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Final Reflection

3 Dec

I was drawn to this class because the subjects of media and identity seemed to be broad and relevant to my life. The class incorporated components of history, psychology, communication, and sociology. It felt especially relevant since our society is so centered around media these days.

Going into the class, I felt I understood a little bit about how media’s images can really affect us. Maybe part of this is because I remember being a 13-year-old girl and looking to women in the media to figure out who I wanted to be and what I wanted to look like. Of course, over the years I have learned how toxic it can be to think this way. In fact, I feel like there has been a lot of movements against the false projection of women to teach us how women in ads are fake, altered, or starving/harming themselves to be so thin. There has also been feminist chatter about the unequal rights of women and the objectifying of women, so I was aware of these topics and they seemed very relevant when we were talking in class about the media’s representations of women.

It was interesting to go deeper into topics such as these, and learn the psychology behind them. I hadn’t really thought about how men are in control of most of the entertainment out there, nor had I seen so many examples of women being objectified in ads. One of the biggest take-aways from the class for me is that all representations in the media are intentional. And building on that, these representations really do affect the way society thinks. The misrepresentations of class, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and religion can really affect our beliefs about these things. It’s crazy to think that the media has such power. While it is scary to think about the negative impacts of media, learning about prosocial media offered some hope into imagining how the media could be used to really shape society for the better.

I really enjoyed this class, especially in-class discussions and the videos we watched. It teaches you valuable information that is relevant to life in and outside of the classroom.

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#aerieREAL: A Lingerie Campaign to Help Body Image

24 Nov
  1. American Eagle recently launched a new lingerie campaign featuring models that were not touched up or photoshopped. The company wanted to use the young woman’s lingerie line, Aerie, to “promote more realistic standards for their teen and preteen customers”. They left natural features of the models such as dimples, tattoos, beauty marks, fat, puckering and slight stretch marks. They hope by taking this step “real girls everywhere will start to embrace their own beauty”(time.com).
  2. As we learned in class, what young people experience in the media does have an effect on them. Society creates codes of normality that define a way of behaving as an ideal man or woman. This then relates to gender display, which are the roles assigned to us and expected of us based on our gender. The film Code of Gender showed how women are portrayed in light, submissive roles in the media and are always thin and perfect. These ideals have become heteronormative, and now nearly all ads are touched with photoshopping and portray submissive skinny models. These ideals of beauty have become standard and are putting young women at risk of having poor self image and may even lead to life-threatening eating disorders such as anorexia. So, it is commendable that American Eagle would come out to promote “real, natural beauty” in hopes of young women accepting themselves. If the fashion industry and marketing industries all started to take on the mission to represent real life and not create unrealistic standards for women, I think society could create more powerful women who realize the value of being uniquely who they are. The Time article about Aerie mentioned another interesting change that’s happening with models. While fashion designers have tended to prefer stick-thin models to showcase their designs like clothes hangers, there is now becoming a predominant online shopping community where more average body types are being used. This is because while shopping online, consumers want a more realistic image to see how the product might look on themselves. It’s helpful to have a model with their same body type.
  3. I think the campaign will work for American Eagle in that some people will applaud them for it and thus the brand will gain followers and thus more money. Even if they have a nice idea behind the campaign Aerie, in the end they are still a large company with the motive to make money. But still, I think in todays times ANY effort made to promote real beauty should be applauded. The more of these campaigns there are, the more of a difference it will make to young women’s lives.

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Religion and NBC’s Parenthood

27 Oct

 The program I chose is called Parenthood, an NBC drama series that follows the story of the Braverman family. The family consists of the two elderly parents, their four grown children and their families.

The particular episode I chose focuses on the couple Crosby Braverman, his wife Jasmine and their young son Jabbar. Crosby’s mother-in-law, Jasmine’s mother, stuck out to me in the episode because she brought up the topic of religion. In the episode she explained God to Jabbar and taught him how to pray, in alignment with her Christian belief system. She also did all of this without consulting Jabbar’s parents. When they find this out, suddenly they have to examine what their belief system actually is and what they want their son to believe. The parents could be seen as the Christian “hypocrite”, as talked about in the Images of Evangelicals article. They would fit this stereotype because although they are Christian and used to go to church when they were younger, they haven’t even thought about their faith recently and don’t know where they stand anymore with their belief system. Their son Jabbar could then be labeled as the “naive” Christian. This is because he is just a kid (around 10 years old?) and only knows what to believe based off of the few things his grandma told him. Not only has he not been given the option to explore other faiths, but he also does not know everything about his grandma’s faith. Instead he simply goes through the actions of praying and talking to God and thinks that’s all there is to it. When it shows him praying, he almost sounds like he’s writing a wish list to Santa. In this way he fits the role of the “naive” Christian.

Jasmine’s mother does not seem to fit one of the labels of the Evangelical Christian article, but she is ported in a way that makes her seem almost idealized or perfect. Unlike Jasmine and Crosby, she has thought about her faith and wants to guide Jabbar and she goes to church every Sunday. She makes her daughter and son-in-law seem inadequate for not having thought about what faith to raise Jabbar in and makes Jasmine feel guilty for no longer attending church.

The episode ends with Crosby explaining his approach to faith to Jabbar. He explains his more spiritual views and how he believes in his son, his family, love, etc. and avoids the topic of Christianity all together. I thought it was interesting how the absence of religion in the show is the norm, and then Jasmine’s mother becomes an outlier for being so religious.

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Sister, Sister

17 Oct

I analyzed Sister, Sister, a show I watched when I was younger that features majority black characters. This family-friendly sitcom follows the every day lives of twin girls who were separated at birth then found each other later in life. In the particular episode I watched, the girls get on a trivia show and compete against celebrity guests, Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen.

It was really interesting for me to go back and watch this show from a different perspective than when I was little. First, I noticed that aside from Mary Kate and Ashley there were no other Caucasian actors in the show. Their parents, friends, the mailman, and show host were all black. There was no discussion of the characters’ race in the show and nothing was stereotyped. The girls’ lives seemed very light hearted and happy go lucky.

The character that stuck out to me the most was the black mailman, because it was at that point I realized that all of the characters were black, whether or not it was a realistic representation of life or not. This made me think about all the shows with majority white characters where they created a “circle of whiteness”. I felt like in Sister, Sister there was a similar race circle because instead of giving an accurate depiction of race it was all one particular race. This made the characters’ race stand out to me. It seemed like a conscious decision to keep all of the characters black, but because of that it did not feel like an accurate portrayal of race and instead felt forced. It was almost as if the producers wanted to reach a black audience and thought the best way to do this was to make them feel comfortable by having every single character black.

I think this kind of show, consciously representing all black characters, was a conscious representation for the network to try to appeal to black audiences. The rest of the programs on the network feature majority white characters, so this kind of show is sort of a cheap way to “solve” the issue of race representation on the network and broaden their audiences. In reality, a better way to realistically represent race would be to have a plethora of different races within one program.SisterSistercast

Race Representation in Modern Family

6 Oct

The ABC program Modern Family is a comedy series that focuses on the lives of three families, all of which are interrelated. The show centers around every day life activities such as family functions and neighborhood activity. Eight of the 11 characters are white, and the show heavily displays white, suburban culture. The character Gloria is an attractive Colombian woman who lives with her older, wealthy white husband and her son (from her first marriage to a Colombian man). Their race history is discussed enough for the audience to know that Gloria and her son Manny are Colombian and appreciate their roots, but besides for an episode or two their culture is not heavily discussed. The only other main non-white character is Lily, the adopted Vietnamese daughter of the gay couple Cameron and Mitchell. Again, while Lily’s heritage is mentioned it is not a major topic in the show.

The three non-white characters interact with the rest of their white family without their race being a topic or an issue. The biggest way Gloria’s culture comes through is with her accent, which provides continual comic relief throughout the show with her mispronunciations. Other than that, the characters assume roles within the “white culture” and the topic of race is not discussed. Even though there are some characters of different races, race is never really discussed. This can relate to the Chidester article about the show Friends and how the show does not strongly depict any other racial groups or bring up the topic of race. There is a closed, pure circle of whiteness and with the absence of any other races a message is send to the audience that other races are not welcomed or accepted in the friend group. Modern Family sends a message by having Gloria’s cultural difference (her accent) as a source of comedy. Her personality is also stereotyped as the dramatic, loud Latina. Her white family members are portrayed as the “normal” ones, framing her as an outsider even though she’s family. She aligns with her family’s cultural expectations instead of her own from Colombia.

It is also interesting that the show barely depicts any African American characters, despite being a show about modern day life. Again, there is a circle of whiteness being portrayed that ethnic minorities are not a part of. The fact that there are no black characters sends a message to the audience that they do not belong there.

So while Gloria, Manny, and Lily’s races are not completely avoided, they are still portrayed in comparison to their white, suburban family and have to fit into the lifestyle of their family’s white culture.

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Women in Advertisements

15 Sep

After watching Code of Gender in class I became interested in the portrayal of women in advertisements. The film made a lot of claims regarding gender display, which is how a gender is displayed in certain roles assigned to us and expected from us. It claimed that females are never displayed in powerful stances and instead are made to seem delicate and aloof. It also claimed that our society has become so desensitized to these extreme images that they’ve become normal to us.

I wanted to see for myself how true these claims were, so I looked at the advertisements from the 2014 April issue of Glamour. I noticed that the majority of the Ads were catered to women, mainly for beauty products or clothing, and most of them featured thin white women. This in itself could send messages to society that the dominant and accepted woman is thin and white. However, I found several Ads that challenged claimed from the film.

In one Gucci Ad a man and a women (neither Caucasian, possibly Hispanic?) were featured looking almost identical. They both had dark hair slicked back and dark sunglasses and were staring at something off the page with a strong gaze. It was a headshot and both were clothed (the woman’s chest wasn’t even showing). Only the slight differences between the angles of their faces and their lips gave away their different gender.

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In another Ad for Jones New York a woman was featured in a suit with a portfolio walking strongly down the city street. She has a firm grip on her portfolio, minimal jewelry (one bracelet), her hair is pulled back, and the shot is zoomed in to cut off her legs. Her hands do not looks light and caressing and she is almost in a power-stance. She is walking straight for the camera and her arms hang in a way that say she is walking with a purpose. This challenges the film’s claim that women are always in delicate, twisted poses that make them seem ungrounded. This woman seems very in power to me, and although the licensed withdrawal gaze is featured, her eye contact seems very intent to me. I did, however, find myself thinking that perhaps she looks in power because she is wearing a suit like a man. If the same scene was redone with her in a dress I think I would instantly qualify her powerless and at the control of the viewers’ gaze. Perhaps our society has linked suits to power and pretty dresses to something to be looked at an admired (making women objects to be looked at and admired).

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Mass Media’s Effect on Ideologies

4 Sep

In today’s modern society there is a direct connection between mass media and perceived reality. It is almost impossible to avoid media, and it’s become such an integral part of our lives that it’s inevitable that it has an effect on our society. In our everyday lives there’s television, the internet, and smart phones constantly streaming content to us and sending us subliminal messages. Since media so easily reaches the majority of society, it’s easy for it to purvey ideologies. Through media, society learns and decides what beliefs are acceptable and true.

In the article “Television News and the Cultivation of Fear of Crime” Daniel Romer discusses several research studies that examine a link between the amount of violent crime on the news and the amount of fear the population has of crime. It concludes that on national, regional, and local levels, the amount of crime that is covered does affect the fear the population feels. It concludes that the violent crime on the news could “not only condition viewers’ fears of victimization but also affect perceptions of places where crime is likely to occur and the persons stereotyped as typical perpetrators,” and these sort of fears could also contribute to “the decline in community cohesion and to tensions between racial and ethnic groups” (Romer 103). This example shows how what is chosen to be on the news can cause the public to perceive the world to be a more violent place than it is and can strengthen stereotyping. In this way the media is directly affecting the public’s beliefs as an unobtrusive tool. The violence is illustrated on television, shown every night, and because of this repetition it becomes more and more normalized. The public begins to believe what they see on television and television keeps strengthening these believes by showing violence day after day (since violence is what gets the news stations views).

The way news broadcasters get to choose what to put on the news is the same way film directors get to choose how to produce their movie. They are the ones in charge of deciding what message to send to spectators. In the article “Messages Between the Lions” author Naomi R. Rockler discusses whether “mass media warrants critical interrogation—especially media that are entertaining as opposed to informative” (6). While it may be extreme to say The Lion King represents the inequalities of society, I think a lot of the time there are subliminal messages being sent through movies. The race of the actors and the characters they portray in movies can affect our ideologies. For example, if criminals are always portrayed as black men then we will likely start linking the two together. It is in this way that what we choose to put in the media can affect the entire ideology of society.