Alaskan Woman

Looking in the Popular Culture Mirror

Erin Jutras

Mirror Essay Draft #1


Daneen Bergland


Alaskan Woman

            In the last few years the United States has sparked an interest in Alaska, a state that, until recently, had only been cared about for it’s gold, oil, and placement near Russia to protect from attacks during World War II. Now, this strange cold state has struck an interest in the rest of the world. It has been a stage for many movies and Alaskan-based reality TV shows, many of which have grown popular. Sadly, I have found these shows to be a misinterpretation of the Alaska, and Alaskans, I grew up with. People from the continental United States, or Lower 48 (as Alaskans call it), only know about Alaska from what they’ve seen on the television. In my visits to the lower 48 and now living in Portland for college, I see how these TV…

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How Portlanders are viewed through the media




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I’ve been hearing the claims ever since I moved here 10 years ago; Portlanders are weird, Portlanders are crazy, they have no direction. I could never put my finger on what these claims meant or fully understand where these ideas were coming from and why we were singled out as so different and extreme. With Seattle to the north and San Francisco to the south, I always believed we were simply people from the west coast who preferred living in a smaller, open-minded community that promoted living happily and honestly. However this is not the view many seem to hold who have either never been here or have little exposure to the wide variety of people who have chosen to call themselves Portlanders. What are some of these preconceived notions outsiders have about us and why have they become so wide spread in the last decade? A glance at our representation in the media and how we are viewed may give us some insight as to what some of these ideas are, where they may have originated and how the wide spread dissemination of the belief that we are so different came about.

            The opening sketch of the first episode of Portlandia really says it all, “a place where young people go to retire”. Is this really how we’re seen, and if so why? How could this image have been cultivated and what characteristics do we display that set us apart from other young city dwellers? I recall disliking the idea that we would be portrayed on T.V., then watching it and laughing hysterically. While satirical in nature, there was a level of truth built into the characters. Still, after giving it some thought, I believe the only way one could fully understand the overflow of inside jokes would be to have spent some time here, to know the people and why these characterizations are made. This is simply not the whole story about who we are. The real message of the show, which I don’t believe was intentional, ends up having positive and negative effects on our image. While Portlandia is a program about a city and its inhabitants, the real content of the show is about the people. As Newsday put it, “before long it doesn’t seem like satire any longer but a funhouse mirror reflection of intensely real people.” And after all, without the people and they’re unique lifestyle choices there would be no material to use for singling us out.

            We see an emphasis on the youth and young people when Portlanders are represented in the media, as well as an apparent lack of representation for older people. Is everyone in this city really between the age of 20 and 35? While there are a lot of young people moving here every day from all over the country, we are not all simply image-obsessed twenty and thirty something’s. The average age of Portlanders, according to the Portland Business Journal, is 36.4 in comparison to the national average of city goers nationwide at 36.9. There are a large number of well-educated young people and the number of college attendees has also been on the rise in recent years. The notion that we lack ambition is false and by the growing number of young adults.

A common theme when analyzing stereotypes of Portlanders is the assertion that we can be easily summed up by the way we dress. In the article ‘The four types of people you’ll meet in Portland’ the author, who is neither from nor lives in Portland, gives a tight narrative about exactly who each individual Portlander is and how they can be recognized upon sight. While distinct sub-cultures exist here, they exist in every city. The undeniable presence of unique and diverse clothing styles is highlighted by the media and we are sometimes seen as members of clubs rather than individuals. Should he or she dress a certain way then they must certainly adhere to a distinct set of values. Should they drive a certain car or live in a particular part of town they must shop at these businesses and eat specific types of food. This assumptive labeling happens to many of us as we are spotted in the open and quickly summed up based solely on the way we look. These predications are supported by portrayals of Portlanders and help in creating an exaggerated image of us to those who have had little exposure to Portlanders aside from what they’ve seen in the media.

            Another misconception we see burgeoning in the media is that we are a group composed of fanatical and intolerant cyclists. As many of us are cycling enthusiasts and we live in an environment where this activity is fostered, how many of us are overly-aggressive road hounds who hate automobiles and drivers alike? Again in the first episode of Portlandia we see the characterization of a young, fixed gear-riding, refusing-to-share-the-road stereotype. As he rides around the city yelling at people in cars and cutting of pedestrians we can all get a laugh knowing there is a good chance at least some of us have previously seen exhibitions of these behaviors. But how many of us live up to this standard? I believe these images help support the notion that this is who we are. Again, this is not so. As a community we have made the efforts to design our streets to fit our lifestyle choices and allow us to live the way we would like, but this over-the-top drama can make us look silly and takes away the meaning of our collective value for bike riding and what this component of our personalities means when we call ourselves Portlanders.

            Lastly, I’ll address the idea that we are a bunch of young, directionless people, content with simply getting by on part time jobs and never living up to our full potential. How this idea originally came about has been a bit of a mystery to me. Again, in the opening of Portlandia, the viewer is told we are retired young people whose aspirations are nothing more than to work in coffee shops a few hours a week, play in garage bands and make art. In the short-live sitcom Life Unexpected the lead male character is a 30 something who’s been left a building by his father, and instead of getting a job, he’s converted it into a bar where he hangs out and drinks, sleeps late and plays videogames all day until the bar opens again. His lack of direction or desire to grow as an adult is highlighted by his reaction to finding out he has a teenage daughter whom he has never met. This is a misconception that has been flung far and wide as I have personally experienced questions from people when traveling abroad. While on a trip last year and met a girl from Australia, who upon finding out I was a Portlander, informed me of how cool it was to be a Portlander and how lucky I was to live in place where life was so easy and where we didn’t have to work hard. It was surprising to learn this image had travelled so far. I, like some of my fellow students, work full time, attend school and do my best to maintain a social life. While there may be those of us who are content living in a house with 6 roommates and working a few hours a week at the local coffee shop, I believe we are more ambitious than that. We Portlanders, like young people anywhere, have aspirations and the desire to improve our lives as we grow. And while living in a free and un-inhibiting environment may be a value we hold as important, we are only people, and we all aspire to be something more than who we are today.

            Portlanders are a unique bunch of folks; a little crazy at times and perhaps a little outside the boundaries of “normalcy”. That said I believe we are often unfairly seen as just plain ridiculous. It’s my conclusion that the media helps perpetuate these stereotypes through the characterization of people with extreme lifestyles. The rather harmless, and at times humorous, stereotypes about Portlanders give those who do not know us ideas about who we are before ever having a chance to really get to know us.


Works Sited

Hayes, Dustin. “The Four People You Meet In Portland.” TravelSages. TravelSages, 12 Feb. 2014. Web. 17 Feb. 2014.

“Farm.” Portlandia. IFC, 21 Jan. 2011. Television.

Stein, Jake. “’Portlandia’ Season 3 Review: Has the Series Helped Or Hurt Portland’s Image?.” PolicyMic. PolicyMic, 1 Mar. 2013. Web. 1 Mar. 2014

“Pilot.” Life Unexpected. CW, 18 Jan. 2010. Television.

Stevens, Suzanne.Portland metro average age: 36.” Portland Business Journal. Portland Business Journal, 22 Feb. 2012. Web. 3 Mar. 2012


Nerds in Pop Culture (This essay was completely redone)

Real Genius: Nerds in Pop Culture

            The nerd, a term that has taken on many different definitions over the years, the very origins of the word can be traced back to the Dr. Seuss book “If I Ran to The Zoo”, but it wasn’t until a Newsweek article in 1951 made the real-life connection to someone who was considered “uncool”, or “square” also bringing up the fact that the term was first used as slang coming from the city of Detroit (Quail, Brooks). This initial definition provided to the masses would be the stigma that followed the term “nerd” for over half a century. Up until about the turn of the millennium the term “nerd” would start taking on new meanings, such examples can include the hipster population that we find an all too familiar site in Portland, as well as people who are really into a certain subject matter (i.e. Star Wars, Star Trek).

While the identity of the nerd may seem like something more geared towards a youthful crowd, it’s an idea that really can apply to all ages, races, and genders. The nerd identity was always seen as a means to cast people out due to their non-conformity or unwillingness to adhere to the rules of a certain social idea, these same means are now taking on a whole new meaning because people are tired of being told how to act and how to be in a social setting. This revelation has now taken the once negative stigma of a nerd and begun to take a more positive outlook, and the once uncool or square individual has now become the new cool kid on the block as it were.

This idea that the nerd is finally ditching the once negative aspect can be found in television and the internet alike. T.V. shows like the Big Bang Theory, and Malcolm in the Middle both show characters who are considered nerds, while they are portrayed as the seemingly uncool kids that the term nerd came to be known as. This uncoolness is the very thing that makes them normal, people who either grew up like Malcolm, or are living like the characters in the Big Bang Theory, are a part of what popular culture is starting to perceive as normal, in comparison to what was considered normal 50 years ago.

I identify with being a nerd because for a long time growing up I was often the quiet one, the kid who was strange and didn’t necessarily have a lot of friends, and for this I was often ridiculed. The idea of being a nerd initially was being the social outcast, keeping mainly to yourself, and escaping the trials of life through means of fantasy and imagination. As well as having a sense of belonging when I met other people who were just like me and into the same interests as myself. Now with the advent of nerd culture in T.V. and movies like Star Trek, as well as the advancement of technology, all the things that used to make me seem odd are now suddenly cool, and not looked down upon by other people (not as much as it used to be anyway).

Nerds are often mistaken for another type of identity, hipsters. What hipsters are is a sort of condescending version of the nerd, for example, ask someone if they had ever heard of a certain band, or show. What a nerd will tell you is that “no I’ve never heard of that show”, or “yes I’ve watched for years I know everything about it’s really cool that you’re into it too”. Whereas a hipster will more than likely eschew this response “Yeah I’ve been watching that show since it started, you know before it was cool, you’ve come in too late and probably won’t understand the story”. This is frustrating because it seems like just as nerds were finally getting the recognition, hipsters came along and started tarnishing the nerd identity with ideas that nerds let go of a long time ago.

In 1982 the band Rush debuted one of their most pivotal albums Signals, the biggest hit off of this album was the song Subdivisions. Subdivisions was written by the bands lyricist and drummer Neil Peart, who wrote most of the music for the group. The song he wrote was about growing up in the suburbs and how it fostered this need for conformity, and the alienation that came with it. While this may seem like a bit of a stretch relating to the nerd identity, in reality its basis is the very thing that defined the nerd identity for so long. In the lyrics this idea of alienation due to non-conformity is made very clear through these following lines.

“Subdivisions – in the high school halls, in the shopping malls, conform or be cast out.

            Subdivisions – in the basement bars, in the backs of cars, be cool or be cast out.”(Lee, Lifeson, Peart)

It was this song that really brought to light the idea that growing up in this world where conformity was a means of keeping people in line or keeping them down as it were. The nerd identity was very much still seen in this way at the time of this songs release, which is why a lot of people that I‘ve found fit in the nerd identity relate so much to this song. The bands lyricist even mentioned that this idea he was writing about was meant to touch a broad audience, here’s an excerpt from that interview.

“In our song “Subdivisions,” the background that all three of us grew up in is the common denominator…and I see our audiences being congruent with us through many of these phases. There’s certainly that commonality—it’s a question of background, and of needing certain things to alleviate that background.” (Peart, McDonald, Stern).

In many ways I believe this was a paradigm shift in the way people thought about conformity, this would eventually lead to more people coming out of their shells of safety and finally saying enough. For the nerd identity it was a pivotal moment in which people who considered themselves as such could finally relate to something that was a mainstream idea, and something that other people could get behind.

I relate to the ideas in this song because it essentially described the way that I went through most of my early years in school. While the band is referring to growing up in the suburbs, I believe the idea behind the alienation that came with growing up in the suburbs is something that most people who consider themselves nerds can easily relate to.

Malcolm in the Middle first aired in 2000, the show centers around Malcolm, a gifted young man who had to deal with the intelligence level he was at as well as dealing the social hardships of a growing teenage boy. He lives with his seemingly dysfunctional family, who at first appears to be the atypical American family, but in reality holds the value of family itself very dear. This show illustrated for the first time that someone who was as into comic books and chess as much as the next nerd, was also keen on getting into trouble with help of his two brothers. In doing so the show finally gave a sense of normalcy to an identity that for a long time had been seen as uncool. While the show does seem to emanate the fact that Malcolm is a little bit isolated from the world around him, his character shows the soul of an all-American boy (Frutkin) who has the desires of being normal. Now it may seem like the show is showing the typical negative connotations of the nerd identity, when in reality it was showing a new normal. The message here was that it was ok to be who you are; the people around you were also dealing with their own little quirks. While it didn’t feel like it you were really just like everyone else, the difference being is that you might be on some different level of understanding than the people around you.

I identify with this show because it’s essentially the storybook of my entire childhood. Growing up I wanted that feeling of being normal, but like Malcolm had a hard time relating with those who weren’t at my level intellectually, and the people that I was friends with just seemed to be stuck in this perpetual rut that I wanted to escape from. However, it was only later that I came to realize (much like Malcolm did) that the people that I thought I wanted be like so much, were in reality like the people I was already hanging out with.

The Big Bang Theory is probably the most widely known example of nerds in mainstream culture to date. First aired in 2007 the show revolves around four intellectuals and their incredibly attractive neighbor. When the show began there was this air of negativity surrounding it, most self-described nerds would tell you that they hate this show because it relies on jokes that more or less make fun of the nerd identity as a whole. For the most part they’re right, the show does rely on humor that does make fun of the nerd identity, but it’s that humor that has brought the nerd identity to the masses. So how can something that is seemingly making fun of nerds be a positive thing? The answer would be that it’s the characters are actually making fun of themselves. It’s essentially showing that those who consider themselves nerds are fully aware of what they do, and every now and again aren’t afraid poke a little fun at themselves.

Another thing that makes this show so popular could be the most recent advances of technology. With the previous two examples technology hadn’t yet reached the point of where it’s at today, the reliance we currently have on technology has come to redefine the type of person we now relate to (Ross). Our reliance on technology has seemingly made a nerd out of everyone, people can now relate to the type of person that has been defined as uncool for years. The Big Bang Theory now reflects the shift in the center of American industry (Ross) where knowledge is power.

With the recent resurgence in people wanting to return to college we now find some Gen X’ers and some of the baby boomer generations relating more to the situation that nerds have found themselves in for a very long time. This too is reflected in the Big Bang Theory, in the way that most of the characters themselves aren’t as young as they would have been in previous years. The characters in this show are grown adults ranging from early to mid-thirties, as opposed to the previous examples I mentioned. In both of those examples they talk about dealing with the nerd identity growing up, whereas in the Big Bang Theory the characters are already adults and I think that makes it easier for those who are older to relate to people seen in the show. I identify with show because it finally looks at the nerds who grew up, most other portrayals of the nerd identity almost always deal with the character as a young person or child. This shows me that while the characters are fully grown adults, they didn’t lose that sense of the nerd identity when they had to enter the real world and take on more responsibility. For me I find that hopeful that even as an older person I might retain some of the things that defined me as a youth.

The nerd identity has finally come into its own, the days where nerds were considered uncool out outcasts are slowly starting to fade away. The future of the world and culture as we know it lies in the hands of the technology that we build, and the ones at the forefront of all this were the ones that were considered uncool, outcasts, or odd. Given time I believe that there will be an outpouring of all things nerd. Nerds have always held the keys and have always guarded the doors, but now it’s time for the doors to be unlocked and the culture of the nerd to be released to the world.

Works Cited

Primary Sources

The Big Bang Theory. Creat. By Chuck Lorre, and Bill Prady. Perf. Jim Parsons,Johnny Galecki, and Kaley Cuoco. CBS. KOIN. Portland, 24 Sep. 2007 – 13 Mar. 2014. Television.

Malcolm in the Middle. Creat. And Writt. By Linwood Boomer. Perf. Frankie Muniz,

Bryan Cranston, and Jane Kaczmarek. FOX. KPTV. Portland, 9 Jan. 2000 –   14 May.2006. Television.

Rush. “Subdivisions.” Signals. Mercury, 1982. Vinyl Record.

Secondary Sources

Frutkin, Alan James. “Childs Play.” MediaWeek (2000): 66-72. EBSCO Host.

Web. 9 Mar. 2014.

McDonald, Christopher. “Open Secrets: Individualism and Middle-Class Identity in the Songs of Rush.”

Popular Music and Society 31.3 (2008): 313-328. Taylor and Francis Online.

Web. 10 Mar. 2014.

Quail, Christine. “Nerds, Geeks, and the Hip/Square Dialectic in Contemporary Television.”

             Sage (2011): 461-482. EBSCO Host. Web. 9 Mar. 2014.

Ross, India. ‘The Big Bang Theory’ and the Rise of the Pathologically Nerdy in Sitcom TV’

            Popmatters, 13 Aug. 2013. Web. 10 Mar. 2014.


Understanding the Female College Student through Popular Culture

Adrienne Wallace

To be a woman in college is entirely different from being a male in college. College was once only accessible to men and the image that women have collected as a result of neglected access may not always be a positive one. Stereotypes are generated through various sources, popular media playing a huge role in the more recent years of TV, movies, Internet and cellular telephones.  Mass media tends to depict an image of college women as inferior to men, constantly striving to look a certain way, drinking, smoking and partying. The identity chosen is of a female college student. How might the image of female college students compare to those of modern day male college students? What connotations are expressed through sources of everyday media? By delving into some American sources of popular culture, these questions can begin to have an answer, as the reality and the stereotypes are compared.

Taking a closer look into the multitude of images, videos, advertisements and mass media depictions of the female college student, one artifact to look at comes from ABC Family’s Television Series: Greek (2007-2011).  By viewing the trailer for this series, a few images standout: college life revolves around partying, drinking, and relationships. This is clearly an assumption and generalization of what it means to be in college. Although the show is set at a fictional university, the series is generating an image for viewers of what college might be like. Most people might say that college is meant for learning, for furthering ones knowledge and stretching the mind through critical thinking, problem solving and time management. Although this is only one definition as to what the purpose of a college experience is, by watching the show Greek, you could say something completely opposite of that. Without watching the series itself, the trailer sets a viewer up for the experience of watching a lot of drama unfold through drunken nights, sexual encounters, and fraternity parties.

A prominent detail from the trailer exhibits a strong divide between females and males. Males at the university are living at a fraternity, drinking, having sex, cheating, fighting and walking around without their shirts, while the females are shown with tidy rooms, worrying about their image and being promiscuous. This is not to say that the show is faulty and only paints a negative image of college life in general, but the hidden images may be reflective of popular culture and mass media.

In a review of the show from the website, one of the first points made is that, “classes are little more than a daily annoyance interrupting the real course of study: getting drunk, having sex and navigating the bewildering maze of Cyprus-Rhodes’ social structure” followed by the portrayal of women through what is described as, “sorority sisters parad[ing] around in bikinis and other skimpy outfits” (Paul Asay, 2008). The show does little to exemplify the educational aspect of college, yet they do include it in the show but not in the trailer. There are many positive and negative aspects of the series, but without watching the entire thing, you may leave feeling that as a female college student you should be partying more, wearing less, focusing on finding a significant other, sleeping around, competing and joining a sorority to be “popular”. A main takeaway of this show, is that through popular culture, an idea of what it means to be in college is not always reflective of the reality- and such might be said for a large span of identities portrayed in mass media today.

As a second artifact, the Spring Breakers movie trailer proved to show some images that can only be propagations of all of the negative stereotypes about women in college. You see 4 girls going on a trip for Spring Break and become involved with a guy they meet while out at a party. You only see the girls in bikinis, looking for money and partying. This is exactly what mass media feeds to society and although it isn’t always untrue- it makes a large generalization for all of the other girls in college who don’t go partying for spring break. The carefree element of this movie, not only the trailer, is that as a female college student, it may not be true that every spring break, all there is to worry about is where the “hottest” party town is to travel to. Getting drunk, sun tanning and lounging in a bikini is very stereotypical of how a skewed reality is drawn. The carefree life that leaves out study time, money troubles, self-consciousness and social or familial pressures, is the one that Spring Breakers propagates.

As a last look into the pop culture mirror of how a female college student is portrayed, the Mundovision documentary titled: College Days, College Nights (2004) is chosen as an artifact.  The description found on the Films on Demand website reads as follows: “Sixteen students search for knowledge, fun, love, sex, and a path to a rewarding career…partying, clubs and sports compete head-to-head with classes and sleep-but campus life is only one part of this compelling story… a team of eight film students who capture events that the pros could not have witnessed.” (Zaritsky, 2004). By  watching this film, a few things become apparent. First is that each individual within this documentary has a different story to tell yet shares concerns or experiences of all college students. Second is that the way in which the film is presented, provides true honesty to the story of college life. Instead of the popular media making assumptions or generalizations that may propagate stereotypes of women in college, this documentary only shows real life stories from real college students as they experience life in university. The refreshing reality of “College Days, College Nights” is that the females are concerned with things other than just parties, sex, drugs and drinking. They experience home sickness, they worry about their friends and relationships, just as they are concerned with their educations. Overall, the images found in this documentary are a refreshing change of pace from what was seen in Greek and Spring Breakers.

An identity can evolve, develop and ultimately mean something different for every person. It is for those reasons, that trying to define an identity, or properly describe what it means for someone to define themselves through the tools of popular culture. Including, but not limited to: Facebook, Twitter, Television, Internet, Blogs, Movies and Advertisements. The previously mentioned sources, could not completely depict a female college student without generating misguided attempts at reality, yet they provide an array of images that many will watch and affect their view of female college students. Aside from solely generating an image, what mass media can result in, is a pressure for those who identify as a female college student to strive to be a certain way. By seeing females in college being promiscuous, drinking alcohol and doing drugs, the subconscious may push someone to think they have to act that way. Media affects the popular image but more importantly can shape a personal image. The stereotypes that were only seen as that, can turn into reality for many.

Through all that is seen in movies, TV, and the Internet, college girls get a bad reputation. This is not true in every scenario, but from what I have found it is still the dominant stereotype that shines through- college girls are partiers, they are promiscuous and they are carefree. As the identity as a whole contains so many different stories and individuals, there is not way that mass media could properly portray them all, yet there is still a very dominant image that will hopefully one day become just a piece of the image. Some questions that arise from this analysis include: Why must an identity be so complicated to depict to the world? Will there ever be enough popular culture media that can paint the true picture? Is it possible that the female college student is so broad that defining it is too difficult? How might a healthy image be presented, and viewed through critical media analysis, so that everything is not taken as truth, but simply an idea to consider?

Works Cited

Asay, Paul. TV Reviews. June 2008. February 2014


College Days, College Nights. Dir. John Zaritsky. 2004.

“Spring Breakers Trailer 2013.” 30 January 2013. YouTube. February 2014                         <;.

Youtube. “Greek Trailer.” 2 July 2007. Youtube. February 2014           <;.

Trans* in the Media

Tarek Skarbek

UNST Pop. Culture

February 20, 2014

The Representation of Trans* in the Media

I believe that the media is responsible for sizable chunk of our society’s education.

The media is in charge of setting the norm, many people repeat what they see in the

media. If people see violence or offensive language aimed towards a certain group,

they become desensitized to such negative content, it becomes the “norm”. I see it in

the news, at school,  and from trans* individuals themselves. And unfortunately

some of the most popular shows, are the ones demonstrating transphobia


The media the portrayal of Trans* individuals is mainly that of the victim or

the aggressor.  According to GLAAD’s article Victims or Villains: Examining Ten years

 of Transgender Images on Television. Transgender individuals are casted as the

victim 40% of the time, while they are casted as villains 21% of the time. We are

rarely portrayed on the media in a strong positive role, being seen as either a victim

or a villain affects how society views people like me. We are seen as unstable, like

something is wrong with us, that we are sick. GLAAD points out “Since 2002, GLAAD

catalogued 102 episodes and non-recurring storylines of scripted television that

contained transgender characters, and found that 54% of those were categorized as

containing negative representations at the time of their airing”.

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That is over half of the TV shows being aired, if that was bad enough 61% of TV

shows content contained anti-Trans* slurs, and dialog. GLAAD even calls out some

of the more popular shows which contain offensive content below:

CSI (CBS), which not only featured a transgender serial killer who murdered his

own mother, but scenes in which transgender murder victims were openly mocked

by the show’s lead characters while examining their bodies and crime scenes.


The Cleveland Show (Fox), in which a man vomits onscreen for a lengthy period of

time after discovering he had slept with a transgender character.  The episode also

contained anti-trans language and defamatory characterizations.


Nip/Tuck (FX), which featured a storyline about a transgender woman who

regretted her transition, a transgender sex worker being beaten, and an entire

season about a psychopathic trans woman depicted as a baby-stealing sexual

predator who sleeps with her own son” (GLAAD).

This is so disappointing, as a child I was often referred to as “It” or “He-she specie”

and it is frustrating seeing the media endorse this kind of behavior.

You may oppose my accusation, the effect that the media hold over our ideas of

normal is subtle and toxic, although it has the potential to become empowering.

The Media hold the potential to change the norm for the better, shows suck as

Orange is the New Black, The Fosters, and GLEE are changing how we see Trans*

represented in the media today! They are portraying in-depth, realistic Trans*

characters. And I give extra props to The Fosters and Orange is the New Black for

actually using Transgender actors and actresses to portray the Trans* character!

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I would like to believe that the media cares what happens to us, how their content

affects us, but right now I am feeling nothing.

After the death of Dr. Vanderbilt, ESPN chose to post the article which lead to her

decision to end her life. Dr. V was forcibly “outed” by journalist Hannan, after he

promised that he would only write about the science behind her famous golf clubs.

When discussing the death of Dr. V, Mr. Hannan referred to her as his “subject”.

Below is a conversation courtesy of Buzzfeed LGBT:

Wasik: “Reread it with this thought: ‘All this was written after the central subject had been driven to suicide, arguably by the the writer.’”

Hannan: “Ouch.”

Wasik: “But if I were your editor, I don’t know that I could have steered you any other way. The story must go on.”

Hannan: “Appreciate that, Bill. These questions are going to come up when the subject of your story takes their own life.”

In his mind he didn’t cause the death of a woman, but rather some horrible creature.

If Dr. Vanderbilt had been cisgender, and Hannan had bullied her to the point of

suicide, he would have been arrested.  As victims we are not taken seriously, we are

seen as subhuman, or not even human at all.  Another example is CeCe McDonald, a

23-year old (trans) woman who was sent to prison for stabbing her tormentor with

scissors, he was committing a hate crime, and CeCe was using self-defense. But CeCe

was never seen as the victim she really was, rather she was sentenced to 41 months

in a MEN’S prison facility. A MEN’S PRISON. What kind of sick fuck puts a women in

a men’s prison? When the incident was brought to the media’s attention they used

her birth name and the incorrect pronouns. Paul Walsh referred to her using

masculine pronouns or as “Admitted Killer”.

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People think it is okay to humiliate Trans* people through the use of media, because

they see us as “fake”, as if we are deceiving them.  You probably don’t know how

hurtful or embarrassing it is to be mis-gendered, to be purposefully called by the

improper pronouns. There are many documentaries which bring to light the

discrimination that many trans* individuals face daily, there is proof of the prejudice


In the documentary I’m Not Les the discrimination that Sherri (Les) faces

throughout her life. She was abused by her father for not being “normal”, was

constantly ostracized and bullied by her peers, and as a adult she was fired

for being biologically born a man. She went to the bank to apply for a loan for sex

reassignment surgery, she received “bottom” surgery and “top” surgery in Thailand.

But even after the surgeries she was still afraid. This fear kept her from doing what

she loved best, dancing. She dropped square dancing off and on, but soon found her

courage. Shortly after she met Sonny. He was raised traditionally and spent time in

the military, there he was taught to hate gays. Once Sonny heard the rumors that

Sherri was born a man, he walked out on her. He would no longer look her in the

eye, or talk to her. Many trans* individuals face the fear of losing someone they care

about just because they were born a different gender. I face this fear every day, it is

terrifying if I am put in the situation where I have to tell a friend I’m trans*, most of

the time I chicken out. I believe that this stigma on trans* individuals stems from the

media. Looking back in history the stigma towards Trans* individuals was almost

nonexistent (until Christianity started their conquest). Many held seats of power;

they were priests and priestesses, advisors, or sages.

Skarbek 5

In Albania if a virgin (woman) swears before 12 witnesses she is recognized as a

man and carries out duties traditionally belonging to men, she may also marry.

This practice still continues in modern Albania, although stays primarily in the

countryside.  In Greece MTF priestesses served Artimis, with stories depicting

gender-bending heroes ( Unfortunately, the violence against

Trans* and non-conforming individuals is not a new phenomenon, and in “1513

conquistador Vasco Nunez de Balboa discovered what he claimed was a colony of

cross-dressing males in present day Panama and slaughtered them” (

Where does this hatred and animosity come from? Does it sprout from

Christianity? The you may question why I would blame the media…  While the US

claims separation of State and Church I feel that the boundary line is smudging. If

feel that we are allowing religion to influence broadcasting, bills, and even the image

of presidency. Is Obama really Christian? Or does he too fear religion? Everything is

connected, while not every one is constantly exposed to religion, one constant is the

media. If a gay man is constantly viewed as extremely flamboyant society quietly

takes note. If a trans* person is broadcasted as a freak, while unconscious the note is

still being taken. Society dictates how we act, perceive ourselves, and what roles we

assume.  For example, in action movies and TV shows Russians are often portrayed

as communist villains, or mafia. And our source of societal education comes from the

media. By changing how our media represents different groups we can change the

out come. Prejudice and intolerance could potentially be a thing of the past. But until

the change is made we will continue to live in fear. The fear of being rejected,

Skarbek 6

ostracized, mistreated, and assaulted. Every time I attempt to use the men’s

restroom I am always on high alert. Any one of those men could lash out. I can see it

in their eyes.  I am so tired of being on guard. My biggest fear is that I may end up

like CeCe, in prison for defending myself. We are not a free country, so many of us

are still discriminated against. We are no better than Russia… there are still states

who hold similar laws.


Works cited:



I’m Not Les




When I started thinking about all of the things that I identify with one stuck out in particular: being a woman. Women can have many identities based on what they believe they are or by what defines them, but at the core of all of those identities, they are faced with the larger challenge of being a women. Historically, women have always been looked at as the second sex. They have never had the same opportunities or rights as men and have been constantly objectified by the media and advertising. Popular culture, media, and advertisements have a very large impact on how we see and feel about things in our life. We are surrounded by advertisements in every aspect of our lives. We are exposed to the objectification of women on the tv, internet, apps, magazines, and news. This exposure helps to define and affects the way in which society, including women, view and treat women and themselves.
In the past, advertising has portrayed women as sex symbols, and housewives, who are dependent on men, unintelligent, and unable to make their own decisions. Although there has been some shifts, to help empower women in the media, this trend still happens today. Women are now being objectified more than ever in advertising. Not only are being used as sexual objects, to grab the attention of men, to help sell a product, but the, big busted, thin, young, blonde is the ideal for all females out there. Advertisements are trying to sell this ideal women as a product that any average women can transform into.
An example of this type of advertising is Yoplait Light commercial. The commercial starts out with a women standing in front of an open fridge looking at a plate of strawberry cheesecake. The women is having an argument in her head that goes something like, “what if I just have one little piece, I’ve been good today, I deserve it. No, what if I have one piece while jogging in place.” This goes on for a minute until a younger, thinner, women comes up and says, “Hmm, strawberry cheesecake, i’ve been thinking about you all day”, and then she grabs a strawberry cheesecake Yoplait Light from the fridge. The first women comments on how she’s lost weight, the second women thanks her and walks away. The first women then grabs the yogurt and shuts the fridge in a hurry. This advertisement is basically saying that women have no control over food, and they are using the thin women as an object to show you what kind of will power you could have and how you could look if you buy that yogurt (Yoplait). Although on the outside this commercial might look like an empowering ad to show women that can have control over their food, it’s really just enforcing the stereotype that women are unable to do things by themselves and that they are only objects.
The media often defines women as dependent on men and unable to do certain things on their own. A perfect example that I found of this is a commercial from the company called True Car. Men and women have always been known to get swindled by car salesmen. Think of the term “greasy/dirty salesman”, it’s a negative term which is often associated with distrust and getting used. True Car is a company that lets you compare the best prices online for a car and lets you print out a barcode for the deal to scan so they know the exact price you want and are willing to pay for. In the commercial only women are acting in it and they are saying lines like “I don’t need to bring a dude” (True Car). That line is pretty insane. It’s a sad realization that even though I look at myself as a strong and independent women, capable of doing things on her own, most women STILL feel that they need this tool in order to be capable of buying a car. It’s saying if you don’t have a man or don’t use their site, you are incapable of getting a good deal on a car. That women wouldn’t be able to get a good deal by themselves or that they are able to do their own research or stand up for themselves. The women go on to say how great and confident it makes them feel, trying to send the message the yes, we women are able to do things alone and handle ourselves. Although I believe the company meant the commercial to be helpful and empowering to women, it did the complete opposite and reinforced the stereotype the men are incapable of doing things or are dependent on men.
As mentioned earlier, women are often looked at as sexual objects in advertisements. Advertisements use female objectification to not only capture the attention of viewers but also portrays the visual power that men still have over women (Lukas, n. d.).


The above advertisement is an example of this power, “The varied dimensions of posture, position of bodies, location of body parts, height and depth of figures, all suggest that women are inferior, and men are superior.” (Lukas, n. d.). Women are often portrayed in a negative and submissive sexual way that can lead men thinking that they are superior to women. Not only that, but it’s shows women that they need to be submissive in order to feel wanted, beautiful, and important. By objectifying women in the media it affects how women see themselves as well as desensitizes men and allows them to separate themselves from women and look at them as objects and not human beings.
It’s obvious that sex sells, for both men and women. Men see women as a sexual object and women feel the need to be that sexual object in order to get the attention they want from men. It makes women feel that her only value is her appearance and sexuality. We can’t open our eyes without seeing an ad that objectifies women or makes women seem like the second class and dependent on men. As a women I am faced with this constant pressure to look or be a certain way and constant obstacles that I’m faced with in my every day life. Even if we don’t mean to compare ourselves to these unreal ads, they are surrounding us, they basically become our false sense of reality. These advertisements set a standard for women that are almost impossible to meet. Yet, so many women are trying to meet them every single day, even though those women are the actual reality. That is why this is my main identity because it doesn’t matter how I see myself if the world see’s me differently. I can only do so much with my life, I need the corporation and assistance of others in order to be the person I want to be.
Not only can I not live up to my full potential if the world around me is telling me I’m supposed to be a certain way, but it also affects society much deeper than that. Research has been shown that these sexist and objectifying ads can have tremendous affects on the youth and women in this society. “Exposure to sexually objectifying media has been related to greater importance of beauty and appearance in defining an individual’s own self-worth as well as in defining the value of females in general” and “to self-objectification, body shame, appearance anxiety, internalization of cultural standards of beauty, body dissatisfaction, and disordered eating symptoms among predominately White women” (Szymanski). Women to varying degrees internalize this outside view of them and in turns started viewing themselves as objects (Szymanski). This then stops the growth of women and continues them in a downward spiral, allowing themselves to be objectified and even being apart of it.
This internalization doesn’t just happen with sex appeal, it also happens with the other stereotypes of being dependent, unintelligent, and unable as well. When women see themselves in advertisements they begin to believe that the ads are actually reality and start making their choices and actions based on how these other women are acting. It brings up the issues of the women who are actually acting in these “empowering” commercials or posing in the ads. They might just be doing it because they are a starving actor, or wish to get known, or maybe they really believe in the product, which is the worst of all. Whatever their reasoning for being apart of these commercials it is just again showing the world that it is ok because women are only objects or they are unintelligent and don’t know any better.
I don’t think that all of these advertising agencies or companies who put out the “empowering” commercials fully realize the affect that they are having on society. Or maybe they do, and that makes them even more evil. But more and more companies are beginning to see that affect and trying to make a difference and change in the way that women see themselves and the way that society treats them. Dove is leading the way in this change with their “Real Beauty” campaign. They have released many videos and commercials that help show the tools and tricks used to make these average women look like the ideal women in ads and advertising and to help women realize their actual, real beauty.. Their “Evolution” video has over 17 million views on youtube. It show’s a very average looking women getting transformed with make up, hair styling, and photoshop tools to become this “ideal women” for a make up billboard (Dove Evolution). It shows people that these things can complete change the way a women looks and what we see in ads isn’t real. The ad ends with a line that says, “No wonder our perception of beauty is distorted” (Dove Evolution). They are absolutely right.
Dove also has a video called “Real Beauty Sketches” that is only 11 months old and has over 62 million views on youtube (Real Beauty). This ad starts by showing women of different ages and races describing how they look to a professional sketch artist. They skip around to show a stranger, that had just met this person moments before in a waiting room, also describing this other person to the sketch artist. At the end the women are shown the picture that they described and the picture that the stranger described and with each women, the strangers description was more accurate and much more beautiful than the women who described themselves (Real Beauty). Although there is some controversy with both of these videos because the women shown are still considered above average looking, thin, and mostly young. The message that they are trying to spread is one that needs to be heard. Every women needs that stranger describing the picture of her, showing her that she is more beautiful than she actually thinks, because of the awful self images that the media has created.
The media has played a huge part in how society see’s women, and although women have come so far, they still have a long ways to go. In a perfect world women would step above these stereotypes and actually become empowered and subjects, rather than objects, but that’s a hard thing to do. This world isn’t perfect and we are social creatures that need the approval of others. I think that this is the time for change for women in the media, but it’s going to take a lot of work, a lot of realization, and a lot dedication from every women out there. Because in the end, the women are also falling into this trap of self objectification and self doubt, and they are the only ones who can lift themselves out.
Work cited

“Dove Real Beauty Sketches.” YouTube. YouTube, 14 Apr. 2013. Web. 09 Mar. 2014. <;.

Lukas, S. A. (n. d.). The gender ads projects: Men in control. Retrieved March 9, 2013 from,

Pipper, Tim. “Dove Evolution.” YouTube. YouTube, 06 Oct. 2006. Web. 09 Mar. 2014. <;.

Szymanski, D. M., L. B. Moffitt, and E. R. Carr. “Sexual Objectification of Women: Advances to Theory and Research 1 7.” The Counseling Psychologist 39.1 (2010): 6-38. Print.

“ | A Better Way.” YouTube. YouTube, 01 Mar. 2013. Web. 18 Feb. 2014. <;.

Yoplait Commercial. Yoplait Commercial. Youtube, 3 July 2010. Web. 27 Feb. 2014. <;.

the 1%

Alaine Valdez




The 1%



Hair plays a big part in everyones identity. From being bald to blond there are constantly stereotypes and associations connected to this spot on the top of our heads. My focus is on the rarest of natural colors, the redhead! Apparently we make up just 1% of the entire population. Although there are many shades of this color it always seems to get noticed and stand out. Much like a traffic cone the attention to this hair color comes with a lot of stigmas and outlandish ideas of how the person under the hair will behave. Things like sexy and hot tempered to evil or weird. Even a very popular theme that gingers are soulless have all been associated with this hair color. Our popular culture and media have taken this identity and transformed it into so much more.

In movies like Devils Advocate the red haired woman plays an evil vixen, a spawn of the devil. She uses sex appeal to manipulate peoples lives and seems to get happiness and pleasure out of all of it. This evil theme associated with red hair has traveled through out history as well. Things from a symbol of witchcraft to Judas “betrayer of Jesus”(Best) both frequently are portrayed as redheads and caries a negative taboo in our culture. In Hocus Pocus Winifred the witch sister with bright red hair was considered the ugly and worst sister. Even the way she talked was creepier then the others. Another big example of this evil theme associated with red hair is Chucky. He is best known for his bright orange hair as well as his demonic lifestyle.

Another very popular idea about red heads is the statement made by South Park, “gingers have no soul”. This is something that I know every kid and young adult with red hair in America has been told. What started out as just another episode idea has morphed through out our pop culture. Other shows like Glee build off of this idea, as well as thousands of you tube videos both fighting and contributing to this idea of gingers have no soul. One in particular with millions of views appeared on the Tosh show as a video redemption. Here his video of trying to protest against the bullying that has came from that episode of South Park is completely mocked. Proving that in the end gingers are an easy target and our mainstream media supports this idea all over the place.

Having not seen the Gingers Kids episode of South Park since it probably aired years ago I watched it again. It was almost like watching old Disney movies where I was shocked by some of the things that were being said. In this episode a Doctor even suggested putting down a perfectly healthy kid because he was a ginger. If it was based instead on the color of his skin and not just on the color of his hair this episode probably would not have been made and definitely be considered horribly racist. It also would not have developed such a huge following carrying on this prejudice. This episode from beginning to end sends out the idea that gingers are not really people and should not be treated the same. All the parents of the “gingers” were actually disturbed by the idea that their kid has red hair. It makes me sad that this episode has gotten as much attention as it has for being humorous. I can take it as a joke but when kids see this or even worse bullies see this episode it just gives them more ammunition to make this group feel bad based solely off of physical appearance.

Another common association that comes with red heads is the fiery, sexy concept that has been shown in tons of movies and shows. One I grew up to was Jessica Rabbit from the cartoon movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Even though she was a cartoon character she was still viewed as a sex symbol even in current times. Everything from her curves and the slit in her dress, to the sound of her voice screamed sexy. Which seams a little strange for a children’s movie, but definitely goes along with this popular theme. An idea that has continued to be expressed in current popular culture with shows like Mad Men. Joan plays the role of a voluptuous red haired secretary in the show. In the office she is the desire of everyone. The men all want her and the women inspire to be more like her. Things like fiery are often used to describe her in efforts to relate her personality to her hair. In the show she sticks to another common role associated with her sexy looks an affair with a married man. She is the other woman and the lust of her boss. A vixen is another idea we have connected to red hair. One possible reason for this association is the idea of Lilith having red hair passing off her sexual defiance ways all with that color(Best).

Through all of the stigmas and prejudice that have come to light in our present day pop culture another thing that has also become popular. A unity of all red heads. In an effort to support and encourage others through out the world. Even in Portland last summer they attempted to set a world record for most red heads in Pioneer Square. This idea formed in Europe where real problems of “gingerism” have been occurring to spread the word of equality for all hair colors. Its seems that in our current society we would be over discrimination based on physical appearance but clearly many people around the world are still facing problems of prejudice in their daily lives.

Overall times are changing and so are stereotypes. We live in a world where everyone   has predisposed opinions and ideas on everything. Red hair can symbolize attractive traits as well as some of the worse. One thing that will hopefully change is support and love for everyone no matter the color of their skin or hair. Its such a meaningless characteristic that no one can change, but sadly since its something you see first it also has made it an easy joke.



Works Cited



Best, Amy. Druann, Maria Heckert. Ugly Duckling to Swan: Labeling Theory and the Stigmatization of Red Hair. JAI Press Inc.


The Devils Advocate. Dir Taylor Hackford, Warner Bros. Pictures, 1997. Connie Nielsen.


“Ginger Kids.” South Park. Comedy Central. November 9, 2005. Bette Midler.


Hocus Pocus. Dir Kenny Ortega, Walt Disney Pictures,


Mad Men. AMC. July 19, 2007-present. Christina Hendricks