Expectations Made of Women Through Pop Culture

Expectations made of women through pop culture today has become outrageous in my opinion. We have women hurting themselves everyday to make themselves look “prettier”. It’s wrong, and I see no way to argue that it’s even close to acceptable. I think if we took away ads that cause these things, women would learn to accept the way they look and love themselves and their bodies.

Millions of women and young girls are subjected to advertisements everyday that promote hype-awareness of appearance and over-critical views. These advertisements make most women self-aware of their bodies and everything about their personal appearance. They are on the T.V. we watch, in the magazines we read, on the internet, sent to us by mail, and if we disconnect and go outside, the public domain is bombarded with signage portraying “idealized” women. Why are women portrayed in magazine ads and television commercials in this way, and how do these unrealistic expectations contribute to women’s health and image issues?

The health and image issues developed in women happen to be caused by standards set by the public. The ideal woman is caucasian with thick, lustrous straight hair, she has perfect skin, long legs, a perky bust, and a small waist. ‘Ethnic”(dark skinned) women are rarely the seen as an ideal woman in any advertisement. Women, ages 14+, cake on makeup everyday, some even multiple times a day, because they think they need to hide parts of themselves that are “ugly”. Blemishes, freckles, or even the fact that their skin isn’t the color they want it to be.

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For years the multi million dollar company Maybelline have had the advertising slogan “Maybe shes born with it, maybe its Maybelline”. These ads tells us that a woman’s natural face should look augmented with make up as if the natural state of a woman’s face should have bronzed contours, powder smooth skin, deep red lips, impossibly long lashes, and smokey mysterious jewel tone eyes.

http://www.ispot.tv/ad/7ZBa/aveeno-positively-radiant-spots-featuring-jennifer-aniston

Here is Aveeno promising “naturally beautiful skin” with its positively radiant line that lightens dark pigmentation on the face. How can it be “naturally beautiful” if it’s making things like blemishes and dark spots “disappear” with chemicals?

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Of course there’s also another side too. This is Katherine Webb, 24-year-old beauty queen and Miss Alabama USA, eating a burger from Carl’s Jr. in a stadium dressed in a skimpy skirt, top, and high heels. She’s hot, she’s sexy, it works. So now, not only do we see the expectation that women should look this way, but also that eating fast food will allow women to keep a body like hers. Except there’s no possible way that could happen without regurgitating the food afterwards.

http://fashion.telegraph.co.uk/videos/TMG10417770/Time-lapse-of-model-being-photoshopped.html

This is a video posted by a group called Global Democracy, it shows what happens during a photo shoot. They put a little make up on a girl, some hair extensions and take some pictures, but it doesn’t stop there. After all the shots are taken, they go in and photoshop her skin, hair, eyes, belly, legs, arms, everything. They make a girl that doesn’t even exist. I’ve always known they use photoshop on models, but I never knew they used it to this extent and probably greater. Because of this video, I’ve found that most women in advertisements, mostly photo advertisements, aren’t even real. They are photoshopped to the point that they are unrecognizable and become a person that doesn’t actually exist. Shouldn’t we be ashamed of ourselves when not even the cover girls in these magazines can live up to the unreasonable standards? These photos are altered to whiten teeth, narrow the waist, enlarge and lift the bust, lengthen the neck and legs, and change their skin tone. I’ve even heard of these same models being told that they aren’t skinny enough when they’re already a size 0. The designers send clothes that are too small for the models to wear, and when they can’t fit in them they’re told to lose more weight and end up eventually starving themselves. So why do we feel the need to change the way women look? Also, why would we subject our children to the same things?

Speaking of subjecting children to these things, think of the show Toddlers and Tiaras. You can’t just blame the mothers for what they do to the young girls in that show or in any beauty pageants. These little girls are subjected everyday to the same advertisements we are as adults. They always want dress up, feel pretty, and pretend to be the idealized women they see in advertisements. They have their mothers, who somehow accept these things as being right, give them tans (through spray and tanning beds), bleach their teeth and hair, even wax their arms, legs, and eyebrows. How is it acceptable to do these things to our children? To make them want to change themselves and see themselves as not pretty enough?

I identify as a woman which means I am scrutinized to every extent. It doesn’t even matter about my nationality because in the U.S, women of any color, are subjected to the scrutiny of pop culture. Everyday I look at myself and see myself as not perfect because pop culture. I won’t  have perfect skin because I have eczema, I will never be tall, and I won’t be skinnier than a 6. But the point is, because of genetics, I will never be the “perfect” woman. I have experienced some of the harsh expectations brought on by pop culture. I have had people tell me that I’m not skinny enough, I’m too short, and even that my skin is too pale. I have been made fun of throughout my life for dandruff, eczema, height, or even the split ends in my hair. Every time I open a magazine I am bombarded with messages about how to lose weight, manage my hair, obscure my own facial features to the point of looking like someone else, and wear expensive clothing in addition to tricks to make a man love me. I see other women being influenced by these same advertisements  every day. Women who go tanning, not because of health problems such as Vitamin D deficiency, but because they don’t think they are dark enough and believe that being tan will make them more attractive. Or the dark skinned women who are told they aren’t good enough because they aren’t white. There’s also the problem with women and young girls trying to make themselves thinner and develop eating disorders because they believe thin is beautiful. I feel that pop culture has caused women to turn to extreme “solutions” to their “ugly problems”.

If we take all of these things into effect, then I think most women would see advertisements as a crime. Causing women to harm themselves to look like someone that doesn’t even exist is wrong, I actually see no way that these advertisements could be right. I think if we took away all of the ads that cause women to want to do these things, women would respect themselves more and not feel the need to wear clothes that barely fit or are overly revealing. They could actually learn to accept the way they look and love themselves and their bodies. So now there’s only one question: When does it all end?

You can’t base your life on other people’s expectations. -Stevie Wonder.

 

Works Cited

“NEW Shine Seduction Lipgloss Color – Maybelline Picture.” NEW Shine Seduction Lipgloss Color – Maybelline Picture. Stuffpoint, n.d. Web. 02 Mar. 2014.

“Aveeno Positively Radiant TV Spot, ‘Spots’ Featuring Jennifer Aniston Track It.” ISpot.tv. ISpot.tv, n.d. Web. 03 Mar. 2014.

“Digital Manipulation Laid Bare in Video of Model Being Photoshopped.” – Fashion Videos. Telegraph.co.uk, 31 Oct. 2013. Web. 02 Mar. 2014.

Malec, Brett. “Katherine Webb’s Super Sexy Carl’s Jr. Commercial—Get a Behind-the-Scenes Look!” E! Online. E! Online, 26 Sept. 2013. Web. 03 Mar. 2014

Wonder, Stevie. “Expectations Quotes.” BrainyQuote. Xplore, n.d. Web. 05 June 2014.

 

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Plus Size- A matter of perception

The female ideal is an ever-changing notion. Popular culture has shown reverence for one body type or another throughout the ages. Like many fashions, curves have come in and out of style. However, unlike many of the early twentieth century decades that were more fluid and dynamic with changing ideals, our society has been in a skinny rut for some time, desperately clinging to the thin figured ideal ushered in by the “Twiggys” of the 1960’s. This thin figure ideal has relegated a majority of the female population to be pariahs under the guise of plus size. We must ask ourselves if plus size is healthy euphemism to save the feelings of those who are fat, or if it is the result of our society’s warped figure perception. As someone who is considered to be plus size and also happens to be healthy, I don’t believe society’s portrayal of plus size is accurate. Society has suffered from fat phobia for decades, and many champions for healthy bodies are viewed as making excuses for overeating and being lazy. Those who are thin are seen as being healthy and beautiful, while those who are plus size are ugly and unhealthy. We would not find ourselves desperately trying to avert our eyes when presented with images of normal sized women if the images were more prevalent and as a society we were able to embrace a more realistic ideal.

What is plus size? Webster defines plus size as an adjective describing clothing or a person of a size larger than the normal range, while the Urban Dictionary defines “plus size” as a nicer way to refer to someone who is overweight and is a term that makes being overweight seem like a good thing. Webster’s definition appears to be straight-forward and reasonable until you begin to tease out the sub text and take a closer look as whom it is describing, while the Urban Dictionary is less discretionary with its depiction of society’s distaste for larger women. Any woman who has ever been to a retail store in search of clothing will know that most stores carry a size range of 0-14, yet the average woman is a size 10. If the average is a 10 there are many women at the upper end of the spectrum, though still within normal range. The fashion industry and our society in general has been telling women that the fat deposits that they received during puberty on their thighs, hips, abdomens and breasts are ugly and unnatural. Real women with real bodies that have active lifestyles and healthy eating habits land at all points on the spectrum naturally, yet, to be at the upper end of the spectrum is something to be ashamed of, relegates you to shopping at specialized stores with limited selection and earns you the unpleasant label of plus size.

There is a distinct lack of representation of average sized women, let alone actual plus size women. Google the phrase plus size and you are bombarded with images of beautiful women who are almost all clearly under size 8. In fact, in the fashion world any model that wears above a size 6 is considered to be plus size. Most retailers claim that their use of size 8 models under the title of plus size is for mass appeal to both the size 2’s and the size 14’s. This is troublesome because if the size 2’s are marketed to by both the waif like” glamazon” models and the size 8 “plus size” models, where is the actual representation of the size 14 and above market? In addition to that lack of accurate representation, what does that say about the how the actual plus size women, size 14 and above, view themselves if they are supposed to compare themselves with a size 8 model? Clearly what is considered to be plus size in the fashion world is not what is plus size in the real world.

We live in a media saturated society, and that media happens to be obsessed with shamelessly scrutinizing celebrities’ bodies.   Tabloids including People magazine, in addition to other forms of entertainment media are consistently riddled with ruthless accusations of pregnancy, weight gain, and figure shaming, all of which is targeted at the individuals who set the precedent for our modern beauty ideal. This is a symptom of our fat phobia, and as a society in general we are fixated on many yo-yoing celebrities such as Chirsty Alley and Jessica Simpson. We celebrate their weight loss as they inch closer to our sacred ideal, and shame them when they drift farther from it. The consistent void of accurate size representation paired with our highly unrealistic ideals is perpetuating this obsession with body shaming.

Today we call it dieting, in the 1920’s it was called slimming, and the 1950’s they called it slenderizing, but in reality they are all different terms for the same concept. That concept is the pursuit of the thin ideal. Every generation has received its own fresh crop of gimmicks and miracle solutions to the same problem, shedding unwanted weight. We must ask ourselves if why the weight is unwanted. If we have healthy habits, adequate amounts of exercise and our bodies take a certain shape, why is this something to be ashamed of? This is not intended to make excuses for those with large figures that come as a result of poor eating habits and inadequate amounts of physical activity, but it truly begs the question why one body shape is preferred over another. The ideal cannot be entirely based on health because the pendulum swings both ways; being thin does not necessarily equate health, yet it is somehow perceived that way. Nor can the ideal be based on majority since it does not coincide with statistical norms. Perhaps the ideal is based on what is not statistically normal, and these thin figures are more precious because they are more rare. This means that the hordes of women who buy into gimmicks and crash diets in desperate attempts to obtain the ideal figure will eventually diminish its significance by obtaining it.

Plus size women are depicted differently from “normal size” women in television especially. The Mindy Project is a great example, centered on a women who has been deemed plus sized by the society in which she lives and refuses to see herself in a negative light. Quite to the contrary, she sees herself as being hot, despite what society says about her figure. In one episode in which she is determined to lose 15 pounds she makes a statement about “not wearing a skirted bathing suit like some woman that gave up on life.”5 This is funny but also rings so true when put into the context of how society views women who do not continually obsess over their weight. By wearing a skirted bikini that woman has admitted defeat in her pursuit of an acceptable body and has chosen to cover it up in order to gain acceptance in society. In the same episode she makes another comment about how she is still full from the chia seeds she ate the night before. Obviously being a sarcastic remark, the satire demonstrates how ridiculous the standards are, how could she possibly be full and satisfied from chia seeds? Ultimately in the episode she does not end up losing the weight and being successful in changing her body, she does, however, change how she sees her body and her acceptance of the shape she possesses naturally.

In my own experience being bombarded by images when I was younger of women who look so different from me caused my self-esteem to wane but as I have grown and experienced more of life, the size differential has actually aided in cultivating my appreciation for different kinds of beauty. We cannot use others as the standard by which we measure ourselves, to do so is futile and will only result in diminished sense of self. Why would there be so much variety in our body shapes and sizes if we were intended to only appreciate a fraction of them? Ultimately, if we aim to be a healthy society, both mentally and physically, we must rethink our ideals and strive for more accurate representation of the actual women in our world.

 

Works Cited

Beck, Laura. “Is This What a plus Size Model Looks Like?” Cosmopolitan. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 May 2014. <http%3A%2F%2Fwww.cosmopolitan.com%2Fcelebrity%2Fnews%2Fplus-sized-models>.

Frette, Juliette. “Body Image Backlasj.” N.p., n.d. Web. 5 May 2014. <http://www.examiner.com/article/body-image-backlash-female-celebrities-and-the-weight-obsessed-media&gt;.

Joynt, Sarah. “Beauty Ideals Throughout the Ages – TheFashionSpot.” RSS 20. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 June 2014. <http://www.thefashionspot.com/beauty/171133-beauty-ideals-throughout-the-ages/#/slide/1&gt;.

The Mindy Project/ Season 2 Episode 12. N.d. Television.

The Mindy Project/ Season 3 Episode 12. N.d. Television.

People 01 Feb. 2014: n. pag. Print.

People 1 Mar. 2014: n. pag. Print.

“Plus Size.” Urban Dictionary. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 May 2014. <http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=plus+size&gt;.

Victoria’s Secret. Victoria’s Secret. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 May 2014.Summer Style Guide 2014

 

The Outdoorsman Who?

 

 

The most basic and primal instincts, turning rudimentary elements of mother earth into tools of survival.  The outdoorsman is well equipped to handle the barren plains and the densest muggy jungle with only constructions stemming from one’s own desire and sweat.  Many people may consider themselves “outdoorsmen,” but how many could survive off the land for years like generations and explorers before us?  Popular culture today shows us that anyone can grow or become an outdoorsman with the proper attire, scruffiness, attitude, knowledge of survival, and a natural connection to the wilderness.

In “Survivorman,” Les Stroud is thrown into a survival situation in a random environment and films himself along the way for seven days until he is rescued.  He documents his survival techniques so anyone watching can possibly mimic his actions and hopefully improve their chances of survival, if in a similar environment.  Being a popular program on the Discovery Channel, a wide audience is reached of all ages and cultural backgrounds.  Like many other outdoor television programs the host is well equipped with the knowledge of the landscape, even local tricks of ways to survive in the area such as food options he may encounter on the journey.  Les creates shelter, finds water, captures food, and gives us all hope that we too may find success if in a survival situation.  With so much hope, it would be easy to understand if a person who watched an episode found the guts to try and stick it out in the woods for a couple days.  The outcome could be death for a number of reasons or hopefully just a newfound respect for the wilderness and nature.  Knowing one’s own limitations is very crucial in any situation especially survival, so no unneeded problems arise due to carelessness.  Along with knowing personal limitations, it is key to realize that Les is a survival instructor and has had years of experience gaining survival knowledge.  A viewer must look past the glamour and really think about what may not be shown or the less glamorous details including possible death.

Another popular television show on the Discovery Channel is “Dual Survival”.  It basically centers around the same issues faced in “Survivorman” but two men are forced into the survival situation instead of only Les by himself.  Cody Lundin and Joe Teti come from different backgrounds with their own set of survival techniques, helping each other along the way.  Cody is more of a hippy looking character with long hair and is always walking barefoot wearing shorts in every terrain they encounter.  Joe on the other hand is a former Marine and Army Special Operations so as one would expect they clash somewhat when making decisions.  Cody isn’t the military man that Joe is but he runs a survival school in Arizona, focusing on primitive survival techniques.  Even in the most dire looking situations they make it to civilization, no matter how small or rural it may be to accomplish their goal.  Once again difficult survival situations are being completed with ease, making the viewer underestimate the severity of what wrong actions may lead to.  A group of people could view an episode and think that they could do the same thing, especially in an environment their accustomed to.  One wrong turn or misstep could throw them into a life and death situation and things are a lot easier said than done when you’re surrounded by unknowns and unfamiliarity.

A more laughable outdoorsman perception is shown in the “Dr.Pepper Ten” commercial.  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mY4QCIa3dVQ)

It shows a long haired man with a big beard living in the woods, using nature to survive while drinking “the manliest low-calorie soda.”   For food he rips a piece of bark off a tree and takes a bite, followed by him screeching like a bird which motivates a hawk to fish the soda out of a lake and drop it in his hands.  He is then shown carrying a log easily weighing thousands of pounds which he intends to create a canoe with, shortly later he is shown be paddled around the lake in the canoe by a black bear.  This is a great example of how outdoorsmen are projected and perceived by popular culture.  He has the look, of scruffiness and a deep almost raspy manly voice.  The connection to the wildlife is what really stands out to me as he has his tricks of survival only a seasoned outdoorsman has.  The commercial really glamorizes the art of survival to the point where it is for comedic purposes and to sell the beverage.

The outdoorsman in popular culture is somewhat of a tough guy, with the ability to overcome dire situations and make do with what the Earth provides in the immediate location.  As Gary Strauss writes “ tough-guy shows also tap into escapism atypical of traditional TV.”  It makes sense to me that these shows are popular as most people live in cities, but we are still creatures of survival and have instincts that run deep in our history.  In Strauss’s article he also quotes Bear Grylls, a noted survival expert on why his show on Discovery ( Man vs. Wild) may be so popular.  He says the show is about “what it brings out in people… People want an inside window on what they have to do.”  It also helps that he does some crazy things like jumping into ice covered water and eating basically anything he can find including insects and other unfamiliar cuisine.

I consider myself an outdoorsman, growing up in Portland with a family that routinely fishes for salmon in the rivers and ventures 30 miles offshore for halibut.  While growing up it was routine to travel to Montana and hike in the woods while fishing in streams and rivers, my fondest memory comes from this time when my uncle and I encountered a bear crashing through the woods while we were fishing in the middle of the stream.  For my family and I it is more about providing for ourselves and the enjoyment.  Being an outdoorsman doesn’t require one to be constantly away from civilization and on the edge of starvation living with what is naturally provided.  A person hiking in the wilderness or a person that goes camping once in a while both can be considered outdoorsmen.  If one was to only judge a person based on popular culture’s portrayal of an outdoorsman, not many would be one.  A person could consider themselves an outdoorsman if they just enjoy being outside.  It is basically impossible for someone to go out in the wilderness and survive off the land without bringing anything from their culture, including basic clothing, a knife, or a weapon.

When popular culture presents an outdoorsman they all have some commonalties.  Their background plays the largest role in the survivor television shows like “Survivorman,” “Man vs. Wild,” and “Dual Survival.”  They all have extensive survival knowledge that they are hoping to pass onto the viewer.  This has the ability to create false hope for someone who thinks they could handle living off the land, when they can watch guys on TV do it so easily.  It’s ok if you don’t have the biggest beard, toughest attitude, survival knowledge, and a natural connection to the wildlife or wilderness because the only thing that matters is if you think you fit in the category of an “outdoorsman.”

 

 

Works Cited

Dual Survival. Perf. Cody Lundin, Joe Teti. Discovery Communications , Web. 12 May 2014. <http://www.discovery.com/tv-shows/dual-survival&gt;.

 

Gary, Strauss. “Tough guys take over TV.” USA Today n.d.: Academic Search Premier. Web. 21 May 2014.

 

Man vs. Wild . Perf. Bear Grylls. Discovery Communications , Web. 18 May 2014. <http://www.discovery.com/tv-shows/man-vs-wild&gt;.

 

Survivorman. Dir. Les Stroud. Perf. Les Stroud. Discovery Communications, OLN, Web. 14 May 2014. <http://lesstroud.ca/survivorman/home.php&gt;.

Mirror Essay: The Depiction of Arabs in the Media

Mirror Essay Final

June 1, 2014

Mirror Essay: The Depiction of Arabs in the Media

 

As a male Arab and Muslim I am used to the many stereotypes that people have about me. These stereotypes are beliefs that have not emerged from real experiences, you know the kind where we observe something enough that we create a stereotype. Rather, most of the stereotypes about me are ones that come from the media. The stereotypes about me as well as the world that I am from are many, including the obvious such as the terrorist and woman hater. However, there are many other stereotypes about people from my culture such as that we act unethically and that we live in a desert with oil wells in our backyard.   It is through the media creation of stereotypes about Arabs and Muslims that many people have seen me in a negative light.

The stereotypes about Arabs are found in many places. There have been many movies that are made that show Arabs as terrorists while I have personally watched one too many episodes of Law and Order where there are Muslim Arabs who are planning a terrorist attack. Of course, one might expect such depictions of Arab Muslims as terrorists as there are Arab Muslims who are terrorists. The concern is, however, that there are just too many depictions of Arab and Muslim people being terrorists that create an image that a majority of Muslims hate the United States and that many would commit terrorist acts against the nation if they could.

It is due to such depictions that many see the Muslims of America as people who are the largest threat to the country. After all, there have been many American Muslim terrorists who have fortunately, been caught before they could carry out their plans. However, the reality is that the Muslims in this nation are actually not the largest threat to the nation in terms of terrorism. According to one news article several years after September 11, 2001 when many Americans saw Muslim as the largest threat to the nation, the Federal Bureau of Investigation did not agree. In fact, “”The No. 1 domestic terrorism threat is the eco-terrorism, animal-rights movement,” said John Lewis, an FBI deputy assistant director and top official in charge of domestic terrorism” (Schuster). Yet, even with some people believing that American Muslims represent the largest risk to the nation, experts in this area do not agree.

The problem, it seems, is that there are many depictions of Arabs and Muslims that people easily believe and lead them to see us as terrorists. Young people learn from an early age that Arabs are different people and that the differences are negative ones. For example, in the film Aladdin a Disney Studios classic, the first song that we hear has a male voice sing “Where they cut off your ear, if they don’t like your face, It’s barbaric, but hey, its home” (“Racism in Aladdin”). Being a native in the Middle East, I know that people do not have their ears cut off because people do not like their faces. What I do know is that people are executed for crimes and that this seems to act as a deterrence against crimes such as rape and murder.

Aladdin shows negative images of Muslim Arabs in many ways. In fact, according to the Council for Arab-British Understanding, the stereotypes in Aladdin are seen with the moral characteristics of the character. The source states that in the film that “Most of the people-apart from Aladdin and Jasmin-are seen as thieving, violent, despotic, ruthless, and deceitful” (“Arabs and Aladdin-exploring stereotypes”). Moreover, the women are shown in stereotypical ways, the source notes, such as where the women are wearing veils or in belly dancing type dress. The women are also depicted as being either lecherous, the source states, or being subject to oppression. The women in my country actually wear many types of clothing, including western clothing, and many are not oppressed and won their own companies, attend school, and are free to make their own decisions.

In addition to the obvious negative characteristics of Arabs in the film Aladdin there are other ways that the film depicts the Arabs in a negative manner. According to the Council for Arab-British Understanding, “There is a trend whereby the bad characters are darker in colour and have grotesque features in general and larger noses in particular” (“Arabs and Aladdin-exploring stereotypes”). In contrast, the source states, the good characters such as Jasmin and Aladdin, are shown with Americanized accents and have lighter features. Clearly, there are subtle methods that the film uses that can create and perpetuate stereotypes.

Yet, Aladdin is not the only television program aimed at children that has negative depictions of Arabs. In fact, there are many examples of where well known cartoons have included anti-Arab plots and story lines. For example, “In Richie Rich, the hero “outsmarts an outlandish sheik.”  On Scooby-Doo, they “outwit Uncle Abdullah and his slippery genie.”  On Porky Pig “Ali-Baba bound, dumps a blackhearted Arab into a barrel of syrup.”  Bugs Bunny  “escapes from being boiled in oil by satisfying the whims of a sheik with an unnamed goat” (El-Farra). The problem with these depictions of Arabs that are aimed at children, El-Farra states, is that children see the world in narrow terms such as good versus evil and the suggestion is made that it is Arabs who are evil.

It is not only cartoons on television or in film that include negative depictions of Arabs. In fact, there are also many negative stereotypes of Arabs in video games. According to Muniba Saleem “Being an Arab video game character is almost synonymous with being a terrorist (e.g., Dill et al., 2005). Games like Call of Duty 4: Modern WarfareAmerica’s ArmyConflict Desert Storm II: Back to BaghdadDelta Force: Black Hawk DownCounter Strike Condition Zeroand Kuma/War have missions that take place in Middle Eastern settings or in anonymous Middle East-like settings” (Saleem). Having played several of these games, such as Black Hawk Down, I can attest to the fact that video games do have stereotypical images of Arabs, both men and women, such as where women are shown as covered and standing at a distance from men while the men are portrayed as killers that the video game player needs to stop.

While one might argue that the parents of young children who view various cartoons or play video games that portray Arabs in a negative light might try to teach their children that Arabs and Muslims are not all bad people, there is a chance that parents might not speak up. In fact, according to the article “Israeli Diplomat: All Arabs are Terrorist” the Israeli General Ambassador to the United Nations states that all Arabs are terrorists. However, as the article notes “nobody is calling the diplomat, Dan Gillerman, Israeli Ambassador to the UN, a racist or are there demands Fox news be investigated for racism and hatred” (“Israeli Diplomat: All Arabs are Terrorists”). Hence, it seems that no one cared about such comments when we see today that there are many people being called out for racist statements such as Paula Dee, a celebrity chef who used a negative word about African Americans twenty years ago and lost many of her sponsors as a result. Even more recently the billionaire owner of the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team made racist comments and this has become national news.

Not only is the problem of racism against Arabs and Muslims a problem that people are not addressing another problem is that the negative ideas about Arabs and Muslims have been learned for many years. In fact, according to the web site Arab Stereotypes there is a concept called Orientalism which is “the acceptance in the West of “the basic distinction between East and West as the starting point for elaborate theories, epics, novels, social descriptions, and political accounts concerning the Orient, its people, customs “mind,’ destiny and so on” (“What Is Orientalism?). Orientalism, the site states, dates back to the time of the European Enlightenment and the time that the Arab world was colonized.

Interestingly, while there have been negative depictions of many people by the white Europeans such as where African Americans were negatively portrayed in the past such as being associated with a “dark continent,” there have also been changes. In fact, the negative depiction and portrayals of Africans as well as African Americans have been challenged. Similarly, the depiction of Native American Indians as uncivilized and barbaric and these stereotypes have also been challenged. One is left to wonder if the failure to challenge the stereotypes of the Arabs and Muslims is partially a result of people not speaking up and because the stereotypes have been deeply ingrained in the minds of many.

Regardless of the reasons why the Arab and Muslim people are negatively portrayed in the media the issue remains that there are numerous negative depictions. In addition to the example of the film Aladdin that gives children an early lesson about Arabs and Muslims, one based on negative stereotypes, there are many other types of films that place Arab Muslims in a bad light. Of course, there are the many action movies that depict Hollywood heroes as fighting terrorists. However, there are also films that are comedies that use Arab stereotypes. A discussion of the film You Don’t Mess With the Zohan states “The portrayal of Palestinians as ugly, dirty, incompetent, stupid, goat loving terrorists was jammed down the viewer’s throat more times than Zohan’s lame hummus jokes” (Kanazi).Clearly, it is not just the action genre in Hollywood film making that includes negative depictions of Arabs, comedy films such as the Adam Sandler film, shows that the perpetuation of stereotypes is found across film genres.

Clearly, the media does stereotype the Arab and Muslim people. While there are many groups that are subject to stereotypes today still, such as homosexuals, women and a wide range of racial minorities, the problem is that with the Arab Muslims, it seems that few people speak up about the negative portrayals. With young children learning negative mistruths about the Arab world and with a long history of such negative depictions, it seems that the negative views about Arabs and Muslims are hard to overcome.

 

Works Cited

 

 

“Arabs and Aladdin-exploring stereotypes.” Council for Arab-British Understanding.

n.d. Web. 12 May 2014.

 

El-Farra, Narmeen. “Arabs And The Media.” Calstatela. 1996. Web. 28 May 2014.

 

“Israeli Diplomat: All Arabs are Terrorists.” Citizens Against Racism and Discrimination.

            23 July 2006. Web. 12 May 2014.

 

Kanazi, Remi. “How Hollywood Portrays Arabs.” Global Research. 27 June 2008.

Web. 12 May 2014.

 

“Racism in Aladdin.” YouTube. 2 March 2010. Web. 12 May 2014.

 

Saleem, Muniba. “Arabs as terrorists: The Power of Media Images.” SPS Talks.

7 December 2012. Web. 28 May 2014.

 

Schuster, Henry. “Domestic terror: Who’s most dangerous?” CNN. 24 August 2005.

Web. 12 May 2014.

 

“What Is Orientalism?” Arab Stereotypes. 2014. Web. 12 May 2014.

Branding Portlanders

Looking in the Mirrior Essay: Branding Portlanders

by Flannery Smith

Being a Portlander has always been a special identity, and has been a mark of pride for myself that has always been met with certain admiration from others. I still feel connected to the identity, but feel less than enthusiastic about broadcasting it, since recently there has been a “branding” of Portlander’s lifestyles in the media, and it feels as if we are being sold as a novelty on a home-goods network. The media broadcasting has deeper and more serious repercussions as well. The media attention and glorified branding of Portlanders as a creative, artisan community is based in reality, but the exposure has had a negative effect by creating an influx of residents is taking the lower-income Portlanders, such as artists and musicians, who gave the city notoriety, and pushing them out.

In the 90s, Portland was known for being a “weird,” a city with places like the Church of Elvis and the gritty Eastside. Rents were low and the city struggled with crime issues, but creatively Portland was a unique place because musicians and artists could live here relatively cheap, which meant they could work less and create more. In recent years, however, Portland, and Portlanders have been glorified as the the epicenter of the “creative class,” with talented residents, creating the feel of the city themselves, by the creation of small artisanal businesses. It’s become synonymous with environmental sustainability, bicycle-culture, and food carts. This attention has made Portland a very desirable place to live, and in the last five years or so, housing prices and rental demand has increased dramatically. Additionally, neighborhoods that were once run-down and relatively affordable are now in a state of constant gentrification and development, namely N. Mississippi, N. Williams, N. Alberta, and SE Belmont. Strangely enough, the small businesses and artisanal shops that were started in those neighborhoods and made them what there are, are being pushed out because of the rent increases.

All of Portland’s stereotypes have both positive and negative repercussions. Portlanders are concerned with their environmental and economical impact, with repurposing the old to make new, buying locally, going against the grain and being generally aware of the grip that commercialism has on the nation. These examples have all been good for the region, and have been a leading reason as to why the Northwest area is thriving. However, the very nature of these things, and also media attention, have led to gentrification, overpricing, over saturation, and population increase, with little left for the residents who were here in the first place.

Portland’s obsession with making the old new and creating an artisan economy is something that has come out of necessity, what with high unemployment rates matched with independent-minded people creating their own businesses, but the “handmade” nature of Portland has been satirized to the point of jokes and stereotyping. This is shown in the sketch television show, Portlandia, in the video “Dream of the 1890’s”, where they compare the lifestyle in Portland to be that of the 1890s:

…Where kids grew up to be artisan bakers, everyone had homemade haircuts and guys shaved with straight razors…when the economy was in a tailspin, unwashed young men roamed the streets looking for work, and people turned their backs on huge corporate monopolies and supported local businesses…

In essence, these stereotypes are somewhat true. Portland is definitely place they describe, and actually always has been. The negative part of this is not what content the video brings up, but how it brings it up; which is it’s accentuation of this sect of Portland life, through satire. It is in a way glorifying an old way of life and posing Portland as an answer to modern problems. The problem is people from Portland get it, we know this is only a farce of Portland life, but I don’t believe others take it as such. I don’t know how many times I’ve overheard someone in class or on the bus saying “I’m originally from Colorado, but I started watching Portlandia and it seemed like a cool place to move, so I did”. To most people from outside the state, they have heard little to nothing about Oregon, let alone Portland, and only have to go on what popular culture is telling them. Right now, in popular culture, the lifestyle is glorified, and one might say branded.

Using Portlanders as a brand to sell goods is a way that small businesses and other entrepreneurs have exploited the Portland craze. This can be beneficial for them, to have a widened net of interest and more money coming in, and to display what great things can come from the Northwest, but some small businesses are wary of it. They believe that the overselling of the Portland brand is against the fundamental reason they are working here in the first place. To keep it small and unpretentious (Heying 275). There is of course, a balance that needs to be kept between the two worlds, to be proud of what the Northwest can produce, but not to exploit and oversaturate the market (Heying 275).

As a creative, independent individual growing up and living in Portland for 25, going on 26 years, I know it has surely shaped me in some ways. I sometimes wonder if my creativity and passion for art would have been nurtured elsewhere as much as it has been in Portland, and perhaps it has contributed greatly to who I am now as a young adult. I definitely have always fit right in with the typical Portlander’s way of life, always searching for a new creative endeavor and not ever really feeling satisfied with a “normal” job, playing music, riding my bike everywhere, and yes, I have owned chickens (briefly, for the record, it’s not my thing). There is a great benefit to growing up in a place that lets you explore and work with your hands, but there is also something really sad about having your lifestyle broadcast and regurgitated in the media so much it becomes a cute, predictable novelty, and on a more serious note, really decreases the desirability to keep living in a place that feels this exploited.

 

Works cited

“Dream of the 1890s – Portlandia on IFC.” YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 03 June 2014.

Heying, Charles H. “Chapter 18.” Brew to Bikes: Portland’s Artisan Economy. Portland, Or.: Ooligan, 2010. Print.

Reflections of College Men

Reflections of College Men

Ben Cassera

 

One of the most enduring sub-genres of comedic films is the “college” comedy. Examples of this genre can be seen as far back as 1927 with the release of a film, simply titled: College; and continues with the recent release of Neighbors. Though the genre has continued, the characters have remained largely the same, particularly the male characters. Most male characters in college comedy movies exhibit a white, heteronormative, hyper-masculine narrative that does not accurately reflect the diverse nature of the college experience.

The Millennial generation (people born between 1980 and 2000), of which I am a part, is much different than previous generations. For one thing, we are better educated than any previous generation, 34% of 25-32 year olds have at least a bachelor’s degree (Taylor ). Compare this to the Silent generation; in 1965 only 13% of 25-32 year olds held a bachelor’s (Pew). In addition to this Millennials are the most racially diverse generation America has ever seen, fully 43% of Millennials are non-white (Taylor). If we have so many of our generation either in college or having been to college—with nearly half of them being people of color (POC)—why are the characters in college movies the same kind we have been getting for decades?

Let’s take a look at one of the most famous college comedies of all time, Animal House. Released in 1978, Animal House follows the antics of the Delta Tau Chi fraternity in 1962. This film was absolutely groundbreaking, introducing an outrageous “frat’ style comedy that many have since tried to emulate. Given the setting of the plot it isn’t all that surprising that the cast is overwhelmingly white, in fact there is only one named POC character in the entire movie, and he isn’t even a student. This is best illustrated by the famous toga party scene: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MG7KCOO76Wc

Now let’s look at a recent release to see how the representations have changed. Neighbors is a comedy that was released on May 9th of this year. This film documents the feud between a couple who have just had a new baby and the frat house that moves in next door. 36 years separate Neighbors from Animal House and yet the casting is remarkably similar, the majority of the main cast is white.

Racial diversity is not the only thing that has changed on college campuses throughout the years, the acceptance and inclusion of LGBT students has dramatically increased.  There are over 100 LGBT resource centers on college campuses across the country and there are even 38 schools that offer gender-neutral housing options (Henshaw). Despite this the standard male character in college movies is almost invariably straight and gender conforming.

The driving motivation behind many male character’s behaviours in the media is to “get the girl”, college comedies are no different. American Pie 2, one of the first college comedies I ever saw, is a prime example of this. In this film five friends come home from college and attempt to throw the best summer party of all time, with the ultimate goal of having sex with girls. Most of the humor and action in this movie is either a result of or in pursuit of girls. American Pie 2 isn’t the only movie to do this: Van Wilder, Road Trip, Revenge of the Nerds, all of these movies (and many more) center around heterosexual men chasing women. This in and of itself isn’t a bad thing, but it presents a very one sided representation of college men.

While gay men are almost never main characters in college comedies, it’s not uncommon for straight male characters to be put into gay situations for comedic effect. American Pie 2 and 21 & Over both have similar scenes in which two of the straight male characters are forced to kiss each other in order to resolve tense situations. In the case of American Pie, the two men agree to kiss because they think it will help them in their goal to “get the girl”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2EUeDFn-6Sc. The comedy in the situation comes from the awkwardness or discomfort the characters feel from the supposed violation of masculinity that same-sex activity represents to them.  This representation of masculinity is another stereotyped representation of college men.

As I have mentioned before, the characters in college comedies are fairly similar in terms of ethnicity and sexuality, however there is another trait that is often synonymous with these types of characters: a sort of exaggerated masculinity. One of the most common ways that this hyper-masculinity is displayed is through the physical body of the actors portraying the characters. Many times you will find characters like the titular Van Wilder who are impossibly handsome and well-muscled, who are surrounded by male characters that are also handsome and muscled. These characters might be pretty to look at, but they are in no way an accurate representation of real life, which can be easily seen by walking around any college campus.

The problem with the portrayal of college men as white, straight, and masculine by these films isn’t because the characters are white or straight or even hyper-masculine, many men are. The problem is that these are the ONLY representation of college men that we have in the media, effectively ignoring those men that don’t conform to some or all of these characteristics.  This isn’t to say that any of the movies that I have mentioned are bad; in fact I love most of them. They are however, formulaic and unrealistic in their approach to college aged male characters.

Work Cited

Henshaw, Ashley. “LGBT College Statistics.”. Campus Explorer, n.d. Web. . <http://www.campusexplorer.com/college-advice-tips/DC54CA9B/LGBT-College-Statistics/&gt;.

Taylor, Paul . “Milliennials in Adulthood.” . Pew Research Center, 7 Mar. 2014.            <http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2014/03/07/millennials-in-adulthood/&gt;.

Taylor, Paul. “The Rising Cost of Not Going to College.” . Pew Research Center, 11 Feb. 2014.       . <http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2014/02/11/the-rising-cost-of-not-going-to-college/&gt;.

 

Gamblers & Risktakers

Gamblers

& Risktakers

 

Many of us have done it in one way or another. We placed a bet on whether our sports team is going to win, we’ve experimented with casinos, or we challenged our friends to some obscene task just for the laughs. Gambling has always remained within the corner of historical cultures and will continue to be a part of our society in the future. From ancient Hindu texts, to mixed religious perspectives, to the way gamblers are perceived today – the role of the gambler, one who is willing to take a risk of their own goods for a chance to win additional money or material goods, is often considered as scum, as it is seen as a weakness of character. But today, state-sponsored gambling is a national pastime. Sure, people are often initially against those who are seeking get rich quick schemes and hoping to strike it rich, especially when they are wagering their own money that they probably can’t afford to lose in the first place, but times have changed, and so too has the gaming industry. Even so, has the perception of gamblers based on the increase of media portrayals change the way the public view those who gamble, or does it simply fuel the negativities associated with gamblers?

We see it at every store, we notice them at the corner of restaurants, and you can expect them at bars. The lottery has become so widespread and popularized that commercials have been airing on television and you often hear about the mega winners of these lotteries in the news. It may come to a surprise then that the first recorded sign of a lottery was the keno slips from the Chinese Han Dynasty between 205-187 BCE. It was theorized that this form of lottery was used to help fund major governmental projects like the Great Wall. Indeed, you may have heard that the lottery is a tax on foolish, so it is understandable that the view of those who play are often not held to very high esteem. They are also believed to be a tax on the poor, as state lotteries can consume about 9 percent of homes income for the less fortunate. State lotteries were once illegal, but today they exist in nearly every state.

But, there are many different forms of legal gambling, that I am especially more accustomed to. For me, it all began in high school, playing cards were a way to pass time during lunch and everyone else was into it as well. People would wait their turn for a chance to win some extra money from their friends. When I turned 18, I would also frequent one of the local casinos, where I tested my luck with blackjack and poker. It eventually became a bit of a hobby for me, albeit an unhealthy one (at times) and movies like 21 only fueled my habit further. The film 21 (2008) is a story about six MIT students who train to become experts in card counting for blackjack. The main character is an intelligent student with hopes of getting in Harvard medical, however he doesn’t have the funds necessary to pay for his tuition. Card counting is a legal method of using math to increase your odds at gambling that is frowned upon casinos. Often times they will ban you if they believe to be counting cards – but nowadays it becomes more difficult as they increase the number of decks and often take note of your habits and so on. But the film showed it was possible to beat the “house” (although it was a poor method), there are ways to increase your chances of winning greatly if played over a long period of time. Honestly, I took it upon myself and my group of friends to learn card counting quickly, but discipline is a character trait that new gamblers often lack. What is shown in “21” is exactly this. A promising student sets out first with the goal that he would only win enough money to win for school, but once he realizes how easy it is for him to win, he takes things further because he gets sucked into the lifestyle and quick cash. Along with a lack of discipline, the characters who gamble in this show are often portrayed as mischievous, compulsive, and often times it is showed that gambling leads to excess drinking and even illegal activities. That is basically what Las Vegas was founded upon. It began with organized crime, which eventually developed into much of the original casinos that still operate today. Las Vegas is now known as “sin city” and is the American mecca for gambling – which only contributes to the notion that gamblers are seen as degenerate and corrupt. However, this film offers a different explanation for the role of gamblers, those who do it well are considered intelligent, great with numbers, and able to play many different roles of character.

In the end, it is my opinion that blackjack still continues to be a game of luck and chance, even with enhanced methods of knowing what moves to make. It is a game that pits players against the dealer or the “house”. I learned this the only way gamblers know somehow – we eventually lose. But gambling was still a fascination; it was only my method of doing so. I turned my focus towards Texas Hold’em, a poker game that allows players to play against other players – long gone is the time where the casinos will take my money, but other people. The game is simple yet it has an immense learning curve.

The film Rounders (1998) starring Matt Damon and Edward Norton is one of my favorite movies. It revolves around a reformed gambler who returns to playing poker to help a friend pay off loan sharks. Of course this story would not be as enticing if the Matt Damon wasn’t a Harvard law student. His friend however, Edward Norton just got out of prison and needs money, so of course he plays poker. Edward Norton is perhaps the poster child for those against all forms of gambling. He was an inmate, he cheats, and he borrows money, is associated with gangsters, and is a terrible friend for all those that look out for him. He puts himself first and is only concerned with getting quick cash, even when he has money to pay the people he owes back, he doesn’t do so because having a larger bankroll allows for his chance to win even more money. Such is the cycle and allure of gambling. You can start with nothing, win a bit, enlarge your bankroll, bet your bankroll in hopes of winning more money quicker – and if you fail you just start over or dig yourself in a hole even further. Like I said, discipline is a trait many gamblers have, but if poker has taught me anything it is the opposite. Poker players are a different breed of gamblers, those who play well rely on their ability to read (or able to spot a tell if another player is bluffing), and have a large strategic method of playing in their arsenal. They are intelligent enough to calculate percentages at a level much greater than blackjack. As mentioned, Matt Damon’s character is a Harvard law student who has the skill of learning people’s habits, tendencies, and can excel in social scenarios. He portrays the discipline of many poker players, where patience is a key factor. He was able to quit poker when needed (for a time) and does not rely on cheating to beat his opponents. Along with Matt Damon’s ideal character and Edward Norton’s morally weak and lacking of self-control, there is another character, Joey Knish who plays poker as a job. He plays poker enough to pay his bills, is good enough to have constant income, and does not succumb to greed for hopes of getting rich. He strictly plays enough, and well enough, to pay the bills like a regular job. I have a close friend similar to this. He plays poker frequently like a job and is also using his winnings to pay for his tuition while in college. Now, usually this is frowned upon because people think that gambling is gambling, but poker is different.

Most films like “21” or more recently, “Runner Runner”, focus on the dangers of gambling (while somehow promoting it at the same time), often times emphasizing the underground world of gangster types and illegal activity, but if anything, the film “Rounders” acts as an advertisement that encourages gambling. Since the films release, it has become a cult classic among poker players and reveals many truths about the game.

Ocean’s Eleven (2001 Remake) is another film that puts a different twist on the meaning of “bringing down the house”. The star-studded cast revolves around a group of mischievous, slick, and intelligent individuals who plan to rob 3 casinos in Las Vegas simultaneously. The film begins with Danny Ocean (George Clooney) who gets released from prison. After his release, he begins the task of hiring 11 other individuals who can help him with his heist. His first stop is to a backroom where he begins to play poker. Working with Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt) on the fly, they are able to clean up the table simply by coercing the other players decisions with small talk.

This is reminiscent of the film Rounders and easily sets the precedent for the rest of the film’s ability to portray these characters as smooth operators with elaborate plans. The fact that this film showcases real casinos acts as an advertisement for Las Vegas, specifically, the Mirage, the MGM Grand, and the Bellagio. The whole film allows for the audience to root for these band of misfits, even though they are knowingly committing very serious crimes. Such is the power of the media on an originally frowned upon activity.

According to the Ontario Problem Gambling Research Centre (OPGRC), a study was conducted to pursue the attitudes of gambling based on the advertisements on television. The results were less than surprising, showing that an audience who was exposed to gambling had more positive attitude towards gambling and even showed intentions to gamble at casinos within the year. This is especially true for adolescents.

The media continues to portray gambling as harmless entertainment, and the old perception that gambling is destructful, dangerous, and easily addictive is quickly becoming replaced with the notion that gamblers are intelligent, slick, outcasts who are really individuals who should be looked up to rather than down upon. According to the Southern Cross University, the problem lies in the exaggerated and inaccurate portrayal of gambling, where our nations youth are perceiving gambling as normal, and the depiction of these characters, especially those of young adults, depict an idol that people attempt to imitate, much like your regular sports athlete.

In conclusion, it is easy for the older generations to realize the harm of gambling, even to notice the exaggerations and inaccuracies that the media portrays, but to much of the youth, the media is only supporting negative habits to our youth who cannot discern the difference. In the end, the majority of all those who participate in gambling come out at a loss, especially once you realize that Casinos, and all gambling in general, total for one of the largest profit industries in the world.