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Reflection

9 Mar

 

     Before taking this class, I considered myself to be pretty critical of the media I consumed, but I now realize I took a mainly dominant reading of whatever I watched.  I found myself thinking the same way that the participants in the Lion King study article did, when they said things like “it’s just entertainment”, and “she’s over analyzing a children’s movie”.

Although i started my analysis on gender portrayals, I couldn’t help but to branch out and talk about other topics that we covered.  One of the most interesting topics that I think this class brought up was the idea or ‘whiteness’.  We can all easily understand under representations, over representations, and the negative ways certain groups are portrayed in media, but Tim Wise and the article on ‘Friends’ really helped me understand the concept of whiteness in more detail (I went home and watched Tim Wise’s entire speech because I thought he was great!)
     Every time a new topic was discussed in class, I found myself recognizing different examples of it almost immediately (even to the point where I now have started irritating my girlfriend when I continuously point out my newfound oppositional reading standpoints).  If there was one main thing that I got from this class, is that it is our responsibility as consumers of mass media to take a negotiated view- understand its entertainment value but realize that it’s also a business, and most producers will create what sells.  According to the A.C. Nielsen Co., the average American watches more than 4 hours of TV each day (or 28 hours/week), and it is obviously crucial that things like cultivation theory are studied and taught so that we don’t end up like Luke Wilson in ‘Idiocracy’ (an absolutely awful movie, but serves as a good example of the epitome of hypodermic needle theory).  I’m glad I took this class, enjoyed it, and honestly feel like I am better equipped to digest media using a more educated and critical standpoint.
     
     

Huge-o

2 Mar

Summary:

I watched Hugo the more recent movie, which was a film about a boy in the 1930’s who lives in a train station in France.  The young boy was orphaned by the death of his father, and ended up taking a job tending the clocks in the train station from his uncle, in order to avoid being sent to an orphanage.  Throughout the course of the film the boy’s mission is to piece together a robotic toy his father was working to fix before he died, and ended up finding out a lot about the original creator who was one of the first major directors in the history of film.  It was as much about the history of cinema as it was about the story of the boy’s hardships and search for a family.

Analysis/Reaction:

I actually did not see many specific issues in this film to critique, and couldn’t pull out anything blatantly stereotypical or offensive in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, etc.  The only thing I noticed was that the only main character what was overweight was the boy’s uncle, who was portrayed as an alcoholic and really just an ugly person in general, who was found dead later on in the movie.  I’ve noticed that many times filmmakers find it necessary to depict an antagonist with some kind of a physical marking (a scar, obesity, eye-patch, etc.)  In this case a dominant reading would see the uncle as an obese, irresponsible, careless alcoholic who didn’t care about anyone or himself.  But looking at it with a more critical point of view, being overweight in the real world says nothing about one’s moral character.  After I realized this, I started to think about other negative portrayals of overweight characters in children’s movies, and found this blog:

http://www.1up.com/do/blogEntry?bId=6886658

In this case, the person that analyzed Disney films found that significantly more fat Disney characters were portrayed as evil rather than good.  The findings in this case may not be very critical, but it made me think about how many times overweight characters are portrayed in negative roles in many movies.

Oceans (11 characters, but 5 important white ones)

2 Mar

Summary:

I watched the movie Oceans 11 (2001), which is the first in Steven Soderbergh’s trilogy.  I thought this would be a good movie since there were so many different characters, and wanted to take a look at what kinds of characters were cast and the different roles they portrayed.  It is about a man named Danny Ocean who assembles a team of eleven people to pull off a huge heist of three casinos.

Analysis/Reaction:

The first thing I noticed about the general plot and characters was that Danny Ocean (George Clooney) was an older white man, who assembled a diverse team to help him perform this heist.  Although there were two major black actors (Bernie Mac and Don Cheadle), they were not listed on the promotional movie poster as lead characters:

File:Ocean's Eleven 2001 Poster.jpg

I found myself thinking of the hegemony:  although the movie had a cast of whites, blacks, an Asian, Mexican, etc, the lead actors/actresses all happened to be white.  The two black actors played important roles, but they were not mentioned as “leading” roles.  The Asian in the movie (Shaobo Qin) played a small part as “The Amazing” Yen, who was a circus-performer type of contortionist, which seemed pretty stereotypical to me.  When first watching this movie I thought nothing of it, but after taking a more oppositional reading, I would not be thrilled if I was an Asian-American man and this was how my culture was portrayed.  I realize that the fictional team of casino-robbers chose this type of character due to the difficult maneuvers he had to pull off while robbing the safe, but I don’t really think it mattered.  I noticed something we talked about in class – that the characteristics of whites are much more diverse than others in media (there were young, old, smart, and stupid whites in the movie, yet only a few characteristics of other races).  I do think the film did a good job of being fun and entertaining, and even employed positive relationships between different races and ethnicities.  But as always, there were things we talked about in class that were portrayed in this film, no matter how lighthearted they were meant to be.

Even a CEO faced discrimination

17 Feb

Summary/Analysis:

This week I watched an hour of Wipeout on truTv and ­­­­Jeopardy and Undercover Boss on major broadcast networks.  Wipeout is a reality show about contestants facing an obstacle course and in this episode various couples competed to get to the end of the course by adding their separate times together.  When the announcers said there were a total of 12 couples I was interested in finding out how the 12 couples portrayed gender role stereotypes and whether or not they would cast any non-traditional couples.  What I noticed was that most of them portrayed the traditional male/female roles, with the exception of one gay male couple.  I saw this as sort of a “token” minority, meaning that in a crowd of stereotypically traditional heterosexual couples, there had to be one gay couple to represent that group.  What I noticed outside sexuality however, was that there were two or three Asian couples, but no African-American couples.  I thought this was particularly interesting since the show obviously tried to portray minorities when it came to sexual preference but not when it came to race.  Jeopardy is a trivia show, and I really didn’t find anything regarding portrayals of certain identities, as the characters cast on the show are truly selected based on their intelligence.

Undercover boss is a show where a CEO of a major corporation goes “undercover” to explore the inner workings of the business at the white collar level, posing as a new employee going through the training process while discovering problems in the business.  In the first five minutes of the show, the CEO of Checkers/Rally’s explained in an interview how he has overcome bullying as a child due to being a racial minority.  In the middle of the show during a dinner break, a woman told the CEO her story of a difficult past and the fact that she is gay.  Much like the CEO did in the beginning of the show, she spoke about overcoming obstacles and much scrutiny for her differences.  I was surprised again this week that a seemingly simple show could provide good examples of a producer’s attempts to portray a minority view (sexual orientation in this case) of how life is for them.  I saw this particular episode’s theme as sort of a prosocial way to encourage awareness and tolerance of people who are different from the majority.

Response:

After watching these two shows, one on a major broadcast network and one on a cable channel, I did not see too much of a difference in the content and sexual portrayals in the shows themselves, but more in the commercials.  The broadcast network commercials seemed heavy on advertising entertainment, like other movies and television shows on the same network, while the cable channel seemed to have more expensive products in their commercials.  What I got out of Wipeout was that often producers try to portray minority characters, but it comes off (to me) like they are just one token minority put there for that purpose only.  In a dominant reading these characters would portray a diverse cast of characters that fairly represent our culture, but in my critical reading I saw them as being strategically placed in the shows to give the sense of diversity, although I have to admit I don’t know what else they could do differently in order for me not see it this way.  I do understand how research has found that among black children, there is a low sense of ‘group vitality’, because their group seems less important since they are underrepresented in media.  If you apply this to people of different sexual orientations and other minorities, I can see how their group vitality would suffer due to this lack of representation in media.  As I watched Undercover Boss, however, it was clear to me that some producers seem more aware of their social responsibility to not only represent minority characters, but to do so in a way that provides insight and encourage the audience be more accepting toward them, by actually talking about the issues and hardships these minorities face.

 

The Shark Tank

3 Feb

Summary/Analysis

I watched The Shark Tank, which is a reality show where entrepreneurs enter a room and pitch their new products to a panel of star investors, hoping to get them to invest in their company.  The Shark Tank opened with a man pitching a guitar gadget and said, “We all want to play the guitar for one reason: To meet chicks!”  This statement was one that I would have overlooked if I wasn’t consciously looking for gender and sexuality content in the show, but I realized how that statement assumed that all guitar players are men, and all men just want to get chicks!  How do statements like this make women feel?  Although his comment may not have been a specific choice by the producers, it still exemplified gender stereotypes in our everyday conversations.

The second entrepreneur pitched his fragrance called “Money”, while employing two barely-dressed females to stand next to the table of perfume and colognes, who served no purpose other than something for viewers to look at.  And since this man had both ‘his’ and ‘her’ fragrances, I thought it was interesting that they chose two females to assist instead of one of each gender to represent both fragrance lines.

The third entrepreneur was a middle-aged man who walked in with his teenage niece and wife.  This product was for lighted patches for back pockets of pants, and they all turned around to shake their butts for the panel to show off their patches.  The interesting thing here was the attention the camera paid to the teenage girl’s butt over the middle-aged man and woman next to her.

The fourth entrepreneur to step into the room was one type of character that always seems to make an appearance in The Shark Tank, who was an attractive woman showing lots of cleavage, who was pitching her bars of soap.  I saw this as a blatant example of the ‘male gaze’, especially since her product was lacking compared to the others, and one panel member referred to her as a “blonde bombshell”.

 

Response

As I turned on The Shark Tank, I expected it to be difficult to single out anything noteworthy of gender and sexual identity.  But after looking at it in a very critical point of view, it seemed as each new person came up to pitch their product they each did their part to exemplify stereotypes and marginalize certain groups.

I saw no explicit differences in how the panel members spoke to genders differently, and most gender-stereotyped language came from unscripted conversations, but there were also a few examples of sexuality that were obviously came from a director’s decision (who they cast).

This show made me realize that no matter what type of programming you’re watching, if it’s prime-time on a major network, there are multiple ways producers find to insert material to objectify women and cater toward the male gaze.

Sex sells… even for a Toyota Camry?

27 Jan

Summary:

For this assessment I looked at two Rolling Stone magazines and one InStyle.  Rolling Stone is a “US-based magazine devoted to music, liberal politics, and popular culture that is published every two weeks” (Wikipedia), while “InStyle is a monthly women’s fashion magazine published in the United States by Time Inc. Along with advertising, the magazine offers articles about beauty, fashion, home, entertaining, charitable endeavors and celebrity lifestyles” (Wikipedia).  The ads in Rolling Stone seemed to be mostly directed at men, but also had a few that were obviously meant for women.  The InStyle magazine ads were all directed toward the readers, who are women.

Analysis/Response:

Looking at magazine advertisements was a little more difficult to critique, since there is only one image to look at instead of all the elements that a television show offers.  The InStyle ads were all about beauty, and how to attain beauty.  Women want to look good, and companies know they are willing to pay to try to attain it.  The Rolling Stone ads were noticeably catered toward the ‘male gaze’ we talked about last week.  One ad that proved this particularly well was an ad for a Toyota Camry.  The car isn’t even a sports car, yet included a picture of the neck of a shirtless female juxtaposed with the picture of the car.  I really couldn’t understand how it made sense, other than the fact that the female at the top would catch the attention of a man, who may otherwise skim over the picture of the boring family sedan below it.

Throughout the magazines I noticed the trend that seems to be common in almost all pop-culture magazines, which was the focus on attractive, seductive, and beautiful women in many ads.  It seems to me that since print ads have to jump out at the audience on such a basic level, that everything from cars, vodka, clothes, and chewing gum must have a very attractive (mostly female) person posing with the product in some way.  The women in InStyle seemed to be depicted as experts on fashion and make-up, who are encouraging other women to buy the products because they know best.  The women in Rolling Stone magazine seemed to intentionally be depicted as mostly sex objects (either blatantly or subtly).  The main thing that I noticed after looking at these magazines was that it looks like the advertisers really don’t care about how they portray gender roles and sexism, because their bottom line is for the advertisement to be effective, even if it reinforces cultural stereotypes.

Look at those abs!

21 Jan

Summary:

I watched another episode of Jersey Shore this week for another analysis.  This one showed the crew doing their typical day-to-day activities like going to the gym, working at a tee-shirt store, and hitting the clubs.  This episode focused on Vinny’s problems with struggling with clinical anxiety and wanting to possibly leave the Jersey Shore house.  Pauly D. has a major “issue” when he sunburns his face and doesn’t know what to do, but ends up drinking it off at the club later on, where the normal drama ensues.  Guys search for the women, and the women put themselves in compromising positions.

Analysis:

Throughout the episode I noticed how the males are portrayed as powerful and show dominance over women by taking advantage of their drunken states and fulfilling their male interests by taking them home for a one-night-stand.  At one point one of the girls says “I don’t know who I’m gonna make out with, but it’s gonna be good!”  This was a perfect summary of how the girls in the show are sexualized, even doing it to themselves.  This episode (like many) reminded me of the ‘male gaze’ in film, where the camera lingers on the girls in bikinis and lingerie, which is obviously meant to appeal to the men watching.  But on the other hand I think it also employs a type of ‘female gaze’ since women make up probably more than half of the viewing audience, since the show is full of hyper-masculine guys with huge muscles, without shirts on most of the time as eye-candy for the women in the audience.

The commercials breaking up this show were mostly about weight loss products and a few acne products.  This makes sense because people watching Jersey Shore are constantly viewing fit bodies and not much clothing, leading many people to become self-conscious of their own bodies and wanting to look like the people in the show.  I probably wouldn’t have noticed this trend normally, but since I paid attention to the commercials it was easy to spot these patterns.

Reaction:

As the episodes of Jersey shore seem like they all have the same type of storyline and portray men and women the same ways, it was interesting for me to pay attention to the commercials, which tells you a little more about the audience who watch it.  The audience (or target demographic) are interested in working on their bodies and are concerned about their appearance (or at least after seeing so many abs and tans in a half hour).  I saw that there was not only a male gaze but it also seems to focus on a female viewer’s perspective.

The “Smash Room”

13 Jan

I just watched an episode of Jersey Shore for the first time, because I knew it would be a good start for a blog post.  And it definitely didn’t fail to provide me with a few criticisms.  The basic premise of the show is that a group of young friends living on the shore of New Jersey get filmed for a reality show.  They all live in one house, and don’t really do anything other than go out to clubs, get drunk, and come back home to have sex (with strangers or each other).  Lots of drunks, lots of drama, and lots of sex.  I now see why it’s appealing to many people – you can watch all their debauchery and sexual mischievousness without having to live it yourself.  As millions of people watch this nonsense every week, there’s no doubt that it has an effect on many people’s identities.

The episode that I saw was the latest one, and showed one of the guys in the house go to a club with the rest, and he brings home a girl.  They drunkenly head up to what they call the “smash room” to have sex, and afterwards he tells her she has to leave.  Even without her shoes, he sends her on the ultimate walk of shame at 4am.  The actions of this guy serve the interest of every other guy watching the show that’s out looking for the same thing (a no-strings-attached late night sexual encounter after hitting the club), and almost glamorizes the behavior.  This show sends a message to viewers that it’s okay to act this way, maybe even to girls as well.  I’d like to think the audience is interpreting the characters actions on the show as purely entertaining, but there’s no way it doesn’t have an effect on many people’s real life behaviors.  I think many people, especially young adults who are developing a sense of sexuality and how to conduct themselves in intimate situations, are impacted in a negative way by shows like this, which teaches them that these behaviors are normal and acceptable.

After watching the show and seeing what it is that America finds so entertaining about the Jersey Shore, it’s easy to see how this has such mass appeal to today’s reality television enthusiasts.  Although its entertainment value is clearly visible, the show’s characters lack any moral judgments, especially in terms of sexual encounters, and I feel that it has the capability to send the message that this way of life is normal in today’s society.