Are Asians Not Good Enough?


Since the rise of films, there has been a slow and steady growth of diversity within the industry. How much you may ask? Well, there is roughly 5% of Asian characters in top-grossing films. Growing up as an Asian-American watching many films, TV shows, and YouTube videos, I have noticed that Asians are often portrayed less significant compared to white actors. Throughout the history of Hollywood films, movies, TV shows, and social media, Asian are being whitewashed and portrayed with stereotypes, which ultimately influences their representation and perception within the industry.

Ghost in the Shell : Whitewashing Results

A great example of 21st century whitewashing in Hollywood is Ghost in the Shell, starring Scarlett Johansson who plays a Japanese character named Motoko Kusanagi, who is half human and half cyborg. The original of the name of the film stems from the Japanese manga and animation series called “Ghost in the Shell“, written by Masamune Shirow and directed and animated by Mamoru Oshii.

Motoko Kusanagi : Left image in the anime, right image in real life

Johansson’s role has made fans extremely angry that they created a petition to recast the position. Keith Chow, the author of “Why Hollywood Won’t Cast Asian Actors”, explains that the screenwriter of the film, Max Landis says “‘There are no A-list female Asian celebrities right now on an international level,’ he said, admonishing viewers for ‘not understanding how the industry works'”(19). There are many A-List Asians and Asian-Americans actresses, but it seems like they’re not willing to risk it to cast an unknown name in Hollywood. To name a few A-List Asian actresses that could potentially play the role of Motoko Kusanagi are Tao Okamoto, Constance Wu, Karen Fukuhara and Priyanka Chopra. I do not need to be an expert on “how the industry works”, but whoever can bring the biggest profit and tickets sales are, without a doubt, A-Listed white actors.

But what if even the animator of Japanese’s Ghost in the Shell, Mamoru Oshii approves the casting of a white actress? The video above tells us how Oshii feels casting Johansson for the role. Does this mean there is no hope for Asians to be equally shown in Hollywood? Not necessarily. Celebrities such as Constance Wu disapproves whitewashing in Hollywood. Julia Alexander’s article titled “Scarlett Johansson finally addresses…” gives us Wu’s twitter response “It’s like way to reduce race to mere phys appearance as opposed to say culture, social experience, identity, history.” Wu’s argument is that casting roles for a specific film that has a specific culture or identity should cast a appropriate actor/actress that fits in that category.

Asian Stereotypes : Fresh Off the Boat

When Fresh Off the Boat was released with a cast of all Asians, it silenced the public with the perspective of “whitewashing” a series. This is a huge step in the TV and Hollywood industry for Asians. The story of a TV series or film can be more authentic and truthful by sticking with the main characters having a Asian cast to fill in the correct role.

Within the first episode of the show of the Asian-American family moving in, they were approached by their white neighbors and they made fun of Eddie’s “good” English, who is the eldest son of the family. The white neighbors replies by saying how “good” his English is with an Asian accent.

Fresh Off The Boat Episode 1: Meeting their white neighbors

Throughout the series, Fresh Off the Boat does not hide any stereotypes that Asians are experiencing everyday. In each episode, there is always a scene where Asian stereotypes are illustrated and shown. Eddie Huang, the author of the book Fresh Off the Boat that created the TV show, does not seem afraid of the backlash he may receive, but embraces his culture and roots (Entertainment Tonight Interview on YouTube).

I believe the show is meant to raise awareness and publicity of Asian and how they are being perceived with stereotypes. Just like what Randall Park mentioned in the video, “see things from other perspectives”. By doing this, spectators can see how Asians are being stereotyped and hopefully recognizes the results and feel empathy towards the mistreatment. The show may help audiences that are non-Asian form a connection or understanding to what the Asian characters in the series are experiencing and facing (discrimination, prejudice, racism, etc).

The article “Fresh Off The Boat: Beyond racial stereotypes” by Alison de Souza explains the actors experiences and opinions being in the show. Souza describes the show taught the actors “about the experiences that shaped their own Asian immigrant parents” (2016). Although the show may be depicting Asian stereotypes, Constance Wu, the actress who plays the wife mentions that “a lot of things we do actually don’t follow stereotypes” (2016). It seems that the show over exaggerates on the stereotypes Asians are facing in a daily basis, but it may still hold some truth. Can Asian-Americans be comfortable in America without being stereotyped?

By having a full Asian cast within a Asian story line and plot, it makes the show more original. It does not feel the same when a white actor plays a supposedly Asian role. Shilpa Davé wrote an article titled “Racial Accents, Hollywood Casting, and Asian American Studies” about Asians Americans representation in Hollywood. He describes “casting agents tend to privilege physical difference or the visual contrast with the dominant white characters in their casting practices” (143). This creates unfair treatments to those who are non-white.

Do It Yourself : Wong Fu Productions

Let’s be honest, becoming a Hollywood director and filmmaker is extremely difficult. If agents are not willing to cast you, why not do it yourself? Why not have the freedom to express your own opinions without feeling restricted or mistreated? Would it be great if you became success with your own group of best friends and make whatever you want? Wong Fu Productions is a popular YouTube channel with nearly 3 million subscribers, and it all started with 3 Asian guys in college. Wong Fu Productions is a Asian American YouTube channel that was created in 2007. The channel was started by Philip, Wesley, and Teddy, who become great friends after graduation and started their YouTube career moving to Los Angeles.

Left to right : Teddy, Philip, Wesley

The videos they make raises public awareness to demonstrate that yes, Asians are capable of becoming a director, producer, writer, editor, actor, etc. They inspire many upcoming Asian filmmakers and content creators to believe they have the same opportunities to become successful without the use of Hollywood tactics. Wong Fu Productions has became so popular that they partnered up with YouTube Red series.

Wong Fu Production has remade a American TV show with their Asian twist. This is interesting because we (the audience) rarely gets to see this happen. By replacing the characters and story with Asians gives the audience a chance to see how a particular TV show or film would turn out, rather than being played by a mainstream white character. It gives a new perspective for spectators to watch and enjoy, even without having a popular white actor in the role.

Chow discusses the reasons why Hollywood prefers a white actors over Asian actors. He says “white actors playing Asian characters showed how invisible Asian-Americans continue to be in Hollywood” (19). The reason for this may be because of the lack of box office for Asian American actors and being treated unfairly when casting for roles. Although this may be true, Chow points out a astonishing result by mentioning films with diverse leads receives higher results in box office numbers. Chow explains filmmakers insist casting minorities because “movies with minorities in lead roles are gambles”. They are all wrong, and Chow proves his point by mentioning the Fast and Furious franchise has “Over seven movies it has grossed nearly $4 billion worldwide”. By giving the opportunities for minorities, such as Asians, helps raises publicity and shows the potential that Asians are able capable to be in Hollywood standards.


In the big scheme of TV shows, films, movies, and social media, Asians are depicted less valuable than white actors. The pattern of whitewashing roles has a long way to be resolved, but there is hope for upcoming Asian filmmakers, editors, actors, etc. Although Asians are met with stereotypes, they should embrace and use it as an advantage to become successful. There is always an alternative route to reach success and recognition, as Wong Fu Productions has done it without the standards and/or tactics of Hollywood. With the rise of the internet and technology becoming more accessible, it has created more opportunities than ever before for minorities to be recognized.

Learning Moments:

  1. The first significant learning experience was watching the Tedtalk video on “Beware Online ‘Filter Bubbles’”. Before watching this video, I knew the internet had some sort of system to compile all of your interests and then feeds you back similar material. After watching the video, I have learned that invisible editing of the web is real and realized it has already happened on my Facebook and YouTube. Eli Pariser surprises me with the amazing fact that google looks at 57 different signals to filter when browsing on the web. After learning all of these methods, I will consume my media knowing that everything I do and see on the internet is because I am self-filtering myself.
  2. The second learning experience was watching the video on “Astroturf and manipulation of media messages”. Sharyl Attkisson made me realized that even google cannot be safe for verifying information, let alone doctors and “trusted” results. Any information being fed to me can all be fake because companies are being “paid” to advertise the product a certain way. With the rise of the technology and internet, there is no authentic and real way of figuring out the “truth” without thinking “is this real or fake”? Before watching the video, I knew that a lot of information on the web can be fake and paid, but I did not know to this extent it would be that bad that even doctors are being paid to prescribe you medication. The next time I browse the internet for answers, I will become more aware and skeptical.

Works Cited:

Alexander, Julia. “Scarlett Johansson finally addresses Ghost in the Shell whitewashing controversy.” 9 Feb. 2017. Retrieved from:

Chow, Keith. “Why Hollywood Won’t Cast Asian Actors.” New York Times, 23 Apr. 2016, p. A19(L). Retrieved from:

Davé, Shilpa. “Racial Accents, Hollywood Casting, and Asian American Studies”. 56.3. (2017). 142-147. Print.

Naifcy, Hamid. “Situating Accented Cinema”. Princeton University Press. 11-39. Retreived from:

Souza, Alison. “Fresh Off The Boat: Beyond racial stereotypes”. 13 June. 2016. Retrivied from:




How Film and Television Affects the Appeal of Engineers

Think of your favorite childhood PBS Kids television shows. At least when I was a child, watching Blue’s Clue’s Steve solve problems made me think Steve was doing detective work. Bill Nye the Science Guy did mad scientist work by mixing chemicals and making things explode. Bob the Builder was an engineer who constructed buildings. It was this show that gave me the impression that engineers wore hard hats and did construction work out in the field, holding out blueprints of the final product and telling construction workers what to do. Sometimes I imagined them partaking in the dirty work themselves, taking the hammer and wrench and making something out of nothing.Image result for bob the builder

While Bob the Builder is just a kids show, it is one of the many television shows and movies that portray engineers. In the Iron Man series, Tony Stark may be known to audiences as a Marvel superhero. But when he’s cooking up designs and modifications for his bodysuit, or building an Arc reactor from memory, he’s being an engineer.

Whether or not a TV show or film character’s identity is an engineer or not, their portrayal in media matters the most. Depicting engineers inaccurately in film and television fogs audience views of real engineering work, and I define ‘real engineering work’ in the next paragraph. This is even true in comedy, where jokes can land depending on stereotypes present and whether the audience thinks one way or the other. A large portion of media portrays engineers accurately, but any sort of portrayal matters because audiences include students who have much to learn before picking their future careers.

Image result for what do engineers do

What is “Real Engineering Work”?

By definition, an engineer is someone who is trained and skilled in the design, construction, and use of machinery. There are different types of engineers; a civil engineer builds bridges, buildings, and roads, while an electrical engineer builds circuits and electronics. On the job, engineers can work independently to perform maintenance but usually work together to finish projects and find solutions. As a passion, engineers use their problem solving skills and innovation to make their lives easier.

I will be using this template to describe engineer depictions in film and television. Positive portrayals align with the template, while negative portrayals paint engineers less desirably. I will also talk about skewed portrayals, which focus more on social stereotypes than the profession itself.

The Positive

As far back as the science-fiction age, Hollywood busied itself with making on-screen engineers. Star Trek, a TV series that was so successful that corresponding film adaptations and sequels would be made, encapsulated audiences and took advantage of a time when space was cool. A sequel called Star Trek: The Next Generation, contained many types of characters doing engineering work. Roles from crew member to lieutenant to ship captain involved some engineering background, so in a sense, much of the crew were engineers. Their expertise kept the ship up and running, and the crew flying the ship needed to be knowledgeable about the inner workings. Teamwork also shines aboard the Enterprise; the ship’s crew obviously depend on each other to keep the boat afloat. The crew is only able to pull through tight situations with a functioning ship when everyone is coordinated and in their positions. Discounting the drama every episode provides, this is a near perfect replication of real engineering work. Much of the discipline the crew exerts results from the realization that false moves could put the ship in danger and leave the crew stranded or even killed.

More recently, a film called “Spare Parts” shows the power of bright minds collaborating to beat competition. Four high school hispanic students build a robot with almost no money and time constraints. They are facing the top national colleges with fancier technology, including MIT. The underdog high school team learns to be resourceful–they use old car parts and start a fundraiser. The team is always motivated due to substitute teacher Fredi Cameron’s charisma. Their teamwork is only made possible by sharing their individual expertise, and encouragement from Fredi and the other faculty at Carl Hayden High School.

The Negatives

Film over the past fifty years has been littered with inaccurate depictions of engineers, according to a 2012 study by Zbigniew Pasek. He classifies ‘discussion topics’ of engineering work seen in the real world as depicted by the films in his study, such as ethics, teamwork, innovation, problem solving, and leadership. In the film ‘Flight of the Phoenix’, Pasek summarizes the film, explaining how the engineers managed to fix their plane that crashed into a scorching desert. He mentions that the person nominated to lead the team did not disclose his job experience and that there was little teamwork and Image result for bad leadershipmore giving orders by the lead. I did not take this to mean that the engineers were being portrayed inaccurately, rather, the lead engineer was not a good leader at all. The fact that the team managed to succeed in the end suggests that their design and problem solving skills were enough solve the problem. While the team had their strengths, like using tools efficiently and implementing design, the lead engineer is a prime example of a talented engineer who was not fit to lead. While Pasek does not further analyze the films in his study, I argue that the lead’s weakness forms a disassociation between leadership and engineering. As an audience, we hope that at the end, the team succeeds (and they do), but that implies that the person on top knows what he’s doing. The team trusts him less when he discloses his job experience, and Pasek classes him as a dictator more than a team builder. His leadership is already weak, and at the same time there is nobody else that steps up who is a great example of a leader.


On the matter of stereotypes, popular comedy TV shows use them abundantly. The Big Bang Theory is one of the most popular TV shows in the US; it ranks thirty-four on IMDb, and it features a main character Howard Wolowitz, who is also an aerospace engineer. He doesn’t fit in the positives and negatives because the content of these shows does not focus on what engineers do, but how they act in any other circumstance. Nonetheless, it affects engineering’s appeal to the general audience. These characters become laughing stocks because of the stereotypes that exist both on the TV screen and the real world. Such stereotypes include the way Howard socializes and the clothes he wears. In the context of the show, they have nothing to do with what he does as an aerospace engineer. In contrast, Penny, another main character of the show, is an aspiring actress and does not suffer from the social pitfalls Howard does (in one episode, Penny labels Howard as a “creep” out of anger and that all of his corny and perverted jokes are not funny). Two other characters, Leonard and Sheldon, are physicists and both are socially awkward. To the audience that enjoys the show, they embrace these characteristics. To an outsider with little knowledge about engineers, however, there’s not much to stop these stereotypes from adding judgement to the picture as well.

Image result for big bang theory howard and penny

As seen in The Big Bang Theory, scientists and engineers are bundled together. While engineers use existing scientific principles in their design process, scientists find new knowledge about the world we live in. The only other ties holding the two groups together are heavy use of mathematics (this, also, is grouped together with engineering, technology, and science; there’s an acronym for it called STEM) and their common stereotypes.

So What?

Even though film and TV can have educational purpose, they are undoubtedly for entertainment purposes. Therefore we can just cast aside engineering portrayals in film and TV just because they aren’t real and there to entertain us, right?

The answer is best described by a paper written by Baldwin Van Gorp about engineer and scientist portrayals in Dutch fiction and nonfiction media targeted at children and adolescents. This paper talks about prototypes of scientists and engineering rather than stereotypes, focusing on themes such as ‘genius’ and ‘mad scientist’. While the paper includes scientists and is specifically a study inside the Netherlands, it is basically a scaled down image of the same issue in the US and worldwide. Kids watch film and TV Related imageall the time, so the stuff they see on screen affects how they see the real world. Pasek mentions in his paper how Canadian students are showing a declining interest in engineering, despite their great ratio of engineering students existing. The trend extends towards the US and the UK in an era where the world keeps advancing at a competitive rate and engineers are increasingly in greater need. In the Obama Era, programs such as, Green Strides, and Women in STEM made headway into keeping the quantity of STEM occupations up, but students are constantly exposed to film and TV. While students generally know when they consume entertainment media, the ideas expressed by these mediums affect their judgement nonetheless. It becomes a matter of whether the way they see engineers on screen satisfies their personal interests, and if it doesn’t, it’s thrown out the window.

The movie Spare Parts is already inspiration enough for students to join their school robotics team and for parents to take interest in improving their child’s education. Not only does it motivate them to become like the kids in the movie, but they learn the positive traits discussed above that constitute real engineering work. Hopefully there will be more movies and TV shows that appreciate how important engineers are to society and reflect that in their characters.

Learning Moments

One of the learning moments I had this fall term was noticing my own identity in popular culture. These observations would later culminate into this blog post. A discussion we had during week five was to pick our favorite movie and notice how many characters were played by someone like us. I chose Iron Man because that and Spider-man are my top two Marvel superheroes, and the former superhero’s suit amazed me as a child. Obviously, Tony Stark is the engineering mind of all the characters; he develops weapons for the military at the beginning of the first movie, and is able to replicate his Arc Reactor from scrap material and design a metal suit, and refine it later. As I take a second look at the movie, I realize that Tony Stark is an independent engineer. There is no teamwork in building his inventions but he is more than capable of carrying out these tasks alone, along with logistical help from his secretary. His superhero position owes to his inventions and he realizes that his products could do more harm to the world than good if he let it get into the wrong hands.

Image result for arc reactor

Iron Man happened to be one of the examples that an earlier student used as evidence in their Popular Culture Mirror Blog Post, and it was a great learning moment when I found their post because it helped me find other examples based on criteria that I had overlooked before.

The other learning moment I had this term was discovering how sophisticated Google’s search engine had become, evolving into a smarter, more efficient tool. When I search up the term ‘scientist’ on Google, there is the usual Wikipedia page and definitions, but also a card on the right showing what “People also searched for”. The first result was ‘engineer’.

We learn to trust Google because it consistently gives us the results we want, but the extra “fluff” it tells us, to improve our user experience, can change the way we think. Google tells us that people searched for other similar terms, but we don’t primarily need to know that. Now I know that Google is telling me other people see scientists and engineers similarly. It may have been because I searched ‘engineer’ before and Google keeps track of that. Seemingly minor additions like those cards becomes personalized from methods Google uses to track everything about the user, so I might have been seeing a different card than another Google user. It plays into how we see engineers in pop culture because Google has essentially become a staple of life, and its presence in media consumption gives it control over what we see and how we see something. Our prior example could potentially blur the division between scientists and engineers for those who didn’t bother to compare the two definitions together.

Works Cited

Davis, Joshua, and Elissa Matsueda. Spare Parts. Brookwell-McNamara Entertainment, 2015,

Lorre, Chuck, and Bill Prady. “The Killer Robot Instability.” The Big Bang Theory, season 2, episode 12, CBS, 12 Jan. 2009.

Pasek ZJ. (2012). Reel engineers: Portrayal of engineers and engineering profession in the feature films Asee Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings.

Prozapas, Aleksey. “Media Portrayals of Engineers.” Looking in the Popular Culture Mirror: Student Essays from University Studies 254. WordPress, 31 May. 2015.

Roddenberry, Gene. Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987 TV Series). CBS, 12 Jan. 1987.

Van Gorp, B., Rommes, E., & Emons, P. (2014). From the wizard to the doubter: Prototypes of scientists and engineers in fiction and non-fiction media aimed at Dutch children and teenagers. Public Understanding of Science, 23(6), 646-659.

The Representation of Sorority Women in Pop Culture Media


Sorority women and Greek life in general is commonly misconstrued with the circulation of stereotypes and cliches such as, “you’re paying for your friends”, “sorority girls are dumb”, and “all you do is party” (Banna, 2016). Personally, I don’t identify with the stereotypical sorority woman, and I certainly don’t think any of my sisters do either. Coming into college, I never thought I would have joined a sorority due to these stereotypes and many more. I was wrong. I was wrong about Greek life, and I am happy I have chosen to become a sorority woman. Alpha Chi Omega has given me so much within the last year that I have been apart of it, and I feel blessed to be apart of such an amazing organization and great group of women. It makes me wonder though, if there are so many women in sororities who feel the same way as I do about sorority life, why are these stereotypes still so common and impactful? After analyzing my sources, it is evident that women in sororities are inaccurately represented in the media., which provokes negative and misleading stereotypes from society about sororities.

I chose to analyze two films that depict sorority women, and two journal articles that research sororities and Greek life as a whole. These sources include, Legally Blonde, The House Bunny, Nonwhites In Sororities and Fraternities by Matthew W. Hughey, and Rushing to Come Out by Adam E. Vary. To explore these portrayals and findings further, I set out to answer a couple questions; What do these representations have in common? How are they different? And lastly, what conclusions might audiences draw based on these representations?

To begin, I will go through a short overview of my sources.

Legally Blonde is a romantic comedy about sorority queen Elle Woods who is dumped by her boyfriend for being “too dumb” (Luketic, 2001). She follows him to Harvard Law, where she finds that there is more to herself than her looks and incredible fashion sense.

Throughout the film, she is portrayed as oblivious, dumb, and superficial. For example, the video she makes to apply to Harvard is extremely inappropriate and foolish. She shows herself in a bikini for more than half of the video, and tries to apply her daily life to things that might come in handy at a law school. Like, remembering the details and story plot of a television drama. In addition, while mentioning that she is the President of her sorority, which is a difficult and high-ranking position she should be proud of, it shows her calling attention to the issue of what type of toilet paper the custodian’s are putting in their bathrooms (Luketic, 2001). As the movie continues, there are glimpses of Elle’s capability. But even during the scenes where she shows a bit of intelligence, such as when she impresses her professor by rebutting her ex’s legal argument, she is always reverted to the dumb and oblivious sorority girl who carries around pink, scented resumes (Luketic, 2001).

Even though Elle proceeds to earn a law degree and impress everyone around her, the movie continues to portray Elle as ignorant and dense through her interactions with others and the choices she makes. This representation reinforces the idea that sorority women are unintelligent, pretty blonde girls who are preoccupied with boys and can *sometimes* achieve something impressive.


Legally Blonde directed by Robert Luketic

In The House Bunny, a former Playboy bunny who’s kicked out of the playboy mansion finds herself as the house mother for a sorority full of socially awkward girls (Wolf, 2008). The purpose of this movie is to be funny and to provide some sort of empowerment to girls, although it severely fails at the latter. I think this movie is interesting because although it does portray a different group of women than the typical sorority girl, the film is contradictory with the message it tries to send and conveys an inaccurate message regarding  sororities. For instance, this film is supposed to be promoting self-love, the importance of being yourself, and that looks don’t matter. But, practically the entire movie they have a Playboy bunny walking around in skimpy outfits trying to change the way these “dorky” sorority women look and interact. In the end, she says sweet things about “family” and “being yourself”, but only after giving them a complete makeover (Wolf, 2008).

Not only does this movie inaccurately portray sororities and use Greek life to create a storyline, but it sends a bad message overall about inclusion and friendship. Even though the movie tries to express some sort of sisterhood and acceptance at the end, it does not make up for the repetitive inaccuracy and superficiality throughout the film. This terrible representation leads to a reinforcement of stereotypes about sorority women that says sorority girls are girly, they always have to be attractive, you pay for your friends, and they’re only concerned with frat boys (Banna, 2016).


The House Bunny directed by     Fred Wolf

Nonwhites in White Sororities and Fraternities by Matthew W. Hughey is a journal article from the publication, Social Problems. It focuses on the findings about non-whites in historically White Greek Letter Organizations (WGLOs). This article reinforces the stereotypical ideas about Greek life that sororities are culturally incompetent and lack diversity. Within the journal article there are several occurrences where people of color were stereotyped or discriminated against for their race or ethnicity. For example, a Latina sister of a sorority had several racist remarks made to her by other sisters and she was punished when denying networking opportunities because she didn’t want to be stereotyped as “taking handouts” as many Mexican-Americans are stereotyped of doing(Hughey, 2010).

This both surprises me and doesn’t, because even though I have never personally seen or could imagine this happening within my sorority, I am sure it occurs in other parts of the country that are less informed and politically correct. This article confirms stereotypes about sororities that they are predominantly white, culturally incompetent, and racist.

Rushing to Come Out by Adam E. Vary is a journal article that covers the experiences of gay, lesbian, and bisexual students’ both in and rushing to be in Greek life. This article covers both positive and negative experiences, and concludes that the majority of the time, openly gay and lesbian members are able to find acceptance among their straight brothers and sisters (Vary, 2004). In addition, the article explains that many Greek organizations have added sexual orientation to their nondiscrimination policies (Vary, 2004). I thought the stories about gay and lesbian individuals joining or coming out in Greek life were really interesting. Compared to the previous article, it seems that fraternities and sororities are much more accepting of gay, lesbian, and bisexual brothers and sisters rather than non-white brothers and sisters .

In my sorority, we have a handful of lesbian or bisexual women, and on a National level, Alpha Chi Omega welcomes transgender women as well. Thus, I feel as though the general attitude towards the LGBTQ community in this article is similar to my experiences in Greek life at Portland State. This article, unlike the previous three, actually defies stereotypes about sororities and fraternities by concluding that LGBTQ people are accepted in Greek life. Although there is some pushback by some members, the majority of people are welcoming and accepting of LGBTQ individuals.

What do these representations have in common and how are they different?

Among all four of my sources, each of them confirms at least some sort of stereotype about sororities. Although some might put-forth less stereotypes than others, there is still the presence of inaccuracy and improper judgement. In addition, after analyzing films that portray sorority women, I noticed there are not many accurate representations of sorority women in film or media. Within those few films, these women are inaccurately portrayed and typically don’t have very strong roles. This poses an issue for women in sororities , because the media is not giving accurate representations and portrayals of sorority women for a greater society that typically has no interaction with greek life outside of the way that it is portrayed in the media. In addition, within those limited representations, sororities are inaccurately portrayed and therefore people are not getting sufficient or correct information about sorority women. Lastly, when comparing the films Legally Blonde and The House Bunny, it is important to notice that there is a lack of people of color and other underrepresented groups such as lesbian or bisexual women. Although the journal articles I examined are proof to the fact that there are in fact underrepresented groups in sororities, the abscence of them in the films is telling.

What conclusions might audiences draw based on these representations?

Based on these inaccurate and stereotypical representations, it is not society’s fault they believe these stereotypes about sororities and the rest of Greek life. With a limited variety of representation, several occurrences of misconceptions, and a lack of diverse portrayal of sorority women, it is not surprising that the majority of people believe the stereotypes about sororities. These factors create a sheltered environment where people only hear the negative inaccuracies about Greek life and lack the positive truths.


After analyzing Legally Blonde, The House Bunny, Nonwhites in White Sororities and Fraternities, and Rushing to Come Out, it is clear that nearly every representation of sororities in the media is stereotypical and inaccurate, which impacts the way society views sororities by providing false information that significantly influences negative perspectives on sororities. It is important to note that although some of these stereotypes might exist in certain parts of the country, they do not speak for all sorority women – therefore the preconceived notion that all sorority sisters are dumb, selfish and superficial is completely inaccurate. I think it is important to change the ways society understands Greek life, because it is a great opportunity for college-aged women to take advantage of. Sororities offer sisterhood, a way to get involved in your community, leadership opportunity, academic motivation, and teach you important tools such as integrity and financial responsibility. Sororities focus on personal development and achievement, not parties and boys. I hope that as a society we can improve the ways sororities are viewed so more women can join and gain great life tools as well as a group of amazing sisters.

Learning Moments

In the first week of class, we watched a TED Talk called “The Filter Bubble”. It was really impactful for me when the speaker said, “the internet is leading toward a world where it shows us only what it thinks we want to see, not what we need to see”, because I think it is crucial for growth and learning that humans are introduced to new ideas, opposite opinions, and ways of thinking. Now that we have studied news media as well, I find a parallel between this claim and the ways news media has changed to cater to our likes and dislikes. Similarly, it is important to seek out good and diverse news stories so that we are absorbing important information, or rather, “information vegetables” as well as occasional “information junk food”.


Eli Pariser’s TED Talk, “The Filter Bubble”

Another impactful moment was in Week 7 when we studied copyrighting laws and how the media age is changing them. The video, “ Copyrighting Laws Stifling Creativity” showed several videos who were all technically copyrighting some form of music, but yet they’re posted all over Youtube, Facebook, and the rest of the internet for people to watch and enjoy. It is interesting to think about how copyrighting laws will be enforced in the future, if at all. It is important to remember to use works to inspire your own ideas and create something new.



Banna, Kaley. “9 Stereotypes About Sorority Girls.” Odyssey, 23 Feb. 2016,

Hughey, Matthew W. “A Paradox of Participation: Nonwhites in White Sororities and Fraternities .” Social Problems, vol. 57, no. 4, Nov. 2010, pp. 653-679. Academic Search Premier, doi:10.1525/sp.2010.57.4.

Luketic, Robert, et al. Legally Blonde. Writer by Amanda Brown and Karen McCullah, 2001,

Vary, Adam E. “Rushing to come out.” Advoate, no. 924, 12 Oct. 2004, pp. 47-50. Academic Search Premier,

Wolf, Fred, et al. The House Bunny. Writer by Karen McCullah and Kirsten Smith, Happy Madison Productions, 2008,


Persian, Iranian or American: Who Am I

Persian, American or Iranian:  Who Am I

Researching in my Popular Culture class this term has brought up old questions I have struggled with and answers I never suspected.  Often feeling my situation is unique, I never realized that many Iranian-Americans have the same conflict; how do I identify myself in this mass media driven society, Iranian, Persian or American?

I have wonderful memories of my first six years.  It was an uncomplicated, happy interval, and I was unaware of the pending revolution. Not long after my family moved to Oregon, I realized that having an Iranian name was not well received.  Being so young, I wasn’t sure why, but the older I get, I see the continued hostility between the United States and Iran.

What I didn’t realize until this course and through the research I have done for this blog post and even some of the other blog posts we analyzed in class that my internal battle for a sense of identity is not unique.   I am always looking for a way to stand out as an Iranian, whether it be through family connections, food, holidays-anything.  Longing to embrace the part of my life I have good feelings for inside, but don’t have a clear recollection of.

The documentary “Iranians in America” that aired on PBS in 2012 shows clips of the Iranian Revolution, the Government being brought down by religious groups, riots, and the American hostage crisis.  There are a number of Iranians interviewed in this piece who left their home and moved to the U.S.3   One woman who is interviewed recalls all she misses about Iran, the markets, the mosques, family get together, the garbage man, and the neighbors.  She searches for the same connection of community around her in the U.S. and cannot find it.

An Iranian American family celebrates Nowruz. Photo courtesy of PBS

I totally relate with her, and have nothing but bits of family tradition my mother and father continued, such as eating Persian food (lots of rice) and celebrating Nowruz (Persian new-year).  There is an Iranian-American comedian K-Von who does a Tedtalk about celebrating Nowruz, and how he was not even aware it was a holiday until he went to Los Angeles in his early 20’s.5   His father aimed to keep him as American as possible to avoid any conflicts.

I was ecstatic when Bravo decided to broadcast a reality television show portraying the lives of six Iranian-American people living in Los Angeles-called the Shah’s of Sunset.1  This show broadcast by Ryan Seacrest Productions, follows the lives of these six young adults living a lavish lifestyle in Los Angeles, sometimes referred to as “Tehrangeles”.  The show demonstrates how these people are grasping at their Iranian roots, with food, Iranian traditions and occasionally speaking Farsi.  This is the extreme opposite of what I remember about Iranians, portraying these six as rich, heartless, greedy, gossiping and stirring up a whole lot of drama.  They fight, they drink, they smoke, they disrespect each other.  However, now it is in its sixth season, and must obviously be successful.

After reading a news piece written by Bianca Soldani, “Stereo-typed and Shrouded in Controversy” I was interested in the different opinions given on this reality show.  Bianca raises the questions, is it bad to have this show that is somewhat a mockery of Iranian’s or does it bring to light that there are successful Iranian -American’s living in the U.S.?2   Basically an American television show that does not portray all Iranians as being from the ‘the Axis of Evil’, terrorists, or villains.   Part of me agrees with Bianca’s article about portraying Iranians in a different light but I would argue that this is what true Iranian’s are.   The drama of these actors is what draws the audience in.  “Reality TV”

On an opposite side of the spectrum, Maz Jobrani, a well-known Iranian-American comedian did a TEDtalk on YOUtube, “Did You Hear the One About the Iranian-American? “ This piece Maz describes how Iranian-American’s and others from different cultures can be easily stereo-typed into one classification.  Maz continues in his piece about how he was asked to play the villain time and time again, using his Iranian accent to rob a bank with a bomb wrapped around his waist.  He brought up the question to the producers, “why can’t I just rob the bank with a gun, like a normal person would?”  I guess the point is that story doesn’t sell, not with an Iranian accent.2

My earliest memory of stereo-typing and how terrible it can be was made evident when I was 10.  All my friends and others I did not know pulled me aside in the hallway one day after school, held me against the wall and took turns hitting me, spitting on me and calling me awful names.  I walked home that day, confused, I didn’t really get it, these were my friends.  It was later that I was told it was because of what was happening in Iran.  To this day I don’t believe my classmates hated me, but they hated what they had seen or heard on the television, radio or even from their parents.  How could that be?  I didn’t cause the revolution.  I didn’t take any hostages.  These questions don’t matter if you get indoctrinated enough through television, or household discussions and pretty soon all Iranians are evil.

I now realize this struggle is not only mine.  As I researched My Big Picture Blog Post, read through and listened to other peers in my class, I realize finding personal identity is affected by all that surrounds us; whether you were born in a different country, your parents migrated here, have a different religion or even look different.  So much of what is portrayed on media outlets lumps people into various large categories.  We are all individuals, and no one person should be defined by mass media.

Neda Magbouleh wrote a piece, “Inherited Nostalgia Among Second Generation Iranian- Americans- A Case Study at a Southern California University” A quote from the article rings loud and clear for me “But a nostalgic longing – encompassing homesickness and psychic travel, both for and to US-based childhood homes and an Iranian ‘homeland’ they have never before visited”. 4    

Neda’s article makes it evident this is a struggle for first and second-generation Iranians living in America.  Southern California is home to more than half a million Iranians according to a census done in 2012.   There are groups established in California and other parts of the United States so Iranian-Americans can gather together and share their culture, language and heritage without the fear of judgement.

Another interesting quote from Neda’s article concerns the defining of Persian vs Iranian, Neda writes from an interview with the president of this Persian student group “Maybe ‘Persian’ is more inclusive or more cultural, you know, I guess we’re just carrying on the name that the group has had. I know that the country of ‘Persia’ doesn’t exist anymore and I’m not trying to say I prefer you know, being compared to a Persian cat than a real country that my people are from … but it’s [the term] used all around us in L.A. … and we support Iran and its place in the global system. We love our country as ‘Iran’. But in my life, I use both terms all the time and I don’t think I do one or the other more consciously.”  She also adds later, “The PSG President’s understanding of the term ‘Persian’ is particularly noteworthy, as it illustrates her effort to negotiate a sense of cultural history with present-day circumstances.”

Going through middle school and high school personally I identified as Persian instead of Iranian.

Like so many other cultures or heritages, mine is only unique in the sense that I struggle with what identity I call myself today, Iranian, Persian or American.  I don’t think I have to identify as one of any of those things, I am all of them.

The conclusion is best stated from an Iranian man interviewed in the PBS documentary, Firouz Naderi, Engineer, NASA jet propulsion laboratory ‘there is not a side of me which is Iranian and a side of me which is American, it’s sort of like scrambled eggs, when you scramble it you can’t separate the white and the yolk anymore, this is who I am no, my Iranian identity and American identity are woven together into a fabric which is me right now.’ 3  This is who I am, Iranian-American woven together to make me the unique person I am.

iranian-american-openz_itokud the daily beast


  1. Seacrest, Ryan. “Shahs of Sunset.” Bravo TV Official Site, 30 Oct. 2017,
  2. Soldani, Bianca. “Stereotyped and Shrouded in Controversy: An Examination of Iranians on TV.” Guide,, 3 May 2016,
  3. “The Iranian Americans.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, Dec. 2012,
  4. Neda Maghbouleh Journal of Intercultural Studies 31 , Iss. 2,2010


  1. “FUNNY TEDTalk about PERSIAN NEW YEAR ~ (w/ Comedian Kvon).”YouTube, YouTube, 16 Mar. 2016,

Twenty-ish, Slightly Educated, and Broke

Imagine that you’re getting home from a day of classes and a shift at work, you open your fridge and see you need to go to the store. You get to the store and start grabbing items. You get to the register and wait your turn to pay. As your items are being scanned, you see the total increasing. You are sure there’s just enough room on your credit card left for the sixty dollars of groceries, but the checker says “Your card was denied.” So, you begin to give items back and your card continues to get denied. Now you’re getting frustrated and embarrassed as a long line of people stare at you. You apologize and hand two more items back. Now the balance is down to approximately twenty dollars and the payment goes through. You walk away with just enough for dinner but full of embarrassment.

This situation happened to me just a few weeks ago. I tried to go to the store to get a couple of things I needed and I walked away with barely a bag of groceries and missing some pride. This is a reality a lot of college students like myself face, and it isn’t something that is broadly advertised or talked about. I believe that Popular Culture (the internet, movies, television, etc.) has led to the misrepresentation of college students in America depicting us to be stereotypically lazy, strange, and over-entitled partiers, when we are actually over-worked, broke and under-motivated. This is a problem that propagates these stereotypes constantly. There are several contributing factors to our daily lives as college students, primarily money or lack thereof, that act on us to the outside world as something we are not. These include finances, workload, employment, and parental education.

I have chosen these topics to examine within television with the series’ Shameless and Undeclared, and a Buzzfeed article titled, “15 Things Americans Don’t Realize Are Weird About College in the U.S.”. As a whole, I wanted to try and answer a few questions: what are some of the stereotypes depicted and why is the struggle with finances perceived/portrayed as just a part of the “college experience”?


Undeclared is a television series made to depict the misadventures of Steve Karp and it represents the stereotypes of college students typically shown in media. In the beginning of the series, Steve’s goal is to be “new”. He calls it a new era; he has new hair, height, clothes, and attitude. In the opening scenes of the pilot episode, they depict the typical crazy move-in day. With the clingy parents and drinking roommates already planning a party, this show represents what we think college life is before we actually make it to campus.

You move in and there is of course the weird people surrounding you, the interesting RA/s, and the parents who just can’t take a hint and leave. It of course starts with a party and trying to get to the ladies, barely hours into settling in. The party scene is predictable, lots of people, red solo cups, weird DJ music, and people getting emotional and intimate with each other. This is not at all what real college life is like, however the problems and issues they may or may not be facing are, such as anxiety, parents divorcing, and trying to keep relationships prior to college stay afloat. Overall, Undeclared shows what we perceive college to be and the stereotypes many forms of Popular Culture push college students into.



Shameless is a television series made to illustrate a family with an addict and alcoholic father attempting to cope with their familial issues based mostly off their father’s addictions. It is also one of the only Popular Culture artifacts I have found that show the (dramatized) reality of college. The eldest son, Lip, is on his way out of high school and possibly making the journey to college. At first, he refuses to go to college because of the financial burden and being away from the family, but is eventually accepted to Chicago Polytechnic on a full ride. After he begins school, Lip starts working a job in the school cafeteria. Due to familial issues, Lip is forced to take over as the head of the family for the time being on top of going to college and working. When that is all resolved, he eventually begins to get his grades back up and manages to keep his scholarship.

I find Lip’s original decision to not enroll in college to be particularly interesting. He made money for their family by taking the SATs for people and he was a straight A student. He is the prime example of someone who should apply for college, however a lot of people don’t want to go or think they can make it back home. Lip is lower class and has basically no chance at college without a full ride. This is also a lot of other college attendee’s reality and I think it’s important to highlight that it’s not just a few people, it’s nearly everyone who goes through this financial stress.

Most students require a job to help keep their lives afloat and this can become a problem relating to dropping out. In the article, “Working while studying: the impact of term-time employment on dropout rates”, the author analyzes the impact employment has on the amount of college dropouts. It is found that studying and working full time can lead to failure to complete their degree program and even completing twenty plus hours of work a week can start to affect your ability to stay in school (Hovdhaugen). I can relate to this issue as a full-time student and part-time on-campus employee. I often find myself without time to complete assignments on time or get a full night’s sleep, as do the majority of other students even without jobs. As shown with Lip, sometimes you barely get yourself back up in time and that’s the reality of college.

“15 Things Americans Don’t Realize Are Weird About College In The US”

This article is a list of things that non-American college students find strange, weird, or generally disconcerting. While they show surprise and distaste for sororities, excessive merch, and other aspects, the main point I pulled from this article is the fact that their education is so much cheaper than ours which I find to be really interesting. Their school system is completely different than seen in the U.S. like designing your class schedule and essentially your career as you start getting into higher levels. For students specifically in Germany, they have free college and just pay living expenses, which I am quite jealous of given that I max out my credit card nearly every month and run out of money often.

Credit cards are an issue for many students though. In an article recently analyzing credit card debt in U.S. and Chinese college students, they cite a statistic from Sallie Mae showing that in 2009 84% of U.S. college students have at least one credit card (Norvilitis). China reports fewer percentages but they also show less financial confidence compared to the U.S.. Financial confidence often stems from parental education and how they pass their financial knowledge onto their children. The article states that a small percentage of Chinese parents actually pay of their students credit card debt where U.S. students often pay on their bills monthly (Norvilitis). I think the biggest difference comes from differing levels of financial transparency between parent and student and this can become a problem when we join the college experience and have to live paycheck to paycheck.


Throughout my research, I discovered a lot about my “broke college student” identity and how we are represented in Popular Culture. I think we are well-represented but misrepresented and pushed into various stereotypes. There are a few shining moments as seen in Shameless where our actual reality is shown. We experience many issues with money and time management which are often depicted as us being lazy procrastinators. We go through a lot of the same trials and tribulations that normal adults experience, just at a different pace but end up just as wise because we take these moments and learn from them and apply them to our lives after we are finally handed our degree.

Learning Moments

Week 7. I chose this blog post as a learning moment because it analyzes the importance of scrutinizing newsworthy sources and how plagiarism relates to the arts. As someone who grew up creating art and still tries to on occasion, I have run into walls when it comes to what plagiarism is and isn’t. I feel that the majority of the time; artists, including myself, have good intentions and don’t want to take another’s work or the credit but it can happen. I think these articles and questions brought up important points that created discussion that enlightened myself as an artist and a writer.

Week 5. I picked this other blog post because it addressed the analysis of representation in popular culture of women, various races, and the LGBTQ community. These texts and discussions stood out to me because they aren’t always things you think about when you watch a film. They are very important because they are what the masses are viewing and if women are oversexualized, if races and sexualities are underrepresented, or not represented at all that can lead to misrepresentation of them in our own minds.


“Attitudes towards credit and finances among college students in China and the United States” Norvilitis, Jill M. Mao, Yingmei International Journal of Psychology, June 2013, Vol.48(3), pp.389- 398 

“Working while studying: the impact of term-time employment on dropout rates” Hovdhaugen, Elisabeth. Pages 631-651 | Received 20 Jan 2012, Accepted 12 Nov 2013, Published online: 18 Dec 2013

“Undeclared S01 E01 Pilot.” YouTube, YouTube, 4 Sept. 2014,

Telling, Marie. “15 Things Americans Don’t Realize Are Weird About College In the US.” BuzzFeed, 24 Oct. 2017,

Various. “Shameless.” YouTube, YouTube, 9 Jan. 2011,

Black Males in the Media



The African American culture acquires many unfortunate labels, stereotypes, and are always subjected to judgement. This has been an increasingly threatening topic for quite some time and it does not get discussed as much as it needs to. There is a chunk of people that think racism is just a thing of the past, the sad reality is that it is still present to this day. Discrimination may not be as public and blatant as it was in the early 1900’s, but this should not stray away from the fact that it is still out there in many forms and black males are still the number one target. The spike in technology over the years has broadened the playing field in the number of ways racism can be expressed. Almost everybody indulges in some form of media whether it is social media, online news, newspapers, movies, video games, magazines, the radio, movies, television news, etc. There are numerous media outlets and they have became extremely advanced throughout the years. When the media is used negatively, it can be hurtful to many people.

Black Stereotypical Features (Journal)

The African American culture is known to be associated with prominent attributes including: large wide noses, big full lips, coarse hair, dark eye color, and dark skin. Just by possessing these few features, it has been proven that black people get treated worse by authority figures and the judicial system (Kleider-Offutt et al). As everybody should know, people rarely look the exact same. People are always coming in different shapes and sizes. This is also true in regards to black males and black people in general. There are people that are considered black, but do not acquire all or even any of the features previously listed (Refer to visual Dark vs Light skin.) I like how this article makes the effort to create a distinction between black males. It is very common to see black males that have a lighter complexion, straighter hair textures, and even colored eyes. The article even presents that darker skinned black people are treated more negatively than not just white people, but lighter skinned black people (Kleider-Offutt et al). It is very upsetting to read that because people cannot choose what traits they possess and should be treated equally no matter how they look.  Another interesting point that was brought up takes the setting back to the 1900’s, when whites attempted to bring in biology to explain blacks criminality. I am not sure how popular this theory is in recent days, but people used to believe that pit bull breeds were aggressive due to their brain growing too large for their skull. This is the exact claim that whites initially tried to tie in when trying to explain why black males are such criminals (Klieder-Offutt et al). This was later discredited and deemed very inaccurate. I just thought that it was interesting enough to share how irrationally people used to think just to bash the black culture.

When the Media Misrepresents Black Males (Article)

The media uses numerous methods to diminish and negatively affect the image of black males. By now, I do not think this is a secret. We see it every single day but may not recognize it at first glance because of how subtly they go about doing this. A large contributor in this issue is the news and reporters. A very serious issue that makes for a good example is mass shootings. When the shooter is white, the things normally said is that he/she has mental issues, a bad home life, was bullied, etc. If he/she is black, the number one word used is thug. They are a thug, they live in a bad neighborhood, they have pictures on their facebook of them smoking and drinking, etc. This is not said to reduce the seriousness of mass shootings, but to make people view them through a new lense and also focus on how they are being presented to the public.

Black males being labeled as thugs is not just limited to news stories either. Black males appear in many movies and TV shows. Instead of just indulging in these media outlets, take the time to perceive them in a way that links race with their roles played.  Out of all of the roles black males play in the film industry, playing a thug character lands at the top (Nittle 2017). “My real interest is in how white people represent African Americans in movies produced in White Hollywood,” this quote is from Jans B. Wager’s book review, “African Americans in White Hollywood”. I want to bring this quote to light because not only does it coexist very well with Kareem Nittle’s article, it is a representation of what my whole project is trying to decipher. Not limited to movies, but the media in general and how white people portray black males to it’s viewers. In many cases, news stories are altered, exaggerated, or flat out not true in order to misrepresent black males. In 2012 Bas W Van Doorn, professor of political science, analyzed over 400 news articles on poverty in the United States. His findings were shocking as more than half of the visuals within these articles presented images of black males. Derived from the data, less than a quarter of the poverty population was made up of black people as a whole (Donaldson 2015).  The only reason to feature these images is so readers will connect poverty with black people. While misinterpreting information for the sake of negative perception of black people.


Soul Plane (Movie)

There are many movies in the industry that possess strong influences of how to portray black males. A very popular film, especially in the black culture, is Soul Plane (2004). This comedy depicts many of the most notorious stereotypes of black males. The plot includes Kevin Hart as Nashawn, Nashawn experiences a horrific flight and ends up winning a multi million dollar settlement. With all of this money Nashawn is motivated to create his own airline so that he will never have to experience what he went through ever again.

From the first scene, stereotypes are already in the works. The setting is Kevin Hart on the plane sitting next to a white male. Kevin Hart is portrayed as unorganized, disrespectful, and an overall nuisance to all of the white passengers on the plane. When Kevin Hart arrives in court, he of course has a white judge and a jury full of white people. Everytime he talked, nobody took any consideration to what he was trying to say. They would laugh and make a joke out of the one black male present in the courtroom. This is a very deliberate issue because although this is a movie, it happens in the real world. Black males are made out to be unitelligent and have a brain span limited to specific things. Some of these specific things are also incorporated in the movie. There is a scene where another black man, Muggsy A.K.A Method man, is in charge of creating a way to bring in more profit on the plane. The three things he tests out is a casino, a strip club, and selling drugs. While this is all made up, this can give a reason for others to perceive black males performing business in these manners. The news does not make it any better either as they will regularly report on the negative instances involving black males. Seeing black males in positive light on news outlets is very rare unless it involves sports, music, or the entertainment business (Wager 2005). Music and sports are great but that is not the only field that black males are excelling in. These celebrities get so much air time, that it takes away from getting the black males who got through rigorous years of college to obtain great careers any exposure (Wager 2005).


There is a very indirect stigma attached with this whole black male concept. It has to do with what is acceptable and what is unacceptable in regards to masculinity. Implying that white males and black males have different expectations that are set by society. Black males are held to the standard of what is called hyper-masculinity, this is supported by all of the many reasons discussed previously. They are not supposed to show any emotion and be the “top dog” in every setting. In comparison to the white male that is expected to be married, have kids, have a high paying career, acquire a college degree, etc. (Crowell 2011). These types of standards are just not the same when it comes to black males. When they do happen, people tend to be surprised by it. The media can be partially to blame because as noted before, it is irregular for black males to play a role of a married father with a college degree and a successful career on TV. The individuals that do fit this description in real life do not get any exposure on news outlets. Black males do receive public exposure but the majority of it comes from their wrongdoings or the famous musicians, athletes, and celebrities.



[1] Crowell, Candice. ““Manist” Identity: Remaking the Masculinity of Black Men.” DeepDyve, Springer US, 1 July 2011, PSU Library Database

[2] Donaldson, Leigh. “When the media misrepresents black men, the effects are felt in the real world | Leigh Donaldson.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 12 Aug. 2015,

[3] Kleider-Offutt, Heather M., et al. “Black Stereotypical Features.” Current Directions in Psychological Science, vol. 26, no. 1, 2017, pp. 28–33., doi:10.1177/0963721416667916. PSU Library Database.

[4] Nittle, Nadra Kareem. “5 Common Black Stereotypes in TV and Film.” ThoughtCo,

[3] Terrero, Jesse, director. Soul Plane. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), Turbo Productions, Boz Productions, 0ADAD.

[6] Wager, Jans B. “African-American representation in Hollywood.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 20 Nov. 2017, PSU Library Database

The Portrayal of Drummers In Movies


Ever since I was a young child, listening to music grew to be one of my biggest sources of happiness. It is due to this intense passion that I decided to take it one step further and take up playing a musical instrument. The instrument I chose to pursue playing was the drums, and it has stuck with and been a part of me ever since I first picked up a pair of drumsticks. Practicing the drums fairly regularly to this day remains part of my identity, and who I am as a person as well. Naturally, with music, drummers and musicians as a whole being a pretty large group, it’s only a matter of time before they are depicted within the realm of pop culture. Movies are definitely an aspect of pop culture where drummers get the most portrayal and attention, but how accurate are they compared to their real life counterparts? The three movies I chose to focus on are the movies; Whiplash, Drumline and School of Rock. Movies do accurately portrayal a great deal of drummers, there is also a wealth of inaccuracies that are present as well. We will begin by taking a look at the movie Whiplash.                                                 


Whiplash follows the protagonist Andrew Neiman, an ambitious young jazz drummer at the prestigious Shaffer Conservatory music school. One day, he is promoted to a higher ranking jazz band led by the band director Terrence Fletcher. Andrew’s experience in this band is in no way shape or form a pleasant or smooth one however, as Fletcher is extremely strict, abusive, harsh, unforgiving, competitive and cruel towards Andrew, and the entire band as well. Andrew is subjected to a plethora of insults, screaming and threats from Fletcher, which are ultimately revealed to be all in the name of making Andrew a better drummer by pushing him beyond his limits, both as a drummer and a human being. The following video clip demonstrates Fletcher’s malicious teaching style.

This is where the central theme of the movie comes into play, which is how far someone would go in order to achieve greatness. Andrew slowly loses his humanity throughout the film, to the point where drums and the jazz band are the only thing that he cares about. Susanna Nelson discusses this in her review and analysis of the film. The author states that. “The director asks us a difficult question: given the obvious toll that Neiman’s ambition has on his mind and body, do we really want him to achieve his goal” (Nelson 28). It is also through this message, as well as the characters, tones and setting within the film that begin to draw comparisons to real life. Being a drummer myself who has been in multiple bands throughout high school and college, I can safely say confirm that band directors definitely have the ability to become hot tempered and angry in an attempt to make a you a better drummer. While Whiplash portrays this in a mostly accurate manner, it also greatly exaggerates it for cinematic effect. Insults, physical and emotional abuse would never be acceptable in real life scenarios like its portrayed in the movie. The competitive nature of the band is also mostly accurate to the real life scenario, but at the same time still a little exaggerated for the audiences entertainment. Some jazz bands to have a tendency to be very competitive towards one another, mainly in order to win some sort of award or competition, with a lot of strictness and a bit of hostility involved from both the directors, but it is definitely not taken to the extreme levels portrayed in Whiplash.

Overall, I would say that Whiplash is a fairly accurate portrayal of drummers within movies. There is some exaggeration and inaccuracies involved, but the core meaning of what it wanted to show and portray remains intact. Despite some of its flaws, which I see as very minor, I greatly enjoy this film, and often re watch it every once in a while, sometimes for fun, and also for some motivation for my drumming endeavors.

However, the same cannot be said for the next film we will be taking a look at. Drumline is basically the polar opposite of Whiplash in almost everything single way possible. Inaccuracies and poor portrayals are abundant throughout the film, and for a drummer like myself, it makes the film a very laughable experience. Lets take a look at this film to see what it gets wrong.



Drumline follows the story of Devon Miles, a marching band drummer who after graduating high school pursues his music career at the fictitious Atlanta A&T University. Throughout the film, he attempts to work his way up the ranks of the drumline, and eventually end up in a field competition between their drumline, and their rival school Morris Brown. It’s a fairly straightforward plot with few twists or turns, and is also very predictable as well, with a lot of events and plot points being able to be predicted before they even occur (the ending is a major example of this).

The problems and inaccurate portrayals within the film are numerous, and pointed about by writer Nick Nafpliotis in his blog. One of the most egregious examples of this is how drumlines are portrayed. Throughout various points in the film, the drumline is portrayed as a very militaristic activity, with the band leader, Dr Lee, acting more a kin to an actual military drill sergeant, rather than a proper music instructor. Some examples of this are the drumline students being loudly and abrasively awaken form their sleep in the morning and rushed out onto the field for practice, running laps in the rain while holding their instruments, and just extensive physical activity in general, which would be out of place in a real drumline (Nafpliotis). You are expected to be in good physical condition to perform in a drumline, but this is not the place that they would train you to be as such. Another inaccurate aspect is the performance of the music itself. The drumlines in the film are way more focused on over the top visual showmanship, rather than actually performing the music. Real life drumlines definitely have a high degree of visual flair to them, but the movie Drumlines depiction of it is simply way to outlandish, over choreographed, and just unfitting as a whole. One other poor miscellaneous portrayal that appears include an on field physical brawl that occurs when the main protagonist Devon Miles plays on a rival school drummers snare drum, which instantly angers the rival member, making him strike Devon in the face with his drum which in turns sparks a riot between the two bands, as demonstrated in this clip

In no way shape or form would this ever happen in the real world, as its quite literally just way too extreme and over the top to occur. Writer Nick Nafpliotis details this in the conclusion of his blog post detailing many of the inaccuracies previously stated, by mentioning, “The viewer, on the other hand, is left the strong desire to bang their head against a wall repeatedly. I mean sure, the music was good and the movie had some funny moments. But if you are a musician, some of the inaccuracies and gross oversights are just too much to overcome” (Nafpliotis 1).


The final film we will be looking at is School of Rock. This film focuses on Jack Black as a musician who attempts to teach a group of elementary school students rock music so that they can form a rock band and compete in a Battle Of The Bands style show. The movies tone throughout is very comedic and lighthearted throughout. It is due to this tone that the films portrayal of drummers, although somewhat small, is fairly accurate. Since the main characters in the film are children, the portrayal of musicians in general is kept in a simple and innocent nature.

As a viewer of this film and a drummer, it makes it very easy for me to relate as when I was a child and I was playing the drums, I simply just wanted to become a rock and roll star and become noticed in any way that I could. I can draw parallels and similarities between this aspiration and Roy Shuker’s book, “Understanding Popular Music Culture”. One section of the book details how television has become a major source for musicians in terms of broadcasting and making their music available to everyone. Shuker states that, “The introduction of public broadcast television […] coincided with the emergence of rock ‘n’ roll. Television helped popularize the new music and established several of its performers […] (Shuker). By connecting to this quote, to what my musical goals were when I was a lot younger, which are also similar to those presented in School of Rock, it makes it very easy to relate to and accurate for me to draw comparisons between real life drumming depictions, as well as the movie.

As we can see from these three films, there is a decent mix of accurate portrayals, as well as some inconsistencies regarding drummers in film. Ranging from some mild exaggeration, to more extreme inaccuracies, there is definitely not a film that portrays drummers one hundred percent accurately. Additionally, the appeal of drummers in movies is not just limited to those who are already drummers, but also those outside of the realm of music ,such as Nick MacWilliam’s “Five Best Drumming Scenes In Movies”, showing that drumming within films has the ability to appeal to a large audience, not just limited to a specific demographics. Despite the inaccuracies, it’s always entertaining and worthwhile to see people of my identity to have some proper screen time in movies, and I always look forward to see what other movie or aspect of popular culture will showcase drummers next.





Works Cited:

Nelson, Susanna. “Whiplash Drumming to a Different Beat.” Screen Education, no. 83, Spring2016, pp. 24-33. EBSCOhost,

Shuker, Roy. Understanding Popular Music Culture. 2016.

“Objective Movie Malice: Drumline.” Objective Movie Malice: Drumline ~,

MacWilliam, Nick. “Clip Joint: the Five Best Drumming Scenes in Film.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 16 Apr. 2014,