Moving past civil war stereotypes

The Deep South. Admit it, as soon as you hear those words you think of that bright orange Charger jumping over a police cruiser while someone’s yelling yeee hawww in the background. Backwoods yokels like the Duke boys of the Dukes of Hazard have become the monolith of southern culture, or at least that’s what most popular culture would have you believe. In reality however, the culture of South is a lot more complex than the northern perception of cut up overalls, moonshine, and NASCAR.

First, let me start by defining what I mean by “the south”. This stereotype mostly only applies to what is known as the Deep South or Southeast United States, which stretches from Texas up to the Carolinas and all the states in between. This region, also known as “Dixie” is clumped together as a single group, largely because of the American Civil War. This is the region of the US that made up he confederacy in the civil war, and is the area that will be discussed in this essay. The Southwestern United States also hold several unfair stereotypes, but for the purposes of this essay, we can save that for another time.

Now, these stereotypes that are often cast on Southerners, for the most part, are not self-inflicted. In fact, many of the people that have this kind of “red-neck” perception of the south, have never even been there, or have met few to no real southerners. So how do these widespread “regionisms” exist? Through the media and several popular culture outlets. Dating all the way back to the civil war, the popular media of the United States (largely produced by non-southern media companies) have used three main stereotypes to paint a picture of the American south: Rural or poor, Racist, and Un-educated or stupid. While these three stereotypes may have been true at the time of their inception in the mid 1800’s, they hold little relevance to real life in the southern states today.

The First of these main stereotypes, is the depiction of a rural, poor south, one in which the economy is based heavily on large plantation style farms and the agricultural industry. This stereotype is perpetuated by many popular movies and television shows ranging from classic older shows and movies like “Beverly Hillbillies”, “Smokey and The Bandit”, and “The Dukes of Hazard”, to shows and movies that are more recent such as the MTV show “Buckwild”, the A&E program “Duck Dynasty” and countless others. These shows are never based in one of the several large cities in the South (9 of the top 20 largest cities in the US are located in the South (2010 US Census)), they are always in the backwoods farm towns of the south far in the Appalachian Mountains, or Everglade Swamps. The 2010 Us census reported that roughly 75% (3 out of 4) of all southerners live in metropolitan areas as opposed to rural areas. That estimate includes urbanized suburban areas around big cities as well. This then becomes less of an issue of South vs. North as it is Rural vs. Urban. Based on population density, Not a single southern state places in the top 10 most “rural” states, and only 4 dixie states are accounted for in the top 20.(2010 US census) I have found these statistics to be true also in my own personal experience. I have lived in three southern states growing up, Texas, Georgia, and Arkansas. While I lived in the south my family lived in the mostly suburban communities of Plano, Cumming, and Rodgers respectively. It wasn’t until we moved to the northwest to the small town of Washougal, Washington that I truly experienced “rural culture”. Based on all of this evidence presented, it would be logical to argue the rural stereotype of the south is misplaced.

The second main stereotype that often accompanies southerners as a whole is racism, particularly towards African Americans. This stereotype is not shown as much in popular culture as the others, but it is prevalent in a lot of news media outlets. News outlets such as the The Atlantic often run stories on racism in the south, but often leave out, or completely disregard some glaring facts. (Florida)Often times these stories base their levels of racism on how many hate-related groups are present in the community in question. While the south does have the largest concentration of hate groups comparatively to the rest of the country, this doesn’t mean the people as a whole are more rascist. Upon closer inspection of these hate groups, many have been around since before de-segregation in the south and have dwindling numbers of members. Many of these groups today are beginning to die off as their memberships dwindle. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), an organization that monitors these hate groups, also reports that as membership of these hate groups are falling, membership of anti-hate groups like anti-racism, and LGBT support groups are increasing. In many cases the membership of these anti hate groups far outweighs the membership of the hate groups. Because of this evidence it is safe to say that judging a region’s amount of racism only looking at number of hate groups alone is not an accurate estimate of said region’s tolerance of minorities. The second reason why this particular stereotype is unfair, is that African Americans are often times not the minority. The 2010 census found that 105 southern counties had an African American population of 50% or higher, and also that 55% of all African Americans living in the United States live in southern states. Finally, the 2010 census also reported that the number of people who claimed both Black And Caucasian (mixed race families) more than doubled from 2000 to 2010 suggesting a significant increase in mixed-race families this census data alone turn the racist stereotype of southerners on its head, because in many cases the white population is the minority, which means that your “average southerner” is an African American, not a racist white man.

The third and final stereotype that is misrepresented in popular culture is that of southern stupidity. Much like the first stereotype I discussed, this is another one that is shown throughout a wide range of popular culture outlets. The primary source I chose to showcase this stereotype is the appalling show “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo”. This show airs on what is questionably named “The Learning Channel” (TLC) and displays a seemingly endless cast of idiots from a small rural town in Georgia. This cast is known for such eloquent catch phrases like “I wish I had an extra finger, then I could grab more cheeseballs” and “I don’t even think I’m a real person I think I’m a fish”. (IMDB) This level of mindless “comedy” is to be expected from modern reality TV shows, but all kidding aside, this stupidity is very degrading to the south. It’s an implicit bias that seems to be built into out popular culture and media system today; if the person has a southern accent, then they must be dumb. This stereotype however, like the other two already discussed, is inaccurate when it comes to looking at the facts. The National Education Association keeps records of public schools across the United States. The records from the 2012-2013 show a majority of southern states in the top 20 states in regards to public school attendance, graduation rates, and daily attendance, with two southern states in particular, Florida and Texas, consistently scoring in the top 5. (Rankings) The access to quality education does not end with high school graduation either. The US News National College Rankings, rank colleges by academic achievement. Several southern schools such Vanderbilt in Tennessee, Rice University in Texas, and Emory University in Georgia receive high marks in the top percentile of over 200 schools ranked. This is in stark contrast to what the popular television shows show of the south. They do not depict an educated south, but rather one where people like “Honey Boo Boo” run the show.

In conclusion, when we turn away from believing everything on television, to actually putting in some time to research things before jumping to conclusions, we are quite often surprised at what we find, this is certainly the case with the stigmas of being a southerner. There are many unfair stereotypes that popular culture and the media tag to what being a southerner entails. These stereotypes are almost always misguiding and hurtful to those that are from the south. What we see on TV and the silver screen of Racist, uneducated, an underdeveloped southerners has no resemblance to the Educated, tolerant and industrialized south that we see when we look at the facts.

 

 

Works Cited

 

Florida, Richard. “The Geography of Hate.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 11 May 2011. Web. 01 Dec. 2014.

 

“Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.” IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2014.

 

“National Universities Rankings.” National University. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2014.

 

 

“Rankings of the States 2013 and Estimates of School Statistics 2014.” Rss. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2014

 

Rawles, Kristen. “5 Big Media Stereotypes About the South (And the Real Story Behind Them).” Alternet. N.p., 2 Apr. 2012. Web. 17 Nov. 2014.

 

“Southern Poverty Law Center.” Southern Poverty Law Center. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Dec. 2014.

 

“United States Census Bureau.” 2010 Census Shows Black Population Has Highest Concentration in the South. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2014.

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Just The Average Indian American

by Sharath Menon

This article discusses about the stereotypes that are directed towards Indian diaspora. The word diaspora means a group of people living outside their native land. For example, Portland State University mostly consists of European, Asian, and Mexican diaspora. Indians face all sorts of stereotypes in the US. There have also been lots of racial attacks targeting Indians involving the September 11th attacks. The first stereotype I have observed with many Indians are that they are socially awkward around strangers and how they are stereotyped as franchise of call center employees. My artifact is Raj from The next stereotype about Indians are that they are stereotyped as call center or seven-eleven employees. My artifact is Apu from the Simpsons. My third topic I have looked into was how the Indian diaspora in America is very studious and how they have dominated the spelling bees in the recent years.

There are more stereotypes about Indians such as worshiping cows, working at cell centers, and even being Jihadi terrorists. One excellent source for this topic is Slumdog Millionaire, an award winning movie taking place in the slums and busy streets of Mumbai, India’s largest city. The film is about a boy who grew up in the slums to becoming a chaiwalla (what we call barista here) to winning a millionaire show. This film highlights the poverty and trafficking problem going on in India. Here in Portland, Oregon, Indian Americans are a well respected community that blends in well with the rest of the population because they are seen as outgoing, hardworking, and intelligent. In other parts of the US, Indians do not have a good label as they are stereotyped as rude, impatient, foul smelling, and often generalized with brown skinned people for being terrorists. When I search on Google for “Indians are…”, the first result to pop up was “Indians are rude”.  After the September 11th attacks, Indians have received a lot of attacks. When Nina Davuluri won Miss America last year, there were social networking comments that read “So Miss America is terrorist.” and “Miss America or Miss Al Qaeda?”

Warning: Offensive and Foul Language

http://www.buzzfeed.com/ryanhatesthis/a-lot-of-people-are-very-upset-that-an-indian-american-woman

The main stereotype observed with Indians are that they are socially awkward around other people. My first example of this is Raj from Big Bang Theory. His full name is Rajesh Kootrappali. Raj is an astrophysicist working at Caltech. He behaves hesitant around women as well as his friends. Once in a while Raj talks with his parents over in New Delhi with his laptop and often gets embarrassed by them. As a result, he dislikes his Indian heritage and the Indian culture. Raj tries to socialize with American girls but circumstances do not go well with him as the relationships end after a few days. According to TVGuide, Big Bang Theory was the number one most watch television show in the 2013-14 season with 23.1 million views.

youtube: Raj’s Big Bang Moments

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

Indian Americans and other South Asians live in tightly knit and social communities, and place a paramount value within their community on academic performance. Growing up also to an Indian community, I have observed that many Indians interact with each other and get together for Indian celebrations such as Diwali. In India, there is a very ancient mechanism being practiced called the Caste System that discriminates based on skin color and wealth. Coming back to Nina Davuluri, notice how she has a darker skin complexion than all the Miss Indias. This brings up another stereotype that Indians lust after white skin. In only two of 81 surveyed countries in a poll, more than 40 percent of respondents said they would not want a neighbor of a different race. This included 43.5 percent of Indians and 51.4 percent of Jordanian. In India, majority of clothing and lingerie stores display trendy fashions on mannequins with blond hair, blue eyes and milky white complexions. Even the advertisements and store posters that use Indian faces promote a look that is unattainable for most Indians: a fair complexion. The most popular Bollywood stars such as Aishwarya Rai, a former Miss World, look more white than Indian. This discussion was reignited after Nina Davaluri, a woman of Indian descent, was crowned Miss America. Many here wondered: Could someone as dark complexioned as Davaluri win a pageant in the country of her heritage?

Screenshot 2014-11-30 at 7.59.39 PMScreenshot 2014-11-29 at 11.13.03 PMScreenshot 2014-11-29 at 11.12.47 PM

Former Miss World Aishwarya Rai (left), other Miss Indians (center and right)

Screenshot 2014-11-29 at 10.41.26 PM

Nina Davuluri, winner of Miss America 2013 (above)

The next topic is how Indians are portrayed as seven eleven employees in popular culture. One example of this is Apu from The Simpsons.  His full name is Apu Nahasapeemapetilon. Despite having a Doctorate’s degree from a prestigious school, Apu is the owner of a franchise called Kwik-e-Mart where he runs the cash register. The Kwik-e-Mart in The Simpsons is the equivalent of a Seven-Eleven in America. The long-running cartoon show called The Simpsons has perpetuated this stereotype with a character named Apu. He has an Indian accent and runs a “Kwik-E-Mart,” a convenience store inspired by 7-Eleven. When the real-life convenience store chain had transformed some of its locations into Kwik-E-Marts to promote the Simpsons movie in 2007, some Indian-American store owners were not exactly thrilled with the idea. Indian-Americans despite constituting less than 1% of the U.S. population, 3% of the nation’s engineers, 7% of its IT workers, and 8% of its physicians and surgeons.

youtube: The Simpsons – All Syrup Super Squishy Bender

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=61kHpmenkT8

The final stereotype is how Indians are very smart in memorization skills as they dominate the spelling bees. If anyone follows the spelling bee championships, all the recent winners have been of Indian origin.The last eight national champions and thirteen of the last seventeen have been of Indian descent, a string of victories that began since 1999. The same circumstance is happening in the geography bee as three of the last geography bee winners are of Indian origin. One primary reason for this circumstance is that the Indian culture high emphasis on academic achievement and memorization as well, as a building block of higher-level knowledge. Social expectations around academic performance within the Indian diaspora in US tend to be much higher than in other demographic groups. Arvind Mahankali (pictured below), the 2013 spelling bee champion, says spelling also teaches kids logic, as they use a word’s origin and meaning to deduce its spelling. However, spelling is an exercise in memorization, and while rote learning tends to be scorned in American schools these days, it is central to Indian education, and very much valued by immigrant parents who grew up that way.

Screenshot 2014-11-30 at 7.48.20 PM

Based on my observation with many Indian families, I have noticed the vast majority of them put a large emphasis on education and discipline. As a result, I have noticed many Indian and Chinese students in my middle and high school score the highest academically. In many peoples perspectives, they believe Indians have very long and complex sounding surnames such as that of Raj from Big Bang Theory or Apu from The Simpsons. Below is a video stereotyping immigrant parents versus white parents in the US and Canada. Russell Peters is a Canadian stand-up comedian born to Indian immigrants. He is well known in Canada and the UK but not so known in the states.

youtube: Russell Peters – Beating Your Kids

Warning: Foul Language

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nn5jlrxcpkI

The movie Slumdog Millionaire is an excellent example of how Western media depicts India as the film won multiple Academy awards at the 2009 Oscars for best motion picture, best director, and best music. The film shows the miserable condition and chilling reality of the poverty, slavery, and discrimination that prevail all over India, but focusing in India’s largest city. The film displays the immense wealth divide and the social evils of the Caste system. As a result, many Indians looking for a much better living work very hard to immigrate into many countries. Competition is very high there because only the brightest students can get into universities or make enough money to immigrate to other countries. When you look at images of India, there are a lot of immensely crowded and dirty places and personal space and hygiene is not a concern there. The society and behavior in India is very different than that of the West. One could conclude that is why many Indians in the United States may be perceived as rude, impatient, and socially awkward. Raj from Big Bang Theory spent his childhood in New Delhi and later did his alma mater at California Institute of Technology (Caltech). However here in Portland, I have observed Indian Americans being stereotyped for positive qualities such as hard working and highly intelligent and they are well respected here for that.

Screenshot 2014-11-30 at 7.54.46 PM

In 2007, the median income of households headed by an Indian American was approximately $83,000, compared with $61,000 for East Asians and $55,000 for whites. Despite the occasional Seven-Eleven stereotype that originated from The Simpsons, Indian Americans still enjoy having more financial freedom financial freedom than other ethnic groups in the United States. For many immigrants, especially Indian and Asian immigrants, the American dream is well and alive here.

youtube: Slumdog Millionaire Trailer

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AIzbwV7on6Q

Work Cited:

Basu, Moni. “‘White is Beautiful:’ Why India needs its own Oprah Winfrey”, CNN, 26 September 2013. 24 November 2014.

Big Bang Theory, 2007 – present, TV series. TV Show. Comedy. Aired on CBS. Created by Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady. Featuring Kunal Nayyar, Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki, Kaley Cuoco, Mayim Bialik, and Simon Helberg.

Broderick, Ryan. “A lot of people are very upset an Indian-American won the Miss America Pageant”, Buzzfeed, 15 Sept. 2014. Web. 24 Nov. 2014.

Fischer, Max. “A fascinating map of the world’s most and least racially tolerant countries”, Washington Post. 15 May 2013. Web. 24 Nov. 2014.

Richwine, Jason. “Indian Americans: The New Model Minority”, Forbes, 24 February 2009. Web. 24 Nov. 2014.

The Simpsons, 1989 – present, TV series. Comedy. Aired on Fox. Created by Matt Groening. Featuring Dan Castellaneta, Nancy Cartwright, Julie Kavner, Yeardley Smith, and Hank Azaria.

Slumdog Millionaire, 2008, rated R. Directed by Danny Boyle and Loveleen Tandan. Music by AR Rahman. Features Dev Patel and Freida Pinto.

Smith, Tovia. “Why Indian-Americans Reign As Spelling Bee Champs”, NPR, 29 May 2012. Web. 16 Nov. 2014.

Why Indian Americans Rule the National Spelling Bee.” LearnThatWord. 2014. Web. 16 Nov. 2014.

Female Tennis Players

Jessica Nguyen

Popular Culture: Looking In the Popular Culture Mirror Essay

November 30th 2014

                Throughout history, men have displayed more power than women and society makes men seem more important. Men are portrayed to be more muscular and more “manly” while women had an icon of being “lady-like”, gentle, and proper. In today’s society, men are the dominate figure in sports and that they receive more media attention than female athletes. The sport of tennis, in particular, hasn’t yet been the main eye catcher of media like basketball and football.  However, tennis has shown more equality than other sports but still not enough.  Society and media focuses on the male athlete’s skill and performances while female athletes only receive attention based on their attractiveness or clothing style.  Female tennis players have been striving for equality and respect since the 1900’s, females are just as good as males in tennis.

In the year 2011, a Rogers Cup women tennis tournament poster advertisement came out and sparked a fire within the public. The slogan of the poster was “Come For The Ladies. Stay For The Legends.” This could be explained in many ways. When I read this, I thought of it as the buy a meal and get a free dessert time of deal; the female athletes, Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova, were the meal while the male athletes were the desserts. In my mind, when I go out to eat the dessert is the best part of dinner and with this slogan, the male athletes resemble the dessert meaning that they are the best part of the tournament, please come. A women activist named Heather Jarvis mentioned in her article that the poster is “demeaning towards women. It suggests women are just the initial attraction, they don’t actually matter” and behind the slogan “it says the real athletes, the real legends, are the men.”  The only thing positive about the poster is that they used pictures of the female athletes expressing their love for tennis. Down below is a photo of the poster.

rogers_cup_changes_slogan_poster_after_accusations_of_sexism

Back in time, it was hard for women to participate in anything that men were in. It was hard to women to participate in sports. Soon, Title IX passed in the states in 1972, the title stated that “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance”.  Female athletes have increased since but still they have not yet been equal to males. Men are still overstepping women and even though women have been proving that they can be just as good, nothing changes. If it weren’t for female tennis players like Billie Jean and Serena Williams, then society wouldn’t ever believe that females are just as good as males.

The media has great powers that can change the way their audience think and feel about certain information. While male tennis players become popular throughout media by their strength and skills, society today focuses on the attraction and looks of female tennis players.  People don’t usually pay attention to how good a female athlete is but rather they focus more on attractiveness.  Anna Kournikova and Maria Sharapova for examples are two highly known tennis professionals have received way more attention about their clothing style and looks rather than their tennis game skills. Why is it that females only gain popularity with their appearance and not their talent? After I wrote out “female tennis players” in the search bar of youtube, all I saw in the results space was “Sexiest female players”, and “Top hottest tennis players”. When I searched up male tennis players, I did see some “Top hottest male tennis players” but I also saw a lot of “Best male tennis players”. Why is it that the focus of media is just on the appearance of females while they focus more on the strength and skills of males?

It’s basic knowledge to know that male athletes always get paid more than females. In Maria Sharapova’s situation, according to Forbes article, it stated that Maria was the on the top list of highest paid female athletes. The only reason she has this much fame is because of commercials and companies using her image of looks and style to bribe the people. There has been a huge controversy whether or not female tennis players should receive equal pay of a male tennis player or not. Winning the same tournament, Rafael Nadal and Victoria Azarenka’s pay wasn’t the same according to the Forbes article, “Tennis’ Gender Pay Gap Problem Looms on the Sidelines”.  There have been many complains and reason towards this pay gap, some say it’s because the tennis rules for women and men are different while others say it doesn’t matter, it’s the same tournament. This just showed the unfairness between the gender differences. Why is society like this? Why can’t women make the same earning as a man if they are doing the same work? In the movie “When Billie Beats Bobby”, there was a part where Billie and her group of gal friends wanted to petition for a higher earning to be equal as men.  Many made fun of her for wanting and believing that females are equal to males but Billie proved them wrong by beating Bobby, the number one male player during that time, and made history.  She got the respect and equality she deserved but it still didn’t change how society works today.

There have been many complaints about sexism within tennis. After Andy Murray, a British tennis player beat Noval Djokovic in the Wimbledon finals, CNN and BCC cheered over that Murray was the first to win a Wimbledon. Murry wasn’t the first, there have been many female British champions but no one have ever thought about cheering for them. When you thought the sexism would be over, during the French tournament, Marion Bartoli won for the Wimbledon women’s singles but she didn’t get praised for it, instead many criticized her for her appearance. When you finally believe these sexist comments are done for another one arrives. CNN posted that “Serena Williams slammed Russian tennis Chief Shamil Tarpischeve for his “insensitive, sexist and racist” remarks”. Society did improve because WTA banned Tarpischev for a year and was fined $25,000. Even though sexism hasn’t improved, what improved were the people who are fighting for justice against sexism.

I am a female tennis player and when I walk around with a tennis racquet in hand, people judge me and also whisper to one another that I’m just playing because of the outfits. It really bothers me when the world judges before understanding, every sport has it’s rumors and expectations. In high school, tennis was known for only “Asians” and everyone assumed every Asian student knew how to play tennis. When the see an Asian female play tennis, many automatically assume, they only play the sport because it’s easy and the outfits are cute. Media created expectations, assumptions, and judgmental people.

Media has a huge influence on the people especially the younger ones. Media will always complement on how attractive a female is while for men on how muscular they are. With this, there will be a decrease in female athletes because younger girls would be scared to become that manly image that media disses on for females. Females can be strong and skillful in sports while at the same time be attractive and feminine. Why does society judge so much? Why does it matter how or what a person does? There shouldn’t be any shame for how a person is; everyone is different with different personalities, talents, strengths, and determinations. Tennis has been one step ahead of other sports by striving towards equality with the genders. Even though it doesn’t seem like it’s going anywhere, it has been improving with baby steps.

 

 

Works Cited

Serena Williams slams Russian tennis chief for ‘sexist and racist’ remarks. (2014, October 20). Retrieved November 14, 2014, from http://edition.cnn.com/2014/10/19/sport/tennis/tennis-serena-sharapova-tarpischev/

Men versus Women Tennis Matches. (n.d.). Retrieved November 14, 2014, from http://www.topendsports.com/sport/tennis/men-v-women.htm

The beauty necessity in women’s tennis. (n.d.). Retrieved November 14, 2014, from http://www.examiner.com/article/the-beauty-necessity-women-s-tennis

How the Media Portrays Female Athletes. (n.d.). Retrieved November 14, 2014, from https://aimeelamoureux.wordpress.com/

 

 

 

Backpackers ‘R’ Us, Unless Media Has a Say

By Catrina Boar

It’s a cold December evening, the popcorn is finished, and it’s time to settle in for a movie.  The chosen theme for the viewing party will be backpacking and the crazy trek of sexually hungry, young, fit, white, and somewhat foolish young adults that flail around Europe, entertaining us for a couple of hours. It is in many ways unfortunate that the norm or type cast of the typical backpacker is often reduced to these traits. It seems that the media, on screen or even in print portrays three main stereotypes about backpackers. First, they are young, usually in their late teens or early twenties and in perfect physical condition. Second, all backpackers are portrayed as Caucasian. Third, if you are a traveling backpacker then you are promiscuous and naive or easily influenced. Most advertisements use an ideal image of youth and health to sell the idea that backpacking is a fun and energetic activity and to convince people to participate in these activities.

The most common theme in media when it comes to backpacking is the idea that you have to be a young adult/late teen to backpack. Every image depicted in media of backpackers is that of a healthy, in shape person probably in their late teens or early twenties.  In the backpacker magazines, everyone looks young like they are in the peak of their physical lives. The film Eurotrip casts all of the main characters who backpack across Europe as college students. Finding media that depicts someone older is very difficult and for good reason, this idea of youth and health is an ideal image and can cause people to want to be more involved in these activities. For example, in the television show Gilmore girls, one character Emily, says in response to Lorelai (the leading lady, a thirty-something single mom and Emily’s daughter) going backpacking “Yes, but you’re not a kid, you’re a grown woman. What are people going to think when they see a grown woman bunking down with a bunch of twenty-year-olds?” This scene makes it clear that Lorelai is too old to backpack as well as defining the proper age to backpack.

Specific scene from season 3, episode 13:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=9AfkQ3FiMFU

This form of media is interesting because it not only depicts the stereotype that you have to be a young adult to backpack, it also shows how they are deviating from that stereotype by allowing a woman in her late 30’s to go backpacking. In contrast Rory (Lorelai’s daughter) is the stereotypically “proper” age for backpacking, as the series tells her story of life in high school and university.

Another contrast to this stereotype is the article “What a 74 Year Old Man Can Teach Us About Backpacking” by Stephanie Yoder, freelance writer and online blogger. This article joins Yoder as she interviews a 74 year old backpacker who took the tragedy of his wife’s death and turned it into non-stop traveling throughout the whole world; Asia, Africa, Europe, etc. He believes that “The biggest problem with kids today, is that they’ve lost the drive to explore. Its human nature to want to see what’s out of sight, what’s over the next mountain.” This is interesting because it is actually claiming, albeit by personal opinion that younger people do not backpack as much as they should. I found that a lot of people start backpacking early in life and that this allows them to stay healthy and strong to where they can continue backpacking into advanced years. Alternatively, there are examples of older people just starting out as backpackers because they want to do something new and exciting with their lives. It’s the whole idea of a bucket list, older people or those with severe diseases do it because it’s an experience they wanted to have before they die.

However, in support of the idea that backpackers are mostly young adults is an article by Tracy Stephenson Shaffer. According to her piece “Performing Backpacking: Constructing “Authenticity” Every Step of the Way”, backpacking is a “rite of passage” for those in their late teens and early twenties as they face the transition between childhood and adulthood. This is expressed in this quote from her article.” Backpackers by definition go about the touristic experience with all their costumes and props on their backs so as to be free to improve, to expand the time and space of “typical” tourism in hopes of getting a unique sense of place and a deeper understanding of self during their travels. Ironically, while backpackers work to create sincere, singular, and original experience with the people they meet and the places they visit, backpacking has become almost an obligatory rite of passage amongst young middle class and upper middle class American adults.” (Page 140)  This is interesting because it not only supports the idea of young adults being the primary age of backpackers; it also focuses on American (presumably mostly Caucasian) people.

When it comes to the stereotype that all backpackers are Caucasian, I looked at movies, television shows, and magazine photos. In EuroTrip, all of the main characters are Caucasian and from the United States. Although the show Gilmore Girls is filled with multi race characters, the two who went backpacking (Lorelai and Rory) are Caucasian. It’s possible that media is trying to idealize backpacking by using a racist image that only Caucasians are exciting enough, or adventurous enough to participate in the activity. Another example comes from when I looked at ten random cover images of the magazine, below are just three examples.

this is it

Although not every cover I looked at showed people, the majority of those that did were clearly Caucasian people although there were a few that depicted other races. Some covers were far off picture or depicting the backs of the people in the photos, probably as an attempt to avoid race discrimination. However, most look Caucasian and those where the faces are clearly depicting Caucasian people. In the photos where the subject’s back is to the camera or they are far away from the camera, the people still appear to be Caucasian, although it’s difficult to prove this with any degree of accuracy. This creates the idea that only Caucasians enjoy exploring the wilderness and backpacking. According to this magazine it is very clear that hiking, and backpacking and camping are beneficial and that everyone should do it. They use ideal images of beautiful landscapes, mountains, rocky areas, few people, and wilderness to sell this idea. In contrast my personal experience backpacking has demonstrated that people of all races backpack, it is not just for Caucasians.

The idea that backpackers are promiscuous and easily influenced is not a rare representation. Various movies such as EuroTrip as well as many horror films that involve backpacking such as the movie Hostel use sex as a way to grab attention. Sex sells and media knows this and takes advantage of it. It is likely that the ideal of sex is related to the youth stereotype being applied to backpacking. Backpacking itself could be seen as a sexy activity; media may romanticize it with “foreign lovers” or even as a couple’s first trip together. Young and sexually hungry/active go hand in hand. EuroTrip is a movie where everything that could go wrong does go wrong, including sex.

EuroTrip trailer:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=SeoX8MZd81E

The movie EuroTrip creates the idea that Caucasian backpackers lose every bit of intelligence that they have when something sexually enticing or exciting happens. As an example, one of the main characters (Cooper) goes to Europe specifically to have sex resulting in the following proclamation:

     “You know America was founded by prudes. Prudes who left Europe because they hated all the kinky, steamy European sex that was going on. And now I, Cooper Harris, will return to the land of my perverted forefathers and claim my birthright… which is a series of erotic and sexually challenging adventures.”

Conclusions people could draw based on this movie is that backpackers are foolish, they lose their money, tickets, and passports but don’t really seem to worry about it, as well as being sexually obsessed. However, when looking back at Shaffer’s article “Performing Backpacking: Constructing “Authenticity” Every Step of the Way”, the theme of promiscuous and easily influenced behavior is incorrect. In fact this article examines how different people work to individualize their experience rather than conform to influence.

       Before the final credits roll and the popcorn bag is thrown out let’s recap.  Backpacking is an activity where a person explores a new environment or even escapes their current one; no matter their reason or their methods, backpacking is always individualized and personalized to the person or group.  Often times in the media we experience backpackers being shown in what could best be described as negative light. You have to be young, you have to be white, you need to be a tad naive, and a little bit promiscuous.  However, what’s been shown in the previous pages is that backpacking can give you an experience that’s foreign and incredible as well as spontaneous and affordable; it can be almost a “rite of passage.” Another look shows that backpacking is an adventure that everyone should experience no matter their age, gender, race, wealth, or hunger to crawl into bed with numerous partners. The truth about backpacking is that it is what it is.  If you want backpacking to be a party, make it a party. If you want it to be the hiking trip of a lifetime, make it that way. If you want to use it as an inexpensive way to make travelling spontaneous; go for it. The influence and representation from the media on this activity (and many other subjects for that matter) should not dictate what we do, who we are, or how we are seen.

Bibliography:

EuroTrip, 2004 movie, rated R.
Teenage Comedy Movie
Written by Alec Berg, David Mandel, and directed by Jeff Schaffer. The film stars Scott Mechlowicz, Jacob Pitts, Michelle Trachtenberg, Travis Wester, and Jessica Boehrs.

Ten random cover pages of “Backpacker Magazine” – National Parks Guild
Various authors, editors, and photographers.

Gilmore Girls, 2000 TV series
TV show. Family Comedy. Originally aired on WB, then CW.
Created by Amy Sherman-Palladino and her husband Daniel Palladino, starring Lauren Graham (Lorelai) and Alexis Bledel (Rory)

What a 74 Year Old Man Can Teach Us about Backpacking by Stephanie Yoder, full-time freelance travel writer. Story posted July 19th, 2011.
Her website: twenty-somethingtravel.com

Performing Backpacking: Constructing “Authenticity” Every Step of the Way.
Author: Tracy Stephenson Shaffer
Text & Performance Quarterly. Apr2004, Vol. 24 Issue 2, p139-160. 22p.