Mirror Essay: Football Players

Alex Sirois

Popular Culture

March 21, 2015

Popular Culture Mirror Essay: Football Players

 

Throughout my entire life I have been involved in numerous sports and have always seemed to have a particular love for football. As I made my way through my football career I slowly became more aware of the stereotype that has been put over the heads of all football players thanks to popular culture. This stereotype occurs repeatedly throughout popular culture and portrays that jocks and more specifically football players, are loud, unintelligent, aggressive, people with no regard for their peers and the community around them. There are many examples of this stereotype; three of the best in my opinion are Blue Mountain State, Varsity Blues, and finally Friday Night Lights. These three popular culture artifacts portray many similarities as well as differences. To fully understand this stereotype analyzing these artifacts will prove to be essential in bettering the knowledge of football players in popular culture.

 

The first example of this stereotype can be seen throughout the television show Blue Mountain State. Throughout this comical show they follow a fictional elite college football team along their journey throughout class, football, and their free time. The producers seem to leave out class and replace it with partying, bullying and finally girls. This show is meant to appeal to the young men across America and I will admit I have been an avid viewer of the show.  I do not fully agree with the antics of the show and the negative stereotype it portrays of football players and therefore did not fully enjoy it. One of the details of the show that seems to be reoccurring throughout football players in popular culture is the idea that they party and screw off more than they train. This is one of my biggest issues of the stereotype because it takes away from the image of athletes. Being an athlete and more specifically a college athlete takes hard work, dedication, and perseverance and after watching Blue Mountain State you would think the exact opposite. The show paints a picture that football players get away with not going to class and causing trouble, while getting things handed to them for simply being a football player. The problem with painting this image is that the general public’s idea of football players is changed and all the hard work that is done by scholar athletes around the country is overlooked and shadowed by this negative stereotype.

Another thing Blue Mountain State does is objectify women as well as showing college football players taking advantage of them. The New York Times writes, “No more gorgeous women who strip without even being asked! We want intellectual content.”( Genzlinger, N) Obviously from a heterosexual male point of view this does not bother me, but I can fully understand why it would bother many other people with a different back ground as mine. The way the show objectifies young women is wrong, and the way they portray college football players taking advantage of them is even worse. Throughout media the stereotype of football players taking advantage of young women rather it be rape or domestic abuse is becoming very popular. With this being said, shows such as Blue Mountain State are drastically hurting the image of football players all around the country.

The next example that portrays this popular culture stereotype is the movie Varsity Blues. This movie was released in 1999 and is currently on Netflix. This movie follows a football team that is based in Texas. The entire town worships the football team and the team can get away with anything other than doing something wrong in their coaches’ eyes. Their coach is very racist and has been for generations. Racism is still very prevalent within the south especially Texas so this movie helped shed light on racism within sports. Not to spoil the movie the team gathers together and helps tear down racism within the town and make their families proud of them.  One of the key components that this movie portrays that adds onto the negative stereotype is the idea that football players can get away with whatever they want. After a big win for the football team throws a huge party. Somehow a few players were able to steal a police car and drive it around town while intoxicated. Eventually they ran into the police officers that they stole the car from and there was no punishment. This portrays that football players get away with anything and just compiles another negative viewpoint on the stereotype of football players. This is portrayed negatively throughout society because it’s human nature for the need of justice. With society seeing football players getting away with crime they instantly see football players as the bad guy and then want justice.

Another point or detail that Varsity Blues portrays throughout is the idea of being a tough man and not showing any emotion. One of their star offensive linemen got a concussion and was obviously very hurt. He could barely walk and had passed out a view times. The coach and teammates helped hide the concussion and pressured him to continue and play even though there was a high risk of becoming severely injured. Another occurrence of this throughout the movie is when their best player the quarterback has a season ending knee injury.  This is because the coach would not let him sit out and just gave him pain pills. The quarterback was told by the coach that if he did not play he was weak. This happens throughout all levels of sports and is a true tragedy. A study was done by the NFL to see what percentage of football players felt pressured to play through injury. The study showed, “45.7 percent of NFL players said they had sustained one or more concussions, and 82.2 percent said they are concerned about the potential long-term effects of head injuries that could result from playing football.”(NFL players poll) The reason this number is so high is because of the idea that popular culture portrays of that you are weak if you do not play. Varsity Blues helps add to this negative idea that has been occurring for decades if not centuries.

The final example that popular culture used to portray the stereotype of football players is the movie Friday Night Lights. Throughout this movie another Texas high school football team is followed. The premise of the movie is being able to face adversity and persevere throughout it. The teams best player is injured and this is when the team is tested and has to face adversity. This personally is one of my favorite sporting movies in the fact that there are a lot of truths behind the story it shows. It shows society the struggle many athletes go through just to be part of a team and to be able to strive for greatness. The idea that this movies shows that I really enjoyed was how football can be taken away from you at any instant. The star football player has a season ending knee injury and the movie showed the adversity that young man faced. Unlike many other movies it helps portray time spent in the gym, on the field, and in the classroom that is required to be part of a football team and have the chance to be great.

There are some problems with the movie that help pile on negative views upon the stereotype of football players. One of these that seem to be reoccurring is the idea of objectifying woman. Woman seems to throw themselves at the football players and the football players treat them like objects. This is a similarity that has occurred throughout all of the examples used so far. This is very sad because it teaches young football players to objectify woman, and teaches young woman to throw themselves at men as objects. We can see this throughout everyday life and this will not stop happening until someone makes a stand against it and popular cultures stops portraying it. Another thing this movie portrays is a separation between football players and the rest of the student body. Popular culture seems to show that football players think they are better than the rest. This shows football players in a negative light therefore the rest of society see football players different. Athletes do not deserve to be put on a pedestal and they are no different than anyone else unlike this movie portrays it.

After analyzing the examples throughout this essay there were many things that caught me off guard and surprised me. I knew that after reading I would notice differences but after I soon realized that there are not many difference throughout all of these examples. It seems that popular culture likes to portray football players all in the same negative connotation. This stereotype occurs repeatedly throughout popular culture and portrays that jocks and more specifically football players, are loud, unintelligent, aggressive, people with no regard to their peers and the community around them. I think it is time that popular culture starts showing football players as the way they really are rather than an incorrect stereotype that is looked negatively by the rest of society.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Work Cited

 

Genzlinger, N. (2010, January 11). A Backup Sees Plenty of Action Off the Field.Retrieved February22, 2015, from http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/12/arts/television/12mountain.html?_r=0

NFL players poll: About half feel pressure to play with injuries. (2012, September 1). Retrieved February 22, 2015, from http://www.sportingnews.com/nfl/story/2012-08-31/nfl-players-poll-concussions-injuries-pressure-fear-for-safety

Friday night lights [Motion picture]. (2004). Universal.

Blue Mountain State [Motion picture]. (2010). Lions Gate Television.

Varsity blues [Motion picture]. (1999). Paramount Pictures.

 

Muslims Stereotypes

Muslims Stereotypes

The word stereotype is be used to mean a thought that can be adopted for a particular type of individuals or a given way of doing things. The thoughts may or may not at some point accurately reflect the reality on the ground. There are various stereotyped perspectives about the Muslims in the world today. Most of the beliefs that people have today about the Muslims today include terrorism that is done by the name of Islam and wealth due to the the huge amount of oil in some of muslims countries.

In most of the Western families, Muslims are seen to be of bad influence and are associated with evil motives as violence and general crime making American parents discourage their children from socializing with Muslim children. In a movie named Mooz-Ium, it is evident that a non-Muslim kid is not supposed to talk to Muslim kids (Mooz-lum, 2010). The main reason for this occurrence is because; her parents have told the young girl that Muslims are not good people for mutual interaction.

In another movie called the Syriana, there are characters that are fundamentally Muslims, and they are portrayed as terrorists and it also has an Arab mercenary in it and don’t care about earth and people on it. The movie tried to show how the principal of geopolitics is complex in nature and demonstrated how the people from the West employ their military and technical powers in handling those people who are thought to be Muslims instead of applying justice to them just because they are terrorists (Syriana, 2005). The movie makes it very accurate in how it showcases the different ethnicities in the Muslim families and tries to differentiate between the Arabs who own money and the Pakistani who bomb. Despite the differences shown, the westerners still see the Muslims as bad guys (Syriana, 2005).

In most of the American movies and TV, most Muslims are portrayed as bombers, belly dancers or mostly Billionaires. Again in these movies, most of the Muslim men are portrayed as terrorist and healthy oilmen as various ladies are portrayed as sex slaves. Reports have mentioned that even in cartoon production industry, most of the cartoons are seen to be insulting to the Muslim community as they show how the involved parties interact and are affected by stereotypes at different points in their lives. These are all stereotypes associated with Muslims and not the real character of the religion (Morey & Yaqin, 2011).

The stereotypes do not only bring about psychological problems to the Muslims but also helps in feeding into actions that are physically harmful by dehumanizing of a given group first before attacking it. After the attack on 11 September, most of the Arab-American actors have found themselves having more likely to be typecasted as terrorists while in the real sense they are not terrorists.

The teachings of the Muslims show that, there are groups of Muslims who are fanatics and are seen to believe in a different god apart from the one that the real Muslims know. In their religion, they do not in any way value human lives as much as the real Muslims do. Followers of the real Muslim religion have been quoted saying that the Arab Muslims are intended for destroying the reputation of the real Muslim religion through their oil and with terrorism. The men in this religion usually try not to give women their rights, which is against the teachings of the Muslims, and most people in the world see them as real Muslims and relate their behaviors with the religion.

References

mooz-lum. (2010).

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6DRvfVbnUrg

Morey, P., & Yaqin, A. (2011). Framing Muslims. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Syriana. (2005).

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ItRvvdtFJw

Business Women

Business Women
The idea of a business woman is something new to some people. Nowadays, it is more common, but to our grandparents and great grandparents, this idea is somewhat obscure. Some areas still have this idea that women belong in the kitchen. However, in more modern areas, women are not at home. They are in the office working from dawn to dusk. These business women, as successful as they are, have created a reputation for themselves. This reputation gave a certain look for business women and now they are known to have certain traits. As displayed in The Iron Lady, The Proposal and The Devil Wears Prada, business women show how they are unnecessarily inhumane, they have a lack personal life and they are feared by their employees.
The three business women in these movies share the quality that they can be unnecessarily inhumane. I first want to state how The Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher, is actually a politician instead of a business woman. However, being that her attributes are similar to a business woman and how she started off her career as a business woman, I will consider her a business woman. There was one point in The Iron Lady that showed Margaret Thatcher acting unnecessarily inhumane by treating her Lord President as a halfwit and ridiculing his writing skills. Margaret Thatcher states in this scene, “This is shameful. Shameful! I can’t even rely on you for a simple timetable! Are you unwell? Yes you are unwell. Give me the pencil, give it to me!” I consider this acting unnecessarily inhumane because there are better ways to address your Lord President, and scorning him in front of the whole cabinet is ill-mannered and disrespectful.
Margaret Tate, in The Proposal, shares the quality of being unnecessarily inhumane as well. My favorite scene that best justifies this statement is when Margaret and Andrew are in Margaret’s office after she recently announced their engagement, and she blackmails Andrew. Fully knowing that this forced marriage is illegal, she threatens Andrew’s job in order for her to stay with the US company she currently is working for. She states in this conversation, “ Sure you are. Because if you don’t, your dreams of touching the lives of millions with the written words are dead. Bob is gonna fire you the second I’m gone. Guaranteed. That means the time that we spent together, the lattes, the cancelled dates, the midnight Tampax runs, were all for nothing and all your dreams of being an editor are gone. Don’t worry, after the required allotment of time, we’ll get a divorce and you’ll be done with me. But until then, like it or not, your wagon is hitched to mine.” I deem this an unnecessarily inhumane behavior because Margaret thinks only of herself and not the consequence of this action. The consequence is that Andrew would be fined $250,000 and spend five years in federal prison.
Miranda Priestly, with the ironic name, has plenty examples of unnecessarily inhumane actions in the movie, The Devil Wears Prada. I personally had troubles picking one example of her many deeds within this movie. After some thought, I finally picked one example. In one scene, Miranda wanted her assistant to deliver “the book” to Miranda’s house that night. During the delivery, there was confusion to where “the book” should be put. It ended up with her assistant running into a fight between Miranda and her husband. The next day, Miranda told her assistant that she were to get the new Harry Potter book for her children by the end of the day, or she would be fired. She states, “If you don’t have the Harry Potter book by then, don’t bother coming back.” I see this as an unnecessarily inhumane action because in spite of her assistants previous mistake, she gave her an impossible task to accomplish in order to seek revenge.
Along with being inhumane, these business women share the quality of having no personal life. I am not sure whether these women think that having a personal life with there job is impossible or if they assume that their personal life runs away from them. My prediction, however, is that they dash away from their own personal life. I can tell you, being a business woman, a social life and a personal life is possible, if you make time for it.
Margaret Thatcher from the Iron Lady is an example of my prediction of dashing away from her personal life. In a scene from the movie, once she is elected for a seat in the house of commons. She is seen leaving her house in her car to go to work. While getting in her car and turning it on, her kids are seen outside the car banging on the windows. She ignores her kids and starts driving. It shows her kids running after the car, while she’s zooming away. While driving, Margaret puts the toys in her car in the glove department. She ultimately drives away from her personal life to start her career. The next time her kids are shown in the movie is when she is very much older and her daughter is helping Margaret get around. As you watch the movie, you can see how Margaret longed for the relationship she missed with her kids throughout her life.
Margaret Tate from The Proposal is a true example of a business woman without a personal life. Unlike the other two business women, Margaret Tate has no husband, has no children and has no parents. She is all alone. Not to mention her lack of sex life, which she states that it’s been a year and a half since she’s “gotten any”. The lack of personal life doesn’t seem to bother her during her average day of work. Later within the movie, she finds herself missing that part of her life.
Margaret Priestly has two young children and a husband. She is seen in the movie giving and getting anything that her children desire. Whether it is a finished science project or the new and unpublished Harry Potter book, she will get them anything. However, her children are only seen twice in the movie and the amount of dialogue that includes their presences is very minimal. In the movie she notes to be getting another divorce. Although she does not state how many there were, the tone is if there are more than one. Clearly, the amount of husbands that she has nagged away shows a definite problem between her work and her personal life.

MARGARET THATCHER – FEARED BY EMPLOYEES (will be added soon)

In The Proposal, Margaret Tate is seen as an unlikeable person. She is feared by most of her staff by the since of urgency when the message comes on their computer that she has arrived at the office. According to a review made about The Proposal, Margaret Tate is … “Known on office instant message as the Witch, she terrorizes underlings, fires the man who wants her job and orders Andrew to marry her” (Ebert). With the claims that this reviewer made, being feared by her employees should be a given.
Before The Devil Wears Prada was a movie, it was a book by Lauren Weisberger. Lauren notes how she played the assistant in real life and Miranda Priestly is based off of the real past editor in chief of Vogue, Anna Wintour or what other people called her, Nuclear Wintour (“Anna Wintour.”). Just as Miranda Priestly is feared by her employees, so is Anna Wintour according to a US Vogue intern. An article states, “One US Vogue intern was famously told never to make eye contact with Wintour or to initiate a conversation. One day the terrified girl witnessed the editor tripping up in the corridor but was too scared to offer help. She stepped over Wintour’s prone form and carried on walking” (“Meet the Acid Queen of New York Fashion”). Miranda Priestly shows how her employees are fearful of her in the movie from the beginning scene when everyone panics when note of Miranda Priestly’s arrival. One part shows an employee of Miranda Priestly leaving the elevators once Miranda got on, which is noted to happen in Anna Wintour’s office building.

CONCLUSION – (will be added soon)

The White Suburban Teenager in The Media

When the idea of a white suburban teenager is shown through the eyes of the Media, there are many different things that come to mind. Some may picture the ‘American Dream’ with a white picket fence, a golden retriever running around, and a family of four with a son and a daughter. On the other hand, white middle class teenagers from the suburbs tend to be presented as spoiled, stuck up, and unfriendly kids who always get their way. There is also the idea that suburban teenagers have a lot of money and have never known the struggle of trying to make ends meet. This is a problem because a large majority of the population in the United States live or have lived in a suburban neighborhood. These stereotypes can cause people to shy away and perhaps cause a decline in the long-time American suburban lifestyle .The purpose of this essay is to discuss the stereotypes of white middle class teenagers from the suburbs that are largely presented in the Media.

Being from the suburbs myself, I grew up surrounded by these stereotypes that people love to mock. I think it’s important to understand the history and true definition of a suburb. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a suburb as “a town or area where people live in houses near a larger city”. The end of World War II caused a huge increase in population. People needed more housing. Housing in bigger cities was too expensive. Living outside the city brought a cheaper and safer way of life. Suburbs seemed like a perfect idea for the traditional American Family. After the growth, many suburban neighborhoods resembled a picture very similar to the one below. It makes sense that parents would want to raise their children in a safe and stable environment. Suburbs are usually very clean and have minimal crime rates.

 

Through the years, living in Suburbia has become a very common and even average thing. As of the year 2000, half of the population of the United States lived in a suburb according to Geography.about.com. An article, written by Leigh Gallagher for Time.com is called “The End of the Suburbs”. Gallagher discusses Today’s suburb. She states, “Rather, the housing crisis of recent years has concealed something deeper and more profound happening to what we have come to know as American suburbia. Simply speaking, more and more Americans don’t want to live there anymore”(Gallagher, 1). She also makes a great point about what suburbs used to stand for, and what they could possibly be turning into in present times. “The American suburb used to evoke a certain way of life, one of tranquil, tree-lined streets, soccer leagues and center hall colonials. Today’s suburb is more likely to evoke endless sprawl, a punishing commute, and McMansions (Gallagher, 1).

There are many television shows and movies that take place in this type of setting and were created to portray and even make fun of suburbanites. The television show, Modern Family was created in 2009 on ABC and is a perfect example of a suburban family. The show is about a family living in suburban Los Angeles. It captures their lives in a comical way. There is a typical dad character who is goofy and tries to be ‘the cool dad’ when interacting with his kids. The mom, while funny as well, she is the more uptight one in the family. She is the enforcer of rules. As for the children, there is an older sister who is going through a hormonal teenager phase. The other sister is more of a typical brainiac. Finally, the younger brother is also a goofball like his father and represents a more innocent character. All of the problems in the show are never life or death. I believe that this carries over to what people imagine life in the suburbs is really like. When watching the show, you’ll notice that the house itself and the neighborhood is always in pristine condition with the latest décor. The mother in the show drives a mini van, another common idea of suburban life. Solutions to any problems that occur usually involve buying something new or going on a trip to get ice cream. A few anomalies on the show are the fact that there is also a married gay couple and a character that is Spanish-speaking. When people think of suburban life, they imagine everything being the same. Most of the time, it is expected that people from the suburbs are white. This is obviously not always the case, but this is how the Media portrays it to be.

Another example of life in the suburbs is a Disney Channel Movie called Stuck in the Suburbs. It was made in 2004 and was catered towards a younger audience between the ages of 9 and 14. The whole idea of the movie is about not wanting to be like everyone else. The plot of the movie is about two girls that are bored with their every day lives. Things get exciting when a pop singer makes a visit to the town they live in. The characters in the movie have very American names such as Brittany, Natasha, and Jordan. Similar to Modern Family, the houses all look the same and are each equipped with their own mini vans. The girls are dressed in very colorful and stylish clothing. I think the creators of this movie wanted to appeal to teenage girls by making the style of the movie upbeat and possibly trying to send a message that is relatable. One of the characters in the movie, Natasha, has lived in other places besides the suburbs. She is also shown as a character who is different and did not grow up familiar with conforming to suburb life.

Some of these stereotypes are little bit ridiculous to someone like myself who has grown up in this environment. The Media makes things out to be bigger than what they really are. A common movie that a good majority of teenage girls have seen is Mean Girls. The movie symbolizes a lot of themes about girls and what not. However it also shows life in the suburbs and discusses people trying to fit in the way they are expected to. The ‘popular’ group in the movie, has a lot of money. They are made out to be spoiled brats that have their parents pay for everything. It also shows that if you don’t have money or you don’t wear a certain type of clothing, you will be seen as uncool and ugly. On the other hand, the characters that do have money and wear the best clothes are made to be caddy and mean. I think movies like this especially, have fueled the idea that the white middle class suburban teenagers are negative people.

My personal experience growing up, my parents had the typical ‘American Dream’ I discussed earlier. My brother and I usually got everything we wanted. Money was rarely an issue when I was little. I could relate to these movies and TV shows without questioning them. I could walk down the street without worrying about, for the most part anything bad happening to me. When I got to high school, I became more aware of the negative stereotypes. My parents got divorced and we virtually had no money. I no longer lived in a 3,000 square foot home, but a 800 square foot apartment. I think a lot of people don’t realize that these images of perfection are sometimes genuine, but most of the time they contain a lot of problems behind them. When people try hard to make everything seem like all is well, they could be hiding darker issues such as alcoholism/addiction, domestic abuse, or relationship problems just to name a few. I think the average white middle class teenager from the suburbs has a lot of pressure to fit into the box that everyone wants them to be in. Most of them are expected to go to college and have a good career after their high school days. Teens in the suburbs are pressured to get good grades and become all-stars in their afterschool activities like football, cheerleading, or orchestra. They’re expected to get married and start a family similar to how their parents might have done it before them. Parents turn their heads to young kids partying and try to think about it not happening. It isn’t always expected that drugs or alcohol are a large problem in suburbs, but most of the time it is.

An article was written about drug use in suburban neighborhoods near Cleveland, Ohio. The article is called “Affluent Suburbs face the harsh glare of drug use” by Call & Post. It states that “More than half of high school students in Westlake, Rocky River, and Bay Village are already abusing drugs or alcohol”. The article also talks about how 56% of teenagers have used prescription pills in a recreational manner. There is even a mention of heroin being an issue in these otherwise upscale and peaceful communities.

The suburbs are an easy target to mock because they are very common in the United States. I think people are entertained by how a group of people can maintain an image of perfection when there are so many underlying issues. While it is sometimes annoying to tell people where I am from and have them immediately ask me if I’m rich, I am still proud to have grown up in the suburbs. I am fortunate to have had the typical ‘American Dream” experience for the most part. There are far worse problems in the world like famine, disease, and lack of education. My hope is that people will make an effort not to judge someone about being from a middle class-suburb. Not everyone is rude or stuck up. Not everyone has trust funds or their parent’s credit cards. We are all just people trying to live in this big world and make a name for ourselves.

 

References

 

Affluent Suburbs Face Harsh Glare of Teen Drug Use. (2012). Call & Post, (All-Ohio edition 1). Retrieved February 22, 2015.

Gallagher, L. (2013, July 31). The End of the Suburbs. Time.

 

Mean Girls [Motion picture on DVD]. (2004). United States of America: Paramount Pictures.

 

Modern family [Motion picture]. (2015). 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

 

(n.d.). Retrieved February 22, 2015, from http://www.airphotona.com/stockimg/images/17178.jpg.

 

Stief, C. (n.d.). An Overview of Suburbs. Retrieved February 22, 2015, from http://geography.about.com/od/urbaneconomicgeography/a/suburbs.htm

 

Stuck in The Suburbs [Motion picture]. (2004). United States of America: Disney Channel.

 

Suburb. (n.d.). Retrieved February 22, 2015, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/suburb

 

The Growth of Suburbs. (n.d.). Retrieved February 22, 2015, from http://ushistory1950.weebly.com/the-growth-of-suburbs.html

Female Gamers

It’s a Saturday night, and you hunker down with a good movie and some popcorn. Maybe your pet is sitting with you on the couch, as the first scene of the movie is unfolding. It’s a recently released movie, and you’re looking forward to watching it and talking about it with your friends tomorrow, or posting a status about it on Facebook. Now let’s pause. Does this scenario have a different vibe if the viewer is specifically a woman? Or a man? Movies can be appreciated and enjoyed by both sexes and various age groups without much question (not going into the topic of age appropriate films), why is it that when a woman enjoys playing video games, it’s viewed differently? Why is it that video games are treated as some male-specific form of entertainment? Are they any different than enjoying that movie, or reading a book? Female gamers both inside and outside of the gaming community are viewed differently solely based on their sex. The identity of a female gamer is for whatever reason met with extra attention than women who enjoy other leisurely activities, and are sometimes met with grossly inappropriate, misogynistic behavior. This is not some old fashioned idea either. With the expansive world of the internet, and keyboard warriors hiding behind their monitors as a mask, many women are subject to behavior that is wholly inappropriate. I believe this is connected to the often over-sexualized representation of women in video games.

I personally identify as a female gamer. I have always enjoyed video games, ever since I was a young child. I remember playing on our Sega Genesis, having a blast with games like The Lion King, The Jungle Book, and Aladdin. I never would have expected just how much video games would evolve and grow even within a decade. As of late, most of my interests revolve around games I can play with my friends. Something that I didn’t really give much thought about before looking into my identity as a female gamer was that almost all of my friends are guys. It has been a very long time since I truly had a close female friend who shared my interest in playing video games, while today I am in contact and play games with my close group of male friends. It was something that never really seemed that important, but just why is it that my female friends interested in video games are so few and far between?

Perhaps it was a matter of just choosing to befriend people with similar interests, and the people I happened to have the most in common with were males. Some interesting research led me to the statistic on family media use, and 76% of homes with at least one boy own video games as compared to 58% of homes with at least one girl (Woodard & Gridinia, 2000). I’m unsure of how different these numbers may be though, as it’s already over a decade later. A survey conducted in 2009 suggests that 40% of all game players in the U.S. are female (ESA). There is such a wide variation in what is considered a “video game”, what with the popularity of mobile games and flash games on websites like Facebook. From my personal experience and the types of games I play, I’ve been met with some inappropriate behavior. One such game I enjoy is Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. This particular game is an MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role playing game) and on a daily basis I come in contact with thousands of other people. In this particular game, you are able to create a character and customize your race, sex and other unique features (hair color/style, facial markings, body adjustments such as height, muscle build and bust size).

When I originally started playing at the launch of this title in August 2013, I started a tomboyish female character. Even from the start she was given “special” attention. I would have players go out of their way to come over and try to party up with me for content, without even attempting to make contact and ask me if I was available to help them or not. On one occasion someone I met in the game and thought I could regard as a friend decided to shower me in gifts and then attempt to make sexually suggestive advances (via text). Despite my adamant responses of telling him I was uninterested and uncomfortable with his behavior, it seemed to not matter to him. Something about being online and being able to hide behind a screen/character makes people behave in ways they normally wouldn’t in a real life situation, it seems. I found this strange, because I felt like my character had nothing that would draw any attention to her, other than the fact that she was female. There are plenty of people (both male and female) who play as very sexualized characters (largest bust size, minimal clothing, etc.) who play like that because they like how it looks, or want to feel sexy, but it does not seem like it should warrant inappropriate behavior. There have been many articles and voices from women in the various fields of video games who have spoken out against female discrimination. One popular movement is that of the “GamerGate” debate.

The GamerGate topic boils down to two particular topics: How women in gaming are treated, and ethics in games journalism. For the sake of convenience, here is a very well explained summary of what the GamerGate issue and those involved include.

http://www.vox.com/2014/9/6/6111065/gamergate-explained-everybody-fighting (Warning: Language/Threats of Violence)

While there are obviously arguments both for and against the specific topics discussed by Sarkeesian, the fact that she and many other women in the gaming community received threats of rape and death is entirely inappropriate. Why is it that people seem to feel that it is okay to say those things to anyone? All over their opinion on a video game? It seems like there are just some figures in every community that people love to hate. Anita Sarkeesian seems to be just one of them. As a contrast, there are plenty of women within the gaming community that can still be immersed in the topic without without making it a spectacle, neither positive nor negative. Felicia Day is one such woman that I would like to pose as an example.

 (Warning: Language)

I’ve linked one of Felicia’s videos of her playing a game for her YouTube channel. She includes herself in the video in a corner with her webcam, which is small and out of the way. It seems that she allows herself to just enjoy the game as a form of entertainment, as anyone would if they were watching a movie or enjoying some leisurely pastime. I feel as if I can identify with her as a female gamer because she just enjoys the content and has fun with it. It’s interesting to note the she chose to play as a female character in her game. The game that she is playing (Divinity: Original Sin) allows for the customization of two characters, and offers both male and female options. While the female character is portrayed as sexualized (busty, high heels, etc), it is unique in the way that the female characters are given the role as a main character (Miller, Summers 2007).

Divinity: Original Sin and Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn are just two games that I personally play that allow for character creation that allows for either a male or female character. Over time, I’ve noticed that when I play online games as a male character, I am less likely to be harassed or given sexually inappropriate comments. It’s interesting to consider, because when you are in that type of environment, everything is face value. You can never really know if that person playing a female avatar is actually a woman behind the screen. It’s interesting to try playing both in an online setting just to see how differently they can be treated. Just an example includes seeking help with content. When I attempt to reach out and ask for help on my male character, I will get a moderate amount of help over, say, thirty minutes or so. Conversely, on my female character it seems that people are far more willing to offer help in a shorter period of time. Behavior based on your sex is something that is unfortunately just the nature of the beast at the moment, and many seem to share the experience, from both sides of the table.

This YouTube video of an animated short that touches upon some of the stereotypes of a female gamer are amusing, but sadly can be true at times. The author of the video slightly exaggerates the behavior o the typical “girly” gamer, but it is indeed what I have come across in my time. Stereotypes exist for a reason unfortunately, but this particular video covers and describes multiple angles of different gaming personalities. There is specifically the girly female gamer and the creepy, inappropriate guy who is all too ready to “worship” her simply because she is a female. The video amuses me and I feel it is relevant because it is a nice perspective into how those in the gaming community see and experience others. There are times where female gamers identify as “girl gamers”, but I personally feel that just the wording itself for that title is a bit destructive to the group of women who play games as a whole. The word “girl” feels very childish and almost demeaning.

Ideally, we are all just gamers, no matter the gender or age or race. I am hoping that some day people will stop associating video gaming as some macho, male-dominated activity and see it for what it really is, a form of entertainment that is no different than enjoying a movie or a book. Some people identify as writers, movie-buffs, painters… I’m a gamer, and my sex has nothing to do with it

Day, Felicia. “Divinity Original Sin: Livestream #1 with @ryonday! (NSFW)” YouTube. YouTube, 15 December, 2014. Web 17 February, 2015. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fRZTtmgetlI>

“#Gamergate Controversy Fuels Debate On Women And Video GamesNPR. 24 September, 2014. Web 20 February, 2015. <http://www.npr.org/blogs/alltechconsidered/2014/09/24/349835297/-gamergate-controversy-fuels-debate-on-women-and-video-games>

Glaubke, C. R., Miller, P., Parker, M.A. & Espejo, E. (2001). Fair play? Violence, race, and gender in video games. Children NOW.

Jaltoid. “Girl Gamers (Sequel) – Jaltoid Cartoons.” YouTube. YouTube, 19 April, 2013. Web 17 February, 2015. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5kSOD6EsEUs>

Miller, M. K., & Summers, A. (2007). Gender differences in video game characters’ roles, appearances, and attire as portrayed in video game magazines. Sex Roles, 57, 733–742.CrossRef

VanDerWerff, Todd. “#GamerGate: Here’s why everybody in the video game world is fighting” Vox. 13 October, 2014. Web 20 February, 2015. <http://www.vox.com/2014/9/6/6111065/gamergate-explained-everybody-fighting>

Woodard, E. H., IV, & Gridina, N. (2000). Media in the home 2000: The fifth annual survey of parents and children (Survey Series No. 7). Philadelphia: Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania.

Popular Gamers

Video games are some of the most diverse forms of media and entertainment. Games have evolved so much over time that it’s often difficult to describe how much the games themselves have changed as well as the people who play them. The graphics have improved significantly just in the past 5 or so years and it’s rapidly becoming a form of entertainment for millions of people across the globe. Games aren’t only 2D anymore like Pong or Pac-Man. We’ve entered 3D quite a while ago and now we’re even seeing virtual reality that immerses the players in the game even more than before. What is a gamer then? I wouldn’t say that anybody who has played games before is a gamer. My 59 year old dad has played games but there’s no way he’d consider himself a gamer. I’m a gamer and I believe that many people might be ashamed to call themselves a gamer because of how gamers are portrayed in popular culture. It’s made it difficult for gamers to say that they’re proud of their interest in video games because of how other people view them.

Let’s take a step back and analyze what a gamer is. Gamers by definition are people who play games regularly. That’s essentially all it takes. Gamers enjoy and play games on a regular basis. You don’t have to play a certain number of hours a week to be considered a gamer, I think it just boils down to playing games and enjoying the time spent playing them. I like games because they give you control of the character. Like movies, books or TV shows, there’s a story to be told but games allow you the player to control the characters and environment. There is a very wide range of different games that appeal to different people. The large majority involve role playing, and then there are games where there are no characters at all like puzzle games. I’ve been playing video games ever since I can remember. I think that as a kid growing up in the 90’s, I was growing up in a prime time for video games emerging into what they are today. Today, I play fewer games than I used to as a kid, but that’s because I have more responsibilities as an adult. I still enjoy games a lot. I have favorite video games like Zelda, Halo, Dead Space, and many others. I believe games have made a big impact on who I am today because they’ve taught me to appreciate the art that goes into making them enjoyable. However, popular culture and the media don’t really care about the positive things about games, they often highlight the negative things. I think this is because it’s not very interesting to have a character who enjoys playing games and continues being a normal person during other activities. Popular culture portrays gamers as a specific personality rather than a culture.

I think that gamers are portrayed in a lot of different ways, and I’m curious to see if how I view gamers is similar or different to how the media makes gamers seem. I think that gamers are much more capable and diverse than how the media portrays them. On the surface I notice a few stereotypes. Gamers have poor diets, and this comes from the numerous sponsorships that game companies have with junk foods like Doritos or Mountain Dew. I also get the feeling that many gamers are anti-social and live at home with their parents. I think that many people assume because gamers are involved with this hobby/interest, they’re incapable of getting a job and moving out on their own, they’d rather stay home and play games. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to get a career in playing games. The closest you can get to that is to play competitively in tournaments. Which involves playing games full time to practice for the chance to win cash prizes. There’s no hourly wage; you’re reliant on your experience/skill to pay off in the end. I’m interested to see if these stereotypes that I’ve observed are similar to how the media portrays gamers. Since I’m a gamer, I can tell you that not every stereotype is true, but I do relate to a couple that are popular amongst gamers. I don’t have a poor diet. I live at home. I have a life outside of video games, and I think that popular culture assumes that video games are the only things that gamers have an interest in which I think is not true.

One movie that I want mention how the media portrays gamers is Grandma’s Boy (2006).

I think that this movie is a good example of a diverse amount of gamer stereotypes within one movie. Grandma’s Boy is a movie about a 35 year old named Alex (Allen Covert), who is a video game quality assurance tester that moves in with his grandma while working on video games, including one of his own. It’s a comedy that I think just about any audience can enjoy it because of its raunchy humor, even if they don’t play video games. There’s a lot of interesting things to be seen in the movie and it reflects some stereotypes I’ve noticed in other media. The video game references are obviously present, but it’s interesting to notice certain behaviors for each character just because they are gamers. The main character is a white male, he hasn’t been paying rent so he has to move in with his grandmother. He’s actually pretty normal socially, but he’s surrounded by gamer stereotypes throughout the movie. One of his coworkers (Nick Swardson) lives at his parent’s house, and Alex would live on his own but he was evicted so he has to live with his grandmother (Doris Roberts) for the time being. I think that the “lives at home” stereotype is something I can relate to. I still live at home because I work part time to afford school. The gamers in this movie don’t have any other responsibility besides paying the rent. That’s something I can’t afford to do while also paying for school. Also most people in this movie are white and male. There’s a female character that is Alex’s love interest but she’s not really a gamer.

I’ve noticed that most gamers in media portrayed as white and male. There’s not really any reason for it. I know plenty of gamers from other ethnic cultures, I also know some female gamers.  But those are apparently the minority for the gamer culture according to movies and TV shows. It’s true that many gamers are male, including myself. But I don’t think there’s any statistical evidence that most are white, even though I myself am both a white and male gamer. In fact, studies by the Internet Advertising Bureau show that over 52% of gamers are actually female. Yet we don’t really see females in the media being portrayed as gamers. Why is that? I think that part of the reason is because there are gender roles at play. Our society has a set of norms that classifies men and women based on their attitudes, actions, and personalities and these are what we call gender roles. An example of this would be how there are more men in engineering fields, while there are more women in health care or educational services. Men are more interested in technology and it has been that way for a long time now until pretty recently. More women now are getting the jobs they’re interested in no matter what field but it’s still a struggle to fit in. I think that many females don’t feel like they fit in with other gamers. I’ve seen many people stereotype female gamers online as being inferior at playing the games when they’re really just as good as everyone else. I’m sure there are plenty of other reasons why we put women second in situations like this. One reason is testosterone and violence.

Violence in video games is a very controversial topic all the time. One of the reasons this is an issue is because there’s a constant assumption that violent video games cause people to act violent in real life. This topic is brought up frequently because of tragedies where someone has shot people such as school shootings like the V-Tech Massacre or Sandy Hook elementary. News media (namely Fox News) has blamed this violent behavior time and time again on video games despite not having any credibly sources. Simply because the killer has played video games in his/her past that have violent behavior like Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty. However, there have been numerous studies that have debunked this theory. A long-term study published in the Journal of Communication by Christopher Ferguson at Stetson University shows that there is no connection between violent media (movies, video games) and real life acts of violence. It’s a very common stereotype and I understand where it comes from. You would think that watching violent movies or playing violent video games would make it seem like this is okay behavior. Especially when you’re playing as a character that is committing these crimes. However what Christopher Ferguson found was that there’s no correlation between the two. It’s not an issue of violent video games causing people to become killers, it’s an issue of mental health. These specific killers just so happen to play or played video games at some point. I’ve seen gamers portrayed in violent movies before. The movie Gamer (2009) is a good example of this.

It’s set in the future where a professional gamer is in control of a real life convict (played by Gerard Butler) that has to battle through an arena. The gamer is spoiled, lives at home, has a poor diet, and is really popular because of his reputation as being the gamer in control of the convict. Again, there are some common themes of other movies that show up here, but it’s really about the convict trying to escape the “game” and less about the gamer. The gamer isn’t the violent person in this movie, but he is controlling a violent character. Violence isn’t something that affects me when I play games. I play a wide variety of games, violent ones included, I enjoy them just as much as any other genres. I even play the games that are often perpetrated by the media as making people violent. Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty, Postal 2, Manhunt, Mortal Kombat… These are all violent games, but the one thing they all have in common is that they’re rated M for Mature. These ESRB ratings are there for the same reason there are rated R movies by the MPAA. Kids aren’t meant to play violent video games just as they aren’t meant to watch violent movies. It’s up to the parents to decide what is right for their kids to watch or play. Even then, there aren’t any significant studies that say violence in media creates violent people Video games aren’t a reflection of reality, they’re an escape from the real world into something imaginary like a book, movie, or TV show.

I think that gaming is becoming more accepted now in society since more people play them worldwide.  There are people like me (or older) who have grown up playing video games and there are newer generations of kids doing the same. But the media still over exaggerates how gamers are and behave. There are more shows involving gamers now such as The Big Bang Theory or South Park which reference video games frequently. However Hollywood productions like to make it seem as if the characters are obsessed about games and doesn’t have any other interests. Like any stereotypes, they often have a reason for being a stereotype in the first place. We give credit to stereotypes in the way that we act as people of different cultures. I see the gamer culture making more progress as becoming the norm in our society, but it will take some time for everyone to accept it as if it’s any other normal hobby. I still play games, and I still like to call myself a gamer, but I can understand why some gamers might be ashamed to call themselves a gamer because of how the media portrays gamers in negative ways. I believe that it’s better to view video games for the positive things. Video games are a hobby enjoyed by millions of people and they’re not defined by who plays them but by how they’re played. Despite how the media portrays gamers, I will still call myself a gamer because that’s part of who I am and what I enjoy.

 

Works Cited

Callaway, Ewen. “Gamers Are More Aggressive to Strangers.” NewScientist Life, 28 Sept. 2009. Web. 22 Feb. 2015. <http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn17868-gamers-are-more-aggressive-to-strangers.html&gt;.

Gamer. Dir. Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor. Perf. Gerard Butler, Michael C. Hall, Ludacris. Lionsgate, 2009. DVD.

Grandma’s Boy. Dir. Nicholaus Goossen. Perf. Allen Covert, Linda Cardellini, Shirley Jones, Doris Roberts, Nick Swardson. Happy Madison, 20th Century Fox, 2006. DVD.

Gutierrez, John P. “No Link Found between Movie, Video Game Violence and Societal Violence.” EurekAlert! N.p., 5 Nov. 2014. Web. 22 Feb. 2015. <http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2014-11/ica-nlf102814.php&gt;.

Jaccarino, Mike. “‘Training Simulation:’ Mass Killers Often Share Obsession with Violent Video Games.” Fox News. FOX News Network, 12 Sept. 2013. Web. 11 Feb. 2015. <http://www.foxnews.com/tech/2013/09/12/training-simulation-mass-killers-often-share-obsession-with-violent-video-games/&gt;.

“More Women Now Play Video Games than Men | IAB UK.” Internet Advertising Bureau, 17 Sept. 2014. Web. 22 Feb. 2015. <http://www.iabuk.net/about/press/archive/more-women-now-play-video-games-than-men&gt;.

Females In Videogames

 

The world of videogames has been rapidly developing since the 1970s and ‘80s when video games were introduced for commercial use.  Something that has not developed quite so fast is female roles in video games. As with many other aspects of female daily life, video games have yet to outgrow sexism.  From being marginalized, to being sexualized, to being simply not taken seriously, women often times have to deal with many problems in the video game sphere that men usually do not.  Females in gaming are equally as capable of playing, creating, and leading as their male equivalents, but are not always given that equal chance to do so.  Women should be allowed a greater role and taken seriously in all parts of video games as they are as equally willing and able to participate as their male counterparts.

Women are starting to become a larger presence in gaming.  According to The Wall Street Journal, the amount of women gaming (as a percentage of men and women in gaming)  jumped 8% in four years, and the amount of women over the age of 18 who game actually exceeds the amount of men under the age of 18 who game, which is a rather significant demographic.  The study in this article did count women who play casual games, such as Candy Crush or other mobile games.  These are on the fringe of gaming and many of these women are not considered real “gamers”, which makes sense when women are normally considered to be a small minority in the gaming industry as a whole. Women who play a few Facebook mini games are probably not going to to visit a video game convention, but they are adding to the women that have some knowledge and appreciation of video games.

Grundberg, Sven and Jens Hansegard, Wall Street Journal

(Grundberg, Sven, and Jens Hansegard, Wall Street Journal)

In many games, women are given roles that are minor, or their essential purpose is to be saved.  A couple of classic popular examples for the ‘damsel in distress’ would be Princess Peach from Super Mario Bros. or Princess Zelda from The Legend of Zelda.  In their original games, they were really more of goals for the hero to reach, rather than people.  More recent versions of the characters have seen a shift towards more self reliance and a fleshing out of personalities.  This is a step towards female gamers and game designers in the real world gaining more respect and consideration in the field.  In the games Super Smash Bros. Melee and Brawl, the two princesses are given powers and can hold their own against heroes and villains alike.  This fleshing out can also been seen in players of video games.

WiiDaily

The Guild is a web series based on a female gamer and her ‘guild’ (group of people she games with).  There are three men and three women, each with different personalities and skills.  In other shows, being a woman could be the character’s defining feature whereas in this show the three women have vastly different backgrounds. One is a sassy stay at home mom, another an asian college student and the third is a socially repressed out of work violinist.  The diversity contrasts against some stereotypes surrounding female gamers.  The Guild was created by a real life female gamer, and gives the refreshing yet unassuming portrayal that women in gaming are equal to their male comrades.  The fact that the women are just as capable is never questioned, so they are always on equal terms with their entire guild.  This is the opportunity that women in video games should have.  To be equal members.  Their characters can dress modest or racy, however they see fit.  In a later episode, the guild leadership duties switch from a man to a woman, and it was based on personality that this shift occurred, not gender.  The Guild embodies what happens when people let go of stereotypes against female players and just let them play the game without gender being brought up as a factor of their game play.

One of the problems many of the women in videogames are faced with is the rampant sexualization of female characters.  Sexualization here and there has its place, but some of the visual fan service is rather extreme.  I will sometimes avoid certain games just because of some of the harassment I have heard other women getting from other players.  I was once playing an online RPG (role playing game) with the female character but I was wearing full armour and had a gender neutral screen name.  A girl came up and started flirting with me, and by the tone of her flirting it was probably because she thought I could give her some good items and protect her because of my high level.  I had to actually take off my helm in order to convince her that I really was not a male character and was not at all interested.  The equality in this game afforded to me by some armour allowed me to really get involved  and to enjoy the game because I did not have people constantly commenting upon my gender and treating me differently for it.

In many games, one cannot change clothing, the character just comes as is.  Mortal Kombat, a hand to hand fighting game, is well known for its bikini wearing female fighters.  They are arguably equal in power with the other fighters, it just obvious that the way they are dressed (and proportioned) is to please the male demographic.  This sort of portrayal of women would not be so bothersome if a few of the male characters were dressed similarly.  Imagine how gamers would laugh at the thought of putting a male character in a speedo into a popular fighting game such as Mortal Kombat.  Far fewer people seem to be laughing though, at the scantily clad women fighters.

Martini, Irene, Girls and Videogames

Stereotypes surrounding females in games may lead to real world consequences.  This is especially true for women in on the creation side of video games.  The Colbert Report (a satirical political comedy show) did an interview of Anita Sarkeesian, a feminist blogger that speaks against some of the inequalities existing in video games.  Colbert first brings up what he thinks Sarkeesian and women like her stand for, taking the violence out of gaming and making men stop playing the games they like that contain sexism.  Sarkeesian explains that what she and women like her want is simply more inclusivity in the video game sphere.  There have been many threats and actions against Sarkeesian and others like her, including doxing (posting of a person’s private information or documents), swatting (having the person’s home erroneously invaded by a SWAT team), and death, rape and other miscellaneous threats.  Colbert notes that it has mostly been women in the gaming industry who have been the focus of this harassment.  #Gamergate, 8chan, and 4chan have been some of the most prominent harassers of women in video games.  That means that women responsible for representing other women in games are sometimes being harassed for wanting to include more women.

Another feminist, Christina Hoff Sommers, differs from women like Sarkeesian.  She made the video “Are video games sexist” for The American Enterprise Institute, claiming that they “want male video game culture to end”.  This being because of much of the critique given over the the lack of female protagonists, their dress and role when they are included, and other inequalities that can be found in video games themselves.  She argues that video games have become more inclusive, and that their arguments are out of place.  “Imagine if a group of gender critics attacked women-centered shows like Oprah or The View, or women’s magazines, for privileging the female perspective and treating men like ‘the other.’”  Sommers may have a point with video games becoming more inclusive, but with this comparison her argument falls flat.  Shows like Oprah, The View, or women’s magazines, all have male equivalents.  There is no shortage of men’s magazines or talk shows hosted by them.  These entertainment choices are also just parts of a whole entertainment sector that includes a wide variety of magazines and shows.  The video game industry, however, caters to its male population while neglecting its female population.  This cannot be said of either gender in the TV or magazine industries.  Rachel Franklin, executive producer of Sims, said, “Women make up a huge part of the available gaming audience and it is up to developers to decide whether or not to reach out to them,”.  (Wall Street Journal).

As I said, not all of the industry is ignoring female players.  One gaming franchise that has decided to reach out to women is Final Fantasy by Square Enix.  In one of their latest games, Final Fantasy XIII, the main character is a strong lead female, Lightning.  The entire group of players is an equal three to three women to men ratio.  Surprisingly, another female character, Fang, has the best maxed strength stat at 305 points higher than next high strength stat (which belongs to Lightning), and is arguably the the best offensive character in the group.  (Strategy Wiki).  Vanille, the last female character character, may look cute and innocent, but she is the only character that can cast an instant death spell.  I am currently playing through this game myself, and it is rather refreshing to find that I can actually use female characters as the main character. This game obviously wants to welcome more females into gaming, and is something many people point to when they want to show progress in inclusion.  A few popular games with female leads or other forms of inclusion (major parts, backgrounds, appropriate dress, etc.) does not mean the video games have changed their ways entirely, but it is definitely a start.

Wikipedia

Women are beginning to be recognized as gamers, but problems still remain.  Harassment, sexualization, and general undervaluing of women in video games is not going to stop overnight.  Newer iterations of Zelda and Peach, the women in The Guild, and new games like Final Fantasy XIII show that the inclusion of women is not only viable, but can have some pretty amazing results.  It my hope though, that women in video games can be seen as the diverse group of people we are, and are one day allowed to carve our own, equal niche into the world of video games.

Works Cited

Colbert, Stephen, Ben Karlin, Jon Stewart, Joe Antonetti, and Robert Weber. “The Colbert

Report: Gamergate – Anita Sarkeesian.” YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 21 Feb. 2015.

<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9L_Wmeg7OTU>.

Day, Felicia, Jane Selle Morgan, and Kim Evey. “The Guild – Episode 1: Wake-Up Call.”

YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 21 Feb. 2015.

<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=grCTXGW3sxQ&list=SLsUoi5Pu-0R0>.

“Final Fantasy XIII/Characters.” – StrategyWiki, the Video Game Walkthrough and

Strategy Guide Wiki. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Mar. 2015.

<http://strategywiki.org/wiki/Final_Fantasy_XIII/Characters>.

“Final Fantasy XIII.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 08 Mar. 2015.

<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Final_Fantasy_XIII>.

Grundberg, Sven, and Jens Hansegard. “Women Now Make Up Almost Half of Gamers.”

WSJ. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Feb. 2015.

<http://www.wsj.com/articles/gaming-no-longer-a-mans-world-1408464249>.

Martini, Irene ‘Eleyonart’ “Girls and Videogames.” Deviant Art. N.p., n.d. Web.

<http://irenemartini.deviantart.com/art/Girls-and-Videogames-355442090>.

“Peach Has Been Announced for Super Smash Bros.” Wii U. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Mar.

2015. <http://wiiudaily.com/2013/09/peach-is-in-super-smash-bros/>.

Sommers, Christina Hoff. “Are Video Games Sexist?” YouTube. American Enterprise Institute,

n.d. Web. 21 Feb. 2015. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9MxqSwzFy5w>.

The Average Nerdy Woman

Image

The Average Nerdy Woman

Popular Culture: Looking In The Mirror Essay

Colby Newbold

March 8th, 2015

 

A nerd is defined as someone whom is awkward and often wears unstylish clothes, or is feverishly interested and devoted into academic interests. When my parents hear the word “nerd” they are reminded of Star Trek and Star Wars, a world of supernatural and space that existed in their time. Both of my parents are in their forties. When I hear the word “nerd”, I think of me: conventions and comic cons, cosplay, fandoms, action figures, and intelligence. The idea of nerd hasn’t necessarily changed, but the way we define it does. What once may have been that weirdo with quirky clothing waiting in line for a movie premiere, now appears as an icon. Sure, nerds still wear quirky clothing, and have a passion for comics and books and fandoms, but they’re no longer “weird”. There are and always will be subcategories of nerds, but when one walks into stores like Macy’s or Hot Topic, nerds are welcomed whole-heartedly into the community with graphic tees representing movies, comics, and vintage sci-fi. Nerds used to be the speed bump in stereotypes, but the new light in the nerd community is women. Women nerds are sexualized in the media, and while they appear awkward or strangely dressed, they are often desired by men. Not all women nerds are sexual by nature, if anything we are the opposite. I have been living within this community since I was roughly nine years old, and in no way has media portrayed us correctly. We are not all the same. We are not all fashionable, nor are all female nerds awkward, but media has decided to portray female nerds as these two stereotypes.

I broke out into the nerd community when my mom first read aloud Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Following, I continued to read chapter book after chapter book, and had swallowed up the words of Bilbo Baggins, Shakespeare, and Huck Finn by the time I was eleven. I was originally what many say is the typical, nerdy girl. Now, the quiet, bookworm has extended its wings to become a full-fledged nerd. In the community of nerds, the social media has focused on the sexualized and bashing of female nerds. In her thesis, Sonnet Robinsons focuses on the portrayal of female nerds in the media, and “the harassment of women both online and in-person and about representation of women in nerd culture” (Robinson, 1). For instance, television portrayed nerds as the glasses-wearing, rolled pants characters of Steve Urkel from the TV show, Family Matters. Now, not only are nerds portrayed much differently from 30-something years ago, women nerds are also highlighted in shows such as The Big Bang Theory, Supernatural, and The Guild. Media has made a step in the right direction by insisting that women nerds do in fact exist-a myth and dream of male nerds whom believed it was impossible they’d ever find someone of the opposite sex with similar interests. Then, in swooped the character Codex of The Guild, a female PC Gamer, who not only spent every free minute of her time in online gaming, but was also attractive. Not only nerds play games, but TV hadn’t seen a female so intensely intrigued by this sub-culture of online gaming, and thus, the female nerd became pretty, skewing the results of female nerds either being extremely attractive, or the Steve Urkel edition.

After the introduction of Codex, many other female characters followed in close pursuit of similar, strong female nerds. Soon after, we were astonished by the addictive TV show, Supernatural. While this is not necessarily a show about nerds, the show premieres certain characters, and in came Charlie. Also played by Felicia Day who portrayed Codex in The Guild, Charlie was a pretty, intelligent computer hacker who helped the two brothers in a few episodes, and became a character who popped up several times. While she helped achieve the brilliance of a female nerd, they decided that it wasn’t enough, and made her literally a character of unreachable levels: Charlie is a lesbian. Dean, the older brother of the show, expressed interest, but was shut down before he even got a chance when she announced her sexual orientation. If we know anything about male culture, woman-on-woman action is sexualized greatly in our media. Pros: women nerds are viewed as intelligent and attractive. Cons: sexualized immensely. To make Charlie even more unreachable, an episode later unveils the world of LARP-Live Action Role Playing- and Charlie is queen, doted on by all, and at the tier of both power and beauty. LARP is commonly tagged onto the nerd community, because it involved costumes, intense obsession with an era study, most people tag LARP on as a stereotypical interest of all nerds. Similar to Charlie is Penny from The Big Bang Theory. Literally the girl next door, she is sought out by all of the men around her. Not entirely a nerd in the classic essence of “unattractive”, she falls victim to the love of comics early on in the show, and later turns into a gamer. Going back to Codex, she is a clean, neat PC gamer, but Penny’s rise to PC Gamer is a slobbery session of multiple, shower-less days with junk food and angry obsession. Not all female nerds are classy and clean cut, but The Big Bang Theory proves that there are two sides to the gamer nerd, and not all pretty nerds stay pretty, nor are they perfect.

Like any other community, there are the outsiders: cosplayers who wear poorly made costumes, larger cosplayers, and what many recognize as the “fake nerd girl”. Because the nerd community was generally built of men, women who appear as fake or unrealistically normal are shut out. Female cosplayers who are simply dressing up as characters they love for fun and not competition are bullied or laughed at. I’ve been laughed at because I bought my jacket instead of sewing it myself. A lot of people think the nerd community is all welcoming, and most of the time it is, but there are people who are harsh and unwilling to accept all people, like other communities and cliques. A sub community of nerd culture involves conventions and comic cons. I have been attending these for 6 years now, and the Northwest has a great selection of them: Kumoricon, Rose City Comic Con, Emerald City Comic Con, and Newcon. It’s part of the convention life to dress up in cosplay, to pretend to be characters that you love and admire. In my six years of attendance, cons have been all about sexy cosplayers, women dressed up as characters in scantily-clad costumes. In an episode of The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon, Howard, Raj, and Leonard go to a comic con in L.A, and they dress as Star Trek characters. Their costumes are not sexualized, nor are they tight-fitting. jessica nOn the other hand, in the Sci-Fi TV show, Heroes of Cosplay, the show makes a point to illustrate that famous cosplayers like Jessica Ngiri and Yaya Han are sexual. They wear costumes that are revealing, and make women who are more conservative appear boring and lacking femininity. For instance, the picture above is Jessican Ngiri dressed as Ash Ketchum from Pokemon. ash kOriginally, Ash looks like the bottom picture, but it has become an unspoken “in” to take a character and not only cross-dress, but make it flashier and more appealing.

When I watch shows with sexually appealing characters, I wish we could settle back to the Urkel character. The intelligent, quirky, non-feminine nerd who doesn’t care that she’s awkard or abnormally obsessed with books or subjects of study. The closest to the safe middle ground of appealing and classic nerd is Bernadette of The Big Bang Theory. The loving wife of Howard and a happy doctor of micro-biology, Bernadette is beautiful and radiating, but quirky and intelligent. She is the closest to what real nerd women look and act like-aside from the yelling. She’s fairly feminine compared to most of my friends, but it’s not unrealistic to think that there’s a high percentage of female nerds who are feminine without being sexual or wearing revealing clothing constantly.

I made an online survey that I shared on my personal Facebook page along with the Kumoricon Facebook Group. The two questions and responses are as followed:

Question 1: How are women prominently portrayed in the media?

Answer Choices Responses
Sexual; appealing 42.42%42
Awkward; inept at socialization 47.47%47
Responses

Other (please specify)

10.10%10

 

Question 2: What specific community do you believe is inadequately represented?

Answer Choices Responses
Girl gamers 37.76%37
Dorky nerds(movies, TV, books, comics) 26.53%26
Cosplayers 27.55%27
Responses

Other (please specify)

8.16%8

 

An interesting factor is the people who responded with other. When responding with “other” to the first question, majority wrote “both”, or something along the lines of “awkward but hot”. To the second question, 5 of the 8 who responded with “other” wrote “all of the above”. This survey is by no means accurate, because people chose whether or not they wanted to respond, and obviously a few people could have cared less about my survey as someone responded with “peanut butter” to both of my questions. Kumoricon is an anime convention, and unfortunately, they may not have the same media interests as I do. Over all, I have found that most people find that there’s a general over-sexualized nature in the nerd community by media influences. All superhero women are sexualized by the masks and uniforms you wear. From leather to heavy makeup, and one night stands, our community cannot change unless the world realizes who we truly are. We are not the “fake nerd girl”, and we are not Marvel’s “Blackwidow”. We are nerds, and we choose to show that however we feel fit.

 

 

 

Bibliography

Primary Sources:

Bickley, William, and Michael Warren. Family Matters. ABC. Sept. 1989. Television.

Cronin, Mark, Courtland Cox, and Dave Caplan. Heroes of Cosplay. SyFy. 13 Aug. 2013. Television.

Day, Felicia. The Guild. Youtube. 27 July 2007. Television.

Kripke, Eric. Supernatural. The CW. 13 Sept. 2005. Television.

Lorre, Chuck, and Bill Prady. The Big Bang Theory. CBS. 24 Sept. 2007. Television.

Secondary Sources:

Robbinson, Sonnet. “Fake Geek Girl: The Gender Conflict in Nerd Culture.” Thesis. University of Oregon, 2014. Fake Geek Girl: The Gender Conflict in Nerd Culture. Web. 11 Feb. 2015.

 

 

 

The Danger of Popular Media’s Seemingly Innocuous Portrayal of Asthma

Remember how the world laughed when Disney’s Winnie The Pooh used to give himself insulin injections to keep his diabetes in check? Or how we would smile when Frasier Crane had trouble speaking due to his Multiple Sclerosis? Or what about when we wondered why Charlie’s Angels just didn’t get over their cancer?

I don’t remember either. Obviously, these scenarios are fictitious and they serve to shed some perspective on the portrayal of serious illness in popular culture. Notice how the emotional response to the image of Winnie the Pooh giving himself an injection is quite different than imagining Jimmy Neutron’s best friend Carl Wheezer using an inhaler. Both instances involve a character using medicine to control the symptoms of a chronic disease, yet the former example seems absurd and the latter all too familiar. This comparison alone proves that we are somewhat desensitized to the seriousness of asthma, and this is a result of the prevalence of inaccurate depictions of the disease and its symptoms in popular media.

But we know already that the nerdy asthmatic is a common trope often used for comedic effect in film, television and other media. In fact, the stigmatization of asthma by popular media has been a hot-button issue in recent years. This aspect has been well analyzed and documented by people with asthma, members of the medical community, and family members of asthmatics. What is less considered, and perhaps more important to acknowledge, is how the inaccurate representation of asthma symptoms and treatment in popular media effectively misinform the public, thereby increasing the risk involved in an asthma attack.

A severe asthma attack can render a person virtually helpless; incapable of driving, moving, speaking, or even using their cell phone, because all of these tasks require breathing oxygen first. Imagine this person is hanging out with friends that have no knowledge of asthma other than what they have “learned” from popular media. In this case, the friends might not take the attack seriously at first. If they recognize the severity of the problem, they might not know how to help. And at best, there would be a delay in appropriate treatment that could save their friend’s life.

In order to raise awareness about this issue, it is necessary to examine and analyze how accurately asthma treatment is depicted in popular media. Using guidelines from the West Virginia Asthma Education and Prevention Program (WVAEPP), I will compare the recommended medical treatment versus popular culture’s treatment of asthma in a commercial advertisement, feature film, and television network series.

In the summer of 2012, Virgin America Airlines came out with a series of televised advertisements, one of which involved asthma. The scene begins in an airplane cabin, with dim lighting and an attractive man and woman sitting next to each other. She drops something, and he turns the light on to bend over and pick it up. However, when he turns the light on, he changes from the “attractive” man into a “nerd” who smiles and takes a short puff from his inhaler. The woman then turns the lights off again, and the man changes back to his former self.

From a medical perspective, there was absolutely no reason for the man to use an inhaler. He did not show any signs of breathing trouble or coughing, nor did he seem distressed. It seems the inhaler was used as a prop to emphasize the character’s “nerdiness”. The utter lack of symptoms demonstrated by the actor only trivializes the medicinal significance of the inhaler. Furthermore, he doesn’t demonstrate correct use of the inhaler. According to the WVAEPP guidelines, one must hold their breath for 10 seconds after inhaling the medicine, in order for it to be effective. Also, it is necessary to shake the inhaler before use, and tilt the head back when inhaling, but this was not shown.

In 1985 Warner Bros. released a feature film called The Goonies. This movie became a cult classic, though it indeed contains some controversial asthmatic scenes. One of the protagonists, Mikey, is shown to have asthma. He uses an inhaler throughout the film. Technically, it appears that he is using the inhaler correctly, even holding his breath after each use. The problem with Mikey’s asthma in The Goonies, is that is seems to be completely stress-induced, which is not unheard of. There are individuals who tend to develop asthmatic symptoms when they experience sudden stress, but it remains a physical, medical disease. At the end of the film, Mikey’s character becomes mentally stronger, and as a result Mikey throws his inhaler away, demonstrating that with the right attitude, you can cure asthma. This idea is a complete fallacy. If a non-asthmatic were to infer from this movie that asthma can be cured by attitude alone, then they definitely misunderstand just how serious asthma can be, and this could possibly be a dangerous thing.

From 2007 to 2013, the USA network produced a television series called Burn Notice. It explored the saga of an ex-spy who uses his skills to help ordinary people in desperate situations. In one of these situations, the spy creates a disguise as a nerd in order to appear weak in front of an enemy. While acting as a nerd, he uses an inhaler to support the role. The actor does a great job of wheezing realistically, however his use of the inhaler is not so realistic. The biggest problem with this instance is that he uses the inhaler numerous times throughout each scene, when in reality it only takes a maximum of two inhalations for the inhaler to work. In more severe cases, when two puffs is not enough, then more advanced medicine is required, such as a nebulizer. So again, this is another example that illustrates exactly how not to use an inhaler. It reaffirms the suggestion that asthma isn’t serious, nor is the medication.

As an asthmatic myself, I have always been aware of the stigma around the disease. The feeling of not being able to breathe can be quite scary, yet even in moments of fear; I’m hesitant to use my inhaler for fear of being ridiculed. What most asthmatics won’t tell you, and you don’t see in the movies, is that doctors recommend using inhalers with an item called a spacer. A spacer is essentially a plastic chamber that you put between your mouth and the inhaler. Once the inhaler releases the medicine into the chamber, the medicine has the opportunity to full aerate before entering the lungs, resulting in maximum effectiveness. Without a spacer, much of the medicine is lost as it is simply projected into the back of the throat. It’s not glamorous, but when I’m at home and I need my inhaler, I always use it because there’s such a difference in terms of effect.

During asthma attacks I have been told such things as “Relax, just breathe” or “Suck it up.” I think these comments are a testament to the degree of triviality with which popular culture treats asthma. People who have never experienced it themselves don’t understand what it means, but they think that have an idea because they see so many inhalers being used in the media, in comical circumstances. And it’s this negligence by media companies that perpetuates the ignorance of the disease and contributes to the risk by neglecting to acknowledge the danger involved. It can be argued that the nerdy asthmatic trope is harmful in terms of how asthmatics see themselves, and how they are treated as people, but it is even more important to accurately portray the treatment of asthma so as to help non-asthmatics realize the severity of a respiratory emergency.

 

 

 

Sources:

Goonies [Motion picture]. (1985). USA: Warner Bros.

Burn Notice [Television series]. (2007-2013). 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

Virgin America Airlines Commercial #1 [Commercial advertisement]. (2012). USA: Https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z5ROi1kWKI4.

What Do You Do During an Asthma Attack? (2006, February 4). Retrieved March 8, 2015, from http://www.wvasthma.org/Portals/4/What do you do during an asthma attack.pdf

 

Just another crazy lesbian

The lesbian community is often represented in a one dimensional way, they are more often than not portrayed as over the top, flamboyant and a little crazy to super crazy. Here are some stereo types that are constantly being perpetuated by the media. Men molested us as children and that turned us into lesbians. Lesbians hate men. In every lesbian couple, one has to be the man. Lesbians just haven’t been with the right guy yet. Every lesbian uses strap-ons and dildos to take the place of men. No lesbians ever use strap-ons. It’s not real sex if there’s no penis. Every lesbian relationship has a butch and a femme, because someone has to be the man and someone has to be the woman. Lesbian bed death happens to all lesbian couples. Lesbians want to have a threesome with your bi-girlfriend/boyfriend because we’ll have sex with any woman around. Pretty women can’t possibly be lesbian. Lesbians all dress like men. Lesbians don’t wear lingerie. Femme lesbians are pretending to be lesbian. All butches have short hair and are overweight. All lesbians hate make-up, shaving, bras and dresses. All lesbians like camping. Lesbians drive SUVs like Subaru Outbacks and Jeep Wranglers. Lesbians are all into sports. “The L Word” television show is a real-world depiction of lesbian life. Lesbians try to “recruit” straight women. Lesbians are no fun, angry, rude and insensitive. Lesbians are all crazy and will stalk you and ruin your life. Lesbians were all tomboys as children. It’s just a phase. Lesbians all own stock in U-Haul and have our own personal U-Haul trucks ready and waiting. The way lesbians are shown in the media tend to give a misunderstood and often over the top representation of the subculture. As lesbians, we use stereotypes all the time to figure out how to fit in with our lesbian communities. We can use stereotypes initially to learn how to fit in, but then we need to move past that and evolve into being our individual selves. The most spotlighted stereo type is that lesbians are super moody and sad all of the time with equates to being mentally unstable, It might be because they assume women are emotional so if you like women and times the estrogen by two you get crazy. And it seems like the butcher a women is the crazier and more possessive she is. As you get into trans territory the women/men get crazier. Lets take a look at some examples of pop culture that perpetuate these stere types.

The open portrayal of gays and lesbians in the media has been a fairly recent occurrence. The first tv series to openly acknowledge and accept the LGBTQ community was the Roseanne show that aired from 1987-1997

The two gay characters were Leon an older uptight, type A gay man with commitment issues and Nancy a flamboyant, slightly nuts, recently straight, divorced “lesbian” who cant make up her mind about what gender she likes. Which we call bisexual and that is A ok, but for some reason sexuality has to be this black and white thing that fits neatly into a perfectly square box?

The stereo types that the Roseanne show highlighted were, lesbians want to have a threesome with your bi-girlfriend/boyfriend because they will have sex with any woman around. Pretty women can’t possibly be lesbian, lesbians try to “recruit” straight women and It’s just a phase.

Even though the Roseanne show perpetuated gay and lesbian stereotypes, that show was a pioneer. It welcomed the LGBT community with open arms and exposed millions of viewers to way of life that they might have scoffed due to a lack of understanding.

From there more gay and lesbian supporting roles show up on tv and actors start to feel more secure about who they are and come out publicly in the media. The first national broadcast seres that strictly followed a group of lesbian friends and their shenanigans was The L. Word. The L. Word follows the lives and loves of a group of lesbian friends living in Los Angeles. The main character, Jenny, is a recent graduate of the University of Chicago, who moves to Los Angeles to live with her boyfriend Tim and begin a professional writing career. Jenny’s life is turned upside down when she attends a party hosted by Tim’s next-door neighbors, Bette and Tina, a lesbian couple who are about to take the step into parenthood after being together for seven years. A brief encounter at the party with Marina, the owner of the local coffeehouse, suddenly has Jenny thrust into a whole new world that makes her question her own sexual orientation. Other friends of Bette and Tina include Dana, a professional tennis player who is shy but eager to meet the right woman, Alice, a magazine writer who has a brief relationship with a self-identified “lesbian” man; and Shane, a hairstylist who can’t stick to just one woman. The L. Word is representative of a sliver of lesbian life and lesbian couples. It showed a diversity of relationships, some butch/femme, some femme/femme, and some in between, but still, it has created more stereotypes for us that we did not need. Most women are not L. Word lesbians. We are just like your sisters, wives and mothers — except lesbians.

Shows like Roseanne have opened the minds of many midwest house wives while shows like the L word have created more storer types and over exaggerated the existing ones. A show called Orange is the New Black has taken online streaming by storm. Orange is the New The New Black is a story about Piper Chapman, a woman in her thirties who is sentenced to fifteen months in prison after being convicted of a decade-old crime of transporting money for her drug dealing girlfriend.

The stereo types in OITNB are so numerous that I am not going to list them all agin. You can refer to the list in the first paragraph if you need a refresher. The big shocker in OITNB is all of the sex. I have heard that there are many women in the prison system that “go gay” while they are in prison, so I decided to investigate weather or not I was perpetuating a stereo type. I found an article  from the perspective of Susan K. who is a prosperous Virginia business-owner who served four years and change in a Maryland State prison for drug-related robbery charges in her 20s. When she was asked if she’d watched Orange Is the New Black, she said, “Dude, why in the hell would I want to watch a show about the worst four years of my fucking life?” The article goes off on my tangents from the lack of guards in OITNB to the unrealistic kitchen. But I found her first hand experience and opinion on sen in women prisons interesting, this is what she had to say.  Last Friday night, I sat down with her and watched the first four episodes of season 2. Here’s our conversation, Was there predatory sexual behavior in your prison? Susan: Well, when the diesel chick [Big Boo] did the tongue-through-the-fingers thing, that brought back some memories. I had that gesture made at me a couple of times. But in terms of, like, rape the way it happens in the men’s prison, I don’t know if that really translates to women. What would normally happen? Is “gay for the stay” realistic? Yeah, it is. For a lot of women, that sort of thing isn’t this enormous deal. And there are sort of protective arrangements that happen with women. But, this rampant thing going on in this show? That’s not realistic at all. Explain.

On this show, its like you can’t go to the damn chow hall without tripping over the American Pie [Nicky] going down on somebody, or somebody’s having a fisting party in the freaking chapel. And also, on this show, the head guard has this whole “I hate lesbians” thing happening, but in our prison the guards didn’t give a shit one way or the other. They stopped women from having sex, but they also stopped women from getting Twinkie’s brought in by their relatives. It was just their job to stop it. You aren’t supposed to have a great, exciting, healthy sex life in prison. That’s not what prison is for. So what would be a realistic sexual experience in prison?

Do you want some time alone in the bathroom, dude? Fuck off. It’s a legitimate question. There’s tons of sex on this show. Seriously though, there’s a distinction that I think ought to be made, here. The women-in-prison scenario occupies this weird spot in the American sexual imagination, doesn’t it? I mean, you remember all those Cinemax movies about women in prison, with all these totally hot women getting it on for the cameras and all the guys watching, right? But those movies aren’t real, either in terms of prison, or in terms of actual lesbians. This show we’re watching now has realistic depictions of lesbian sex, but what it doesn’t do is give a realistic version of lesbian sex in prison. OK, so what’s the real version, then? Its like, maybe you make out for five-seconds. Maybe there are fingers involved for two-seconds. It happens really fast and there’s hardly anything to it, because, as this show seems to forget, there are freaking guards and cameras everywhere, and people get time added to their sentences for shit like that. It’s a risk/reward thing. Do I want sexual contact? Sure. Is getting maybe a half minute of it worth getting two months of good behavior time put back on my sentence if I’m caught? To some people it is and to some it isn’t. But this out in the open, no holds barred lesbian cruise thing on the show? Nah. Not happening. So there you have it OITNB is perpetuating the stereo type that women in the prison system have tons of sex with other women inmates.

OITB depicts women who identify as lesbians as either short haired sex fiends that are slightly to super crazy or “straight” looking femmes who are wishy washy about their sexuality and are also nuts. These are the stereo types that follow the LGBTQ community. For example my wife and I were visiting my Parents in Bend Oregon last summer and decided to go for drive in the country. As we pulled up to a light I couldn’t help but notice that a car full of youngish kids next to us being kind of weird like they were trying to get our attention, revving their engine, rolling back and pulling forward repeatedly. We just tried to ignore them. The light turned green and they peeled off, upon passing us they all scream Orange is the New Black at us?…  Needless to say I am a bit confused at this point. Were they trying to enlighten us and tell us about a funny made for Netflix show that we might enjoy, that has a heavy storyline about women in the prison system or the lesbianism that happens in the prison system? Or has Orange is the New Black become an adjective! Then anger set in. I remember now why I hate leaving my mostly loving and accepting bubble called Portland. My wife and I look totally “normal” we drive a “normal” car, we do not look like criminals, what ever that means. Perhaps it is the lack of orange. I was just so angry that these small town kids were replacing derogatory terms with pop culture titles.

While I find these shows entertaining they can harm and spur on derogatory stereotypes but at the same time they are giving a misunderstood and often looked down on sub-culture exposure.

The media often exploits the extreme stere types for entertainment sake and leaves out the people who are just like you. The only difference between heterosexual individuals and lesbians are who we choose to love.

Works Cited
The L Word, Creators; Michele Abbott, Ilene Chaiken, Kathy Greenberg. Showtime (USA)

Orange is the New Black, Created by Jenji Kohan Kohan. Made for Netflix series based on the Book Orange is the New Black:My Year in a Women’s Prison by, Piper Kerman

Roseanne Directed by Roseanne Barr Marcy Carsey

Dawson, Adam. “No Fisting Parties in the Chapel: An Ex-Con Reviews Orange Is the New Black, Part II.” Arts Desk RSS. Washington City Paper, n.d. Web. 19 Feb. 2015.

Editorial Team. “Lesbian Stereotypes and Cliches EVERY Lesbian Is Guilty Of.” The Other Team. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Feb. 2015.

Bendix, Trish. “”Don’t Be Such a Lesbian” Explores Lesbian Stereotypes – AfterEllen.” AfterEllen Dont Be Such a Lesbian Explores Lesbian Stereotypes Comments. AfterEllen, 20 Oct. 2014. Web. 19 Feb. 2015.

Opera Singers in Popular Culture

Opera is theatre on steroids. Take a play, make it three hours long, add some incredibly taxing musical requirements, a chorus, and a full orchestra, and you have the beginnings of an opera. Terry Pratchett, in his novel Maskerade, words it quite truthfully: “Opera happens because a large number of things amazingly fail to go wrong… It works because of hatred and love and nerves. All the time… If you wanted a quiet retirement, Mr. Bucket, you shouldn’t have bought the Opera House. You should have done something peaceful, like alligator dentistry.” (Pratchett, P. 68)

This is a quote based on a stereotype, but stereotypes are often based in truth. Opera has been around for a long time, and the truths about the opera world have slowly morphed into cliches as popular entertainment leaves opera behind. The culture is not, however, dead. The remaining opera singers who love the extreme passion of an increasingly niche artform are forced to sit back and watch as others mock their passion. These mockeries come together to form a single image.

(What's Opera, Doc? 1957.)

(What’s Opera, Doc? 1957.)

“It’s not over ‘till the fat lady sings.” This phrase evokes an image of a gargantuan woman with a large horned hat topping her blonde braids, her jaw hanging open as she blasts out a high C with glass-shattering intensity.

This image is not entirely conjured from imagination. Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen is a cycle of four epic operas based on Norse Mythology. If all the operas were performed back-to-back, it would be a 15-hour spectacle. The music is demanding, forcing all of the singers to be vocally very powerful, and a large rib cage fits more easily in a large woman. The horned hats were actually worn as a costume.

However, Wagnerian singing takes up a very small section of opera. I happen to be a slim opera singer. However, films and tv shows have created such a strong idea of the opera singer as stout at best. I end up getting a lot of comments along the lines of “Aren’t you too small to be an opera singer?” A Night in at the Opera: Media Representations of Opera explains this stereotype well. “The prevailing image of an opera singer is buxom, fat and female. While opera has always had its fair share of corpulent performers, their shapely colleagues have somehow been erased from the collective memory, facilitating the useful cliche of the overweight, difficult diva.” (Tambling, P. 42)

(The Adventures of Tintin, 2011.)

(The Adventures of Tintin, 2011.)

A much more strongly negative stereotype (as well as one that is more harmful to me) is the diva. The diva is rude, self-centered, and incredibly vain. Minnie Driver plays Carlotta, the “prima donna” in the 2004 film interpretation of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s The Phantom of the Opera.

The story takes place in a fictional French opera house, the Opera Populaire. Phantom tells the story of a mysterious Opera Ghost who controls the cast and crew of the Opera Populaire. The phantom falls in love with a young girl, Christine, and teaches her to sing. She becomes a rival for our diva archetype, Carlotta.

(The Phantom of the Opera, 2004.)

(The Phantom of the Opera, 2004.)

Carlotta is not a talented woman. Janitors at the beginning of the film are shown putting earplugs in during rehearsal, shortly before Carlotta begins to sing. She warbles through her aria and scolds others for their performance. The woman is, to put it nicely, unlikeable. However, she is famous and a fixture at the Opera Populaire, so the owners are forced to woo her back onstage after another of her many dramatic departures due to imagined slights. Her role in the show ends when the Phantom causes her to sing like a frog onstage. He is expressing his displeasure that Carlotta was placed in a role which he wanted Christine to play.

Christine is the ingenue in the dramatic tale. She is suddenly promoted to a star after Carlotta storms off near the beginning of the show. Her magical singing immediately captivates the audience, which includes the viscount Raoul, a childhood friend who now wishes to court Christine. She becomes embroiled in a love triangle including the Phantom. She handles the whole experience fairly well for a 17-year-old, albeit a little wide-eyed and naive.

(Maskerade, 1997.)

(Maskerade, 1997.)

In Terry Pratchett’s Maskerade, a humorous novel directly parodying Phantom of the Opera, among other things, Christine is not so well put-together. Christine is young and excitable. Every sentence she utters is punctuated by one or more exclamation marks, and while Christine is beautiful, she is not very smart. However, the owners of the opera house desire a beautiful face, so Christine is given lead roles and told to sing very softly. She is svelte and lovely, but utterly talentless. This is playing into the stereotype that a good opera singer must be fat.

Fat and talented comes in the form of Agnes Nitt, an unbelievably huge young lady who comes to the city to pursue her dream of becoming an opera singer. She blows away the panel at her audition with an impossible voice. Agnes starts singing Christine’s roles over the other girl’s softer singing after she switches rooms with Christine and ends up being accidentally tutored by the Opera Ghost, who is in no way, shape, or form inspired by the Phantom .

Let us move our eyes now to twenty-first century South Korea. In the opening scenes of 2011 KBS Drama Dream High, Go Hyemi sings a duet with real life opera superstar, Sumi Jo. They trill their way through Delibes’ flower duet from Lakme. It is revealed that Sumi Jo has been a mentor to Hyemi, who is a high school student. Hyemi is very talented and driven, and has a definite future in opera. She has been accepted at Juilliard, which is a high school for the purposes of this TV Drama. However, she is a diva.

(Dream High, 2011.)

(Dream High, 2011.)

This is revealed in the scene after the duet, when Hyemi meets up with her friend Yoon Baek-Hee outside the concert hall. Baek-Hee is dressed to look just like Hyemi, and shares with her pictures she took of the concert. Hyemi is cold and rude with her friend, brushing her off and making rude remarks. However, she defends Baek-Hee from verbal assault when two other girls claiming to be Hyemi’s friends harass Baek-Hee and insult her.

Throughout the course of the show, Hyemi would grow to be the most well-rounded and developing portrayal of a female opera singer. Emphasis on would. Unfortunately, she gives up opera to become a Kpop star after being forced to go to a Kpop high school. To me, this feels like a slight to opera. Watching this girl with a strong future in opera fight for the small chance to succeed in the much more fiercely competitive world of Korean Pop music because that’s her “real dream” portrays opera as dull. It couldn’t possibly be what someone wants. They try to paint it like she was only into opera because her parents wanted her to be.

Each of these characters seems to share a trait with another, despite each story being written by someone from a different country. Hyemi and Carlotta are divas. Carlotta and Pratchett’s Christine are untalented. Carlotta and Agnes are unattractive. Agnes and Hyemi are talented. But each and every one of these characters lacks a trait of the elusive truly positive portrayal of a modern opera singer: Beautiful, talented, smart, and kind. There is only one character I know of who embodies all of these elements.

And she is blue.

(The Fifth Element, 1997.)

(The Fifth Element, 1997.)

Diva Plavalaguna is a revered opera singer in the 1997 American film The Fifth Element. She is mysterious and alien, and she sings Il Dolce Suono from Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor to a sold out audience before breaking into a popera creation to accompany the fight scene. She is kind to Leeloo, the main character of the film, and turns out to be the guardian of an important plot device. Diva Plavalaguna ends up dying in true operatic fashion after her performance, a necessary part of advancing the plot of the film.

It saddens me that Diva Plavalaguna is the most positive portrayal of an opera singer I know of since she has little screen time and fewer lines, but I am grateful that a portrayal of a pleasant, talented, and smart woman who sings opera exists.

The majority of popular media out there simply refrains from mentioning opera at all. The art, once a common form of entertainment, has been placed on a pedestal to be referred to as High Art. I suppose I should be grateful that there is any reference to my life’s passion in popular culture, but it stings that the portrayals are few and inaccurate. I feel that a good story about an opera singer, whether it be historical drama or simply a tv show about a young singer’s journey, would inspire more young people to learn about the art form I have chosen to devote my life to.

Or perhaps I should say it has chosen me.

Being a Young Dad

The depiction of fathers in popular culture is one that has evolved slowly over time, but appears to be at a point where it has caught up with the reality of current society. For decades, fathers were depicted as aloof, oafish, and unwilling or unable to participate in many facets of daily family life. Characters like Homer Simpson, Al Bundy, or Peter Griffin, come to mind immediately when thinking of some of the more popular and well known fictional pop culture father figures. Those character types will probably always have a place in television shows, but there seems to be a concerted push by many parties to represent fathers in today’s world differently, with a focus being on younger dads.

 

An obvious statement: life today is different than it was 30 years ago. In general, the family unit has had a complete makeover from the time when Married with Children and The Simpsons first aired. A typical family arrangement had the father working full-time, with the mother staying at home to tend to children. In many ways, being a father meant that you were detached from your children most of the time and when you did come home, your main focus was on relaxing and unwinding.

 

(5)

 

This general portrayal may have been accurate, or at least relatable, for the times, but those character types are no longer as relevant to our current society. Family units more often than not require both spouses to be working in order to support the household. Having the father be the sole provider for a family is viewed as uncommon and a luxury in current society. With societal roles changing so that both parents are working to provide for a family, this enables an environment were there will be a blending of household duties. If a mother is working, the father watching the children does not have the luxury of not wanting to change a diaper; it becomes a requirement in order to function on a basic level. Beyond that, there isn’t a stigma associated with men doing chores or “women’s work”, it just goes with the territory of being a father. In Hanna Rosin’s article “The Evolution of the Doltish Dad” for Slate.com, the author details this more clearly: “The father who comes home to pat his kid on the head and then sits down to read the newspaper is now an anomaly. Consequently, jokes about dads who can’t figure out the diaper fall flat. Recently, a group of fathers started a public campaign to protest a Huggies ad showing a group of football watching dads ignoring their infants, as the diapers grew heavy and smelly. Huggies pulled the ad and show a new one.” (6)

 

New one:  (2)

 

The fact that a campaign would be started from the uproar of the portrayal of dads being unwilling to change diapers over watching football, is telling for how much society has changed on that front. That idea for a commercial just doesn’t work now. Here is another commercial from Huggies “Dad Campaign”:

 (3)

The dads in these commercials are all young, energetic, and watching the kids without the mother present. This is very far removed from the depiction of characters like Al Bundy.

 

Because of the public outcry Huggies pulled the first ad with the hapless fathers and replaced it with a version that they felt the public would find less offensive. The question then becomes why do these portrayals of fathers still continue? Seth Stevenson in the article “The Reign of the Doltish Dad,” expands on this thought: “But why does it work? What Makes galumphing hubby such an enduring stock character?… The simpler conclusion to draw is that there’s a dollop of truth in the caricature. We all know goodhearted dudes who are a teensy slow on the uptake, forever a step behind their sharper female companions. By no means does every heterosexual relationship exhibit this dynamic, but it happens frequently enough to provoke a chuckle on TV” (7)

One of my favorite clips from the show “Louie” blends a few aspects of fatherhood portrayal:

 (4)

I don’t want to fully detail what this clip shows because it takes away from how great it is, but what I found interesting about it was the fact that on a basic level it shows the main character, Louis, having extreme difficulties fixing a doll that he bought for his daughter and exhibiting many of the previously stated stereotypes of the doltish dad- this skit could have been on a show 30 years ago. However, when you examine the show on the whole, the series revolves around a single young father who is essentially doing the best that he can to raise his kids and the struggles that go along with it. The show often shows Louis doing his daughters hair, fixing their meals, walking them to school, which are all qualities that most current dads can relate to. There are “dollops of truth” throughout the show, but the main focus isn’t on what Louis is incapable of doing as a father, but on what is required of him.

 

Another example of fatherhood being highlighted in mainstream television, particularly young dads, is in the 2012 sitcom Baby Daddy, which was released on ABC Family. The show centers on a mid-20’s independent guy who had a one-night stand and then months later had a child left on his doorstep. Beyond the legal ramifications and silliness behind the plot, I think it is a really important concept for a show, especially with how it relates to the portrayals of fathers. The show highlights the evolution of the main characters personality and how he deals and grows with the reality of becoming a father. Having a child left on your doorstep doesn’t just happen in reality, but in many ways becoming a father feels a lot like that. One day you are responsible for yourself and then suddenly you are entrusted with the life of something that seems infinitely fragile. The life you had before is gone and a new life begins, for better, worse, or something in between. The show is meant to be light-hearted, and it is, but with my background the overall plot was oddly appealing. Unsurprisingly, the main character in the show grows out of his old party life style and eventually settles into being a dad and all the shenanigans that go along with it.

 

 (1)

 

As much as there has been a change in perceptions about fatherhood, not all portrayals of young fathers are completely positive. As you would expect, there is no perfect way to portray a wide-ranging large portion of the population, because everyone within that population has different values and belief systems. Reality television makes up a large portion of consumed popular culture. Shows like Teen Mom and 16 and Pregnant are two well-known and popular shows that focus primarily on young mothers and fathers. A young girl gets unexpectedly pregnant and her life is then followed. The boyfriends who eventually become fathers become central characters. Both of these shows are trying to get viewers by having real life drama and in most cases the young dads are the antagonists. Drug, alcohol, and criminal problems are a common theme. I understand that the shows exist purely to get viewers, which they do extremely well, but overall I think that these shows go out of their way to highlight the deadbeat young dads for the sake of having a dramatic element. Granted these dads are very young, in some cases still in high school, but very few of them adjust at all to having kids or are given much of a chance to be liked in the show. You can even tell subtle changes in music and ambient noise when some of the dads come on screen. It may be comparing apples to oranges, but fatherhood is portrayed and produced much differently in these reality shows than in shows like Louie or Baby Daddy. I think that in the long run, reality shows that focus on the most dramatic elements of being a young family, do an overall disservice to many young fathers because they are being portrayed in ways that may not be completely accurate.

 

The portrayal of fatherhood is something that has changed dramatically in recent time and will undoubtedly continue to evolve along with society. The portrayal of fathers as being unwilling or unable to partake in household duties has shifted, along with the society, to show fatherhood in a light that highlights a willingness and resolve to be present in their children’s lives. When those current values that highlight the best aspects of fatherhood are not shown and old stereotypes are rehashed, it often falls flat with audiences. There isn’t a stigma with men doing household and childrearing work because the days of a single-family member supporting the family are all but done. It is cool to be a dad and being a dad involves helping in whatever way you can with your children.

 

 

Works Cited:

 

(1) Baby Daddy. Perf. Jean-Luc Bilodeau. ABC Family, 2012. 20 June 2013. Web. 28 Feb. 2015.

(2) Huggies. Dad Campaign. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Mar. 2015.

(3) Huggies. Real Dads. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Feb. 2015.

(4) Louie. Perf. Louis C.K. New Year’s Eve. FX, 8 Sept. 2012. Web.

(5) Married… With Children. Perf. Ed O’Neill. FOX. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Feb. 2015.

(6) Rosin, Hanna. “TV and Film’s Doltish Dad Gets a Makeover.” Slate.com. N.p., 15 June 2012. Web. 01 Mar. 2015.

(7) Stevenson, Seth. “This Huggies Ad Starred a Doltish Dad. Then Real Fathers Complained.” Slate.com. N.p., 26 Mar. 2012. Web. 01 Mar. 2015.

Mirror Essay: Who lives in the Middle East???

Matthew Atiyeh

2/20/15

Popular Culture

Daneen Bergland

 

 

What do you see?

 

 

Popular culture has effected how people think of their own identities in many ways. Music, TV, Movies, even books have developed stereotypes around many of our identities, from African-American teenager to female college student. Today I am going to be talking about how my identity as a Syrian-Arab is portrayed throughout popular culture.

Middle Eastern stereotypes are shown in many different forms of popular culture. Usually these stereotypes are shown in a form of comedy, leading people to think they do not have a negative impact on society because “it is all in good fun”. However these stereotypes can negatively affect the way that consumers of pop culture view people from the Middle East. The first piece of pop culture that I want to share with you is a Coco Cola commercial (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lgUbmoWX7KU) that aired during the 2013 super bowl. In this commercial we see four different groups racing towards a Coca-Cola. In the commercial we have a group of females racing in a big bus, a group of men riding horses whom also have guns, and another group of men riding in cars and motorcycles, and then we have a Arab man dressed in stereotypical Islamic attire riding a camel.

There are few different reasons why I believe that this commercial shows Arabs in a negative way, the first and in my opinion the most serious is that it shows Arabs behind the rest of the world. It does this in a few different ways, firstly the Arabic man is completely lacking in resources and technology compared to the other groups. The Arab man is a one-man army with nothing but a camel while the other groups have fast vehicles one group even has guns. I think that this sends a negative image about Arabs to the commercial viewers; I feel that it shows the Middle East behind the rest of the world in technology and recourses, and it brings out the age old stereotype of Arabs being “camel jockeys”.

The Arab man in the video really does not even stand a chance in this race against the other groups, pay attention to section 0.23 of the attached video. While all the other groups are flying passed him, the Arab man is shown struggling to move his camel. I feel that this is really symbolic in a way of trying to say that the Middle East has fallen behind compared to the rest of the world. Another thing that I found interesting, as well as possibly insulting, was the second part of the commercial (1.13). In this scene the groups finally make it to the real coke. However where is the Arab man? All of the other groups made it to their final destination, however the Arab man was left in the dust, or sand.

Another thing that I found interesting was the possibility that the Coco-Cola company new exactly what they were doing by introducing a Middle Eastern man into this commercial, and it was all a marketing tactic. This commercial made national news, because it was found offensive by so many Arab-Americans. However all publicity is good publicity. While I found the commercial stereotypical, it still made me want a can of coke after watching it. The simple fact that this commercial was seen as racist and stereotypical gave it the opportunity to be seen by many more people. This could have been what Coca-Cola’s marketing team was hoping for from the beginning.

One of the biggest stereotypes surrounding Arabs and the Middle East as a whole is that Arabs are terrorist. This common stereotype has gotten so bad that anytime people hear about the Middle East or Arabic people they atomically think of terrorist and visa-versa. Anytime a person hears about a terrorist or terrorism they think of Arabic people and the Middle East.

There are many pieces of popular culture that I could show as an example, the news, different movies, TV shows; these stereotypes are shown in popular culture all the time. The one that I have chosen to analyze and show to you as an example is a scene from the movie “Get Smart” starring Steve Carell, and Anne Hathaway. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KmMJppqj394) In this scene Anne and Steve are both on a plane, Anne turns around and sees a very large dark-skinned man, Dalip Singh, who was born in India, enter the plane. Dalip’s character is wearing a traditional Middle Eastern man’s Galabiyya, as well as a turban headwear. When Anne sees the man she immediately profiles the man and becomes very frightened and assumes that the man is an assassin. Steve then turns around sees the man and says “Oh wow, that is a bad guy”.

If that is not racial stereotyping than I do not know what it. This is a perfect example of how racial stereotypes are often overlooked in popular culture because they are in a comedy setting and “it is all in good fun”. However media such as this has a very negative effect on Arabic people, especially Arab-Americans living in the United States. Media like this puts a negative image in viewers mind causing them to associate terrorism or assassins with Arabs, or even people just dressed in a certain way. When stereotypes shown in are shown in Media it can cause people to profile certain people based off of what they have seen in pop culture without them even realizing it.

Another reason why I chose this particular example is because the characters happen to be on a airplane. Stereotypes revolving around Arabic people and the Middle East got drastically worsened after the events on September 11th. After 9/11 some people even admit to feeling a little uneasy and nervous when they see a Arabic person on a airplane or at the airport. For this movie to bring out an already serious stereotype, and make it even worse with them being on a plane is even more insulting, but also more harmful to society.

Another harmful stereotype associated with the Middle East and Arabic people is, the Arab Sheik. A Sheik is originally a term to define an Arab leader or head of Arabic tribe, family, or village. However it is turned into a term to define any rich Arab and now is usually associated with wealth from oil. Many people seem to think that the countries in the Middle East all are rich with oil wealth and that many Arab-Americans living in the United States are all rich from money that their families have made from oil in the Middle East.

A good example of how this is shown in popular culture is the song by Busta Rhyme “Arab Money” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bcuAw77J8_Y) . This song is about a rapper who claims to have so much money he is comparing himself to a Arab man who made money off of oil, he even calls himself a Sheik “I got Middle East women and Middle East bread I got oil well money, in the desert playing golf, Go chase short stack Sheik with a Louis scarf.” Even though being called rich isn’t exactly a negative stereotype it can still negative impacts on people from the Middle East. Any presumptions of people have the possibility to be harmful; whether they are that you are a Sheik or a terrorist.

Stereotypes have always been a problem, and lately with new and exciting means of popular culture growing in popularity it seems to only be getting worse. We all have our own identifies, and it is us to define that identity for ourselves, it is up to us to decide how that identity is going to be looked at by the rest of the world. It should not be up to any means of popular culture to decide for us.

 

 

 

Work Cited

 

 

“Arabface! – The History of Racist Arab Stereotypes.” Arabface! – The History of Racist Arab Stereotypes. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Mar. 2015.

 

 

 

Arab Money; Busta Rhyme (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bcuAw77J8_Y) .

 

 

 

Coco Cola Commercial ((https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lgUbmoWX7KU)

 

 

Get Smart Scene ( (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KmMJppqj394)

 

 

“Reclaiming Identity: Dismantling Arab Stereotypes | Homepage.”Reclaiming Identity: Dismantling Arab Stereotypes | Homepage. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Mar. 2015.