Images of a Hacker in Popular Culture: Why didn’t Hollywood Movies Get It Right?

Minh Le

UNST-254E

In this blog post, I do not criticize or evaluate the whole movies and their quality at all, in fact they all are great and intriguing to watch. By that mean, I decided to narrow down my research to only focus on the image of a character identified as a hacker, in order to analyze how my identity-programmer represented in popular culture as a whole. After watching three movies I chose and taking note, one thing I noticed is that even though they were made and released in different time period: Hackers-1995, The Social Network-2010, and Blackhat-2015, they all highlighted a common stereotype in which talent programmers (hackers) tend to do evil things and abusing their power over the computer to exploit operating system vulnerability. (Side note: it is not that long in time, but the one comes out later should be better or avoid common missteps revealed in the previous one, right? In fact we don’t see much improvement here)

First, let’s clarify the definition of hacker and who is a hacker exactly in case for those that are still confused by the false presentation of hacker in popular culture artifacts, and then we can further examine how they were depicted as the way they were in Hollywood movie. The term hacker itself originally meant to identify computer scientist or programmer who is particularly skilled in computer programming. As time passed by, the meaning of the word “hacker” started to diversify, and somehow Hollywood movies and popular culture misled it to a typical stereotype in which the portrayal of hackers were depicted as awkward, antisocial, malicious, and secluded in their own world: the cyberspace.

Hackers

The first artifact I analyzed is the 1995 American film Hackers directed by Iain Softley. The film is about a genius programmer, Dade, and his elite hacker group trying to uncover the truth hidden behind the criminal case. Although Hackers did a good job of portraying some elements of hacker culture, the film is notable for being the least accurate portrayal of hacking techniques as the way it shaped hacker culture in its own image. That is, in the article titled Hackers written by professional critic Jim McClellan reviewing the movie, he also shares the same thought on how Softley put all the action scenes in an immaterial realm cyberspace or map the urban landscape onto cyberspace (McClellan 1996), is failing to describe the actual hacking itself in reality.

Hacking in the movie

How people hack in the movie

After watching this movie, I noticed that Hollywood has contributed to the stereotype, which depicts hacker as young computer geniuses (with marvelous technological skills) had committed misconduct behaviors and performed illegal activities. Although there are many other hackers with different characteristics described in the movie, I will just focus on the portrayal of hacker demonstrated by the protagonist on this post. That is, my observation noted that dominant characteristics of a hacker are mischievous, ambitious, and childish, and it was shown each time when Dade intentionally used his skills to achieve his personal wishes. In McClellan’s article, I found that he mentioned the same argument that most of the hackers in the movie are representatives of cyber youth culture that tend to “take the world by storm” (McClellan 1996). His article basically suggested that Softley’s Hackers movie does a good job on the portrayal of hacking culture and the teenage characters, despite being depicted from a stereotyped pool.

The Social Network

Moving to the second artifact I chose, The Social Network directed by David Fincher, based on the real life story of the foundation of the social networking website Facebook-Mark Zuckerberg. In my opinion, The Social Network is a great movie as it has done a uniquely good job of displaying computers and hacking movement on the screen in realistic way. Although what Zuckerberg typed in his laptop doesn’t necessarily reflect real life “hacking”, it still makes sense to the audience as it depicts realistic portrayal of modern hacking. However, similar to Hackers, The Social Network also depicts the portrayal of a genius, teenage hacker in the same stereotypical manner. In the movie, Mark appears to be a very sarcastic person, which can be perceived from his conversations with others (though his appearance is to fit in the film and its genre). Again, when I narrow my focus only to the protagonist, I found the most interesting element of the film is the way it depicts Mark’s characteristics of naive, smart, enthusiastic but always struggling in the social context at the beginning (i.e. antisocial – typical stereotype of a hacker), and then transforms him into a cold-hearted businessman at the end. This is also when the paradox was clearly shown by the portrayal of the antisocial guy develops a social network.

In the article titled The Geeks: gods of capitalism by Laurie Penny reviewing the film “The Social Network”. She criticizes that the movie is basically a “redemptive parable of male nerd culture” in which a social network that connected more than 500 million people across the globe was germinated in an act of vengeful misogyny (Laurie 2010). Once again we can see how Hollywood movie depict programmer in typical stereotype of ambitious, abusing power in desperate for wealth and respect.

Blackhat

Hollywood movie finally gets hacking movement right on the screen with Blackhat, the American action thriller film directed by Michael Mann staring at Nick Hathaway, who is an experienced hacker, is assigned to a Chinese-American force investigating a series of incidents of cyber terrorism. The filmmakers clearly did their research, and the result is a remarkably accurate reflect modern hacking techniques on the screen. Instead of displaying complicated operating systems’ interfaces with high-end graphics, characters on the film “hack” using techniques exactly the same as how hacker “hacks” in the real life (using Bash, Emacs, Linux, and typing commands). That is, every time the camera shows a computer screen, the contents of the movie are built on a solid premise with most of the hacking performed is within the realm of the possible. That all being said, the movie does an excellent job on the technical side aspects.

Image of coding on-screen portrayed how real life coding looks like

Although Blackhat gets the visuals right, it accidentally fell into the common stereotype that has visited in so many previous Hollywood hacker movies when it comes to portraying hacker on-screen: programming is served for heist related purposes. In this movie, the portrayal of hacker was mainly shown by the villain, who is the responsible for a cyber attack to a Chinese nuclear facility and planning to attack more targets.

Image of a nuclear power plant explosion

Overall, the movie is very realistic and detailed with the raw materials for even though the way the plot is played out in Blackhat was too fast to be realistic, which somehow diminishes the technical accuracy.

Discussion

To sum up what I have discovered so far after analyzing those movies, the ethical issue arises as one of the cause of how the portrayal of a hacker in popular culture falls into a common negative stereotype. Before advancing to the next step where I will discuss how the portrayal of hacker should be improved, let’s recall who are the hackers one more time. According to the definition in a peer-reviewed titled The Moral Cracker?, hackers are people who expose their interest in learning about computer hardware and software by digging into the machine to learn its hidden secrets or vulnerabilities, and, ultimately, to take control of it (Baird et al. 472) Now it’s time to categorize hackers into two groups. The first group, let’s called them black hat just like in the movie, vulnerabilities are prey to hunt for and exploit to gain financial benefits. The second group, denoted as the “ethical” hacker- white hat, is composed of individuals who serve for the cyber security to identify vulnerabilities and fix them before black hats find it. Though both use the exact same methods “to hack” into the operating system, their goals are way opposite from one another.

At this point, it’s clear to identify what Hollywood movies missing on the screen, we all see now? Yes, most of the hackers represented in the movies were fallen into the first group. Therefore, to put an end to the common stereotype existed so long, future movie that portrays the image of a hacker should be taken with the approach using the concepts discussed in the article The Moral Cracker as a core to develop.

 

Works cited

Baird, Bruce J., et al. “The Moral Cracker?” Computers &Amp; Security, vol. 6, no. 6, 1987, pp. 471–478.

McClellan, Jim. “Hackers.” Sight and Sound, vol. 6, no. 5, 1996, pp. 53,3.

Penny, Laurie. “The Geeks: Gods of Capitalism.” New Statesman, vol. 139, no. 5021, 2010, p. 12.

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The Perception of Asian Americans in pop culture

Nathen low

UNST254

SPR 2018

The perception of Asian Americans in Pop Culture

When I went into this assignment, I had only personal experience to base how people feel about Asian-Americans in society.  I grew up in a very small, rural town called La Grande, Oregon.  I basically knew everyone in my town and had been with the same 20 or 30 kids throughout grade school, and middle school.  After getting into some trouble, my mom decided I would start high school in an even smaller town about 10 minutes away, called Union, Or.  Having come from a small town already, I was certain that I had heard every Asian joke that there was.  But after attending Union High School, I realized that many people not only made ignorant jokes but were ignorant about anything outside of their small town.  I remember when I had a teacher of mine ask me if I was Asian or Chinese.  To this day I am not sure if he had accidentally misspoken, or if he truly had no idea how absurd that question was.

So I went into this assignment thinking that I was going to be covering how white-Americans viewed Asian people, and why.  But, after doing some research I discovered that the ignorance and mis-understanding actually goes deeper than that.  The first instace of this is anecdotal, when a friend of mine who is Chinese like me, made an ignorant comment when we were at the grocery store.  We were walking through the parking lot, and a 4-door car with 4 Asian people in it, drove by and nearly hit us.  My friend then said “the stereotype is true, Chinese people cannot drive”.  I asked him why he thought they were Chinese, and he responded by saying “All Asians are basically some kind of Chinese’  I laughed due to the ridiculousness of his statement, but then I sat there concerned as to this was purely a joke or a real thought that had inhabited his mind.

 

 

In this propaganda poster from WWII, we se that the Japanese man is depicted with fangs, and they spelled “very” with the double ll’s like “Velly” which is a stereotypical way of depicting the Japanese accent.  In my life I have been on the receiving end of these types of jokes and mockery.  Although, I do not want to sound like a victim.  People have every right to speak and say what they want as long as it does not incite actual bodily harm. Because of this, I was surprised to learn that there are even more instances, similar to the comment made by my friend in the parking lot, where Asians actually apply stereotype-based insults to interactions with other Asians.  In the article by the Asia Society (Kiang) mentions a conversation between Asian-Americans in a store, where one man accuses the “Korean” store owners of charging too much for beef.  The store owner, a Cambodian, tells him that he is Cambodian and not Korean.  The customer then proceeds to say that the Korean owners are ripping them off.  I was unaware that this type of racism happened between different types of Asians.

 

 

The next thing that I found, and that was very surprising to me, was that Asians are viewed as the model minority even in groups like the Alt-right.  Alt-right members have gone as far as excluding Asians from the list of races that they think should leave the country.  Their definition of “Asian” However, is limited to Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. (Lim 2018)      In the article they discuss how many Alt-right leaders and members seek Asian wives and girlfriends because they are believed to be submissive and loyal.  I found it interesting that there was selective racism and prejudice.  I know that from personal experience, there is much less hatred towards Asians than there is toward Latino and African-American people.  It was a level of bias that I was not even aware of.  And even the fact that the alt-right could be so selectively racist made me think, that racism may even be a choice.  It made me think that racism is something that we participate in, without the participation of people it does not exist.  This article made me think that we are all so quick to jump to conclusions about a certain kind of person without getting the whole story.

 

Asian males in movies have traditionally been portrayed as timid, and non-masculine friends or some peripheral role.  It was not until recently that we have seen masculine roles played by Asian males.  One instance I can think of where an Asian male is portrayed as even semi-masculine is in the Walking Dead, where Glen and Maggie are in a relationship.  Although this is a rarity where an Asian male is shown to be in a romantic relationship with a white woman, he is still portrayed as a scared and timid man in many instances.  And Maggie is shown to be more assertive and takes control in many instances.   In the article by “The Harvard Crimson” they mention a scene where an Indian-American actor has a sexual encounter that goes horribly wrong, but it was relatable to most straight males.  Portraying an Asian-American man in this masculine light of normalcy is strange progress, but it is a step towards inclusion.

I have discovered a lot about the perception of Asian-American males in Popular Culture.  I have discovered under representation, and very strong stereotyping in roles.  But what surprises me the most, is that I think that we are mostly represented fairly, and that things are improving as time goes on.  In general, Asian cultures are more reserved and less outspoken.  Representing Asian ales in an inaccurate light is as much as an injustice as not representing them at all in my opinion.  I have done a lot of self-discovery, and I am not only proud of my heritage, but I am mostly satisfied with how people like me are represented.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

kiang, Peter. “Understanding Our Perceptions of Asian Americans.” Asia Society, asiasociety.org/education/understanding-our-perceptions-asian-americans.

Lim, Audrea. “The Alt-Right’s Asian Fetish.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 6 Jan. 2018, www.nytimes.com/2018/01/06/opinion/sunday/alt-right-asian-fetish.html.

Reyez, Ruben. “America’s Most Important Leading Man | Opinion.” The Harvard Crimson, http://www.thecrimson.com/column/pop-cultural/article/2017/6/26/reyes-asian-american-masculinity/.

Reasons for Chinese International Students to Mingle With Themselves

UNST254
Week 10
Qinyu Lyu
Big Picture Blog Post

 

Being a part of this society, everyone has more than one identity. For me, I identify
myself as “daughter,” “only child,” “Chinese international student,” “listener,” “foodie,”
“college student,” “culture mixer.” Among all of my identities, I chose “Chinese International student” to do my research on. It is because studying in the United States
for three years as a Chinese student, I have noticed that Chinese students are not always depicted as positive images. For example, Americans think Chinese only mingle
with themselves because they do not want to come out of their comfort zone. As one part of this group, I do think it is a phenomenon existing in the college of the United States. However, as I did more and more research, I found out that there is a reason behind, which it is the difference between cultures of these two countries.

First, Chinese like to hang out with together because of their common interests and
language. In an article called “The Role of Person-Culture Fit in Chinese Students’
Cultural Adjustment in the United States: A Galileo Mental Model Approach” by Lin
Zhu, the author, used a Galileo multidimensional scaling model to explain the impact of
intercultural experience has on Chinese students. According to this article, the amount
of intercultural communication had a significant effect on person-culture fit, in turn
affecting sojourners’ adaptation outcomes. I related this article to a video I have found
as my primary resource made by a group of Chinese students. It profiled three Chinese
students at Smith College and their challenges finding right places for themselves
between China and the United States these two cultures. In this video, when the first
Chinese student mentioned her interests in Japanese culture and Asian culture in
general; she said she had more common topics and interests with people that had
Asian background, but she did not have that much to say with American students at
school because they did not have much in common. Although she came to United States when she was in high school, she did not find herself a big fan in this society so she could not find the sense of belonging here. Another Chinese student in this video explained a critical reason for Chinese students to always hang out with each other together, which is the language people speak and the familiarity of that language directly impact their passion of engagement in the conversation. She said it was hard for
her to engage in the conversation when she spoke English actively. She felt she was two people when she talked in English and Chinese.

I relate myself to both details above I have found in this video. For the first one, I have
the same feelings in the United States, people are accommodating and friendly, but
because we have been growing up in entirely different cultural backgrounds, we always
have different interest focused. One example could be in class when someone made
an American joke that related to its culture; everyone would laugh hardly except we
Chinese students. Also, when Chinese students sit down at the table with Americans,
just like the girl said, we do not have that much to talk about because our attentions are
on different things. When people are talking about American TV shows or things that
are prevalent in American social media, I could not participate that kind of conversation
because I have not paid much attention to those. I am also a big fan of Asian culture,
which brought me a lot of Korean friends after coming here, but I do not develop deep
relationships with local students. At the same time, I also found myself different when I
speak English; I think the language is not only the language but also the reflection of the
way you think, because of the altered expression of feelings and logical management,
I tend to use a different way to think in English as well as speak. So when even I do not
do that on purpose, I still show different characteristics when I speak English and Chinese. Language is a significant way to express myself; I believe it is also a big reason for many international students especially Chinese to hang out together.

Second, Chinese students like to stay as a group because they are facing the same
challenges that might only be understood by themselves. In an article called “Different is
not deficient: contradicting stereotypes of Chinese international students in US higher education” by Tang T. Heng, the author did a survey which is to follow 18 Chinese students studying in the United States for one year to see how they deal with sociocultural contexts and change over time. He exhibited his finds such as the communication styles, expectations from schools, the balance between play and work
and so on between these two cultures to illustrate that the misusing of inquiry methods may cause a lot of misunderstanding of Chinese students. I also found a short film talking about three things challenging Chinese students, which was housing, group project, and networking. Its purpose is to show the real challenges Chinese students will face when they decide to go to another country to live and study. At both the beginning and end of the film, those three students stay together, eating delicious food, taking selfies and shopping, which seems they are pleased and satisfied with their life. Especially when at the end, when one girl is asked how she is doing in finding an internship there, she answers with a smile:” It goes well.” However, in the previous story about her, she experiences a disappointing conversation with a prominent business person, the person tells her that 99% of international students failed to find jobs in the U.S. because they can never be one part of Americans.

It seems that the beginning as well as the ending which depicts the happy life for all those three Chinese students contradict the three divided stories talked. However, they are not in paradox at all. In reality, a lot of Chinese students like to pretend to live a good life, and everything goes well no matter regarding academic performance or internship finding. But behind, they are usually suffering from many horrible pains in many aspects. One reason is that they do not want their families and friends to worry about them. Another reason could be because everyone is hiding/herself and tries to show that they are living fancy life, it leads others to be not willing exhibit their pain outside, which might indicate they are losers in this country.

Third, Chinese students prefer to stay in their community because of their patriotism. In
an article called ”Patriotism Abroad- Overseas Chinese Students’ Encounters With
Criticisms of China” by Henry Chiu Hail, The author, talks about the reasons that lead to
cross-culture conflicts between Chinese students and Americans. According to the research, this cross-culture conflict does not only come from cultural misunderstanding,
differences in values, or lack of language ability, but also occurs as part of a struggle to
defend the national reputation and assert loyalty to one’s nation within the context of a
Perceived hierarchy of nations. Most Chinese students show their patriotism to them
Country by not willing to accept opinions from the westerners based on the bias. They
feel tightly connecting to their country, and they want to be respected by respecting their
country first.

I also found a new article called “Chinese Students in the U.S. Fight a ‘Biased’ View of
Home” by Shaila Dewan; in this article, the author talks about how Chinese students are
against Dalai Lama who said Tibet is not part of China, by listing things happened in several colleges that Chinese students had done, such as trying to limit his address to
non-political topics and throwing plastic bottle towards monks. He also displays opinions
from different Chinese on Chinese politics and the way western media present them. Many Americans think this phenomenon of Chinese students is mainly because they got brainwashed by the Chinese government. I don’t agree with this point because Tibet does not develop itself by refusing to take resources and beneficial policies provided by the Chinese government. Just like the Chinese student from the University of Southern California said, the history is the best evidence, for ancient Chinese emperor did grant Dalai Lama his title. Before I came to the United States, people always have a conversation about the transparency of Western media. However, after I came here, what I have noticed is not all western media is reporting negatively about China, but some of them to focus on things that they believe have something to do with the “human rights.” The exciting thing is, under the globalization of information, nowadays Chinese media does report the same stuff as the Western press does, the only difference would be the perspectives of their opinions.

In conclusion, it seems that Chinese students do not want to pay any effort in being involved in this country and the American community. The fact is, the common interests,
language, the understanding of challenges faced by this particular group as well as their
patriotism and loyalty to their country, which brings them the sense of belonging, all
become reasons for them to stay in their Chinese student’s community. As a result, it is
the cultural differences between the United States and China lead to the stereotypical
image of Chinese international students studying in the United States on current social
media, which is to only mingle with themselves.

Work Cited

Heng, Tang T. “Different Is Not Deficient: Contradicting Stereotypes of Chinese
International Students in US Higher Education.” Studies in Higher Education, vol. 43,
no. 1, 2018, pp. 22–36.

Zhu, Lin, et al. “The Role of Person-Culture Fit in Chinese Students’ Cultural Adjustment
in the United States: a Galileo Mental Model Approach.” Human Communication
Research, vol. 42, no. 3, 2016, p. 485.

Hail, Henry Chiu. “Patriotism Abroad.” Journal of Studies in International Education, vol.
19, no. 4, 2015, pp. 311–326.

Staff, Tea Leaf Nation. “Watch: Chinese Students in America Try to Find Meaning, and
Fit In.” Foreign Policy, Foreign Policy, 4 Aug. 2016,
foreignpolicy.com/2016/08/04/watch-chinese-students-in-america-try-to-find-meaning-a
nd-fit-in/.

Yang, Yung Jen. “Study Abroad – Whole Film 《我们留学生》正片.” YouTube,
YouTube, 3 Feb. 2015, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LK1kxvTNAa0.
Dewan, Shaila. “Chinese Students in the U.S. Fight a ‘Biased’ View of Home.” New York
Times (1923-Current File), 29 Apr. 2008, p. A1.

Hispanic Representation in Popular Culture

Whenever I’m asked about who I am and what makes me who I am, my Hispanic identity is a big one. For the majority of my life I’ve noticed a general lack of Hispanic representation in pop culture. Additionally what little representation does exist, doesn’t portray Hispanics very realistically and tends to be negative in nature. Whether it’s the news, a movie, or a TV show, some Hispanic stereotype is often rearing its ugly head. While there may be some truth to stereotypes on the occasion, it’s hardly a reason to exaggerate, fixate or generalize them onto all Hispanic people to ever exist. There are different kinds of negative portrayals, some being more malicious in nature, like the Mexican Bandit stereotype, while others are negative in a different way. The use of funny accents and characterizations that make the character seem uneducated aren’t exactly villainous but they are still hurtful and perpetuate a false narrative. So I decided to look at how pop culture may be negatively representing Hispanics, and going step further to see how these portrayals may affect the overall perception and image of the Hispanic community.

 

Television:

 

If someone were to ask you to think of a lawyer, doctor or engineer on television, chances are whoever you thought of isn’t Hispanic. It’s not your fault one didn’t come to mind, its just that the reality is that you are more likely see a Hispanic play the role of domestic worker like a maid or some criminal drug lord. In fact Hispanics are 3 times more likely to be cast as lawbreakers than European Americans (Rivadeneyra, 394). TV shows like AMC’s Breaking Bad, are showcasing this extremely damaging stereotype of the villainous Hispanic. Hispanics, specifically males, have long been labeled as violent and associated with violence, criminal activity and gang involvement. Hollywood has exploited the ever growing stigma and narrative prompted by the Mexican Drug War and talks on immigration. In Breaking Bad, the majority of Cartel figures and drug dealers the main characters encounter in the series are Hispanic. They are all portrayed as aggressive, hostile, money hungry, self-centered villains. One of the first big cartel leaders in the series goes by the name Tuco. Tuco is very crazy and intense, often having all these outbursts of rage that result in fairly gruesome violence. A scene in the first episode of season 2 shows Tuco quickly escalating in anger at one of his own underlings and beating him to death with his bare fists. There are also many small derogatory comments and jokes made here and there throughout the show. In the pilot episode DEA agent, Hank, makes a bet with a fellow agent about the ethnicity of the suspect they’re trying to bust, “I got you twenty bucks, that says he’s a beaner” (Gillian, 2008). The mere fact that he expects a Mexican to be the one running the meth lab they’re trying to bust speaks to the pervasive image and idea that Hispanics are all drug dealer and crime bosses. Continued negative connotations like this, no matter how entertaining, are actually adding more fuel to the fire, reinforcing these damaging perceptions.

Tuco after he beat a man to death

 

Negative representation on television doesn’t just exist on live action shows but also resides on animated series, such as Family Guy. The show has one recurring Hispanic character, a middle-aged Mexican maid by the name Consuela. While she is a recurring character she is far from being a main character. Her appearances on the show are nonsensical; she just randomly appears in episodes sporadically every season for usually one to five minute bits. In her appearances she only interacts with the main characters half the time while the other half of the time she’s just in her own clip, in some wacky setting of her own. Consuela’s characterization is very consistent with what you picture for a stereotypical Hispanic maid or housekeeper. She speaks limited English, however through the years her broken English has improved. She’s generally seen as uneducated due to her lack of understanding, and she’s seen as being aggressive and mean sometimes. She’s always saying no to things and acting stubborn. Because of this Consuela is made out to be a really bad maid. She had altercations with the main characters, the Griffin family, in which she didn’t listen to them and cleaned things when it was an inconvenience to them and stayed late because she wanted to. On one occasion during Consuela’s upkeep, she ends up stealing $1000 in play money from the Griffin’s toddler, Stewie. When questioned about it she openly says that she took the money and when asked to give it back she says, “come get b****” (MacFarlane, 2009). Instances like this depicts that Hispanic maids are untrustworthy and quite frankly are criminals. There was even an instance when the Griffins tried to fire her but she refused to leave her job, so they took extreme measures to get rid of her. Once again going into this stigma that Hispanics are stubborn and in order to get them to abide one must take violent measures. This type of behavior from Consuela makes it so she checks off all the boxes to fit into the negative stereotype of the unintelligent, untrustworthy, Hispanic maid.

classic consuela always saying no

Film:

 

As mentioned before not all negative portrayals are villainous in nature, some don’t seem harmful but can still hurtful and perpetuate a false narrative. The 2011 film, Jack & Jill,  features one Hispanic character that doesn’t qualify as a background or extra character, the family’s Mexican landscaper named Felipe. Felipe’s character is characterized in a way that places him as foreign and at times perceived as inferior. Felipe speaks with a heavy accent and at times reverts to broken English. But the biggest thing about Felipe is that he’s made out to be this big jokester. Through the duration of the film Felipe makes a lot of interesting jokes. Every joke he makes is about illegal immigrants or common Mexican stereotypes. He makes comments about how good his tree impression for when immigration comes is, or talks about how his family member are all named Juan and they like to eat tacos and play soccer. Then at the end of he makes it into a joke by saying “I’m kidding,” ultimately dismissing it and laughing it off with everyone. The jokes his character makes are not particularly nasty on the surface, but they can be harmful and contribute to hurting the image of Hispanics. However for this particular film there’s an added layer of complexity that comes with Felipe making these types of jokes. If someone who is Hispanic has no problem making these kinds of comments into jokes and making no big deal about it, openly laughing; a viewer can interpret it as making those types of joke okay when it’s really not. As minor as some viewers may see it, that small stuff can still hurt an entire community and every small jokes contributes to the overall picture society has of Hispanics

All images and portrayals of anything, whether they be seen as positive or negative, can have an effect on viewers overall perceptions and beliefs on that subject or persons. But it is particularly these negative and stereotyped portrayals that can build up to be detrimental to images and perceptions of people, whether we intend for them to be or not. Stereotypes can both consciously and subconsciously affect our social judgments and beliefs, so this continuous stream of negative portrayals by Hollywood embeds these associations into the minds of its viewers. As much as we may try to disassociate from what we see in the media, it’s a big part of our society and culture. In Dong & Murillo’s study of the impacts of television viewing they explore our development of stereotypes, finding that we learn to “pick up values, ideal and behaviors from observing television programs.” At this point it’s almost seeing some sort of negative portrayal in media unavoidable, however it is not something to be taken lightly. We as the general public must begin to make changes in what we watch in order to correct and influence what is being created in media.

 

Learning Moments:

 

There have been quite a few learning moments for me this term, lots of moments and new insights from my fellow peers that made me stop and consider them more deeply. I learned a lot about media influence on our lives and the ways we may influence it back. Particularly in week 3 questions and discussions on the potential cause and effect media can have and who is to blame? Big questions such as “Does the media ‘cause’ or change our cultural attitudes or beliefs, or is it merely reinforcing existing ones? Is the media doing all of this stuff “on purpose’?” With issues things such as racial stereotyping, unrealistic life and beauty standards and violent images my knee-jerk reaction use to be to blame the media. However, a lot of media is just a reflection or reaction to all of our own ideas, beliefs, and desires. This makes our hand far from clean, we are at least in part responsible for what is created, shared, and shown to us. We as individuals and as content creators must be more considerate to ensure social responsibility.

 

Stemming from the learning moment in week 3, week 4 brought some ease to some of the tensions caused by the contemplations of cause and effect. In week 4 we learned to evaluate our sources and really interpret what they are, where they come from and what their purpose is. It’s easy as a consumer to take things at face value or to passively absorb information and messages presented to us without considering the whys, whos and whats. Having the tools and knowledge to evaluate your sources, can help with figuring out who’s to blame and what effects that content may be having. It’s way for us to not be mislead so easily, we can be more aware of agendas and overall more knowledgeable and informed as a society.

 

Sources:

“Breaking Bad.” Breaking Bad, created by Vince Gilligan, AMC, FX, AMC Networks, 20 Jan. 2008-29 Sept. 2013.

Dugan, Dennis, director. Jack and Jill. Columbia Pictures, 2011.

“Family Guy.” Family Guy,created by Seth MacFarlane, Fox, 31 Jan. 1999-Present

Rivadeneyra, Rocío. “Do You See What I See?” Journal of Adolescent Research, vol. 21, no. 4, July 2006, pp. 393–414., doi:10.1177/0743558406288717.

Qingwen Dong & Arthur Phillip Murrillo. (2005).  The impact of television viewing on young adults’ stereotypes towards Hispanic Americans. University of the Pacific, Dissertation/Thesis. https://scholarlycommons.pacific.edu/uop_etds/617

Representation of Geeks in Popular Culture

           No one likes being called a nerd. I have been identified as a geek or a nerd  for a long time because I like to play video games. I also relate to the geeky characters on TV shows. That is the reason why I chose to write this paper: I wanted to see how people like me are represented across the popular culture. Geeks and nerds have a long history of negative stereotypes in popular culture. The individual of a group who is familiar with technology and fantasy content is often generalized into having poor social skills and cowardly behavior. This stereotype can be seen throughout popular culture, especially in older depictions. New and old shows still maintain the stigmas I described, such as The Big Bang Theory, The IT Crowd, and Parks and Recreation. Each of these shows depicts a nerd with a variety of the traits I described to varying degrees. Some shows depict these traits in more destructive manors than others. In my opinion it is important to make these issues known as such representation can lead to bullying in schools.

Source one: The IT Crowd

           I’d first like to dive into The IT Crowd, which far and away portrayed the most stereotypically possible depiction of nerds. The main and typically nerdy characters, Roy and Moss, are repeatedly portrayed as having a much lower social status than that of anyone else in the office. The Introduction to the show shows them bugging people about their computers (doing their job) and are consequently dropped down a trap door to the basement, where their office is located. That sort of gag is exactly the type of stereotype that I think should be far in the past regarding nerds. I think it’s damaging to self-esteem if someone who shares similar interests to you is mistreated constantly in popular culture.  Furthermore, in one episode a female co-worker comes to the basement to physically beat Roy over a work-related argument. The behavior is tolerated and the catalyst for the third main character, Jen, joining them in the basement, as the ‘public relations manager’ (to help them get along with their co-workers). I mention all this because it not only demonstrates the severe lack of respect for nerds, but also touches on another stereotype which is their lack of social skills with Women. After that violent situation, the women who beats Roy leaves and Roy asks whether anyone got her number, indicating romantic interest. I think this is a bit much because it implies that nerds are so desperate for socializing with the opposite gender that they are willing to look past violent tendencies and behavior. I would argue that this is an even worse portrayal because even if it is against a man, normalized violence isn’t appropriate. In that scene you can see Jen, not a nerd, casually watch the events unfold and eventually step in to diffuse the situation when she wanted to ask the woman where she bought such nice shoes. I think this further reinforces that nerds are portrayed as not being able to adequately socialize with others and that non-nerds have to step in to help.

Source two: The Big Bang Theory

          The Big Bang theory is the most popular artifact that stars a set of nerds. The show features a set of scientist friends who just live a nerdy lifestyle. This show is largely hated by real life nerds because of the way it uses nerd culture as its source of humor. Each nerdy cast member has the typical traits of being a nerd to an extreme end. Raj, for instance, can’t talk to women unless he is drunk and Sheldon has extreme social dysfunctionality with virtually everyone he speaks to. The main reason it’s disliked by so many people is that show is based off making fun of nerd culture. The activities the characters participate in are close to realistic but off enough that’s it’s mostly just insulting. A character will just say their mom is sending them their old N64 gaming console and the laugh track will play. Why is that funny? Because it’s something a nerd would do. It’s not particularly clever or poking fun at something extremely weird a nerd might do. It’s just taking a typical aspect of nerd culture, playing an old console, and portraying it as if it’s some hilariously ludicrous activity.

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Similarities:

              One similarity I noticed between the IT Crowd and The Big Bang Theory is the germaphobia and extreme lack of social skills that Sheldon and Moss have. Sheldon has a superiority complex over everyone he meets. Sheldon will say something such as “Oh, please, if I don’t know, you don’t know.” This sort of interaction demonstrates a detrimental inability to form friendships with others. He behaves this way even towards his friends. Similarly, Moss has next to no social instincts. He will routinely think someone is talking to him when they’re not. Someone will ask him a sarcastic question meant to poke fun at him and he will attempt to attempt to google the answer. Social queues just go over his head. Sheldon boasts that he was tested for Autism as a child and the doctor cleared him. It’s this sort of joke that perpetuates the stereotype that nerds struggle to socialize or form lasting relationships with those around them.

              Another similarity that IT Crowd and the Big Bang Theory has is how physical appearance of nerds is very stereotypical. I would like to compare two main characters Moss from The IT Crowd and Leonard from The Big Bang Theory. They both have thick glasses and messy hair, they dress similarly, they appear to be physically unfit. It is very common for the appearance of nerds to be that way across the popular culture.

       Image result for moss from the IT crowd                    Image result for leonard big bang theory

            Moss from The IT Crowd                     Leonard from The Big Bang Theory

Source three: Parks and Recreation

               In contrast to my previous examples, I think the TV show Parks and Recreation portrays nerds in a better manor. Ben Wyatt is the resident nerd on that show, as is demonstrated by his deep appreciation for Game of Thrones, accounting puns, and creating the board game ‘Cones of Dunshire.’ He presents a character that clearly has nerdy interests but just in a casual way that doesn’t take away from his delightful and funny characteristics. Every now and then there’s a joke about him criticizing J.J. Abrams’ take on Star Trek but it’s far from what defines his character. I think this presents nerds in a more positive manner because he’s never presented as further down on the totem pole due to being a part of nerd culture, and he doesn’t have any severe issues with social interactions, romantic or otherwise. He just has funny quirks that everyone can appreciate in a normal way. For instance, his ‘Cones of Dunshire’ game is a huge success and becomes a beloved fake game by fans of the show. In another show the joke would have just been that he plays Dungeons and Dragons and queue the laugh track. His great humor, selflessness, and good nature are what define him.

Image result for ben wyatt pajamas

Secondary source: The Nerd as the Other

           A professor in the university of Vienna Jasmin Engelhart compares the representation of nerd culture in the media to the freak shows in the Victorian century. People liked to watch freak shows because they were fascinated with looking at people that act differently and they could compare their lives to the lives of the `abnormal`. Just like the people in the freak shows nerds in the media are represented as `them`or `the others`. This is usually achieved by comparing a nerd with a completely different person, for example a beautiful woman who knows nothing about science but has good social skills.  To look at this further the professor analysed the show Big Bang Theory just like I did. She suggested that nerds are represented that way so that people watching could look at them and say `I am so glad that is not me`. For example, even though Sheldon is so talented in his field he has a lot of difficulties in his everyday life that many people do not face. To make this contrast even larger he is compared to a woman who is seen as a `the norm`. So Jasmin Engelhart makes a conclusion that even though freak shows would be seen as morally wrong today, they still exist but their format is transformed and they target different kinds of people as being `freaks`.

Learning moments:

           I had a significant learning moment during the week 2 discussions when discussing how single mothers are portrayed in films and treated in reality. Andrea shared an article by Charlotte Ashlock that told a story about how parents wouldn’t let their children play with a certain girl because her parents were going through a divorce. I was just taken back by this story because divorce is just such a common occurrence that it’s hard to imagine someone being treated differently for going through it. This relates to my healthy communities class because neighbors getting along is an important part of forming a healthy neighborhood. This type of behavior goes against that principle and is just destructive. From here on out I’ll be more open to the idea that people might segregate themselves from others based on certain characteristics, even if I’d normally expect better of people.

Article: https://www.babylist.com/hello-baby/why-do-we-still-give-single-moms-a-hard-time

          Another learning moment that comes to mind is the report from Stanford about evaluating information online. I spend a lot of time online looking at articles and images shared by thousands of anonymous strangers. That behavior was highlighted in the report when they used the example of sharing an image of disfigured flowers with the title, “Fukushima Nuclear Flowers.” I knew it wasn’t terribly strong evidence since the image could have been taken anywhere. But I didn’t even consider that the person who shared the article was completely anonymous, giving them absolutely no credibility. I’m just so used to everyone being anonymous that it doesn’t even register for me anymore, which is concerning. This relates to my other classes because I often reference sources that I might put an enormous amount of effort to certify. From here on out I’ll be more careful about where and who my sources come from.

Report: https://stacks.stanford.edu/file/druid:fv751yt5934/SHEG%20Evaluating%20Information%20Online.pdf

 

Conclusion:

          All in all, some artifacts in popular culture depict traditionally nerdy characters in a destructive manor while a minority do so in a positive manor. Many TV shows also often create a very stereotypical appearance of the nerd characters. I think the negative stigmas, such as poor social skills and place in social hierarchy hinders those who identify with nerdy culture. If you’re going to present a nerdy character then make sure their identity revolves around more than that trait. A good example of positive representation is Ben Wyatt in Parks and Recreation because he has many more things that define him. So it is okay to make some jokes about extreme parts of nerdy behavior (i.e. correcting others about nerdy facts) but it’s not okay to make all nerdy behavior itself into a joke.  

 

Works Cited

Lorre, Chuck, and Bill Prady. The Big Bang Theory. CBS, 2007.

Linehan, Graham. The IT Crowd. Channel 4, 2006.

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

Engelhart, J. (2012). The Nerd as the Other: A case study on the representation of nerds in The Big Bang Theory and Beauty and the Geek.