updated a few years ahead of Henry’s article and now shows that 9 states are above 35 percent of obese citizens.  People find it difficult to resist fast food restaurants due to how cheap and fast they are but also because they taste good due to the extra chemicals and sugars added to them.  When you incorporate fast food or processed foods into your diet and then on top of that aren’t exercising than you are on the fast track to becoming obese.  The history of obesity and why fast food and processed foods are bad can be found here:  Fast food and processed food are seen as a huge success but have ultimately brought harm to the diet of the world and has caused bad habits and overeating.  

The other side of obesity comes from genetics and limited resources and these two are the main reasons as to why obesity is considered a disease.  Different genetic reasons for obesity include monogenetic obesity and different mutations in the genome that inhibit weight loss or slow down metabolism.  Other forms of onsight obesity is type 2 diabetes and heart disease which comes from being overweight and is mostly seen in older generations.  With obesity being a disease physicians can now prescribe obesity pills, provide coaching, diets, and surgeries which will also be covered by insurance (Pollack, 2013).  Lifestyle choices and limited resources are key roles in the beggining steps of becoming obese and if these can be tackled early then it will be even easier to avoid obesity.  Exercise and healthy food are key to a healthy lifestyle and are relatively easy to incorporate in your lifestyle if you want it.  Along with this there does come problems with money and environment.  The places you live and the amount of money you have play a huge role in your lifestyle and determine how safe it is to be outside and what food you can buy.  Throughout my sophomore inquiry class on healthy people healthy places I learned that the current system for providing money and food stamps isn’t enough to provide a healthy lifestyle and that where you live can impact the quality of the food and safety of people.  

We once lived in a time where food didn’t come by easy and laziness wasn’t how people acted, but now food is not all natural and comes in an abundance which leads to over eating and laziness.  In order to fix this problem we need to encourage people to seek help from professionals and the government needs to regulate the amount of unhealthy food and also help these people benefit from food stamps by providing enough food for healthy options.  Obesity can only be decreased by you and if you find it in yourself the drive to lose weight or be healthy than we can all lower the percent of obesity and live a healthier lifestyle.  Do you want to live longer?  Then eat healthy, exercise, and seek help.


Henry, T. A. (2018, November 26). Adult obesity rates rise in 6 states, exceed 35% in 7. Retrieved from

Pollack, A. (2013, June 18). A.M.A. Recognizes Obesity as a Disease. Retrieved from

Obesity Rates & Trend Data. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Adam, Maya. (2016, January 15). Retrieved from

Poverty: Number 1 Public Health Concern

Poverty has always been the main concern not just in America but everywhere else in the world. Some countries have it worse and some don’t have it as bad. There are over a billion people living in extreme poverty around the world and most of them suffer from infectious disease, hunger, and high infant mortality. Just in America alone, there are over 50 million people living in poverty and the number just keeps rising every day. It prevents people from getting access to medical care, prescription drugs, and adequate nutrition. Poverty is the number one public health concern that needs to be addressed.

When it comes to poverty, most countries in Africa have the highest rate of poverty. According to the article,10 Facts on Health Inequities, “They are at least 16.000 children dying every day of pneumonia, malaria, diarrhea, and other diseases and most children are 14 times more likely to die before the age of 5 in sub-Saharan Africa than the rest of the world. Children from the poorest 20% of households are nearly twice as likely to die before their fifth birthday as children in the richest 20%” (slide 2). This shows that poverty does lead to ill health. Living in poor conditions or even overcrowded conditions can result in the spread of airborne diseases like tuberculosis and respiratory infections. And in a lot of countries in Africa, there are issues of lack of food, clean water, and sanitation which can also be fatal. The main cause of poverty in Africa is poor healthcare because ” the poor cannot afford to purchase what is needed for good health, including sufficient quantities of quality food and healthcare itself”( Project, para. 7).

When looking at the top causes of poverty around the world, the top 5 are inadequate access to clean water, little to no access to livelihood or jobs, inequality, poor education, and poor healthcare system. A person’s education level, employment status, and income level all affect how healthy a person is (10 Facts on Health Inequities and their Causes, para.1). This means that people that are in poverty are at a higher risk and people that are higher in the socio-economic position have better health because they have access to better healthcare, better education, and better jobs. But when it comes to the inequality of income, it seems almost impossible to eliminate, but just leaving it as it is “these permissible income inequalities will (continue to) generate health inequalities if they are left in place” ( Sreenivasan, para. 69). Furthermore, the reason why poverty remains is that when a child has poor health and are living on less than $1 per day, it affects their school performance and that leads to the inability to find good work and to support the next family so basically, the cycle of poverty never ends. People who are enduring poverty like mentioned above are less educated and that results in them having less knowledge about activities to promote health and when to access health care.

Poverty and poor health worldwide are related. Political, social, and economic injustice are the main causes of poor health for millions of people globally and poverty is a cause and consequence of poor health. In order for poverty and poor health to be tackled, the economic and political structures which sustain poverty and inequality need to be transformed. Everyone deserves health care services but currently, millions of people are being deprived of those services because they don’t have the money and access for it. To help reduce poverty, it is important to make sure millions of people have improved nutrition, have access to safe water and sanitation, and strengthening national health systems. Along with other parts like making sure children have access to education, and the parents who need to provide for their children to have access to good-paying jobs. Tackling the structural causes of poverty is what will help millions of people.


“10 Facts on Health Inequities and Their Causes.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, 21 Apr. 2017,

Project, Borgen. “Identifying the Multiple Causes of Poverty in Africa.” The Borgen Project, Borgen Project Https://, 16 Dec. 2019,

Sreenivasan, Gopal. “Justice, Inequality, and Health.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Stanford University, 27 Aug. 2014,

Taking Care of Ourselves & Our Information-Diet

In my middle school and even high school experience, using Wikipedia was a big no-no. It was known as this big void of information that was mostly untrue, and outright unreliable. Until I was a sophomore in college did I learn that Wikipedia can be used to find other resources about a certain topic of interest. 

If there is a question whether a site is credible or is giving credible information, you can type in the main domain website into Google followed by “Wikipedia” and match up the information. You can see if the site you are using is local to the area in which an event or issue happened, if it is re-reporting a story, or if it is a real news or information site that is known for being credible. It takes time to learn how to spot out misinformation and learn how to fact-check but it is important for us, especially as students and people of the internet-age, to familiarize ourselves to this internet land better and be conscientious of what we understand to be factual. 

So what other things have I learned about the use of the internet and how to use it as a resource? Fact-checking. 

Fact-checking has become a necessary skill to have in this age of the internet. We are constantly bombarded with information that some people say is fake-news and some say is true and we must listen. How can we limit the amount of manipulated news stories that we ingest and create a well-balanced information-diet?

When you are scrolling on Instagram/Twitter/Facebook…

When you are reading up on the news…

When you are in discussion with others…


First, CHECK THE CLAIM. When you want to make sure something is credible or true, you can copy and paste (or rewrite) the title of the article (or words related to the information) into Google and try to find articles and credible news sources that are talking about the subject. To be sure that the source you are using is credible, check to see if the article is written professionally and without spelling errors. This seems simple but you would be surprised by how many sites contain spelling errors and odd formats. 

It is also useful to put the words “fact-check” after the article or post heading/title. 

For instance, I saw a tweet the other day that I wanted to find out more information about. Dan Scavino tweeted a clip from Joe Biden’s speech in St. Louis, Missouri that cut him off saying “We can only re-elect Trump”, which Donald Trump proceeded to retweet himself. So, I decided to go to Google and see what was happening here.

I found that Biden had not stopped at saying that the nation can only re-elect Trump, but proceeded to speak more on his slip-up of words. It is easy to cut off videos and post them in order to manipulate what people see or hear. Especially during the time where people of the United States are trying to understand the facts of our politics and decide on a candidate, there will be people tweeting and posting on Instagram and Facebook sharing their opinions or false information. 

It is really easy to scroll and take in the information you see and call it fact. It’s unrealistic to say that everything we see on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram is not real. Social media has also become a place of truth. People share their stories, their experiences, their opinions and ideas — it has become a hub of information and humanity. But it is a place that contains all human tendencies – including dishonesty, confusion, or manipulation. 

In order to care for ourselves, we must take care of our information-diet. We must be active in research, especially those involved with the news or social media. Take care of yourselves by being conscious and aware on social media/the internet. 

Be kind and conscientious with yourselves and others on the internet & IRL folks! 



Notion. 2020. Check, Please!. [online] Available at: <;

Spencer, S. H. (2020, March 9). Viral Biden Video Is Deceptively Edited. Retrieved from

Evolution of a Cyber Cascade

Cyber Cascade: “A massive snowball-effect of information that gets spread around without knowing anything about the truthfulness of the information.”

I have been back in the States this time since September 2017, and as a bicultural citizen of both Austria and the USA, I have to admit that before I made the jump across the Atlantic, what seems like an eternity but was only roughly 2.5 years ago, I was not at all actually keeping current on stateside issues. Nope, I was busy picking up some pieces over there, and actually was a bit in disbelief that in Austria such a seemingly unqualified person as Sebastian Kurz, who actually lost a no-confidence vote last year for corruption, became the Federal Chancellor.

Change channels to the States: It is arguable that at this moment in time – early March 2020 – and in the history of the internet, there has never been such polarized opinions shared publicly online. Through the medium of Facebook, for example, sharing one’s own opinion – be it correct and fact-based or not – is a matter of gaining access, typing text and posting.

The problem is that people are becoming quite good at “making a story sound believable”, even if what they are posting is speculation or flat out incorrect. The numbers of unsubstantiated posts are million-fold, and the occurrence of cognitive dissonance, a belief in two or more conflicting facts, seems to be becoming regular, and people are believing stories at an all-time rate even though facts may be available to counter their validity. 

This is even an accepted norm in some groups.

Taking Facebook as an example, it seems highly opinionated groups have mastered the art of creating one group voice, and grown accustomed to not having any tolerance for dissension or newcomers with varying opinions. There are groups and there are pages, and both have the option to disallow members or subscribers, respectively, from starting a post, but only to add on to an existing post, whereas strong opinion posts contrary to the regular beliefs of that group are often deleted.

Going back to the very act of collecting information which we like to assume is “credible knowledge”, we go to Google, put in our search string, and expect that whatever comes out as the result is credible, even trusting Google to the point of assuming that the items on the first page and even at the top of the list on the first page have randomly arrived there neutrally, without any outside influence, for my benefit.

This assumption – that Google is handing me an empiric, unfiltered result – has been shown to be grossly wrong. There is indeed an algorithm, which is alive and dynamic and watching my past search history, as well as is reading the cookies on my computer and actually making decisions about what it thinks I “want to see”, based on subprograms built into the algorithm that tell it to offer me links – or rather, direct me to links which may or may not actually help me to the end goal of being informed with all of the available information online.

No, it is often NOT the case that I will get a nice variety of links based on my search string.

After watching the video about Dylann Roof that was linked under a lesson on this course, I became more aware of this.

An article in the Daily We states: “With a dramatic increase in options, and a greater power to customize, comes an increase in the range of actual choices. Those choices are likely, in many cases, to mean that people will try to find material that makes them feel comfortable, or that is created by and for people like themselves.”

The case with Dylann Roof, mass murderer of nine African American persons at a prayer meeting in South Carolina 2015 shines a huge light on the polarizing effects on a user by the occurrence of a cyber cascade. In this case, one theory is that at the time of Roof’s search, there had been multiple searches for white supremicist sites already, and “blacks murdering whites” would then logically and statistically cause Roof to receive many white supremist hits, reinforcing his weak prejudice and hence polarizing his perspective. 

Given that Roof started with a weak but  definite prejudice when researching this interracial murder topic, Roof was trying to educate himself about the 2012 slaying of 17-year-old African American Trayvon Martin, by a caucasian, George Zimmerman, and in his words: “See what the big deal was” about the slaying. 

As reported: “Roof’s radicalization began, as he later wrote in an online manifesto, when he typed the words ‘black on White crime’ into Google and found what he described as ‘pages upon pages of these brutal black on White murders.’ The first web pages he found were produced by the Council of Conservative Citizens, a crudely racist group that once called black people a ‘retrograde species of humanity.’ Roof wrote that he has “never been the same since that day.” 

Were these sites clearly and intentionally composed to incite rage and vitriol in the reader who might already have a hateful attitude toward African Americans?

Roof ended up clicking on the links that Google provided to him, the harshest flagship white supremist sites, all at the top of his search page.

It is arguable that perhaps Google’s algorithm was active for Roof, that it was simply taking his past browsing history, and was delivering to him links related to his history, but the Southern Poverty Law Center begs to differ.

The problem here is that the combination of Google-user Roof and the links he was browsing altered his view of the actual full picture of the hostile scenario of interracial murders, and essentially caused him to strengthen the roots of his resolve of hatred and contemplating violence against African Americans, wher he eventually decided to voluntarily take violent action.

This story is not a theory but is factual, drawing from Roof’s own testimony about the development of his hate, where he became so emotionally inflamed that he even came to the point of “starting a race war.”

The Southern Poverty Law Office surmises that Roof likely entered into his research not necessarily having his mind made up, and despite a possibly open mind, which actually seems doubtful, the huge dose of anti-black links that he was provided may very well have influenced him into his rage. The question may have been timing, and Roof’s receiving the result 

What Roof, with a fragile, impressionable mind, failed to do is to engage a critical thinking approach, where he might mentally “step back” from the picture that was being created in his mind by these sites and then view the different published sources as possibly not being legitimate, or at least calling them into question or imagining for himself that such sites and text were structured in such a way to incite a reader, with a crafty and intentional call to racial action.  

Upon being contacted, Google claimed its algorithm takes into account how trustworthy, reputable or authoritative a source is. Obviously in Roof’s case, it clearly did not.

Let this be a lesson to users of Google or any search engine that very polarizing information swells – cyber cascades – do occur, and what is at the top of one’s search page may not be the most neutral or reliable information source, as one would naturally like to assume. 


1) Article: “Polarization and Cybercascades”

Mediated Subjectivity – Politics and Subjectivity in the Networked Public Sphere

By Mollie Ableman 

Posted September 25, 2011

2) Video: “The Miseducation of Dylann Roof – How did Dylann Roof go from being someone who was not raised in a racist home to someone so steeped in white supremacist propaganda that he murdered nine African Americans during a Bible study?”

By Southern Poverty Law Center

3) Excerpt: Cass Sunstein on Group Polarizationand Cyber-Cascades 

From the “The Daily We”, which appeared in the Boston Review, Summer 2001

Click to access Sunstein_on_Group_Polarization_and_Cyber-Cascades.pdf

Stereotypes in Screenplay

Within the world of entertainment, we have music, dance, theater, games, so on and so forth. Along with them, we can sometimes see some… questionable depictions. Throughout the year, we dived into various topics, but one that really stuck onto me was the idea of “single stories”. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie elaborated on this in her TED Talk,”The Dangers of a Single Story.” I wanted to focus my project on the ideas brought by Adichie and by the video series, “Every Single Word.” To do this, I chose to look at screenplay and how different stereotypes are being presented. Whether they be intentional or unintentional, screenplay seems to have a strong role in enforcing certain stereotypes. This is often seen in screenplay that depict “dark humor”, where the intention is to poke fun at certain groups of people. Below I have three screenplays where single stories can be found.

Beverly Hills Chihuahua

This one is an old but gold movie! Well, kind of. In this movie, we are introduced to Chloe, a chihuahua who knows nothing but living a lavish life. Her owner is Viv, a wealthy white woman. Papi, the other chihuahua, is in love with Chloe and will go to great extreme to protect her. His owner is Viv’s landscaper… which is a Hispanic man named Sam. That brings me to my first stereotype found with the movie. Within popular culture, Hispanic men will often be represented as labor workers, doing jobs like picking, construction, and garden work.
I think a major stereotype, or single story, that was brought up in this movie was the fact that many automatically think that a Hispanic/Latinx individual does not speak English. Rachelle is Viv’s niece; she is also wealthy, quite spoiled, and is as irresponsible as it gets. In one part of the movie, Rachelle approaches Sam angrily, asking him to get his dog, Papi. However, Rachelle speaks to Sam with a mix of English and Spanish words, having difficulty communicating to him her frustration. Rachelle has assumed that Sam does not speak English, hence why she approached him in that manner.

The Office

Whoever doesn’t like The Office clearly hasn’t seen it, it’s the only logical reason. It’s hilarious context never fails it’s audience. This humor can sometimes contain some offensive stuff, though. However, with The Office it’s s bit different. The stereotypes that they may display are intentional. This is what we like to call “dark humor” which can be seen often in shows like South Park, Family Guy, and American Dad. So, when analyzing this, I questioned how this could be applied to my investigation for single stories. The thing is, although that’s the purpose of the screenplay, that stereotype is still being reinforced. There are several examples in this clip:
1. Associating Jewish people with money
2. Kevin’s use of “Jamaican” vocabulary and excessive use of marijuana
3. Pam, although it hurt her to say it, assuming that Asian people are bad drivers. 
4. And lastly, Michael talking to Kelly in an a poor Indian accent, asking her if she wanted to “try his cookie cookie”.

Call Me by Your Name

This one was a bit difficult to analyze. But I couldn’t help but to think that this movie puts gay men under a predatory light. We have a 24 year old graduate student, Oliver, and a 17 year old minor, Elio, engaging in a romantic and sexual relationship. So, I had brought this point up to a friend of mine who loves the movie. But they had claimed that its legal because kid name fits the age of consent. When I looked for the opinions of others on Twitter, there were a lot of people who had the same idea. However, as others stated, legal doesn’t mean ethical. In sum, this movie, depending on how one sees it, is enforcing the idea that gay men are predators. This projection makes these individuals look like they only go for minors and are pedophiles, which can be extremely harmful towards them.

I had a list of topics I wanted to do for this project. It sort of came down to what interested me the most. As I mentioned, what really stuck onto me this year was Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie TED Talk on single stories. I wanted to evaluate this in screenplay and found numerous examples. Many were either “dark humor”, stereotypical, or just down-right degrading. The “Every Single Word” video series also had a major influence. I wanted to incorporate the idea they had, which was to get clips of every time a POC would have a line in major movies, and use it to create my own version. To make it work, I had my friends help me think of movies where sterotypes, or single sotires, seem to pop up. We eventually cut them down and listed the major parts of a movie or episods where I could dive deeper in.

Initially, I had the idea to obtain clips for reference but I had a lot of trouble with that. So, I hope you had simply take my word for it that it actually happened! Other than that, the whole process went well. I did think too overboard on ideas on how to project this, though, I will admit that.

Throughout this process, I’ve learned that it’s actually kind of hard to distinguish stereotypes. In earlier movies, we can see them everywhere. However, today we don’t see whole lot as much as we used to. We only really see it in shows where the intention of depicting stereotypes is there. Other than that, we have some some progress in the world of screenplay.

Asian-Americans in the Media

Growing up, I would watch movies and tv shows with mainly all white actors and a couple of people of color, or none at all. I’ve noticed the lack of Asian representation in popular culture. Both my parents are from Vietnam, while I was born in the United States. Growing up being Asian in America comes with some sort of stereotype. I haven’t faced any type of stereotype personally, but I’ve seen some stereotypes in school and/or in public. I’ve also seen Asian stereotypes portrayed in popular culture. In television and movies, Asian parents are portrayed as “foreign”, meaning that they speak in a thick Asian accent, and being extremely strict. It’s not common to see an Asian as a lead character, and they’re normally seen as a supporting character. Some common Asian stereotypes are that they are super smart, they can’t see clearly, and are nerdy looking. They’re being negatively portrayed in the media which gives society the wrong impression of Asian-Americans. For this project, I’ve decided to explore the identity of Asian-Americans in hopes of learning more about how they are being represented in popular culture.

Fresh Off the Boat is a comedy television show that is loosely based on Eddie Huang’s biography of the same name. The show focuses on a Taiwanese-American family of 5, who moved from Chinatown of Washington, D.C. to Orlando, Florida. The character, Jessica Huang, played by Constance Wu, speaks in an Asian accent, while Randall Park’s character, Louis Huang doesn’t have one. In real life, Constance Wu doesn’t have a thick accent, and on the show, you can tell that it sounds fake and not authentic. Another stereotype that is portrayed on the show is that Asians are overachievers and really smart. One character is seen as an overachiever and expects everything to be perfect, while another character is very intelligent in school and mature for his young age. 

With the success of her show, Constance Wu wanted to look at other projects that would make a social and cultural impact. Crazy Rich Asians is an American romantic comedy film that follows a story of a Chinese-American woman who travels to Singapore to meet her boyfriend’s family, only to find out that they’re the richest family of Singapore. This film became the first major Hollywood film with an all Asian cast in 25 years. Not only do they have an all Asian cast, but they also have a female lead played by Constance Wu, who plays Rachel Chu. Asian-American women are hardly ever in the center of the entertainment industry and they’re normally in the background or being objectified. Rachel was raised by a single mother who immigrated to the U.S. Her mother worked hard and sacrificed everything to create a better future for her daughter. I relate to this because my parents were Vietnamese immigrants who moved to the U.S. to create a better life for me. Their sacrifices and struggles are something women today are still facing. Rachel is depicted as a strong independent woman in the film, because she struggled with her boyfriend’s family’s objections to their relationship, and ultimately she had to pick her boyfriend’s happiness over hers.

In the media, Asians are stereotyped to be shy, bully victims, and being good at math or piano. With the release of the film, it featured the all Asian cast playing many diverse character types that will help change the view of Asians in the media. The film also focused on the culture of Singapore with the food and language that was spoken in the film. Some people have criticized the film for failing to represent the true diversity of Singapore, but I think that it still represented the Asian community because they can all relate to some scenes of the film. The writer’s of the film wanted to focus on the emotional journey when traveling to your homeland for the first time because your cultural identity splits.

There are other films and television shows that portray Asian identity, but I chose to analyze Crazy Rich Asians and Fresh Off the Boat because I can relate to them. Asian-American actors are fighting to be visible and not ignored in Hollywood. Constance Wu and other Asian-American actors are advocates for their own visibility and called Hollywood out for taking Asian roles and replacing them with Caucasian actors which can be known as “whitewashing”. For many years Hollywood has been casting white actors to play Asian characters because they believed that white actors attract more audiences and would raise the box office. Asian stereotypes in the media are portrayed falsely which can be disheartening to viewers watching those shows and movies and how it can affect the Asian culture. It can be hurtful and annoying because everyone is expecting the Asian community to act and look a certain way based on how we’re portrayed in popular culture.

Making My Own Media: Three Pitches for Three Projects

For my final project, I proposed to pitch three media projects: an original idea, a historical event and a reboot. As someone who loves both creating and taking in media, I often find myself wishing casts were more diverse, not for the sake of diversity but because so many underrepresented actors are amazing and deserve to be main characters. Whitewashing, both in casting choices and in the retelling of history is a huge issue in popular culture, and often in adaptations where race or gender isn’t specified, straight, cis white men are often the default. In addition watching shows can be stressful if the way underrepresented people are portrayed is simply full of stereotypes and tropes, these characters the first ones to be killed if the genre calls for it. If I had (more of) a say in what got made and who was involved, what would I do? Let’s find out!

Original Idea: Hen & Chick

For an original project, I would have a fantasy novel I wrote, HEN & CHICK: The Marauders’ Island turned into a movie or a miniseries.

Art by Mildred Louis, design by Mel Ujimori

The blurb for the book reads as follows:

Azria is a mage of Miz, trained to wield the magic her country is famous for. When her estranged mother, alleged pirate Captain Apzana of the Hen & Chick, shows up on her 16th birthday offering her adventure, Azria leaves the life she knows for the promise of riches, renown and danger at her mother’s side.

But more mysteries than answers surface when Apzana reveals why she’s called on Azria after years of absence: the treasure of the Marauders’ Island, an island sunk into the Sapphire Sea generations ago by the infamous mage Iyzani. If Azria can raise the island, the score of a thousand shores will be theirs for the taking and she’ll secure her place among her mother’s crew. But when Iyzani emerges from the shadows to stop them, Azria must summon her power and navigate the waters of revenge and ambition.

A lot of different influences went into this book, among them my love for fantasy and magic and my desire to go against some of the tropes so common in fantasy stories. These often figure white, chosen one protagonists who are orphans traipsing from inn to inn to eat mutton stew and then fight ultimate evil in the form of a bad guy or a beast. There are SO MANY dead moms in fantasy stories and as a mom and someone raised by women, I really think this demographic deserves to have a little bit of adventure when we are making things up. I brought some of my culture into the story by making the main setting a set of islands, featuring people from all over the place and having the characters eat foods I grew up eating (plantains are magic, I don’t care what anyone says). Azria has parents from two different countries, and while the idea of ‘race’ as it exists here in our world doesn’t bode the same there, there is still the idea of belonging and culture that Azria struggles with. There are also lots of queer characters who just get to live their lives. The setting is bright and vibrant. 

I don’t have anyone in mind for most of the roles but I would want Gina Torres to play Apzana, the captain of the ship and Azria’s mom. At one point in time I envisioned Reggie Lee as the first mate Bolo, Dev Patel as the supplier, Eixon and Judy Reyes as the ship doctor, Onacá. However, a lot of time has passed between when I wrote this book and now so the plausibility of these actors being available has shifted considerably. Obviously having this story on any kind of screen would be amazing. It’s exactly the kind of movie that, if I saw it when I was a kid, I would have freaked out. 

Historical Retelling: The Combahee River Raid

We just had a movie about Harriet Tubman but it ends right before she performed one of her most daring feats: organizing the Raid on the Combahee Ferry! A movie about Harriet Tubman’s involvement in the Civil War would be amazing (though I will note, Drunk History did a short version of this historic event). You can read about the raid specifically here but the struggles she faced, getting white officers to give her the power and resources she needed to plan it, her missions to gather intelligence about the area, the presence of white abolitionists who would stop at nothing to free enslaved people opposed to more moderate members of the Union Army, the South struggling to keep their armies fed and clothed during the war to continue slavery, all culminating in a huge battle? It deserves to be seen on the big screen. Not to mention many of the Black soldiers in her ranks were freed and may have had family members on the farms they raided. It’s full of drama and larger than life characters. It’s an amazing part of history which should be more known about. 

Reboot: Blade Runner/Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

I’m a huge fan of Philip K Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? And while I acknowledge the place the original Bladerunner movie has in our cinematic history and development of the cyberpunk aesthetic, I would really like to reboot this as a miniseries to better emulate the themes of the book and update them for the modern day. 

One of the tenets of cyberpunk is ‘high tech, low life’ and our tech has indeed gone higher while the quality of life has indeed dipped, especially when compared to the billionaires who run things. I would put a bigger focus on power dynamics between class and race, which play a huge role today in how people empathize with one another. I would also want to bring in the subjects of empathy and Mercerism which were core to the original plot and themes of the book. 

In addition to recasting the movie, I would make the city of San Francisco feel more empty, as it is in the book. In the world of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Anyone who can afford it lives on Mars, away from the poisoned environment of earth. San Francisco is one of the cities affected by the pollution and its population would be much lower, giving this one vibrant city a ghost like feel full of stragglers, those hoping to leave and those forbidden to do so. One change I would make from the book besides casting more underrepresented people would be to try to visually establish the hierarchy among the humans by having some of the higher ups operating from Mars via screens/holograms to further play with the idea of reality/who is real and who isn’t. As more and more jobs become remote and with talks of the world becoming inhabitable, it would make sense for higher ups to delegate from afar, from the safety of climate controlled, sterile offices while salaried workers and hourly earners make their way through the dust and decay of a newly wild west coast where order must still be maintained. Another movie set in San Francisco I would like to take influence from would be Sorry to Bother you by Boots Riley. 

 As for the cast:

Richard Deckard: Andrew Koji. Andrew Koji has big shoes to fill. Ryan Gosling has taken on the role of the new detective who retires androids in Blade Runner 2049. San Francisco has a huge Asian population so a mixed race character would be more than plausible for a futuristic version of SF. Koji has acting chops and action chops which opens up the possibility of a bit more action. 

Iran, Richard Deckard’s wife: Indya Moore. Indya Moore is a great actress, enough said. 

Bill Barbour: Richar’s neighbor who owns a horse: William Jackson Harper. 

Bryant, Richard Deckard’s boss: Nana Visitor. This character would operate from Mars, via vidscreen. This character is originally male in the book but doesn’t have to be.

Holden, another bounty hunter who is injured by Polokov: Gwendolyn Christie. This character is male in the book but it doesn’t have to be.

Eldon Rosen: Martin Csokas. This character would operate via hologram in their headquarters on Earth. It wouldn’t be apparent from the beginning but it would become apparent as the scene played out, either through dialog or effect.

Rachel/Pris: Ruth Negga. In the book, Pris and Rachel are said to be the same model of Nexus-6 so Pris and Rachel should be played by the same person. Ruth Negga is an Irish actress with stellar acting chops who could pull this off. 

Resch, a human bounty hunter who questions his own humanity. Riz Ahmed

Garland, an android posing as a human to monitor humans via a fake police station. Michael Ealy

John Isidore: Lakieth Stanfield

Mercer: Oscar Isaac. I want him to be rich, to be honest. And he’s got good range which is important because….

Buster Friendly: Oscar Isaac. Like Pris/Rachel being the same model, I think it’d be interesting to have Buster and Mercer played by the same person, but obviously in different make up. Mercer and Buster Friendly are both there as vehicles for people to relate to, as Mercerism has the empathy machines people use to experience his trek up the hill, while ‘everyone watches Buster Friendly,’ as reported by Isodore. People on Mars and Earth participate in both forms of media, which distract people from the reality around them with promises of togetherness and emotional connection. Casting Oscar Isaac is a bit tongue in cheek, as it is kind of an internet joke that Oscar Isaac will be in anything with robots. The guy loves robots, what can I say.

Irmgard Batty: Eréndira Ibarra. 

Roy Batty: Lennie James

Max Polokov, an escaped Nexus 6 who poses as a Russian agent. Max Reimult

Luba Luft: Stephanie Beatriz. The music could be changed to better fit the story/her singing ability (which exists and is actually quite good). 

Hannibal Sloat: John Isidore’s boss: Mel Rodriguez

Milt: Isidore’s co-worker: Manny Jacinto ❤

It took me a while to think of a good cast for this story! One area I wish I could speak more to is the choice of director, as who is behind the camera is as important as who is in front of it. I mentioned Boots Riley before as someone who definitely can do interesting sci-fi, and Jordan Peele seems overdone, Ava Duvernay is really popular right now for good reasons but I know there are probably some less well known directors who could really pull this off.

I tried to pull from actors I had seem from on the most part, though there are a few I haven’t seen in many things. There is a part of me that didn’t want to cast Lennie James as Roy Batty because (spoilers for a move that has been out for a long time) Roy Batty is killed in the end and I am tired of seeing Black people die on screen. Yet Lennie James is an amazing actor who would do a great job of playing this formidable, charismatic leader of the escaped robots. My consolation besides getting to see him act is knowing there are other Black characters who make it till the end. I would also want to be careful to not have the Nexus-6 androids be simply evil, as I loathe narratives of killer robots. The company which is behind the creation of the androids, a culture that entices people to move to another planet with the promise of their own (artificial) slave, that relegates empathy to being for animals or within the confines of the empathy box…that is far more sinister to me. The fact that androids are not allowed to live on Earth is something I’d like to explore more, if I had to chance to work it for the screen.

Sometimes trying someone you are unfamiliar only seems like taking a risk, because you are unfamiliar with them, when in reality they have the ability, the drive and the desire. By looking outside the dictates of the common culture, we can be entertained by the stories people are very eager to tell. The stories we see tell us how we are viewed. If we are given more chances to show how we see ourselves, sitting down to watch Netflix can be even more chill.

How BTS has transformed the music industry.

When talking about Asian artists in the music industry in America, there aren’t many that you could recognize off the top of your head.

Asians in the music industry are considered a minority group because before BTS, there weren’t many that I personally could think of. BTS debuted in South Korea in 2013 and like any other groups, they weren’t that popular but compared to other kpop groups they had it the hardest because their company, Big Hit, was grew with BTS so there weren’t many supporters or a good background to start with.

Image result for bts first bbmas

And by 2017 they were the biggest k-pop group by being the first korean group to be nominated for the BBMAs and beat Justin Bieber who has won the BBMAs for 7 consecutive year. And since then, they have won 4 BBMAs consecutively. This is a huge deal! No other Asian artist have achieved this and they technically have paved way for other Asian artists as well. And BBMAs aren’t their only achievements, BTS also made history by being the first k-pop group to perform at the AMAs which really solidified their group status of not just in genre of k-pop but entertainment as well! BTS was also the first k-pop group to be invited to the Ellen Degeneres Show, The Late Late Show with James Cordon, and on Jimmy Fallon. Their recent achievement was performing at the Oscars.

From Youtube to Billboard charts, they have broken records with every new album they have come out with. Other than Youtube and Billboard charts, they have taken over every other media platforms.

Image result for bts pictures

A lot of people wonder why they are a huge deal but I say they deserve all the hype that they have right now. BTS has changed the music industry by becoming one of the biggest musical acts in the world without making an English language song. In one of the many interviews they had, they were asked if they would ever make a song in English and not Korean, they said they have chosen to remain true with their k-pop root instead of looking to cross over with an English hit. RM, the group leader replied, “We don’t want to change our identity or our genuineness to get the number one”. One amazing thing about BTS is that they are still able to have an emotional connection with fans through their music even if it isn’t in English. I think that’s something that is unique and rare. And if you haven’t checked out BTS yet, do it and I promise you won’t regret it! Ps. They have one of the biggest fan base in any artists currently.

Representation Film Analysis

Throughout this course, we have deeply discussed the media and Hollywood and its role in the stereotypes and portrayals of different types of people. Representation in TV and movies alone cannot be the solution to breaking these stereotypes. Having nuanced and positive characterization is absolutely crucial to dismantling these damaging portrayals. Media is the unconscious framework for which some of these identities. Being fed the same damaging narrative results in a very narrow view of the world and is almost more damaging than no representation at all. TV and movies are a useful tool we can use to rewrite those inaccurate portrayals. There are many films that I feel achieve this goal and use the tool of films in a constructive way to transcend these stereotypes created and perpetuated by Hollywood. The films I think do an exceptional job of this are Silver Linings Playbook, Moonlight, Tangerine, and Coco, for their positive representation of transgender issues, mental disorders, the LGBTQ community, Latino culture, and people of color. 


The first movie I believe contains important and positive representation that overcomes stereotypes is Silver Linings Playbook. Silver Linings Playbook deals with the realities and hardships that come with mental illness and disorders, which is not a topic we see tackled in major motion pictures. Earning multiple Academy Award nominations, the film centers around a man named Pat who recently was released from a psychiatric hospital for his bipolar disorder. We often see films trying to sugar coat mental disorders to seem like something quirky or the punchline of a joke. But in this, we see the uncomfortable realities of this disorder. While the movie is not perfect, its happy ending can be seen as romanticizing mental illness or telling an audience that love can cure your mental disorders, showing such an accurate depiction of the disorder helps to remove the stigma surrounding it. Showing the uncomfortable aspects of bipolar, like Pat having manic episodes, emotional outbursts, and dramatic mood swings are important to have accurate representation. This film also shows how important social relationships can be when battling mental illness and how helpful they can be to someone suffering from a disorder. 


Moonlight was also a revolutionary film that was able to transcend stereotypes surrounding African American men and the LGBTQ community at the same time. Moonlight not only gives positive representation to those identities but it was also beautifully filmed and won Best Picture at the 2017 Oscars. This film dismantled so many different stereotypes surrounding two identities that are not often seen together, the LGBTQ community and the African American community. The main character Chiron, a black gay man, dismantles the sterotype that gay men cannot be masculine. So often in media gay men in tv shows or movies are shown in feminine and “flamboyant”. From Modern Family to Glee, this has been seen time and time again. But in Moonlight, Chiron is a traditionally masculine man and very tough, which allows for the LGBTQ community to not be in a box. It also shows that LGBTQ characters can have other identifying factors outside of their sexualities. In the film, his mother’s addiction and how that affects his other relationships in his life. This detail helps to dismantle the overused characterization that the only issues that LGBTQ+ people deal with are related to their sexuality. It allows for LGBTQ people to not be left in a box because of their sexuality and opens the door for more nuanced and multidimensional characters. It may seem like common sense, but for gay men to be portrayed as just men who happen to be gay as opposed to a “GAY man” is so important. Lastly,  so often LGBTQ stories are told through a white character. Call Me By Your Name, Love, Simon, or The Way He Looks, we are so accustomed to LGBTQ coming of age stories being told through the eyes of white individuals. Moonlight widens those perspectives by including this intersectional character as the center of the film.


Within the film Tangerine, we see raw and authentic portrayals of the lives of transgender women of color. With the cast full of real transgender women, not cis actors pretending for a film, we get a peek into the life of this community is the heart of Los Angeles. The film does not make their gender identity the focus of the movie though. It centers around two transgender women of color, Sin-dee and Alexandra, who have their friendship tested through the movie as they have disagreements. The director of this movie also allowed the women to adapt the script to make the dialogue more authentic and realistic, making them in charge and in control of how they are being perceived. This shows that the film does not allow these women to become caricatures. But it does not ignore the discrimination and exploitation that these women have to endure. In Tangerine, we see these women’s financial struggles because of their trouble finding jobs as a result of their gender identity. This leads to most of them turning to sex work as a means of income and We see the exploitation they experience through this work as well. Tangerine does an excellent job of displaying the reality of being a transgender woman of color while also allowing these women to have a story outside of that identity.


The final film I will include in this analysis is the Disney animated movie, Coco. Throughout this movie, we follow a young boy named Miguel on his adventure into the Land of the Dead to find his great-great-grandfather. This being a children’s movie elevates its content to a whole new level. By having a storyline, characters and a setting that celebrates and appreciates Mexican culture as opposed to shaming and making fun of it, it allows for young children to see themselves and their lives in a positive and inspirational way. Coco is the perfect example of why and how representation matters. In such a euro-centric Hollywood having complex characters and incorporating important aspects of Mexican history and values allows, and winning Best Animated Feature Film, shows that we value Mexican culture. This film was able to rise above the demonizing stereotypes surrounding Latinos, especially in the political climate it was released in. I believe that every person, regardless of color, class, gender, or sexual orientation should be able to see themselves as the hero in a film and with Coco young Latino children were able to see that for themselves. 

Effects of Media on Teens

Media is a huge part of society today and will continue to increase. There is no doubt that media has given us more opportunities and success, but at the same time it comes with its side effects. Technology and media can be very addicting especially due to the constant easy access to todays teens who have a tv, smartphone, tablet, and game console. Today teens are staying indoors and playing video games or scrolling through social media rather than going outside to be active and social. With the constant use of technology and media more and more teens are starting to mature too early, become depressed, and lack social skills.

I want to spread the knowledge of effects of media on teens and give my personal insight from what I have seen and experienced growing up since I am now a young adult. I have seen and compared how children are raised compared to my generation and I have seen how different generations of teens have acted. I have noticed that with all this new technology parents are resulting to it in order to discipline their kids or get them to calm down when they are out in public. This is causing the kids to be dependent on technology and without it they don’t know how to act or have proper manners. Another thing I have seen is that with teens they are starting to disrespect their elders more and more and even trash properties that they get to use such as bathrooms and schools.

Teens are getting addicted to social media and technology which is coming with some side effects such as depression and sleep deprivation. Kids are staying up late and not getting enough sleep during their prime years of growing and are causing problems for their future selves. Another problem with being addicted to media is that they are constantly on social media getting pumped full of information that may or may not be true. With this there are people out there in the world that are posting fake news on purpose in order to get a laugh out of people or just for their own fun and it is hard to spot the fake news. In the pamphlet I have included the link to a website that teaches you the basics of the SIFT technique which helps you determine if the information is true or not. Along with this you can see catfishing or even cyber bullying due to people hiding behind the screen and doing whatever they feel like.

Overall teens are getting more and more addicted to technology and media and the world is becoming more and more dependent on it which is going to have some health side effects in the future. The main effects are depression and sleep deprivation which is not good for health. Technology is both good and bad, but the world needs to be aware of these problems and assess what could happen in the future if this keeps up.

I have put together a pamphlet that explains the main issues with media and its effects on teens and all includes some statistical data that will make you think differently about your teen using media and technology. Feel free to read or even access and print to display for others to learn more about it. Also follow the links to find out more facts that may help you.

Pamphlet: file:///C:/Users/Ryon/Documents/Sinq/Final%20Project.pdf

Social Media Impact in 2020

Social Media Impact 

Social media is everywhere in 2020. If you ask a random person on the street if they have a smartphone in their pocket with either Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, the odds are, they say yes. People often argue if it is wrong or right. Below is a small list of pros and cons to understand both sides. 

Benefits of Social Media: 

  • World wide connections
  • Keep in contact with distant relatives
  • Get inspired
  • Receive information fast 
  • Brings brand awareness to small companies

Downfalls of Social Media:

  • Bullying
  • A false representation of reality
  • Fake news
  • Waste time 
  • Less human interaction

Examples of Each

Connection: I can build a friendship with someone who lives in England and eventually travel there one day to meet them.

Keep in contact: It is hard when family lives in a different state. My half brother’s step sister created a Facebook group with our family to be able to keep up with her fast-growing little boys. 

Get inspired: this is what I use social media for most. Seeing other people strive for excellence keeps me motivated to be a better person. 

Receive information fast: Currently, information about the coronavirus every day has been able to make people aware of updates and steps they should take in order to stay safe. 

Brand Awareness: Most businesses are brought up by seeing ads on TV or through influencers’ social media. When celebrities post about a product, many people want to buy it because they trust the source and want to be more like them. This brings sales to companies. 

Bullying: It is easy to hate on people over the media. By the touch of a button, you can send a very cruel message. Those words hurt people in a big way. 

False representation: Not everyone is as happy as they look in their pictures. It can often make us feel like we are the only ones feeling sad and down. 

Fake news: Fake news is everywhere. Media makes stuff up just to get a reaction. Don’t believe everything you see. 

Waste of time: often, I find myself scrolling through Instagram and not be able to stop. I will stay up till 2am rather than getting the sleep I need. 

Less human interaction: Media forces us to talk through a screen rather than in person. This can cause miscommunication. 

Growing up, I was always taught to be myself. When I was younger social media wasn’t nearly as popular as it is now. Now looking back, I can notice a considerable attitude change when I got my first type of social media app, which was Instagram. I remember being twelve years old, scrolling through the feed wishing I was as pretty as the models and celebrities I could see through my phone. As the years went on, I got more and more down on myself for not being the picture-perfect person I thought I had to be. Here’s the thing I didn’t know: not everything on the internet is true. Most posts by celebrities are heavily edited. Below I will compare my Instagram to Kylie Jenner. 

What is the difference?

Kylie Jenner is one of the most known young women in the world. Her social media platform is heavily influenced by what people want to see. In order to keep or increase her 164 million followers, she must post things that grab attention. I tend to post things that matter to me the most, including my fitness studio, friends, and skiing. In all Kylie’s posts, she seems to be posing and not have a smile on her face. I post pictures that I am genuinely happy in. We can also notice that all her photos are very edited. 

Why does this matter? 

After assessing both Instagrams, it is evident that we are two completely different people. It is easy to slip into the thought that we have to look perfect in every photo because our icons do. The false reality of social media can cause depression and self-doubt. Kylie could be going through a tough time, but we would never know because her social media looks so perfect. It is essential to teach our younger generations that it is okay not to be perfect. Let them know the only important thing is to strive to be the best version of yourself. Do what makes you truly happy and share those real raw moments with others. 

How to Approach Web Literacy in The New Generation of The Internet

By Alex Lopez

Let’s start with the big question, “What is web literacy?” According to Wikipedia, “Web literacy comprises the skills and competencies needed for reading, writing and participating on the web.” But what does that mean in a practical sense? To sum it up, it’s knowing and understanding how to fact-check information, and why/when to do so. 

We take in countless amounts of information each and every day through social media and news outlets. The problem with this is we typically visit those websites for entertainment, rather than for deep learning. So when we see that a friend or somebody we follow has reposted an article, we take in information from the headline, sometimes a quick skim through. Speaking from experience and talking to fellow peers, 90% of the time we either believe the information we read as true, or dismiss it entirely. We think to ourselves, “Why would a friend post a fake article?” 

Now I’m not trying to say you shouldn’t trust your friends, family or followers. The problem here lies with the news sources themselves. They want you to believe what they’ve posted, otherwise they wouldn’t be posting it in the first place.

This might all seem confusing and overwhelming, so let’s break it down by using an example.

You’re scrolling through your Twitter feed and notice that your friend has posted an article: “Snoop Dogg Leads Worship At Local Megachurch.” It sounds fairly interesting, but you just don’t have time to read it right now. Frankly, you don’t know much about Snoop Dogg, you aren’t familiar with the source of the article, but you trust your friends, so you assume it’s be true. 

This article is indeed fake. It’s posted by “The Babylon Bee,” a satirical news source created to spark a conversation with bizarre headlines. 

Of course this was a rather humorous and simple example, but this type of thing can happen to all of us at any time with headlines that read more seriously.

When it comes to my generation, it seems like we’re all taught the same key things in our high school English/Literacy classes. When researching information for a project, the main points are always to:

  1. Never use Wikipedia.
  2. Only trust websites that end in “.gov” or “.net.”
  3. You must spend at least 20 minutes in order to truly verify a source.

The problem with these three points is that it’s put the notion in our minds that checking the validity of a source takes significant amounts of time and effort, and that it can’t be done in a pinch. But being in a time period where we’re taking in more information than ever before and faster than ever before, we must reconsider these “staples” to researching. Let’s break down each point one by one.

Never trust Wikipedia. This was the main point in researching that always bothered me as a high school student. We have a website that has all this information about a topic, and we aren’t allowed to use it. When I asked my teachers why that is, it always comes down to this: “Wikipedia articles are open for anyone to edit, so it shouldn’t be trusted as a reliable place to look in case of false information.” While I understand this logic, it’s missing an entire side of the equation. Because Wikipedia is so open, it allows anybody to give valuable information to a topic that they likely know a lot about. 

There are two main reasons why somebody would write/pitch in to a Wikipedia article. Either they’re super passionate about a topic and want to share it with others, or they dislike something enough to throw off the public’s perception of said thing. The main focus in schools is on the second option, and with good reason! If anybody is able to publish incorrect information about something/someone, it’s better to not use the source at all, right? But there’s a missing piece to this concept:

Wikipedia is highly regulated to prevent this type of thing from happening. 

SinceWikipedia has developed through the years and become increasingly popular, they have added methods to make sure that most (if not all) of its information is correct. Every time something is added, it must first go through the community’s editors to verify what has been posted. If it is detected that a user is adding false information to a topic with malicious intent, Wikipedia will ban them from the website, and track the user’s IP address so that they can’t just make a new account and do it again.

In order for it to be as expansive as it is, it has to be open to everyone. Wikipedia puts in a lot of effort to make sure it’s information is accurate.

Now on to the second point: Only trust websites that end in “.gov” or “.net.” The main argument for this is that websites that end in ‘.com’ or ‘.org’ can be created by anyone, and are often used for generating a profit. This is a broad generalization about these websites. The fact is, most websites use the ‘.com’ domain because it’s the easiest to create. You don’t have to be a professional, government organization to have a website. It can be created by an upcoming business or someone who just wants to share their knowledge with others.

There are plenty of great, well-trusted news sources that use this domain. To claim that these websites only exist to make money is like claiming that every restaurant only exists to make money. Of course, that is a big focus and is obviously important. But the restaurant also wants to serve great food and provide an excellent experience to their customers.

In order to make money, they have to provide great content first.

A lot of news outlets do want to make money, they’re all a business at the end of the day. But that’s not the only reason why the website was created in the first place. Like a restaurant, they must provide quality content that is true and reliable in order to attract advertisers to support the business. This isn’t to say there aren’t bad restaurants out there too! It’s just important to consider that money isn’t the only motive at play here.

So how can we accurately verify information? What are the new steps? Let’s go back to our original example, “Snoop Dogg Leads Worship At Local Megachurch.” The first step is to quick-check the source. Wikipedia can be a fantastic way of doing this, and most importantly, it can be done in a pinch. You can quickly click on the link and see that it’s from “The Babylon Bee” then look for that source on Wikipedia: 

The Babylon Bee is a news satire website that publishes satirical articles on religion, politics, current events, and well-known public figures.” So, there’s our answer. The story comes from a satirical news source that emphasizes religion and celebrities. 

But say we wanted to take this verification a little further. The next step is to google the headline. A lot of the time, an article will be reposted by other websites in order to attract traffic to their site rather than the original. Simply put, they’re stealing the story. It’s common when something is reposted by a different news source, they might end up twisting the story or leaving out important details. Leading you, the reader to believe something about a story that isn’t true for the sake of the website generating more clicks. In order to combat this, we can simple copy and paste the headline into google, and take a look at the first few sources that come up. We can either “quick-check the source” on those new websites or we can click on them to see if any of them cite the original publication source. It’s a simple way to make sure you’re getting information from the right place without all the twisted details.

You may have noticed I skipped an explanation of the third original research point, “You must spend at least 20 minutes in order to truly verify a source.” This is because I believe these new steps listed above can be done in a pinch. One of the biggest problems with the previous ways of fact-checking is that it simply took too much time to do. We are constantly moving through information, taking it all in quicker than before. Because of this, we need to be able to verify whether a source is reliable within minutes. If we are told that we must spend half an hour to make sure sources are correct, we aren’t going to be able to learn as much as we do, and we’ll often skip verifying a source at all because it’s just easier. If the new generation of students are presented with a method of fact-checking that can be done without wasting much time, we will be a much better educated generation that can process all the of the information we’re taking in as quickly as it’s being received.


Final Action Project: Social Media Analysis

Social media has a big influence on what kinds of information we digest. With the technology that we have today, we are able to get information easier than ever. It’s very convenient and keeps us entertained, but it also creates this filter bubble that we are not aware of. Many companies use our private data to provide us with information and advertisements to our liking. While it is useful, many people may only see the world based on biased information. I’m sure many of us have seen examples of how this can go poorly.

For this project, I am going to analyze the social media accounts that I use a lot and see what kind of biased information, if there are any, may be presented to me. I also want to see what I can do to possibly open up my filter bubble.



I mainly use Twitter just to view what other people are saying, and it doesn’t look like there was anything significant on my feed, so I looked at what was trending on both desktop and mobile and found some interesting things. On the first image I have what’s trending in the US on the mobile app, while on the second image I have what’s trending in the US on the desktop website, but instead I have a “for you” option turned on. I can directly see the differences between what all of Twitter is interested in vs. what I would be interested in. The thing is that I’m not interested nor am I familiar with the things that were shown for me, but that could be because I rarely use Twitter.

I found that there were options to show what’s trending based on location and categories. You can also rate these trends based on their quality and relevance to you. Surprisingly, there are a lot of preferences to choose from in the settings. You can have information shown to you based on places you’ve been to, browsing history, what devices you use, and more. Twitter also gives you the option to view your Twitter data, and in that data you can view your “Interests and ads data”. Twitter makes an interests list for you based on your account and browsing activities, and you’re able to turn each one of those interests on or off. You’re also able to request the list of advertisers that Twitter has tailored you to. You can also send feedback on what tweets are relevant to you and Twitter will try to show more of those relevant tweets on your timeline. I can see how all of these options can easily create a filter bubble, but it’s good to know that you can opt out of all of these and be able to see what the rest of the world sees.


As expected, all I really see on my Instagram explore page are just memes about random things. I do see posts about other things I’m interested in, such as TV shows or movies, but overall I don’t think there’s really much to show here. There’s not much to pick from when it comes to filtering what you see; just categories to choose from. Instagram offers no options for privacy or personalizing the information you see, but they do let you look at your account data. It seems like you’re forced to have filter bubble and that you can’t do anything to change it except going out of your way to find different kinds of information. This could be bad since we don’t know how Instagram is filtering our information; however, Instagram is more about sharing your life through pictures, so I feel like having a filter bubble on here is less harmful than on other platforms. I would still like to have a little more control over what I see, though.


Snapchat contains a “For You” page that will show you information based on what they think you’re interested in. Going through the page, all I could find were memes and click-bait entertainment. I scrolled for about 15 seconds and I found only two things that were related to politics, which is accurate since I personally avoid politics. Snapchat does offer a lot of settings to personalize what you see. You’re able to opt-in or out of ad preferences based on activity, audience, and third-party networks. You’re also able to select your own “lifestyle & interests” in the settings to personalize what information you get. Snapchat also creates a list of “content interest tags” to further personalize what you see, and they give you the option to clear that in the settings.

It does seem like Snapchat is another platform where you can easily form a filter bubble, and that can be especially bad since most of the content on Snapchat is click-bait. They do offer a lot to expand your filter bubble, which is always a good thing.


I rarely use Facebook anymore, but I feel like Facebook is a platform that has a wide variety of information that can be presented. I’ve also had Facebook for about 10 years, so there’s likely a large filter bubble. Most of my timeline consisted of people’s personal lives and politics that my friends on Facebook will share, and occasionally there was an ad that showed up. The screenshot above is one of the ads that came up for me, and it does seem like it was based off of something I’m interested in. Facebook does offer news feed and ad preferences, and you’re able to view your data through the settings. Like other platforms, you’re able to select interests and view the list of advertisers catered to you. You don’t have the option to opt-out of personalized ads, but you still have a few options to expand that filter bubble. I tend to see a lot of biased and fake information with heated debates on Facebook, so these options are a must-have. It is surprising that Facebook has these options since Instagram, which they also own, has nothing you can do to personalize what you see. I wonder why it’s like that?


While there may have not been too much to see on my social media platforms, it does seem like I have some sort of filter bubble on each of them. I tend to avoid politics and view content that I’m interested in, like memes, TV shows, or some sort of entertainment, and that’s mainly what I found on my feeds. I’ve also found that I had certain interests and personalization settings selected, which can greatly change what you see on your feeds. What was really interesting to find out, though, was how many options they give you to expand (or condense) what you see. I wasn’t aware that many social media platforms do this, so I’ll look into that for my accounts. I was also surprised to see the lists of advertisers that are tailored to me and how many there were. Each and every one of those advertisers has some sort of information about me, and that can be a bit concerning. I’m glad I got to know a little more about this topic, and I’m hoping to make some changes from what I learned.

Images of a Hacker in Popular Culture: Why didn’t Hollywood Movies Get It Right?

Minh Le


In this blog post, I do not criticize or evaluate the whole movies and their quality at all, in fact they all are great and intriguing to watch. By that mean, I decided to narrow down my research to only focus on the image of a character identified as a hacker, in order to analyze how my identity-programmer represented in popular culture as a whole. After watching three movies I chose and taking note, one thing I noticed is that even though they were made and released in different time period: Hackers-1995, The Social Network-2010, and Blackhat-2015, they all highlighted a common stereotype in which talent programmers (hackers) tend to do evil things and abusing their power over the computer to exploit operating system vulnerability. (Side note: it is not that long in time, but the one comes out later should be better or avoid common missteps revealed in the previous one, right? In fact we don’t see much improvement here)

First, let’s clarify the definition of hacker and who is a hacker exactly in case for those that are still confused by the false presentation of hacker in popular culture artifacts, and then we can further examine how they were depicted as the way they were in Hollywood movie. The term hacker itself originally meant to identify computer scientist or programmer who is particularly skilled in computer programming. As time passed by, the meaning of the word “hacker” started to diversify, and somehow Hollywood movies and popular culture misled it to a typical stereotype in which the portrayal of hackers were depicted as awkward, antisocial, malicious, and secluded in their own world: the cyberspace.


The first artifact I analyzed is the 1995 American film Hackers directed by Iain Softley. The film is about a genius programmer, Dade, and his elite hacker group trying to uncover the truth hidden behind the criminal case. Although Hackers did a good job of portraying some elements of hacker culture, the film is notable for being the least accurate portrayal of hacking techniques as the way it shaped hacker culture in its own image. That is, in the article titled Hackers written by professional critic Jim McClellan reviewing the movie, he also shares the same thought on how Softley put all the action scenes in an immaterial realm cyberspace or map the urban landscape onto cyberspace (McClellan 1996), is failing to describe the actual hacking itself in reality.

Hacking in the movie

How people hack in the movie

After watching this movie, I noticed that Hollywood has contributed to the stereotype, which depicts hacker as young computer geniuses (with marvelous technological skills) had committed misconduct behaviors and performed illegal activities. Although there are many other hackers with different characteristics described in the movie, I will just focus on the portrayal of hacker demonstrated by the protagonist on this post. That is, my observation noted that dominant characteristics of a hacker are mischievous, ambitious, and childish, and it was shown each time when Dade intentionally used his skills to achieve his personal wishes. In McClellan’s article, I found that he mentioned the same argument that most of the hackers in the movie are representatives of cyber youth culture that tend to “take the world by storm” (McClellan 1996). His article basically suggested that Softley’s Hackers movie does a good job on the portrayal of hacking culture and the teenage characters, despite being depicted from a stereotyped pool.

The Social Network

Moving to the second artifact I chose, The Social Network directed by David Fincher, based on the real life story of the foundation of the social networking website Facebook-Mark Zuckerberg. In my opinion, The Social Network is a great movie as it has done a uniquely good job of displaying computers and hacking movement on the screen in realistic way. Although what Zuckerberg typed in his laptop doesn’t necessarily reflect real life “hacking”, it still makes sense to the audience as it depicts realistic portrayal of modern hacking. However, similar to Hackers, The Social Network also depicts the portrayal of a genius, teenage hacker in the same stereotypical manner. In the movie, Mark appears to be a very sarcastic person, which can be perceived from his conversations with others (though his appearance is to fit in the film and its genre). Again, when I narrow my focus only to the protagonist, I found the most interesting element of the film is the way it depicts Mark’s characteristics of naive, smart, enthusiastic but always struggling in the social context at the beginning (i.e. antisocial – typical stereotype of a hacker), and then transforms him into a cold-hearted businessman at the end. This is also when the paradox was clearly shown by the portrayal of the antisocial guy develops a social network.

In the article titled The Geeks: gods of capitalism by Laurie Penny reviewing the film “The Social Network”. She criticizes that the movie is basically a “redemptive parable of male nerd culture” in which a social network that connected more than 500 million people across the globe was germinated in an act of vengeful misogyny (Laurie 2010). Once again we can see how Hollywood movie depict programmer in typical stereotype of ambitious, abusing power in desperate for wealth and respect.


Hollywood movie finally gets hacking movement right on the screen with Blackhat, the American action thriller film directed by Michael Mann staring at Nick Hathaway, who is an experienced hacker, is assigned to a Chinese-American force investigating a series of incidents of cyber terrorism. The filmmakers clearly did their research, and the result is a remarkably accurate reflect modern hacking techniques on the screen. Instead of displaying complicated operating systems’ interfaces with high-end graphics, characters on the film “hack” using techniques exactly the same as how hacker “hacks” in the real life (using Bash, Emacs, Linux, and typing commands). That is, every time the camera shows a computer screen, the contents of the movie are built on a solid premise with most of the hacking performed is within the realm of the possible. That all being said, the movie does an excellent job on the technical side aspects.

Image of coding on-screen portrayed how real life coding looks like

Although Blackhat gets the visuals right, it accidentally fell into the common stereotype that has visited in so many previous Hollywood hacker movies when it comes to portraying hacker on-screen: programming is served for heist related purposes. In this movie, the portrayal of hacker was mainly shown by the villain, who is the responsible for a cyber attack to a Chinese nuclear facility and planning to attack more targets.

Image of a nuclear power plant explosion

Overall, the movie is very realistic and detailed with the raw materials for even though the way the plot is played out in Blackhat was too fast to be realistic, which somehow diminishes the technical accuracy.


To sum up what I have discovered so far after analyzing those movies, the ethical issue arises as one of the cause of how the portrayal of a hacker in popular culture falls into a common negative stereotype. Before advancing to the next step where I will discuss how the portrayal of hacker should be improved, let’s recall who are the hackers one more time. According to the definition in a peer-reviewed titled The Moral Cracker?, hackers are people who expose their interest in learning about computer hardware and software by digging into the machine to learn its hidden secrets or vulnerabilities, and, ultimately, to take control of it (Baird et al. 472) Now it’s time to categorize hackers into two groups. The first group, let’s called them black hat just like in the movie, vulnerabilities are prey to hunt for and exploit to gain financial benefits. The second group, denoted as the “ethical” hacker- white hat, is composed of individuals who serve for the cyber security to identify vulnerabilities and fix them before black hats find it. Though both use the exact same methods “to hack” into the operating system, their goals are way opposite from one another.

At this point, it’s clear to identify what Hollywood movies missing on the screen, we all see now? Yes, most of the hackers represented in the movies were fallen into the first group. Therefore, to put an end to the common stereotype existed so long, future movie that portrays the image of a hacker should be taken with the approach using the concepts discussed in the article The Moral Cracker as a core to develop.


Works cited

Baird, Bruce J., et al. “The Moral Cracker?” Computers &Amp; Security, vol. 6, no. 6, 1987, pp. 471–478.

McClellan, Jim. “Hackers.” Sight and Sound, vol. 6, no. 5, 1996, pp. 53,3.

Penny, Laurie. “The Geeks: Gods of Capitalism.” New Statesman, vol. 139, no. 5021, 2010, p. 12.

The Perception of Asian Americans in pop culture

Nathen low


SPR 2018

The perception of Asian Americans in Pop Culture

When I went into this assignment, I had only personal experience to base how people feel about Asian-Americans in society.  I grew up in a very small, rural town called La Grande, Oregon.  I basically knew everyone in my town and had been with the same 20 or 30 kids throughout grade school, and middle school.  After getting into some trouble, my mom decided I would start high school in an even smaller town about 10 minutes away, called Union, Or.  Having come from a small town already, I was certain that I had heard every Asian joke that there was.  But after attending Union High School, I realized that many people not only made ignorant jokes but were ignorant about anything outside of their small town.  I remember when I had a teacher of mine ask me if I was Asian or Chinese.  To this day I am not sure if he had accidentally misspoken, or if he truly had no idea how absurd that question was.

So I went into this assignment thinking that I was going to be covering how white-Americans viewed Asian people, and why.  But, after doing some research I discovered that the ignorance and mis-understanding actually goes deeper than that.  The first instace of this is anecdotal, when a friend of mine who is Chinese like me, made an ignorant comment when we were at the grocery store.  We were walking through the parking lot, and a 4-door car with 4 Asian people in it, drove by and nearly hit us.  My friend then said “the stereotype is true, Chinese people cannot drive”.  I asked him why he thought they were Chinese, and he responded by saying “All Asians are basically some kind of Chinese’  I laughed due to the ridiculousness of his statement, but then I sat there concerned as to this was purely a joke or a real thought that had inhabited his mind.



In this propaganda poster from WWII, we se that the Japanese man is depicted with fangs, and they spelled “very” with the double ll’s like “Velly” which is a stereotypical way of depicting the Japanese accent.  In my life I have been on the receiving end of these types of jokes and mockery.  Although, I do not want to sound like a victim.  People have every right to speak and say what they want as long as it does not incite actual bodily harm. Because of this, I was surprised to learn that there are even more instances, similar to the comment made by my friend in the parking lot, where Asians actually apply stereotype-based insults to interactions with other Asians.  In the article by the Asia Society (Kiang) mentions a conversation between Asian-Americans in a store, where one man accuses the “Korean” store owners of charging too much for beef.  The store owner, a Cambodian, tells him that he is Cambodian and not Korean.  The customer then proceeds to say that the Korean owners are ripping them off.  I was unaware that this type of racism happened between different types of Asians.



The next thing that I found, and that was very surprising to me, was that Asians are viewed as the model minority even in groups like the Alt-right.  Alt-right members have gone as far as excluding Asians from the list of races that they think should leave the country.  Their definition of “Asian” However, is limited to Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. (Lim 2018)      In the article they discuss how many Alt-right leaders and members seek Asian wives and girlfriends because they are believed to be submissive and loyal.  I found it interesting that there was selective racism and prejudice.  I know that from personal experience, there is much less hatred towards Asians than there is toward Latino and African-American people.  It was a level of bias that I was not even aware of.  And even the fact that the alt-right could be so selectively racist made me think, that racism may even be a choice.  It made me think that racism is something that we participate in, without the participation of people it does not exist.  This article made me think that we are all so quick to jump to conclusions about a certain kind of person without getting the whole story.


Asian males in movies have traditionally been portrayed as timid, and non-masculine friends or some peripheral role.  It was not until recently that we have seen masculine roles played by Asian males.  One instance I can think of where an Asian male is portrayed as even semi-masculine is in the Walking Dead, where Glen and Maggie are in a relationship.  Although this is a rarity where an Asian male is shown to be in a romantic relationship with a white woman, he is still portrayed as a scared and timid man in many instances.  And Maggie is shown to be more assertive and takes control in many instances.   In the article by “The Harvard Crimson” they mention a scene where an Indian-American actor has a sexual encounter that goes horribly wrong, but it was relatable to most straight males.  Portraying an Asian-American man in this masculine light of normalcy is strange progress, but it is a step towards inclusion.

I have discovered a lot about the perception of Asian-American males in Popular Culture.  I have discovered under representation, and very strong stereotyping in roles.  But what surprises me the most, is that I think that we are mostly represented fairly, and that things are improving as time goes on.  In general, Asian cultures are more reserved and less outspoken.  Representing Asian ales in an inaccurate light is as much as an injustice as not representing them at all in my opinion.  I have done a lot of self-discovery, and I am not only proud of my heritage, but I am mostly satisfied with how people like me are represented.










Works Cited

kiang, Peter. “Understanding Our Perceptions of Asian Americans.” Asia Society,

Lim, Audrea. “The Alt-Right’s Asian Fetish.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 6 Jan. 2018,

Reyez, Ruben. “America’s Most Important Leading Man | Opinion.” The Harvard Crimson,

Reasons for Chinese International Students to Mingle With Themselves

Week 10
Qinyu Lyu
Big Picture Blog Post


Being a part of this society, everyone has more than one identity. For me, I identify
myself as “daughter,” “only child,” “Chinese international student,” “listener,” “foodie,”
“college student,” “culture mixer.” Among all of my identities, I chose “Chinese International student” to do my research on. It is because studying in the United States
for three years as a Chinese student, I have noticed that Chinese students are not always depicted as positive images. For example, Americans think Chinese only mingle
with themselves because they do not want to come out of their comfort zone. As one part of this group, I do think it is a phenomenon existing in the college of the United States. However, as I did more and more research, I found out that there is a reason behind, which it is the difference between cultures of these two countries.

First, Chinese like to hang out with together because of their common interests and
language. In an article called “The Role of Person-Culture Fit in Chinese Students’
Cultural Adjustment in the United States: A Galileo Mental Model Approach” by Lin
Zhu, the author, used a Galileo multidimensional scaling model to explain the impact of
intercultural experience has on Chinese students. According to this article, the amount
of intercultural communication had a significant effect on person-culture fit, in turn
affecting sojourners’ adaptation outcomes. I related this article to a video I have found
as my primary resource made by a group of Chinese students. It profiled three Chinese
students at Smith College and their challenges finding right places for themselves
between China and the United States these two cultures. In this video, when the first
Chinese student mentioned her interests in Japanese culture and Asian culture in
general; she said she had more common topics and interests with people that had
Asian background, but she did not have that much to say with American students at
school because they did not have much in common. Although she came to United States when she was in high school, she did not find herself a big fan in this society so she could not find the sense of belonging here. Another Chinese student in this video explained a critical reason for Chinese students to always hang out with each other together, which is the language people speak and the familiarity of that language directly impact their passion of engagement in the conversation. She said it was hard for
her to engage in the conversation when she spoke English actively. She felt she was two people when she talked in English and Chinese.

I relate myself to both details above I have found in this video. For the first one, I have
the same feelings in the United States, people are accommodating and friendly, but
because we have been growing up in entirely different cultural backgrounds, we always
have different interest focused. One example could be in class when someone made
an American joke that related to its culture; everyone would laugh hardly except we
Chinese students. Also, when Chinese students sit down at the table with Americans,
just like the girl said, we do not have that much to talk about because our attentions are
on different things. When people are talking about American TV shows or things that
are prevalent in American social media, I could not participate that kind of conversation
because I have not paid much attention to those. I am also a big fan of Asian culture,
which brought me a lot of Korean friends after coming here, but I do not develop deep
relationships with local students. At the same time, I also found myself different when I
speak English; I think the language is not only the language but also the reflection of the
way you think, because of the altered expression of feelings and logical management,
I tend to use a different way to think in English as well as speak. So when even I do not
do that on purpose, I still show different characteristics when I speak English and Chinese. Language is a significant way to express myself; I believe it is also a big reason for many international students especially Chinese to hang out together.

Second, Chinese students like to stay as a group because they are facing the same
challenges that might only be understood by themselves. In an article called “Different is
not deficient: contradicting stereotypes of Chinese international students in US higher education” by Tang T. Heng, the author did a survey which is to follow 18 Chinese students studying in the United States for one year to see how they deal with sociocultural contexts and change over time. He exhibited his finds such as the communication styles, expectations from schools, the balance between play and work
and so on between these two cultures to illustrate that the misusing of inquiry methods may cause a lot of misunderstanding of Chinese students. I also found a short film talking about three things challenging Chinese students, which was housing, group project, and networking. Its purpose is to show the real challenges Chinese students will face when they decide to go to another country to live and study. At both the beginning and end of the film, those three students stay together, eating delicious food, taking selfies and shopping, which seems they are pleased and satisfied with their life. Especially when at the end, when one girl is asked how she is doing in finding an internship there, she answers with a smile:” It goes well.” However, in the previous story about her, she experiences a disappointing conversation with a prominent business person, the person tells her that 99% of international students failed to find jobs in the U.S. because they can never be one part of Americans.

It seems that the beginning as well as the ending which depicts the happy life for all those three Chinese students contradict the three divided stories talked. However, they are not in paradox at all. In reality, a lot of Chinese students like to pretend to live a good life, and everything goes well no matter regarding academic performance or internship finding. But behind, they are usually suffering from many horrible pains in many aspects. One reason is that they do not want their families and friends to worry about them. Another reason could be because everyone is hiding/herself and tries to show that they are living fancy life, it leads others to be not willing exhibit their pain outside, which might indicate they are losers in this country.

Third, Chinese students prefer to stay in their community because of their patriotism. In
an article called ”Patriotism Abroad- Overseas Chinese Students’ Encounters With
Criticisms of China” by Henry Chiu Hail, The author, talks about the reasons that lead to
cross-culture conflicts between Chinese students and Americans. According to the research, this cross-culture conflict does not only come from cultural misunderstanding,
differences in values, or lack of language ability, but also occurs as part of a struggle to
defend the national reputation and assert loyalty to one’s nation within the context of a
Perceived hierarchy of nations. Most Chinese students show their patriotism to them
Country by not willing to accept opinions from the westerners based on the bias. They
feel tightly connecting to their country, and they want to be respected by respecting their
country first.

I also found a new article called “Chinese Students in the U.S. Fight a ‘Biased’ View of
Home” by Shaila Dewan; in this article, the author talks about how Chinese students are
against Dalai Lama who said Tibet is not part of China, by listing things happened in several colleges that Chinese students had done, such as trying to limit his address to
non-political topics and throwing plastic bottle towards monks. He also displays opinions
from different Chinese on Chinese politics and the way western media present them. Many Americans think this phenomenon of Chinese students is mainly because they got brainwashed by the Chinese government. I don’t agree with this point because Tibet does not develop itself by refusing to take resources and beneficial policies provided by the Chinese government. Just like the Chinese student from the University of Southern California said, the history is the best evidence, for ancient Chinese emperor did grant Dalai Lama his title. Before I came to the United States, people always have a conversation about the transparency of Western media. However, after I came here, what I have noticed is not all western media is reporting negatively about China, but some of them to focus on things that they believe have something to do with the “human rights.” The exciting thing is, under the globalization of information, nowadays Chinese media does report the same stuff as the Western press does, the only difference would be the perspectives of their opinions.

In conclusion, it seems that Chinese students do not want to pay any effort in being involved in this country and the American community. The fact is, the common interests,
language, the understanding of challenges faced by this particular group as well as their
patriotism and loyalty to their country, which brings them the sense of belonging, all
become reasons for them to stay in their Chinese student’s community. As a result, it is
the cultural differences between the United States and China lead to the stereotypical
image of Chinese international students studying in the United States on current social
media, which is to only mingle with themselves.

Work Cited

Heng, Tang T. “Different Is Not Deficient: Contradicting Stereotypes of Chinese
International Students in US Higher Education.” Studies in Higher Education, vol. 43,
no. 1, 2018, pp. 22–36.

Zhu, Lin, et al. “The Role of Person-Culture Fit in Chinese Students’ Cultural Adjustment
in the United States: a Galileo Mental Model Approach.” Human Communication
Research, vol. 42, no. 3, 2016, p. 485.

Hail, Henry Chiu. “Patriotism Abroad.” Journal of Studies in International Education, vol.
19, no. 4, 2015, pp. 311–326.

Staff, Tea Leaf Nation. “Watch: Chinese Students in America Try to Find Meaning, and
Fit In.” Foreign Policy, Foreign Policy, 4 Aug. 2016,

Yang, Yung Jen. “Study Abroad – Whole Film 《我们留学生》正片.” YouTube,
YouTube, 3 Feb. 2015,
Dewan, Shaila. “Chinese Students in the U.S. Fight a ‘Biased’ View of Home.” New York
Times (1923-Current File), 29 Apr. 2008, p. A1.

Hispanic Representation in Popular Culture

Whenever I’m asked about who I am and what makes me who I am, my Hispanic identity is a big one. For the majority of my life I’ve noticed a general lack of Hispanic representation in pop culture. Additionally what little representation does exist, doesn’t portray Hispanics very realistically and tends to be negative in nature. Whether it’s the news, a movie, or a TV show, some Hispanic stereotype is often rearing its ugly head. While there may be some truth to stereotypes on the occasion, it’s hardly a reason to exaggerate, fixate or generalize them onto all Hispanic people to ever exist. There are different kinds of negative portrayals, some being more malicious in nature, like the Mexican Bandit stereotype, while others are negative in a different way. The use of funny accents and characterizations that make the character seem uneducated aren’t exactly villainous but they are still hurtful and perpetuate a false narrative. So I decided to look at how pop culture may be negatively representing Hispanics, and going step further to see how these portrayals may affect the overall perception and image of the Hispanic community.




If someone were to ask you to think of a lawyer, doctor or engineer on television, chances are whoever you thought of isn’t Hispanic. It’s not your fault one didn’t come to mind, its just that the reality is that you are more likely see a Hispanic play the role of domestic worker like a maid or some criminal drug lord. In fact Hispanics are 3 times more likely to be cast as lawbreakers than European Americans (Rivadeneyra, 394). TV shows like AMC’s Breaking Bad, are showcasing this extremely damaging stereotype of the villainous Hispanic. Hispanics, specifically males, have long been labeled as violent and associated with violence, criminal activity and gang involvement. Hollywood has exploited the ever growing stigma and narrative prompted by the Mexican Drug War and talks on immigration. In Breaking Bad, the majority of Cartel figures and drug dealers the main characters encounter in the series are Hispanic. They are all portrayed as aggressive, hostile, money hungry, self-centered villains. One of the first big cartel leaders in the series goes by the name Tuco. Tuco is very crazy and intense, often having all these outbursts of rage that result in fairly gruesome violence. A scene in the first episode of season 2 shows Tuco quickly escalating in anger at one of his own underlings and beating him to death with his bare fists. There are also many small derogatory comments and jokes made here and there throughout the show. In the pilot episode DEA agent, Hank, makes a bet with a fellow agent about the ethnicity of the suspect they’re trying to bust, “I got you twenty bucks, that says he’s a beaner” (Gillian, 2008). The mere fact that he expects a Mexican to be the one running the meth lab they’re trying to bust speaks to the pervasive image and idea that Hispanics are all drug dealer and crime bosses. Continued negative connotations like this, no matter how entertaining, are actually adding more fuel to the fire, reinforcing these damaging perceptions.

Tuco after he beat a man to death


Negative representation on television doesn’t just exist on live action shows but also resides on animated series, such as Family Guy. The show has one recurring Hispanic character, a middle-aged Mexican maid by the name Consuela. While she is a recurring character she is far from being a main character. Her appearances on the show are nonsensical; she just randomly appears in episodes sporadically every season for usually one to five minute bits. In her appearances she only interacts with the main characters half the time while the other half of the time she’s just in her own clip, in some wacky setting of her own. Consuela’s characterization is very consistent with what you picture for a stereotypical Hispanic maid or housekeeper. She speaks limited English, however through the years her broken English has improved. She’s generally seen as uneducated due to her lack of understanding, and she’s seen as being aggressive and mean sometimes. She’s always saying no to things and acting stubborn. Because of this Consuela is made out to be a really bad maid. She had altercations with the main characters, the Griffin family, in which she didn’t listen to them and cleaned things when it was an inconvenience to them and stayed late because she wanted to. On one occasion during Consuela’s upkeep, she ends up stealing $1000 in play money from the Griffin’s toddler, Stewie. When questioned about it she openly says that she took the money and when asked to give it back she says, “come get b****” (MacFarlane, 2009). Instances like this depicts that Hispanic maids are untrustworthy and quite frankly are criminals. There was even an instance when the Griffins tried to fire her but she refused to leave her job, so they took extreme measures to get rid of her. Once again going into this stigma that Hispanics are stubborn and in order to get them to abide one must take violent measures. This type of behavior from Consuela makes it so she checks off all the boxes to fit into the negative stereotype of the unintelligent, untrustworthy, Hispanic maid.

classic consuela always saying no



As mentioned before not all negative portrayals are villainous in nature, some don’t seem harmful but can still hurtful and perpetuate a false narrative. The 2011 film, Jack & Jill,  features one Hispanic character that doesn’t qualify as a background or extra character, the family’s Mexican landscaper named Felipe. Felipe’s character is characterized in a way that places him as foreign and at times perceived as inferior. Felipe speaks with a heavy accent and at times reverts to broken English. But the biggest thing about Felipe is that he’s made out to be this big jokester. Through the duration of the film Felipe makes a lot of interesting jokes. Every joke he makes is about illegal immigrants or common Mexican stereotypes. He makes comments about how good his tree impression for when immigration comes is, or talks about how his family member are all named Juan and they like to eat tacos and play soccer. Then at the end of he makes it into a joke by saying “I’m kidding,” ultimately dismissing it and laughing it off with everyone. The jokes his character makes are not particularly nasty on the surface, but they can be harmful and contribute to hurting the image of Hispanics. However for this particular film there’s an added layer of complexity that comes with Felipe making these types of jokes. If someone who is Hispanic has no problem making these kinds of comments into jokes and making no big deal about it, openly laughing; a viewer can interpret it as making those types of joke okay when it’s really not. As minor as some viewers may see it, that small stuff can still hurt an entire community and every small jokes contributes to the overall picture society has of Hispanics

All images and portrayals of anything, whether they be seen as positive or negative, can have an effect on viewers overall perceptions and beliefs on that subject or persons. But it is particularly these negative and stereotyped portrayals that can build up to be detrimental to images and perceptions of people, whether we intend for them to be or not. Stereotypes can both consciously and subconsciously affect our social judgments and beliefs, so this continuous stream of negative portrayals by Hollywood embeds these associations into the minds of its viewers. As much as we may try to disassociate from what we see in the media, it’s a big part of our society and culture. In Dong & Murillo’s study of the impacts of television viewing they explore our development of stereotypes, finding that we learn to “pick up values, ideal and behaviors from observing television programs.” At this point it’s almost seeing some sort of negative portrayal in media unavoidable, however it is not something to be taken lightly. We as the general public must begin to make changes in what we watch in order to correct and influence what is being created in media.


Learning Moments:


There have been quite a few learning moments for me this term, lots of moments and new insights from my fellow peers that made me stop and consider them more deeply. I learned a lot about media influence on our lives and the ways we may influence it back. Particularly in week 3 questions and discussions on the potential cause and effect media can have and who is to blame? Big questions such as “Does the media ‘cause’ or change our cultural attitudes or beliefs, or is it merely reinforcing existing ones? Is the media doing all of this stuff “on purpose’?” With issues things such as racial stereotyping, unrealistic life and beauty standards and violent images my knee-jerk reaction use to be to blame the media. However, a lot of media is just a reflection or reaction to all of our own ideas, beliefs, and desires. This makes our hand far from clean, we are at least in part responsible for what is created, shared, and shown to us. We as individuals and as content creators must be more considerate to ensure social responsibility.


Stemming from the learning moment in week 3, week 4 brought some ease to some of the tensions caused by the contemplations of cause and effect. In week 4 we learned to evaluate our sources and really interpret what they are, where they come from and what their purpose is. It’s easy as a consumer to take things at face value or to passively absorb information and messages presented to us without considering the whys, whos and whats. Having the tools and knowledge to evaluate your sources, can help with figuring out who’s to blame and what effects that content may be having. It’s way for us to not be mislead so easily, we can be more aware of agendas and overall more knowledgeable and informed as a society.



“Breaking Bad.” Breaking Bad, created by Vince Gilligan, AMC, FX, AMC Networks, 20 Jan. 2008-29 Sept. 2013.

Dugan, Dennis, director. Jack and Jill. Columbia Pictures, 2011.

“Family Guy.” Family Guy,created by Seth MacFarlane, Fox, 31 Jan. 1999-Present

Rivadeneyra, Rocío. “Do You See What I See?” Journal of Adolescent Research, vol. 21, no. 4, July 2006, pp. 393–414., doi:10.1177/0743558406288717.

Qingwen Dong & Arthur Phillip Murrillo. (2005).  The impact of television viewing on young adults’ stereotypes towards Hispanic Americans. University of the Pacific, Dissertation/Thesis.

Representation of Geeks in Popular Culture

           No one likes being called a nerd. I have been identified as a geek or a nerd  for a long time because I like to play video games. I also relate to the geeky characters on TV shows. That is the reason why I chose to write this paper: I wanted to see how people like me are represented across the popular culture. Geeks and nerds have a long history of negative stereotypes in popular culture. The individual of a group who is familiar with technology and fantasy content is often generalized into having poor social skills and cowardly behavior. This stereotype can be seen throughout popular culture, especially in older depictions. New and old shows still maintain the stigmas I described, such as The Big Bang Theory, The IT Crowd, and Parks and Recreation. Each of these shows depicts a nerd with a variety of the traits I described to varying degrees. Some shows depict these traits in more destructive manors than others. In my opinion it is important to make these issues known as such representation can lead to bullying in schools.

Source one: The IT Crowd

           I’d first like to dive into The IT Crowd, which far and away portrayed the most stereotypically possible depiction of nerds. The main and typically nerdy characters, Roy and Moss, are repeatedly portrayed as having a much lower social status than that of anyone else in the office. The Introduction to the show shows them bugging people about their computers (doing their job) and are consequently dropped down a trap door to the basement, where their office is located. That sort of gag is exactly the type of stereotype that I think should be far in the past regarding nerds. I think it’s damaging to self-esteem if someone who shares similar interests to you is mistreated constantly in popular culture.  Furthermore, in one episode a female co-worker comes to the basement to physically beat Roy over a work-related argument. The behavior is tolerated and the catalyst for the third main character, Jen, joining them in the basement, as the ‘public relations manager’ (to help them get along with their co-workers). I mention all this because it not only demonstrates the severe lack of respect for nerds, but also touches on another stereotype which is their lack of social skills with Women. After that violent situation, the women who beats Roy leaves and Roy asks whether anyone got her number, indicating romantic interest. I think this is a bit much because it implies that nerds are so desperate for socializing with the opposite gender that they are willing to look past violent tendencies and behavior. I would argue that this is an even worse portrayal because even if it is against a man, normalized violence isn’t appropriate. In that scene you can see Jen, not a nerd, casually watch the events unfold and eventually step in to diffuse the situation when she wanted to ask the woman where she bought such nice shoes. I think this further reinforces that nerds are portrayed as not being able to adequately socialize with others and that non-nerds have to step in to help.

Source two: The Big Bang Theory

          The Big Bang theory is the most popular artifact that stars a set of nerds. The show features a set of scientist friends who just live a nerdy lifestyle. This show is largely hated by real life nerds because of the way it uses nerd culture as its source of humor. Each nerdy cast member has the typical traits of being a nerd to an extreme end. Raj, for instance, can’t talk to women unless he is drunk and Sheldon has extreme social dysfunctionality with virtually everyone he speaks to. The main reason it’s disliked by so many people is that show is based off making fun of nerd culture. The activities the characters participate in are close to realistic but off enough that’s it’s mostly just insulting. A character will just say their mom is sending them their old N64 gaming console and the laugh track will play. Why is that funny? Because it’s something a nerd would do. It’s not particularly clever or poking fun at something extremely weird a nerd might do. It’s just taking a typical aspect of nerd culture, playing an old console, and portraying it as if it’s some hilariously ludicrous activity.

Related image


              One similarity I noticed between the IT Crowd and The Big Bang Theory is the germaphobia and extreme lack of social skills that Sheldon and Moss have. Sheldon has a superiority complex over everyone he meets. Sheldon will say something such as “Oh, please, if I don’t know, you don’t know.” This sort of interaction demonstrates a detrimental inability to form friendships with others. He behaves this way even towards his friends. Similarly, Moss has next to no social instincts. He will routinely think someone is talking to him when they’re not. Someone will ask him a sarcastic question meant to poke fun at him and he will attempt to attempt to google the answer. Social queues just go over his head. Sheldon boasts that he was tested for Autism as a child and the doctor cleared him. It’s this sort of joke that perpetuates the stereotype that nerds struggle to socialize or form lasting relationships with those around them.

              Another similarity that IT Crowd and the Big Bang Theory has is how physical appearance of nerds is very stereotypical. I would like to compare two main characters Moss from The IT Crowd and Leonard from The Big Bang Theory. They both have thick glasses and messy hair, they dress similarly, they appear to be physically unfit. It is very common for the appearance of nerds to be that way across the popular culture.

       Image result for moss from the IT crowd                    Image result for leonard big bang theory

            Moss from The IT Crowd                     Leonard from The Big Bang Theory

Source three: Parks and Recreation

               In contrast to my previous examples, I think the TV show Parks and Recreation portrays nerds in a better manor. Ben Wyatt is the resident nerd on that show, as is demonstrated by his deep appreciation for Game of Thrones, accounting puns, and creating the board game ‘Cones of Dunshire.’ He presents a character that clearly has nerdy interests but just in a casual way that doesn’t take away from his delightful and funny characteristics. Every now and then there’s a joke about him criticizing J.J. Abrams’ take on Star Trek but it’s far from what defines his character. I think this presents nerds in a more positive manner because he’s never presented as further down on the totem pole due to being a part of nerd culture, and he doesn’t have any severe issues with social interactions, romantic or otherwise. He just has funny quirks that everyone can appreciate in a normal way. For instance, his ‘Cones of Dunshire’ game is a huge success and becomes a beloved fake game by fans of the show. In another show the joke would have just been that he plays Dungeons and Dragons and queue the laugh track. His great humor, selflessness, and good nature are what define him.

Image result for ben wyatt pajamas

Secondary source: The Nerd as the Other

           A professor in the university of Vienna Jasmin Engelhart compares the representation of nerd culture in the media to the freak shows in the Victorian century. People liked to watch freak shows because they were fascinated with looking at people that act differently and they could compare their lives to the lives of the `abnormal`. Just like the people in the freak shows nerds in the media are represented as `them`or `the others`. This is usually achieved by comparing a nerd with a completely different person, for example a beautiful woman who knows nothing about science but has good social skills.  To look at this further the professor analysed the show Big Bang Theory just like I did. She suggested that nerds are represented that way so that people watching could look at them and say `I am so glad that is not me`. For example, even though Sheldon is so talented in his field he has a lot of difficulties in his everyday life that many people do not face. To make this contrast even larger he is compared to a woman who is seen as a `the norm`. So Jasmin Engelhart makes a conclusion that even though freak shows would be seen as morally wrong today, they still exist but their format is transformed and they target different kinds of people as being `freaks`.

Learning moments:

           I had a significant learning moment during the week 2 discussions when discussing how single mothers are portrayed in films and treated in reality. Andrea shared an article by Charlotte Ashlock that told a story about how parents wouldn’t let their children play with a certain girl because her parents were going through a divorce. I was just taken back by this story because divorce is just such a common occurrence that it’s hard to imagine someone being treated differently for going through it. This relates to my healthy communities class because neighbors getting along is an important part of forming a healthy neighborhood. This type of behavior goes against that principle and is just destructive. From here on out I’ll be more open to the idea that people might segregate themselves from others based on certain characteristics, even if I’d normally expect better of people.


          Another learning moment that comes to mind is the report from Stanford about evaluating information online. I spend a lot of time online looking at articles and images shared by thousands of anonymous strangers. That behavior was highlighted in the report when they used the example of sharing an image of disfigured flowers with the title, “Fukushima Nuclear Flowers.” I knew it wasn’t terribly strong evidence since the image could have been taken anywhere. But I didn’t even consider that the person who shared the article was completely anonymous, giving them absolutely no credibility. I’m just so used to everyone being anonymous that it doesn’t even register for me anymore, which is concerning. This relates to my other classes because I often reference sources that I might put an enormous amount of effort to certify. From here on out I’ll be more careful about where and who my sources come from.




          All in all, some artifacts in popular culture depict traditionally nerdy characters in a destructive manor while a minority do so in a positive manor. Many TV shows also often create a very stereotypical appearance of the nerd characters. I think the negative stigmas, such as poor social skills and place in social hierarchy hinders those who identify with nerdy culture. If you’re going to present a nerdy character then make sure their identity revolves around more than that trait. A good example of positive representation is Ben Wyatt in Parks and Recreation because he has many more things that define him. So it is okay to make some jokes about extreme parts of nerdy behavior (i.e. correcting others about nerdy facts) but it’s not okay to make all nerdy behavior itself into a joke.  


Works Cited

Lorre, Chuck, and Bill Prady. The Big Bang Theory. CBS, 2007.

Linehan, Graham. The IT Crowd. Channel 4, 2006.

Daniels, Greg, and Michael Schur. Parks and Recreation. NBC, 2009.

Engelhart, J. (2012). The Nerd as the Other: A case study on the representation of nerds in The Big Bang Theory and Beauty and the Geek.

Engineers in Film

Engineers are interesting to observe. They love problems – it’s what keeps them occupied, they enjoy arguing and thrive under pressure. That is how most of the engineers I spoke to at school perceive themselves. When the same question was posed at high school students, their responses were far more humorous. Their feelings can best be summarized through this joke:

How do you know someone is an engineer?
Don’t worry, they’ll tell you every time you speak to them

The high schoolers’ thought engineers were arrogant, sarcastic, logical and quirky. They’re also seen as asocial and boring to a certain extent. When asked why they thought of engineers that way, the majority of them said that it was how engineers were portrayed in TV and film. Most of them hadn’t actually met engineers before, they were influenced by pop culture artifacts. While these points might seem negative, people thought it made engineers seem “cool”. Engineers were portrayed as lame nerds in the 80s and 90s, but being a nerd is not a bad thing at all according to the current generation – the arrogance is earned, sarcasm is funny, and logical and quirky is entertaining.

Through this blog post, I hope to uncover why engineers are perceived the way they are – through popular film portrayals of engineers. The point is not to demonstrate that films get engineers wrong/right or they portray the act of engineering incorrectly, it is to just explore and analyze the primary sources I have selected to see how they are applicable to the world of engineers and engineering.

Iron Man (in the MCU)

Tony Stark is the quintessential engineer of modern times. He builds the fancy suits, drives the fast cars, has the attitude and also doesn’t get much sleep. The effect of Robert Downey Jr’s portrayal of Tony/Iron Man over the last 10 years has greatly influenced today’s youth. He also inspired me to join the field – I kid you not the only reason I wanted to be an engineer when I was 13 was because I thought I could end up working on the cool stuff I saw in the film. As did many others.

Effect on engineers

Needless to say, the films are exaggerated science fiction. It is highly improbable that someone could build the Mark 1 suit with a box of scraps in a cave, but it is a demonstration of how hacky engineers can get. In many cases, we actually end up repurposing techniques and hardware for purposes they weren’t meant for. The films have many other such technical marvels that so many people hope were real. Who wouldn’t want a miniature arc reactor and access to clean energy? Thanks to Iron Man, the representation of engineers went from shy and nerdy to badass.

The typical engineer

Iron Man brings with him the engineering persona. If the common perception of engineers today is “arrogant, narcissistic, cocky”, Tony Stark has had a major role to play in that. He starts off as a reckless genius and evolves into someone reliable and level-headed. His underlying persona stays constant throughout, with an emphasis on sense of humor, sarcasm and the ability to stay calm in dire situations. Both these cases speak to engineers like myself. The evolution is very similar to an engineering student who’s going through college life. We start off all high and mighty and (hopefully) end with the wisdom that makes us good contributors to society. The persona is also something seen in many engineers. A good engineer is good at pushing tasks to the last minute and coming up with an innovative solution during the 25th hour, thus the “calm under pressure” tag.

Iron Man brings out an engineers’ emotional make-up truly well. It is what has made engineers seem cool and we have oh so many Iron Man-Engineer memes and references.



The Martian


Mark Watney is actually a botanist, but an engineer at heart. A major veil this character lifts off the engineering lifestyle is that one needs an engineering degree to be an engineer. Watney’s feats throughout the movie are an example of true engineering – repurposing everything at your disposal to survive. Apart from being an excellent book and film, it is also realistic. While watching the film with my buddies, there were many moments where we thought “that could actually be possible”.

Technical prowess

In the Martian, Mark Watney has a fantastic understanding of applied engineering. His knowledge of the basic sciences paired with a mathematical mind is a depiction of an ideal engineer – one who can “overcome overwhelming odds by sciencing the s**t out of it”. His usage of duct tape reminds me of how much duct tape we actually use. I spent a few hours using about 100 meters (yes, the metric system rocks!) of duct tape in my capstone project to shield some circuitry from RF signals. Another innovative idea in the movie is the usage of a radioactive apparatus as a heating system. That is both genius and incredibly stupid at the same time, and it is exactly what engineers do when they need to get stuff to work in the last minute.

Engineering mindset

The way Watney attacks his dilemma and goes about planning to survive on Mars is characteristic of the engineering method we are taught in almost all our 100 level classes. Identify the problem, acknowledge it, spend 30 minutes freaking out about it and then accept your fate/start working on a solution. The solution itself is broken down into an order of priority, planning for future contingencies and events and flawless execution/sticking to the plan. It was refreshing to see this method in action and watching it work so well was special. Watney’s demeanor throughout the film was also accurate. He did all the freaking out in the beginning (albeit subtly) and stayed calm till the end. He even managed to stay optimistic and funny given his situation. Making fun of oneself is something I have seen in a majority of my engineer friends. In fact, most of the downright funny engineer memes and cartoons are created by engineers.

Mark Watney highlights the average engineer’s attitude towards their work.

Hidden Figures

The message in this film is of utmost importance to engineering and I have to slightly deviate from the theme I’ve set in the post so far to discuss it. This is relevant not just to engineering, but to all STEM fields. Hidden Figures is inspired by true events and the three main characters in the film were really NASA employees in the 1960s, when segregation was at a high in the US. This should serve as an inspiration for all those who feel out of place as engineers due to their gender, race or some other factor no one should care about.

Hidden Figures shows the resolve of these three women and how their efforts brought about change in NASA. While some of the situations were fictionalized and the racism was a little bit subtler in reality, it was still uncalled for. All that matters in engineering is one’s mind, not one’s skin or appearance. Taraji Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae show how STEM women have to overcome social obstacles to fit in and focus on their work. They have to put in more effort compared to the others because they aren’t taken seriously when it comes to their job. Because they did it in those harsh times, it is our duty to carry their ideals forward.

Being an engineer does not have anything to do with appearance. It has to do with the mindset. 80% of engineers are male, but this does not mean that it isn’t for others. There has been a steady rise in the number of engineers of other genders. This is due to films and other media portrayals similar to Hidden Figures. Why is it important to encourage girls to take up STEM fields? This is because they are usually diverted to other female-centric careers such as medicine, nursing, teaching, etc by their families. If someone’s interested in STEM, all they need is a mentor to introduce them to the field and to support their passion. We don’t (and probably won’t ever) have enough engineers. It is crucial that someone with the talent and mindset to become an engineer actually becomes one.

Hidden Figures shows us that anyone with the mind for it can become successful engineers.

Conclusion, Learning Moments

From Iron Man and The Martian

When I started my research, I was under the assumption that pop culture would portray engineers in the wrong light. I actually hoped to find some stereotypes that solidified how they misunderstood engineers. As I was going through potential artifacts, I found some erroneous examples. However, I chose to ignore them and talk about Iron Man and The Martian instead because these reflected how the public perceives engineers now, not 30 years ago. Positive reinforcement trumps negative reinforcement in my opinion. I mentioned before that these films get almost everything right about an engineer, and the portrayals actually make engineers look good. If people are inspired by these characters and end up going into a STEM career, it’s to our benefit. More engineers/scientists = more problem solvers.

Hidden Figures

Before I actually studied the characters on Hidden Figures for my essay, I didn’t understand how important it is to spread STEM awareness to those who don’t take up the field. I thought that anyone with the desire and competence to study engineering or the sciences would just find the way to do so without the need of coaxing – I was mistaken. Competence knows no race or gender, but competent people could be discouraged due to those factors. Hidden Figures was just a film, but it prompted me to speak to the women engineers in my classes and workplace to realize their challenges and understand the situation. I decided that I was going to do something about it. I signed up for volunteering opportunities at work which involve getting middle schoolers excited about STEM and letting them consider STEM careers. Female participation in these events is on par with male participation, which is nice to see. If we as a community can keep that fire in them going, it’s going to benefit us all on the long run.


  1. Portrayals of Engineers in “Science Times”; F. Clark; D. L. Illman; IEEE Technology and Society Magazine (Volume 25, Issue 1, Spring 2006, pp. 12-21)
  2. The portrayal of the network in the popular media, or what the non-techie person-on-the-street must think of us!; C. Kessler; S. D. Shepard; IEEE Communications Magazine (Volume 35, Issue 5, May 1997, pp. 114-118)
  3. Cultural Representations of Gender and Science: Portrayals of Female Scientists and Engineers in Popular Films; Jocelyn Steinke; Science Communication (Volume 27, Issue 1, September 2005, pp. 27-63)

Observations of Chinese Culture Portrayed in Media

In the modern society, people can easily receive massive information and messages because of the development of technologies. I’ve also watched many TV shows and movies, but I’d never thought about how those cultural traits are interpreted by people who grow up in different cultures. I want to see how Chinese culture is played in shows in a different society. I originally wanted to do Asian culture to be my topic, and I realized it was too broad since it includes many different cultures, so I decided to focus on Chinese culture.

In my opinion, Chinese culture is more conservative and strict according to what I was taught. Many classic works of literature generally tell people to be humble, polite, frugalness and satisfying what they currently have instead of having strong desires. The other way to describe can be that Chinese people believe that a good person should be able to restrain its desires and control its behaviors.

Although cultural aspects and elements are good and positive, it’s not always be interpreted in positive ways. Frugalness can be a good example of having negative impacts by over fulfilling it. I’ve seen many cases of being greedy for small advantages. Those people try to save money as much as they can, and it leads them to be greedy. One thing which is confusing me is that it’s often to see Chinese people being selfish and self-center in media, and it contradicts my idea toward Chinese culture. When I see news about Chinese people acting ridiculously in media, I really wonder why they are acting like that. I’m also thinking what impacts may be caused by the phenomenon in different society.

I started looking for TV shows and movies which are played in Western society, and I wanted to see what stereotypes and traits are portrayed in media. As I watched more TV shows and movies, I noticed comedy often includes jokes which may be a bit offensive from other perspectives since it’s made for amusing audiences, so I think comedy includes more information to talk about.

I will be discussing some stereotypes and traits which I’ve watched in media and connecting to reviews which enhance and inspire me of the understanding about them.


Silicon Valley

The first source which I chose was Silicon Valley which is made by John Altschuler, Mike Judge, and Dave Krinsky, and it’s broadcasted on HBO. There is a Chinese character, Jian-Yang, is played by Jimmy O. Yang. Jian-Yang doesn’t appear in many scenes, but he always causes issues and problems when he shows up. In my opinion, the personality of Jian-Yang is very bad in the show. He is selfish, greedy, and crafty. There is a scene showing that how Jian-Yang tries to fake a testament and fool a judge in the court, so he can inherit properties of his landlord. His landlord is out for traveling, and the landlord is tall and big, so Jian-Yang even prepares a body of a pig to pretend to be the body of his landlord. I thought it was weird and crazy when I watched it, and Jian-Yang’s roommates also think Jian-Yang is ridiculous and unreasonable.

The other scene which I remember clearly is when Jian-Yang’s roommates come back to their home, they see many technology company names which are written on a board. They ask Jian-Yang, and he replies that he will copy them to China to start new companies. I thought the producers are trying to satirize copyrights issues between Chinese companies and the US companies.

These two scenes may not have significant relations in Chinese culture, but these reflect Chinese traits which people see in modern society. There are other scenes in Silicon Valley representing selfish actions which Jian-Yang does. I guess the reason for producers to create these scenes may relate to what I mentioned earlier. They may have seen cases of Chinese people being selfish and self-center in their life, and the behaviors may offend other people.

However, I’m also thinking that for people who are not so familiar with Chinese culture, they may really be affected by media. According to an article, The Chinese in Silicon Valley: Globalization, Social Networks, and Ethnic Identity by Bernard P. Wong., reviewed by Joseph Bosco, it mentions that Chinese population is very concentrated in Silicon Valley workforce because of globalization. I think the TV show is trying to show some conflicts existing between Chinese and local employees as Chinese population keeps increasing in the area.

Fresh Off the Boat

The TV show, Fresh Off the Boat, is made by Nahnatchka Khan according to a biography which is written by Eddie Huang, and the show is originally played by ABC. Eddie Huang is an immigrant, and he writes the book to tell the story of growing up in the U.S. as Taiwanese family. There are many stereotypes being portrayed on the show since it is trying to represent the differences and conflicts between two cultures.

Eddie’s mother, Jessica Huang, is a very stereotyped Taiwanese mom in my opinion. She always forces or leads her kids to focus more on studying, so they can be accepted into schools with the nice reputation. Instead of thinking about being actors or rappers, Jessica thinks it’s better to have a practical and stable job such as doctor or engineer, so studying is the only thing that Jessica want her kids to do. Although Eddie receives straight A’s at the school, his mom thinks the school should be more difficult and strict. There is an interesting thing in here. Since Jessica thinks Eddie should study more, she wants to send him to “Chinese Learning Center”. I was wondering what was CLC, and then the show explains CLC is a place where students are given massive examination questions for them to complete, and they have to stay there studying for couple hours and complete questions again and again. This is very common in Taiwan and in some countries such as China, Japan, and Korea. Many students are getting the high-stress education by taking uncountable exams and infinite examination questions in order to be accepted in popular universities. Taiwanese parents generally believe studying is the only way to gain a chance to qualify stable jobs since companies tend to hire people graduated from popular schools. I’ve personally heard of people intuitively think I must be good at studying and math. In my opinion, if they received the same style of education, they might be even better.

One thing I also noticed in the show is superstition. When Jessica receives a check with many numbers 4 on it, she thinks it’s better to get rid of it because the pronounce of 4 is close to the word “die” in Mandarin. And Jessica believes it attracts bad luck if she keeps the money. I think this scene perfectly represents the different cultural concept. In Chinese culture, there are many taboos, and people may view it as superstition. For example, hospitals in Taiwan usually don’t have number 4 in elevators because no one wants to stay on the fourth floor especially in hospitals. I think this scene provides a great idea of how people with the different cultural background view things differently.

In one episode, Eddie’s school is asking students to pick a culture and represent the cultural traits. Eddie doesn’t want to do China. I guess the reason is Chinese culture is not so popular and liked in Western society. Also, in the show, Eddie is the only Chinese student at his grade, so he joins his friends’ group for representing Jamaica. When they are chatting, one of his friends makes fun of China saying China having nothing to show. In the scene, Eddie is getting serious about what his friend says about China and questioning him to be more specific about his words. In the show, Eddie is brave enough to speak up for protecting his identity and culture, but what about in reality? An article “Yes, you can laugh at your culture: Fresh Off the Boat cocreator Nahnatchka Khan explains why seeing the humor in your roots is the key to happiness” by Katie L. Connor talks about the impact of cultural differences. People often experience embarrassing moments because of cultural differences, and they can choose to just laugh about it. I think an important point in here is people can laugh about their “own” cultures since they have enough understanding. If people laugh or make fun of other cultures, it can just simply be considered despising other cultures.


Silicon Valley shows many contradictions to my understanding of Chinese culture. In my opinion, Silicon Valley is showing the phenomenon of Chinese people in recent years. The TV show reflects what people actually see in life about Chinese people. It may be exaggerated in comedy, but there are many cases of weird behaviors done by Chinese people in reality. And Fresh Off the Boat represents many Chinese cultural stereotypes such as frugalness and CLC. When I compare these two TV shows that I watched, I think it’s apropos to say that’s what I see in the past and now. I think Chinese culture is not valued as much as in the past as I see more and more negative cases about Chinese people. Instead of control itself or caring others, more and more Chinese people just do what they want without considering for others. It’s sad to see this happen as a Chinese person, and I think it really hurts the image of Chinese culture.


Work Cited

“The Chinese in Silicon Valley: Globalization, Social Networks, and Ethnic Identity by Bernard P. Wong.”  Reviewed by Joseph Bosco. 2006.

“Yes, you can laugh at your culture: Fresh Off the Boat cocreator Nahnatchka Khan explains why seeing the humor in your roots is the key to happiness” by Katie L. Connor. Cosmopolitan, 2015, Vol.258(3), p.50(1)


How Asian American Representation is Shifting in US Media

     Historically, Asian Americans have been one of the most underrepresented ethnic groups in American popular culture. One finding showed that Asian Americans comprise less than 4% of characters on prime time television (Tukachinsky, Mastro, & Yarchi, 2015). However, within the last twenty years there has been a gradual increase in inclusion of Asian Americans in American pop culture. This is important, as an increase in Asian American actors, artists, and singers gives other Asian Americans more opportunities to relate with and feel included in popular culture. Additionally, an absence of Asian Americans in pop culture can alienate them from others and create a lack of genuine representation of their culture and identity. Two major causations of this upwards trend was the slow and gradual increase of Asian American casting and the popularization of Korean culture within the United States. Although these two reasons are not the only causes, they have both greatly aided in growing Asian Americans  presence in American popular culture and helped in shifting Asian American representation in U.S. media.

     To begin, film and television are two of the largest components of pop culture in the United States. Television is still the “dominant source of media in our lives” (Tukachinsky, Mastro, & Yarchi, 2015) and the increasing popularity of online streaming sources allows for television to remain extremely relevant in popular culture. Due to this, television has a large impact on social domains, “including race-relations in society” (Tukachinsky, Mastro, & Yarchi, 2015). Consequently, the media’s limited and often stereotypical depictions of race and ethnicity influence the behaviors, beliefs, and attitudes of audience members. In a 2004 study done by Tukachinsky, Mastro, and Yarchi, they found Asian Americans comprise around 3% of the prime time population and only 1% of characters appearing in the opening credits. Additionally, there were no recurring Asian characters in the top shows of 1987-1989 and 1991-1993, however “their share gradually rose to 2.8% in 2007-2009” (2015). A lack of Asian Americans in pop culture can lead to misrepresentation of Asian American culture and can also “other” them. Since Asian Americans are being underrepresented in media, it can be difficult to feel accepted and valued in society. However, during the mid 2000s, the number of Asian American actors and characters began to rise.

     One great example of Asian American representation in pop culture is the 2014 film Big Hero Six. The movie revolves around Hiro Hamada (voiced by Asian American Ryan Potter), a fourteen year old boy living in San Fransokyo. The city of San Fransokyo appears to be a combination of Tokyo and San Francisco. San-Fransokyo-during-the-day-big-hero-6-37337156-500-209The city combines elements from both cultures tastefully and doesn’t come off as “exotic” or tokenizing. Hiro is intelligent, outgoing, and fashionable. He doesn’t appeal to any stereotypes about Asian Americans nor is his character portrayed differently because of his race. Big Hero Six became the highest grossing animated movie of 2014 and showed that Asian American characters are capable of achieving massive success in pop culture.

     Another example of Asian American culture in media is the show Fresh Off the Boat. In the show, Louis and Jessica are a Chinese american couple with three boys. They are proud of their Chinese culture but are also proudly American. The eldest son, Eddie, is obsessed with Black culture and goes against all Asian American c9e1058f3c3d55f932d6ee01b27e8e78stereotypes. He is loud, irresponsible, strictly listens to hip hop, and enjoys art. Eddie is individualistic and doesn’t abide to any stereotypes his family or society expects from him. Eddie’s characters offers viewers another representation of Asian American culture. Additionally, Eddie’s nontraditional personality and characteristics offer Asian American viewers another character they might associate with. These two examples are just a few that show Asian Americans are becoming more prevalent in American pop culture. Both of these examples were created and originated within the United States, but this is not the only method increasing Asian  American representation.

     Lastly, the Korean Wave is hugely aiding in bringing Asian and Asian American culture into American media. The Korean Wave is the international flow of Korean media content, specifically in the United States. Hyejung Ju and Soobum Lee state that the rise of Korean pop culture in the United States can be summarized in three major points. First, “the Korean Wave demonstrates the popularity of K-movies among specialized audiences” (2015. P. 324). Next, the Korean Wave includes the online consumption and circulation of K-pop and K-drama among Asian American youth. Last, the Korean Wave has impacted a recent trend in Hollywood films to cast Korean and Korean American actors more often in major roles. The article goes on to mention Lee Byung-Hun, Kim Yum-Jin, and Rain’s work in major Hollywood films. Similarly to shows created in the United States with Asian Americans, these Korean shows, movies, and music offerBillboard Music Awards, Arrivals, Las Vegas, USA - 21 May 2017 another representation of Asian and Asian American culture. Media plays an increasingly central role “as systems of representation in terms of identity, culture, and community” (Ju & Soobum, 2015, p.333). It is therefore important that Asian American representations are diverse, and the Korean Wave offers another representation that audiences can reside with. 

     In conclusion, popular culture in the United States is beginning to become more inclusive of Asian Americans. Although there is still under representation of Asian Americans, there has been an increasing upwards trend in representation over the last twenty years. In 2018, The Asian Pacific American Media Coalition evaluated that four major television networks made progress in representation of Asian Americans. Moreover, the Korean Wave is helping Asians and Asian Americans secure a place in American pop culture. With this increase in casting of Asian Americans, individuals are better able to portray their identities and their culture. Additionally, Asian American audiences have more potential to relate and associate with characters they see in media. Furthermore, an increase of Asian Americans in media could aide in dismantling any sense of “otherness” Asian Americans may feel. For these reasons, I am hopeful about the future of Asian Americans in popular culture and what impacts it will have.

     This class has illuminated many aspects of popular culture I had never considered prior, ultimately making we want to learn more about my identity in  popular culture. The first significant learning experience I had this term was the idea that the media can “other” people. In the article The Urgency of Visual Media Literacy in Our Post-9/11 world: Reading Images of Muslim Women in the Print News Media by Diane Watt, she states “representations we see in the mass media provide powerful messages on otherness” (2012, p.38). Through the use of misleading or intentionally ambiguous images, visual media is able to portray narratives that are inaccurate or not truly representative of what is actually occurring. This in turn can lead to othering the entity in that media. This is why accurate and genuine representations of people and their culture is so crucial in media. Knowing this information, I strive to be more critical and investigative of media in the future. In order to be an educated and active member of society, I feel that I need to be informed and critically thinking about the media I consume.

     The second significant learning experience I had this term was realizing how much work needs to be done in the inclusion of people of color in Hollywood films. In the YouTube video Every Single Word Spoken by a Person of Color in the Entire ‘Harry Potter’ Film Series by Dylan Marron, all the dialogue spoken by people of color in the Harry Potter films is comprised into slightly over six minutes. Considering the length and number of films, there is a blatant under representation of people of color in the films. Furthermore, the number of scenes with Asians was around one minute in length. With a lack of representation, people of color in the films are difficult to relate with and are unable to tell their interpretation of the story. In other classes I have learned that creating a sense of the “One” and the “Other” can lead to further disconnect and schisms between people. This is what visual media has the potential to avoid if people from all backgrounds are included. This further shows the importance of inclusion in popular culture.


Fanpop, Inc. “Fanpop.” Fanpop, 13 June 2015,

Hall, D., & Williams, C. (Directors). (2015). Big Hero SIx [Motion picture]. United States: Walt Disney Pictures.

Ju, H., & Lee, S. (2015). The Korean Wave and Asian Americans: The ethnic meanings of transnational Korean pop culture in the USA. Continuum, 29(3), 323-338. doi:10.1080/10304312.2014.986059

Marron, D. (2015, August 17). Retrieved May 23, 2018, from

  1. K. (Director), & R. B., E. H., & J. H. (Producers). (2015, February 4). Fresh Off the Boat [Television series]. Los Angeles, California: ABC.

“Metro.” Metro, Metro, 2 June 2018,

Pintrest.” Pintrest, Pintrest, 5 Feb. 2017,

Soderberg, Brandon. “Spin.” Spin, SPIN, 31 Mar. 2015,      psys-gangnam-style-become-the-no-1-rap-song-in-the-country/.

Tukachinsky, R., Mastro, D., & Yarchi, M. (2015, March 13). Documenting Portrayals of      Race/Ethnicity on Primetime Television over a 20‐Year Span and Their Association with National‐Level Racial/Ethnic Attitudes. Retrieved May 22, 2018, from

Watt, D. (2012). The Urgency of Visual Media Literacy in Our Post-9/11 world: Reading Images of Muslim Women in the Print News Media. The Journal of Media Literacy Education, 4(1), 32-43. Retrieved May 23, 2018, from

Yam, K. (2017, December 19). Major Networks Are Becoming More Inclusive Of Asian-Americans: Report. Retrieved May 23, 2018, from


Female Golfers Portrayed in Media Today


Females were not able to play sports nor were they considered athletes until a Title IX law was passed in 1972. There are very few films that feature female golfers as of 2016. However, there are 14 movies of male golfers as the main characters and only two about women. The game of golf was known originally for gentlemen only and ladies were forbidden to play. Female golfers were not recognized until the Women’s Professional Golf Association (WPGA) was formed into the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) in 1950. The LPGA tour has made women golfers more recognized, but still today female golfers are not portrayed as often as male golfers are in the media in the United States.

This blog post will be the examination of both a film, Swing Away, and a documentary, The Founders, which feature female golfers. Also discussed will be other golf movies that are all about male golfers with no mention of female golfers. This will look at the reasons why female golfers are not portrayed in many movies. The two films show women golfers and their lives of playing golf and the recognition for them in the public.

The Founders Film

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The Founders is a documentary film directed by Fisk Charlene and written by Carrie Schrader. Released in 2016, this documentary was screened in multiple film festivals all over the United States. This is a great story of 13 amateur women golfers who created the Women’s Professional Golf Association (WPGA), which eventually turned into the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA). The purpose of this film was to show how the LPGA was created and that it wanted to have the world recognize that women can also be great golfers. This film is for anyone who believes in the transformative power of defying the odds.

Women golfers were treated unfairly and the world of golf discriminated against them. The film started as both female and male golfers played together in the the All-American Championship in Chicago, but not against one another. The winner for the ladies division got $500 and the male winner got $10,000. Women golfers wanted to equalize the purses for winning, which led them to separate themselves from the males. That catalyst led to the formation of the Women’s Professional Golf Association in 1944. In 1950, the 13 amateur women golfers had gone through many obstacles in order to reach their goal of becoming a professional sport for women by creating the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA). The film showed that women golfers were unnoticed for many years and that the LPGA made a big impact on making them more visible. Once women golf was recognized as a professional sport, women were seen as great golfers, and they are now able to earn money by winning tournaments.

A review on The Founders by Violet Lucca discusses the good and bad about the film. “It explains that the LPGA was founded in 1950 and is one of the world’s longest-running women’s professional sports associations, and that it has attracted skilled female athletes of all races and classes the world over” (Lucca, 2016). Also mentioned in the article was that the LPGA never banned African Americans from playing and actively boycotted courses that didn’t permit them to enter the clubhouse. The Founders is a documentary that has a reenactment as well as interviews with the surviving founders of the LPGA. The subjects of the film are now elderly women who stood up against sexism years before the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. The film highlighted the financial problems of the LPGA’s early years. Women were forced to perform maintenance on the golf course, do the promotional work, and carpool between tournaments. The film discusses what the women had to face while playing golf. There was an incident where one of the top three female golfers in the U.S. was not allowed to enter the clubhouse on the course she was playing on in 1941. Shirley Spork, one of the founders, said, “Golf was a rich man’s game. You couldn’t compete unless you were part of an organization or private club.” This explains why it was not easy for women to play golf before the LPGA was formed. With no organization, they were not able to play unless they were part of a private club, but also they were not welcomed because it was considered a man’s game.

Swing Away

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Swing Away is a sports drama directed by Michael Nickles. The movie was released in certain theaters on May 7, 2016. This movie is about a professional golfer named Zoe Papadopoulos who had a meltdown on the last hole of a golf tournament and got suspended from the tour for it. She then travels to her grandparents’ village in Greece to get away from all the negative attention about her on the media. Being back in Greece, Zoe was able to regain control of her game and helped put the local golf course back in the hands of the villagers. The purpose of the movie is to teach about sportsmanship, the game of golf, and the cultures in Greece.

This is a good movie that presents a real life scenario of a golfer who couldn’t overcome her emotions after missing an important putt to force a playoff. Many golfers have gone through this, and it is great that she was able to turn her life around after her suspension. Zoe Papadopoulos was a professional golfer on the LPGA who had a mental breakdown and disrespected the association, the audience, and the golf course. During her suspension, she headed to her parents’ village in Greece and was able to participate in Greek customs with her grandparents. During her time in Greece, she mentored a ten year-old girl with her golf game. The public golf course in the village was in bad condition and Zoe was able to help the manager out and make the golf course more attractive. Along the way, the owner of the golf course did not accept Zoe as the pro and wanted to reconstruct the golf course into a five-star resort. The deal made was that the owner had to play against the 10 year-old girl that Zoe had been teaching. The girl won. The villagers were the owners of the golf course once again and Zoe headed back to America to play the rest of the tournaments on tour. The beginning of the movie portrayed a female golfer in a negative way, but it also gave much advice for women golfers.

A review of the movie Swing Away was written by Simi Horwitz. Swing Away was a sport and family movie that gives inspiration for female teens and golfers. The review discussed about the good and bad of the movie. The movie presented the female professional as emotional, strong, and community-oriented. While her suspension, she made progress with her golf game and helped the community of the village get their golf course back. Throughout the her suspension, Zoe learned about the power of resilience, heritage and second chances. The story of the movie was a great connection between the game of golf and Ancient Greece. It was mentioned that golf was formed in Ancient Greece. The film is very enjoyable and can be watched by any age in certain theaters. Mentioned in the article was a interesting fact about how “Swing Away was the first movie that featured a professional golfer as its heroine” (Horwitz, 2017). Compared to other sports, golf movies only had two films featuring females golfers, while there are 14 movies on male golfers.

Movies About Male Golfers

While the above films featured women golfers, the vast majority of films star male golfers. Some movies that feature male golfers are Caddyshack, Happy Gilmore, and The Greatest Game Ever Played. These movies mentioned and many more movies did not give the chance of having females as the main roles or any part in the movie about the game of golf. Caddyshack was directed by Harold Ramis and produced by Douglas Kenney. Happy Gilmore was directed by Dennis Dugan and Bill Paxton directed the Greatest Game Ever Played. Caddyshack and Happy Gilmore is a comedy and sports movie while the Greatest Game Ever Played was a drama, sports and history movie. This is to show that there are many golf movies only featuring male golfers and only two films were found including female golfers. This shows that not many female golfers are portrayed in movies and tv shows. If female golfers are shown in movies, they are shown in a negative way such as in Swing Away or on the side and usually not a big part of the golf story like in the movies where men are the main characters that were mentioned previously. Swing Away featured a professional woman golfer as the admiring figure. The Founders documentary showed the start of female golfers and the ladies professional organization.

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An article called I Just Want to Play explored women, sexism, and persistence in golf. This evidence connects to the fact that there are so many male golfer movies and few films featuring women golfers. There is a lack of women golfer representation in the media. In the early years of golf, there were barriers for women to play golf until the LPGA was made. Still with the Title IX law, women feel worthless as males are more popular in the media and in general to watch. The authors of this article wanted to discuss the barriers for women in golf and the strategies for them to play. They did a study of ten interviews, which consisted of recreational women golfers who faced discrimination on the golf course. They felt unwanted, ignored, and unnoticed on the course. Also mentioned in the article were ways to end gender-based discrimination in golf to make it more inviting for women by “having more of them work at golf courses, provide more merchandise gears, allow them to play from any tee grounds, and promote nine-hole play” (Mcginnis, 2005). Many women just want to play and so reducing gender barriers to play golf needs to happen. It should be the same in the media for female golfers to have the same amount of coverage as males.


All research has been presented to provide information about why female golfers are not portrayed enough in the media today specifically in films and shows. The Founders was a good documentary to show the creation of the LPGA and the start of recognition for female golfers. Swing Away was very inspirational and gave an impression to young females that golf can be played by females and they are able to overcome any obstacles that they face. The LPGA tour has made women golfers more recognized, but still today female golfers are not portrayed as often as male golfers are in the media in the United States. If discrimination between genders in golf make changes, golf could be the first towards equalizing genders in sports history and can lead to equal exposure between women and men in the media.

Learning Moments

One learning moment I had from this course was in Week 1. We had to read some course texts for our discussion post and what intrigued me the most was this article called “Why Students Can’t Google Their Way to the Truth”. It was one of the most interesting articles for me in this course. This article was mostly about fast checkers and how can students approach websites differently. You don’t realize that many people don’t pay attention to a website on if it is reliable or not. I have learned about choosing accurate and reliable sources for research papers before. At times I do check websites or articles if they are reliable, but at other times I just think there are good enough information to be true. What I learned most from the article was about understanding “fast-checkers”. I have never heard of fast-checkers before and the strategies and techniques that that they do, fascinates me. Fast-checkers has three strategies which are to read laterally, research more about the subject they are reading, and they scroll to the bottom first to look more at the reliable sources. I am thinking about trying these strategies and it can help me in the future with researching websites and how to learn more about a subject. This article made me realize that I am glad I pay attention to which websites are reliable when it comes to research so I am able to have the knowledge of the correct information. It also helps with figuring out which websites are reliable and teaching new techniques for researching.

Another learning moment was in Week 6 from a course text called “News is bad for you – and giving up reading it will make you happier”. I always thought the news was a good thing, but through this article, it could be a bad thing. I don’t often watch or read the news. I only look to see what is the weather locally and if anything big is happening in Portland. Also, I like to know news about my home state which is Hawaii. The article mentions that the news is misleading, irrelevant, toxic to our body, increases cognitive error, and etc. It is interesting to learn that news consumption could be a disadvantage and lead to health problems. Mentioned in the article that the news can trigger the limbic system and makes your body become stress. The news can also disrupts concentration and can weaken comprehension. In a 2001 study, two scholars in Canada showed that comprehension declines as the number of hyperlinks in a document increases. Also, some news has flaws that make people think it is right. I was taught that the news is important to watch and listen, but throughout this course, not watching the news could be a good idea. Watching the news can lead to many emotions from learning about something bad or good from the news. Staying away from reading about the news could be a good thing because you won’t have to find out how corrupted a certain part of the world is. I don’t usually watch the news and I am going to leave it that way because some news are not true also. From what I learned from the article will help me make decisions whether I will read the news information or not, and if will be benefit me or not.

Work Cited

Dugan, Dennis, et al. Happy Gilmore. Special ed., Universal Studios, 1996.

Fisk, Charlene, et al. The Founders. Level 33 Entertainment, 2017.

Horwitz, Simi. “Film Review: Swing Away.” Film Journal International, 11 Oct. 2017

Lucca, Violet. “The Founders.” Sight and Sound, vol. 26, no. 9, 2016, pp. 75–76.

Mcginnis, L, et al. “I Just Want to Play – Women, Sexism, and Persistence in Golf.” Journal Of Sport &Amp; Social Issues, vol. 29, no. 3, 2005, pp. 313–337.

Nickles, Michael, director. Swing Away. Freestyle Digital Media, 7 May 2016.

Paxton, Bill., et al. The Greatest Game Ever Played. Walt Disney Home Entertainment, 2005.                                                                               =CP71113416230001451&context=L&vid=PSU&search_scope=. all&tab=default_tab&lang=en_US

Ramis, Harold., et al. Caddyshack. Warner Home Video, 1980.

Artists are Kooky Eccentrics… Right?


Artists have an unusual relationship with popular media; first of all, it’s kind of difficult to locate many artists in pop culture in the first place, a fact that I fully came to understand after searching for examples of artists in a number of sources. In movies and TV shows, artists are largely unpopular characters to be found; I had to dig deep and think somewhat abstractly before I came across some suitable characters for my argument. And when they are present in the media, they’re also very commonly portrayed as either eccentric weirdos, or lower class people.


Is this really an issue? I mean, artists really are often living life to their own beat.. Many artists don’t follow the conventional rules that our society has decided are the right ones all the time, and they often don’t make a ton of money. I know people like this in my real life, and I’m sure most other people do, too. I mean, I’m an Art student myself, so I’m familiar with the stereotype.  So what’s the big deal? Why is it an issue to only ever portray artists like they’re the misfits in society, never the norm?

In popular media in the United States, I think there’s a bit of a chicken and the egg situation happening. It happens to all kinds groups of people, but I’m going to focus on the artists here for a moment. A lot of people in this world are only exposed to a large number of things exclusively through their television, or as of the last 20 years or so, their computer or smartphone. It’s somewhat reasonable, there’s not enough time or resources to experience everything first hand. It just can become an issue what that’s all they have to base their ideas and opinions on for all kinds of things, and people. It has very real consequences of how people perceive things in their lives. What I’m trying to get at here is that when they see the typical “starving artist” being portrayed in their favorite TV show, that stereotype can honestly change their impressions of people that they perceive as fitting in that box. Basically, if the TV is treating artists like poor weirdos, eventually that will come to pass and have an impact on the lives of real people.

Exhibit A: Titanic


The Titanic is an epic romance story released in the 1990s that focuses more on the lives of two passengers of the ship than the disaster itself. A wealthy upper class lady named Rose is due to be married off to someone of her status when she finds Jack. He’s one of the lower deck passengers, and he doesn’t have much money to his name. Jack is an artist, which is why he’s relevant here.   We know this because Rose asks him to draw her “like one of his French girls”, which he does so gladly. The film depicts him as very skilled, drawing Rose with a level of dedication and intensity that really only belongs to a master of his craft (Also Leonardo Dicaprio does a great job with his acting in this scene, which helps a lot). Jack is also seen to very clever and an all around upstanding guy, but Rose’s family would never approve of him because he is both poor and an artist. Only the best noblemen for their darling daughter Rose.  Surprisingly, this sentiment hasn’t really changed for a lot of people over the course of roughly 110 years, and a lot of parents wouldn’t be pleased if their daughter brought home an artist today. Living in Portland, it’s easy to forget that there’s such a stigma against those that are passionate for the arts because it’s such a progressive city that really supports its artists, but there are still plenty of people in this world that think it’s a complete waste of you time to invest in any kind of art related skill at all.

Basically, everyone but Rose discards Jack as being a worthless waste of space despite his numerous skills and generally likeable personality, all because he’s an artist and poor. I think part of the reason Rose falls for him because she knew his personality before his background, and not the other way around. Chances are, Rose would have ignored him too, has she known he was poor if the world in Titanic is anything like the real one. Then again, there was totally room for Jack on that board so who knows?

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It’s hard to say what the causation/correlation relationship is between being poor and being an artist, but it’s definitely fair to say that they’re often found together in popular media.


Exhibit B: Edward Scissorhands

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Edward scissorhands was a not-so-obvious choice for this project at first glance, because when I think of Edward Scissorhands, my first thought is “weird sort of Christmasy, sort of Halloweeny move about that guy with the scissorhands”. My second thought is “Yup, that’s a Tim Burton film”.  ‘Artist’ was definitely not the first word that popped into my mind in any case. I quickly changed my mind when I gave it further consideration, though.

It’s a quirky movie about a really lonely scientist who lives in a mansion overlooking a small suburban town. Out of this loneliness the scientist comes up with the idea of creating a human being to fill that empty void in his life. Instead of doing it the old fashioned way, he literally creates a person with various machines, parts and pieces, and of course love. And so Edward was ‘born’. However, just before the scientist could finish Edward, he dies, leaving him with clumsy scissors for hands. Edward is found by a kindly middle age woman involved in a pyramid scheme from the suburban town below, and is takes him into her home. Eventually it’s discovered that Edward is greatly skilled at using his scissorhands to  make things of beauty. He starts out with trimming hedges into amazing topiaries, and then graduated to doing pet grooming and hair styling on the women of the town.

I like this movie for this topic because both Edward and his creator can be considered to be artists. The scientist designed Edward and created him out of love, just as many artsits and graphic designers do with their own work.  Edward is a more spontaneous kind of artist, and doesn’t seem to need to have much of a planning stage before he gets down to the creation. It’s almost like the scientist passed on his ability to create to Edward, and Edward is carrying out his legacy in his own way; Art creating art. It’s also noteworthy to mention that they were both very much outcasts in this strange fictional world. We didn’t learn much about him in the film, but the scientist clearly never fit into society, living on all by his lonesome in a great looming mansion, forced to create someone that would accept him. Edward is of course an outcast because he’s never been exposed to anything; everything is new and a bit scary to him. He almost comes from another world in the context