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Reflection…

9 Mar

First, I must say these analytical blogs throughout the quarter in Media and Identity have been quite the learning tool. While I knew stereotypes existed in television, film and other avenues of media, it was really interesting and educational to see just how prevalent those stereotypes really are when you sit down and examine it.

I focused on gender stereotypes this quarter, and in doing so I realized that despite our society’s current outlook of being progressive and open-minded, media seems to not adhere to that view. Most of the stereotypes I came across in 9 weeks revolved around women, whether in advertising in magazines or portrayals in television. Much like we learned in class, the trend of these stereotypes presented women in supplicant, weak roles  — reliant on men, not as intelligent, etc. — while the male roles were inherently aggressive and powerful among other aspects.

In all, it is surprising just how much media continues to strengthen those stereotypes in this day. Even more surprising is how those media stereotypes find their way into our daily lives and how we perceive others. I’ve found myself having to readjust in my interactions with female friends, male friends, etc., and drift away from preconceived notions of how a particular gender acts. I don’t, on a regular basis, watch much television due to my schedule, so obviously if the stereotypes from media are finding their way into my life and communication, they are with others as well.

This class, however, helped me to realize that and be more cognizant of when those stereotypes begin to slide into my communication with different genders, and allowed me to adjust that communication to be more effective. It has also added a discerning lense to my communication toolbox, to where I now look at media and am able to clearly see many of the stereotypes — whether it be gender, racial, cultural, etc. — which exist. Such a lense allows me to disregard those stereotypes, glean want information — if any — I want to take from the media and reinforce the idea that while media is a very prominent aspect of our society and lives, it is not our lives. It is not a proper representation of people in our world, no matter how much it may attempt to present itself as, and we need to remember that. I’ve come to the conclusion that media will not shatter stereotypes which exist in our world.

Only we, as free-thinking people armed with the knowledge of what media reinforces and communicates, can break those stereotypes.

That knowledge alone is worth the last 9 weeks of this class.

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The Rum Diary

2 Mar

For my gender analysis of a film from 2011 or later, I chose The Rum Diary for my examination. I saw the film in theaters when in came out in January.

The film is based on the book “The Rum Diary,” by journalist Hunter S. Thompson. The story takes place in late 1950’s, early 1960’s Puerto Rico, when the country was undergoing a financial boom. A journalist, Paul Kemp, arrives from the states to work for the San Juan Star newspaper. While in Puerto Rico, in addition to meeting a plethora of swarthy characters who work at the newspaper, Kemp meets a businessman, Hal Sanderson, and his girlfriend Chenault, whom Kemp soon becomes obsessed with.

Being as it is a film based in the 1950-1960’s era, you can imagine that gender stereotypes exist in this film. Men are stereotyped much as normal in such films — hard-drinking, aggressive, chauvinistic. Sanderson is shown as being extremely jealous of Chenault, and in many scenes at the couple’s San Juan residence, is shown to be a dominating sort as well, telling her to go make breakfast for him and the like.

With Chenault being the only true female character — a female voodoo doctor is also shown toward the end of the film but with no real significance — in the film, it is no surprise that she is stereotyped as well. A blond woman, it is hinted at that she doesn’t possess the same type of intelligence as men, at least in Sanderson’s case. In her flirtations with Kemp, it is hinted at that she is very promiscuous and adventure seeking. This view of her is reinforced during the film in a scene revolving around Carnivale, when she is show dancing in the middle of a bar floor surrounded by men. This scene is especially striking, for not only does it show Chenault — a woman — being flirtatious and sexual in her dancing, it also shows black males in a oversexualized, aggressive manner on the dance floor. That view of the men is driven home when Chenault disappears from view on the dance floor, surrounded by a pack of men. Kemp and Sanderson attempt to retrieve her, but are thrown out of the bar. Chenault then transforms from the sexual woman to the weak one, now an apparent victim of sexually-driven men with no morals. The sequence of events is probably the most stirring of the film and the one which makes the most impact regarding gender.

The dominant view, obviously, is one of a bunch of journalists working in a dead-end newspaper job, drinking and having wild adventures throughout Puerto Rico. Oppositionally, however, the film can be viewed as a two-hour cliché once again enforcing some of the worst gender stereotypes — woman being promiscuous, men being dominating, aggressive and indulgent — seen on film.

That said, a negotiated view would be one of an unremarkable film which attempts to convey the wit, edge and humor of the book it was based on, but falls short.

Heat is cliche…

24 Feb

For my examination of gender in a film produced before 2011, I chose the film “Heat” starring Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Val Kilmer, Ashley Judd, Jon Voight and Natalie Portman.

The plot is the film is a gang of professional thieves, led by DeNiro, are successful in many scores throughout 1995 Los Angeles. Pacino leads a group of LAPD detectives attempting to identify and arrest DeNiro and his gang.

DeNiro and his crew play cat and mouse with Pacino until they commit a downtown bank robbery in broad daylight. Pacino and the LAPD were tipped to the robbery and were waiting outside the bank when the thieves exited, resulting in a full-scale firefight.

Eventually Pacino and his fellow detectives are successful in tracking down the thieves, ending with Pacino shooting DeNiro at LAX Airport to end the film.

In examining gender roles in the film, there weren’t many aspects of the film that allowed for thorough analysis. The ones that were available, however, were very stereotypical of weak female schema.

All the thieves and Pacino as well are either married or have girlfriends in the film. In the case of the thieves, such as Ashley Judd’s role as Val Kilmer’s wife, the women are portrayed as purposely ignorant of their husbands activities, but more than willing to spend the money they achieve through the robberies. This smacks of the golddigger schema of women — portraying them as money hungry. They are also shown as being very subservient to their men, probably due to the strong male roles assigned to the male actors.

DeNiro’s girlfriend, for instance, finds out what he does for a living but proceeds to stay with him, portraying a lonely, scared woman afraid to be alone.

Pacino also has a wife in the film, one portrayed as not being understanding of his demanding profession and resorting to drugs, alcohol and adultery to cope with it. Once again, a weak woman schema is reinforced here. Even Pacino’s stepdaughter, played by Natalie Portman, is shown as weak due to her attempting suicide in the film.

A sexualized image is also presented briefly in the film at the club of Jon Voight, a fellow criminal who hatches robberies with DeNiro. The woman are shown as subservient — waiting on men — and scantily clad.

While the directors probably intended the film to be a typical cops and robbers action affair, which is the dominant view of the film, it is very easy to take an oppositional stance of once again, men are dominant in the world, whether they are the good guys or the bad, and that women are subjected to domineering behavior and portrayed as weak, timid and vapid (in regards to the money).

A negotiated viewpoint? That would be one of the film being one of the finest actions films of the last 20 years, yet not straying from established stereotypes regarding male and female characters in such action films.

Happy Ending is quite the goofy ending…

3 Feb

For my analysis this week of an hour of primetime television, I decided to veer away from “The Big Bang Theory,” — which I had analyzed in two previous posts — and vary it up by checking out a relatively new sitcom from ABC titled “Happy Ending.”

I watched two episodes of the half-hour sitcom on Hulu — the first one revolving around one of the characters, Dave, dealing with the news that his recently divorced father — played by Michael McKeon — had begun dating the mother of Penny, one of his friends. The sitcom overall resembles a newer model of the renowned “Friends,” with the exception that the show takes place in Chicago and isn’t accompanied by a laugh track.

In the first episode, it becomes apparent that the same stereotypes regarding gender which pervade countless sitcoms are present in “Happy Endings.” From the beginning of the first episode I watched, one of the six main characters — a woman named Alex (played by former “24” star Elisha Cuthbert) — is already painted as an goofy, airheaded blond woman. This image for Alex is consistent throughout the entire episode, even to the point where in a seperate story arc in the episode, she leads two of her male friends — Brad and Max — on a wild investigation of the Chinese restaurant across the street from the clothing store she owns. She leads the men to believe that an illicit sex ring is taking place in the restaurant, when in reality it is just an English class for Chinese immigrants who are all women. Such a ridiculous wild goose chase reaffirms her position as a ditzy blond woman.

The other two female characters in the show, Jane and Penny, are portrayed as gossipy women. Though not seen to be as ditzy as Alex, both are shown to also be prone to saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, in addition to being motherly toward the male characters in the show. Overall, they are seen as the typical chatty women.

In going back to the story arc of Dave dealing with his father’s new girlfriend, it is a familiar story. The new girlfriend is typecast as a domineering sort who has changed Dave’s father into a new man…one who no longer likes red meat and the Chicago Cubs but one who eats soy steak and goes to holistic conferences. Again, this enforces a stereotype regarding women — one which they are always attempting to control and change men.

The men in this episode — Dave, Brad and Max — are painted as the bumbling, goofy, somewhat immature men. These are not your “man’s man” type of characters, but rather reside in the realm of the Kevin James lovable buffoon male lead from “The King of Queens.” Again, this is the reinforcement of a prevalent stereotype.

Such stereotypes continue in the second episode I watched of “Happy Ending.” In this episode, Dave is attempting to promote his steak truck business due to losing business to a competing hot dog truck. He first attempts to make a commercial for his business on his own — failing miserably, I might add…the commercial was painful to watch — then teams with Max on another commercial. Again, the bumbling male stereotype is reinforced as both men make a very professional commericial…but utterly fail to mention the name of Dave’s business in the ad, fail to show what Dave sells in the ad and somehow mention hot dogs seven times in the commercial — thus driving more business to the hot dog vendor.

Meanwhile Alex and Penny each begin dating two men, which becomes folly for each woman and results in the women actually switching out the man they individual date for the other woman’s man. This illustrates the fickle stereotype which is associated with women.

Overall in both episodes, the dominant view is truthfully one of falling back on tried-and-true stereotypes by the producers which are proven to garner laughter from the audience. Personally, I don’t believe the producers set out to oppress a certain gender — both I think are equally made out to be hot messes — or to reinforce a specific stereotype, but rather to get the audience to laugh. Unfortunately such stereotypes are the bread and butter of sitcoms — have been for years — and have proven results (i.e. “Friends.”) Who benefits the most from this dominant view would be producers, who seem to have tapped into a way which works in entertainment and have a budding show on their hands. An oppositional view which could be assumed would be one of the show reinforcing negative stereotypes of gender in a blatant manner, but personally I tend to lean towards a mutual understanding view. I understand the producer’s are reinforcing tired stereotypes, but despite knowing this, I get a laugh out of the show and believe that the majority of viewers feel the same way. This is why the stereotypes still exist regarding gender…because the audience finds those molds humorous, and with such a proven fact the producer’s of sitcoms continue to use that avenue of approach in order to make their shows successful.

Until we as an audience stop finding the stereotypes funny, this same stereotypes will continue to prolifigate throughout our television media.

Wanna be a man and have a woman? Use Curve, Old Spice and drink Skyy Vodka.

27 Jan

I sat down with the December 8th, 2011 edition of Rolling Stone, the January 16th, 2012 edition of Sports Illustrated and the November 28th, 2011 edition of Time for this weeks examination regarding gender in advertising. You can probably guess which magazine held the most ads utilizing and stereotyping gender of the three.

If you guessed Rolling Stone, you are correct.

I began with Time magazine, and truthfully there was not one single ad in the magazine which utilized gender in the ad. Most of the ads were, interestingly enough, involving technology — such as cell phones and the like — and did not include actual human models.

I was able to find one such ad using a female model in Sports Illustrated, in an ad for Hilton Resort getaways. This ad had a white woman lying down (of course) on a crisp white bed in a hotel room, with a huge smile on her face. The dominant view of this ad, I would have to say, is one that says if you spend your vacation at Hilton Resorts, you’ll be as comfortable and happy as this woman you see here. An oppositional view, however, could question why it has to be a woman lying on this bed — a thin one at that. Why couldn’t it be a 300-pound man? Does this ad insinuate that only pretty, rich white people can stay at Hilton Resorts? That would be an oppositional view, but I tend to think that the vast majority of the audience looked at the ad and took it in stride — their way of thinking being one that “Wow, Hilton would be a nice place to stay on vacation!” I doubt any paid a bit of attention to the fact that another ad had another woman lying down on another bed. Alas, this was the only such ad in Sports Illustrated, which was dominated by Gatorade ads (for obvious reasons.)

In checking out Rolling Stone, I knew beforehand that I would run across ads making use of gender, and sure enough, an ad for Curve for Men popped out at me upon opening the magazine. It features an attractive white female model, with her hands places simply to her face. Her lips arhair open, and one eye is seductively covered by her hair. The dominant view taken in this ad is if you are a man and want to attract a woman of this caliber, use Curve for Men. An oppositional view could be one that questions why I would have to use such a colonge to attract a woman like this. Isn’t my personality enough? The ad, however, is so simple — just has the words “Cars, Girls, Cars, Girls, Sports” all over it, in addition to the woman and a bottle of Curve. Odds are the audience didn’t take an oppositional view or infer the subtle hints that only Curve will make this happen for men.

The next ad is one for Old Spice, where it shows a geeky man dressed in winter clothing, then half of him split into tough guy with a snake draped around his neck, a bandolier and and headband. The ad says “Somewhere in there there’s a man in there.” The ad takes a dominant view of if you use Old Spice, it makes you smell and feel like a man. The oppositional in this case, I would think, is why a larger man — which the half clothed in winter attire was — is not a real man. Why is a man wearing pastel winter clothing not a real man? Is is a man, isn’t he? But it is stereotyped that a real man is one without his shirt on, one with a grimace on his face, one with a projection of no fear. The audience view, however, is one that probably associates Old Spice with smelling like a man because, after all, it is Old Spice.

Finally, a simple ad for Skyy Vodka ended my trip through Rolling Stone. It uses an alluring female model with red lipstick spreading apart two bottles of Skyy Vodka. The dominant view? One which infers if you drink Skyy Vodka, you are classy and will attract beautiful women such as the model. An oppositional view I’m not so sure of, other than why do women need to be used in such a seductive way just to sell liquor. Why are their looks being used in such ways?

Again, though, the audience probably didn’t even contemplate the woman in the ad, if they even stopped to look at it. It was a pretty plain ad, and truthfully the vodka bottles were more prominently displayed. Not as eye-catching as the other ads.

Love hurts if your Penny and Leonard

21 Jan

In watching the Big Bang Theory again last night on CBS, the episode revolved around Penny and Leonard going out on a dinner date after being split up for two years. The date was spurred by Sheldon declining Leonard’s offer of going to dinner, which then spurred Leonard to cross the hallway and invite Penny to dinner instead. Of course, the requisite scene then occurred with Penny discussing what she should wear with Leslie and Bernadette. The date then occurred, which started well between Leonard and Penny but then dissolved into a cross-argument between the two. The date ends early, but then Leonard finds Penny texting him to come to the door of his apartment. Leonard and Penny end up going to bed together, then spend the rest of the espisode debating whether they are a couple or not. In between all this Sheldon, Howard and Rajesh are playing a board game, with Howard and Rajesh making genital jokes based on things Sheldon is saying unknowingly regarding the board game. As far as commercials, a Loreal Paris lipstick commercial and a State Farm insurance commerical were the notable ones for their portrayals of women. The Loreal Paris commercial showed a woman seductively applying lipstick while splayed along a brick wall, while the State Farm commercial showed a jealous, suspicious wife asking her husband who he was on the phone with at 3 a.m., and still doubting him even after speaking with the male State Farm representative on the phone.

This episode was interesting, in that the producer’s were pretty much dead on in regards to the gender portrayal of each character.  Their vision of Penny being anxious about going on a date with a former flame was realistic, in addition to the discussion with her girlfriends on what she should wear. Also, the producer’s portrayal of Howard and Rajesh being immature and making genital jokes is stereotypical but very true of men when they are hanging out with other men. One interesting thing was when Penny and Leonard met to go to bed together, their roles were reversed somewhat. Penny told Leonard to not overthing the situation, while normally its the man telling the woman that in most situations. Overall, I feel the benefit that is served by these portrayals in the episode is one of humor, for it shows common human behavior in such situations despite how stereotypical it may seem. The audience, much like I did, is probably interpreting the episode the same way and even, like I did, comparing the character’s situations to ones they know of with real life friends they have.

Regarding the commercials, however, those sadly reinforced negative stereotypes of women — one of submissiveness and jealously. The Loreal commercial just reeked of submissiveness, especially in light of the video we watched in class on Tuesday. Barely grasping the lipstick, putting it slowly to her mouth, leaning against the wall and showing a lot of skin to begin with. It really exaggerated the woman’s sexuality, all simple for a lipstick commercial. The State Farm one was interesting in the fact that the wife was a normal woman, average to a little larger sized, and was automatically suspicious of her husband being on the phone early in the morning. It subtly shows a lack of confidence and trust in her husband for the woman who is not a stunning supermodel. Both commercials only benefit the company the commercial is showcasing. Nothing of value can be taken from either commercial, and the audience in both instances probably doesn’t even notice the underlying submission of the women in each commercial.

My overall impression of the show and commercials in this situation is the show respresented fairly well not only realistic situations regarding dating and love, but the gender roles as well. They did throw the little twist into the mix by alternating Leonard and Penny’s roles and what each character said before they went to bed together, but stayed true to real life I believe. The commercials — just my opinion, mind you — were nonsensical. The State Farm commerical make have garnered a laugh with some folks, but the Loreal lipstick commercial was just inane. What woman, in real life, spreads herself against a wall outside while putting lipstick on? Unrealistic and truly trying to not only gain the attention of women who buy lipstick — giving them the impression this lipstick will transform them into some sex kitten — but of men, who may insist their significant other purchase the lipstick in order for them to resemble the seductive woman on the commercial.

Gender Identity on “The Big Bang Theory”

14 Jan

Group: Gender Identity

Summary: I watched The Big Bang Theory on CBS, which airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. The episode revolves around Leonard coercing Penny to set up their friend Howard with one of Penny’s friends on a blind date, while in a seperate story arc Sheldon teams up with Rajesh in a fantasy role-playing game tournament in his attempt to exact revenge on another contestant in the tournament. That contestant, Wil Wheaton of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” fame, did not show up for a science fiction convention Sheldon attended when Sheldon was younger, thus drawing the ire of Sheldon, who was attending the convention simply to see Wheaton. Meanwhile, Leonard tricks Penny, after having sex with her, to set Howard up on the blind date with a friend. Penny does so, and Howard and his date have nothing in common and the date is turning disasterous until they strike upon a similar problem both individuals have: their mothers. The date then turns out well. Sheldon and Rajesh, meanwhile, reach the tournament finals against Wheaton and his partner. Sheldon is about to win the game by outplaying Wheaton until Wheaton explains to Sheldon that his missed appearance at the convention was due to the death of his grandmother. Sheldon feels remorse for Wheaton, and goes easy on him in the tournament game. Yet Sheldon has been tricked by Wheaton, who proceeds to win the game for his team, tells Sheldon his grandmother is really not dead, and causes Sheldon to seeth with even more resentment after he loses the game.

Analysis/Application: When Leonard waits until after having sex with Penny to broach the question of Penny setting Howard up with one of her friends on a blind date, it subtly says that men are sneaky and conniving. It also paints Penny and women as not being understanding of men’s situations, and women withholding reward — sex in this instance — if they receive a request from men which they may not like. It is very stereotypical, this situation, and has been repeated time and again in multiple sitcoms. A man has a serious issue to approach a women with, waits until after having relations with the woman, then brings the issue to the forefront. Of course, such a situation brings laughs from the audience, but it reinforces this stereotype of the conniving man. In addition, it also paints women with the stereotype that they are not understanding of men, and that it is hard to get them to work with men — thus the sneaky approach Leonard uses with Penny. Considering that Penny does assist Leonard with setting Howard up on a blind date, it also subtly implies that men are more powerful than women and that women are, in even minor ways, subservient to men.

Response: On the show’s face, it is very funny despite its casting of characters being very stereotypical for both men and women. So in this aspect, I would say that I took a negotiated reading from watching the show. The producer’s view is probably the most real, for such gender sterotypes are common and many feel that art imitates or at least reflects life as it is. Plus, I do know many men and women in similar relationships as Leonard and Penny who fit to a tee the relationship producers portray. The sterotypes regarding the characters aren’t necessarily harmful to the audience, and lend to many laughs in watching the show. If anything, the show treads an already-beaten path of gender stereotypes many have walked before (i.e. Penny the blond, somewhat ditzy waitress, Leonard being the male, educated character). With such stereotypes being such a norm in sitcoms of not only today but the past, I think the audience has become very numb to it and rarely looks for it. To the audience it’s a funny situation in a humerous show. In fact, it is the humor. The exception would be, such as in this response of mine, when you are looking for for such stereotypes. Is it harmful? Probably not. Does it still attempt to, if not enforce, this idea of smart men/dumb women and sneaky men/unsuspecting women? Probably.