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A Reflection and Farewell

3 Dec

Neil Skinner

Media & Identity

3 December 2014

               A Reflection and Farewell

As I sit here and reflect about what I am going to write for my last blog, many things run through my mind about Media & Identity class. It does not even feel like my eighth blog either, probably because I forgot to do one at the beginning of the year, sorry Dr. Banjo. Signing up for this course last semester, I was not sure what I was getting myself into because I figured it was just another communication class that I needed to take before graduation. Little did I know that it would become extremely educational and one of my most favorite classes of the semester. My viewpoints coming into class were weak, I did not care about most things I saw in the media. Over the course of the next ten weeks, my perspective on media was sharpened and completely changed. I slowly began to see the ways that media can impact our lives, they have a tighter stranglehold on us than we may believe. The media can shape the way we view everything in life from the opposite sex to different races. Media & Identity class has taught me to take a step back from all the media consumption and analyze what is actually right and wrong in our society. This course has given me the tools to be a better person and more accepting of other people and cultures.

The blogs have been one of the best parts of this class because I love to write and be creative. They are always engaging prompts because they encouraged us to always look a little deeper into what we see everyday on television or in advertisements. Using this method of analysis, we can see media messages that we may have never noticed before. Overall, Media & Identity has been an extremely educational and one of the best communication classes that I have taken at UC.

Put Down The Airbrush

24 Nov

Neil Skinner

Media & Identity

Blog #7

19 November 2014

Put Down The Airbrush

Pictures on magazine racks at your favorite grocery store, in online ads on the clothing website you browse, and on television are full of fake body types that have been altered to look extra appealing. Since the introduction of photoshop to media outlets, both men and women have been edited to look younger, stronger and more beautiful in a way that is almost nonhuman. Taking one glance at these fake pictures can make us question our own bodies and give us the feeling that we are not ideal enough for society. As a result, people may develop issues such as low self-esteem, inadequacy, unhealthy diets, or even eating disorders.

While the majority of media outlets continue to dump these negative “ideal images” of men and women onto us, one magazine has pledged to put an end to these false images. Seventeen, the popular magazine targeted at adolescent girls has taken the first step in putting an end to the photoshopping madness. Ann Shoket, the editor-in-chief of Seventeen, claims that they will discontinue the editing of girls’ images in the magazine. Seventeen’s campaign is aimed at combatting these negative body ideals that plague our society and encourage unhealthy diets. Instead, they seek to promote “real” pictures of girls. This strategy is a bold step forward in putting an end to these photoshopped and airbrushed pictures.

An article that comes to mind that we discussed in class, Upward and Downward: Social Comparison Processing of Thin Idealized Media Images written by Marika Tiggemann and Janet Polivy highlights how women in western culture have been alienated by these false media images. For example, “The current high level of body dissatisfaction and disordered eating experienced by many women in Western societies is generally attributed to sociocultural factors, and, in particular, to the powerful and pervasive influence of the mass media” (Tiggemann and Polivy 1). This evidence shows that photoshopped pictures in magazines are beginning to cause health issues for women in America and they need a campaign to start changing things.

The Seventeen magazine campaign can prove to be a highly effective one. Their strategy of putting an end to photoshopping their girls can lead to higher self-esteem and more body satisfaction with all of the subscribers. It shows that not every magazine has to go with the flow of what others are doing in the mass media. I think prosocial media is an extremely beneficial part of our culture because it builds people up instead of breaking them down like other forms of media do. Overall, it can help everyone be happier with themselves and hopefully more magazines will follow Seventeen’s positive campaign in the future.

Evangelicals In The Zombie Apocalypse

27 Oct

Neil Skinner

Media & Identity

Blog #6

27 October 2014

Evangelicals In The Zombie Apocalypse

Life today can move pretty fast and it seems like everyone is simply on a quest for material wealth and nothing else. Religion has been an important part of life for people since they have been able to record their history. While spiritual wealth used to be important, the media has downplayed its significance on television and in the movie theatre. Today’s youth are beginning to see religion as old and useless with no real rewards. Playing with ipads, android phones, or the latest playstation is seen as more fun than having to wake up early for church on Sunday. The media portrays religious members as weak and poor while on the other hand, they show that real happiness comes from materials and having no affiliation with a spiritual side.

A prime example of how the media portrays religious figures comes from the hit zombie apocalypse television show, The Walking Dead. The shows main protagonist, Rick, and his group, stumble upon a cowardly man screaming for help, a Catholic priest who is named Father Gabriel. From just hearing the name “Gabriel” one can tell that he is a stereotypical religious figure. His clothing also gives the stereotype away; he never once takes off his black suit and white collar. In addition, he is constantly berating the group with biblical verses and talking about how scared he is of the zombies. While the other characters in the show never discuss religion, Gabriel is portrayed as a cowardly religious man who is helpless.

The stereotypical portrayal of Father Gabriel is similar to other negative religious characters throughout television. Todd Rendleman, the author of Images of Evangelicals in American Film, describes how innocent and cowardly religious figures are portrayed throughout film, “The naïve evangelical wears her faith on her sleeve and is chiefly characterized by innocence and credulity” (Rendleman 280). Father Gabriel from The Walking Dead confirms the stereotype of the naïve evangelical. These negative stereotypes can have severe implications of people view religion. If characters like these keep being created, people will continue to see religious figures as weak and naïve. This, in turn, will cause children and adults alike to distance themselves from religious institutions and cause the decline of faith in general.

Interracial Marriage In Bel-Air

16 Oct

Neil Skinner

Media & Identity

16 October 2014

Blog #5

Interracial Marriage In Bel-Air

Sitcoms have been popular on television for decades with their wacky characters and silly plots. While many of them feature mostly white characters, some shows have broken the barrier by featuring minority families as the lead role instead. Some of these hit shows include The Cosby Show, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and The George Lopez Show. One show that stuck out to me was The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. This television show featured a predominantly African American cast and was extremely popular during its 148 episode run. There were racial themes strewn throughout the series that I never had never picked up on when I would watch it as a child. These were positive themes about how racism will get us nowhere in life except backwards.

One episode from the show that I remember seeing as a rerun a couple years ago is titled “Guess Who’s Coming to Marry?” from the second season. The plot of this episode revolves around Will’s aunt, Janice, who decides that she is going marry a white man, much to the surprise of the rest of the family. When the family first lays their eyes on Janice and her new fiancé kissing, they simply stare in disbelief. Her new fiancé, Frank, greets the rest of the family with a big smile and a wave while they continue to be in shock. Trying not to bring up the fact that Frank is a different race, everyone in the family describes Frank as “tall” before Will finally blurts out that he is white. Another aunt describes it as an outrage that Janice would do something like this. Throughout the episode, the family eventually warms up to Frank and they welcome him with open arms.

The character of Frank is a stereotypical white person. While he is an extremely courteous person on the show, he is portrayed as not knowing much about their culture. The show is portrayed through the character of Will, a young African American man. This perspective views Frank as an outsider to the rest of the family due to his race. People of different races can all relate to this episode because it shows what it is like trying to fit into a different race that is all around you. The show takes on a unique perspective because not many sitcoms deal with interracial marriage and portraying white people as the ones who are outsiders. It shows how shocking it can be for two different types of races to mix together. The plot of this episode has positive implications for everyone. The family proves that they can overcome their own beliefs about racial prejudice and stereotypes. The message behind the plot also shows that people from other races who love each other can be together and overcome the racial barriers that society has created.

Speaking Out Against Racism: Family Guy

6 Oct

Neil Skinner

Media & Identity

Blog #4

6 October 2014

Speaking Out Against Racism: Family Guy

Race has been an ongoing issue for the United States for many years. While relations have significantly improved in the past 50 years, problems continue to exist even to this day. Stereotypes for each race are still present; they even pop up on primetime television. While many of them portray race in some type of way, I have chosen the popular animated sitcom, Family Guy for my analysis of race on primetime television. The show airs on the channel, Fox. Family Guy has been on television for many years now, it follows a middle-class white family and their comedic adventures. Most episodes are told through the perspective of the patriarch of the family, Peter Griffin. While Peter has three best friends, I will be examining his African American friend, Cleveland Brown.

Cleveland is often the butt of ongoing jokes throughout the show and often speaks from the perspective of African Americans. Cleveland is portrayed as a family man and has a nice home on the show. He is also the only main character in Family Guy who is African American which makes him unique compared to others. In an episode where Peter finds out his distant relative was a slave; Cleveland is seen expressing his racial pride for being African American. In other instances, if another person is racist, Cleveland sticks up for his race and acts as the voice of reason. His character is often seen as going against racial stereotypes by being the complete opposite of what people would normally believe.

Family Guy differs from other shows in that it gives other races a fair say and does not only give people who are white a chance to push their beliefs. For example, from the article, May the Circle Stay Unbroken, “much of the rhetorical power of whiteness is founded in its ability to avoid any explicit statements about or claims to racial centrality” (Chidester, 158). This show goes against this finding. Family Guy and the character of Cleveland Brown can have beneficial implications because they help other races speak out about their issues at the same time poking fun at the fact that racism is still an issue in civilized society. We should all relate to the character of Cleveland Brown, because he is a kind-hearted, normal guy who thinks racism should not be an issue within our culture anymore.

Class Hierarchy In Primetime Television Comes Alive

24 Sep

Neil Skinner

24 September 2014

Blog #3

Media & Identity

Class Hierarchy Within Seinfeld

Primetime television is at the time of the day when most people take a load off from their busy day to relax. Many popular shows are on during this block such as The Big Bang Theory, Scandal, and Criminal Minds. One older show from primetime television that stuck out to me was Seinfeld. While these shows are there for entertainment, they can also have special messages between the lines such as class hierarchy. Class is an ongoing issue within our country that has been raging on for years. There is a constant struggle between people who are poor and the others who have all the money.

Seinfeld is an older sitcom starring Jerry Seinfeld. Jerry is a well-off comedian living in New York City along with Elaine and George, who are both employees at large businesses. Jerry also lives across from a zany, goofy character named Kramer, who is constantly out of work. The show is primarily told from the perspective of Jerry, a white male who has money and is higher up in class. Cues are given to the audience from the way that the characters with jobs dress compared to Kramer. While Jerry and George dress in expensive polo shirts and designer pants, Kramer is often shown wearing a cheap button up shirt or discount jeans with an odd color combination. Kramer also knows a lot of shady people and always knows how to get ahold of any item whether if it is illegal or not. Another cue is shown when the characters are walking down the street in the city; hobos are often shown as dirty with torn clothing or surrounded by garbage.

While Kramer is a hilarious character on the show, his lack of job and dealing with shady people all the time gives him the negative stereotype of “white trash” compared to his upscale friends. Laura Portwood-Stacer, in her article, Consuming “Trash”, touches on this odd class, “they are a category of white people distinct from and inferior to the normative white citizenry” (Portwood-Stacer, 2). While Kramer fits into this “white trash” category, I think he portrays to the audience that it is not a bad thing to be jobless or know shady people. The character breaks the mold of this class hierarchy to show that they can still be good people who are always there for their friends.

In conclusion, Seinfeld, like many other shows, portrays the fact that there are class differences within our country. The characters with nice jobs play tennis, go to the opera, and wear expensive clothing. Other people who have less money are shown to be gross hobos or have less “class” than the rich characters. This can be dangerous because it gives negative stereotypes to people who live in poverty. The character of Kramer sticks out due to his “white trash” category but he breaks this role and shows that just because he is different from the rich characters with jobs, it is not always a bad thing in the end.

The World of Mass Media & Perceived Identity

4 Sep

Neil Skinner     

     Since the rise of mass media over the years, people have been growing more attached to it everyday. Look around you, there is probably at least one television, smart phone, or computer by you. All of those pieces of technology show that the mass media is taking over society, even in the privacy of our own homes. It is an even more difficult task to untether yourself from it because it is everywhere and we start to feel an “attachment” for it. With the mass media all around us, it is beginning to shape the way in which we perceive reality.

     Media is becoming to be the purveyor of ideology. While it used to come from other places such as family, school, and religious institutions that is not the case any longer. While all those places still play a large role in creating ideology, mass media is slowly beginning to take over and pushing their own agendas. For example, Naomi Rockler explains in her article, Messages between the lions, “several other columnists wrote editorials criticizing the film because of its portrayal of race, gender, class, and other ideological issues” (Rockler, 6). Rockler goes onto explain that the blockbuster film, Lion King, has hidden messages behind it to purvey certain ideologies to the audience such as racism where African Americans are being portrayed as hyenas and class hierarchies. If these messages are true than the media is creating ideologies for children and shaping the way they think for the rest of their lives.

     Another article, Situating Oneself in a Racialized World, written by Etsuko Kinefuchi and Mark Orbe argues about how race is portrayed in the film Crash. The film touches on conflicts between each race and what it meant to be that type of person. The film also contains stereotypical portrayals of each race. This is another example of mass media creating ideologies.

     In conclusion, mass media is becoming larger everyday and is slowly taking over our lives. Many texts that they create go on to shape peoples’ ideologies and the way that they perceive the world. From a blockbuster film down to a simple magazine, they are telling us what to think, what to believe, and even how to look.