Comedy and the Straw Feminist

Carrie Brownstein (left) and Fred Armisen (right) as the Feminist bookstore owners on IFC’s Portlandia.

In all honesty, my identity comes with very few disadvantages at this point in my life. Being a white middle-class college student in Portland, I’m usually treated with respect, assumed to be responsible, and afforded the basic opportunities necessary to lead a satisfying life. I’m also lucky enough to attend University as a young adult, where I’ve recently found a passion for engaging with social justice and Feminism. Since becoming interested in Feminism, however, I’ve noticed a pattern in the way white Feminists are perceived in our culture. Many critics of Feminism openly deride white and upper/middle-class activists, but certain advocates of Feminism are hesitant to take a privileged woman’s Feminist identity seriously as well. White Feminist characters in movies and television are often self-righteous, unpleasant, or over-the-top, and even actors who identify as Feminist themselves sometimes portray white Feminist women as the butt of the joke. Why, if Feminism aims to eliminate prejudice, does this bias exist? From what I’ve noticed, people seem to assume that social privilege (in this case, being white and middle-class) and oppression (experiencing sexism) are mutually exclusive. For that reason, upper and middle-class white Feminists are often seen as inauthentic by default. I’ve encountered this line of thinking numerous times through personal interactions, and have began to notice this image of the irritating, hypocritical, and disingenuous white Feminist woman reflected in pop-culture media as well. Like many stereotypes, this theme seems to appear most often in comedy, where the genre allows actors to go wild overacting their “Feminist” characters. Over the past few weeks, I’ve found three pop culture artifacts that cast my identity—white, female, middle-class, and feminist—in such a light.

dumb-liberal1

Blogspot meme: “Stupid Hippie Feminist Grunge Chick”

The first artifact that came to mind when I began thinking about Feminist’s portrayal in pop culture media is a scene from the animated series, Futurama. Futurama’s third feature-length film, “Into the Wild Green Yonder”, focuses a lot on the theme of environmental destruction and eco-Feminism. Leela, the show’s main female character, takes action against deforestation by joining an Eco-Feminist collective called the “Greenoritas.”  The organization’s leader, named Frida Waterfall, is an extreme parody of both stereotypical feminists and environmental protesters.  Throughout her appearances in the film, she makes constant bad Feminist puns on common words used by the other characters. Before long, even Leela snaps, and can no longer tolerate Frida’s quirks and irritating and personality. A man voices Frida, and uses a whiny and emotional tone through most of her dialog. After multiple failed protesting stunts, all of which display Frida’s incompetence as a leader, she’s stripped of her title as head of the organization.

tumblr_n7ypf23Hbx1r8q9x8o5_500Though Frida makes the most blatantly faulty arguments, the entire Greenorita collective is a strong example of a specific character trope; the “Straw Feminist”. Coined by columnist Ellen Goodman in the early 1990s, the Straw Feminist is a satirical embodiment of negative stereotypes about Feminist. Like the proverbial Straw Man, the Straw Feminist’s arguments are flimsy and fallacious. With her famously eloquent sarcastic tone, Goodman explains in a 1994 issue of the Pittsburg Post-Gazette that Straw Feminists are “most helpful for discrediting real feminists, but also handy for scaring supporters away.” TVtropes.org describes the trope as it appears in popular movies and television:

“Straw Feminist: A character whose ‘feminism’ is drawn only for the purposes of either proving the character wrong or mocking them. Typical depictions of Straw Feminists usually present them as misandrists who exhibit Political Correctness Gone Mad.” 

While there was likely at least some satirical intention behind the Greenorita characters in Futurama as well, Frida and her colleagues definitely perpetuate the image of the obnoxious and irrational white Feminist woman. Because there’s no positive image of Feminism to serve as contrast in the film, “Into the Wild Green Yonder” seems to portray the Straw Feminist trope to a fault. The film could have poked fun at Frida and still left viewers with a positive impression of Feminism, if only Frida had been given any chances for redemption. But, before the end of the movie, she’s killed off. Rather than highlighting the absurdity of characters like these, the take-away message about the Greenoritas seems simply to be that they’re incompetent.

My second artifact comes from the IFC comedy series, Portlandia. In the series’ famous Feminist Bookstore clips, actors Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein play two women who own a Feminist-themed bookstore in Northeast Portland. Throughout the first two seasons, Both owners speak in monotone, and have very solemn and unamused personalities. The owners seem to seize every opportunity to become personally offended, and in each scene, Armisen and Brownstein are simultaneously whiny and soft-spoken; bossy, and incompetent. In short, they’re frustrating to their customers, and frustrating to watch. The overacting in the skits make clear that the Feminist bookstore owners in Portlandia are made to seem more like eccentric complainers than informed philosophers. Additionally, the fact that they’re white business owners in a trendy neighborhood conveys a sense of privilege, and this is accentuated by their culturally appropriated clothing and accessories. Cumulatively, these details lead me to think that the humor in the Feminist bookstore skit comes mostly from the fact that the owners are hypocritical underinformed. As a viewer, I’m reluctant to take them seriously. I get the sense that they hold themselves up on a pedestal, despite claiming to be liberal and nondiscriminatory. I might consider the Feminist Bookstore skit as more of a funny or satirical character study if it weren’t totally consistent with a real-world negative stereotype; that Feminist white women are really just sheltered, unappreciative, and bored.

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Knowing a bit about Armisen’s and Brownstein’s personal lives, I’m sure there’s no blatant anti-feminist message in their work. However, the characters they create and portray are obnoxious in a way that encapsulates negative stereotypes about Feminists, and it doesn’t exactly seem intentional—at least, not in a pro-Feminist way. Kelsey Wallace, a writer for Bitch Magazine, had this reaction as well. In her review of Portlandia’s first season, she explains that the Feminist Bookstore scenes are “tricky.” She points out that on one hand, the show brings Feminism to popular television by filming on location in a real Feminist bookstore, and by starring former Riot Grrrl (a.k.a., third-wave Feminist) Carrie Brownstein. On the other hand, though, she notices how Armisen and Brownstein don’t exactly poke fun at Feminism in the “laughing with you” way. In her review, she links an NPR interview where Brownstein explains that the skit is inspired by the bookstore’s real owners. There’s not really a “you have the wrong idea about feminists” tone to the skits; rather, the skits humor lies in the eccentricity and irritating Feminism of the Feminists themselves. I wouldn’t knock someone for enjoying these skits, since elements of Brownstein and Armisen’s overreacting can be pretty silly. Personally though, I prefer to know there’s strong intention behind controversial representations of women and Feminists. Comedic sketches where the joke is that the woman’s a Feminist aren’t very creative or original; women and Feminism are already mocked in this way by intentional sexism. Plus, if the audience has a limited understanding Feminism, skits like these might simply perpetuate the stereotypes they’re satirizing.

My third artifact comes from Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update Segment, and it features Sarah Silverman and Kate McKinnon playing a two-woman Feminist band. Unsurprisingly, Silverman and McKinnon clearly overact their parts, giving their characters obnoxious and self-important airs. snl_1664_08_Update_SARAHMcKinnon especially, as she keeps her eyes wide open throughout the skit, and only speaks in a sharp and direct tone of voice. The news anchor in the skit (played by Michael Che) seems visibly put-off by the two feminist musicians, and his expressions suggest that he’s struggling to stay polite. The “Feminist” points that the two women (“Garage and Her”) argue on the show are really just inaccurate beliefs. For example, McKinnon preaches at one point that “everyone with strength is a woman,” and that  “Jesus was a woman.”Screen Shot 2015-05-31 at 4.57.12 PM At first I was a little surprised by Sarah Silverman and Kate McKinnon’s choice to totally mock feminists, and to portray their own political identities in such an unlikable way. I was also surprised by how, instead of making points rooted in actual feminist logic, the two characters argued simply that everyone’s a woman. I imagine fans of SNL would argue that the skit, like Ellen Goodman’s writing on the Straw Feminist, is intentionally satyrical. After watching the skit a few times, I think I understand the statement McKinnon and Silverman are trying to make. Rather than mocking actual Feminists, the comics seem to be poking fun at what we expect feminists to be like. Their dress, statements, and attitudes are absurd, but this might all be intentional. At the beginning of the skit, the two musicians are asked about their views on Marvel’s recent announcement of a new Female Thor character. On the same day this skit aired, people in the real world reacted with hostility to the announcement. Twitter exploded with hateful tweets from people who couldn’t stand the concept. Like this skit, the backlash from Marvel fans at the announcement of a female Thor was outlandish, so Silverman and McKinnon may be aiming to satirize the image of “Feminism” held by the critics of Marvel’s new character. Still, I can’t help but wonder whether the dialogue in this sketch just reinforces popular beliefs about Feminism; that it’s is a radical and unrealistic philosophy, and that it’s promoters are self-important oddballs. I wouldn’t be surprised if McKinnon and Silverman had witty good intentions, but I can’t imagine a situation where commentary this complex could be conveyed successfully in a short comedic sketch.

Analyzing these artifacts over the last few weeks has led me to consider white Feminist women’s appearance in pop culture media as a sort of double-edged sword. In a sense, I think it’s admirable that Feminism is receiving more coverage and representation in mainstream media at all. Even though the white Feminist identity tends to be portrayed with accompanying negative connotations (whether intentional or satirical), it’s encouraging to see Feminist characters making up more of the population in movies and television. By stepping back and considering my own social privileged, I’ve also come to understand why some people might feel resentful towards the emergence of more white Feminist women and characters in pop culture media. Middle-class white women like myself belong to our country’s majority demographic, so our voices are heard and represented more often than any other group of women’s. Because mainstream television and movies are skewed to reflect the perspective of majority viewers, male characters are more common than female ones, and non-white female characters are rarer yet (Glascock, 2001). Upper and middle-class white women are also statistically more likely to achieve financial success and independence, which dovetails their opportunity to broadcast personal opinions in meaningful ways. (Think current Feminist icons: Emma Watson, Lena Dunham, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and so on.) Perhaps unsurprisingly, these privileges make up the basis for many of the negative stereotypes about white women in the Feminist movement. While I wouldn’t necessarily condone stereotypes in any case, I understand that many women face bigger obstacles and harsher discrimination than I ever will. If I were one of these women, I too might be irritated seeing a successful white women talking about oppression.Upper and middle-class white women are also statistically more likely to achieve financial success and independence, which dovetails their opportunity to broadcast personal opinions in meaningful ways. (Think current Feminist icons: Emma Watson, Lena Dunham, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and so on.) Perhaps unsurprisingly, these privileges make up the basis for many of the negative stereotypes about white women in the Feminist movement. While I wouldn’t necessarily condone stereotypes in any case, I understand that many women face bigger obstacles and harsher discrimination than I ever will. If I were one of these women, I too might be irritated seeing a successful white women talking about oppression.

I think comedy has the potential to get people thinking critically, and it’s really impressive to me when actors and artists make statements by utilizing tropes like the Straw Feminist in intentionally satirical ways. For people already familiar with Feminism, Futurama’s Feministas and Portlandia’s Bookstore Owners might just seem like the light-hearted sketches they are. But it’s important to keep in mind that pop culture media is the first place many people are exposed to certain ideas and communities. Funny as these artifacts might be on the surface, I think it’s vitally important that producers of media and pop culture content consider the impact of their work when they joke about oppressed demographics and controversial movements. In order to avoid perpetuating negative images of women and Feminists, content producers and viewers alike could benefit from familiarizing themselves with common tropes. Speaking from personal experience, it’s much easier to determine whether characters are satirical or simply inaccurate when you’re aware of stereotypes in the first place.


Sources:

“Feminist Bookstore” scenes, Portlandia Season 1.Writ. Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein. Dir. Jonathan Krisel. IFC, 2011. link

Futurama, “Into the Wild Green Yonder.” Dir. Peter Avanzino. Fox studios, 2009.

Glascock, Jack. Gender Roles on Prime-Time Network Television: Demographics and Behaviors. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media. Vol. 45, Iss. 4, 2001

Goodman, Ellen. “The Straw Feminist.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Vol 67, Ver 179. Jan 26, 1994. link

Saturday Night Live’s “Garage and Her on the Female Thor” skit from Weekend Update segment with Michael Che. S40 E2, “Sarah Silverman with Maroon 5.” Oct. 04, 2014. link

Wallace, Kelsey. “Pomp and Quirkumstance.” Bitch Magazine 6 Jan. 2012: Web. 10 May 2015. link 

Census Statistics on Race and Gender

Straw Feminist” Definition by TV trope

A Look at Advertising’s Backlash Against Feminism

It seems impossible to see myself in the media.  As a woman, my identities as portrayed in the media twist around and contradict one another.  If I believe what many advertisements say, I cannot be sexy and be a good mother, nor can I be a feminist and a good wife.  But I am- I am all of those things and more.  A whole person; unique, complex, and not flat.  The same is true of my mother, my daughters, and every woman who ever lived.  However, my own reflection as portrayed by many advertisers does not portray my strong, feminist self.  Often, what I see in the advertiser’s mirror is a forcing me to believe that I am not capable of true equality.  In fact, advertisers have been telling women for years that they don’t really want equality.  As a woman, I should be happy to be at home, taking care of matters there.

You see, often women’s portrayal in media has been limited to strict boundaries, boundaries set in response to surges in feminism and interest in women’s rights, I believe.  Looking through advertisements for various products and services spanning more than 100 years, there was a theme that persisted: women belong at home.  This is a discouraging and dangerous message.  We are all susceptible to subtle messages and whether we know it or not, these messages help shape our lives.  Do we really want our young women to feel that they should not have dreams outside of domestic life?  Being more mindful of the persistence of this message, we can try to eliminate it from the media through replacing it with more positive, encouraging messages for all young people.

Feminism has been an idea that has intimidated many since its birth.  But Feminism is not scary or exclusive; Feminism can be simply defined as the belief that men and women should have equal opportunities.  Though this sounds like a fair and harmless assumption, feminism has shaken some traditionally held beliefs about gender roles in American society.  The birth of the Women’s Rights Movement and Women’s Suffrage Movement made waves in society and those waves rippled into advertising.  Advertising’s response to the Women’s Rights Movement and feminism has varied by company and time period, but from the beginning there have been advertisements that have broadcasted a backlash against feminism.  Looking at ads from the early 20th century through the present, we see increasingly hysterical message from some advertisements that women belong at home, subservient to men.

Political Cartoon - 1st wave

I’d like to take you on a tour of such magazine advertisements.  Let’s start at the beginning of the 20th century.  This illustrated print was published in 1908 during the women’s suffrage movement.  The illustration originally appeared in Puck, an early American magazine (http://shop.theappendix.net/products/poster-of-1908-anti-suffrage-cartoon-why-not-go-the-limit). The audience was meant to let the hysterical prediction make them vote no for women’s suffrage.

This illustration shows a bar full of women, but void of men.  The “Gentlemen’s Club” sign tells that the women have taken over the bar and forced out the men.  At the time, men and women did not interact in society like today.  Men and women were kept separate much of the time, and it was difficult for many people to imagine what life would be like once women were politically equal to men.  It was difficult for them to imagine sharing public space, so many worried that men would be forced to stay home and take on the traditional roles being left behind by feminists.  In addition, the scene in which the mother scowls at the children plays on fear that women will not be interested in their children once they are given political rights.  The ad seems to ask how women could possibly care for their children if they are busy politicking, drinking, and smoking in public.  The ad predicts that when women are free to leave their homes, the normal structure of society is destroyed; men will ejected from their place in traditional society and women will lose their tenderness and nurture instinct.

The assumption of the illustration is that once women have rights equal to men society will be turned upside down; women won’t love their families and children and women will take over the public sphere, leaving men responsible for all of the domestic responsibilities. This assumption is what inspires fear of feminism.  Because this was a centerfold illustration on Puck magazine, the purpose seems to have been to sell more magazines.  This resistance against feminism must have been a popular stance for the readers of the magazine at that time (1908).

So what about other ads that show women outside of the home?  Well, looking at the early 20th century, we can focus on The Ladies Home Journal, because it had in incredible influence in the United States.  It was the “first women’s periodical to reach and exceed one million readers and by 1918, 43 percent of all dollars spent on national advertising in the United States went to Curtis Publishing, the publisher of the Ladies’ Home Journal (Ramsey, 95).”

The magazine has been studied by academics and consistently the magazine is described as defining women as “naturally interested in the home and housekeeping.”  This is true even when the ads depict women in public areas (Ramsey, 96-97).  The fact that the advertisements made up a huge portion of the media consumed by women and girls in the early part of the century, we can have no doubt that it affected their beliefs about their own abilities.  For seeing few depictions of women engaged in non-domestic activities tells one that women belong at home, taking care of domestic duties.

Ad - Necktie (1951)

The image above is an ad for Van Heusen ties from 1951.  The ad boldly suggested a woman’s place was in the home and that the masculine design of their ties would make women want to stay home.

The belief projected by the ad is that men are dominant to women, and that women do not belong in the “man’s world,” otherwise known as the public sphere.  I think the contrast in the attire of the two subjects projects the anti-feminist message.  The ad says men don’t want women in their “man’s world” and that the purpose of a woman should be to happily serve her man.  Part of the longer text at the bottom of the ad indicates that a woman should be happy it’s a man’s world.  The ad expects women to be beautiful, happy, submissive, and to serve her man.

In the ad the woman is serving and completely focusing on the man in a submissive manner and the man does not acknowledge her, but looks above her with a satisfied expression.  Both the man and the woman are smiling.  They both appear to be happy in their traditional roles.  The bold text at the top of the ad reads, “Show her it’s a man’s world…”  The advertiser wants the audience to believe that buying their masculine ties will ensure their wives will suddenly be happy to be submissive housewives, showing devotion to their husbands.  The ad tries to claim that the “man-talking” ties will squash any feminist ideas.

This ad, like the others, seems to be playing off a fear of feminism.  It claims that it’s necessary to demonstrate that “it’s a man’s world.”  The ad suggests that a man has to dominate a woman and keep her from feminist ideas.   The text subtly says that women might be unhappy in this role of submissive housewife, but promises that their manly ties will change that.  It definitely seems to be a response to more women stepping out of that role, and becoming more independent.

Ad - Shoe (1972)

This shoe ad was created by Weyenberg Massagic Footwear in 1972 and was published in the December issue of Playboy magazine in 1974 (Twenten).  Its purpose was to sell their product, using an anti-feminist message that would appeal to men who liked submissive women.

The statement at the top of the ad tells indicates a struggle to keep women “in their place.”  There is a fear women are escaping their traditional roles and so a man must work to “keep her where she belongs.”  In addition, the woman in the ad is physically beautiful and happily submissive.  Content to lie on the floor admiring a shoe, she has no desire to travel into the man’s domain (the public sphere).  Because this ad is out of context and without a brand, I had to research who made the ad.  This is an interesting choice to leave out the brand, and I am curious about why that was done.

This shoe ad uses the resistance against the popular Women’s Rights Movement to sell the product.  The phrase “Keep her where she belongs” suggests a struggle to pull women back from feminism and to keep them at home.  It’s bold white against a monochrome contrasting background.  Seeing how it’s not possible to buy a certain shoe to keep a woman “where she belongs” it’s apparent that the company wanted to capitalize on the backlash against feminism in the early 1970’s.

The woman portrays the ideal woman of the message; she’s vulnerable, nude, beautiful, and happily submissive.  She’s content simply lying on the floor gazing upon a shoe.  This is not a woman who is involved in politics or women’s rights.

Maybe the most interesting aspect of the ad is the lack of branding.  The message is not veiled at all and confidently shows its stance on feminism.  However, the ad lacks a brand name which seems to be less than courageous.  Why leave off identifying information?  To create stir and interest in product?  There was some protest against the ad when it was released in 1972 (http://guerillawomentn.blogspot.com/2011/04/bad-old-days-of-womens-liberation.html). Sometimes companies use controversy to bring attention to a product.  Feminism was a hot topic at that time and Weyensen Massagic Footwear capitalized on the backlash against the movement.

In the 1970’s two social scientists conducted one of the first major studies on “women in magazine advertising.” What they found is no surprise.  “The perspective presented in the ads were that (a) a woman’s place was in the home, (b) women did not make important decisions or do important things, (c) women were dependent upon men and needed men’s protection, and (d) men regarded women primarily as sexual objects and were not interested in women as people (Mager, 239).”  Though we’ve talked about ads for a variety of products spanning almost a century, the message has been the same- some people in society were fearful about women having more autonomy outside of the home.  The traditional societal roles were shifting and so there was resistance to keep things as they were.  The fear was that women would abandon their roles entirely and that society would be turned upside down.  What would happen to man’s role in society?  And as women’s role in American society has changed over the last century, the fear about this change has remained.  Fear of change has led to this backlash against feminism in advertising.  Advertisements that show women in only one role- the submissive housewife- shape how girls and young women see their own futures.  These limiting images have real impact and let girls have limited ideas about their capabilities and worth.  As a feminist, I wish to see more diverse and rich portrayals of women in advertising.

Luckily, there is a recent trend in advertising that shows strong, independent girls and women and try to connect their products with an empowering message for young women and girls.  The pro-feminist messages of advertisements are addressing misguided ways of thinking about girls’ abilities and they are doing it in a big, loud way.  This year, during the most expensive advertising time slot on television, the Super Bowl, a company ran a three minute ad that tore apart the phrase “like a girl.”  This ad and others like it are replacing the ads that tell women they are not equal to men.

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

The advertisements demonstrating that a woman’s place is in the home have been geared toward a male audience, but have also sent harmful messages to girls and women.  This message has told them that they are only good enough to live their lives in a happy servant’s role… that their uniqueness, minds, and personalities are flaws.  It’s disturbing to consider the impact that such messages have had in our society.  The recent trend that promotes a more feminist ideology gives me hope that my daughters won’t have to fight off the limiting messages I have received from the media.  I don’t want them to think the best they can accomplish in life is to please a man.  Let’s wipe away these harmful messages and encourage everyone to follow their dreams and desires without pressure to fit any rigid gender role expectations.

 

 

 

 

 

WORKS CITED

Clark, Rosemary. #NotBuyingIt: Hashtag Feminists Expand the CommercialMedia Conversation, Feminist Media Studies, 14:6, 1108-1110.

Mager, John and James Helgeson J. Fifty Years of Advertising Images: Some Changing Perspectives on Role Portrayals: Academic Search Premier, Ipswich, MA. Accessed May 12, 2015.

Ramsey, Michelle E. Driven from the Public Sphere: The Conflation of Women’s Liberation and Driving in Advertising from 1910 to 1920. Women’s Studies In Communication [serial online]. Spring 2006;29(1):88-112. Available from: Academic Search Premier, Ipswich, MA. Accessed May 12, 2015.

Tweten, Alexandra.  From the Stacks: Keep Her Where She Belongs.  Ms. Magazine Blog. April 14, 2010. http://msmagazine.com/blog/2010/04/14/from-the-stacks-keep-her-where-she-belongs/.

http://guerillawomentn.blogspot.com/2011/04/bad-old-days-of-womens-liberation.html

http://shop.theappendix.net/products/poster-of-1908-anti-suffrage-cartoon-why-not-go-the-limit

 

Villainous Russians

Svyatoslav Zhuchenya

Popular Culture

Sophomore Inquiry

May 15, 2015

Looking in the Mirror Blog Post

Used for entertainment, expression, communication and many other purposes; popular culture artifacts are all around and in many different forms. Although something that has the simple purpose of entertaining someone might seem insignificant and harmless, pop culture artifacts such as movies and TV shows have a great power in influencing the way society thinks about and sees certain identities and groups of people. Often in pop culture, an identity can be misrepresented and incorrectly portrayed. This can be offensive to some and may even have negative impacts on people that associate with that group. An example of such a case is the portrayal of Russians and Slavic people in general, in movies and TV shows. More often than not, Russians in movies take on the role of a hardcore villain, corrupt politician or just a frightening expressionless individual. These portrayals are often inaccurate and pertain to if any at all, a small amount of Slavic people.

In January of 2013, comedian Dan Soder did a stand-up comedy skit on the Conan O’Brien show. Towards the end of the skit, Soder describes to the audience that he is from New York City and he often fears being mugged at night. As part of the skit he states that he has found a solution on how to overcome his fear; he imitates a Russian accent. He underlines that this method works because “…Russians are the scariest White people, they’ve earned it…” (Soder). The comedian goes on to describe that faking the accent brings the enemy fear and he then is protected. After his statement, Soder then proceeds to take character of a Russian person encountering two dangerous individuals in the street. During his role-play, he deepens his voice, obtains an expressionless look and gives his character a thick Russian accent. In this skit, Russians are portrayed as frightening and hardcore, this seems to be a trend in many other forms of entertainment.

A Good Day to Die Hard

A Good Day to Die Hard (Russian villain)

Another popular culture artifact, in which Russians are portrayed in, is the latest film in the “Die Hard” franchise, “A Good Day to Die Hard”. In the film, the main character, John Mcclane travels to Russia to help out his son who happens to get into some trouble. There the main character encounters many different Russian people, from a simple taxi driver to hardcore criminals to corrupt politicians. Early in the movie there is a traffic scene, the drivers in what was portrayed to be Russia, are seen as being very aggressive and violent drivers. There are multiple car collisions as well as drivers yelling at one another. The majority of the Russians he later encounters are either hardcore and violent criminals or corrupt politicians that are somehow tied to the criminals for political gain. Towards the end of the movie, it turns out that the Russian villains are attached to dealing weapons grade uranium and the dealing is directly tied to the Soviet Union and the Cold War. In fact, Russians and nuclear weapons seems to be a major tread in modern movies as well.

Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol

Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol (Russian villain with nuclear launch suitcase)

A film example in which Russians are portrayed as being associated or having ties to nuclear weapons is “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol”. In this movie, the main character is a secret agent is trying to stop corrupt Russian politicians for obtaining nuclear launches codes and bombing the United States. As with the “Die Hard” film, there are very similar portrayals of Russians in this film that follow the treads that were mentioned earlier. The Russians have mean expressionless looks on their faces; they all seem very violent and corrupt and tend to take on villainous roles in the films.

During the research of the pop culture artifacts, it is evident that there are certain patterns that are present. The first one is the fact that many of the Russian roles that are in the movies or TV shows are played by non-Slavic actors. This is evident through the extreme accents that the actors have when attempting to act out the character speaking Russian. Even when the actors are speaking English and are simulating a Russian accent, it is still evident that the accents are not authentic. The actors may be very good at faking an accent and it might make for a great movie character or a funny skit, but the accents do not sound like what real Russian accents are like. This fact might be one of the sources for the incorrect portrayal of the Slavic people. As a result of actors having very little experience with Russian culture, one could assume that their inspiration for their roles comes form other popular culture artifacts that too are prone to inaccurate depictions.

Due to the fact that I myself am a Slavic person, originally from Ukraine. I have many interactions with Russians and other Slavic people on a day-to-day basis. I have experience in knowing many Slavic people from many different ages and groups. The way Russians are portrayed in films is simply incorrect for the majority of the Slavic community. Most likely there are still corrupt politicians and criminals in Russia as in many countries around the world, and it is evident that there certainly were in the Soviet Union. However, to generalize Russians and other Slavic people as “scary” expressionless, hardcore individuals is simply inaccurate. These portrayals of Slavic people seem to be a trend or a pattern in many pop culture artifacts; this indicates that there is most likely a source for these misconceptions.

A BBC article, titled “Hollywood Stereotypes: Why are Russians the Bad Guys?” discusses the outstanding trend of Russians being the villains in many of the modern movies. The article underlines some possibilities of why this is happening and what the sources of it might be. It is motioned that one possible reason for the portrayals of Russians in this light is the former and ongoing tensions between Russia or the former Soviet Union and Western countries such as the United States. The article makes the interesting point that it has not always been Russians that are in the spotlight for villain roles but other races and nationalities as well. During World War II there was a trend in movie villains being German due to the obvious tensions between Germany and the allied forces.

Although, the portrayals of Russians and Slavic people is inaccurate from the point of view of what I have experienced living immersed in the Slavic community, it does not make me somehow upset. I do see the potential of these trends harming the image of the Slavic community or perhaps making someone upset but it has not really been one of my concerns. However, one thing that I do not understand is why it is okay to make fun of or vilify Russians or any other nationality for that matter but it is not okay to do so to other groups such as African Americans, women or some religious groups. If it is not okay to misrepresent one group of people, then what makes it okay to do so to another? The question that should be asked is not whom we can use for entertainment and whom we can’t, but should we use inaccurate representations or stereotypes of identities at all, in pop culture?

Works Cited

A Good Day to Die Hard. Dir. John Moore. Perf. Bruce Willis and Jai Courtney. 20th          Century Fox, 2013. DVD.

Brook, Tom. “Hollywood Stereotypes: Why Are Russians the Bad Guys?” BBC. N.p., 5 Nov. 2014. Web. 20 May 2015.

“Dan Soder Stand-Up 04/15/14.” YouTube. Team Coco, 16 Apr. 2014. Web. 01 June 2015.

Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol. Dir. Brad Bird. Perf. Tom Cruise, J. J. Abrams, Bryan Burk. Paramount Pictures, 2011. DVD.

The Portrayal of Asian-Americans in Popular Culture

The Portrayal of Asian-Americans in Popular Culture

My father is from Seoul, Korea and my mother grew up in the United States. I, too, was born and raised in the United States. I originally am from eastern Washington, and moved my freshman year in high school to Portland, Oregon. Both my sister and brother are adopted from Seoul, Korea as well. Being half Korean, I have always grown up with the common stereotypes that come along with being Asian. Not only from my peers at school, but I have always seen it portrayed through different types of media. Popular culture portrays Asian-Americans as being very “foreign”. By this I mean that they are usually shown with a very thick Asian accent, they may be dressed in their very traditional clothing, etc. Asian-Americans parents are often portrayed as being very strict and the children are typically shown as smart and “over-achievers”. Looking more specifically at Asian-American women, they are more than often portrayed as submissive and shy or as some sort of sex object. I’ve looked at multiple different types of popular culture artifacts that help support my claim that popular culture is further supporting these common stereotypes of Asian-Americans.

Fresh Off the Boat is a TV series that is based off of Eddie Huang’s book Fresh Off the Boat: A Memoir. This is a comedy TV series that focuses on an Asian-American family who has moved from Washington, D.C. to Orlando, Florida. The parents in the TV show have very thick Asian accents. Listening to these accents, they almost sound fake and not so authentic. In just the trailer for Fresh Off the Boat the viewers can see a few different stereotypes portrayed. Thirty seconds into the trailer the viewer finds out that the reason for the move is due to the father wanting to own a restaurant. Another stereotype that I see a lot less in media, but is still there, is the fact that Asian-Americans are known for owning either a restaurant, a dry cleaning place, or for women, a nail salon. While I don’t take this to be one of the more common stereotypes, it is still portraying Asian-Americans in a stereotypical way. Throughout the rest of the trailer, there are comments made that further these stereotypical portrayals of Asian-Americans. In the TV series one child is very intelligent and is known to be mature for his age while the other brother is characterized as being an “over-achiever” and never doing anything wrong. This brother excels tremendously in school. This characterization helps to support this idea that all Asian-American students are very smart and very good when it comes to school. Watching these stereotypes be portrayed in media can be really frustrating. I understand this TV series is for a comedic purpose, and in my opinion it serves that purpose, but there are plenty of other media sources that have these exact stereotypes. Almost none of these even apply to me, an Asian-American, and my family. No one in my family has a thick accent. And, in no way do I not struggle in school. I have struggle just as much as the next student, and I am not just naturally intelligent because I am Asian-American.

A character in the TV series Gilmore Girls is a perfect example of the stereotypical relationship of an Asian-American parent and her child. Mrs. Kim is the mother of Lane Kim. Mrs. Kim is very strict with her daughter academically, religiously, and socially. She forces her daughter Lane to work in her antique shop, she is very strict with her religion of being a Seventh Day Adventist, and because of this, Mrs. Kim is very hesitant to any American culture. Mrs. Kim’s attitude is very plain and she lacks personality. When it comes to Lane, Mrs. Kim is always seen extremely stern with her which forces Lane into living a double life. This idea that Asian-American relationships between children and their parents are always very strict, simple, and lack any personality are really frustrating to me. While in my case, my father is Asian, and in my example it is the mother, I think it still relates. In no way is my father so strict and hard on me that I am forced to live a double life. I will agree that in some ways, Asian parents may hold a little higher expectations of their children due to cultural differences, especially when it comes to excelling in education. This could also be where the stereotype of Asian-Americans always being smart stems from. But, I don’t think it is as extreme as media portrays it and I don’t think it applies to every Asian-American family, such as mine. I believe there is a real problem with popular culture making viewers believe that in the Asian-American culture, the relationship between parents and children are often based off of these outrageous expectations.

Asian-American women are more often than not portrayed in popular culture as either being very submissive and shy or as some sort of sex object. In the movie Pitch Perfect there is a character that fulfills this stereotype of Asian-American women being submissive. Lily Onakuramara is an Asian girl a part of the a cappella group. Her character is extremely shy. She doesn’t talk at all, and when she does, no one can hear her. Most of her friends, the rest of the group, don’t pay attention to her and she often gets pushed into the back. Not only this, but the look on her face throughout the movie is as if she is scared. Lily constantly looks shy, embarrassed, or scared of something. To contrast this, the character Ling Woo in the TV series Ally McBeal, is known for her sexuality. In the series Ling Woo’s character has some sort of sexual encounter with multiple people in her work field. She does these favors with ease as if it’s a part of her job. These encounters are portrayed as if they are some sort of fantasy. This portrayal furthers this stereotype of Asian-American women being over sexualized and helps to support this idea that Asian-American women can fulfill these fantasies. The characterization of Lily Onakuramara and Ling Woo are polar opposites and in my opinion, are not accurate to the average Asian-American woman, including me. This idea that our personalities are very submissive and shy comes from our cultural differences. But I don’t think it is fair to use popular culture media to further this stereotype that all Asian-American women are like this. On the other hand, I have no idea why, if we aren’t being shown as someone shy, we are shown as a sex object. Ling Woo’s character makes Asian-American women seem as if we are over sexualizing ourselves and allowing men to use as objects. It helps to support this idea that Asian-American women are some sort of sex toy that are their to help fulfill some fantasy. This too, is not accurate. It’s frustrating to see media support these stereotypes and lead viewers to believe that this is how all Asian-American women are.

While looking through other popular culture artifacts I came across this article written by Hua Wang titled Media stereotypes of Asian-Americans must end. I began reading it and I loved it. She outlines all stereotypes of Asian Americans that are presented in media. She then goes on to explain after every single one of them, why it is false. I love how she also details how this can be damaging to viewers watching these shows/movies etc., and how it can affect those of the Asian-American culture. On example that I love is that in movies, the Asian is either the villain or as the shy, quiet, sidekick. Huang says, “Although these can be termed “positive” stereotypes, the model minority myth pressures Asian-Americans to conform to Hollywood’s false representations,” (Huang). I love this quote because it explains why the portrayal of stereotypes can be damaging to viewers, and those of the race. When everyone around you is expecting you to act and look a certain way based on what they know from popular culture, you may start to feel as if you need to fit these expectations. Another example that goes along with my above example about Asian-American women, is that Asian-American women are shown as “docile and erotic” (Huang). This is exactly the point I was trying to make with Ling Woo’s character. Huang offers the idea that due to this portrayal media is “undermining Asian females’ dignity and self-respect” (Huang). I could not agree more with this, as it goes along with my statement earlier that these characters make it seem as if all of us are the same. It reflects badly on all Asian-American women. Concluding her article she basically sums up how it is not fair that Asian-Americans have to feel like they need to conform to Hollywood representations in order to be accepted. I agree completely with her findings, especially how she states “don’t mistake me for what you see on TV”. This is my whole argument. Viewers cannot be basing their whole perspective of the average Asian-American person on what popular culture shows them.

 

Veterans in Today’s Popular Culture

There is a certain type of person that is drawn to military service.  Whether it be for the adventure, the challenge, or the sense of duty; military service members ultimately choose to risk their lives for others.  Not all service members see action, but it would seem that almost every generation has its share.  When a person in exposed to the violence of war, it can change them in a negative way.  Our service men and women who have fought in the recent Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts have been exposed to some of the worst violence the world has seen since Vietnam.  Roughly 2.5 million servicemen and women have deployed to either conflict since 2001.  With today’s social media, the struggles we face upon returning have become more and more public.  As time goes on we begin to see more and more portrayals of veterans in popular culture.  Whether it be in movies, Television, or music; the message we most often see is portraying veterans, is a negative one.

I am a Veteran.  I served as an Infantryman in the United States Marine Corps from 2002-2006, deploying twice to Iraq.  I have been diagnosed with PTSD and have definitely had my struggles upon returning to a normal life.  I have found ways to live with my PTSD.  I am almost done with college, am able to keep jobs, and maintain a relationship.  Unfortunately this is not a story we often here in today’s world.  PTSD has a very negative image attached to it due to the few occasions service members were unable to cope with their problems and violence or anger issued.  Unfortunately the bestselling stories are the ones that shock and scare, so the most common image the world sees of a veteran is negative.  I looked at 3 different popular culture artifacts to analyze how veterans are being portrayed.  The first is a music video, the second a television show, and the third, the movie “American Sniper”.

Music can be as influential as television can, reaching the billions of people worldwide.  Finding music that was about veterans was hard to find but through music videos I was able to find some pop culture references of veterans.  The song and music video I found is for a song called “Wrong side of Heaven”, written by Five Finger Death Punch.  Although it can’t be known if the music was specifically written to address veterans and the troubles they face, the video was directed to do so.  Throughout the video you are presented with facts about veterans and the troubles they face.  We are faced with the facts of high rates of veteran homelessness, PTSD, suicide, and relationship stability.  Visually you can see the pain of damaged veterans, and the social distain for the homeless.  But when you listen to the lyrics, there are messages that could easily describe what a veteran may go through.  “Eyes wide open, I stand alone, I’m no hero, and I’m not made of stone…”.  Unlike other wars when many soldiers came home together, todays veterans trickle home at different times, it can feel like they stand alone when they come home.  The next phrase “I’m no hero” is a feeling I can relate to, I did my duty and I survive, other like my friend Jason Dunham, knowingly gave up their lives to protect their brothers.  Men like that are the hero’s, the ones that didn’t make it home.  Finally the last part, “I’m not made of stone”, even though most service members are some of the strongest people on earth, physically and mentally, the violence we are exposed to can take a lasting toll.  With the visual messages and audible ones, an image is being painted that shows veterans struggle even after they leave the battlefield.  I feel that this popular culture artifact left a negative impression of veterans but they don’t always have too.  There are ways to portray veterans and our struggles in a positive light.

Television is one of the largest sources of popular culture the world knows.  With it we can get more detail and views into the media it covers.  I found a TV show called “Dogs of War” which aired on A&E in the winter of 2014.  In this show a Veteran and his wife, Jim and Lindsey Stanek, help veterans battle their PTSD by finding them service dogs.  When a veteran returns to civilian life they can often feel that nobody understands what they went through and feel alone.  With service dogs they regain a brother, someone to watch their 6, someone to live for.  This show did a really good job in showing how veterans feel when they suffer from PTSD.  For many, social life can be hard and being around large groups of people can be stressful, causing anxiety.  While watching the show you can see that these veterans are in pain, often shutting themselves out and withdrawing for social contact.  I was really for people to see this side and see that we are not all violent.  My PTSD affects me in this way.  I do not find amusement in going to bars, attending parties, or being in large crowds.  Through the years I have gotten better at dealing with my PTSD, and like the veterans on this show, animals have helped.  One thing with PTSD though is that it can constantly be retriggered throughout the years.  What matters most is the veterans need help, they need people to be there for them even when we push it away.  As portrayed in the show, companionship, friendship, and love can truly heal.  This show takes great strides to show that veterans are people like everyone else.

My final artifact is one that is the most likely to have reach the largest amount of people.  The movie “American sniper” portrays Chris Kyle, a skilled and dedicated Navy Seal who struggles with the mental trapping of war and life as a civilian.  Throughout the movie we see examples of the struggle Chris Kyle faces when he is at home, raised vigilance, disassociation, and abrasive personality.  How I feel that this movies portrays veterans in a positive way is that they show what we go through.  There is a scene in the movie where Chris struggles with the fact that he might have to shoot a child that had picked up weapon.  He begs to himself for the kid to drop the rifle and cries with relief when he finally does and runs away.  We see how he feels responsible for the protection of others and feel that’s where he is needed the most.  The movie does show that he eventually starts to readjust to a normal civilian life.  We are able to see that veterans can heal from their wounds, mental or physical.  Chris Kyle eventually begins to help fellow veterans deal with their issues.  Unfortunately after we see such a positive portrayal of veterans we are once again exposed to the ugliness of PTSD.  Chris Kyle ends up being murdered by one of the very veterans he was trying to help.  American sniper does a good job of depicting US service members and veterans, giving the public insight into our lives.

After taking a look at multiple example of portrayals of veterans in popular culture, a bleak picture emerges.  We all know that mass media clings to negative news because of its shock appeal.  And when a veteran is involved in negative news, it always has to be pointed out that he is a veteran, and his psyche is dissected.  On the bright side, the struggles that veterans face are being brought to the public’s attention and more research is being devoted to helping them.  I definitely suffer from many of the issues a veteran with PTSD is exposed too.  Unfortunately my story is one that wouldn’t most likely be heard.  I have had my ups and downs, but overall I have made succeeded with my reintegration into a civilian life.  Many parts of who I am were born in war, blood, and sadness, these parts of me will be with me for life.  The key is having support, be it from loved ones, animals, or the general public.  In the end we all need each other.  As the world sees more and more portrayals of veterans the world can begin to understand us more.

Works Sited

American Sniper. Dir. Clint Eastwood. Perf. Bradley Cooper. Warner Bros, 2014. Digital Movie.

“Dogs of War – Episodes, Video & Schedule – A&E.” Aetv. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 May 2015. <http://www.aetv.com/dogs-of-war&gt;.

Punch, Five Finger Death. The Wrong Side of Heaven. Five Finger Death Punch. Prospect Park (Universal), 2013. MP3.

Thomas, Taylor. “Veterans and the Media.” Nationalsecurityzone.org. N.p., n.d. Web. <http:/nationalsecurityzone.org/site>.

Judge Me, Judge Me Not

Judge Me, Judge Me Not

In early 2011, a conflict began in the beautiful historic country of Syria. Earlier that year there were many anti-government protests all across the Middle East and many think that the conflict in Syria is to be blamed on this and is the reaction of all the anti-government protests. The unemployment rate in this country, and Syria’s ruling dictator are all excuses for The United States encouraging wrath. Bashar Al Assad, president of Syria, took power of the country in 1970 and has ruled a lovely and civil country. Bashar Al Assad is a true Arab leader; he brought change to Syria, and transformed the country into a modern state from his father’s ways of ruling. He is well educated and 97% of the population even voted for him. (BIO True Story). So then, why all the sudden attention at the dictatorship in Syria, if it is not influenced by all the uprisings in the rest of the Arab countries, what could have mysteriously happened to spark so much heat? People can be easy be to judge when they are looking in from the outside, but what they fail to see is how the people in the conflict of choice are feeling, is it not those who matter in the end? I continuously feel the heat from outsiders, many even from people in the same region only other countries, and what they inevitably fail to see and care about is that it should be no ones choice but the people whom of which are actually effected that have any say in how their country is run. I feel this judgment in multiple way every day, and this quite sudden wrath and judgment on my country and myself makes me feel like I have failed in some way.

 

Many presidents make a tremendous amount of promises before their reign and at the beginning of it, but the presidents who actually pull through with what they say are the ones who make a difference. As Al Assad said he wanted Syria to become more modernized, his word was achieved by 2001, with “cell phones, satellite television, trendy restaurants and Internet cafes” (BIO True Story), Syria was certainly showing signs of becoming a modern society. A country housing 17 million people needed to bring all of its occupants into the 21st century, and that is exactly what Dr. Bashar Al Assad achieved. I always find a tremendous amount of humor when I see Syria on American news and tv, as it as portrayed as such a third world country. While it may be considered third world, what people fail to see is the life and societal similarities as it holds with such a modern country as America.

It is no coincidence that the rest of the world, specifically the United States and Israel, is more riled up about the dictatorship than Syria itself. This is because Syrian people are not as upset as news anchors in the USA say that they are. In fact, almost 100% of the minority in Syria (Christians and Alawi’s) are supportive of President Al Assad, and most of the majority (Sunni’s) are as well. Now as much as anyone does not want to get politics and religion intertwined with one another, the fact of the matter is that they go hand in hand, so it is both as relevant as it is important. I grew up being a Christian Syrian, as I am a minority in America, I am still considered to be one in my own country. That sounds like a bad thing, and a lot of the time it is, however the main point is that the Syrian president is a part of the minority as well. Who better to run the country than someone who doesn’t only see the majority, but sees as well as understands the majority.

In 2007, Americas US general, as well as supreme allied general of NATO, General Wesley Clark said something that drew up a lot of attention in one of his speeches; “We’re going to take out seven countries in 5 years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran”- these words that he spoke are words that he overheard someone saying in the pentagon. (Chossudovsky) The deterioration of the Middle East has clearly been in the plan book for some time now, regardless of whom the leader is.

With the effort of outside countries as mentioned before, the country is separating. There has become much conflict between each religion and unfortunately that is the exact weakness that Israel desires. They want Syria to fall apart with the accordance of its religious structure. Their goal is to separate Syria into different sections containing Shia and Alawi, multiple Sunni sections as this is the majority, and even Druze, notice that there is no place for Christianity here. This will guarantee “peace” and “security,” however certainly not for Syria, but for Israel. (Colbert Report). In doing this, they get all the religions of Syria, brothers and sisters and neighbors to fight against one another; divide and conquer.

There is a link between Lebanon, Iran and Syria. This link is made up Shia and Shia Alawi’s. Because the president, Bashar Al Assad is of the minority, he makes the ruling leaders majority part of this Shia link. If Israel succeeds in breaking Syria down and getting a Sunni president to reign, not only will it destroy all the minority religions in Syria, but also it will break the strong bridge that these three countries are standing on, which would not only destabilize Syria, but also farther destabilize Iran and even Lebanon. There is a lot of evidence to the uprising being started by people who are not actually Syrian, and there are even more reasons as to why Israel and America would want to do this. If the American government would quit lying and hiding the truth about what is going on, maybe people could actually see the truth or at least be able to make choices of their own instead of being forced into their opinions. Instead of being forced into thinking Syrians, into thinking that I, am a terrible person. The manipulation of the United States and Israel continues to triumph.

A military theorist and former Naval War College consultant Thomas P.M. Barnett proposed a thesis which soon after became the Pentagons new War Map; the thesis states that the primary division in the world today is between two sets of countries that he calls the Core and the Gap. The Core consists of advanced countries that play by the rules and are committed to globalization, which are regions such as Europe, North America, and Japan, plus countries that are committed to getting there: Brazil, Russia, India, China, and some others. The Gap is everyone else: a collection of disconnected, lawless, and dangerous countries such as Colombia, Pakistan, and North Korea, plus most of the Middle East and Africa (Wolfe). The Core is made up of those prosperous sovereign states, which have become integrated into a globalized economy. These countries typically feature a recognized government capable of enforcing the rule of law, which leaves the nations in the Gap to be typically either in a state of anarchy while factions struggle for control or under an oppressive government practicing strict cultural and economic isolationism. It is at the intersection of these two geographical regions where one should expect to see future conflicts (Wolfe). This is, of course, all decided by the United States who just decided it was their choice and call whether or not they approve of the way certain countries are being ran, regardless of how its civilians feels.

In his thesis, Barnett warns that in order for the Core to be safe, the Gap must be eliminated. He states that people who reside in the Core simply cannot live happily enjoying prosperity knowing about the problems going on in the Gap. Now why should this matter if each country and region is minding their business and going about their day-to-day lives? To each his own. Ever since World War II the American military action has confirmed all of this thesis in regards to the Gap; which only means from now and on over the next few decades the United States’ main task will be to shrink the Gap as much as they can and ultimately convert the entire world to the values of the Core.

There is an unspoken notion that America has the power to be correct under any given situation, even when their opinion is unsolicited. America continues to intervene when maybe that energy would be better off aimed towards fixing its own problems. What is it that makes Americas rendering on judgments acceptable? America has its own image for restarting the image of globalization after WWII and aims for “global connectivity” however who is to say that is not their way of convincing American citizens that their way is the right way as they tend to do in all situations.

America lit a spark in Syria and fused it with gasoline. If the Syrian citizens were upset with the way their ruler was ruling they would have spoken up themselves without interference from the USA. The United States claims to care about the well-being and freedom of the Syrians but they would not have intervened had it not benefited them. And they most certainly would not portray us as some uncivilized barbaric Neanderthals if that were so. America has already tried (and for the most part succeeded) to convince its citizens to support their invasions, the next step for them is to persuade the rest of the countries in the Core to take their side and help them in eliminating the Gap. And of course with that goes all the terrible people from the Gap, right?

Americas long-term plan to change the road map of the Middle East is all a part of the Pentagons War Map. They have already started their attempts to take over the Middle East and will be relentless in achieving a world with each and every country honoring the “core values” that the United States kindly pushes towards civilization. Because of this the Syrian uprising is more beneficial to America and is caused and influenced by the likes of the United States. Inevitably it results in people like me, being judged and hated on by people for no reason at all other than being born into the “wrong” family.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Judge Me, Judge Me Not

Judge Me, Judge Me Not

In early 2011, a conflict began in the beautiful historic country of Syria. Earlier that year there were many anti-government protests all across the Middle East and many think that the conflict in Syria is to be blamed on this and is the reaction of all the anti-government protests. The unemployment rate in this country, and Syria’s ruling dictator are all excuses for The United States encouraging wrath. Bashar Al Assad, president of Syria, took power of the country in 1970 and has ruled a lovely and civil country. Bashar Al Assad is a true Arab leader; he brought change to Syria, and transformed the country into a modern state from his father’s ways of ruling. He is well educated and 97% of the population even voted for him. (BIO True Story). So then, why all the sudden attention at the dictatorship in Syria, if it is not influenced by all the uprisings in the rest of the Arab countries, what could have mysteriously happened to spark so much heat? People can be easy be to judge when they are looking in from the outside, but what they fail to see is how the people in the conflict of choice are feeling, is it not those who matter in the end? I continuously feel the heat from outsiders, many even from people in the same region only other countries, and what they inevitably fail to see and care about is that it should be no ones choice but the people whom of which are actually effected that have any say in how their country is run. I feel this judgment in multiple way every day, and this quite sudden wrath and judgment on my country and myself makes me feel like I have failed in some way.

 

Many presidents make a tremendous amount of promises before their reign and at the beginning of it, but the presidents who actually pull through with what they say are the ones who make a difference. As Al Assad said he wanted Syria to become more modernized, his word was achieved by 2001, with “cell phones, satellite television, trendy restaurants and Internet cafes” (BIO True Story), Syria was certainly showing signs of becoming a modern society. A country housing 17 million people needed to bring all of its occupants into the 21st century, and that is exactly what Dr. Bashar Al Assad achieved. I always find a tremendous amount of humor when I see Syria on American news and tv, as it as portrayed as such a third world country. While it may be considered third world, what people fail to see is the life and societal similarities as it holds with such a modern country as America.

It is no coincidence that the rest of the world, specifically the United States and Israel, is more riled up about the dictatorship than Syria itself. This is because Syrian people are not as upset as news anchors in the USA say that they are. In fact, almost 100% of the minority in Syria (Christians and Alawi’s) are supportive of President Al Assad, and most of the majority (Sunni’s) are as well. Now as much as anyone does not want to get politics and religion intertwined with one another, the fact of the matter is that they go hand in hand, so it is both as relevant as it is important. I grew up being a Christian Syrian, as I am a minority in America, I am still considered to be one in my own country. That sounds like a bad thing, and a lot of the time it is, however the main point is that the Syrian president is a part of the minority as well. Who better to run the country than someone who doesn’t only see the majority, but sees as well as understands the majority.

In 2007, Americas US general, as well as supreme allied general of NATO, General Wesley Clark said something that drew up a lot of attention in one of his speeches; “We’re going to take out seven countries in 5 years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran”- these words that he spoke are words that he overheard someone saying in the pentagon. (Chossudovsky) The deterioration of the Middle East has clearly been in the plan book for some time now, regardless of whom the leader is.

With the effort of outside countries as mentioned before, the country is separating. There has become much conflict between each religion and unfortunately that is the exact weakness that Israel desires. They want Syria to fall apart with the accordance of its religious structure. Their goal is to separate Syria into different sections containing Shia and Alawi, multiple Sunni sections as this is the majority, and even Druze, notice that there is no place for Christianity here. This will guarantee “peace” and “security,” however certainly not for Syria, but for Israel. (Colbert Report). In doing this, they get all the religions of Syria, brothers and sisters and neighbors to fight against one another; divide and conquer.

There is a link between Lebanon, Iran and Syria. This link is made up Shia and Shia Alawi’s. Because the president, Bashar Al Assad is of the minority, he makes the ruling leaders majority part of this Shia link. If Israel succeeds in breaking Syria down and getting a Sunni president to reign, not only will it destroy all the minority religions in Syria, but also it will break the strong bridge that these three countries are standing on, which would not only destabilize Syria, but also farther destabilize Iran and even Lebanon. There is a lot of evidence to the uprising being started by people who are not actually Syrian, and there are even more reasons as to why Israel and America would want to do this. If the American government would quit lying and hiding the truth about what is going on, maybe people could actually see the truth or at least be able to make choices of their own instead of being forced into their opinions. Instead of being forced into thinking Syrians, into thinking that I, am a terrible person. The manipulation of the United States and Israel continues to triumph.

A military theorist and former Naval War College consultant Thomas P.M. Barnett proposed a thesis which soon after became the Pentagons new War Map; the thesis states that the primary division in the world today is between two sets of countries that he calls the Core and the Gap. The Core consists of advanced countries that play by the rules and are committed to globalization, which are regions such as Europe, North America, and Japan, plus countries that are committed to getting there: Brazil, Russia, India, China, and some others. The Gap is everyone else: a collection of disconnected, lawless, and dangerous countries such as Colombia, Pakistan, and North Korea, plus most of the Middle East and Africa (Wolfe). The Core is made up of those prosperous sovereign states, which have become integrated into a globalized economy. These countries typically feature a recognized government capable of enforcing the rule of law, which leaves the nations in the Gap to be typically either in a state of anarchy while factions struggle for control or under an oppressive government practicing strict cultural and economic isolationism. It is at the intersection of these two geographical regions where one should expect to see future conflicts (Wolfe). This is, of course, all decided by the United States who just decided it was their choice and call whether or not they approve of the way certain countries are being ran, regardless of how its civilians feels.

In his thesis, Barnett warns that in order for the Core to be safe, the Gap must be eliminated. He states that people who reside in the Core simply cannot live happily enjoying prosperity knowing about the problems going on in the Gap. Now why should this matter if each country and region is minding their business and going about their day-to-day lives? To each his own. Ever since World War II the American military action has confirmed all of this thesis in regards to the Gap; which only means from now and on over the next few decades the United States’ main task will be to shrink the Gap as much as they can and ultimately convert the entire world to the values of the Core.

There is an unspoken notion that America has the power to be correct under any given situation, even when their opinion is unsolicited. America continues to intervene when maybe that energy would be better off aimed towards fixing its own problems. What is it that makes Americas rendering on judgments acceptable? America has its own image for restarting the image of globalization after WWII and aims for “global connectivity” however who is to say that is not their way of convincing American citizens that their way is the right way as they tend to do in all situations.

America lit a spark in Syria and fused it with gasoline. If the Syrian citizens were upset with the way their ruler was ruling they would have spoken up themselves without interference from the USA. The United States claims to care about the well-being and freedom of the Syrians but they would not have intervened had it not benefited them. And they most certainly would not portray us as some uncivilized barbaric Neanderthals if that were so. America has already tried (and for the most part succeeded) to convince its citizens to support their invasions, the next step for them is to persuade the rest of the countries in the Core to take their side and help them in eliminating the Gap. And of course with that goes all the terrible people from the Gap, right?

Americas long-term plan to change the road map of the Middle East is all a part of the Pentagons War Map. They have already started their attempts to take over the Middle East and will be relentless in achieving a world with each and every country honoring the “core values” that the United States kindly pushes towards civilization. Because of this the Syrian uprising is more beneficial to America and is caused and influenced by the likes of the United States. Inevitably it results in people like me, being judged and hated on by people for no reason at all other than being born into the “wrong” family.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Media Portrayals of Engineers

       Media over the past decade has changed drastically not only technologically, but in content as well. Our generation lives in a much more mysterious time than our parents and grandparents. Technology advancements brought our generation comfort and caused us to rely more on what we hear and see rather then what we experience. One of the main aspects of media we experience today is TV ads, movies, and TV shows. Media has taken true identities manipulated them and forced people to reshape their views which affects people’s perception on everyday life. As an engineer I often see how we are portrayed negatively in movies and other forms of media. Despite their intelligence and work, engineers are portrayed as reclusive and isolated causing people to change their perspectives. If we take multiple media sources we can see that they depicted these characteristics about engineers.

Media portrays engineers as socially awkward and reclusive and we see this representation in TV shows such as Prison break. Prison break was created by Paul Scheuring in 2005 and it shows how Michael, the engineer, breaks into prison in order to break out his innocent older brother who was sentenced to death. In the show Michael and his group of inmates experience tragedies and difficult situations as they are constantly on a run. Michael was always the one to get everyone out of trouble and eventually gave his friends freedom. Throughout the show Michael was always the quiet one and often and his friends thought he was crazy because he rarely said anything or had a normal conversation with anyone. To Michael the group’s mentality seemed strange while for the group Michael’s doings were mysterious. In multiple scenes people disagree with what Michaels plan was because it seemed extremely risky, but he was always right and his plans worked. In this show engineers are portrayed socially awkward individuals.

One of the greatest TV shows that has the most practical representations of a reclusive and isolated engineer is Dilbert. Dilbert was created in 1989 by Scott Adams and this show revolves around the engineer Dilbert and his pet dog Dogbert at his work place in Silicon Valley. At his office, Dilbert can never agree with his coworkers. As in Prison Break, everyone in Dilbert’s company seems unable to make smart decisions and to them Dilbert seems crazy because his ideas are not like everyone else’s. The only individual that understands and agrees with Dilbert is his dog. Dilbert is isolated from everyone else and feels that no one understands him and no one wants to be around him because he is seen to be awkward and crazy based on the things he does. In each episode the company faces a problem and when everyone explains their solution Dilbert strictly disagrees and when Dilbert states his solution everyone else disagrees, thinking that his ways are absurd. This shows how engineers are isolated form the rest of the world because no one understands and respects them.

Figure !.

Figure 1.

Another representation this show displays is the way engineers dress. Dilbert in Figure 1 is shown to dress nerdy and sloppy. Dilbert is wearing slacks that are short and his tie seems to be deformed; always pointing upwards. Engineers are shown to not care about their external looks. What we see and hear has a significant effect on the way we see things and the choices we make. An article that studies the portrayals of engineers written by Dr. Zbigniew J. Pasek states that “Portrayal of certain professions in the popular media has a deep and lasting effect not only on general public’s understanding of these professions, but also has an impact on future career choices of adolescents” (2012). Dilbert portrays engineers as awkward individuals and shows that they do not cope with the rest of society because they are different. This affects the younger generation and their career choices hence there is a decline in engineering professions. The article continues by stating that modern societies are experiencing a strange paradox. On one hand, to thrive, they continuously increase their dependence on a wide range of technologies, but on the other hand, the scientific and engineering communities responsible for the invention and development of these technologies are in steady decline (Pasek, 2012). As times become more advance society requires more engineers to constantly improve technology but because of how media represents engineers we see a decline in engineering career paths in younger generations. Media portrays engineers as mysterious individuals thus causing people to change their perspectives and avoid a career in engineering.

Engineers have helped our world advance technologically and make our everyday life easier and more convenient. To become an engineer it takes a lot of mental skill and experience to fully understand the field. Real engineers require problem solving, leadership, prioritizing, team work, and communication skills and to be successful. In the real world engineers may have different personalities but all engineers must be able to communicate with their customers and create their design successfully. From personal experience I can say that it’s quite hard to become a skillful engineer. As hard as it is on its own, media makes engineering seem unworthy and complex. The younger generation is most effected by stereotypes. The different stereotypes change the image of a typical engineer and this causes young adults not to choose their career path related to engineering because media portrays them as isolated individuals. An article on “Engineers in Popular Media” states that stereotypes are the cause for much worry among the engineering community because they are strongly believed to be one of the main reasons for the lack students enrolling in college to obtain an engineering degree(Olin, Fabian, & Olin, 2012). The author continues and explains that the solution to these stereotypes is the sources which are movies and TV shows. Shows and movies must portray engineers how they are in real life from their perspective not from other sources and their views.

Figure 2.

Figure 2.

One of these more recent movies is Iron Man. This film shows a positive portrayal of engineers and I believe will motivate others to choose the engineering path as their career choice. Iron man is based on the Marvel Comic, which was created by Stan Lee, and released in 2008. In the movie the main character, Tony Stark, is an engineer who created the Iron man suit while being held hostage by a terrorist group. After coming home he recreates his suit and improves its abilities. His close friend abused this opportunity and took Tony’s design and created his own suit which he later used to try to kill Tony. Though Tony made a mistake and others used that to their advantage, he fixed his mistake and improved his design again making it better for him and his company. This film also shows Tony as, most would consider, a handsome and well dressed person that.  In figure 2, Tony is wearing a decent suit and is dressed very formal. When younger people see a man in a suit it instantly sparks an interest and makes them someone they look up too. Tony stark is a good example of a motivating modern engineer. In order to force interest into the younger generations engineers should be shown to be well dressed and someone who can always solve a problem.

In conclusion, media create stereotypes that damage the image of an engineer. This leads to negative portrayals of an engineer which causes young generations to change their career decision. Even though engineers have helped us by creating all the advanced technologies, society will still see them as awkward and isolated individuals as seen in the shows Dilbert and Prison Break. In order for this to change movies and TV shows should be represent engineers positively. Tony Stark is a great example of engineers and it will motivate others to see engineers as great and powerful people and hopefully cause others to choose their careers around the engineering filed. This will show the true representation of an engineer which would also help build the future.

 

 

References

Adams, Scott. Dilbert. Digital image. SFGATE. Benny Evangelista, 2013. Web. 2015.

Figure 1. Dilbert. Prod. Scott Adams. Perf. Daniel Stem. Columbia TriStar Television, 1998. TV Show.

Figure 2. Tony Stark. Digital image. Pixshark. N.p., n.d. Web. May 2015. <http://pixshark.com/tony-stark-suit.htm&gt;.

Iron Man Armored Adventures 1. Dir. Jon Favreau. Perf. Robert Downey Jr. Marvel Entertainment, 2008. DVD.

Olin, D., Fabian, A., & Olin, F. W. (2012). Engineers in Popular Media : Hollywood as a Recruiting Tool for Engineering Colleges Engineers in Popular Media

Pasek, Z. J. (2012). Reel engineers: Portrayal of engineers and engineering profession in the feature films. 119th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, June 10, 2012 – June 13, 2012.

Prison Break. Prod. Paul Scheuring. Perf. Dominic Purcell, Wentworth Miller. 20th Television, 2005. DVD.

 

 

Heterosexual Male Feminists

Hello. My name is Andrew and I am a heterosexual male. Although my biological defaults are well-represented throughout all of popular media, I am still faced with a slight dissonance which disconnects me from being able to fully identify with most male figures in music, cinema, and television; I also happen to be a feminist. Being that feminism is the movement to help women to acquire equal ground with systemically privileged male culture, I feel that, in the grand scheme of things, representation of a male feminist isn’t really a priority. However, it would still be nice to see a straight male as a platonic and supportive character to a woman every once in awhile. For this essay, I am going to bring scope to the media’s lack of representation of heterosexual male feminists and reveal just where one were to look to actually find them. But first, let me elaborate a bit on feminism and why it is important to me.

For those of you who are not familiar with feminism, it is a rather complex movement that, for some, takes several full college courses to fully comprehend and explore. As a result of feminism’s complexity, for the sake of keeping things simple, I’ll just break the term down to it’s basic definition; feminism is the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men. For many feminists, one of the steps towards gender equality is challenging and tearing down societally imposed gender norms and gender roles that shepherd people into assimilating a conditioned identity that is ultimately fiat, imaginary, and false as it pertains to the actual capabilities of either gender. For women, gender roles tend to lean towards subservience and submission to their male counterparts whereas men’s gender roles pressure them into positions of power, prowess, and privilege. By tearing down those boundaries and allowing for both genders to roam freely within the emotional, economical, social, and political spectrum without feeling shamed or pressured by the traditional gender binaries, both women and men would have hopefully acquired equality. Having said that, it should go without saying that a woman is not disqualified from being able to call herself a feminist if she presents herself in a way that society has traditionally deemed as “feminine” nor is a male disqualified from being able to call himself a feminist if he presents himself in a way that society has traditionally deemed as “masculine”. Again, the idea is to give both genders the freedom to express themselves without having to worry about what is reserved for women or men. With that established, let us move on to how the media portrays heterosexual male feminists.

In television and cinema the concept of the male feminist isn’t something that has been heavily explored or considered, or when it is, it’s not a full-on representation. If I were made to set a standard for what would pass in terms of representing a heterosexual male feminist in television or cinema, the ideal character would be a heterosexual man who is supportive of a female character on a platonic level. Hell, even if the male character is romantically interested in a female character, I would love to have the male represented as having at least one other platonic female friend. As it is, the opposite is usually the case; in television and cinema, male characters who are supportive of female characters are often either portrayed as gay, a romantic prospector, or a blood-relative.

For an example of the gay male supporter of a female character, the character, Will (Eric McCormack) on the former television series Will and Grace, plays the gay best friend and roommate of the female character, Grace (Debra Messing) (Kohan, Will & Grace). For a more recent reference, the character Titus Andromdon (Tituss Burgess) plays the gay friend and roommate of Kimmy (Ellie Kemper), on the show Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Fey, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt). On both television shows, although the relationships between the the characters in their respective pairings are technically a feminist in nature, it is clear that the feminism is incidental and that the actual intent is geared towards the progression of LGBT equality and representation in television, which is incredibly awesome and important in its own right. However, it’s not quite the representation I’m looking for.

Will and Grace
(Eric McCormack and Debra Messing as Will and Grace)

Kimmy Schmidt
(Tituss Burgees and Elllie Kemper as Titus and Kimmy)

Next, we have the romantic prospector or “sensitive guy” trope found commonly in movies and television. A great example would be Adam Sandler’s 1998 film, The Wedding Singer in which Sandler plays Robbie, a wedding singer dealing with his fiancé, Linda (Angela Featherstone), leaving him at the altar on the day of their wedding. Having befriended a girl named Julia (Drew Barrymore), Robbie helps Julia as she prepares for her marriage to Glenn (Matthew Glave), a rich playboy womanizer. Although Robbie starts off his relationship with Julia as good and supportive friend, Robbie’s feelings for Julia eventually grow, as does Julia’s for Robbie, resulting in the two becoming a couple by the end of the film. Robbie’s character is nice, understanding, sensitive, and often humble, but it’s still a bit of a strike considering that, apart from the female character that he ends up pursuing, the rest of his friends are guys. Not just any guys, but moronic, misogynistic guys whom objectify women. Couple that with the overall negative language and behavior used to belittle transexuals, nerds, heavyset people, or women who happen to have facial hair (a type of discrimination typical in many Adam Sandler movies), and we get a lack of something I can relate to as a viewer (Coraci, The Wedding Singer). However, the cinematic circumstances could be worse; the “sensitive guy” character can sometimes be personified in a degradingly satyrical way as demonstrated in the 2000 film, Bedazzled. Elliot (Brendan Fraser) has a crush on a girl named Allison (Francis O’Conner) and makes a deal with the Devil (Elizabeth Hurley) to get seven wishes in exchange for his soul. With these wishes, Elliot decides to change his personality and status in a way that he thinks will win the affections of Allison. Enter the “sensitive guy” character; at one point in the film, Elliot wishes to be emotionally sensitive in order to understand the needs of women. This results in Elliot being transported to a beach and transformed into an overly-emotional and overbearing, red-headed, acoustic-guitar-playing, sketch artist who weeps every time he looks at the beauty of the sunset (Ramis, Bedazzled). Yikes.

Wedding Singer 2
(Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler as Julia and Robbie)

sensitiveelliott
(Francis O’Conner and Brendan Fraser as Allison and “sensitive guy” Eliott)

Now comes the role of the male family member in support of the female character. Unless a film or television show is creating a story that illustrates an abusive, distant, or oppressive male family member, the idea of a male family member being supportive to a female family member isn’t exactly a rarity. However, for sake of providing an example I’ll use one of my favorite examples of a cool father: the 2010 teen comedy, Easy A. The Film is about a girl named Olive (Emma Stone) who pretends to sleep with her gay friend, Brandon (Dan Byrd), in order to help prevent him from being further bullied at school for being gay. As a result, Olive develops a reputation as the promiscuous girl in her school. Stanley Tucci plays a minor role as Olive’s father, Dill, alongside Patricia Clarkson as Olive’s mother, Rosemary. In scenes where Olive is conversing with her father, Dill is supportive, humorous, and trusts his daughter’s judgement. When Olive seems troubled while at the dinner table, her father asks if she needs to talk about something with them, but when Olive suggests that she is disinclined to do so, he doesn’t press further, respecting his daughter’s boundaries. As a result of his support, respect, and trust, Olive returns that respect (Gluck, Easy A). Although this example may not fit my requirements for my “ideal” of a heterosexual male feminist character, I’ll totally take it; I’ll probably be a father one day, and if I have a daughter, I can only hope that I’ll be as funny and cool as Olive’s dad is. Also, we’re both bald, so that’s a plus.

Easy A
(Stanley Tucci and Emma Stone as Dill and Olive)

After giving examples of close-calls regarding the representation of male feminists in cinema and television, you might be wondering if there are any television shows or films that actually pass my “ideal” male feminist test. Honestly, I didn’t really think there was such a thing until last week when I saw Mad Max: Fury Road. In this fourth installment of the famed Mad Max cult series of films, Max (Tom Hardy) ends up assisting a woman named Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) whom is on a mission to rescue the five wife-slaves from their life of torment at the hands of their warlord husband, Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Whiteley), hoping to get them to a place of refuge. Throughout the partnership between Max and Imperator, Max never tries to take over the operation, never tries to supersede the authority of Imperator, acknowledges Imperator’s skills and strengths, and never one tries to romantically pursue her (Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road). Although action movies aren’t really my thing, and although I’ve never really been a fan of the Mad Max series, I throughly appreciate how this movie was handled. Voila; a film that has passed my hypothetical test.

FURY ROAD
(Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron as Max and Imperator)

With television and cinema elaborated upon regarding the representation of the heterosexual male feminist, we are now going to be looking at how the music industry is fairing on the subject.

One of the problems that the music industry faces is that the market is one of the most oversaturated media outlets in existence. There are literally millions of bands and musicians whom, if they record an average-length album, have at least 12 songs to their name. Although there are many female musicians and female-fronted bands that have earned notoriety in popular culture such as Hole, Ani DiFranco, Bikini Kill, or Björk, one has to look fairly hard in order to find music written by men in support of feminism or feminist themes. However, in order to simplify the search process, one needn’t usually look further than the punk scene; not pop-punk, mind you, but actual street-rooted punk culture. Since the first wave of the punk movement in the late 1970s, the very political musical movement has often preached a message of protest against classism, racism, and sexism. Even now, these themes still run strong.

The first band on the list is called Andrew Jackson Jihad from Phoenix, Arizona. this punk/folk group wrote a song called, American Tune in which the band acknowledges heterosexual, white, male privilege and the implications come as a result thereof. There is a feminist line in the song which goes:

I’m a guy getting paid more than a girl with a degree
And I can walk down the streets after dark, no one wants to rape me
And I can get a girl pregnant and just as easily flee
Just like my straight, white, male dad did to me
(Andrew Jackson Jihad, “American Tune”)

For my next example, we have Fugazi from Washington, D.C., a post-hardcore punk band whom wrote the song Suggestion in which the song is written from a woman’s perspective speaking out against sexism. How’s this for a sample of the lyrics?:

You spent yourself watching me suffer
Suffer your words, suffer your eyes, suffer your hands
Suffer your interpretation of what it is to be a man
(Fugazi, “Suggestion”)

For my last musical example, we have the universally famous Seattle-based band, Nirvana. Although technically not purely punk, their punk roots are what helped the band evolve into the famed grunge genre that completely dominated much of the 1990s. The song in which they convey a feminist message is also considered to be one of their most disturbing; Polly is a song based on the true story of a young girl who was kidnapped by a serial rapist by the name of Gerald Friend and escaped his clutches. The lyrics are written in the perspective of Friend complacently observing the impressiveness of Polly’s success at eluding her confinement:

Polly says her back hurts
And she’s just as bored as me
She caught me off my guard
It amazes me, the will of instinct
(Nirvana, “Polly”)

Although it can be difficult to find male feminists in cinema and television and even harder still to find them within the music industry, the one media outlet where I’ve had little to no trouble finding male feminists, is journalism. Be it in interviews with celebrities during during promo tours for films, or be it in an online magazine, if you look you will find representation.

Last year in an interview conducted with Daniel Radcliffe as promo for his film Horns, he had divulged an experience he had regarding the media seeing him as an unconventional romantic lead. Because the topic had been perpetually broached to him, he eventually asked what  exactly was so unconventional. The answer that was given to him was that it was because of his association of playing Harry Potter, a young child wizard. To this, Daniel replied, “Well, the male population has had no problem sexualizing Emma Watson immediately,” referring to his female costar of the aforementioned Harry Potter films. With Radcliffe speaking out against this double standard regarding the willingness to sexualize one gender over another, Radcliffe is making a feminist statement by criticizing gender norms and expectations (Vagianos, Daniel Radcliffe’s Delightfully Feminist Response To The Label ‘Unconventional Male Lead).

We also are able to find male celebrities coming out of the feminist closet in more than just interviews. In December of 2014, Elle UK, a British fashion magazine, teamed up with with the gender equality lobby group The Fawcett Society, by selling a t-shirt which read, This is what a feminist looks like. To promote the campaign, Elle UK enlisted the help of several celebrities, many of them male, willing to “out” themselves as feminists and model the shirt. Featured models include Tom Hiddleston, Simon Pegg, Richard E. Grant, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Benedict Cumberbatch, and several others. To have that kind of representation from so many well-respected and distinguished male actors fight for gender equality feels nothing short of empowering (Brog, Call Yourself A Feminist?).

Benedict Joseph Tom
( Benedict Cumberbatch, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Tom Hiddleston wearing “the shirt”)

As a final summation, I’d like to start by stating that the main reason why I’d like there to more representations of  heterosexual male feminists in media has nothing to do with my own personal gratification; I have absolutely no problem identifying with virtually any given character, song, or band regardless of the race, gender, orientation or cultural background from which the media outlet constructs their product. The main reason why I feel that male feminists need to be represented better is so that the idea of gender equality can finally become normalized through exposure; when it becomes common to see a man united with a woman for the benefit of the woman, or speaking in support of empowering women to have the same rights and opportunities as men, we can finally move a little closer towards a resonating harmony. The representation is light is some areas, but it’s still there. Hopefully now that I’ve elaborated upon the subject, you, the reader, will be able to look at things from a new perspective and encourage the same change that I hope to see in world.

Works Cited:

Bedazzled. Dir. Harold Ramis. Prod. Trevor Albert and Harold Ramis. By Larry Gelbart. Perf. Brendan Fraser, Elizabeth Hurley, Frances O’Conner. 20th Century Fox, 2000. DVD.

Bonnette, Sean. American Tune. Perf. Ben Gallaty, Deacon Batcheler, and Mark Glick. Andrew Jackson Jihad. Rec. 20 Sept. 2011. Jalipaz Nelson, 2011. CD.

Brog, Annabel. “Call Yourself A Feminist?” This Is What a Feminist Looks like. Elleuk.com, 30 Oct. 2014. Web. 31 May 2015.

Burrows, James, dir. “Will & Grace.” Will & Grace. Prod. David Cohan and Max Mutchnick. NBC. Los Angelas, California, 1998-2006. Television.

Cobain, Kurt. Polly. Perf. Krist Novoselic and Chad Channing. Nirvana. Rec. Apr. 1990. Butch Vig, 1991. Vinyl recording.

Easy A. Dir. Will Gluck. Prod. Zanne Devine and Will Gluck. By Bert V. Royal. Perf. Emma Stone, Penn Badgley, Patricia Clarkson, Lisa Kudrow, Amanda Bynes. Screen Gems, 2010. DVD.

Fey, Tina, and Robert Carlock, prods. “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.” Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Netflix. New York, 2015. Television.

MacKay, Ian, and Guy Picciotto. Suggestion. Perf. Joe Lally and Brendan Canty. Fugazi. Rec. June 1988. Ted Niceley, 1988. Vinyl recording.
Vagianos, Alanna. “Daniel Radcliffe’s Delightfully Feminist Response To The Label ‘Unconventional Male Lead'” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 27 Oct. 2014. Web. 31 May 2015.

The Wedding Singer. Dir. Frank Coraci. Prod. Robert Simonds and Jack Giarraputo. By Jim Herlihy. Perf. Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Angela Featherstone, Matthew Glave. New Line Productions, 1998.

Asian second generation immigrants

When you think about Asian people you might first think about their looks. What do you think an Asian should be look like? black and straight hair, small eyes, skinny body… and what others characteristic they have? most of the time media portray Asian people as intelligent, quiet, not good at speaking English and all knows about Kung Fu. It is a good to know that someone appreciate the Asian culture and see the value in it, but seriously not all the Asian people like this. As an Asian second generation immigrants I always find myself loss of who am I, and what is my self-representation. I don’t usually see the media portray Asian second generation immigrants, but I usually see the media portray in Asian people. Media portrayals might influence other people views and perception of Asian Americans. According to Ponterotto and Pedersen said “The media, in all its forms- print, news, entertainment- has a powerful influence on racial attitude development in the young and the elderly alike. Children, adolescents, and adults’ development perceptions of racial/ ethnic groups consistent with the way members of these groups are portrayed (or not portrayed) in the media.”(p32) There might some images about Asian people that portrayed in media might be is true, but it doesn’t represent as an individual that all the Asian people like that. This can lead to people to have racist and not positive ideas or negative aspects that leads to discrimination. When the media portray Asian characters, it can seriously influence people’s views on Asian people.

Recently, there was a comedy series called Fresh off the Boat by Nahnatchka Khan. This comedy portrayed a Chinese immigration family adjusting American culture and some events and problems about Asian second generation immigrants faced. There were some scenes that I was engaged and it was much related to my experienced in school. When I was watching these scenes, it really liked watching myself through the comedy. For example, there was a scene that during a lunch time an American white boy told an Asian American boy named Eddie to sit with them. After that, he sat and opened his lunch and suddenly everyone at the table stared at him and asked him “what is this?” he answered “Chinese food” during this time everyone faces showed dislike about what he brought, then he had being told “get it out of here.” Finally, Eddie went home and asked his mom “I need white people lunch.” This action represent that an Asian American boy want to be like a American and wish to have the same rights as others and not being differentiated by others native people. In the comedy Eddie who’s American dream is to “fit in” portrayed an image that Asian second generation immigrants wants to be like an American. This reminded me when I was young I brought some Chinese food and everyone showed dislike actions. For me, brought a Chinese food for lunch was very normal because my parents were Chinese and the meal was not preparing by me. Also, I asked the same thing as the scene showed was to ask my mom to prepare some western food. I was engaged about this action and I had the same thought as Eddie that questions about why I was being differentiate by others when I was born at the same country as them. I was trying to change myself to comfort with others because I didn’t want to be alone. I had this kind of experienced many times and it was very unpleasant. When the media portrayed this scene to the audience, American people might get offended because of it portrayed the action of discrimination. On the other hand, it would bring some negative aspects about Asian because the scenes portrayed Asian people assimilating to be an American.

In the American history of Asian Immigrants presented that “White capitalist relied almost exclusive on contractors to provide them with the needed supply of cheap labor.” (Cheng, 1984) “This means that in the past United States was focused on the economy, so they needed more labor especially cheap labor. During this time most of the native people in United States thought that Asian people were taken away their jobs, so it made the relationship between American and Asian people getting worse. Discriminations began in the early days and the media has engaged with it “Throughout three decades prior to the Civil War a barrage of sermons, books, newspaper articles made know to immigrants that their religion, their language, their food and dress, their very existence as willing wage earners were objects of offence and contempt.”(Sexton, 1971) The Asian people image had being set up by the media, so this has influenced people’s views on Asian people from the past until now. Racism and discrimination limited people opportunities on self- improvement and quality of their lives. When Asian second generation immigrants facing racism and discrimination, they would think about what their self-identity are.

Second generation immigrant always face their self-identity and culture. They are not like first generation immigrants who have their own identity; they feel more like a mix between two cultures. I think most of non-white second generation immigrants have being faced some racism and discrimination. I was born in Venezuela but my parents are Chinese when I was young I felt that I never had a home. When I went to China to study they considered me as a foreigner. However, when I was in Venezuela they called me “Chinese” and make jokes on me by calling me “ChingChung” something to do with the sound “ng” I felt really discomfort.

This kind of racism against to Asians can lead to more discrimination. There was a news about San Francisco plane crash: TV station apologizes for broadcasting fake racially offensive pilot names. The report was “Tori Campbell, a presenter on KTVU, a San Francisco Bay Area station, read the fake names on air on Friday. Her report was accompanied with a graphic listing the fake names” she presented the name “They are Captain Sum Ting Wong, Wi Tu Lo, Ho Lee Fuk and Bang Ding Ow.” This was a news program and they portrayed off-color jokes on Asian names and those names were not the real name from the victims.

This was a serious case because this was a news program and not only discriminated other’s culture name but also disrespect others people’s race. What was the purpose of this news? Joking others people culture names? or criticizing others culture and think they are more superior? As a news program they didn’t present the basic concept of a news which is being real and reporting without political bias. It is bad to define someone by his or her looks because it will influence others people views on this group of people. America is a country of immigrants and I believe that many people are facing the same problem like me. There were many groups of people that haven’t been portrayed in the media yet. Through the media we can see a country society and culture and we can make comparison between the past and present. The media maybe will show or portrayed things that some people don’t like but at least they can know about the events so that they can make judgments on that. Racism and discrimination lead to victims become depressed and have psychological and mental problems. The media has the responsibility on portray people’s, so instead of making jokes on others people’s culture and focusing on negatives aspects why not portray some positive or cultural aspects they had.

For example, the comedy Fresh Off the Boat has become very popular because of their funny talks and many diverse events happened in the scene. There was a comedy in 1994 called All American Girl which portrayed Margaret Kim a Korean American student facing culture-clashed with her Korean family. This comedy had being cancelled and it wasn’t very popular in the past. By comparing “All American Girl” comedy, today “Fresh Off the Boat” is more popular and the reason it seems that today people are more accepting diverse culture in media. In the past, not many opportunities were being given to others people culture portray in U.S media and there were serious culture aspects such as racisms and discrimination in the society, so it might be difficult to people to accepting others people culture. Today, we have internet and many others advanced technologies, so people can have more opportunities and choices. As the internet is developing, people are more interested and concerned in others culture. By seeing these differences it is not difficult to make some assumptions about people preference. Khan the creator of Fresh Off The Boat said she sees broadcasters’ appetites for diversity increasing“People from the creative to the studios to the networks have been trying to do something like this for years,” Khan said of the current influx of diverse programming. “Now is the time that it’s all coming together. People are diverse. There are all different kinds of Americans. There are audiences to be serviced that aren’t seeing themselves represented or seeing any part of their experience represented.” Now, people have more choices and they are more accepting others culture. “Commercials like the Cheerios spot that featured a mixed-race family. In turn, the influx in opportunities to reach multicultural audiences on broadcast TV is evolving the way marketers are thinking about messaging to both the general market and multicultural audiences, and broadening the job of multicultural agencies.”(Poggy, 2015) Although, racism and discrimination still continued, at least I can see some changes in the media that people now are more accepting others culture in the media. By showing more positive aspects about others culture it will decrease discrimination on others people’s race. This doesn’t mean that they are going to make negatives image to the native people to get comparison between each other. Is more about showing the both positive side of culture aspects.

I had some similarities experiences about this comedy Fresh Off the Boat and I think after watching this comedy I realized that I am not the only person that face those problems. Some people might not have the same experiences like me, but at least they will have some ideas of what should be look like when a person is getting racism or discrimination or ethics. Some people might get offended because what the media portrayed about American students. On the other hand, this comedy is about immigration family adjusting American culture, it may increase multicultural viewers because the audience might get some connection on their experiences. Through the media people’s connection can get closer, and understand other’s people culture. To make the media better, I think it would be great if they can show more about non-white second generation immigrants’ history or culture in the media by portraying their reality of their lives and showing positive aspects instead of joking others countries culture.

Works Cited

Cheng, Lucie, and Edna Bonacich, eds. Labor immigration under capitalism: Asian workers in the United States before World War II. Univ of California Press, 1984.

Holloway, Daniel. “Broadcasters Diversifying Their Empires.” Broadcasting & Cable 145.3 (2015): 29. Communication & Mass Media Complete. Web. 18 May 2015.

Mok, Teresa A. “Getting the Message: Media Images and Stereotypes and their Effect on Asian Americans.” Cultural diversity and mental health 4.3 (1998): 185-202. ProQuest. Web. 18 May 2015.

Poggi, Jeanine. “In Living Color.” Advertising Age 86.6 (2015): 0022. Communication & Mass Media Complete. Web. 18 May 2015.

Ponterotto, Joseph G., and Paul B. Pedersen. Preventing prejudice: A guide for counselors and educators. Sage Publications, Inc, 1993.

Saxton, Alexander. The indispensable enemy: Labor and the anti-Chinese movement in California. Univ of California Press, 1971.

ABC’s Fresh Off The Boat – Trailer. YouTube, 13 May. 2014. Web.< https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mOutgc-GG6g>

Asiana Sues Over ‘Racist’ Names in TV Report. TV Uses Fake ‘Racist’ Pilots Names. YouTube, 15 July. 2013. Web <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fHD0YWcItow>

Day In The Life Of An Asian/Ethnic Name. YouTube, 5 Nov. 2014. Web  <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IGjgZY4Q5sU>

http://blogs.baruch.cuny.edu//his1005/files/2010/07/ce_witness_2_lg.jpg

Portrayals of Young Females in Media

When you’re watching a movie or TV show that depicts young female students, What types of movies or TV shows is it? Perhaps the comedy genre of television and film comes to mind. How are college students, more specifically female students usually portrayed in these types of films? Do the images of drunk college kids, frat parties, sorority girls jump to mind when asked this question? And are there differences in how male and female are being depicted in these shows and movies? When I was growing up, the images and thoughts that jumped into my mind when college and young adults were mentioned were the thoughts of wild parties and hyper-sexual young women that struggle with eating disorders, hazing in sororities, etc. When I was younger I had come to think of college and young adulthood as a scary time because that’s all that was presented to me through television shows and movies.

The stereotype that I’ve encountered a lot in these movies are that female students are portrayed as dumb girls, dumb blondes, who would much rather focus on their social lives and their looks rather than hit the books. I feel that the portrayals of this stereotype in the media also reflect the pressure that women face in regards to how they should look, think, and act.

A movie that I feel breaks away from the others is Pitch Perfect. The movie is a comedy about Beca, A college freshman and music lover on her first day at her college campus who reluctantly joins an all girl acapella group on campus named the Barden Bellas. The group goes up against their male rivals in a college competition. This movie is also aimed at young adults who are around the high school and college age. Something I noticed that is very interesting to me is when the RA meets Beca and sometime during their conversation, she hands Beca a rape whistle and states “Don’t blow it unless it’s actually happening.” This statement irks me because sexual assault is a very real thing that that young women have to face and happens on almost every college campus, and to tell Beca to not blow the whistle unless she’s actually getting raped sort of dismisses the other types of assault that female students might encounter and also is throwing shade towards women who come out with rape accusations and are under fire as to if their accusations are valid or not.

Another interesting detail I noticed is that all the women in the group are individually different and they all have their own quirks and that they don’t fit into any “mold”. It is refreshing to see after so many movies portray female college students as either dumb, blonde, pretty, or tall and skinny, focusing only on their superficial traits and not their complexities as human beings. In the beginning of the movie, The two original Barden Bella girls try to recruit women who fit their pretty and bikini body ready mold and in the end, they end up with a new group of women that don’t fit into that stereotype at all!

Like I had stated in the previous paragraph, All the women are portrayed as individuals with different interests and personalities. Much different from other movies where we see female college students portrayed as all the same, beautiful and popular, dumb and blonde. It is also nice to see that the movie is not focused on how intelligent these women are, but more focused on their personalities and interests and how different they all are. One example that comes to my mind is that Beca has a love for music and isn’t much of a person who likes to socialize with others while someone like Stacie is portrayed as one of the only women in the group that has a weird sexual quirk about her. In the movie, I think their rival male singing group is seen in sort of a negative light. Although the male singing group is really good at what they do, they are also portrayed as typical frat boys who are rude and even sexist at times. This movie is different from a lot of other college type movies because for one, it is a movie about two college acapella singing groups in a rivalry, and two, doesn’t really focus at all on things like academics and intelligence.

91bAKJ3lMVL._SL1500_  Pitch-Perfect-467

In 2001, The movie Legally Blonde premiered. It is about a young woman by the name of Elle Woods, who after getting dumped by her boyfriend, decides that she is going to attend Harvard Law School in an attempt to win him back. As the movie proceeds, Elle learns her purpose and her intentions for attending law school changes as the movie goes on. At the beginning of the movie, Elle is presented as a pretty superficial blonde sorority girl that has a passion for makeup and fashion. As the movie goes on, we get to see little hints into what Elle is really like when the attention isn’t focused on her appearance. One of the primary motivations for Elle to attend law school was to get her ex boyfriend back but as what we see when the movie progresses is that her goals and motivations change when she discovers what her true passions are. In an interview with Reese Witherspoon for FeatsPress found on Cinema.com, The actress, a blonde herself, states that she actually wanted to do this movie because she wanted to “campaign against a lot of prejudices and stereotypes.”

This movie I feel is all about the binaries and contrasts between Elle and the other characters. For example, in one scene Elle is telling her parents that she wants to go to law school and her father responds with “Law school is for people who are boring, ugly, and serious…You button, are none of those.” My interpretation of this exchange is that a person is either one thing or another, You’re either pretty or you’re ugly, You’re boring or you’re fun, Ugly or dumb. This to me means that in that world of his, he sees Elle as pretty and that to him, it means that she should stay pretty and give up the silly idea of attending law school. It seems to me that this sort of perpetuates the idea that a young woman has to pick one or the other, she can’t be both. Why can’t Elle be pretty AND smart/serious? I feel that this sort of puts her into this box where she can’t and shouldn’t strive to be pretty and smart. Warner, her ex boyfriend does the same. He compares Elle to Marilyn Monroe, almost insinuating that because she’s a blonde, she can’t be as smart and as serious as Jackie Kennedy. Is Marilyn dumb because she didn’t have the same upbringing and educational background as Jackie? I see a lot of things wrong with the set up of the pick one or the other type of choice for young women. I think this forces us into little boxes, hindering outward growth and teaches us that we can’t be complex human beings that are beautiful and serious and a multitude of other things that we want to be. Elle goes against these false choices by attending law school, getting in with a near perfect score. This breaks the stereotype of the dumb blonde and we see Elle grow into a more complex character.

In the same interview, Reese was asked about whether or not she was concerned that the movie had any substance to which she replied “I wanted there to be some kind of positive message for women.” “That you can be the way you are, look the way you want, and still achieve your goals if you work at them.” I completely agree with what Reese had said, too many things out there are putting pressure on young women to look and act a certain way. The media, advertisements being the big one contribute big time to what we all see as the standard of beauty for both men and women. Advertisements are everywhere and when they are being shoved in your face everyday, especially that a lot of young girls grow up thinking that this is the norm, it can be really hard to ignore. I feel like this forces young girls to worry about their appearance and throws them into this vicious ugly cycle of worrying about what others may think of them if they don’t fit into these completely unrealistic standards.

Something interesting thing is that, The movie Legally Blonde sets up the Elle Woods character as someone who is just superficial, a dumb blonde sorority girl that is into fashion and shopping, so people expect her to be all about her social circle and her appearance, so it is very shocking to the people around her when she decides to go to law school. Elle takes her LSATs and scores a 179, The highest score a person can get on the LSATs is I think a 180, which means that her score of 179 puts her at the very top of her class. Most people wouldn’t think that someone like Elle would get into law school with a score of 179. This gives the audience the take away that women can be complex, pretty and smart at the same time!

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When doing research on how women are portrayed in television and film, I came across an article, Miss Representation: Women’s portrayal in Mainstream Media written by Amanda Morris, Assistant News Editor for The Wheaton Record of Wheaton College. The article talks about a documentary that examines how the media contributes to the misrepresentation of women, young and old alike, in our society. The article then goes on to talk about how female students on the Wheaton campus feel a lot of pressure to conform to certain standards of beauty and how they feel that they are often defined based on their appearance. After reading this, I agree that a lot of this happens on college campuses but it also happens almost everywhere else too. I feel that Women feel the need to put up a certain front when around others in places like work or school. We are careful to act or look a certain way so people may take them seriously in whichever environment that we are in. Everywhere we go, I think we all feel the need to check up on how we look, whether it be unconsciously act like looking ourselves over when we’re about to talk out the door or just stand in front of a mirror and critique our every blemish.

The documentary itself Miss Representation was written, directed, and produced by actress Jennifer Siebel Newsom. Miss Representation not only focuses on the way which women are being portrayed in television and film but also how the media is contributing to the underrepresentation of women in positions of power. The documentary features women in leadership positions, like Condoleezza Rice, Margaret Cho, Gloria Steinem, Katie Couric and Geena Davis. It also features interviews with men and women in both education and film, as well as young men and women in high school.

In the film, Actress Jane Fonda States, “The hyper-sexualization that occurs in Hollywood is toxic; there’s no question that it affects all of us, including young girls who are seeking an identity.” What Jane Fonda said is something I completely agree with. The media puts forth this image of what women should look like, what weight they should be at and how they should act. What they put out there for everyone, especially young girls to see is women in things like romantic comedies where the main character is lusting after a guy. Although the main character in these types of films are women, the plot is entirely focused on the male and how to get the male.

Miss_Representation_(2011)

We all have our guilty pleasure shows that we like to watch in our down time, Something like reality TV for example. A guilty pleasure is something you indulge in that you’re all too aware has no redeeming value. I started watching The Bachelor a couple of seasons ago as a seemingly harmless diversion from boring things like homework. However, over time, I realized that by watching shows like The Bachelor made me buy into reality television’s exploitation of women and made me aware that these women are just nothing more than accessories for men. This past season of the show is when I really started to notice something, Why were the self assured, talented and accomplished women eliminated? I also noticed that when women on the show are confident with how they look and how they act, for some reason the other women in the house turn these good qualities into something bad. She’s confident and likes the way she looks? Then she suddenly deemed as cocky and a bitch. It’s really interesting that all these negative things are coming from other women. The Bachelor and other shows like The Bad Girls Club pit women against each other and call it a television show. We never really see television shows with a group of random women supporting each other and are not in competition.

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Because women hating each other and fighting all the time makes for good television right? So it’s no wonder that portrayals of smart, competent, self assured women are nearly non-existent in television and film. I see networks saying all the time that they are just giving the people what they want, but in reality, they are portraying women the way they want.

Why is it that the media imposes certain standards for people to try to fit into, Why does it send the message that young women have to look and act a certain way for people to accept them? Why is embracing individual differences not celebrated instead? In my ideal world, All women should be accepted as who they are and their individual differences are celebrated, that these imposed standards of beauty doesn’t exist and women themselves are the ones who get to decide who they want to be.

Works Cited:

Legally blonde [Motion picture]. (2001). United States.

Pitch perfect [Motion picture]. (2012). United States: Universal Home Entertainment.

Morris, A. (2012, December 7). ‘Miss Representation’: Women’s Portrayal in Mainstream Media.

Miss representation [Motion picture]. (2012). United States.

Fleiss, M. (2002). The Bachelor [Television series]. Los Angeles : ABC Television Studios. 

Murray, J. (2006). The Bad Girls Club [Television series]. Los Angeles : Oxygen Network.

Female Asians in Media

Female Asians in Media

By: Tiffany Nguyen

Everyday I wake up to start off my daily “episode”. The episodes featuring my life, a female Asian American lead living among the many others in the so called Land of Opportunity. Asian Americans come to live here in America to gain those equal opportunities and freedom that most Asian countries lack. When I get to school, I am surrounded by many people ranging from different races. I speak confidently among my closest friends during passing time and I joke around a lot. But when class starts, my body sways naturally to the back of the classroom like a light switch turning off my confidence. And once I hit the soils of my own home, all the confidence and jokes are set aside once again. The sudden light switch flickers my behavior to speak in a higher tone especially around my elders. Without much to say, I become the background character of my own episode. The lack of representation of female Asians in Popular Culture is represented similarly to my life. When female Asians are given the spotlight in the entertainment media, they are typically portrayed as submissive, quiet and “Lotus blossom”, or intelligent, “exotic” like a “Dragon Lady”. Even though you can still be considered Asian despite the images portrayed in the media, the media negatively portrays female Asians which causes a loss of cultural identity and leads to objectification because the term lotus blossom perpetuates the gender stereotype that all Asian women should act submissive and the term Dragon Lady associates Asians to be exotic and wild.

In the movie Pitch Perfect, there is a fiery competition within the college a cappella groups. It focuses primarily on the Barden Bellas that is an all women group. There is the main character, Beca who is rebellious but helps make the Bellas stand out among its competitors with her unique compositions and determination. There is Fat Amy who is eccentric with her bold confidence. Stacie is flirtatious and takes pride in her sexual appeal. Aubrey is the leader of the group who is very stubborn and does not accept change well. Chloe is the kind co-leader of the Barden Bellas who is very confident in her body. Cynthia is the only black member that is a lesbian with a tough attitude. But among the Barden Bellas which consists of a majority of loud, independent and confident white women, there is one Asian member named Lily.

The rest of the members of the Barden Bellas have strong personalities along with a small background story. Lily is simply quiet and blends in as a minor and background character. She has only a few lines and when she does speak out loud the camera would zoom right up to her face. But the words she delivers are barely audible for the audience to understand her. In fact she speaks a total of 5 lines throughout the 112 minute movie. And during the delivery of her 4 lines, she is always raising her hand as if she is asking for permission to speak. Usually in a college setting, it is common for the class to speak their own minds without raising their hands. Especially since the Barden Bellas are a small and intimate group. There was a moment in the movie when Lily speaks out loud before the big competition and the Barden Bellas were completely astonished. In the snippet video below from the original movie Pitch Perfect (2012), Lily has an idea of utilizing Chloe’s new voice. In response, Fat Amy says “Excuse me Bitch, you don’t have to shout” when clearly she was just speaking at an average volume. But Fat Amy says this jokingly to emphasize her bafflement of Lily speaking louder than usual. Even so the group was still able to accept her for who she is.

https://youtu.be/PxJDuwz4h0k

Sawako from Kimi ni Todoke also shares the similar quiet personality as Lily. Kimi ni Todoke is a Japanese graphic novel, manga, that was published in a girl’s manga magazine called Shojo Beat. Sawako is a Japanese high school student that struggles to fit in among her other Japanese classmates. Similar to Lily, they both share the similar appearance of a thin body, long hair and they tend to wear conservative clothing. Despite her classmates being Japanese as well, Sawako is the only female character who has long black hair with China bangs. In the image below, Shiina (2005) draws Sawako expressing most of her dialog through thought bubbles. She is shy and quiet as opposed to her new friends who are expressive and straightforward. Similar to Lily, Sawako’s classmates were baffled when she spoke out her mind in front of everyone. Although she spoke her mind to clear up some misunderstandings, the class still feared her. They compare her to a ghost/spirit because she is pale and with jet black hair. But usually ghosts and spirits are associated with being invisible to the naked eye. The author, Karuho Shiina, portrays Sawako as shy, quiet and feminine because that is how an ideal girl should behave in the Japanese culture. Although not all Japanese girls behave that way. However, Sawako’s and Lily’s feminine behavior is found as ideal traits in Confucianism which is practiced in multiple Asian cultures.

Sawako 1

Many Asian ethnicities, Korean, Vietnamese, Chinese and Japanese follow the Confucian moral codes of women being under the male dominance. According to the four virtues of Confucian morals, a woman is “to be a good housewife, to have a beautiful appearance, to speak well and softly, and to be a good character” (Kibria, 1995, pg. 45). These ideals caused most Asian women to develop submissive, quiet and passive personalities. The term “Lotus Blossom” represents the quiet and obedient traits of Asian women. For instance, when faced among my own elders I act more feminine than usual. Whenever I see my grandma she always corrects me on how I stand and how I sit because my postures are too “boyish”. Also, my uncle would always push my mum to make sure I learn how to cook traditional Vietnamese and Chinese dishes from my grandmother. Everyday I am cleaning the tables, the kitchen and bathrooms because it is in my culture that women are supposed to know how to cook and clean. And when being spoken to by an adult I do not have any say unless given permission to. But when I do speak out my own thoughts, my family members will find that my tone is too aggressive and non feminine. So when I go to school, I tend to blend in the background in fear that I will not be considered an Asian woman if I do not behave feminine.

Both Sawako and Lily blend in within their own stories. The camera rarely focuses on Lily but she can be found in the background or blending among the Barden Bellas. And Sawako’s comparison of being a ghost correlates her to the invisibility of one. The idea of blending in is wrapped around the cultural beliefs of the four virtues from Confucianism. These virtues can also be seen through Lily raising her hand in order to speak, and Sawako’s constant thought bubbles. For both cases, it describes how Asian women are not allowed to speak out of turn. The media’s continuous emphasize on these images becomes an issue especially towards Asian women living in America today. In Johnson and Pike’s (2003) study, they conducted multiple interviews of female Asians to determine how their cultural and gender identities shape how they behave in mainstream environments. One of their interviewers, Min-Jung claims that “they [my peers] feel that Asian girls have to be the shy type who is very passive and sometimes I’m not like that so they think, “Lisa, are you Asian?” (pg. 49). The assumption that all Asian women should be submissive and quiet becomes a set identity labeled on Asian women. These labels ignore the other strong personalities that other Asian women can have. So if an Asian girl is outgoing, she loses that label associated with being Asian and becomes “white washed.” White washed describes having the outgoing and independent traits that most white women tend to have. My best friend feels that she has lost her Asian identity because she is independent, she does not appreciate her culture, and she does not see herself as being submissive.

When viewing the other images of Asian women, they are portrayed as the “Dragon Lady” and “exotic” which are opposite than the term “Lotus Blossom”.  It reveals how sexual and foreign Asian women are seen as. The two terms describe Asian women having a wild side to their contrasting submissive fronts. Melinda May from Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D is the assistant of Coulson. She obeys to Coulson’s command, which promotes white males dominance over Asian women. Her bold and headstrong personality contrasts with Sawako’s and Lily’s quiet and passive behaviors. On Season 2, Episode 4, Melinda is seen wearing a flashy silver dress that clings tightly to her body, emphasizing her sexual appeal. She uses this appeal to lure and distract a man in order for Coulson to take a photo of his eyes for access to a secret door. Despite Melinda having the capabilities of running in heels, she can beat up 10 armed men with just her fists. Due to the series displaying Melinda’s physical abilities, Americans may assume that all female Asians have these skills. The video below is a snippet from the movie Charlie’s Angels (2000), where Alex is seen stepping on Corwin, a white man, in a traditional inspired Chinese dress. Though she is a spy, she is disguised as a massage therapist. A Dragon Lady is portrayed as someone who is independent, untrustworthy and powerful. Both Melinda and Alex are very independent women who have strong personalities.  The emphasis of Dragon Ladies associated with female Asians cause Asian women today to be viewed by others as exotic/sexual when wearing a traditional dress. They may also feel shameful and too scared to face others (Yeh, 2013).

https://youtu.be/SpzLk7x7ml8

Although the images of being a “Lotus Blossom” and “Dragon Lady” may harm the identities of Asian women, some of them may embrace these images or fight to prove them wrong. The term Lotus Blossom may force many Asian women to act feminine in order to meet the set expectations that make them to be “Asian”. But there are some women from Johnson and Pyke’s (2003) study like Ha who claim that by being with her white friends, she can become her true self without having to be expected to act like a girl. Ha personally claims “With Asians, I don’t like it at all because they don’t take me for who I am. They treat me differently just because I’m a girl. And white…I like the way they treat me because it doesn’t matter what you do” (pg. 43). Not every single person expects Asian women to behave submissive and obedient. Therefore they can accept who they are without rejecting their ethnicity or gender roles. Personally, I am more talkative among my friends, I don’t know how to cook properly nor do I completely understand how to speak my native tongue. Yet I still embrace my Asian identity because I appreciate my culture. Even my other Asian friends who uphold the stereotypical images shown in the media, claim that I am more Asian than them. Although the term Dragon Lady associates with the exotic and sexual expectations of Asian women, some may take this positively. Dragon Ladies such as Melinda drive by their own instincts. In the video below from the series S.H.I.E.L.D. (2013), it shows a brief summary of what Melinda is capable of. People like Melinda are independent and many people in the S.H.I.E.L.D. organization highly respect her. It brings to light that women can be at the same level as men. During a mock trial, I spoke out loud and sternly among my fellow white classmates. Although they were shocked that I was not that “quiet” Asian, they grew a sudden respect for me because I was confident in myself and my client.

https://youtu.be/1-b1e4tmpI0

In conclusion, although you can still be considered Asian despite the images portrayed in the media, the negative portrayals of female Asians causes a loss of cultural identity and leads to objectification for two main reasons.  First, the term lotus blossom perpetuates the gender stereotype that all Asian women should act submissive. And the term dragon lady associates Asians to be exotic and wild. Asians came to America to be American. They did not come to be exotic foreigners but to assimilate as one with the nation. It does not take one source of media to identity how an Asian woman should behave. It is the unceasing portrayals that do not change over time that harm Asian women. The same images portrayed of female Asians will be engraved as their true identities. And if they do not display or meet these criteria shown in the media, they are not considered as Asian but “white washed”. White washed implies they have grown to be independent and loud rather than the usual quiet and submissive type. Not acting feminine will be questioned by Asian women’s elders on their authenticity. The gender roles embedded in the ethnicity makes it extremely difficult to be “American” because the cultures are very different. Asians are considered to be exotic and foreign. Despite the efforts to be a part of this society, it leaves many with no choice but to blend in the background without being noticed.

 

 

 

Works Cited

Banks, E., Brooks, P., & Handelman, M. (Producers), & Moore, J. (Director). (2012). Pitch Perfect [Motion Picture]. United States: Gold Circle Films.

Bell, J., Fine, A., Lee, S., Loeb, J., Quesada J., Tancharoen, M., Whedon, J., & Whedon, J. (Writers & Directors). (2013). I will face my enemy [Television series episode]. In Brown, G. A. (Producer), Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Los Angeles, CA: USA: ABS Studios, Marvel Television, Mutant Enemy Productions.

(Ep 17) http://abc.go.com/shows/marvels-agents-of-shield/episode-guide/season-02/17-melinda

Barrymore, D., Goldberg, L. & Juvonen, N. (Producers), & McG. (Director). (2000). Charlie’s Angels [Motion Picture]. United States: Flower Films & Tall Trees.

Johnson, D.L., Pyke, K.D. (2003). Asian American women and racialized femininites: “Doing” gender across cultural worlds. Gender & Society. 17(1), 33-53. DOI:10.1177/0891243202238977

Kibria, N. (1995, March 6). Family tightrope: The changing lives of Vietnamese Americans. NJ: Princeton University Press. https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=RfbXAQAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PP1&dq=Family+Tightrope:+The+Changing+Lives+of+Vietnamese+Americans&ots=64dQqP_AYJ&sig=oMf24nu8OCJs24reNrPvzvX-HEs#v=onepage&q=Family%20Tightrope%3A%20The%20Changing%20Lives%20of%20Vietnamese%20Americans&f=false

Shiina, K. (2005). Kimi ni todoke. Shojo Beat Edition. Japan. http://www.mangachapter.me/2949/kimi-ni-todoke/0.html

Yeh, Y. (2013, February 20). What is Dragon Lady??? [Web log comment]. Retrieved from http://crazycontrollingwomen.blogspot.com/2013/02/what-is-dragon-lady.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

American-born Chinese: The Balance Between American and Chinese

When I was in elementary school, our school had a diverse population of students of different ethnicities. A few years later, I moved to another elementary school that was predominantly white-American students; if I remember correctly, there were only five Asian-American students in my class. At first, I wasn’t worried about it because I thought to myself, making friends shouldn’t be a problem because I’m not limited to having Asian friends. I didn’t notice many changes when I moved schools, but it soon became apparent that I was struggling to fit in. In middle school, I began to realize it was hard to make friends with people based on first impressions and outer appearances, especially on the first day of school. Even though I was born in America, my looks and facial features lean towards being more Chinese than American because of my ethnicity. Between being both Chinese and American, I had once felt lost in figuring out what my identity was: I have adapted to the American culture, but I also have a Chinese background. While popular media portrays American-born Chinese, or ABCs, as people who struggle to associate themselves with either one of the two identities of being American or Chinese, ABCs have the ability to find balance between the two identities and cultures of being both American and Chinese.

In the television show, Fresh Off the Boat, it talks about a Chinese family moving to Orlando, Florida. The main character, Eddie Huang, and his two younger brothers are American-born Chinese. In the beginning, Eddie struggles to fit in with his classmates who are mostly white-skinned American. Eddie is also American, but he was judged based on his yellow-skin that made him feel inferior to his friends. Because of this, Eddie also tries to befriend the only other non-white student, Walter, who is black-American so they wouldn’t be the only outsiders and be able to find ways together in order to fit in. Consequently, Eddie had found the need to prove that be was similar to his friends and had similar interests by shopping for Lunchables, earned money to buy the video game his friends were talking about, beg his mom to buy him a pair of Air Jordan, and let others know that he is a fan of Wu Tang Clan. Eddie states that hip-hop was your anthem when you were an outsider (Fresh Off the Boat), using it as something to have in common with other kids in order to fit in. He’s able to dress in trendy hip-hop clothing, which also contradicts the stereotype that “every Asian character on a sitcom seemed to always wear short-sleeved, button-down shirts with pocket protectors and glasses” (Yoshihara). In a scholarly article written by Wendy Jorae titled “The Limits of Dress: Chinese American Childhood, Fashion, and Race in the Exclusion Era”, she reiterates that “some children believed that by replacing their ethnic clothing with American clothing, they could more easily blend into society. The simple act of changing one’s clothes became a strategy for deflecting racial violence” (Jorae 461). This demonstrates why Eddie dresses in shirts with different hip-hop rappers on the front at school because he believes it will help him fit in.

http://abc.go.com/embed/VDKA0_v9vd7vqz

Besides the show broadcasting the struggle Eddie experiences in order to fit in with his friends, we also see Eddie having difficulties fitting in with his Chinese side. After Eddie’s mom, Jessica, has a moment of realization that her family may be losing their Chinese identity after living in America for so long, she begins her mission to make her kids reconnect with their Chinese side by making them speak only Chinese at home, attend after school Chinese tutoring, eat chicken feet, and have a framed photo of Buddha. Not only do we see Eddie rebelling against his mother’s wishes by not participating in his Chinese lessons with the tutor who hilariously plays the part of the stereotypical Chinese teacher, who enunciates every word in a loud and obnoxious way, we also see him unable to fit in with other ABCs in the class and participate in the Chinese cultural activities. Essentially, he’s lost between finding the perfect balance of being American around his friends while still being able to connect with the Chinese side of him. This is something that I have struggled with and can relate to. When I moved schools, it was hard for me to make new friends because my new school had mostly white-skinned American students. Unlike the school I had previously attended, the new school did not educated us much on diversity. Not only was it hard to assimilate with other white-skinned American students, but it was hard for them to understand that I was similar to them. Trying to fit in with students in my Chinese Saturday School was also hard and another struggle I had. If I couldn’t fit in with both the students at my normal school and at my Chinese school, who could I have fit in with?

Another artifact that displays the struggles of ABCs assimilating to either identities is the book, Crazy Rich Asians, by Kevin Kwan. In this book, the main character, Rachel Chu, is an ABC going to Singapore with her boyfriend, Nick Young, for a wedding. Using Rachel’s naiveté about how little she knows about Chinese culture, we read a different reaction people have to ABCs instead of Americans reacting to ABCs. Before Nick’s mom, Eleanor, had the chance to meet Rachel, she and her friends began making assumptions about Rachel based of what they’ve heard about ABCs; they assumed that “ABCs are descended from all the peasants that were too stupid to survive in China” (Kwan 83) and “ABC girls can be tzeen lee hai” (Kwan 83), which “tzeen lee hai” is Hokkien for “very sharp” or “dangerous.” Even when Rachel had proved all those stereotypes wrong when she met Nick’s relatives, she still could not fit in with his relatives and his friends in Singapore. In another example that indicates her lack of knowledge in Chinese etiquette, Rachel had planned to wear a little black dress to the wedding, to which her friend, Peik Lin, scolds her for wearing a dress of mourning colors. Peik Lin also asks Rachel out of frustration, “Are you really Chinese? How could you know that?” (Kwan 274). This proves that even though her heritage traces back to China, she lacked the ability to fit in with the people in Singapore. This is also something that applies to me; even though I look more Chinese than American in terms of facial features, it does not mean that I am able to blend in with other Chinese people. For example, my friends thought that I would be able to easily blend in with other Chinese people when I went to Hong Kong; however, that was not the case. I had felt like the foreigner in what some people had assumed was my home country. There were times when I disagreed with some of the ways Chinese people acted because it was culturally different than the American ways I was accustomed to. Going to China made me really open my eyes, as I had realized that I was the foreigner in the country where my heritage traces back to.

In addition to Rachel’s struggle to assimilate to Chinese culture in Singapore, she also showed her dislike towards Asian men before she met Nick. When Sylvia, Rachel’s friend, tried to set Rachel up on a date, she started out by listing all the good things. But when she came to what Rachel liked to call as the “fabulously dysfunctional detail” (Kwan 68), she was forced to tell that he’s Asian. Almost immediately, Rachel dismissed the idea of going on a date with him. Sylvia then points out that she’s “the most self-loathing Asian I’ve ever met!” (Kwan 69) and concluded that “the real reason you treat Asian men the way you do is because they represent the type of man your family wishes you would bring home, and you are simply rebelling by refusing to date one” (Kwan 70). What we read in this scene is that Rachel is rebelling against the norms of dating a Chinese male because her heritage is Chinese. She knew she wouldn’t like a Chinese husband because they wouldn’t have similar values and priorities, so she chooses not to find one and accommodate her American lifestyle with someone who has a Chinese lifestyle.

In the scholarly article titled “Re-territorializing transnationalism: Chinese Americans and the Chinese motherland” by Andrea Louie, she focuses on her case study about hua yi, or descendents of overseas Chinese (646) and the relationship to their ancestral country. Through a summer camp project called “In Search of Roots,” ten Chinese American participants go to China and have a heritage tour, as well as a visit to their “hometown” (Louie 653). In a narrative written by Fred Chang, a participant in the project, he wrote that their tour guide had greeted the group and joked about what they call Asian Americans. “So you come from America, what do they call you, ABC’s? Or is it Banana?” (Louie 654). Fred then thinks to himself about how the moment they step foot into the home of his ancestors, he gets insulted by his tour guide. In addition to the insult that the participants had received from their tour guide, a Guangdong native named John Lim mentioned that “Chinese Americans couldn’t get used to living in a Chinese society. ‘They will be fooled by [mainland] Chinese, like a big child’” (Louie 657). One insult after another, we read how the native Chinese people continuously insult the ABCs during their trip. This is another great example that exhibits the difficulties for ABCs to assimilate with Chinese natives because of a cultural gap. It is also “remarked that second and third generations often have different living habits, recalling one hua yi who would not eat Chinese food and another who, unused to squat toilets, had to be taken to another county to use the bathroom. For them, these incidents raised issues about whether hua yi can still be considered culturally Chinese” (Louie 657-658). In the simplest manner, we can reason that it is nearly impossible for ABCs to only identify themselves as Chinese.

On the contrary, the song “ABC” by MC Jin, an American-born Chinese himself, proves that there can be balance between two ethnicities. His lyrics hints at the struggles he goes through, like “I bet you wouldn’t even know if I didn’t tell you” (Jin, 2007) refers to how he could be passed off as another Chinese immigrant and not an American citizen with a Chinese heritage. Not only does this present the flaws humans have with first impressions, MC Jin is also straightforward about how dismissive it is when referring to someone’s identity. Another set of lyrics in his song is “don’t worry about where I was born” (Jin, 2007). This is monumental to those who are American-born but with parents from a different country; the lyrics points out the issue whether or not it is important to know someone’s ethnicity, and what it would change if they did know. Growing up, I’ve always found that being dismissive about my cultural background was easier than to go into full details and explain to someone that despite my yellow-skin, Chinese-looking facial features, I understood American culture more than Chinese culture. In a way, I found that spacing myself away from Chinese culture when I’m around my American friends had made communication and bonding with friends easier. But with the struggles MC Jin and I both face as ABCs, we also find the balance of being able to find a mix of both identities. MC Jin’s song is rapped in both Cantonese and English, proving that he is capable of combining both languages to represent the song that stands for American-born Chinese; furthermore, the success MC Jin has in his music career in both America and in Hong Kong demonstrates that ABCs can find such balance between their American and Chinese culture.

http://abc.go.com/embed/VDKA0_nbfx0nwo

Referring back to the TV show, Fresh Off the Boat, Eddie finds his balance between the Chinese side his parents had influenced on him and the American side that he is surrounded in. Despite the lack of enthusiasm Eddie shows when he got assigned the country China for his World Day Project, he stands up for the Chinese side in him when his friends made fun of China by calling attention to all the achievements China has accomplished. He makes his mother proud even with the “F” he earned on the project. Rachel from the book, Crazy Rich Asians, finds her balance with her boyfriend who acts more like an American than he a Chinese. This represents her ability to balance her American identity by continuing to live in New York with her boyfriend, but also able to continue her Chinese identity by speaking Mandarin to her mom and to Nick’s family.

Similarly, the scholarly article Wendy Jorae wrote in “The Limits of Dress: Chinese American Childhood, Fashion, and Race in the Exclusion Era,” it points out “Asian American youth have successfully carved out a unique cultural space for themselves… which often results in an ‘emergent culture of hybridity’ that mixes elements of both worlds… Most families did not feel compelled to completely abandon their heritage, but instead they adopted a sort of hybrid identity by selectively adapting objects and customs of both cultures to their own lives” (Jorae 454, 466). For ABCs who were once lost in finding their identity between being American and Chinese, they are now familiarizing themselves to find the balance somewhere between the two ends of the spectrum in order to fit in and combine different components of both cultures to integrate into their own identity.

As I had mentioned before, there were times in my life when I had felt like I didn’t know which culture and identity I assimilated to, whether I was American or if I was Chinese. In either country, whether in the United States or in China, I would sometimes feel like a foreigner because I struggled to fit in. I have been on both the receiving end of stereotypes from Americans and by Chinese people, in which most consider me as the “white washed Asian” because I am an ABC. I am what the characters in the book, Crazy Rich Asians, assume as the Chinese who had become too westernized because I was born overseas. But as I’m maturing, I have found myself adapting and finding my own mix of identity, embracing and balancing both the cultures in me. I can speak both English and Cantonese and I have friends that are American, Chinese, and American-born Chinese. Throughout this research and analysis I have conducted when looking into the identity of ABCs and media’s portrayal, I have learned that having a Chinese heritage will be influential in one way or another; but how much it will determine a person’s cultural standpoint is under his or her control. Despite the struggles ABCs face in order to assimilate to either an American or Chinese society, they still have the ability to find balance between the two identities. I can choose to embrace either side of my culture whether it’s the American side based on where I was born or my Chinese side based on my heritage. I am not just Chinese, nor am I just American; I am an American-born Chinese. Like the chorus in MC Jin’s song, “ABC that’s me, that’s me!”

 

Works Cited

Fresh Off the Boat. Prod. Nahnatchka Khan and Jake Kasdan. American Broadcasting Company. 10 Feb. 2015. Television.

Jorae, Wendy Rouse. “The Limits of Dress: Chinese American Childhood, Fashion, and Race in the Exclusion Era.” The Western Historical Quarterly 41.4 (2010): 451-71. JSTOR. The Western History Association. Web. 18 May 2015. <http://www.jstor.org.proxy.lib.pdx.edu/stable/pdf/westhistquar.41.4.451.pdf?&acceptTC=true&jpdConfirm=true&gt;.

Kwan, Kevin. Crazy Rich Asians. New York: Doubleday, 2013. Print.

Louie, Andrea. “Re-Territorializing Transnationalism: Chinese Americans and the Chinese Motherland.” American Ethnologist 27.3 (2000): 645-69. Wiley. American Anthropological Association. Web. 18 May 2015.<http://www.jstor.org.proxy.lib.pdx.edu/stable/pdf/647354.pdf?acceptTC=true&gt;.

MC Jin. “ABC.” ABC. 2007. Music Video. YouTube. Youtube, 17, May 2007. Web. 3 May 2015. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=llUB2CcFrPw>.

Yoshihara, Craig. “5 Stereotypes ABC’s Fresh Off the Boat Is Obliterating.” Babble. N.p., 20 Apr. 2015. Web. 14 May 2015. <http://www.babble.com/entertainment/5-asian-american-stereotypes-abcs-fresh-off-the-boat-is-obliterating/>.

 

The Portrayal of Hispanic/Latin Women in Popular Culture

Due to the powerful influence popular culture has made on individuals in regards to race, Hispanic/Latin women suffer several frequent stereotypes. Moreover, instead of properly portraying this group of women, popular culture has instead steered its focus of Hispanic/Latin women towards an inaccurate and negative representation comprised by unreliable stereotypes. Additionally, popular culture has jumped back and forth from stereotype to stereotype, but in my perspective has focused on four particular stereotypes of Hispanic/Latin women: the maid/housekeeper, the women with thick accents, the immigrants, and the attractive teases. Furthermore, it is safe to say that all four of these stereotypes are offensive and degrading to Hispanic/Latin women. In addition, not only are these stereotypes hazardous to a woman’s image, but they can potentially be very harmful due to the fact that these images consist of unpleasant and awkward imagery based on the assumptions created by popular culture. All in all, these ideas can be viewed and understood thoroughly through television shows such as Devious Maids and Modern Family, as well as the film Spanglish.

The television show series Devious Maids created by Marc Cherry was created with the intention of grasping the attention of female viewers, but especially female minority viewers. The current day series focuses on the lives of four Hispanic/Latin maids working in Beverly Hills for the wealthy and famous. Although the maids appear to obtain the typical traits of a maid within the show, they instead come with some additional odd patterns. In fact, the most obvious patterns is the fact that they all have accents, obtain appealing looks, and three out of the four are immigrants. Although these stereotypes may not be of shock to many non– minorities, they are a disgraceful image to view in the perspective of a Hispanic/Latin woman. Not to mention, it’s a difficult image to observe because not only is it degrading to this community of women, but it has turned into an expectation for Hispanic/Latin women. Plus, not only are these maids portrayed as housekeepers, but they also receive the criticism for having heavy accents and maintaining an alluring image . According to Reyes (2013), “In the first few episodes, Devious Maids managed to nail every cliché associated with Latinas” (p. 1). Since the premiere of the television show in 2013, the Hispanic/Latin community has been outraged due to the discriminatory stereotypes represented in Devious Maids. Not only does the show maliciously mislead non– minority audience members down the negative pathway towards the acceptance of this deceitful depiction, but it also reinforces the representation of the Hispanic/Latin community, guiding their group to further harm. Reyes (2013) states, “Devious Maids takes Latinas back to mops, brooms and aprons, to a world where one White character says to her maid, ‘If you don’t stop screwing my husband, I’m going to have you deported’” (p. 1). Overall, it is obvious that race and ethnicity play a powerful and significant role when it comes to this body of human beings.

devious-maids

Meanwhile, another product of popular culture that contributes towards this fabrication of Hispanic/Latin women can be detected in the television show series Modern Family created by Steven Levitan and Christopher Lloyd. Although the purpose of the show was to focus on a large, blended family as a whole, it’s almost impossible to focus on the family altogether due to specific characters. For instance, Gloria Delgado– Pritchett perfectly represents the portrayal of a Hispanic/Latin woman formed by popular culture due to her thick accent, curvaceous image, immigrant status, and rambunctious attitude. Although she doesn’t possess the maid/housekeeper stereotype, she most definitely obtains the thick accent and curvaceous pattern along with the infrequent, rowdy attitude stereotype. Moreover, Gloria is best known for these stereotypes due to the fact that they complete her identity as a Hispanic/Latin woman and provide her character with a large amount of scrutiny. For example, in every episode of Modern Family, you are guaranteed at some point during the show to scope out Gloria flashing off her superb figure and her busty cleavage. Likewise, the television show successfully presents Gloria with an accent so dense you can barely understand the words flowing out of her mouth. Despite the fact that this depiction may not disturb the majority of non– minority viewers, it most definitely offends others as well as myself since these stereotypes are not consistently accurate. Editor Ariel Nagi explains and defends these stereotypes in her article “16 Stereotypes of Latinas That Need to Stop.” For example, Nagi debates against the fact that all Hispanic/Latin women have accents or pronounce their V’s like B’s and Y’s like U’s, are extremely rowdy, and flaunt off their voluptuous breasts and curves, (p. 1).

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A final product of popular culture that adds to these myths can be identified within the film Spanglish developed by James L. Brooks. In this film, a nuclear Caucasian family known as the Clasky’s are living the American dream in Los Angeles, California. However, they soon welcome a beautiful Mexican immigrant named Flor into their family to play the role of their housekeeper. But not only is Flor an attractive immigrant of Mexico, she also speaks very minimal English and when she finally decides to expand her knowledge within this area, she hold an accent. Throughout the film, Flor is seen cleaning the house, running errands for the Clasky’s, learning English, looking out for others, and also falling for her employer John Clasky. Primarily the film illustrates Flor as the gorgeous, innocent, controlling, perplexed, English learning immigrant who eventually finds herself involved with a married man. Even though this portrayal may not appear degrading to some, to many Hispanic/Latin women including myself, it is. To illustrate, when it comes to immigration, Nunez (2014) states, “The U.S. has always had a large population of U.S. born Latinos whose families have been around for decades” (p. 1). Plus, just because Flor was an attractive tease to John in the film, that doesn’t support the fact that every other woman in this world will reflect Flor’s appearance or actions. Finally, I found the fact that Flor is analyzed for her heavy accent extremely absurd since it’s not a very relevant component for examination due to the fact that she didn’t speak English to begin with. Besides, a majority of the women in my family grew up speaking Spanish, eventually learned English, and still don’t have an accent, which goes to show that this pattern isn’t entirely true.

SPANGLISH, Paz Vega, Tea Leoni, Adam Sandler, 2004, (c) Columbia

As many of us are familiar with, all three of the above examples appear to be an accurate portrayal of Hispanic/Latin women, yet, they’re incorrect to some degree. From the standards we have viewed and or experienced, they are the only ideas we are aware of and know to accept due to popular culture has brainwashing us into believing these myths and distortions. Regardless of the abundant falsifications made against these women, individuals such as Raul Reyes, Ariel Nagi, Alanna Nunez, and many more are doing their best to stand up and fight against these stereotypes in hopes of one day putting them to rest. Besides, not only is it their goal to bury these hurtful and adverse stereotypical portrayals, but to also debunk them and lend support to the Hispanic/Latin community.

The first defending contributor known as Raul Reyes is a member of USA TODAY’S board of contributors who argues for the sake of the Hispanic/Latin community in regards to Lifetime’s television show Devious Maids for several reasons. First off, Reyes discusses his disappointment with the creators of the show, but especially Eva Longoria since she is apart of this community of women. Reyes (2013) expressed “Longoria would do far better to craft a TV show about a woman more like herself – independent, powerful and multi– talented” (p. 1). This was a valid statement I concur with because as many people can see, there are plenty of successful Hispanic/Latin women out there along with Eva Longoria, such as Jennifer Lopez, Jessica Alba, Selena Gomez, Naya Rivera, Rita Moreno, Sylvia Rivera, Salma Hayek, and so many more. Withal, these women whether actresses, board members, activists, spokespersons, etc., have all in some way, shape, or form changed the world. Also, I personally know several successful Hispanic/Latin women that aren’t immigrants, don’t have accents, and aren’t housekeepers/maids. Therefore, it’s obvious that not all Hispanic/Latin women are maids or housekeepers, but are also particularly fortunate. Next off, according to Reyes (2013), “The maids were presented as gossipy, oversexed, and subservient” (p. 1). He discusses the adverse reaction from the Hispanic/Latin community since this portrayal also doesn’t apply to a majority of maids. This is obvious since the show is deliberately supposed to include juicy rumors and gossip amongst the characters.

Another contributor known as Ariel Nagi who is an editor of Cosmopolitan for Latinas also opposes against these stereotypes due to their fallacies. All throughout her article “16 stereotypes of Latinas That Need to Stop,” Nagi states and dissects the typical, well– known stereotypes made against Hispanic/Latin women. Thus, she covers the extremely common stereotypes listed above as well as others such as “we are great cooks,” “we have a bunch of kids at a young age,” and many more. Otherwise, an example she demystifies correctly is the fact that all Hispanic/Latin women are enticing, have perfect tan skin and long hair. Nagi (2013) explains “The media forgets women like – Tatyana Ali, Megan Goode, and Alexis Bledel – don’t always have tan skin” Additionally, in regards to immigration, Nagi (2013) affirmed, “Little does the media know, there are Latinos out there who have never even left the United States” (p. 1). I strongly agree with Nagi’s statements because not only are they extremely true and relevant, but they encourage people to think twice about assuming that all Hispanic/Latin women are tan, have long hair, and look like models nor are they all immigrants with dense accents.

Finally, Alanna Nunez, also an editor for Cosmopolitan for Latinas shows her support towards the Hispanic/Latin community in her article “10 Myths About Latinas That Just Won’t Die.” In this article, she similarly states a handful of the most common stereotypes and reveals why they are inaccurate and don’t apply to every Hispanic/Latin woman. For example, regarding the topic of immigrants, Nunez defends the fact that people have seemed to forget that a large majority of immigrants have been around for many decades (p. 1). Again, when it comes to Hispanic/Latin women appearing hypersexual and charming, it’s surprisingly not always in their control when it comes to being filmed on set and other times they don’t mind this natural way of acting. Nunez (2014) clarified “There is no shortage of sexy, sensual Latina characters on TV, but the reality is, not all Latinas embody this stereotype or care what you think about them being sexy” (p. 1). I couldn’t agree less with Nunez because at times this way of acting is sometimes not in the actresses control and if it is, some women may not care, either because they don’t notice their actions, enjoy acting this way, etc. As a result, Nunez does an excellent job defending these stereotypes and providing useful information as well as examples.

In conclusion, despite the negative stereotypes piled upon Hispanic/Latin women, it’s up to audience members of popular culture and more specifically the media to think hard and thoroughly about what they’re presenting, viewing, reading, hearing, and interpreting. Although most people don’t take the time to process these stereotypes, it’s very important too, especially for the sake of the people being criticized and analyzed within popular culture. It’s also exceedingly crucial that we stop to think about what is being thrown at us by the media because it definitely isn’t all valid and I know this for a fact because I have had others assume too quickly about who I am based on what they have seen through popular culture. Instead of judging too quickly, it’s up to individuals to choose whether to believe honesty or dishonesty.

 

 

 

 

Work Cited

  1.  Ansell, J., Brooks, J., Sakai, R. (Producers) & Brooks, J. (Director & Writer). (2004) Spanglish [Motion picture on DVD]. United States: Columbia Pictures.
  1. Cherry, M. (Creator & Writer), & Weyr, T. (Director) (2013). Pilot [Television series episode]. Longoria, E (Executive Producer), Cherry. M (Executive Producer), Devious Maids. New York, NY: Lifetime. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2226342/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1
  1. Google Images:

I. Devious Maids: http://images.enstarz.com/data/images/full/14079/devious-maids.jpeg

II. Modern Family/Gloria:

http://content.internetvideoarchive.com/content/hdphotos/9226/009226/009226_755x422_545888_63911.jpg

III. Spanglish: http://media.baselineresearch.com/images/160272/160272_full.jpg

  1. Levitan, S. (Creator & Screenwriter), Lloyd, C. (Creator), & Spiller, M. (Director) (2009). Pilot [Television series episode]. Levitan, S. (Executive Producer), Lloyd, C. (Executive Producer), Modern Family. New York, NY: ABC
  1. Nagi, A. (2014, January). 16 Stereotypes of Latinas That Need to Stop. Cosmopolitan, (volume/issue: n.d.) Retrieved from: http://www.cosmopolitan.com/entertainment/celebs/advice/a5403/latina-media-stereotypes/
  1. Nunez, A. (2014, October). 10 Myths About Latinas That Just Won’t Die. Cosmopolitan, (volume/issue: n.d.) Retrieved from: http://www.cosmopolitan.com/lifestyle/news/a32212/myths-about-latinas-that-need-to-die/
  1. Reyes, R. (2013, July). Devious Maids does a disservice to Latinos: Column. USA TODAY, (volume/issue: n.d.) Retrieved from: http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2013/07/09/devious-maids-latinos-tv-show-column/2461193/

 

 

 

 

Males in Media

In the United States one of the most represented groups in popular culture of people is young male students. This is due in large part because of the fact that the demographic of males from ages 5 to 24 makes up 27.4% of the population of the United States according to the Census Bureau. Intelligibly, this demographic is very large and widely represented on various mediums of popular culture. With such a wide representation there leaves room for various portrayals of young male students in mass media. Seeing as though I am a young male student it would be prudent for me to focus on those depictions and portrayals in popular culture. While there is an array of portrayals available to from media, there seems to be an emphasis on the “manly” or “joker” type character. Stereotypes and media depictions affect all groups of people, oftentimes negatively effects the stereotyped demographic in question. For the young male demographic, this negative effect can be seen due depictions and expectations set by mass media.

In film, there is often a portrayal of the arc archetypical young masculine male, from war films to movies about cowboys; there is often a character who fits the mold of “the strong, silent type”. This type of character is a simple perpetuation of the idea that males ought to disengage from certain emotions and tap into ‘concrete’ actions like being strong or being brave. The problem that develops though is with this comes a discouragement of expressing various emotional pains which seems to lead to anger coming out “sideways” from a buildup of emotion. While there are certainly has been excellent steps taken recently in order to facilitate further equality amongst the sexes and a limiting on prior gender roles and norms, there is still promotion of some of these ideals. Lea Winerman sums up this phenomena far better than I would be able to by writing, “Many boys, he says, learn from their parents and from other children that they are not supposed to express vulnerability or caring. They learn to suppress their emotional responses–like crying or even sad facial expressions–so much that, by the time they are adults, they are genuinely unaware of their emotions and how to describe them in words” (Winerman). Logically this bottling up of emotions cannot be healthy, though it is clear that a large number of men are essentially ignorant to their emotional/mental health. Perhaps this is why the majority of prisoners are male (Department of Justice).

marlboro

In advertising, the encouragement and promotion of the typical male stereotype is highly prevalent. When turning on, for example, a football game or a basketball game, you are likely to see a number of ads for beer, cars, and general encouragement of stereotypical male “fun” and interests. While it is plain to see why these ads are placed and why they are effective, it has the propensity to discourage male achievement past the media emphasis on simply getting a girl, getting money, and having fun with your “bros”. Similar tactics were used to encourage smoking with the use by Marlboro of “The Marlboro Man”. Recently, perhaps correlated, perhaps not, there has been a noticeable drop nationwide in the attendance number in male’s enrolling/enrolled in college (Lopez and Barrera).

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Source: National Center for Education Statistics’ “The Condition of Education 2011”

            In order to analyze this trend of a dropping in male attendance in college there are a couple of films, which serve as lenses into this theme. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is a film that was released in 1986 and which has become a culturally significant film in the United States. Ferris, a high school student, is seen with much disregard for school and decides to skip school for the day. The depiction of the student and the principle in a captive/captor relationship is revealing, as is the notion that school is difficult to conform to in the face of the grand scheme of things. As well, the movie presents the idea that although Ferris is not an ideal student, things will generally end up working out in the end. While this may seem insignificant, it is an example of media’s theme that education/school is not so important as long as you are seen as ‘cool’ (Ferris is depicted as a jokester type with a pretty girlfriend and a friend with access to an impressive car).

While this next artifact is not strictly based on students, the 1999 film Office Space, written and directed by Mike Judge, depicts the downtrodden Peter Gibbons in his work environment. This film, being a comedy, is aptly funny with a sort of ‘cult-following’. Of the jobs I have held in my life, I have been able to riff with co-workers with lines from this movie. While on the surface the many characters in this film have comfortable lives, it explores a type of mundane yet comfortable existence experienced by many, particularly the American ‘middle-class’ or ‘white-collar’ workers. With the tagline of this movie being “Work Sucks”, it is an example of what not to do for work and later in life. There is underlying promotion of individuality as opposed to complacency eventually leading to Peter and co. conspiring to steal money from their company by implementing a computer virus into the workplace’s system. There is an anti-establishment message quite prevalent in this film coupled with the expectation to acquire money as a means to demonstrate capability in society, that makes Office Space a decent mirror for the many males in America who turn to various crimes and legally circumventing activities as opposed to hard work (which is mundane and subservient). Some quick numbers from the U.S. Department Of Justice reveal that in 2009 males accounted for 93% of all prisoners (West and Sabol).

Further, and much different from Ferris Bueller and  Office Space is the story of Chris Herren. Chris Herren is a man from Fall River, Massachusetts who is a former professional basketball player. He was the subject of an ESPN Films video titled Unguarded, a 51 minute “30 for 30” (docuseries that explores the intricacies and background of various sports stories and figures) that was released in 2011. Herren was a somewhat typical ‘jock’ growing up who focused primarily on sports/basketball despite being in school. Along with this, he had a ‘dark side’ of drug addiction and ‘off-court’ trouble. Despite getting into trouble a number of times growing up and in high school, Herren’s innate ability on the basketball court enabled him to circumvent traditional support. External influences, focused on his ability, planned out his roadmap for him, in large part due to the fact that Fall River is considered a kind of “tough” town of which not many people “make it out”. This storyline is of Chris Herren’s life is telling because despite seemingly obvious limitations and “inner demons”, he was pushed and enabled by those around him, eventually making it to the NBA where he played for the Boston Celtics, simply because of his physical/athletic ability. This demonstrates the value placed on some males in terms of their value and worth. Herren felt unable to express his troubles and ask for help because he knew many of his external influences (family, peers, coaches) were pushing him to focus strictly on basketball and not necessarily taking care of himself. While Ungaurded was the singular story of Chris Herren, this is an effective lens into the emphasis put on some males in terms of the expectations put on them, particularly surrounding the idea of athleticism and masculinity in terms of sports and the overlooking and/or suppression of emotional aspects of males.

While there is much to be said about trials and adversity of other demographics, though this paper does not seek compare or contrast those sociological differences. In short, it is clear that stereotypes, regardless of the target, have the propensity to be harmful. For young males this stereotyping in media is so common and accepted that there is not much discussion in regards to this topic. It is important to be aware of the various stereotypes and depictions that are used for the various demographics. As we progress as a society it will continue to be an important thing to be aware of.

Work Cited:

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, John Hughes, Paramount Pictures, 1986.

Lopez, Mark Hugo, and Ana Gonzalez-Barrera. “Women’s College Enrollment Gains             Leave Men behind.” Pew Research Center RSS. Pew Research Center, 06 Mar.             2014. Web. May 2015.

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

Unguarded, Chris Herren, Jonathan Hock, ESPN, ESPN Films

“United States Census Bureau.” USA QuickFacts from the US Census Bureau. U.S.             Census Bureau, n.d. Web. May 2015.

West, Heather, Ph.D., and William Sabol, Ph.D. “Prisoners in 2009.” Bureau of Justice                   Statistics. U.S. Department of Justice, 27 Oct. 2011. Web. May 2015.

Winerman, Lea. “Helping Men to Help Themselves.” Http://www.apa.org.                                       American Psychological Association, June 2005. Web. May 2015.

The Working Class Mexican in Popular Culture

On the surface, a working class Mexican refers to someone who is of Mexican descent and is also a member of the working class. Considering I fit the criteria, technically speaking, that would mean I’m a working class Mexican as well. As I’ve grown up however, I’ve learned that “working class Mexican” means many different things to different people and I decided to explore that. To gain an understanding of what most people think the working class Mexican is, I have found several different depictions of the working class Mexican in popular media. Most of depictions portrayed reinforced many negative stereotypes I have heard in the past, but some also did so satirically in an attempt to combat the negative views of working class Mexicans.

The first instance of the working class Mexican I found was in a movie called “A Day Without A Mexican” that was produced by Eye on the Ball Films. This movie takes the angle of the working class Mexican’s impact on American life. This movie takes place in Southern California where Mexican laborers play a substantial role in economic stability. The writers of this film set out to demonstrate the significance of Mexicans in the workforce. Not only that, but the movie addresses the political agenda of the United States on issues dealing with Mexican immigrants living and working in this country. Writer and director Sergio Arau creates the film on behalf of all Mexican immigrants and to defend the laborer’s rights that so many before him had fought to obtain.

In the film, all Mexicans around the world disappear suddenly and mysteriously. Once this happens, many US citizens are panicked and recount the “horrible things” that had happened after they disappeared. An example of this was of a horrified man who was talking to a news reporter about how he went in to his restaurant and there were no Mexicans so he had to wash a dish. Otherwise, a lot of work in the area stops getting done as the US citizens are either not vast enough to complete a task or don’t have the abilities.

Here’s a link to the film’s trailer:

To start off the film, the portrayed American view on immigrant workers is that they are unintelligent and inferior. As the film progresses, there is an increasing awareness in the characters of how valuable immigrant workers truly are. Although there is a bias present since all of the writers for the film are of Mexican descent, there are many implications about ridding the United States of Mexicans that would hold true. Although this movie focuses mostly on the identity of immigrant worker instead of the “working class Mexican” as a whole, in doing that, it introduces one of the main connotations with working class Mexican which is them being immigrants as well. What is particularly interesting about this movie though is that it combats negative stereotypes of Mexican laborers such as them being useless and unintelligent, by lashing out at the US citizens who employ them by making them look arrogant and foolish.

The next artifact I took a close look at was a clip of an episode of the show South Park called “The Last of the Meheecans.” The show’s purpose overall is largely intended for entertainment purposes as they air on Comedy Central but the show commonly includes a lot of political commentary. This often includes taking sensitive subjects and poking fun at them for not only comedic purposes, but for social purposes as well. This particular clip emphasizes many of the stereotypes that surround the working class Mexican and I believe in many ways does so to such an extreme in order to point out how ridiculous many of these stereotypes are.

Watch the clip here:

This clip from the show portrays that its creators believe that some of the stereotypes and beliefs that are widely held are completely ridiculous. The part of the clip that comes to mind is when the “employer” figures gift the “Mexican” a leaf blower and expect him to be overjoyed by this as if Mexicans have so little else they are concerned about that they are most excited by their work. Throughout the clip, the Mexican character is shown carrying out a variety of different jobs that are described as “Mexican work.” Not surprisingly, these jobs include yard work, cleaning, and basically anything else to make money which are common jobs immigrant workers seek out since they often lack the qualifications or training for other positions. There are also brief depictions of United States Border Patrol that is suggestive of the fact that the Mexican worker is also an immigrant which reinforces the stereotype that all Mexican workers are immigrants.

Although there were many interesting details in this short clip, another particularly important one is that the “employer” character mentioned that the “Mexican worker” character should use the garbage bags that were loaned to him. I found this particularly striking because garbage bags are incredibly inexpensive and typically don’t have much value of any kind. Despite this, the employer made it clear that they were a loan and that he hadn’t actually given the Mexican worker the bags to keep. The fact that the employer could only loan the bags to the worker and not give them to him suggest that one, the Mexican worker couldn’t afford his own bags, but also that having his very own bags is something that he clearly wasn’t worthy of since it wouldn’t have cost very much for the employer to just give them to him.This sounds pretty outrageous but is exemplary of how many employers treat Mexican workers, especially illegal immigrants as they don’t have to be granted the same worker’s rights as US citizens since the immigrant workers wouldn’t be an a position to argue due to threat of job loss or deportation.

Another interesting artifact to consider is a song by Kap G and Chingo Bling called “Working Like A Mexican”. What is interesting to note is that one of the writers of this is Hispanic and yet is presenting Mexicans in such a degrading way. Whereas the other artifacts I chose are commentaries on how people portray Mexicans and why they might be wrong, this piece directly plays into and amplifies these images that many Mexicans are trying to set themselves apart from.

Listen to the song here at your own discretion (explicit):

This song includes a lot of drug references which is something to consider for a variety of different reasons. On one hand, because of the style of the music, a drug reference isn’t entirely surprising as they tend to pop up a lot in rap music which is known for its brashness. Because this song is about the working class Mexican, it could also be tying back to the drug cartels centered in parts of Mexico and the general Mexican involvement in drug trafficking. The other detail that was particularly striking was the mention of sending money to coyotes, which are people who help facilitate the illegal entry to the United States from Mexico for Mexicans who don’t have the legal paperwork to cross on their own. This ties into a little of what was mentioned in artifacts one and two which is the stereotype that all Mexicans are in the United States illegally which ties to another misconception that they are trying to overrun the United States by helping a countless number of other Mexicans to cross the border into the United States as well.

One of the biggest things that all three pieces focused on is that the Mexican laborers tend to do all of the work that nobody else wants to do. When it comes to the working class Mexican, very rarely do portrayals of Mexicans working more commonplace jobs like retail work or office jobs, but instead they are depicted as doing things such as gardening, cleaning, being food vendors, etc. They generally are portrayed as being hardworking as they are thought to work long hours as is also depicted in the artifacts. What was interesting as well about artifact two is that it showed the Mexican laborer taking on a variety of different jobs, which suggests that the Mexican laborer is never truly done with their work and always looking for more work to be done. Although qualities such as being hardworking are admirable, Mexican laborers are also portrayed as willing to degrade themselves or as being so desperate for work that they are willing to do the jobs that nobody else wants to do. This also might be a suggestion that Mexican workers are incapable of doing anything besides the menial jobs that they are often portrayed as doing. These are all stereotypes that I’ve grown up hearing and I was interested in finding out if these views were as widespread as I always felt they were. In order to do that, I realized that looking at how these portrayals of the working class Mexican were received by the general public.
The movie “A Day Without A Mexican” fortunately yielded an abundance of reviews. One  Kevin Crust for the Los Angeles Times largely argued that the movie barely scraped the surface of the issues relating to Mexicans and falls short of asking and answering any of the bigger questions. One of the points Crust makes is his uncertainty regarding whether or not the creators of the film merely did so to get themselves noticed instead of carrying out some satire. An author’s purpose is incredibly important to consider as the depictions they portray are going to be a reflection of their intended outcome. Based off of the film as a whole, I think it’s obvious that the writers wanted to empower Mexican class workers and emphasize their significance but I agree with Crust in thinking there may be an element of the writers just putting forth what they thought would be received well by the public.

There was also a review of the South Park episode covered in this piece written by Ryan McGee for A.V.Club.com. McGee brought up a really interesting point. He discusses how the creators of South Park were brilliant in bypassing a lot of backlash from people who feel strongly about limiting immigration by reframing the entire argument regarding immigration. Instead of focusing on why or why not Mexicans should be allowed to be in our country, they beg the question of why Mexicans would even want to enter into our country,”The underlying theme tonight: We’re doing a lot more to prevent people from coming to this country thanks to the state we’re in as a nation as opposed to the state of security around our borders,” (McGee). Funny enough, one of the things McGee mentions actually mirrors what the author in the last source said. McGee felt that the creators of South Park stopped short. He overall applauded them but he urged that the creators should have explored what might have happened if the United States lost such a large part of their workforce.

These two sources are interesting to consider because they are written by members of the public who creators of these artifacts target. It’s also interesting to compare the intentions of an artifact with the actual responses of the public and how they may differ. The sources were actually surprising as the depictions and importance of Mexican workers seem to be of some kind of interest to the general public. Whereas the Mexican worker isn’t something I figured many people cared about, it appears that these sources were effective in leaving the audience wanting more and to see more of resolve regarding issues that still face the nation.

Throughout my research on the identity of the working class Mexican, I came across many of the stereotypes that I expected to see. Most of the working class Mexicans I have ever seen appear in popular culture are immigrant workers who are often portrayed as being untalented and incapable of carrying out any other jobs. They are often portrayed as being insignificant and unimportant. This can be a problem to many working class Mexican because they are often not taken seriously and employers often try to take advantage of them based on grounds that do not accurately apply to all working class Mexicans. In my experience, it can also cause working class Mexicans to be looked down upon and simply not respected for no particular reason. Simultaneously, I didn’t expect to see so many pieces trying to counteract many of the common misconceptions of the working class Mexican which was incredibly refreshing.

Works Cited

A Day Without A Mexican. Dir. Sergio Arua. N.d. DVD.

“A Day Without a Mexican – Trailer.” YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 7 April 2015.            <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYJcfhxMkrQ&gt;.

“Butters Mexican Work Song South Park.” YouTube. YouTube, 6 Apr. 2015. Web. 06              May 2015. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0s3HVyJS7wY&gt;

Kap G Ft. Chingo Bling. Working Like A Mexican. Square Beats, n.d. Web.               <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ka5zzDsNyJk>.

“South Park:.” Review: “The Last Of The Meheecans” · TV Club · The A.V. Club. N.p., 12      Oct. Web. 18 May 2015. <http://www.avclub.com/tvclub/south-park-the-last-of-the-            meheecans-63138>.

14, May. “‘A Day Without a Mexican’ Is Pure Vanilla.” Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles          Times, 14 May 2004. Web. 18 May 2015               <http://articles.latimes.com/2004/may/14/entertainment/et-crust14>.

 

Ballerinas: Why does Hollywood make them look so crazy?

 

Ballerinas: Why does Hollywood make them look so crazy?

 

 

When you imagine a ballerina what is the first thing that comes to mind? Do you see a pink tutu, a leotard and some tights. What does the dancer themselves look like? Does the image of a young, white female come into mind? This is the generic image that comes into everyone’s mind. There are not many negative annotations of specifically being a white ballerina it is their behavior that gets the bad image in the media. As a ballerina myself it is somewhat uncomfortable to be looped into these negative stereotypes that are usually displayed in the media. Stereotypes that are shown in the media about ballerinas are: eating disorders, jealousy and extreme competitiveness, all of these are incredibly damaging to ballet and it’s image and they are misrepresentations of what it is really like to be a ballerina.

These stereotypes have not always been the main focus when it comes to ballet. The main focus used to be that ballet was not only a form of dance but also an art form. It is still considered an art form today but that is not usually the focal point when a movie or television show is made about a ballet dancer or ballet company. In our society today we love drama. Just turn on the TV for five minutes, American television is filled with reality TV drama and that is just the starting point. To add jealousy and eating disorders to a movie or TV show about ballet tends to draw in more viewers.

A very controversial movie came out about five years ago called Black Swan. This film had every kind of negative stereotype that can be thought of when it comes to ballet. The main character Nina is in a New York Ballet Company. The movie is about her descent into madness after she gets the main roll in an upcoming performance, (i.e. she sees things that are not there, “sprouts” wings on her final performance). The movie shows her struggling with anorexia and bulimia. For the role of Nina, Natalie Portman had to go through extensive training and excessive exercise to achieve the body image expected of a ballerina. As a matter of fact in an interview with Vogue magazine the actress explains what she did to prepare physically for the role. Here was her routine for preparation for the movie, “The dance training for Black Swan started a year before the film, with two hours a day. Six months later we ramped it up to five hours a day, and the last two months it was eight hours a day, because we added choreography and cross training, so I was also swimming a mile a day”. All of this work to help her appear like an anorexic dancer.

The other negative aspect of this movie is that it shows the other dancers back talking and expressing snide comments to her after she earned the main role. Only a few scenes show the other dancers in the company dancing, other than that the creators chose to show a darker side to ballet. One where there is no loyalty or kindness. The danger in this is now people start to form opinions that this behavior is real and all ballet dancers must be like this. Unfortunately this personality type is consistently shown in movies and television shows about ballet.

After the release of the movie Black Swan a Victoria Aheam for the Canadian Press interviewed several professional ballet dancers about their feelings toward the movie. One dancer named Rachel Prince states. “I’m sure every dancer struggles with little things here and there but for one girl to struggle with every single problem out there, it just makes us look crazy.” This is precisely how the other dancers in the interview felt as well. Another dancer says that this movie could be really damaging for the image of ballet because over the last twenty years these negative stereotypes have been fading away. Hollywood has a way of accentuating the negative aspect of many things in order to make a more interesting movie or television show.

The stereotype that ballet dancers are white and female is also supported in this movie. There is a broad shot at one point of the room of dancers and it is a sea of white female faces. There are only two male dancers that appear in this film and they are merely shown in the background or briefly coming into a shot to lift Nina while dancing. The male dancers in this film are basically a side note.

An interview from NPR’s Rachel Martin with American Ballet Theaters Misty Copeland sheds light on what it is like to not be a white ballet dancer and the difficulties of breaking stereotypes. One of Martins opening statements says, “Misty Copeland had to bust a lot of stereotypes to get where she is today. Copeland is one of only a handful of African-Americans to have ever danced as a soloist with the American Ballet Theater, also known as the ABT”. Copeland goes on to say in the interview that about 2-3 years into her professional career is when she looked around the studio of 80 dancers and realized she was the only African American dancer. It appears then that this stereotype is not only true in the movie Black Swan but in real life.

Another much lighter show called Bunheads also follows what life is like in a ballet studio. Again in this television show the ballerinas are young, white and female. Some of them are also struggling with body image. In Bunheads the dancers are younger and have fuller bodies than the ones seen in Black Swan. This I consider a good thing because it is promoting a healthier body size. The fact that the girls struggle with their weight contrast this positive message and young viewers are then influenced to cast doubt on their own bodies. Body image is perhaps such a big focal point in shows and movies because in our society we are obsessed with the “perfect body”. This obsession starts with Hollywood and celebrities. Everyday people then try to reflect this perfection in our their own lives. It is true that in ballet there is a certain body size that is strived for, however with the influence of Hollywood this issue is highly exaggerated.

For all these shows and movies that cast a dark or unflattering light on ballet and it’s dancers, there are still some out there that try to show a more realistic point of view. One such show is called Breaking Pointe. There are two seasons of Breaking Pointe and it follows the Ballet West Company in Salt Lake City, Utah. Reading the episode summaries and seeing the pictures from the show it is very clear this is a very different view of a ballet company. The creators of this show chose to go a different route and show what it is really like to be a part of a ballet company. There are more male ballet dancers, not equal to the amount of females but there are more. There clearly is a race barrier; both the men and women featured in the show are all white with a very small amount of other ethnicities.

Although this show chooses to take a different path and show a better side to the dance form and its dancers, it still shows a little bit of drama. In comparison to other shows/movies it is very tame. After the third episode the center of the show is their preparation for the big performance. The added drama could have been to draw in more viewers as the show had just premiered.

Being a ballet dancer is difficult, to be a professional ballet dancer is unimaginable to me. The sacrifices and physical pain that is endured is incredible. I know there are dancers that fit the stereotypes given to ballerinas. For the majority of what I have experienced ballerinas in general are normal people. It is a shame to be lumped into these traits that make ballet dancers look less than admirable. This image of what a ballerina is like through cinema and television is so cemented into our American psyche that it will be very difficult to remove the stigma. It will take many years and many films showing ballet in a positive light to change this image. If ballet were represented well in the media would it draw in the same amount of viewers? This has not been the case for the latter two examples discussed. Both shows were canceled after two seasons. Black Swan however was hugely popular, winning many awards, earning $329 million dollars worldwide and was talked about for months.

Does this show a trend in our society? Are we only satisfied watching anything about ballet when it is highly dramatized and unrealistic? This is probably going to be the trend for many years to come. There will be a show coming out this fall on Starz called Flesh and Bone that is going to follow a ballerina as she joins a ballet company. The commercials alone are extremely dramatic. It appears showing ballet and its dancers in negative stereotypes are a trend that is here to stay until someone decides it is time for change. Hopefully someone in the future will show the true beauty of ballet and the art that it really is. Until then I suspect that our society will continue to obsess over what has always been shown, the skinny, white, jealous, and competitive ballerina that is constantly striving for perfection.

 

Sources:

Black Swan. Dir. Darren Aronofsky. Perf. Natalie Portman. Fox Searchlight Films, 2010. Film.

Bunheads. Created by Amy Sherman-Palladino, Lamar Damon. Disney-ABC Domestic Television. 2012-2013. Television.

Breaking Pointe. Created by Allison DeBona. The CW broadcast television network. 2013-2013. Television.

Copeland, Misty. Interview by Rachel Martin. NPR.org. Busting Stereotypes To Become A Prima Ballerina, 2014. Web. 09, Mar. 2014.

Prince Rachel. Smida, Peter. Interview by Victoria Aheam. Cbs.ca. Dancers object to Black Swan’s stereotypes. Canadian Press. 2010. Web. 26, Dec. 2010.

Portman, Natalies. Interview with Joan Juliette Buck. Natalie Portman: Spreading her wings. Vogue Magazine. 13, Dec. 2010.

What does it mean to be a musician?

Music isn’t something you are born with. It isn’t an identity that you fall into. It is something you choose to do, and you decide whether you want to continue, or how often to do it, and how far with it you go. Society however attempts to create stereotypes for everything, and musicians aren’t sheltered from this. In many ways, they are mirroring what they have seen, what we have been shown in pop culture provides examples that they aspire to be, as well as reflect what they are becoming.

I have identified as a musician since I was about 11 years old. It started very similarly to how everyone seems to: I asked my parents for a guitar. I (just like everyone else) was going to be a rock star! I very quickly began learning everything that every other preteen musician was learning, listening to the same bands, and even began taking pictures like this:

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Everyone was looking toward all the famous rock musicians from the past 40 years, and saw the same type of characters appearing again and again: They all lived an exciting lifestyle that showed extreme wealth, or sometimes even extreme poverty. They were all incredibly clever people that got anything and everything they wanted, and likewise were always falling in and out of love. These images bring to mind many popular musicians and their antics throughout the ages. Musicians sleeping with fans, clever and mischievous remarks to others, getting into trouble on their time off, and especially ego.

Many of these characteristics can be seen in the ‘rockumentary’ This is Spinal Tap (Reiner, 1984). One of the film’s lead characters, Nigel Tufnel, is a great example. While he is of course repeatedly shown as being a talented musician, he is more often shown as being shrewd toward the interviewer. This trait stands out in a scene in which he is giving a tour of his collection of guitars. In this scene, he often makes condescending, yet clever remarks for the interviewer not to touch, point, or even look at certain guitars. He is also quite witty when explaining details about certain instruments.

this-is-spinal-tap-8

(Retrieved from: http://www.guitarworld.com/node/13103)

Toward the climax of the movie, most of the characters show one large characteristic of musicians in the form of their egos affecting their actions. In fact, at separate points, both Tufnel, as well as another band member, Ian Faith, are shown to quit the band as a result of events that they take offense toward. This is of course perhaps one of the biggest traits I had begun to see as I grew as a musician. Egos are a very dangerous matter than can in some circumstances completely destroy everything one has built up.

So then what happened? I managed to breakout of the rock scene, and into the jazz genre and really began to get an “outside perspective” on what it meant to be a “rock musician”. I even began to look down on musicians that weren’t jazz musicians; to me, they were all “egotistical druggies that think they are the best thing to walk the earth”. Of course, I very quickly became the best musician I knew (or more accurately, as I perceived to be within my school district), and was what one might call a “big fish”. But as fate would have it, I was merely a “big fish in a small pond”. And when I got to the university level, I became aware of the fact that this phenomenon happened all over the world. And that ultimately, I was just one more musician that perceived highly of them selves.

The musician itself is a character archetype that has been played with for hundreds, if not thousands of years. They come in many shapes and sizes, and play many different instruments. Why is it then, that musicians also have stereotypes associated with them? We often think of some of the same things that I had experienced when we watch musical characters.

18nth_commedia-785850

(Retrieved from https://prezi.com/t2u_xcavx3jd/italian-renaissance-drama-commedia-dellarte/)

These musician characters can be seen throughout history in many dramas and literature, but one of the most well known is that of the Innamorati in the Commedia dell’Arte style. This character was one of the many ‘stock’ characters that emerged as a result of the need for improvised theatrical shows in the 16th century. They were expected to sing both as a character archetype, but also in a historical context, as the actors playing these parts began to be known for their talents (Rudlin, 1994).

Many of this type of character can be seen in interpretations of Shakespeare’s plays. Between Romeo and Juliet’s Romeo, The Taming of the Shrew’s Lucentio, Much Ado About Nothing’s Claudio, Merchant of Venice’s Bassanio, and the list could go on. As a character, they are mostly seen as “the lover”, while also being very musical and poetic in the way they interact with others and act throughout the stories. These two traits however, were the only ones we see present in modern musicians. Today, musicians (as well as other poetic artistic types) are known as most likely to “get the girl”, perhaps influenced by this early archetype.

We can see the characteristic of cleverness in another Commedia dell’Arte character: the Zanni. Traditionally, the Zanni were servants of the Innamorati. They were quite often shown as comedic and clever, often mixing the two to progress the story (Janik & Forti-Lewis, 1998). In the early 17th century however, we begin to see an evolution of the Zanni into Harlequin. Now the character began to have a love interest in the Colombina, often mirroring the main love story with their own happening in the background (Nicoll, 1963). With this, the Harlequin brought the emergence of a clever character that is also interested in love.

With the introduction of Ariel in Shakespeare’s The Tempest (Shakespeare, 1611) we can begin to see another character that merges traits. Often referred to as Shakespeare’s “most musical character”, Ariel still played the role of servant to his master Prospero. Depending on the production, he is almost always seen entering and exiting with music, and plays certain instrument himself. In fact, this musical trait is often used to drive the plot through calming the characters with song, or leading them toward their objective. He also shows his cleverness by using magic to deter those that attempt to plot against Prospero. The only love that this character shows, however, is a love for his master. This can be seen in his famous line “Do you love me, master?” Ultimately, Ariel is a much more unique character that shows a history of some of the traits musicians in media show today.

A modern day example of a musical character is Andy Dwyer in Parks and Rec (Daniels, 2009). He is a fun, lovable, often clever (but seemingly dim) musician character that has appeared since the show’s first episode. His character has of course evolved over the years, but at his roots, he very much exists as a Harlequin archetype.

chris-pratt

(Retieved from http://www.ign.com/articles/2015/02/23/parks-and-recreation-25-great-andy-dwyer-quotes)

It is very easy to see from the beginning that he exists largely as the main comedic character, despite all the characters contributing humor toward the plot. This is seen in nearly every episode through the countless humorous interactions he has with others. On the surface, these interactions show him to be entirely dull. And while he can be naïve, some plots unfold to show him to be quite intelligent. Related to this is his ability to be clever in dire situations. Examples of this can be seen when he scored a perfect score on the police exam, as well as some of the interactions with other characters that get him jobs.

Of course, a big characteristic of his is that he is a musician. This has manifested itself in many episodes, but a few in particular use it as their plot. In the episode titled Swing Vote (Daniels, 2013), he even manages to show an egotistical side when deciding to quit the band due to them playing a show without him. This action is very similar to the one seen earlier in This is Spinal Tap. In each of these examples however, they do end up returning to their groups; something that is unfortunately not seen so often in reality.

As I networked with more jazz musicians, I began to see and hear about many of the same negative characteristics I saw earlier in my life with the rock musicians. Careless antics were rampant through student musicians, there were clever actions taken to outdo one another, yet they were also not the brightest people, and of course ego stimulated their daily interactions.

Ultimately, I escaped this toxic environment. But I began to wonder, where does this come from? Are we just mirroring the negative aspects we see in popular musicians throughout history? Why were musicians like Andy Dwyer portrayed as an idiot on the surface?

11

(Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/film/2010/jan/07/it-might-get-loud-review)

With the release of It might get loud (Guggenheim, 2009), we begin to get an inside look into the lives of some different musicians. It takes 3 guitar players, Jimmy Page, The Edge, and Jack White, and places them in a room together with much of their musical equipment and has them in a sense have a conversation together. While it is true that in the past many famous musicians have had some negative problems in their lives such as drugs, this documentary shows that there is much more to being a musician. It describes the various backgrounds that these three musicians come from, and ultimately how they manage to create the sound they have, as well as how they became the people they are.

Interestingly, there are no negative traits present in the film. The three of them are having a productive conversation where they learn from each other and help each other understand the differences in the genres they play. On a sub-surface level, it is easy to see that the three of them may come from different places, but with sincerity and humility in their attitudes. Similarly, all three show intelligence when talking, and likewise aren’t trying to trick or outwit anyone else. And although this film only shows three examples, it is clear to see that many of the stereotypes seen throughout history might not necessarily be true everywhere we look.

Even though many of the musicians I have been surrounded by growing up show these qualities, I have a much greater awareness that it is easy to become assimilated to that type of lifestyle, and in the end I decided that I didn’t want to live like that. This doesn’t mean that I am any less of a musician than before. I chose to affiliate myself with this life, and of course have to interact with those that do unfortunately show many of these characteristics. But when comparing the documentary It Might Get Loud to some of the ‘mocumentaries’ such as Parks and Rec and This is Spinal Tap, it has shown that perhaps musicians aren’t like this in reality. This tells me that the stereotypes that exist in many of the ‘not-yet-professional’ musicians throughout the world are merely mirroring what we see in media, and not an accurate portrayal of what actually exists.

 Bibliography

This Is Spinal Tap. Dir. Rob Reiner, Embassy Home Entertainment, 1984, Film.

Rudlin, J. (1994). Commedia Dell’Arte: An Actor’s Handbook (pp. 67-90, 106, 118). New York: Routledge

Janik, V., & Forti-Lewis, A. (1998). Fools and Jesters in Literature, Art, and History (pp. 151-152). Greenwood Press.

Nicoll, A. (1963). The World of Harlequin: A Critical Study of the Commedia Dell’Arte (pp. 1-9). Cambridge University Press.

Shakespeare, W. (1611). The Tempest

Daniels, Greg. Parks and Recreation. Prod. Michael Schur. NBC. Television. 2009

Daniels, Greg. “Swing Vote.” Parks and Recreation. Prod. Michael Schur. NBC. Television. 2013

It Might Get Loud. Dir. David Guggenheim. Perf. Jimmy Page, Jack White, and David Evans. Sony Pictures Classics, 2009.

Images from:

The top 10 reasons to Quit Playing Guitar. (2014, October 3). Retrieved from http://www.guitarworld.com/node/13103

Anselmi, C. (2014, December 4). Italian Renaissance Drama & Commedia dell’Arte. Retrieved from https://prezi.com/t2u_xcavx3jd/italian-renaissance-drama-commedia-dellarte/

Fowler, M. (2015, February 25). PARKS AND RECREATION: 25 GREAT ANDY DWYR QUOTES. Retieved from http://www.ign.com/articles/2015/02/23/parks-and-recreation-25-great-andy-dwyer-quotes

Pulver, A. (2010, January 7) Film Review: It Might Get Loud. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/film/2010/jan/07/it-might-get-loud-review

A-Z-N on the Big Screen

I identify as an Asian American, but specifically, I am a Cambodian American. Being an Asian American in the popular culture, I have experienced a lot stereotype towards me. In school environment, people view Asian American as the smart ones, bookworms, or even nerds. Growing up, some of the popular culture artifacts were Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee, Jet Lee, and other Chinese Kung-Fu Masters (they are the best), which ironically aren’t even Cambodian influences. This shows that when people think of Asia, they think of China or Japan and more recently Korea, which do not include other Asian countries such as Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand and Laos. Therefore, when people hear that I am Asian, they assume that I know Chinese and that I’m a part of the Chinese culture, or other mainstream Asian cultures. Even in the contemporary media, it is mainly Chinese characters that take place in TV shows and movies such as 21 and Over, the television show Fresh off the Boat, and Asian F, an episode from Glee.

‘Asian F’ was episode from Glee, during season three, and aired in 2011. Although the title hints that it will be about an Asian-American character on the show (there are only two characters), the show only highlights Mike Chang’s storyline for a few minutes at a time, focusing more on Mercedes’ ‘breakout’ from the Glee club. Mike Chang received an A minus on his chemistry test and his father was disappointed, and wanted to have Mike tested for drugs. He believed that Mike’s girlfriend and dancing was the cause for his grade decline. Mike has to choose between auditioning for a role in the school play, or attending a Chemistry tutoring session. In the end, his mother tells him that she just wants him to be happy. She came to America to give him the best opportunities, but to also make sure that he is happy with his life.

It’s interesting, because it reveals the culture of Asian-American families, even though it is exaggerated that his father did not like the fact that he had an A minus. In a real life family, the Asian parents would be disappointed if their child goes a B instead of an A. They place such high values on grades, and there are reasons why. In Asian culture, passing exams, and being educated is the key to becoming successful. If their child is successful, then they don’t have to worry about their kids making it in the world. The Asian-American kids don’t want to get good grades to make themselves feel good, or out of fear. They want to get good grades, because it will make their parents proud. Education is highly valued, and it is believed that if we praise someone too much, they will stop trying and become complacent. The reason why our parents are so hard on us, and rarely tell us that they are proud of us, is because they want their children to constantly strive for better.

It is intense to know that there are student out there, who resorts to drugs in order to perform better. 21 & Over is a movie is about Jeff Chang turning 21, and celebrating it with his friends. At the beginning of the movie he used drugs in order to keep up with his academic life. As a result, he ended up overdosing and almost killed himself in the process. The strange part is that he does not like to do any of it. He’s only doing it, so he can please his dad. Jeff had to live through huge expectations his father set for him. Even though Jeff wants to do something else, his father’s expectations for him held him back from doing what he love to do, which is music.

This shows how pressured Asian-American students can feel during their years in education. It can become extreme to a point where they will take drugs, but rarely will it go that far.

Fresh off the Boat is a television show based off of Eddie Huang’s memoir, Fresh off the Boat. It is centered on his family back in the 1990s, transitioning from a dominant Chinese area in D.C, to a white-dominant neighborhood in Florida. His family is essentially starting off ‘fresh’, and he does not encounter a lot of students of his own race. Throughout the show, his parents are also learning how to adapt to this ‘foreign’ place, and still be successful, while maintaining their own Chinese identity and culture.

In order to fit into other culture, he decided to ignore his own. One of the first things that administrators at his school did was that they were overly cautious of his identity – meaning that they did not want to offend him, but they were also unsure with how to approach it. For example, when a new student arrived, the student was clearly Chinese (although he was adopted by White, Jewish parents), and Eddie was assigned to take the student around. When Eddie asked why he was being forced to do this, the principal responded that he felt like Eddie could understand the student’s “…current situation”, and Eddie responded bluntly, “It’s because I’m Chinese, isn’t it?” The principal would stammer and deny the assumption.

Students in Eddie’s class would tell him that his Chinese food smelled weird, leading Eddie to beg his mother to take him to a ‘white’ supermarket, and she would ask why he wants to be so ‘American.’ At one point, a white kid called Eddie a ‘chink’, which he took offensively and responded physically. Eddie was taken to the principal’s office, while the white kid was not, and his parents questioned why the other child was not there, when that kid was the one that called Eddie a derogatory term. I have also been called ‘chink’ or ‘gook’ before. What was ridiculous was that ‘gook’ was a derogatory term for Chinese and Vietnamese people, and I’m Cambodian. They did not even bother to insult me correctly. They just assumed that I was Chinese. I didn’t respond to it the same way Eddie did, but I did walk away.

This show is incredibly relatable to my life, because when I came over with my family from Cambodia to the States, we also had to adapt to the dominant culture, while maintaining our Cambodian culture. In fact, Eddie was a chubby Asian kid who wore baggy clothes, and listened to hip-hop music, and I was the exact same way. My parents hated that I listened to hip-hop and kids would always look at me weird when I ate Cambodian food at school. Fresh off the Boat shows an Asian-American childhood that is closer to reality, than any other show could do. It touches on more than just academics, but all aspects of Asian-American life, from having cultural pride, to trying to explain to our parents that ‘this is what all the white kids are doing.’

In my secondary sources, Eddie wrote an article responding to how the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) approached his memoir in a television format. He talked about how many people praised him for ‘putting Asians on TV.” There was a strong desire to have a full-Asian cast, and it would be the first time since Margaret Cho’s ‘All-American Girl’ television show. Eddie was extremely frustrated though, because the characters became ambiguous, and rather than having a scene where Eddie had to kneel in the driveway with a bucket of rice on top of his head, they were placing the show on a ‘Trojan’s horse,’ to make the show relatable and accessible to the American public. He felt like ABC was destroying his memoir, and turning it into a ‘pasteurized’ version of his work. However, after watching the first couple of episodes, he realized the profound mark that he made. The show had to be placed in a format that the public could understand, in order for the show to even make it on air, and it was all worth it, because the moment the white kid called Eddie a chink, it brought a lot more to the table in those three minutes, then not having the show on air at all. It was the small moments that were making an impact on American television.

While it is nice to see portrayals of Asian-Americans in shows such as Glee or a popular cult film like 21 and Over, the portrayal of Asians are shallow and they only focus on one aspect of Asian-American life: academics. People strongly believe that education is the number one important thing in an Asian-American life, and while this is very true, it is also not the whole truth. Asian-American families are more than just education. It’s about culture, family and being in a community. A special characteristic of the Cambodian/Asian language is that it does not contain the word “I” or “you.” Before a Cambodian person can talk to someone, we have to establish our relationship with them. We call them mother, father, aunt, uncle, grandparent, older or younger brother or sister, niece or nephew. This means that we see ourselves not as “I,” but as niece, nephew, grandchild, older or younger brother or sister, daughter, son, uncle, or aunt. No one is a stranger; everyone we meet is addressed as a family member. Every person is a part of the larger community, and the community exists in us. What all of these portrayals have in common is a sense of family. While Asian F and 21 and Over has superficial portrayals, it still speaks to deep sense of family that we have as Asian-Americans. We absolutely, one hundred percent care about our family, especially our parents, who have done so much for us, by just coming to this country. Our strong respect for them is the root of all the stereotypes that emerged. We work to make our parents proud.

Work Cited

Fresh Off the Boat [Motion picture on DVD]. (2015). United States: 20th Television.

Glee “Asian F” Episode: Truth or Stereotype? (2011, October 5). Retrieved June 2, 2015, from http://www.8asians.com/2011/10/05/glee-asian-f-episode-truth-or-stereotype/

Glee [Motion picture on DVD]. (2011). United States: 20th Television.

Huang, E. (2015, February 4). Network TV Ate My Life: Eddie Huang on Watching His Memoir Become a Sitcom. Retrieved June 2, 2015, from http://www.vulture.com/2015/01/eddie-huang-fresh-off-the-boat-abc.html

21 & Over [Motion picture on DVD]. (2013). United State: Relativity Media.