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Blog 5

6 Nov

Summary:

When it comes to media, children and younger audiences are typically very impressionable. The media has a strange ability to reinforce negative stereotypes, sexism, racism, and other negative perceptions of groups within society.” In the United States children spend more time using media and digital activities than they do with their families or in school.” (Commonsensemedia.org) Common Sense Media is a non-profit organization that is focused on improving lives of children and families by providing trustworthy information so families can have the ability to make good decisions regarding the media they consume on a regular basis.

Analysis:

When young audiences watch television and use media they are shown what is “normal” within society. More importantly since kids are so impressionable they look at characters in the media and view them as role models. When young audiences see these “normal” depictions of class, race, sex, gender it has an ability to reinforce stereotypes. This can have the result of kids making judgments about individuals or groups exclusively based on what the media has shown them, or exposed them to. The website commonsensemedia.org is aware of the influences media can have on children, and has established guidelines for ways to figure out if the media an individual consumes is good or bad. Common Sense Media explains on their website that they believe media has become ‘the other parent’ and has an ability to influence mental, physical, and social development. It is important for parents to be aware of the media their children use, as well as to be able to teach their children about responsibly and ethically managing media. Common Sense Media emphasizes the importance of age-appropriate media, and advocates that those who control the media have a responsibility to create and market content for the appropriate audiences. Common Sense Media provides a list of tips for parents to assist them in judging the media they consume. An example of these tips is to keep a tally of characters on a TV show or game. They encourage parents to look at how many characters are female? How many are male? How many are white? It also tells people to look for a connection between a characters’ race and gender? Look at how characters are portrayed? Being able to discuss these observations will help build awareness. Common Sense Media also explains that it is important to challenge assumptions seen in media. It is easy to debunk a common stereotype and show that a lot of media portrayals of groups and individuals are not accurate. Common Sense Media discusses how there are plenty of alternatives to books, movies, and videogames that counter the dominant hegemony and stereotypes. Another method they provide is to not buy into the movie studios and game makers that typically make products that depict unfair stereotypes.

Conclusion:

I think Common Sense Media does a really good job in helping parents and individuals decipher media that has good impacts and media that has negative impacts. In class we discussed how some groups are overrepresented in media as well as underrepresented. In addition to this it is important for audiences to learn about stereotypes at a young age, and understand how stereotypes can be used to create harmful perceptions and beliefs about individuals and social groups as a collective. Especially since young audiences and kids have the tendencies to look up to characters in the media and imitate their actions it is important to make sure they are choosing the right role models.  

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Tim Wise

23 Oct

I was really surprised to learn that ½ of the jobs in the United States are made available through social capital, and that jobs were being attained through connections rather than merit.  And that the connections are usually possessed by white, male, upper/middle class, educated people. I was also surprised when Tim Wise talked about how he witnessed less drug use in the “worst public housing complexes in the US” than his dorm in college. Also when he gave us the statistics about the “Stop and Frisk” policy in New York City it was crazy to hear about how bad the profiling was, and how the results from “stop and frisk” could not back up the theory. I also thought it was surprising when he discussed that the median income of white men ages 25-29 is equal to or greater than black men ages 50-54 who have 25 or more years of experience than the younger white men. Another thing that was brought to light for me was when Tim discussed how “systematic and institutionalized racism is not coincidental” when he discussed that white kids are more likely to be placed in honors classes while kids who are minorities are more likely to be placed in remedial classes or normal paced classes I hadn’t thought about it that way, and never actually realized it.

I really agreed with a lot of points that Tim Wise made, and it is inspiring to hear him speak with such poise, conviction, and assurance. He discusses topics that are highly controversial and hard for some people to face, but it seems like the way he talks forces you to think about yourself and examine yourself from an outside perspective. Also he uses so many facts and so much data that it seems like it would be difficult to argue or disagree with him.

I think a good point that Tim Wise discussed was that we must move beyond individualized attention. The example that he gave was, just because Barack Obama is the first black president, it doesn’t mean that racism is eradicated. Similarly when there are female heads of state and Prime Ministers it does not mean that sexism no longer exists. When he said, “you cannot solve a problem you cannot discuss” it really resonated with me. I thought it was really interesting when he talked about the language we use to describe communities such as “underprivileged” and “underserved.” I felt like it clearly illustrated the inequalities between classes, and how we perceive and identify other people who were born into the circumstances of a society perpetuated by a dominant ideology. A major facet of this is that stuff was done to people by people to put them in a lower class. Tonight I also learned about the “privilege of obliviousness” and that it is very difficult for people in the dominant ideology and the dominant racial group to see what everyone else goes through, and we blind ourselves to it. When he told us about the Gallup Polls done in 1962 and 1963 that asked white Americans if they thought blacks had equal opportunity in education, employment, and housing two out of three people said yes. That really reiterated the point that people can be blind to their privilege and that people in the dominant hegemony have the luxury to not have to worry about others circumstances and the truth.  I feel like all of these ideas and points relate to our class discussions of privilege, race, class, and gender but I didn’t really see any correlations with media as much as I did with institutions in society.

Aside

The Hurricane

2 Oct

Summary: The Hurricane (1999) is a biographical movie starring Denzel Washington as Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, an African-American who rose above his troubled past to become a top boxing contender for the middleweight title. The film takes place between 1966 and 1985 and follows the story of Rubin’s life in and out of group homes and prison, and his short-lived boxing career.   In a parallel plot, Lesra Martin, an underprivileged youth from Brooklyn, comes across Rubin Carter’s autobiography in a donation bin and reads it. Lesra convinces his Canadian foster family to commit themselves to prove Rubin’s innocence.

Analysis: In 1966, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter was a top-ranked middleweight boxer, and many of boxing fans expected him to become the world’s greatest champion in boxing. One night while at a nightclub in Paterson, New Jersey Rubin asked his friend John Artis to drive him home. Simultaneously at another bar three people were shot and killed. Ruben and Artis get pulled over, and the white officer is familiar with Rubin. Rubin asks what’s going on, and the officer explains that they are looking for “two Negros in a car” Rubin replies by asking, “any two will do?” Rubin is taken to the scene of the crime to be identified by any local bystanders. Rubin states that he had nothing to do with any of this, explains his innocence. There are no witnesses that identify Rubin or John as the shooters. Rubin is then taken to the hospital where last remaining survivor of the shootings who is near death. Also at the hospital is Detective Sergeant Della Pesca, he had been responsible for his troubled past being spent in group homes and prisons. Della Pesca asks the victim if these are the two men who shot you, and urges the victim to look closer a second and third time. Rubin can tell that Della Pesca is trying to set him up, and is still holding a grudge against Rubin. One scene in the movie when Della Pesca is secretly following around Rubin says to another cop “Can you believe that black punk? Thinks he’s champion of the world, fighter of the year my ass. He’s a low life criminal. Della Pesca is racist and thinks of Rubin as some sort of animal. He goes out of his way to incriminate Rubin, and make his life miserable. Another scene in the movie Rubin explains how he picked his nickname The Hurricane; “Hurricane is the professional name that I acquired later on in life. Carter is the slave name that was given to my forefathers who worked in the cotton fields of Alabama and Georgia. It was passed onto me.” Lesra decides to write a letter to Rubin who is serving three life sentences (after being found guilty by two all white juries), and tells him that he relates to his book, and was inspired by Rubin’s story. To Lesra’s surprise, Rubin writes back and they begin a pen pal relationship. Rubin explains that he has dedicated himself to conquering his mentality, and make everything in his control. He explains, “I decided to take control of my life. I made up my mind to turn my body into a weapon. I would be a warrior-scholar. I boxed. I went to school. I began reading- W.E.B. Du Bois, Richard Wright. So I gave up all the worthless luxury that most inmates crave. The girlie books, fags, cigarettes, and the movies- I hated them. In fact, I hated everyone. I didn’t even speak English. I spoke hate.” He had over come these obstacles and transformed himself into a well-educated man. He wrote a manuscript, and with the help of Lesra and his foster family, Rubin Carter was released from prison and was given an honorary middleweight champion of the world tittle.

Conclusion: The Hurricane shows how black people used to be persecuted by white police officers, and were thought that all black people were low-life criminals, who were dangers to societies. The parallel story of Lesra Martin is similar to Rubins because he is given up by his parents to live with a foster family in Canada who can give him an education and perhaps a brighter future. Rubin and Lesras relationship helps both of them grow because they can relate to each other and they both inspire each other equally. Rubin encourages Lesra to make the best of his situation, and Lesra gives Rubin hope. I highly recommend this movie if you have not seen it!

Blog 2: The Simpsons

23 Sep

Summary: In The Simpsons (FOX), the audience is able to see many depictions of class and the dichotomies between upper, middle, and lower class. In this episode Homers tax return mistakenly falls into the severe audit bin at the IRS, he is nabbed by the government, and forced to go undercover for them. Homers’ mission is to retrieve a trillion dollar bill stolen by Mr. Burns.

 

Analysis: In The Simpsons the audience is shown class standings such as working class through characters such as Homer Simpson. Homer also displays qualities of the American dream. Homer is the patriarch of the Simpsons household; he works at an industrial power plant. Homer is often shown as crude, overweight, lazy, clumsy, and as a borderline alcoholic. Whenever he does something stupid or hurts himself it is always followed by his catchphrase “d’oh.” D’oh is defined as  an informal exclamation used to comment on an action perceived as foolish or stupid, especially ones own.” (The New Oxford Dictionary of English in 1998)“ Homer is often shown at Moe’s Tavern drinking beer. Homer and Moe are friends and we can see that Homer spends a lot of his time getting drunk with his friends at the bar. He is envious of his neighbor Ned Flanders who follows the protestant work ethic, and is shown as a Good Samaritan and enthusiastically practicing Christian. Homer can also be seen as an impulsive individual with his actions. When he gets frustrated with his son Bart, Homer will strangle him in a cartoonish way, the strangling is never premeditated, so it does not seem as violent. The audience can also see that Homers young daughter Lisa is most often smarter and more cultured than he is. Homer and Lisa are complete opposites, but the audience is shown how he really cares about his family when Homer will sacrifice what he wants in order to make his family pleased. Homer and Marge display class-consciousness because often they will say things like “we can’t afford this” or by seeing them using a bootleg version of something they could not obtain.

Characters such as Mr. Burns portray the upper class of society in The Simpsons. Mr. Burns is the owner of the power plant that Homer works at. He is often accompanied at all times by Smithers; his loyal aid, advisor, confidant, secret admirer who does anything Mr. Burns asks of him. Mr. Burns represents the stereotype of corporate America.  He is always looking to increase his own wealth and power, even if it comes at the expense of others around him. We are shown that he is part of upper class because he never remembers any of his employees’ names and doesn’t seem to care for their well-being. We also never see him socializing with the people of the town, and he views the other characters as below him and part of a low subculture. He also uses his wealth and power to do whatever he wants, and never is interfered with by authority or has to face the consequences. Mr. Burns lives in a mansion that is protected by high fences, and has viscous guard dogs to attack people on Burns’ command. The town people generally dislike Mr. Burns because of his economic status. Burns portrays the rugged individualism and believes its survival of the fittest and follows the philosophy of every man for himself. Burns is guilty of perpetuating the dominant hegemony and keeping the towns power and wealth for himself.

 

Conclusion: In The Simpsons we can see the contrast between the lower class and the upper class very clearly illustrated. We can see capitalist ideologies through characters such as Homer, because he is part of the working class, and strives to provide for his family, and illustrates equality, democracy, and material prosperity. Mr. Burns being part of the upper class lives in a mansion secluded from the blue-collar town of Springfield. There is a general dislike for him because he represents and embodies the dominant hegemony. He represents the largest portion of wealth in the town and only seeks to look out for himself.

19 Sep

Group: Masculinity

Summary: I watched an episode of Modern Family, which airs at 9:00 on the ABC network. In this episode the grandfather, Jay Pritchett who is the patriarch of the family recently remarried a much younger woman Gloria who has an eleven-year-old son named Manny from a previous marriage. Many has a soccer game, and his mother Gloria is being a little bit too fanatical about how the game is going. Jay tells her to “tone it down a notch” seeing as how Mannys soccer team is not very good and hasn’t won a game all season. Gloria talks to what seems to be a single dad at the soccer game, who assumes that Jay is her father instead of her husband.

Analysis/Application: In this episode the audience is shown Jays reality. Jay is portrayed to be a masculine character with stoic qualities. He’s over 50-years-old and well cultured and experienced. When the dad at the soccer game whom Gloria is talking to asks if Jay is her father we can immediately see his embarrassment. After the soccer game Jay goes to the mall to try to find some clothes that are more in style or trendy. Jay is searching for clothing to make him appear younger to others, and save him embarrassment of being confused as his wife’s father.  The representations we see in this episode do conform to the dominant socially accepted ideology. Jay tries on tight fitting shirts and some stylish jeans in attempts to make himself appear younger to other people. The clothes he tries on are what society deems as cool or stylish, and makes him appear to be up on the latest men’s fashion trends. However the show does not conform to the dominant ideology because it is usually analyzed and critiqued when an older man marries a much younger woman. Ultimately Jay accepts that he is not as young as he used to be, and realizes that Gloria loves him for who he is not how he appears.

Conclusion: This episode reinforces the stereotypes about relationships where couples differ greatly in age. We see this by seeing how Jay’s family tries to function despite the age difference between himself and his second wife, Gloria. Also we see how Jay attempts to dress younger and more masculine in order to ‘keep up’ with his younger wife.