What Makes a Prince “Charming”?

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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)

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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.

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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)

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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.

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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.

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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)

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

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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.

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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.”

Conclusion

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, http://www.boxofficemojo.com. 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

 

 

 

 

 

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

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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.

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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 

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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

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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?

“Chips”

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.

Sarah

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?

 

Phoebe

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.

Conclusion

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

Bibliography

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!

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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

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Introduction

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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

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.

Conclusion

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, http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20151006-when-white-actors-play-other-races

Calderon, Josue Lopez. “7 reasons why we need an Asian-Latino alliance” Huffington Post, 31 May 2016, https://www.huffingtonpost.com/josue-lopez-calderon/7-reasons-why-we-need-an-_b_10200278.html

 

 

 

Looking in the Mirror of Vegetarians in the Media

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Introduction

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]

Conclusion

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]

 

References

[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: https://youtu.be/3yk4hA_p1kQ

[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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fPwkMJnXDMs

[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] Instagram.com | @Peta

[4] Zukowski, John A. (2012). Vegans and vegetarians in pop culture: “You don’t win friends with salad”. New Vegan Age. https://newveganage.blogspot.com/2012/06/you-dont-win-friends-with-salad.html

Professional Women on the Big Screen

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“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.-

 

Ghostbusters
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.

Conclusion
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.

Bibliography

[1] The Bechdel Test Movie List. (n.d.). Retrieved February 26, 2017, from http://bechdeltest.com

[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 http://womenintvfilm.sdsu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/2016_Celluloid_Ceiling_Report.pdf

[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 http://womenintvfilm.sdsu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/2016-Its-a-Mans-Celluloid-World-Report.pdf

Violent Gamers

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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. http://time.com/4000220/violent-video-games/
  3. “Video Games Don’t Cause Violent Behavior”, Healthcare Triage, YouTube, 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m2Jq7vPxYGg
  4. “What Bernie, Hillary, & Trump Say About Video Game Violence”, NerdAlert, YouTube, 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mlVxeTJL0cg

 

Latino Students in the US as seen through Mass Media

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  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.<http://search.proquest.com.proxy.lib.pdx.edu/docview/1704379897?rfr_id=info%3Axri%2Fsid%3Aprimo&gt;.

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

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Introduction

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.

2009TobyCropped

“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.

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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.

bobs

“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, https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/toby-v-catbert-perceptions-hr-jess-bradfield. 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, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=AONE&sw=w&u=s1185784&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CA65948016&it=r&asid=437cfcc1b7810b4a196b15c7ddb0b5bd. 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, http://dilbert.com/strip/1995-08-07 Web.

Stern, Stefan. “What is HR Really for?” Management Today, 1 May 2009, p. 52.AcademicOneFile, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=AONE&sw=w&u=s1185784&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CA198764360&it=r&asid=96c67d7b3ccef42cd2ae4d4e011b454d. Accessed 19 Feb. 2017.

The Portrayal of Black Women in Reality TV Shows

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Introduction:

            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:

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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”.

http://www.bravotv.com/the-real-housewives-of-atlanta/season-6/videos/porsha-williams-gets-carried-out-of-the-reunion

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:

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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.

http://www.bravotv.com/married-to-medicine/season-1/videos/toya-and-mariah-face-off-at-karis-house

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.

Conclusion:

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.

Sources:

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

References:

ABC News (December 1, 2015). Behind the Magic: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. ABC News. Retrieved from: http://abcnews.go.com/Press_Release/magic-snow-white-dwarfs/story?id=35507438

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:http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/life/movies/reviews/2010-03-26-beauty26_ST_N.htm

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

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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.”

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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.

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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”

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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.

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Season 9, Episode 4: https://www.viki.com/videos/1039297v-the-adventures-of-ozzie-harriet-his-brothers-girl-episode-55

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.

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Trailer: https://youtu.be/W5eADSOAwE4

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.

Reality

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.

Conclusion

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.

Sources

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?

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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.

http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/the-story-of-god-with-morgan-freeman/episodes/creation/

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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.”

https://www.closertotruth.com/series/are-science-religion-war

 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

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.

 

References

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

“Bill Nye Debates Ken Ham,” Youtube. Feb 4, 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6kgvhG3AkI

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. http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1555132,00.html

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

Harold Cronk, God’s Not Dead. 2014. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2528814/

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

The Portrayal of Introverts in Popular Culture

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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.

BONES

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.

THE BIG BANG THEORY

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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

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

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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.

References

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  http://www.medicaldaily.com/brain-introvert-compared-extrovert-are-they-really-different-299064

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 https://www.elementsbehavioralhealth.com/mental-health/introvert-shy-socially-anxious-whats-the-difference/

Lias, S. (2013, November). INTROVERTS ON TV: A LOOK AT CBS’S THE BIG BANG THEORY [Web log post]. Retrieved May 1, 2016, from http://understandingpopculture.blogspot.com/2013/11/introverts-on-tv-look-at-cbss-big-bang.html

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 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c0KYU2j0TM4

Homeschoolers in Hollywood

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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.

badbreath

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.

Conclusion

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

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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.

References

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. <http://www.isaps.org/Media/Default/global-statistics/2015%20ISAPS%20Results.pdf&gt;.

“Lion Heart – Girls’ Generation.” YouTube. SMTOWN, 17 Aug. 2015. Web. 3 Nov. 2015. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nVCubhQ454c&gt;.

Marx, Patricia. “About Face.” The New Yorker. N.p., 23 Mar. 2015. Web. 10 Nov. 2015. <http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/03/23/about-face&gt;.

Stone, Zara. “The K-Pop Plastic Surgery Obsession.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 24 May 2013. Web. 10 Nov. 2015. <http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/05/the-k-pop-plastic-surgery-obsession/276215/&gt;.

“TL PLASTIC SURGERY Facial Contouring.” YouTube. TPL Plastic Surgery, 1 Jan. 2015. Web. 3 Nov. 2015. <https://youtu.be/nA2X5SWSnZs&gt;.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding Identity in the Media

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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 groupthink.kinja.com, “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.

Bibliography

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

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

“Lucy Liu.” IMDb. IMDb.com, 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?”

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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.

magic-kids

“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.

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“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.

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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, www.larping.org 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.”

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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. http://sequart.org/magazine/38229/the-big-bang-theory-and-geek-culture/

Fox, Jessie David. The Evolution of the TV Nerd, From Potsie to Urkel to Abed. 12 March 2013. Web. 28 Oct. 2015. http://www.vulture.com/2013/03/evolution-of-the-tv-nerd-screech-urkel-abed.html#

Hwang, Victor W. A Huge Global Epidemic: Fake Nerds. Forbs.com. 3 Jun. 2013. Web. 28 Oct. 2015.  http://www.forbes.com/sites/victorhwang/2013/06/03/a-huge-global-epidemic-fake-nerds/

Kempley, Rita. Nerds Come Into Their Own, At Last. The Washington Post. 10 Aug. 1984. Web. 8 Nov. 2015. https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/lifestyle/1984/08/10/nerds-come-into-their-own-at-last/8d51812d-508b-4efa-bf2f-d6c1c97b90ff/

Kim, Monica. Revenge of the Nerds: Why Geek Chic is the Next Fashion Phenomenon. Vogue Magazine. 25 Aug. 2015. Web. 8 Nov. 2015. http://www.vogue.com/13299064/nerd-style-fashion-gucci-fall-2015/

Revenge of the Nerds Quotes. IMDB. Web. 18 Nov. 2015. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0088000/quotes

Sifferlin, Alexandra. What to Know About Geek Pride Day. Time Magazine. 25 May 2015. Web. 8 Nov. 2015. http://time.com/3895549/geek-pride-day/

Star Wars Quotes. IMDB. Web. 18 Nov. 2015. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0076759/trivia?tab=qt&ref_=tt_trv_qu

Westcott, Kathryn. Are “Geek” and “Nerd” Now Positive Terms? BBC News Magazine. 16 Nov. 2012. Web. 28 Oct. 2015. http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-20325517

West, Randolph. Skyes, Charles J. Charles J. Skyes – Some Rules Kids Won’t Learn in School. 19 Sep. 1996. Web. 8 Nov. 2015. http://rabryst.ca/2006/09/charles-j-sykes-some-rules-kids-wont-learn-in-school/?entry=entry060928-084532

 

Obsessions, Compulsions, and the Media

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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.

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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.

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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.
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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.

Bibliography
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”. buzzsawmag.org. 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

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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.

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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.

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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”.

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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.

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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.

 

References

 

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

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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.

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(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.

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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.

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Jake Gyllenhal and Gemma Arterton in Prince of Persia

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    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. http://variety.com/2014/film/news/ridley-scott-exodus-gods-and-kingschristian-bale-1201363668/.

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?

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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?

man

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]

boy

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.

 hbteds

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.

tumblr_nefz67dFl61s6uscuo1_500

Works Cited & Sources

 

[1] Drutman, Lee. “Alaska: Land of Contradictions.” Pacific Standard.  n.p., 2 Oct. 2008.  Web. http://www.psmag.com/politics-and-law/alaska-land-of-contradictions-4209

[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. http://www.researchgate.net/publication/249696483_The_Real_AlaskanNostalgia_and_Rural_Masculinity_in_the_Last_Frontier

[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. http://www.webpages.uidaho.edu/sense-place/northernexposure.htm

Everything is Terrible!. “Alaskan Hunks.” Web Advertisement. Vimeo. Apr 2015. https://vimeo.com/124783232

“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

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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. http://black-face.com/images/Hattie-McDaniel-mammy.jpg

To begin, TVtropes.com 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.

References

Bell, E.L. (1990). The Bicultural Life Experience of Career-Oriented Black People. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 11(6), 459-477. Retrieved from http:// www.jstor.org/stable/2488489

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

Davis, A.P (2014, September 28). The Most Important Hair on Last Night’s Scandal. Retrieved from http://nymag.com/thecut/2014/09/most-important-hair-on-last-nights-scandal.html.

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 http://msmagazine.com/blog/2015/02/03/kerry-washingtons-professional-hair/

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 http://www.jstor.org/stable/40034332

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

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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:

             http://abc.go.com/embed/VDKA0_iwe69s0a

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.

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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.

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Jane (left) and her mother Xiomara (right).
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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

Bibliography

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. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 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. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 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

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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 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RmXiItk49Gw).

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

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*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: http://lisajackson.ca/Savage

sources:

[1] http://www.bia.gov/WhoWeAre/BIA/OIS/TribalGovernmentServices/TribalDirectory/

[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

[5] http://www.justice.gov/ovw/tribal-communities

[6] http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/aic.pdf

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

[8] http://www.ammsa.com/publications/windspeaker/lisa-jackson-windspeaker-confidential

Mind if I Watch?

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Gabrielle Meik
Queer Women in Entertainment Media
3/8/15

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. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 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. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 19 Sept. 2014. Web. 09 Mar. 2015.

Looking in the Asian Student Mirror

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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

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Jacob Demming

UNST-254A

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 (http://www.childsplaycharity.org/). 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. <http://kotaku.com/5968683/mob-blames-mass-effect-for-school-shooting-is-embarrassingly-wrong&gt;.

Dawson, Christopher. “Playing Video Games to Raise Millions for Charity.” CNN. Cable News Network, 28 Oct. 2013. Web. 15 Nov. 2014. <http://www.cnn.com/2013/10/25/tech/gaming-gadgets/gaming-for-charity/index.html?iref=allsearch&gt;.

“Gamer.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 2 Dec. 2014. <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/gamer&gt;.

“Gamer, Definition.” Urban Dictionary. N.p., 09 Apr. 2005. Web. 15 Nov. 2014. <http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=gamer&gt;.

“Main/ Most Gamers Are Male.” TV Tropes. TV Tropes, n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2014. <http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MostGamersAreMale&gt;.

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. <http://learning.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/10/17/how-sexist-is-the-gaming-world/?_r=2&gt;.

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

Feminism & YouTube

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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.

References

FCKH8. (2014, October 21). Potty-Mouthed Princesses Drop F-Bombs for Feminism by FCKH8.com. Retrieved December 2, 2014, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XqHYzYn3WZw

Funny or Die. (2014, April 17). Polisub: How to Turn on a Feminist. Retrieved December 3, 2014, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xjuLfcH6yGA

Lacigreen. (2014, April 23). WHY I’M A…FEMINIST *gasp*. Retrieved December 3, 2014, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UwJRFClybmk

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

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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 thetrevorproject.org, “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 (IMDb.com). 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.

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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 freedomtomarry.org, 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?” Mormon.org LDS Church, Nov 1998.Web. 15 November 2014.

Latter Days. Web. 6 November 2014. <huluplus.com>

“Facts about Suicide” TheTrevorProject.org 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”. RollingStone.com Rolling Stone, 25 March 2014. Web. 6 November 2014.

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

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

The Real Foodies

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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.” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6-L9BHcxMmI). 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.

 

LaurenBefusMirrorEssay

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 (http://www.theguardian.com/books/2012/sep/28/lets-start-foodie-backlash ). 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.

Bibliography:

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

Idov, Michael. “New York Magazine.” NYMag.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Mar. 2014. <http://nymag.com/restaurants/features/foodies-2012-4/>.

Poole, Steven. “Let’s Start the Foodie Backlash.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 29 Sept. 2012. Web. 10 Mar. 2014. <http://www.theguardian.com/books/2012/sep/28/lets-start-foodie-backlash&gt;.

“Shit Foodies Say.” YouTube. YouTube, 21 Feb. 2012. Web. 10 Mar. 2014. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6-L9BHcxMmI&gt;.

Bipolar Disorder: Crazy or Accurate?

When you hear the words “Bipolar Disorder”, what pops into your mind? When someone says “Oh, he/she is so bipolar!”, is your first thought that they’re crazy? Known in the past as manic depressive disorder, and on some TV advertisements as bipolar depression, bipolar disorder is a mental illness that will affect approximately 4.4% of the population at some point in their lives, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

Mental illness is often stigmatized, and while it is becoming a more openly discussed topic, the appearance of mental illness in popular culture is still not what it should be. Bipolar disorder isn’t shown in the media as commonly as unipolar depression, but when it is portrayed, it is portrayed rather hastily. It leads you to wonder how well the disease was researched before being acted out. Here, we will examine some examples of bipolar disorder in the media, and how it is portrayed.

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            Mr. Jones: Mr. Jones is an older film, released back in October of 1993. As the film begins, we are greeted with the song “I Got You (I Feel Good)” by James Brown, which is rather upbeat and cheerful. At first, you might not think anything of this song, but you will later realize the significance of it. As a group of construction workers enter a job site, we are introduced to Mr. Jones, our main character. He is eccentric and excitable, and while smooth talking with the foreman, he manages to get hired on at the job site.

Mr. Jones’ eccentric behavior continues as he impulsively gives another character, Howard, a 100-dollar bill, and tells him an odd story about how he’d found it laying on the ground and out of nowhere a voice tells him “give it to Howard”, but he didn’t know anyone named Howard before this, so how cool is that?! After more upbeat excitement, Mr. Jones seems to finally lose all touch with reality as he decides that he is going to fly like the jets overhead, and must be restrained and pulled away from the edge of the roof, that he’s almost jumped from.

In a scene change, we meet the psychiatrist, Elizabeth, who will be another crucial character. In the mental hospital that has an absolutely terrible system of “evaluate, medicate, evacuate”, Elizabeth meets a heavily sedated Mr. Jones, who has been fed way too many antipsychotics, and has been misdiagnosed with schizophrenia. At a later point, once no longer sedated, Jones and Elizabeth meet again, and Jones is released from the hospital. Elizabeth discusses with the staff Jones’ misdiagnosis and that she believes he actually is suffering from bipolar disorder. Meanwhile, off the medication, Jones goes back into a severely manic episode, in which we see hyper sexuality, impulsivity, grandiosity, and so forth. He is finally brought back to the mental hospital after he disturbs a symphony in an attempt to conduct the orchestra and speed up the music.

Mr. Jones does not like to admit that he does indeed suffer from bipolar disorder, and when a depressive episode finally hits, Jones is absolutely distraught, stating that he’s a junkie who needs his high, which in this case is referring to him needing and desperately missing his manic episodes. We also continue to witness a budding relationship between Jones and Elizabeth, which has begun to cross the bounds of therapeutic and into something unethical. Why is Elizabeth so obsessed with Mr. Jones? Why is she the only person in this ridiculous hospital that can tell that Jones has bipolar disorder and not schizophrenia?

As Jones’ treatment continues, Elizabeth continues to dig deeper, eventually violating Jones’ privacy by contacting someone from his past he claimed to be dead. They fight, and despite the fact that Jones is at the psychiatric hospital through a court order, he is somehow able to leave. Elizabeth continues to follow him, and eventually we are faced with a dramatic scene in the rain in which they finally kiss. Ethics have been completely broken and violated, and only then does Elizabeth attempt to remove herself from Jones’ case. Hospital drama continues, and eventually they I think run off together so that they can be together after Jones has another mental break after being transferred to a different hospital and leaves.

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            Silver Linings Playbook: The Silver Linings Playbook is a more recent film and also has a main character with bipolar disorder named Pat. We are introduced to a clearly delusional Pat who is talking to someone or something not there, and he manages to avoid taking his medication. Pat’s mother checks him out of the mental hospital in which he had resided for the last 8 months, despite medical professionals advising against this and that Pat is just starting to get used to the routine.

Pat is un-medicated, very manic, and still rather delusional. This helps with the movie’s hijinks, as he expects to be able to easily prove to his wife that he’s changed and okay now. He is also driving his parents crazy. At a strange dinner with I’m assuming friends or possibly neighbors, Pat is introduced to Tiffany, who is a bit of a basket case following her husband’s death, as well as someone dealing with her own mental health issues. Tiffany and her sister, who is one of the people who invited Pat to dinner, aren’t getting along, and Tiffany convinces Pat to leave with her.

Pat and Tiffany have definite sparks, but Pat argues that they’re both married. Drama ensues and Tiffany starts following Pat around. Pat can’t talk to his wife because of a restraining order, so Tiffany agrees to give his wife letters from him so long as he competes in this dance competition with her. He gets a letter back from his wife, his dad is an unusual person with OCD rituals regarding sports while also not seeming to understand Pat’s bipolar disorder, Pat and Tiffany go on a really horrible date, and so forth. There’s a lot of B-plot in this movie. They compete in the dance competition, get the score they need to win a bet his dad and a sketchy book guy made, Pat finds out his wife didn’t actually write the letter to him, but Tiffany did, and he writes her a letter back telling her that he loves her. Que happy emotional scene.

Mr. Jones and Silver Linings Playbook did have some good points to them. They were accurate in the medications used to treat their mentally ill main characters. Mr. Jones did a wonderful job of portraying both the manic and depressive states of bipolar disorder. The Silver Linings Playbook did a good job of showing delusions and I suppose psychosis. However, there is a lot I am not so happy with.

In Mr. Jones, transference and countertransference does make sense, but no matter how you spin it, it was completely unethical and illegal for Elizabeth to sleep with Jones, and she should have been reported, fired, stripped of her license, and possibly arrested. The fact that multiple people knew what had happened and chose not to do anything about it so long as she stayed away from Jones upsets and disturbs me. It was also rather disturbing that Elizabeth completely violated Jones’ privacy and tracked down his old “dead” girlfriend to talk to her. Without a release of information and a number of other things, she’s also violating HIPAA and lord knows what else.

In the Silver Linings Playbook, Pat is pretty much portrayed as crazy, and a lot of the stuff with him and Tiffany is a battle of who is crazier, and “at least I’m not as crazy as you are.” This falls back into that negative portrayal and stigmatization I mentioned earlier. Meanwhile, if Pat was in the hospital being treated for eight months, he would be closely monitored, and they’d have noticed that he was continually delusional and manic. They would have also noticed that he was skipping out on his medication. His family not fighting harder to keep him on his medication was another red flag, even if we ignore the fact that he should not have been able to be released to them in the first place in his clearly unstable mental state. And why does Pat have to end up in such a dysfunctional and sketchy relationship with Tiffany? I get that a romantic ending is great for Hollywood, but with how toxic things were during their date and other points in the film, this is just setting Pat up for further failure.  In an article titled “Bipolar Disorder Affects Behavior and Social Skills on the Internet” (Martini et al.), it does discuss how people with bipolar disorder have poor social skills, and that those worsen over time, but I’m not sure that even that can fully explain Pat’s constantly awkward behavior and poor social skills. I’d like to believe that if he stayed on his medication, that he could learn positive social skills, but that might still be a stretch with the way his character is portrayed.

I believe that Mr. Jones was well researched, but I don’t necessarily feel that Silver Linings Playbook had as much research backing it up, and it chose to go more for what would be the most dramatic, vs. what would be more realistic. While the actors may or may not have had mental illnesses of their own, I don’t think that anyone in these films actually had bipolar disorder. It leads me to wonder how these films might differ or if there would even be a film if any of the actors playing bipolar characters actually had bipolar disorder.

However, I do feel that taking a que from the writers of Mr. Jones would be a good step in the right direction for future shows or films featuring characters with bipolar disorder, so long as they don’t cross over into unethical relations with the doctors. I think that an even stronger point of view would be a character who suffers from bipolar disorder and with the help of family, friends, and/or medication, is able to become more stable and experience life, with or without all of the dramatic hijinks, and not have to have everything tie into whether or not they have a love interest.

 

References

Bipolar Disorder. (n.d.). Retrieved March 21, 2018, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/bipolar-disorder.shtml

Figgis, M. (Director). (1993) Mr. Jones [Film].

Russell, D. (Director). (2013) Silver Linings Playbook [Film].

Thaís Martini, Letícia Sanguinetti Czepielewski, Adam Fijtman, Leonardo Sodré, Bianca Wollenhaupt-Aguiar, Caroline Silveira Pereira, . . . Marcia Kauer-Sant’Anna. (n.d.).Bipolar disorder affects behavior and social skills on the Internet. PLoS ONE, 8(11),E79673. Retrieved from http://europepmc.org/backend/ptpmcrender.fcgi?accid=PMC3823569&blobtype=pdf

Gay Actors…or Gay for Pay?

The gay culture is defined and put into a box where actors portray a character that may or may not reflect accurate information about our lifestyles. Straight actors are often cast as gay characters and openly gay actors are usually only cast as gay actors. Ellen Degeneres is a famous openly gay comedienne wasn’t always out of the closet. She had a sitcom (Ellen) on ABC – a primetime sitcom on network television, no less. Ellen Degeneres came out as gay openly, then her show aired the (now infamous) episode titled, “Puppy Episode” where her character on the show comes out as gay. It was only a year after that that her show was suddenly cancelled by the network. She leans over a microphone at the airport and announces she is gay over the loudspeaker, accidentally. That moment is almost engrained in my head. The two most difficult words to say out loud for just about anybody is “I’m gay.” And the humor of saying it even louder and amplified is not lost on how those words sound so loud already. It almost feels like it should be whispered for fear of rejection.

Unfortunately, this is what we have to deal with. The shame of being different from the “norms of society” or the assumed lifestyle that is pushed and engrained in the heads of all children since birth. “One day you will find a wonderful girl, marry and have children.” “Which girl are you asking to the prom?” It’s constant. It’s not malicious (most of the time) but it’s been beaten into our heads subliminally since birth. It’s just the way it should happen naturally. It’s expected and please don’t differ from the expected. Please don’t make me worry.

My parents are the most supportive parents a gay boy could ask for. Even my mom admitted to me that she didn’t want me to be gay. Not because she didn’t agree with my lifestyle or support me, but because she was sad that I would have to fight harder to be accepted. She was worried that I would have to protect myself emotionally, physically, intellectually, mentally, etc. She would always worry (until society completely altered it’s thinking) that I would be judged and ostracized. It’s not her fault she felt that way. She loves me so much that she wanted nothing but happiness and less bumps in the road.

Hollywood. Acting. Performing. Creativity capitol of the world. Singing. Dancing. Make-up. Glamour. Fashion. It’s practically a mecca for the stereotype of gay men and they run the town. More than 40% of West Hollywood’s population identifies as LGBT. Even still, most of America does not buy into the lifestyle as acceptable. The Hollywood entertainment industry is not just about the culture of itself. It’s about selling movie tickets, ratings for television shows, etc. Why would a 29 year old Ohio small town male buy a ticket to see a movie where the lead has values that he, himself does not condone or approve of? To put it in another perspective: How many grandparents do you know sit down on Sunday evening and watch Real Housewives of Atlanta religiously? They don’t understand it and don’t find it relatable. Therefore, Hollywood must adjust and accommodate to the wishes of the many.

Will & Grace debuted in 1998 and went off the air in 2006. This network television show (NBC this time) was always on top of the ratings game. It was fresh, pushed the boundaries and was different. It was eccentric, and it was real. Or so it appeared to many people. Sure, the gay community loved the show. We were torn. Finally, a show where we weren’t the gay best friend (Reality Bites, Clueless, My Best Friend’s Wedding) with the one-liners or the ‘hey girlfriend’ flamboyance. Or were we? Many in the gay community felt betrayed. Jack (Sean Hayes) was a flamboyant sidekick that may have stolen scenes and (arguably) the funniest character on the show – but was it fair to be portrayed with a stereotype? Sure, at least we were getting some attention and the country seemed to really embrace us. Okay, go with it. Eric McCormack plays Will Truman on the show. He is straight and married to a woman in real life. Eric was interviewed once and said, “nothing that anyone in Hollywood ever says makes a difference to people living in the middle of the country.” Truth. If you do not agree with a lifestyle for various reasons it’s going to be damn near impossible to convince you otherwise. And how in the hell are you going to have a sitcom convince a Southern Baptist that being gay is okay and should be accepted and treated equally in society? Impossible.

Showtime debuted with Queer as Folk (2000-2005). This was the first time sex was featured in such a real, raw way on television. At least for some of the gay population. The show was a drama that had it all. Comedy, drama, sex, nudity, and good writing. The setting was in Philadelphia and showed gay men actually dealing with homophobia and how hurtful it could be. The show was groundbreaking in that it portrayed not only the sex and lifestyles of gay men. It talked about HIV, open relationships, straight and gay relationships co-mingling together. But it still lacked as much substance as the typical gay male in a suburban city. Larger cities are diverse and (generally) more democratic.

‘Brokeback Mountain’ was a film starring Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal (both heterosexual actors). This is a story of two high school drop-outs in their early 20’s who meet as temporary hires to spend a summer herding sheep in the high meadows of Brokeback Mountain. One night Jack insists Ennis share his tent and lay together for warmth from the cold. Bodies touch and arousal leads to quick sex. The next morning Ennis declares, “I’m not no queer.” Jack agrees, “Me neither. A one-shot thing. Nobody’s business but ours.” They spend the summer growing feelings for each other. Then, spend four years apart before reconnecting and picking up where they left off. Ennis is married and has children and Jack is in a relationship with a son as well. Over the course of 20 years, they make it a yearly event and eventually drift apart, unhappy and struggling with accepting their label of being gay. They fight it tooth and nail. The sex scenes in the movie are brutal, rough and yet, tender. This is a powerful movie because it dives into the conflicts of accepting who you are and the struggles how people will perceive you. It also is rare because it’s about middle America – and not Hollywood, Philadelphia or New York, which would have much more diversity, understanding and acceptance.  Both Ledger and Gillenhaal won the Academy Award for their roles in this movie.

Straight actors have won Academy Awards and nominations for playing gay characters. Sean Penn in Milk, Tom Hanks in Philadelphia, Charlize Theron in Monster, etc. “It’s very difficult for an actor to come out if all the signals from agents, directors and studios say ‘we will not put a gay man in a leading straight romantic role,’” David Hauslaib (founder of the blog Queerty) says. “They look at audiences and based on no hard evidence, they conclude that moviegoers will not pay to see a gay man play straight.” There’s too much money at stake. “Big tent-pole pictures are really, really large investments, so the studios want to be sure nothing detracts from the box office.” My take on the double standard is that the majority of the population is heterosexual, and therefore, it’s easier to imagine a straight actor playing a role and being believable in a gay relationship than a gay actor pretending to be straight. The reason for this is the stereotypes. Hollywood is about glitzy fashion and flamboyant men. How could the gay actor be believable falling in love with a woman when he probably just wants to wear her heels and go shopping with her best friends, instead? But a straight actor is more believable because even if he does fall for a guy in this situation in the movie, it’s believable that he could always go back to women if it doesn’t work out.

References:

https://www.visitwesthollywood.com/lgbtq/

https://inews.co.uk/culture/eric-mccormack-interview-everyone-knew-i-married-child-i-took-will-everywhere/

Dahl, M. (2010). Under the Rainbow: Post-closet gay male representation in American theater and television. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.

Lee, A. (Director). (2005). Brokeback Mountain [Motion Picture].

Puente, M. (2010, August 24). Playing it straight, or gay, doesn’t always go both ways. USA Today, p. 02D.

Roughton, R. (2013). The Significance of Brokeback Mountain. Taylor & Francis Group.

The Female Stigma of the Military

When you think of a woman in the military what do you think? Are they strong? Are they weak? Are they suitable for the work that they have been assigned? Well, I think yes, I am strong and I am absolutely suited for the military and for my job in it. I strive to be a better soldier and a better leader. Many people seem to judge the military and the women in it for many different reasons. A common thought is the motherly, overprotective idea that because you are in the military you are more likely to be sexually harassed, which sadly is true.

To be in the military as a female means that you will face sexual advances from all sides, especially as an enlisted female. One of the main tensions in the military is that it is a difficult profession with a lot of increasingly hard demands physically, mentally, and emotionally. As a human being in that specific environment there needs to be an outlet in order to not be compressed by all of the difficult situations that we have to face on a daily basis. One of the many ways that military members do so is to inject humor into every aspect of their lives. There is a fine line in between humor and sexual harassment which has at length been discussed at least once a year in specific briefings that every unit in the military receives.

The statistics of people in the military getting sexually harassed is outrageous. Even though the numbers show a very large figure, it is known that many people who are involved in such circumstances do not act or do not discuss the situation and, in order to keep their rank, they do not acknowledge that there is a problem at hand. The majority of my frustration at the chain of command or the people in charge are not taking a proper, firm stance on the matter and the fact of the reports that go unnoticed. The differences that are shown in this article Baldwin, J. (1996). Female Promotions in Male-Dominant Organizations: The Case of the United States Military, is the idea that because of a certain rank or status, the individuals involved are urged to keep silent, even at the expense of their own personal well-being. This is a different ideal than the army I choose to sign my life to. I have known instances of grievances happening, but have also known that they have been handled with the individual’s welfare as the main point of concern, by lower enlisted and by high ranking officers. This amount of care is extremely important especially when concerned with the care received by enlisted personnel and officers. Officers issues or grievances are unfortunately, sometimes swept under the rug as discussed in this article.

As a person in the military I feel it is important to note that since this article has been published, quite some time ago, all military branches and commands have felt the need to address the issue and make the problem more commonly mentioned, with yearly briefings and more strict standards and regulations. The emotional support that people in the armed services are provided are especially important and well versed. The mental health and physical safety of all parties involved are important and taken into consideration. The idea of safety is of key importance to the different branches; luckily, the command has become increasingly aware of the issues that have arisen and has taken charge. Another one of the main issues is that it is not just a female problem, it is a problem in general. Females are not the only ones who are sexually harassed, males are also sexually harassed and it is also not all done by the opposite gender.

There has been a disconnect between the enlisted side and the officer side. There have been some articles that have shown that the officers get a different treatment than the enlisted. The officials who decide what the punishment is for the perpetrators are the officers, therefore there are special circumstances for the officers versus the enlisted. As seen in this article the “Sex, the Army and a Double Standard” there have been a lot of different scandals that have dealt with the higher ranks of the military and have brought careers to an end. The ideals of the military have to change, luckily in recent years there has been a great importance placed on the needs for reform in the policies surrounding this issue.

Another thought would be that the female is less suitable to be in the military because of the physical differences between males and females. In the movie Meagan Levey, the first part of the movie is shown some of the backstory to Levey going into the military. She wanted to make something of her life and to prove to herself that she was made of stronger stuff. One of the first major struggles that is depicted in that movie is Levey’s urge to get a K-9. Even though she is an MP (Military Police) she still needs to prove that she is capable of handling a K-9. The physical aspect of this feet is very challenging for Levey and she establishes that she is a hard motivated and diligent marine. Levey has to prove that she is physically capable for all of the work that she needs to do in the military and with her dog. The military is obviously physically demanding and in order to advance in any rank or status you need to show that you are physically up to the challenge of dealing with more responsibility.

These two stigmas show the importance for females to remain in the military. Females need to prove to themselves and others that they are not just a sexual harassment case and they are not just a female who can’t pass their physical fitness tests and therefore cannot rank up and pursue their careers. Females in the military should be proud to be in such a noble profession.

Bibliography

 

Meagan Levey, 2017. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4899370/

 

Baldwin, J. (1996). Female Promotions in Male-Dominant Organizations: The Case of the United States Military. The Journal of Politics, 58(4), 1184-1197. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org.proxy.lib.pdx.edu/stable/2960156

 

Thompson, M. (1998). Sex, the army and a double standard. Time151(17), 30.

 

Lesbian Representation In Pop Culture Media

Lesbian Stereotypes in Popular Culture

Stereotypes and tropes are no rarity when it comes to Hollywood portrayals of lesbians. There are several tropes that commonly occur in portrayals of lesbians within film and television. The most prevalent is called the “luscious lesbian.” The “luscious lesbian” is feminine, conventionally attractive, and most likely white. She is often used to entertain the heterosexual male audience through acting out sexual fantasies. She is gay enough to enjoy being with women, but not enough to be intimidating to heterosexual men or to exclusively interested in women.. The “luscious lesbian” appears constantly throughout pop culture with the sexualization of her character occurring to different extents. Both Katherine Hiegl’s character in the movie “Jenny’s Wedding” and Denise Richard’s in the teen movie “Wild Things” could be considered “luscious lesbians” although one movie contains no sex and the other is highly sexual.

Different movies and different levels of sexualization, however both contain “luscious lesbians”: white, conventionally attractive, and feminine.

Another common lesbian stereotype within popular culture is that of the “psycho femme.” The “psycho femme” lesbian is a dangerous, obsessive and crazed character, whose sexuality is ultimately linked to the concept of homsoexuality being an illness. An example of the “psycho femme” is the murderous and manipulative Catherine from the film “Basic Instinct”. Another could be Natalie Portman’s character in “Black Swan” whose homosexual fantasies fall under the umbrella of her psychotic behavior.

 

Misrepresentation of Lesbian Relationships

Jules and Nic from the movie “The Kids Are Alright”

Lesbian relationships are almost always the subject of films with lesbian characters and are often poorly and inaccurately represented. Mainstream media very often makes the mistake of modeling lesbian relationships off of the stereotypical heterosexual relationship. An example of this is in the 2011 movie “The Kids Are Alright”, despite this movie being touted for displaying a lesbian couple as “normal” in reality the film forces one women, Jules, the more feminine of the two, to take on the role of the “wife”, staying at home and raising the children and forces the other Nic to be the “husband”, working a professional job and claiming  ownership of the family. The highly acclaimed film “Blue Is The Warmest Color” also pushes this heterosexual mold onto a lesbian relationship, forcing Adele to be a school teacher who cooks and caters to her girlfriend Emma, a strong, opinionated, and successful artist.

A common trope when it comes to portraying lesbian relationships is “friends or lovers”, where a romantic relationship is continually hinted at but is never confirmed or seen by the audience. An example of this could be from the film “Fried Green Tomatoes” in which two characters Idgie and Ruth share a deep friendship with clear sexual undertones, however any actual homosexual love between them is never confirmed. To a lesser extent the “friends or lovers” trope also applies to the movie “Jenny’s Wedding.” Although this movie is literally about two lesbian women marrying each other, the audience rarely sees the two supposed lovers interact. The characters have no sexual chemistry between them, kiss a total of three times throughout the film, and almost never actually touch each other despite being in a relationship.

Lesbian sex is also commonly misrepresented in portrayals of lesbian relationship. Much of the time lesbian sex in film is shown to be unsatisfying or inadequate without the aid of a man. In the film the “Kids Are Alright” Jules and Nic’s sex life is ultimately a failure despite the effort both women display in romancing one and another. Jules ultimately end up having a sexually satisfying affair with her children’s sperm donor, highlighting the illegitimacy lesbian sex in the media compared to heterosexual sex. A similar situation appears in the movie “Kissing Jessica Stein” in which the main character’s relationship ultimately ends over the lack of sexual intimacy.  On the other end of the spectrum, lesbian sex in media is commonly displayed as entertainment for both the heterosexual man behind the camera and also in the audience. In the movie “Blue Is The Warmest Color” the sex scenes are long, graphic, and choregoraphed to the point of almost pornagraphic. This theme of lesbian sex scenes used to titillate and audience also continues in several movies, such as “American Pie 2”,” Wild Things”, and “Cruel Intentions.”

 

Whiteness and Heterosexuality of Lesbian Media

The author of the of the book which the film “Blue Is the Warmest Color” was based off, Julie Maroh, was very critical of the movie despite the overwhelming praise it received from reviewers during its release. She stated on her blog in regards to the movie “It appears to me that this was what was missing on the set: lesbians.” While watching and researching films with lesbians in it for this class this appeared to be very common. Rarely are movies about lesbians directed by actual lesbians, but are often directed by heterosexual women and men. In fact all of the mainstream films I watched about lesbians were not directed by lesbians. Very rarely are the actresses playing lesbians lesbians themselves. To me, the exclusion of lesbian creative input in film and television, prevents accurate and meaningful portrayals of lesbian characters.

“Blue Is The Warmest Color” a film about two white lesbians played by two white straight actresses, directed by a straight man.

Another commonality that the movies I watched share, is that they are overwhelmingly white. Every lesbian character in the mainstream movies I viewed for this project were white, and there were very rarely any people of color in the background. This trend also continues in LGBTQ representation on television. In GLAAD’s “Where We Are On TV” report, in 2017 only 36% of LGBTQ characters on broadcast television were people of color. To me this shows that Hollywood has regularly ignores the stories of lesbians are not just the stories of white women but also the stories of women of color.

 

Positive and Diverse Portrayals of Lesbians in Hollywood

Although lesbian portrayals in Hollywood clearly have a long way to go I do believe they are progressing. More and more we are seeing more television shows and movies about lesbians. Streaming services like Netflix have provided opportunities for queer people to create more content that has accurate and entertaining content with GLAAD reporting that lesbians make up the majority of LGBTQ representation on streaming platforms. Shows like “Orange Is The New Black” and “One Day At A Time” have increased lesbian representation in media in a more meaningful and accurate way.

Scene from “But I’m A Cheerleader”

Films have also progressed somewhat but at a much slower pace than television when it comes to lesbian representation. The only popular film that I was able to find about lesbians that was also directed by a lesbian as well was the 1999 film “But I’m A Cheerleader.” The character’s love stories and triangles within this film have a very similar plot to many teenage rom coms of the 90’s but with added storyline of being in a conversion camp. The sex scenes in the movie are subtle and framed romantically, with soft lighting and music. This is movie is mostly white but does have at least four characters of color, and all four speak. Although not necessarily the most artistic piece of work I think it’s one of the few films about lesbians that gets it right when it comes to two girls in love.

Overall, I think Hollywood is making progress in representing lesbians, but that progress is very slow. More opportunities need to be allocated to tell lesbian stories and these stories I think should be told by actual lesbians.

 

Sources

 

Eaklor, Vicki L. “The Kids Are All Right But the Lesbians Arent: The Illusion of Progress in Popular Film.” Historical Reflections/Reflexions Historiques, vol. 38, no. 3, Jan. 2012, p. 153. Fine Arts and Music Collection, doi:10.3167/hrrh.2012.380309.

Jenkins, Tricia. “”Potential Lesbians at Two OClock”: The Heterosexualization of Lesbianism in the Recent Teen Film.” The Journal of Popular Culture, vol. 38, no. 3, 2005, pp. 491–504. ProQuest, doi:10.1111/j.0022-3840.2005.00125.x.

GLAAD Where We Are ON TV Report. 2017, GLAAD Media Institute, glaad.org/files/WWAT/WWAT_GLAAD_2017-2018.pdf.

Swisher, Kara. “WE LOVE LESBIANS! OR DO WE? ‘HOT’ SUBCULTURE — OR JUST NEW HURTFUL STEREOTYPES?” The Washington Post, WP Company, 18 July 1993, www.washingtonpost.com/archive/opinions/1993/07/18/we-love-lesbians-or-do-we-hot-subculture-or-just-new-hurtful-stereotypes/c04ac909-7af7-4fe6-965f-546c72f768dd/?utm_term=.464335a542dd.

Walters, Suzanna Danuta. “The kids are all right but the lesbians arent: Queer kinship in US culture.” Sexualities, vol. 15, no. 8, 2012, pp. 917–933., doi:10.1177/1363460712459311.

Jews in Media: Laughing with us or at us?

Reflections on Research

Through my research into the portrait of Jewishness in popular culture I have discovered a lot. The most important thing I took away from my research is that Jews portals differ vastly depending on the creator and whether they are Jewish or not. A classic example of a show created by Jews is “Seinfeld”. The humor is unquestionably Jewish, and it does not use its characters Jewishness as the butt of its jokes. The characters Jewishness is not the shows source of humor. There is more of a overarching theme of humor in the absurdity of life and Jews happen to be the stars. Compare this to “New Girl’s” sole Jewish character Schmidt, you can hardly go an episode without an inappropriate Jewish joke. The punchline makes fun of Jews. Humor around the Jewish character has no nuance, he is a Jew and Jews are ridiculous and funny. The following Jewish jokes from season four alone:

  1. “You’re really sexy for a Jew.” (Episode 9: “Thanksgiving IV”)

Schmidt receives the awkward compliment during an intimate encounter at his “Bangsgiving” Thanksgiving party. A young woman he’s getting close to on the couch makes the casual observation, causing him to ask: “Wait, what?”

  1. “Has anyone ever told you you look like a Jewish Kennedy?” (Episode 12: “Shark”)

Power-hungry local politician Fawn Moscato compares Schmidt to playboy President John F. Kennedy in a bid to win his affections. She may have a point about his chiseled face and hairstyle, but she follows up by saying: “I hope not, because that would be offensive.”

  1. “I’m having my teeth shaved by a 25th of an inch. Fawn thinks that I have the teeth of an immigrant. She says every time she looks at me, all she can see is Fievel Mousekevitz singing ‘There Are No Cats in America.’ Those little mice Jews.” (Episode 20: “Par 5”)

Schmidt explains that Fawn, who is now his girlfriend, has some pretty exacting standards for her significant other. Fievel Mousekevitz is the animated star of the 1986 film “An American Tail,” which tells the story of a family of Russian Jewish mice who immigrates to the United States to escape anti-Semitism.

  1. “How do I look? How Jewish? I mean like good Jewish or bad Jewish?” (Episode 1: “The Last Wedding”)

Schmidt nervously questions the quality of his Jewish appearance after spotting his crush at a wedding. His friend Nick refuses to answer, thinking the question sounds like a trap.

  1. “It says here we need a murder of peppercorn and — some of that flat Jew bread?” (Episode 17: “Spiderhunt”)

Schmidt is stirring a strange sauce that Nick is concocting from an old family recipe. Matzah seems to be among the obscure ingredients called for in “The Sauce,” though Nick’s family clearly didn’t have Jewish roots.

  1. “When we’re in public, let’s just tone down the Jewish thing, OK?” (Episode 12: “Shark”)

Fawn censors Schmidt after he uses the word “schmendrick” (Yiddish for “stupid person”) in casual conversation. So much for her digging the Jewish Kennedy vibe.

  1. “You Jewish?” (Episode 22: “Clean Break”)

In undoubtedly the most awkward Jewish joke of the fourth or likely any season, guest star Jack McBrayer (aka NBC page Kenneth in “30 Rock”) asks Schmidt out of the blue if he’s Jewish. The two stare silently at each other for several seconds waiting for a laugh from the audience. Not every joke can be funny.

 

The show is written and directed by non-Jews, their perspective on Jewishness is strictly from the outside looking in, there are no insights on Jews or Jewish culture as it really is. The humor is clumsy and without subtlety, laughing at Jews rather than with them. These tasteless minimizing jokes are all too familiar to me as a Jewish person. Jokes like those in “New Girl” give people permission to be insensitive about Jews. Anti-semitism is seen an a different light as other forms of discrimination, seen perhaps as something that is a non issue. It seems to me that people think anti-semitism is a thing on the past and thus something that can be joked about, this is far from the truth. Anti-semitism did not begin or end with the rise and fall of Nazi Germany. Starting in the fourteen hundreds Jews were slaughter is mass during the Spanish Inquisition. Jews had to fight to become naturalized citizens across Europe. Charles Dickens, literature’s darling, called Oliver Twist’s money hungry murderous villain merely “The Jew”.  Jews were lynched in the south. To this day Jewish community centers are under constant bomb threat and Jews are victims of hate crimes in this country. After Trump was elected the PSU Library, my work place, was vandalized with swastikas. I was one of three Jews in my graduating class in high school and was subjected to untold numbers of holocaust jokes and other anti-Semitic jokes. The difference between “Seinfeld” and “New Girl” in regard to Jewish jokes is the former makes Jews feel seen and understood, we can laugh together at the absetdaty of it all, wharas the ladder make Jews the laughable other and normalizes anti-semitic humor. A dangerous thing to do even in this day in age. We do not live is a post racial society. Anti-semitic jokes trigger trauma, feelings of otherness, and fear.

Takeaways from the class

On a different note I’ve one of many aha moments that I had throughout the class came to me after watching Sharyl Attkisson’s Ted talk on astroturfing. So many instances of corporate manipulation became clear after hearing the talk. Attkisson said, “First, hallmarks of astroturf include use of inflammatory language such as “crank”, “quack”, “nutty”, “lies,” “paranoid”, “pseudo”, and “conspiracy”. Astroturfers often claim to debunk myths that aren’t myths at all. Use of the charged language test well: people hear something’s a myth, maybe they find it on Snopes, and they instantly declare themselves too smart to fall for it.” So many instances of this rhetoric sprang to mind. I’ve witnessed a multitude of snarky facebook posts where the poster announces they are too smart to fall for a so called myth and calling out those who are stupid enough to believe it. People are pit against one another, the facts are no longer the focus of the debate Attkisson explains further in her talk: “And most of all, astroturfers tend to reserve all of their public skepticism for those exposing wrongdoing rather than the wrongdoers. In other words, instead of questioning authority, they question those who question authority.” In reality the “myth” is the truth coprite interest wanted to hide. Their campaigns have been so successful that the truth has been obscured and ordinary people tout their rhetoric as a badge of their intelligence. As annoying as this is to me, the real villain here are the corporations that invest ridiculous amounts of money into astroturfing to trick people. If the country was not the tool of corporations these practises would undoubtedly be criminal acts. Democracy is a lie if people don’t have access to unbia information.

Another memorable source was the video series on advertisement, “Ways of Seeing” by  John Berger. Berger uses advertisements and oil paintings as his evidence. I found his logic and examples disturbingly similar to the marketing world of today. Like the oil paintings of old and when Berger was producing his series, modern advertisements purposely erase the means of production that are too often exploitative, and invite you into a perfect world. The oil paintings of the past did not show how the wealthy amassed their fortune through the exploitation of indigenous peoples and African slaves. The same is true of today’s advertisements. There is no hint of the people that produced the goods advertised, the labor market is outsourced and the manufacture, of clothing especially, is done in unsafe sweatshops. The people that produce our goods are often living in extreme poverty, but they are made invisible by advertisement. Something that I think has changed from the time Burger produced his series is the appropriation of political causes for profit, advertisers will use any “hip” cause if they can make money off of it. In the heat of discontent after Trump’s election Pepsi put out an advertisement depicting protesters and riot police setting aside their differences and sharing a Pepsi. The protest shown was a mix between a BLM protest and an anti-Trump rally without political signs. It was a despicable display of neoliberalism making a complete mockery of the reality of police brutality and Pepsi’s history of exploiting black and brown people. As Berger states: “What happens out there happens to strangers, whose fate is meant to be different from ours.” We are taught to disassociate with people suffering in other places, their lives are far off and only hypothetical. We are meant only to relate to the dream like world of advertisements, and we do. I can relate to this feeling, the suffering people are so far away and our paths have never and likely will never intersect. They are hypothetical to me as an American. Worst than this, our consumer culture has lead to the exploitation of people and the degradation of their homes. Advertisements and mass media both causes and numbs us to human suffering. It is the means to our end of consumer goods. Berger suggests the possibility of glamour makes us complicit in the world of consumerism. We are willing to toil and exploit in the hopes of gaining fame and happiness. What we want in not “spray”, but the image that is sold to us. We want the impossible dream. I feel like advertisements have robbed us, they replaced valuing who one is with what one has.

Work Cited

Abrams, Nathan. The New Jew in Film: Exploring Jewishness and Judaism in Contemporary Cinema. Rutgers University Press, 2012.

David, Larry, writer. Seinfeld. NBC.

Manwithaplan999. “WAYS OF SEEING (final episode – advertising) 1/4.” YouTube. March 09, 2008. Accessed February 27, 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mmgGT3th_oI.

Meriwether, Elizabeth, writer. New Girl. FOX.

“7 strange Jewish jokes that prove ‘New Girl’ is the anti-‘Seinfeld’.” The Jerusalem Post | JPost.com. January 05, 2016. http://www.jpost.com/Not-Just-News/7-strange-Jewish-jokes-that-prove-New-Girl-is-the-anti-Seinfeld-439443.

TEDxTalks. “Astroturf and manipulation of media messages | Sharyl Attkisson | TEDxUniversityofNevada.” YouTube. February 06, 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-bYAQ-ZZtEU.

Women in Today’s Sports

Ashley Doyle
Women in Today’s Sports

When starting this course and having to think of a proposal I wanted to take a different approach and think of something that maybe people haven’t thought to write about yet. What I came up with was lately women have been taking a stand and speaking about, and how our role is starting to change today. Ways that were easiest to explain for me would be through sports. Throughout the years in women’s sports athletes and coach’s roles have really shifted. Through current events of what happened between the USA gymnastics trainer and gymnastics, the Missouri softball coach and his players, and women in the coaching world. Coaches have been 180118094521-01-larry-nassar-0116-super-tease[1]having to adjust to this generation with approaches of different coaching styles. Women have gotten the courage to start to speak out. Toward issues they feel should and need to be addressed.

Larry Nassar became the USA Gymnastics trainer in 1997. From 1997 to 2004 only 3 cases were brought to high authority figures attention, that Larry Nassar was assaulting gymnastics. Authority figures like coaches and professors were approached about the issue and never did anything about it. For 20 years Larry Nassar remained the trainer and was assaulting young athletes. Until 2015 investigation finally took place on the abuse Nassar had done to 156 victims. After one year of investigation, Larry Nassar was convicted. But why did it take so long for Nassar to be put behind bars. It hit me that girls and women who were training in the Olympics had trained their whole life. I did farther research on this subject and spoke to a woman who had been on the Olympic softball team and found articles about Olympics and women on the Olympic teams.

What I found was how there is one top USA team and then following them is about 10 different USA teams. The top team is the team who see on TV representing the USA. Then the other players on the “younger” or team below are all reserves. Waiting for their chance to get on the top team. So, if one falls due to injury or leaves for other purposes, a reserve will replace that athlete. How it went for the young girls and women training to one day being on the National USA team, was they had reputations to keep and you don’t want your reputation or the respect that people have for you blown. If this were to happen where women would speak up about Nassar their shot at going to the Olympics may or was blown. If you spoke up about anything you were not going. This wasn’t the only sport where if you were to speak up about issues or problems you were not going to the Olympics this happened. Nassar had a lot of respect by his coworkers, peers, and the coaches of the gymnastics team. Why it took so long for him to finally be convicted was because of the fear of women and young athletes thinking they were not going to make it to the Olympics also his reputation was far greater then any of the athletes. He made athletes aches and sores go away, he helped those athletes. The gymnastics took his abuse because it was what they had to do, was keep quiet. To make it to the Olympics.

For 10 seasons Coach Earleywine of the Missouri softball program had a winning record every year, and in the softball, world was a high well-respected coach. In his final two seasons coaching at Missouri his coaching methods and styles were questioned by players and the athletic department at Missouri. The article that I had found talked about how Earleywine had been a well-respected coach, but in his 2015season players approach Athletic Director Mack Rhoades, saying how Earleywine had been verbally abusive toward players. Within the same season right before the college world series players protested for almost a whole week. Expressing how they would not play for Earleywine until changes were made. Within those six days Earleywine had voluntarily entered counseling. After the season came to end seven players were set to transfer. Including their number one pitcher Paige Lowery who became an All-American in her next season at Oklahoma, and his All-American shortstop. Earleywine was under investigation leading into the 2016 season he had been suspended from violating Level III infraction, by offering a prospective student athlete before August 1st. But not for his actions in the previous season. By the end of the season Earleywine had been fired. So, why was Earleywine’s coaching style excepted 10 years ago but in his last few years not excepted? It is due to how Earleywine did not evolve with the generation and who players are today.

“Coaches 10 years ago were aggressive and demanded work from their players” (Kellie Wilkerson 2004 USA softball team player). Reading and listening to what Kellie Wilkerson had to say about her playing days to her coaching days, she expresses how this generation expects intent results, and we expect our coaches to teach us everything. Where as back when she played in the early 2000’s, it was like background softball, where today is computerized softball. This is for every other sport as well. What I collected from articles and observing sports and this generation is we are in ways babied. We don’t know how to handle situations where we are yelled at or how to deal with conflict. This is no bash on my generation it is just information I have gathered and observed. One reason Earleywine was had no problems in his early years of coaching, then leading into his final years he had problems was the way that this generation works. Earleywine did not adapt to this generation either. He did not change his ways with his coaching style and how he approached his players with fixing problems and learning situations. The way Earleywine approached situations 10 years ago the same way he did in his last years, 10 years ago it was excepted.

In the history of coaching there has only been one women who has coached the opposite sex. Teresa Philips was the head coach for Tennessee State men’s basketball team. She only made it has a head coach for a collegiate men’s team for only 3 years. Before taking over as the Athletic Director. In the coaching world most coaches are men, throughout all of DI-III and NAIA, only 40% of a coaching staff there are women. Only 23% of women coaching are head coaches. These numbers are really shocking to me, because when I look at it the relationship from players to coaches it completely different from when it is a female coach to a male coach. Someone told me once that being a female coach we connect so well with our players because we walked your path. This made sense to me    femalecoaches[1]because being coached by both females and males, both being good coaches. I see what she is talking about sometimes, female coaches know what do to in some situations that sometimes male coaches do not know how to respond or do not feel comfortable talking about.

Kate Ryan and Stacey Leasca wrote the article “Let’s get to the bottom of why Male and Female Coaches are treated differently.” Both Ryan and Leasca were collecting information on gender bias in college sports. One piece that stood out to both was that female coaches face harsh biases while male coaches did not. What they observed was that male and female coaching styles were not the same when it came to coaching women. They felt that male coaches were not connecting as well to their players as well as female coaches were connecting with their players. Observing and comparing coaching styles from men to women. Seeing how players responded to their coaches, when the team was in a certain situation. One thing that they wanted to address was this was not bashing male coaches, but they saw differences. One major point that they addressed was also coaches not adapting to this generation, how coaching nowadays is a lot different than awhile back. Being aware with who their player might be as a person, or who they are dealing with in certain situations.

That bring together all three of these different topics is the Me-Too Movement. Women are starting to advocate for themselves when they know something that has happened to them is wrong. Women standing making a difference for themselves and others around them. But I feel that where the Me-Too movement comes into effect was the case on Larry Nassar. He had assaulted 156 women for so long it finally took one person to finally go to the police and say something to the police. With the other 2 pieces, I feel that the Me Too can also be involved because women athletes were tired of being verbally abused. Plus, females deserve their place in the coaching world. It has been stated in articles that women coaches have better connections with their players, plus women deserve their chance at coaching. These three articles really helped me understand how the world of sports is and what it is coming to today. How it is such a business, and, in some cases, you must know the right people to get jobs of keep your spot on a team. I feel that it is good that women are starting to take a stand from knowing what is right and wrong in the sports world and in regular society. But cases have risen in the past few years relating sports and behaviors from people and I feel that it has risen in result of the Me-Too movement.

Work Cited
“Let’s Get To The Bottom Of Why Male And Female Coaches Are Treated Differently.” GOOD, 28 Dec. 2016, sports.good.is/articles/gender-bias-college-sports.

Tod Palmer <a href=”mailto:tpalmer@kcstar.com” title=””>tpalmer@kcstar.com. “Mizzou Softball Coach Ehren Earleywine Expected to Return in 2017.” Kansascity, The Kansas City Star, 18 Aug. 2016, http://www.kansascity.com/sports/college/sec/university-of-missouri/article96482547.html.

Hobson, Will. “USOC, USA Gymnastics and Michigan State Answer to Congress for Larry Nassar Scandal.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 13 Feb. 2018, http://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/usoc-usa-gymnastics-and-michigan-state-answer-to-congress-for-larry-nassar-scandal/2018/02/13/371ad944-10f5-11e8-9065-e55346f6de81_story.html?utm_term=.b42ff879af82.

Kellie Wilkerson- PSU softball coach, 2004 USA Olympic Softball Team, Mississippi State Softball
Meadow McWhorter- PSU softball coach, Mt. Hood Softball Coach, Jacksonville State Softball

The Football Jock in Mass Media

Mason Vega

Professor Bergland

Pop- Culture

March 14, 2018

The Football Jock in Mass Media

With mass media having such a large influence on what we see through Film, Television, Television Ads and Social Media we see a common theme of the football player as a bully. One of my favorite quotes from Australian Musician Sia, says “When you have a lot of people telling you what you are and perceiving you in a certain way, it’s difficult to find your own identity.” -Sia     We see a bully in film usually as the star football player who is so self-absorbed highly arrogant and a bully to the “little guy” or non-athlete that cannot defending himself physically and doesn’t have the confidence to defend himself verbally.  I will focus specifically on football players portrayal as bullies in movies and a television show and point out some of the reoccurring labels that I found and how these could affect the viewers perspective of football players in a negative way. Continue reading