Engineers in Film

Engineers are interesting to observe. They love problems – it’s what keeps them occupied, they enjoy arguing and thrive under pressure. That is how most of the engineers I spoke to at school perceive themselves. When the same question was posed at high school students, their responses were far more humorous. Their feelings can best be summarized through this joke:

How do you know someone is an engineer?
Don’t worry, they’ll tell you every time you speak to them

The high schoolers’ thought engineers were arrogant, sarcastic, logical and quirky. They’re also seen as asocial and boring to a certain extent. When asked why they thought of engineers that way, the majority of them said that it was how engineers were portrayed in TV and film. Most of them hadn’t actually met engineers before, they were influenced by pop culture artifacts. While these points might seem negative, people thought it made engineers seem “cool”. Engineers were portrayed as lame nerds in the 80s and 90s, but being a nerd is not a bad thing at all according to the current generation – the arrogance is earned, sarcasm is funny, and logical and quirky is entertaining.

Through this blog post, I hope to uncover why engineers are perceived the way they are – through popular film portrayals of engineers. The point is not to demonstrate that films get engineers wrong/right or they portray the act of engineering incorrectly, it is to just explore and analyze the primary sources I have selected to see how they are applicable to the world of engineers and engineering.

Iron Man (in the MCU)

Tony Stark is the quintessential engineer of modern times. He builds the fancy suits, drives the fast cars, has the attitude and also doesn’t get much sleep. The effect of Robert Downey Jr’s portrayal of Tony/Iron Man over the last 10 years has greatly influenced today’s youth. He also inspired me to join the field – I kid you not the only reason I wanted to be an engineer when I was 13 was because I thought I could end up working on the cool stuff I saw in the film. As did many others.

Effect on engineers

Needless to say, the films are exaggerated science fiction. It is highly improbable that someone could build the Mark 1 suit with a box of scraps in a cave, but it is a demonstration of how hacky engineers can get. In many cases, we actually end up repurposing techniques and hardware for purposes they weren’t meant for. The films have many other such technical marvels that so many people hope were real. Who wouldn’t want a miniature arc reactor and access to clean energy? Thanks to Iron Man, the representation of engineers went from shy and nerdy to badass.

The typical engineer

Iron Man brings with him the engineering persona. If the common perception of engineers today is “arrogant, narcissistic, cocky”, Tony Stark has had a major role to play in that. He starts off as a reckless genius and evolves into someone reliable and level-headed. His underlying persona stays constant throughout, with an emphasis on sense of humor, sarcasm and the ability to stay calm in dire situations. Both these cases speak to engineers like myself. The evolution is very similar to an engineering student who’s going through college life. We start off all high and mighty and (hopefully) end with the wisdom that makes us good contributors to society. The persona is also something seen in many engineers. A good engineer is good at pushing tasks to the last minute and coming up with an innovative solution during the 25th hour, thus the “calm under pressure” tag.

Iron Man brings out an engineers’ emotional make-up truly well. It is what has made engineers seem cool and we have oh so many Iron Man-Engineer memes and references.



The Martian


Mark Watney is actually a botanist, but an engineer at heart. A major veil this character lifts off the engineering lifestyle is that one needs an engineering degree to be an engineer. Watney’s feats throughout the movie are an example of true engineering – repurposing everything at your disposal to survive. Apart from being an excellent book and film, it is also realistic. While watching the film with my buddies, there were many moments where we thought “that could actually be possible”.

Technical prowess

In the Martian, Mark Watney has a fantastic understanding of applied engineering. His knowledge of the basic sciences paired with a mathematical mind is a depiction of an ideal engineer – one who can “overcome overwhelming odds by sciencing the s**t out of it”. His usage of duct tape reminds me of how much duct tape we actually use. I spent a few hours using about 100 meters (yes, the metric system rocks!) of duct tape in my capstone project to shield some circuitry from RF signals. Another innovative idea in the movie is the usage of a radioactive apparatus as a heating system. That is both genius and incredibly stupid at the same time, and it is exactly what engineers do when they need to get stuff to work in the last minute.

Engineering mindset

The way Watney attacks his dilemma and goes about planning to survive on Mars is characteristic of the engineering method we are taught in almost all our 100 level classes. Identify the problem, acknowledge it, spend 30 minutes freaking out about it and then accept your fate/start working on a solution. The solution itself is broken down into an order of priority, planning for future contingencies and events and flawless execution/sticking to the plan. It was refreshing to see this method in action and watching it work so well was special. Watney’s demeanor throughout the film was also accurate. He did all the freaking out in the beginning (albeit subtly) and stayed calm till the end. He even managed to stay optimistic and funny given his situation. Making fun of oneself is something I have seen in a majority of my engineer friends. In fact, most of the downright funny engineer memes and cartoons are created by engineers.

Mark Watney highlights the average engineer’s attitude towards their work.

Hidden Figures

The message in this film is of utmost importance to engineering and I have to slightly deviate from the theme I’ve set in the post so far to discuss it. This is relevant not just to engineering, but to all STEM fields. Hidden Figures is inspired by true events and the three main characters in the film were really NASA employees in the 1960s, when segregation was at a high in the US. This should serve as an inspiration for all those who feel out of place as engineers due to their gender, race or some other factor no one should care about.

Hidden Figures shows the resolve of these three women and how their efforts brought about change in NASA. While some of the situations were fictionalized and the racism was a little bit subtler in reality, it was still uncalled for. All that matters in engineering is one’s mind, not one’s skin or appearance. Taraji Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae show how STEM women have to overcome social obstacles to fit in and focus on their work. They have to put in more effort compared to the others because they aren’t taken seriously when it comes to their job. Because they did it in those harsh times, it is our duty to carry their ideals forward.

Being an engineer does not have anything to do with appearance. It has to do with the mindset. 80% of engineers are male, but this does not mean that it isn’t for others. There has been a steady rise in the number of engineers of other genders. This is due to films and other media portrayals similar to Hidden Figures. Why is it important to encourage girls to take up STEM fields? This is because they are usually diverted to other female-centric careers such as medicine, nursing, teaching, etc by their families. If someone’s interested in STEM, all they need is a mentor to introduce them to the field and to support their passion. We don’t (and probably won’t ever) have enough engineers. It is crucial that someone with the talent and mindset to become an engineer actually becomes one.

Hidden Figures shows us that anyone with the mind for it can become successful engineers.

Conclusion, Learning Moments

From Iron Man and The Martian

When I started my research, I was under the assumption that pop culture would portray engineers in the wrong light. I actually hoped to find some stereotypes that solidified how they misunderstood engineers. As I was going through potential artifacts, I found some erroneous examples. However, I chose to ignore them and talk about Iron Man and The Martian instead because these reflected how the public perceives engineers now, not 30 years ago. Positive reinforcement trumps negative reinforcement in my opinion. I mentioned before that these films get almost everything right about an engineer, and the portrayals actually make engineers look good. If people are inspired by these characters and end up going into a STEM career, it’s to our benefit. More engineers/scientists = more problem solvers.

Hidden Figures

Before I actually studied the characters on Hidden Figures for my essay, I didn’t understand how important it is to spread STEM awareness to those who don’t take up the field. I thought that anyone with the desire and competence to study engineering or the sciences would just find the way to do so without the need of coaxing – I was mistaken. Competence knows no race or gender, but competent people could be discouraged due to those factors. Hidden Figures was just a film, but it prompted me to speak to the women engineers in my classes and workplace to realize their challenges and understand the situation. I decided that I was going to do something about it. I signed up for volunteering opportunities at work which involve getting middle schoolers excited about STEM and letting them consider STEM careers. Female participation in these events is on par with male participation, which is nice to see. If we as a community can keep that fire in them going, it’s going to benefit us all on the long run.


  1. Portrayals of Engineers in “Science Times”; F. Clark; D. L. Illman; IEEE Technology and Society Magazine (Volume 25, Issue 1, Spring 2006, pp. 12-21)
  2. The portrayal of the network in the popular media, or what the non-techie person-on-the-street must think of us!; C. Kessler; S. D. Shepard; IEEE Communications Magazine (Volume 35, Issue 5, May 1997, pp. 114-118)
  3. Cultural Representations of Gender and Science: Portrayals of Female Scientists and Engineers in Popular Films; Jocelyn Steinke; Science Communication (Volume 27, Issue 1, September 2005, pp. 27-63)

Observations of Chinese Culture Portrayed in Media

In the modern society, people can easily receive massive information and messages because of the development of technologies. I’ve also watched many TV shows and movies, but I’d never thought about how those cultural traits are interpreted by people who grow up in different cultures. I want to see how Chinese culture is played in shows in a different society. I originally wanted to do Asian culture to be my topic, and I realized it was too broad since it includes many different cultures, so I decided to focus on Chinese culture.

In my opinion, Chinese culture is more conservative and strict according to what I was taught. Many classic works of literature generally tell people to be humble, polite, frugalness and satisfying what they currently have instead of having strong desires. The other way to describe can be that Chinese people believe that a good person should be able to restrain its desires and control its behaviors.

Although cultural aspects and elements are good and positive, it’s not always be interpreted in positive ways. Frugalness can be a good example of having negative impacts by over fulfilling it. I’ve seen many cases of being greedy for small advantages. Those people try to save money as much as they can, and it leads them to be greedy. One thing which is confusing me is that it’s often to see Chinese people being selfish and self-center in media, and it contradicts my idea toward Chinese culture. When I see news about Chinese people acting ridiculously in media, I really wonder why they are acting like that. I’m also thinking what impacts may be caused by the phenomenon in different society.

I started looking for TV shows and movies which are played in Western society, and I wanted to see what stereotypes and traits are portrayed in media. As I watched more TV shows and movies, I noticed comedy often includes jokes which may be a bit offensive from other perspectives since it’s made for amusing audiences, so I think comedy includes more information to talk about.

I will be discussing some stereotypes and traits which I’ve watched in media and connecting to reviews which enhance and inspire me of the understanding about them.


Silicon Valley

The first source which I chose was Silicon Valley which is made by John Altschuler, Mike Judge, and Dave Krinsky, and it’s broadcasted on HBO. There is a Chinese character, Jian-Yang, is played by Jimmy O. Yang. Jian-Yang doesn’t appear in many scenes, but he always causes issues and problems when he shows up. In my opinion, the personality of Jian-Yang is very bad in the show. He is selfish, greedy, and crafty. There is a scene showing that how Jian-Yang tries to fake a testament and fool a judge in the court, so he can inherit properties of his landlord. His landlord is out for traveling, and the landlord is tall and big, so Jian-Yang even prepares a body of a pig to pretend to be the body of his landlord. I thought it was weird and crazy when I watched it, and Jian-Yang’s roommates also think Jian-Yang is ridiculous and unreasonable.

The other scene which I remember clearly is when Jian-Yang’s roommates come back to their home, they see many technology company names which are written on a board. They ask Jian-Yang, and he replies that he will copy them to China to start new companies. I thought the producers are trying to satirize copyrights issues between Chinese companies and the US companies.

These two scenes may not have significant relations in Chinese culture, but these reflect Chinese traits which people see in modern society. There are other scenes in Silicon Valley representing selfish actions which Jian-Yang does. I guess the reason for producers to create these scenes may relate to what I mentioned earlier. They may have seen cases of Chinese people being selfish and self-center in their life, and the behaviors may offend other people.

However, I’m also thinking that for people who are not so familiar with Chinese culture, they may really be affected by media. According to an article, The Chinese in Silicon Valley: Globalization, Social Networks, and Ethnic Identity by Bernard P. Wong., reviewed by Joseph Bosco, it mentions that Chinese population is very concentrated in Silicon Valley workforce because of globalization. I think the TV show is trying to show some conflicts existing between Chinese and local employees as Chinese population keeps increasing in the area.

Fresh Off the Boat

The TV show, Fresh Off the Boat, is made by Nahnatchka Khan according to a biography which is written by Eddie Huang, and the show is originally played by ABC. Eddie Huang is an immigrant, and he writes the book to tell the story of growing up in the U.S. as Taiwanese family. There are many stereotypes being portrayed on the show since it is trying to represent the differences and conflicts between two cultures.

Eddie’s mother, Jessica Huang, is a very stereotyped Taiwanese mom in my opinion. She always forces or leads her kids to focus more on studying, so they can be accepted into schools with the nice reputation. Instead of thinking about being actors or rappers, Jessica thinks it’s better to have a practical and stable job such as doctor or engineer, so studying is the only thing that Jessica want her kids to do. Although Eddie receives straight A’s at the school, his mom thinks the school should be more difficult and strict. There is an interesting thing in here. Since Jessica thinks Eddie should study more, she wants to send him to “Chinese Learning Center”. I was wondering what was CLC, and then the show explains CLC is a place where students are given massive examination questions for them to complete, and they have to stay there studying for couple hours and complete questions again and again. This is very common in Taiwan and in some countries such as China, Japan, and Korea. Many students are getting the high-stress education by taking uncountable exams and infinite examination questions in order to be accepted in popular universities. Taiwanese parents generally believe studying is the only way to gain a chance to qualify stable jobs since companies tend to hire people graduated from popular schools. I’ve personally heard of people intuitively think I must be good at studying and math. In my opinion, if they received the same style of education, they might be even better.

One thing I also noticed in the show is superstition. When Jessica receives a check with many numbers 4 on it, she thinks it’s better to get rid of it because the pronounce of 4 is close to the word “die” in Mandarin. And Jessica believes it attracts bad luck if she keeps the money. I think this scene perfectly represents the different cultural concept. In Chinese culture, there are many taboos, and people may view it as superstition. For example, hospitals in Taiwan usually don’t have number 4 in elevators because no one wants to stay on the fourth floor especially in hospitals. I think this scene provides a great idea of how people with the different cultural background view things differently.

In one episode, Eddie’s school is asking students to pick a culture and represent the cultural traits. Eddie doesn’t want to do China. I guess the reason is Chinese culture is not so popular and liked in Western society. Also, in the show, Eddie is the only Chinese student at his grade, so he joins his friends’ group for representing Jamaica. When they are chatting, one of his friends makes fun of China saying China having nothing to show. In the scene, Eddie is getting serious about what his friend says about China and questioning him to be more specific about his words. In the show, Eddie is brave enough to speak up for protecting his identity and culture, but what about in reality? An article “Yes, you can laugh at your culture: Fresh Off the Boat cocreator Nahnatchka Khan explains why seeing the humor in your roots is the key to happiness” by Katie L. Connor talks about the impact of cultural differences. People often experience embarrassing moments because of cultural differences, and they can choose to just laugh about it. I think an important point in here is people can laugh about their “own” cultures since they have enough understanding. If people laugh or make fun of other cultures, it can just simply be considered despising other cultures.


Silicon Valley shows many contradictions to my understanding of Chinese culture. In my opinion, Silicon Valley is showing the phenomenon of Chinese people in recent years. The TV show reflects what people actually see in life about Chinese people. It may be exaggerated in comedy, but there are many cases of weird behaviors done by Chinese people in reality. And Fresh Off the Boat represents many Chinese cultural stereotypes such as frugalness and CLC. When I compare these two TV shows that I watched, I think it’s apropos to say that’s what I see in the past and now. I think Chinese culture is not valued as much as in the past as I see more and more negative cases about Chinese people. Instead of control itself or caring others, more and more Chinese people just do what they want without considering for others. It’s sad to see this happen as a Chinese person, and I think it really hurts the image of Chinese culture.


Work Cited

“The Chinese in Silicon Valley: Globalization, Social Networks, and Ethnic Identity by Bernard P. Wong.”  Reviewed by Joseph Bosco. 2006.

“Yes, you can laugh at your culture: Fresh Off the Boat cocreator Nahnatchka Khan explains why seeing the humor in your roots is the key to happiness” by Katie L. Connor. Cosmopolitan, 2015, Vol.258(3), p.50(1)


The Change of Daughter’s Position in Chinese Popular Culture

The Change of Daughter’s Position in Chinese Popular Culture

My identity is popular culture is a daughter, so I find more things about daughter in Chinese popular culture. When I read many articles, I found more changes about daughter’s position in the family and in society. The inequality of men and women has always been a big problem in China. The son’s position in the family is often higher than the daughter’s position in the family. Old people often say that if people don’t have sons after they died, no one can bury a parent. In the past, the daughters of the parents’ bogey day are not eligible to visit the graveyard, so many families want to have sons. After China started to have a one-child policy, many people began to secretly abandon their daughters. Many families don’t let their daughter go to school because they want to save more money for their sons. Although the times are gradually changing, and daughter’s status has been improved in society, there are still cases of marrying daughters as selling daughters.


The Truth About China’s Missing Daughters.

The article talks about China’s missing girl. Because of the Chinese society, girls are a gender that is not valued. Many girls were abandoned when they were born. People like boys more than girls. Many abandoned children were adopted by foreigners. Later, China had the policy to regulate this phenomenon, but many people would rather be fined, and they also want to have sons. They will treat the son as a thing that can show off to other people. There are many foreigners go to China to adopt children. Most of them adopted are girls.

When I read this article, I said I must use it. My mother once told me that when she was very young, she saw many girls who died on the roadside.  I think it is so scary. This article is also about patriarchal. In the past, when a daughter married her husband’s family, she completely obeyed her husband. If her husband is dead, she must obey her son. In today’s Chinese society, the status of girls is slowly improving. Some people are gradually not seeking to have sons, and they won’t have girls more than sons.


A Genealogy of the Family Romance between Mother-in-law and Daughter-in-law in Modern Chinese Hi/story

This article mainly talks about the changes in the relationship between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law. Filial piety is very important in China. In the past, daughter-in-law plays a humble role, and mother-in-law can fully control them. As the time change, the daughter-in-law slowly began to get back their rights.  Because the girl who had previously been a daughter has become a mother-in-law, they are more likely to understand that being a daughter is not easy. The role of a daughter in a Chinese family is not just in her own home. She also plays a daughter ay her husband’s family. In traditional culture, when two people get married, the women usually lives with her husband’s family. The daughter suddenly became the daughter of someone else’s family. In the absence of affection, the status of the daughter of her husband’s family may not have been high in her own family. I choose this article because I want to write some responsibilities about the daughter’s role.


Double Sided Adhesive Tape Drama

There are twenty-two episodes of this drama. Double Sided Adhesive Tape is also about the problems between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law. This drama talks about Lijuan Hu and Yaping had a very good life after they get married, but their lives have changed dramatically since the man’s mother lived with them. Because of the differences in their geographical areas, concepts, and identities, their relationship between Li Juan and her mother-in-law gradually deteriorated, misunderstood and quarreled. The happiness and warmth of the past no longer existed. In China, mother-in-law feels that daughter-in-law needs to obey all they requirements. Because of the rise of women today, they began to protest, so most of the relationships between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law are very bad. They think that as a husband’s wife, they don’t need to listen to all things his mother said.


As China’s One-Child Policy Relaxes, Girl Children No Longer Stigmatized.

“With China set to relax its one-child policy, experts say the stigma against daughters is fast disappearing even in rural areas.”  (WEN, 2014). In 2013, the policy update, if a couple who are only children in their own family, they can have a second child. If the first child is a girl of rural women, she can have a second child. The one-child policy is also the key to the advancement of women because many families just have one daughter, and they spend many time and all money for this child. The daughter gets more things, such as love, education, attention…

Not all the daughter is so miserable in China. There are also many families like daughter. The status of girls is gradually improving. Many families began to pay more attention to girls than boys. There is a Chinese word called “掌上明珠”. This word is often described by parent as their daughter. “掌上明珠” that means the daughter is the most precious jewels, so it to be in our hand. There are also have some movies showing the love of parents for their daughter.

Run Papa Run Movie

Run Papa Run is about the change of a gangster dad. The birth of Xi’er who is the man’s daugter in the film inspired the fascination of Tian En’s potential, and Xie’s grin and laughter all directly affected the emotions of God’s grace. For the happiness and happiness of Xi’er, he can do anythings for her daughter. Because she can’t make her daughter sad, Tian-en has concealed the fact that he is a triad. For this reason, Tian-en has created a new image for himself and his followers. The gang business has Also to be transferred to a business, and his business was gradually being consummated. In real life, many dads can do anything for their daughter. Sometime, fathers worry about their daughter more than mother’s worry about daughter.


In today’s Chinese society, the daughter’s status in the family has gradually increased. People no longer discard their daughters easily, and they   don’t have more desire to have sons. The unequal relationship between men and women is changing.










Yan Du, D. (2013). Living under the Same Roof: A Genealogy of the Family Romance between Mother-in-law and Daughter-in-law in Modern Chinese Hi/story. Gender & History, P170,22P

JOYCE, K. (2016, JUNE 1). The Truth About China’s Missing Daughters. Retrieved from THE NEW REPUBLIC :

WEN, T. (2014, 1 7). As China’s One-Child Policy Relaxes, Girl Children No Longer Stigmatized. Retrieved from Daily Beast: (Director). (2008). Run Papa Run [Motion Picture]. (Director). (2007). Double Sided Adhesive Tape [Motion Picture].










How Asian American Representation is Shifting in US Media

     Historically, Asian Americans have been one of the most underrepresented ethnic groups in American popular culture. One finding showed that Asian Americans comprise less than 4% of characters on prime time television (Tukachinsky, Mastro, & Yarchi, 2015). However, within the last twenty years there has been a gradual increase in inclusion of Asian Americans in American pop culture. This is important, as an increase in Asian American actors, artists, and singers gives other Asian Americans more opportunities to relate with and feel included in popular culture. Additionally, an absence of Asian Americans in pop culture can alienate them from others and create a lack of genuine representation of their culture and identity. Two major causations of this upwards trend was the slow and gradual increase of Asian American casting and the popularization of Korean culture within the United States. Although these two reasons are not the only causes, they have both greatly aided in growing Asian Americans  presence in American popular culture and helped in shifting Asian American representation in U.S. media.

     To begin, film and television are two of the largest components of pop culture in the United States. Television is still the “dominant source of media in our lives” (Tukachinsky, Mastro, & Yarchi, 2015) and the increasing popularity of online streaming sources allows for television to remain extremely relevant in popular culture. Due to this, television has a large impact on social domains, “including race-relations in society” (Tukachinsky, Mastro, & Yarchi, 2015). Consequently, the media’s limited and often stereotypical depictions of race and ethnicity influence the behaviors, beliefs, and attitudes of audience members. In a 2004 study done by Tukachinsky, Mastro, and Yarchi, they found Asian Americans comprise around 3% of the prime time population and only 1% of characters appearing in the opening credits. Additionally, there were no recurring Asian characters in the top shows of 1987-1989 and 1991-1993, however “their share gradually rose to 2.8% in 2007-2009” (2015). A lack of Asian Americans in pop culture can lead to misrepresentation of Asian American culture and can also “other” them. Since Asian Americans are being underrepresented in media, it can be difficult to feel accepted and valued in society. However, during the mid 2000s, the number of Asian American actors and characters began to rise.

     One great example of Asian American representation in pop culture is the 2014 film Big Hero Six. The movie revolves around Hiro Hamada (voiced by Asian American Ryan Potter), a fourteen year old boy living in San Fransokyo. The city of San Fransokyo appears to be a combination of Tokyo and San Francisco. San-Fransokyo-during-the-day-big-hero-6-37337156-500-209The city combines elements from both cultures tastefully and doesn’t come off as “exotic” or tokenizing. Hiro is intelligent, outgoing, and fashionable. He doesn’t appeal to any stereotypes about Asian Americans nor is his character portrayed differently because of his race. Big Hero Six became the highest grossing animated movie of 2014 and showed that Asian American characters are capable of achieving massive success in pop culture.

     Another example of Asian American culture in media is the show Fresh Off the Boat. In the show, Louis and Jessica are a Chinese american couple with three boys. They are proud of their Chinese culture but are also proudly American. The eldest son, Eddie, is obsessed with Black culture and goes against all Asian American c9e1058f3c3d55f932d6ee01b27e8e78stereotypes. He is loud, irresponsible, strictly listens to hip hop, and enjoys art. Eddie is individualistic and doesn’t abide to any stereotypes his family or society expects from him. Eddie’s characters offers viewers another representation of Asian American culture. Additionally, Eddie’s nontraditional personality and characteristics offer Asian American viewers another character they might associate with. These two examples are just a few that show Asian Americans are becoming more prevalent in American pop culture. Both of these examples were created and originated within the United States, but this is not the only method increasing Asian  American representation.

     Lastly, the Korean Wave is hugely aiding in bringing Asian and Asian American culture into American media. The Korean Wave is the international flow of Korean media content, specifically in the United States. Hyejung Ju and Soobum Lee state that the rise of Korean pop culture in the United States can be summarized in three major points. First, “the Korean Wave demonstrates the popularity of K-movies among specialized audiences” (2015. P. 324). Next, the Korean Wave includes the online consumption and circulation of K-pop and K-drama among Asian American youth. Last, the Korean Wave has impacted a recent trend in Hollywood films to cast Korean and Korean American actors more often in major roles. The article goes on to mention Lee Byung-Hun, Kim Yum-Jin, and Rain’s work in major Hollywood films. Similarly to shows created in the United States with Asian Americans, these Korean shows, movies, and music offerBillboard Music Awards, Arrivals, Las Vegas, USA - 21 May 2017 another representation of Asian and Asian American culture. Media plays an increasingly central role “as systems of representation in terms of identity, culture, and community” (Ju & Soobum, 2015, p.333). It is therefore important that Asian American representations are diverse, and the Korean Wave offers another representation that audiences can reside with. 

     In conclusion, popular culture in the United States is beginning to become more inclusive of Asian Americans. Although there is still under representation of Asian Americans, there has been an increasing upwards trend in representation over the last twenty years. In 2018, The Asian Pacific American Media Coalition evaluated that four major television networks made progress in representation of Asian Americans. Moreover, the Korean Wave is helping Asians and Asian Americans secure a place in American pop culture. With this increase in casting of Asian Americans, individuals are better able to portray their identities and their culture. Additionally, Asian American audiences have more potential to relate and associate with characters they see in media. Furthermore, an increase of Asian Americans in media could aide in dismantling any sense of “otherness” Asian Americans may feel. For these reasons, I am hopeful about the future of Asian Americans in popular culture and what impacts it will have.

     This class has illuminated many aspects of popular culture I had never considered prior, ultimately making we want to learn more about my identity in  popular culture. The first significant learning experience I had this term was the idea that the media can “other” people. In the article The Urgency of Visual Media Literacy in Our Post-9/11 world: Reading Images of Muslim Women in the Print News Media by Diane Watt, she states “representations we see in the mass media provide powerful messages on otherness” (2012, p.38). Through the use of misleading or intentionally ambiguous images, visual media is able to portray narratives that are inaccurate or not truly representative of what is actually occurring. This in turn can lead to othering the entity in that media. This is why accurate and genuine representations of people and their culture is so crucial in media. Knowing this information, I strive to be more critical and investigative of media in the future. In order to be an educated and active member of society, I feel that I need to be informed and critically thinking about the media I consume.

     The second significant learning experience I had this term was realizing how much work needs to be done in the inclusion of people of color in Hollywood films. In the YouTube video Every Single Word Spoken by a Person of Color in the Entire ‘Harry Potter’ Film Series by Dylan Marron, all the dialogue spoken by people of color in the Harry Potter films is comprised into slightly over six minutes. Considering the length and number of films, there is a blatant under representation of people of color in the films. Furthermore, the number of scenes with Asians was around one minute in length. With a lack of representation, people of color in the films are difficult to relate with and are unable to tell their interpretation of the story. In other classes I have learned that creating a sense of the “One” and the “Other” can lead to further disconnect and schisms between people. This is what visual media has the potential to avoid if people from all backgrounds are included. This further shows the importance of inclusion in popular culture.


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Tukachinsky, R., Mastro, D., & Yarchi, M. (2015, March 13). Documenting Portrayals of      Race/Ethnicity on Primetime Television over a 20‐Year Span and Their Association with National‐Level Racial/Ethnic Attitudes. Retrieved May 22, 2018, from

Watt, D. (2012). The Urgency of Visual Media Literacy in Our Post-9/11 world: Reading Images of Muslim Women in the Print News Media. The Journal of Media Literacy Education, 4(1), 32-43. Retrieved May 23, 2018, from

Yam, K. (2017, December 19). Major Networks Are Becoming More Inclusive Of Asian-Americans: Report. Retrieved May 23, 2018, from


Female Golfers Portrayed in Media Today


Females were not able to play sports nor were they considered athletes until a Title IX law was passed in 1972. There are very few films that feature female golfers as of 2016. However, there are 14 movies of male golfers as the main characters and only two about women. The game of golf was known originally for gentlemen only and ladies were forbidden to play. Female golfers were not recognized until the Women’s Professional Golf Association (WPGA) was formed into the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) in 1950. The LPGA tour has made women golfers more recognized, but still today female golfers are not portrayed as often as male golfers are in the media in the United States.

This blog post will be the examination of both a film, Swing Away, and a documentary, The Founders, which feature female golfers. Also discussed will be other golf movies that are all about male golfers with no mention of female golfers. This will look at the reasons why female golfers are not portrayed in many movies. The two films show women golfers and their lives of playing golf and the recognition for them in the public.

The Founders Film

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The Founders is a documentary film directed by Fisk Charlene and written by Carrie Schrader. Released in 2016, this documentary was screened in multiple film festivals all over the United States. This is a great story of 13 amateur women golfers who created the Women’s Professional Golf Association (WPGA), which eventually turned into the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA). The purpose of this film was to show how the LPGA was created and that it wanted to have the world recognize that women can also be great golfers. This film is for anyone who believes in the transformative power of defying the odds.

Women golfers were treated unfairly and the world of golf discriminated against them. The film started as both female and male golfers played together in the the All-American Championship in Chicago, but not against one another. The winner for the ladies division got $500 and the male winner got $10,000. Women golfers wanted to equalize the purses for winning, which led them to separate themselves from the males. That catalyst led to the formation of the Women’s Professional Golf Association in 1944. In 1950, the 13 amateur women golfers had gone through many obstacles in order to reach their goal of becoming a professional sport for women by creating the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA). The film showed that women golfers were unnoticed for many years and that the LPGA made a big impact on making them more visible. Once women golf was recognized as a professional sport, women were seen as great golfers, and they are now able to earn money by winning tournaments.

A review on The Founders by Violet Lucca discusses the good and bad about the film. “It explains that the LPGA was founded in 1950 and is one of the world’s longest-running women’s professional sports associations, and that it has attracted skilled female athletes of all races and classes the world over” (Lucca, 2016). Also mentioned in the article was that the LPGA never banned African Americans from playing and actively boycotted courses that didn’t permit them to enter the clubhouse. The Founders is a documentary that has a reenactment as well as interviews with the surviving founders of the LPGA. The subjects of the film are now elderly women who stood up against sexism years before the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. The film highlighted the financial problems of the LPGA’s early years. Women were forced to perform maintenance on the golf course, do the promotional work, and carpool between tournaments. The film discusses what the women had to face while playing golf. There was an incident where one of the top three female golfers in the U.S. was not allowed to enter the clubhouse on the course she was playing on in 1941. Shirley Spork, one of the founders, said, “Golf was a rich man’s game. You couldn’t compete unless you were part of an organization or private club.” This explains why it was not easy for women to play golf before the LPGA was formed. With no organization, they were not able to play unless they were part of a private club, but also they were not welcomed because it was considered a man’s game.

Swing Away

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Swing Away is a sports drama directed by Michael Nickles. The movie was released in certain theaters on May 7, 2016. This movie is about a professional golfer named Zoe Papadopoulos who had a meltdown on the last hole of a golf tournament and got suspended from the tour for it. She then travels to her grandparents’ village in Greece to get away from all the negative attention about her on the media. Being back in Greece, Zoe was able to regain control of her game and helped put the local golf course back in the hands of the villagers. The purpose of the movie is to teach about sportsmanship, the game of golf, and the cultures in Greece.

This is a good movie that presents a real life scenario of a golfer who couldn’t overcome her emotions after missing an important putt to force a playoff. Many golfers have gone through this, and it is great that she was able to turn her life around after her suspension. Zoe Papadopoulos was a professional golfer on the LPGA who had a mental breakdown and disrespected the association, the audience, and the golf course. During her suspension, she headed to her parents’ village in Greece and was able to participate in Greek customs with her grandparents. During her time in Greece, she mentored a ten year-old girl with her golf game. The public golf course in the village was in bad condition and Zoe was able to help the manager out and make the golf course more attractive. Along the way, the owner of the golf course did not accept Zoe as the pro and wanted to reconstruct the golf course into a five-star resort. The deal made was that the owner had to play against the 10 year-old girl that Zoe had been teaching. The girl won. The villagers were the owners of the golf course once again and Zoe headed back to America to play the rest of the tournaments on tour. The beginning of the movie portrayed a female golfer in a negative way, but it also gave much advice for women golfers.

A review of the movie Swing Away was written by Simi Horwitz. Swing Away was a sport and family movie that gives inspiration for female teens and golfers. The review discussed about the good and bad of the movie. The movie presented the female professional as emotional, strong, and community-oriented. While her suspension, she made progress with her golf game and helped the community of the village get their golf course back. Throughout the her suspension, Zoe learned about the power of resilience, heritage and second chances. The story of the movie was a great connection between the game of golf and Ancient Greece. It was mentioned that golf was formed in Ancient Greece. The film is very enjoyable and can be watched by any age in certain theaters. Mentioned in the article was a interesting fact about how “Swing Away was the first movie that featured a professional golfer as its heroine” (Horwitz, 2017). Compared to other sports, golf movies only had two films featuring females golfers, while there are 14 movies on male golfers.

Movies About Male Golfers

While the above films featured women golfers, the vast majority of films star male golfers. Some movies that feature male golfers are Caddyshack, Happy Gilmore, and The Greatest Game Ever Played. These movies mentioned and many more movies did not give the chance of having females as the main roles or any part in the movie about the game of golf. Caddyshack was directed by Harold Ramis and produced by Douglas Kenney. Happy Gilmore was directed by Dennis Dugan and Bill Paxton directed the Greatest Game Ever Played. Caddyshack and Happy Gilmore is a comedy and sports movie while the Greatest Game Ever Played was a drama, sports and history movie. This is to show that there are many golf movies only featuring male golfers and only two films were found including female golfers. This shows that not many female golfers are portrayed in movies and tv shows. If female golfers are shown in movies, they are shown in a negative way such as in Swing Away or on the side and usually not a big part of the golf story like in the movies where men are the main characters that were mentioned previously. Swing Away featured a professional woman golfer as the admiring figure. The Founders documentary showed the start of female golfers and the ladies professional organization.

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An article called I Just Want to Play explored women, sexism, and persistence in golf. This evidence connects to the fact that there are so many male golfer movies and few films featuring women golfers. There is a lack of women golfer representation in the media. In the early years of golf, there were barriers for women to play golf until the LPGA was made. Still with the Title IX law, women feel worthless as males are more popular in the media and in general to watch. The authors of this article wanted to discuss the barriers for women in golf and the strategies for them to play. They did a study of ten interviews, which consisted of recreational women golfers who faced discrimination on the golf course. They felt unwanted, ignored, and unnoticed on the course. Also mentioned in the article were ways to end gender-based discrimination in golf to make it more inviting for women by “having more of them work at golf courses, provide more merchandise gears, allow them to play from any tee grounds, and promote nine-hole play” (Mcginnis, 2005). Many women just want to play and so reducing gender barriers to play golf needs to happen. It should be the same in the media for female golfers to have the same amount of coverage as males.


All research has been presented to provide information about why female golfers are not portrayed enough in the media today specifically in films and shows. The Founders was a good documentary to show the creation of the LPGA and the start of recognition for female golfers. Swing Away was very inspirational and gave an impression to young females that golf can be played by females and they are able to overcome any obstacles that they face. The LPGA tour has made women golfers more recognized, but still today female golfers are not portrayed as often as male golfers are in the media in the United States. If discrimination between genders in golf make changes, golf could be the first towards equalizing genders in sports history and can lead to equal exposure between women and men in the media.

Learning Moments

One learning moment I had from this course was in Week 1. We had to read some course texts for our discussion post and what intrigued me the most was this article called “Why Students Can’t Google Their Way to the Truth”. It was one of the most interesting articles for me in this course. This article was mostly about fast checkers and how can students approach websites differently. You don’t realize that many people don’t pay attention to a website on if it is reliable or not. I have learned about choosing accurate and reliable sources for research papers before. At times I do check websites or articles if they are reliable, but at other times I just think there are good enough information to be true. What I learned most from the article was about understanding “fast-checkers”. I have never heard of fast-checkers before and the strategies and techniques that that they do, fascinates me. Fast-checkers has three strategies which are to read laterally, research more about the subject they are reading, and they scroll to the bottom first to look more at the reliable sources. I am thinking about trying these strategies and it can help me in the future with researching websites and how to learn more about a subject. This article made me realize that I am glad I pay attention to which websites are reliable when it comes to research so I am able to have the knowledge of the correct information. It also helps with figuring out which websites are reliable and teaching new techniques for researching.

Another learning moment was in Week 6 from a course text called “News is bad for you – and giving up reading it will make you happier”. I always thought the news was a good thing, but through this article, it could be a bad thing. I don’t often watch or read the news. I only look to see what is the weather locally and if anything big is happening in Portland. Also, I like to know news about my home state which is Hawaii. The article mentions that the news is misleading, irrelevant, toxic to our body, increases cognitive error, and etc. It is interesting to learn that news consumption could be a disadvantage and lead to health problems. Mentioned in the article that the news can trigger the limbic system and makes your body become stress. The news can also disrupts concentration and can weaken comprehension. In a 2001 study, two scholars in Canada showed that comprehension declines as the number of hyperlinks in a document increases. Also, some news has flaws that make people think it is right. I was taught that the news is important to watch and listen, but throughout this course, not watching the news could be a good idea. Watching the news can lead to many emotions from learning about something bad or good from the news. Staying away from reading about the news could be a good thing because you won’t have to find out how corrupted a certain part of the world is. I don’t usually watch the news and I am going to leave it that way because some news are not true also. From what I learned from the article will help me make decisions whether I will read the news information or not, and if will be benefit me or not.

Work Cited

Dugan, Dennis, et al. Happy Gilmore. Special ed., Universal Studios, 1996.

Fisk, Charlene, et al. The Founders. Level 33 Entertainment, 2017.

Horwitz, Simi. “Film Review: Swing Away.” Film Journal International, 11 Oct. 2017

Lucca, Violet. “The Founders.” Sight and Sound, vol. 26, no. 9, 2016, pp. 75–76.

Mcginnis, L, et al. “I Just Want to Play – Women, Sexism, and Persistence in Golf.” Journal Of Sport &Amp; Social Issues, vol. 29, no. 3, 2005, pp. 313–337.

Nickles, Michael, director. Swing Away. Freestyle Digital Media, 7 May 2016.

Paxton, Bill., et al. The Greatest Game Ever Played. Walt Disney Home Entertainment, 2005.                                                                               =CP71113416230001451&context=L&vid=PSU&search_scope=. all&tab=default_tab&lang=en_US

Ramis, Harold., et al. Caddyshack. Warner Home Video, 1980.

Artists are Kooky Eccentrics… Right?


Artists have an unusual relationship with popular media; first of all, it’s kind of difficult to locate many artists in pop culture in the first place, a fact that I fully came to understand after searching for examples of artists in a number of sources. In movies and TV shows, artists are largely unpopular characters to be found; I had to dig deep and think somewhat abstractly before I came across some suitable characters for my argument. And when they are present in the media, they’re also very commonly portrayed as either eccentric weirdos, or lower class people.


Is this really an issue? I mean, artists really are often living life to their own beat.. Many artists don’t follow the conventional rules that our society has decided are the right ones all the time, and they often don’t make a ton of money. I know people like this in my real life, and I’m sure most other people do, too. I mean, I’m an Art student myself, so I’m familiar with the stereotype.  So what’s the big deal? Why is it an issue to only ever portray artists like they’re the misfits in society, never the norm?

In popular media in the United States, I think there’s a bit of a chicken and the egg situation happening. It happens to all kinds groups of people, but I’m going to focus on the artists here for a moment. A lot of people in this world are only exposed to a large number of things exclusively through their television, or as of the last 20 years or so, their computer or smartphone. It’s somewhat reasonable, there’s not enough time or resources to experience everything first hand. It just can become an issue what that’s all they have to base their ideas and opinions on for all kinds of things, and people. It has very real consequences of how people perceive things in their lives. What I’m trying to get at here is that when they see the typical “starving artist” being portrayed in their favorite TV show, that stereotype can honestly change their impressions of people that they perceive as fitting in that box. Basically, if the TV is treating artists like poor weirdos, eventually that will come to pass and have an impact on the lives of real people.

Exhibit A: Titanic


The Titanic is an epic romance story released in the 1990s that focuses more on the lives of two passengers of the ship than the disaster itself. A wealthy upper class lady named Rose is due to be married off to someone of her status when she finds Jack. He’s one of the lower deck passengers, and he doesn’t have much money to his name. Jack is an artist, which is why he’s relevant here.   We know this because Rose asks him to draw her “like one of his French girls”, which he does so gladly. The film depicts him as very skilled, drawing Rose with a level of dedication and intensity that really only belongs to a master of his craft (Also Leonardo Dicaprio does a great job with his acting in this scene, which helps a lot). Jack is also seen to very clever and an all around upstanding guy, but Rose’s family would never approve of him because he is both poor and an artist. Only the best noblemen for their darling daughter Rose.  Surprisingly, this sentiment hasn’t really changed for a lot of people over the course of roughly 110 years, and a lot of parents wouldn’t be pleased if their daughter brought home an artist today. Living in Portland, it’s easy to forget that there’s such a stigma against those that are passionate for the arts because it’s such a progressive city that really supports its artists, but there are still plenty of people in this world that think it’s a complete waste of you time to invest in any kind of art related skill at all.

Basically, everyone but Rose discards Jack as being a worthless waste of space despite his numerous skills and generally likeable personality, all because he’s an artist and poor. I think part of the reason Rose falls for him because she knew his personality before his background, and not the other way around. Chances are, Rose would have ignored him too, has she known he was poor if the world in Titanic is anything like the real one. Then again, there was totally room for Jack on that board so who knows?

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It’s hard to say what the causation/correlation relationship is between being poor and being an artist, but it’s definitely fair to say that they’re often found together in popular media.


Exhibit B: Edward Scissorhands

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Edward scissorhands was a not-so-obvious choice for this project at first glance, because when I think of Edward Scissorhands, my first thought is “weird sort of Christmasy, sort of Halloweeny move about that guy with the scissorhands”. My second thought is “Yup, that’s a Tim Burton film”.  ‘Artist’ was definitely not the first word that popped into my mind in any case. I quickly changed my mind when I gave it further consideration, though.

It’s a quirky movie about a really lonely scientist who lives in a mansion overlooking a small suburban town. Out of this loneliness the scientist comes up with the idea of creating a human being to fill that empty void in his life. Instead of doing it the old fashioned way, he literally creates a person with various machines, parts and pieces, and of course love. And so Edward was ‘born’. However, just before the scientist could finish Edward, he dies, leaving him with clumsy scissors for hands. Edward is found by a kindly middle age woman involved in a pyramid scheme from the suburban town below, and is takes him into her home. Eventually it’s discovered that Edward is greatly skilled at using his scissorhands to  make things of beauty. He starts out with trimming hedges into amazing topiaries, and then graduated to doing pet grooming and hair styling on the women of the town.

I like this movie for this topic because both Edward and his creator can be considered to be artists. The scientist designed Edward and created him out of love, just as many artsits and graphic designers do with their own work.  Edward is a more spontaneous kind of artist, and doesn’t seem to need to have much of a planning stage before he gets down to the creation. It’s almost like the scientist passed on his ability to create to Edward, and Edward is carrying out his legacy in his own way; Art creating art. It’s also noteworthy to mention that they were both very much outcasts in this strange fictional world. We didn’t learn much about him in the film, but the scientist clearly never fit into society, living on all by his lonesome in a great looming mansion, forced to create someone that would accept him. Edward is of course an outcast because he’s never been exposed to anything; everything is new and a bit scary to him. He almost comes from another world in the context of this suburban town. His personality heavily contrasts with the other people in this film as well. He’s depicted as a quiet, introspective individual who’s probably very sensitive and naive. I wouldn’t say these kinds of traits are associated with an artist, but I do think that they’re often associated with weird people which is telling.

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 I’m not sure if it was intentional or not, but I’m also intrigued by how Edward’s scissorhands, the tools that he uses to make his art, are the very things that keep him from being able to get close to other people. Whenever he tries, he ends up hurting the people around him, or himself. It’s like the thing that allows him to be so successful and happy is also the thing that holds him back and the thing that makes others question his worth in the first place.


Exhibit C: Grace and Frankie


This is a comedy show that aired on Netflix a few years ago. A rough synopsis would be that two elderly women who aren’t fond of each other due to a personality clash end up living with each other after their husbands declare that they’re gay, and that they’re marrying one another. Grace is a stuck up prim and proper type who used to own a major beauty product company, while Frankie is the embodiment of the classic kooky art teacher stereotype. Some qualifying examples include:

  • Has her own art studio in the house
  • Teaches ex-cons how to paint
  • Smokes an obscene amount of weed
  • Has a sizable collection of penis shaped vases
  • Likes to “go with the flow”
  • Wears a lot of loose tie-dye clothing
  • Wears chunky gemstone jewelry
  • And many others

Grace and Frankie get the idea to create their own company at some point, and it quickly becomes evident that Grace is going to be the one who calls the shots. If Frankie even tries, she’s immediately shut down because her ideas are too weird, or she’s too weird in the first place. Her main contribution to the business was the initial idea in the first place, and the art on the packaging of the product, and after that she was more or less ignored.

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She is also shown to be unable to stick to something; she’s a vegetarian,but sometimes eats meat and constantly eats junk food. Part of that is the fact that she’s also representing the stoner stereotype, but that’s another stereotype that is often seen in association with artists as well.

Art Movies?


So what about Art Movies? Don’t movies that explore the fabulous lives of artists like Van Gogh and Caravaggio show them in a favorable light? The answer is yes, they absolutely do, but it kind of doesn’t count. First of all, these people are only put on a pedestal today. They weren’t always the historical figures that we seem them as now. In their own time, they were seen as just as eccentric and weird as any other not very well known artist of today. Second of all, these movies are hugely embellished and over emphasized, but they’re still based on the lives of real people, while I’m focusing on fictional artists. And thirdly, most people don’t watch art movies. They’re usually kind of weird and not all that consumer friendly, sort of an acquired taste. Basically, they’re not really “pop culture” at that point, so I don’t really think that a movie that idealizes an artist like Van Gogh is really saying anything about society.

So, are artists receiving the short end of the stick in media? Kind of. The vast majority of examples of artists on TV right now are mostly cast aside as weird people who don’t abide by the normal societal rules. It matters a lot to me because I’m living that life; I’m paying a lot of money, and I’m spending a ridiculous amount of time dedicated to becoming a better artist. I want to hone my craft, I want to become better and I want to be able to identify as an artist without feeling shameful or guilty because it’s a “waste of my time”. Despite having two other minors in more “sensible” fields, I’ve still had people tell me I’m wasting my effort on such a useless degree. I want other artists to feel like it isn’t a stupid decision follow their passion if they feel like they have to willpower to make it work.

If we only ever see strange weird people being artists in our media, that’s the only thing that’s ever going to happen. I understand fully they there are outcast artists, but they certainly aren’t all going to fit in that mold, contrary to how we’re seeing them now on TV. Art is important; creativity is vital to a functional society. If we want to have a social environment that fosters a positive relationship with creative people, then yeah, this kind of representation needs to change, or at least have a bit more diversity.


Learning Moments

Throughout the course of this class, I learned a few things about myself, the most prominent of which is the fact that I don’t tend to agree with the majority of the opinions that I would read from my classmates. At least about the articles we would read in the given week, anyway. We read “The News is Bad For You” by Rolf Dobelli and when I read it I was pretty unenthused by the author’s opinion that we should stop consuming altogether and the world would be a better place (paraphrasing, but that honestly was the jist that I got). However, I was surprised that a lot of my classmates were totally on board. “The article “News is Bad For You” was actually my favorite article to read in this weeks texts. This is mostly because I definitely reside with the words written in this article- and I’ve said those things my whole life. News is DEPRESSING. News causes unnecessary anxiety. News, for the most part, focuses on the wrong part of the information being shared. We’re so quick to believe every word we see in the news, and we often get emotions while watching the news that we don’t or shouldn’t need to feel about certain situations. We get scared to fly in a plane because of the Malaysia plane going missing, we get scared to do a marathon in case a terrorist bombs it, etc. Unnecessary fear spoon fed to us by the news.” – week 6.  Where I saw a loss of agency and empathy, they saw an opportunity to escape the more depressing side of being caught up in the news. It was an interesting experience to be at such polar ends of the spectrum, especially because I’m certainly not the most up to date person in the world.

The second thing I learned was just how under represented artists are in media! I know I already discussed it in the meat of the post above, but I really did have a hard time finding examples, especially from the library’s resources. My initial plan was to also include a section on the differences between male and female artists in popular media, but I couldn’t find a large enough sample to make any kind of conclusive deductions with what I had.

Overall, I had a better experience than I initially thought I would have, and I really found myself fully engaged in writing my weekly blog posts and reading the articles (even if I didn’t agree with them… maybe especially if I didn’t agree with them). Before this class, I was very turned off by online courses, and now I’ll definitely be giving more of them a try in my college career.  


Art Imitates Art, Steve Chagollan, Variety, Jan 8, 2001, Vol.381(7), p.S8,


Art in the Movies, Jim Gaylord,


Edward Scissorhands – Tim Burton – 2005


Grace and Frankie – Netflix (Firm),, et al. Grace and Frankie. Santa Monica, CA: Lionsgate, 2016.


TITANIC 1999 – James Cameron – United States Titanic. (1999). [DVD] United States: James Cameron.


This Is America: Breaking Down A Masterpiece

This Is America: Breaking Down A Masterpiece

This is America. Don’t catch you slippin’ now. On May 5, 2018 rapper Childish Gambino, moniker of the multi-talented Donald Glover, came out of his musical retirement to show the world a somber and viral retrospective of the country. With allusions to race relations, gun laws, and insights on how mass media and the internet has changed social behaviors. I questioned where a young African-American male like myself might fit into all this. How Gambino told me and everyone else, however, will go down as one of the all time great performance pieces ever made.

video credited to Donald Glover

This video is admittedly jarring and very confusing on the first view. Much akin to many great works of art, it is only upon multiple viewings that one can truly understand the genius of any medium. What my Big Picture Blog Post is about is the depiction of African-Americans, their history in America, and their current place in society through the guise of this extraordinary viral video.

As of writing this piece, just a mere sixteen days later, the aforementioned video has garnered 172,868,731+ views on Youtube ( and currently sits at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 music charts for the second week in a row ( To quantify, this video has been seen so many times that it accounts for more than half of the US population ( So what has made this video so popular? In
essence, it is a depiction of mass hysteria and chaos choreographed (Sherrie Silver) and directed (Hiro Murai) in such a succinct way that it can give off an eerie feeling of guilt and self-reflection. Here is a recent example.

On May 18, 2018 in the Houston, Texas metropolitan area 17-year-old Dimitrios Pagourtzis opened fire on the students and staff of Santa Fe High School, murdering ten people. On May 19, 2018, not 24 hours later, the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle was televised at St Georges Chapel, at Windsor Castle in the UK. The juxtaposition of these two events would make it seem like they are unrelated. But in this short time news coverage, Twitter (6 million tweets,, and Youtube (72 million live stream views, were flooded with traffic. 30 million people watched in the US alone ( For context that outperforms the Oscars (26.5 million) and more than doubles the season finale of Game of Thrones (12.1 million) the highly popular television series. How was it that society could switch so quickly and causally from mourning the tragedy of a school shooting to the jubilation and fervor of watching the marriage of royals outside the country? And what does this have to do with Childish Gambino’s This Is America video?

Gambino depicts this quick change of focus in his video along with other cultural depictions of America in his lyrics.

We see this in the opening sequence and intro chorus of the song:

”Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Yeah, yeah, yeah, go, go away
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Yeah, yeah, yeah, go, go away” 

The upbeat music sung by the choir and accompanied by the lone guitarist is adverse to the feelings of dread that is about to take place. The lyrics exclaiming something should go away the yeah yeah section mocking the way someone refrains from hearing something they hear at nauseam. And then the gunshot heard round the world. It is loud and a bit startling against the jovial notes of the introduction. Here we find our first strokes of hidden genius. The pose.


The pose is contorted, probably unfamiliar, and a bit awkward. Feelings you might get when someone crosses the street after meeting eyes with you walking down the same sidewalk. What about this pose is so genius you might ask? 


The picture above is the depiction of Jim Crow: “Throughout the 1830s and ’40s, the white entertainer Thomas Dartmouth Rice (1808-1860) performed a popular song-and-dance act supposedly modeled after a slave. He named the character Jim Crow. Rice darkened his face, acted like a buffoon, and spoke with an exaggerated and distorted imitation of African-American Vernacular English. In his Jim Crow persona, he also sang “Negro ditties” such as “Jump Jim Crow.”

Rice was not the first white comic to perform in blackface, but he was the most popular of his time, touring both the United States and England. As a result of Rice’s success, “Jim Crow” became a common stage persona for white comedians’ blackface portrayals of African-Americans.” (

This depiction of Gambino was purposely put into place to draw from the stereotypes of black on black violence. Without time to breathe Gambino hands off another shot of brilliant storytelling. The handling of the gun.

Graced by a bowing subject entering from the left, the gun is placed on a pedestal like red velvet sheet and taken away (pictured top).  The body of the executed man is simultaneously dragged out of frame to the right like a mere prop. This being a nod to gun violence and the value placed on the weaponry over the lives they’ve taken. These things however take place out of focus. Shooed away into the subconscious of the video as Gambino with a twisted expression begins to dance taking your eye off of what has just transpired (pictured bottom). Soon a man runs from out of frame, a car with passengers sitting outside the windows rolls by, all the while the beat and baseline get more aggressive and Gambino states:

“This is America (skrrt, skrrt, woo)
Don’t catch you slippin’ now (ayy)

Look how I’m livin’ now
Police be trippin’ now (woo)

Yeah, this is America (woo, ayy)

Guns in my area (word, my area)
I got the strap (ayy, ayy)
I gotta carry ‘em”

Yeah, yeah, I’ma go into this (ugh)

Yeah, yeah, this is guerrilla (woo)

Yeah, yeah, I’ma go get the bag
Yeah, yeah, or I’ma get the pad

Yeah, yeah, I’m so cold like, yeah (yeah)
I’m so dope like, yeah (woo)

We gon’ blow like yeah (straight up, uh)

These are allusions to police brutality and the feeling that no one is inherently safe. Even if you call the police you have to protect yourself with your own strap (gun). These lines are spoken as school kids join Gambino in his dancing. Popular dances in America are in abundance and done almost mockingly as more signs of chaos unfold in the background. There are several more cars this time, looted and broken down, someone on one of the cars has a money gun and shoots it into the air “making it rain” A brown and white chicken sit on the floor. A depiction of how African-Americans are shown to be particular fans of fried chicken. Yet the duality of one being brown and white raises the question of if there really is a difference outside the feathers. There is also the line “this is guerrilla” which refers to guerrilla warfare which is surmised to be in the spirit of a small militia fighting back against a much bigger body of power. This is accompanied by the line “I’ma go get the bag yeah, yeah, or I’ma get the pad” Which is suggested to be a nod to mainstream rappers obsession with drugs stating right after in the lyrics cold, dope and blow, all adjectives used to describe different types of drugs while being synonymous with saying some thing is awesome. We then cut to a room with a choir dressed in maroon. Gambino enters comically, dancing along with the choir as they sing, swaying in to the upbeat tone of the intro chorus until he seemingly realizes his situation and then… 

Gambino guns down the choir, symbolic to the 2015 Charleston church shooting. A terrorist attack by white supremacist Dylann Roof who murdered nine African-Americans at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Gambino again hands off the gun to another red cloth and walks pass a cop car insisting to not get caught slippin’. The crowd running in the background now grows enough to be audible. As Gambino looks on the chaos the camera spins to reveal an even more disturbing scene pictured below.

A man is thrown from a bridge, fires have been lit, all the while the focus is on Gambino and the children dancing. The kids following his moves and celebrating seemingly oblivious to the carnage happening around them. The beat is back to being aggressive and the camera pans to some students filming on cell phones as the lyrics play:

“Look how I’m geekin’ out (hey)
I’m so fitted (I’m so fitted, woo)
I’m on Gucci (I’m on Gucci)
I’m so pretty (yeah, yeah)
I’m gon’ get it (ayy, I’m gon’ get it)
Watch me move (blaow)

This a celly (ha)
That’s a tool (yeah)
On my Kodak (woo, Black)

Ooh, know that (yeah, know that, hold on)

Get it (get it, get it)

Ooh, work it (21)

Hunnid bands, hunnid bands, hunnid bands (hunnid bands)
Contraband, contraband, contraband (contraband)

I got the plug in Oaxaca (woah)
They gonna find you like “blocka” (blaow)”

The beginning lines are a testament to the self involved nature of social media as the kids dance and students sitting atop the bridge film them. Then we are hit with the lines: “This a celly (ha) That’s a tool (yeah)” This is an homage to the March 18, 2018 shooting of Stephon Clark, a African-American who was shot eight times in the back in his backyard in Sacramento, California. The police officers who shot him assumed he was responsible for local area robberies and was armed with a gun (“tool”) but was later found to be only his Iphone (“celly”). This paired with the students filming may be an a direct metaphor to the multiple incidents of the public filming police officers and the subsequent “rise” of acts of police brutality and misconduct against African-Americans and other minorities that followed.

The video continues with a man riding a pale horse in the background. His head covered in a black cloth. The biblical meaning behind which is an omen of the coming end of the earth. Gambino than has a brief pause in the video where he climbs to the top of a run down car as the video pans out to its conclusion. The dark annals of the same factory where Gambino runs toward the camera chased by the obscure figures who gain on him as the video comes to a close stating:

“You just a black man in this world
You just a barcode, ayy
You just a black man in this world
Drivin’ expensive foreigns, ayy

You just a big dawg, yeah
I kenneled him in the backyard
No probably ain’t life to a dog
For a big dog”

This powerful ending sequence is the last remnants of the country critique. They display that even with all the luxuries Gambino is able to afford and how far he can get away from typical life as a celebrity. He in the end cannot escape from the fact that he is black and will always be deemed and looked at differently.


Gambino, in a sense, plays the role of America depicting its unending violence to a quick reprieve of entertainment at the expense of minority culture and those who can be undermined and silenced. To all those that find themselves in that group this song has a message louder than any gunshots. This is America. Don’t catch you slippin’ now.


Works cited:

ChildishGambinoVEVO. “Childish Gambino – This Is America (Official Video).”, YouTube, 5 May 2018,

“Music: Top 100 Songs | Billboard Hot 100 Chart.”, Billboard, 26 May 2018,

“Countries in the World by Population (2018).” Philippines Population (2018) – Worldometers, United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, 2017,

“British Royal Wedding: More than Six Million Tweets on Prince Harry, Meghan Markle’s Big Day; Thrice More than William-Kate Wedding.” Firstpost, Firstpost, 20 May 2018,
Poeter, Damon. “72 Million Watch Royal Wedding Live on YouTube.” PCMAG, PCMAG.COM, 6 May 2011,,2817,2385046,00.asp.
Grady, Constance. “Almost 30 Million People Watched the Royal Wedding on US Broadcast Alone.” Vox, Vox, 21 May 2018,
Pilgrim, David. “Who Was Jim Crow?” Are Negros Closer to Apes Than to Humans? – Letters to the Jim Crow Museum – Jim Crow Museum – Ferris State University, Ferris State University, Sept. 2012,
“Childish Gambino – This Is America.” Genius, 6 May 2018,