Archive by Author

Standing up to the “Bully”

14 Nov

Image

Prosocial media is very important in today’s society. As we’ve learned time after time in class, the effects from the media we consume are lasting. I decided to write about the 2011 documentary “Bully” as an example of prosocial media. This documentary affects children who are a bit older, because as we’ve learned in class, older children respond more and have a better perspective concerning empathy. I would say the target age range for this documentary is about 10 years old and up.

Bullying, as an issue, is vastly ignored across the US and around the world. The documentary addresses this concern and offers up testimonies from adults and children who have pledged to help the cause. A featured couple, David and Tina Long, were feautured in the film because their son, Tyler, committed suicide at age 11 due to bullying. Another couple particularly showcased prosocial behavior by implementing Facebook and social media outlets into their cause. Many of the examples shown in the film were very powerful, but also very shocking and sad. As I stated earlier, empathy was a big player in the success of this documentary. Even though the peak of prosocial media is age 7, this film does something different by addressing the issues head on. Most prosocial media does its best to somehow mask the fact that you are learning something to become more popular; this documentary takes the polar opposite approach by sending a direct message and doing something about it.

Since the documentary, there has been a domino effect of prosocial behaviors and media. Ellen became aware of the documentary and had the Longs on her show in an extended segment dedicated to the importance of standing up to bullying. She published the video on YouTube and the video has over a million views.

The BULLY Project, a social action campaign, was also inspired by the documentary. Their first goal was to screen the documentary to 1 million kids; after reaching this goal, they have raised this goal to 10 million. Kids, teachers, parents, college kids, and more are involved in the BULLY Project.

This obvious audience outreach and participation shows that audiences were very much affected by this documentary. As someone who was very negatively affected by bullying at a young age, I understand and know the importance of bullying education that is needed in the US. Prosocial media is any issue’s best asset to make a change, and it is obvious that this documentary is doing just that.

Tim Wise

25 Oct

Listening to Tim Wise’s talk to Google employees in Silicon Valley was extremely interesting and eye opening. The main theme of the talk was meritocracy, fitting for the Silicon Valley region so obsessed with business and institutional culture. One of the first examples Mr. Wise brought up was the sever inequalities in races represented in the work force in Silicon Valley. 6% of employees there are of African American or Latino. As one of the more prominent and income-grossing areas of our country, this percentage is quite low. African Americans and Latinos make up 30% of America’s population, yet in such a prominent district, they are heavily underrepresented.

After these statistics, Mr. Wise went into the social politics of having credentials, which I found highly interesting. In an area where meritocracy rules, what exactly gives you merit? Where does this merit come from? Does everyone attain merit fairly? Newt Gingrich ended up being an example in Mr. Wise’s argument. As an older, refined, white man with a PhD, Mr. Wise argues that society would embrace Gingrich in almost any educational institution as a professor. The irony of the situation comes in the real facts concerning Gingrich’s PhD. In his dissertation, Gingrich studied the Anglo-Democratic educational system and teachings in the Congo. This is obviously a very focused subject matter. Mr. Wise argues that Gingrich would most likely win a teaching position at a university for a subject completely non related to his dissertation or course of study over a completely qualified person of color. This would happen because of his born privilege and his hegemonic qualities: he is white, male, Christian, upper class, and heterosexual. To further the argument, apparently, Gingrich didn’t actually interview anyone from the Congo for his dissertation. His paper was written with only European sources. This was very shocking to me to hear.

Another great topic Mr. Wise discussed was the popularity of predominantly white private schools in America. As a girl who went to an all girls, private, Catholic high school, this was a very relatable example. Primarily white institutions, Mr. Wise argues, are going to steadily dwindle in the coming years unless they decide to make an effort to diversify. As the percentage of white Americans continues to lessen, the percentage of rich whites who want to send their children to predominantly white schools will inevitable lessen. Mr. Wise made a great argument about how America isn’t going to stop becoming more diverse. With personal experience, I know that private schooling institutions have a tendency to have little to no diversity, which can obviously be seen as a problem in our growing diverse population here in America.

One woman’s question really impressed me at the end of the presentation. She asked Mr. Wise how one would go about trying to move someone who is seemingly unmovable. She asked for concrete examples outlining how to do so. In his response, Mr. Wise spoke about how people will always be heavily affected by their predispositions, no matter where they come from. This heavily correlates to a theory studied in Communication Theory, the Social Judgement Theory. Social Judgement Theory argues that every person has a level of ego-involvement in any given issue which represents how important the subject matter is to them. This theory also discusses latitudes of acceptance, rejection, and noncommitment. In this woman’s question, Mr. Wise is basically explaining to her Social Judgement Theory, which I thought was pretty cool to connect together.

Overall, I enjoyed Mr. Wise’s presentation. I think like all the clips we’ve seen, he really makes you turn your thought processes around. If I would have had the opportunity, I would have liked to ask Mr. Wise what his “a-ha” moment was. Ideally, I would love to sit with him and learn about his history with race and how he’s come to fight white supremacy. He’s an extremely moving and intelligent person, but I definitely agree that I can’t wait to see a person of color have the same amount of impact.

Breaking up is hard to do. Racial stereotype edition.

2 Oct

Group 

Asian Americans with a focus on Asian American women

Summary

I chose to analyze three different music videos for this blog post. The first video is “Paparazzi” by Girls Generation, a Korean pop (also referred to as K pop) group whose presence is largely in Asia. Recently, the group has been expanding their tours and releases to Europe and the US. The music video features many synchronized dance numbers and begins in a movie feature style, setting up a storyline of the girls actually running away from paparazzi.

The second video is “Work Bitch” by Britney Spears. This is the video for her newest single, featuring many dance numbers and BDSM themes throughout the suggestive video. Surprisingly, there are Asian girls as backup dancers throughout the video.

The last video is “Talk Dirty to Me” by Jason Derulo. This video features many different ethnicities; the song itself focuses on the appeal of international girls. The one girl chosen to speak and be seen at the beginning and end of the video is an Asian woman.

Analysis

There are many ways to analyze these videos and how they portray Asian American people, particularly women, as all being the same and all being pristine. A few instances stood out to me more than others.

In “Work Bitch”, there are several featured dancers who are Asian women. Interestingly enough, in a particular dance scene used throughout the video, all of the girl backup dancers sport a hairstyle that has been popularized as an Asian hairstyle: black, straight hair with straight across bangs. This hairstyle is often portrayed on Asian girls in the media. “Talk Dirty to Me” features an Asian girl at the beginning and end of the video sporting the same hairstyle. In class we talked about how Asian Americans are commonly portrayed as the “model minority”, and that rings true in this instance.

In the “Paparazzi” video, I interpreted a play on America’s view of Asian women having a uniformity of sorts. At the beginning of the music video, the members of Girls Generation come out on stage to the song “Singing in the Rain”, a popularized American song. After this scene, the girls break out of the raincoats and sport individualized outfits, portraying the varying types of looks an Asian girl can have. This is interesting, though. As any media company does these days, this portrayal is far from reality. Girls Generation consists of nine girls who actually went to school to become professional girl group members. S.M. Entertainment, the talent company that formed Girls Generation, trains hundreds of Asian girls and boys from extremely young ages to fit into an extremely confined image of a girl or boy group member. Most of the girls in Girls Generation have undergone plastic surgery or used other body alteration techniques to mold themselves into an ideal Girls Generation member. This realistic part of Asian culture actually reinforces the American stereotype that Asian people are uniform in nature, but yet again, we see the media running this reinforcement. The majority of people are not like this at all.

Image

The article Themes of Whiteness in Bulletproof Monk, Kill Bill, and The Last Samurai about the representations of Asians in samurai and martial arts films provides evidence that Asians have difficulties breaking out of the stereotype in popularized American media. In class, we already spoke about the very low percentage of Asians in television:  1-3%. It would be interesting to see the rate for movies from the same study. Their presence in the media is strikingly low, and their roles hardly vary from samurais, technologists, and intellects. The “model minority” fits a very unrealistic mold that portrays to audiences that all Asian Americans are the same.

Conclusion

It’s no surprise that Americans (generally white Americans) put many stereotypes on each race, but Asians have a unique case of being stereotyped uniformly. It would be difficult for there to be an Asian character or presence in pop culture media that strays away from this overarching stereotype Asians are connected with. In reality, there are obviously millions of Asian Americans who are unique individuals completely disconnected from this pop culture stereotype, and it’s very unfortunate that the media portrays an entire race in such a uniform manner.

The Class Divide

24 Sep

Group

Middle Working Class vs. Lower Class

Summary

I watched an episode of Breaking Bad on Netflix (the show is usually aired on AMC). The episode title was “Better Call Saul” from season 2, episode 8. Walt and Jesse run a meth lab in Albuquerque and Jesse is in charge of selling the product. One of Jesse’s “foot soldiers” for the sales, Badger, gets arrested after being fooled by an undercover cop posing as a meth buyer. Soon, Walt and Jesse find out that the DEA has gotten involved in Badger’s case and are forced to seek legal attention to assist Badger. They find sleazy defense lawyer Saul Goodman who they manage to work out a shady deal with. While seeking Saul’s assistance, they witness many examples of Saul’s typical clientele.

Analysis

Image

During this episode, the audience is exposed to various types of people who are well below the poverty line, particularly when Walt and Jesse go to Saul for legal assistance. The episode functions mostly around Walt and Jesse, two characters who by themselves already differ in terms of class. Walt’s family is the spitting image of how Hollywood portrays middle working class America:  Walt is a teacher, his pregnant wife is a stay at home mom, and they have the Protestant work ethic which drives their meager, but happy (sometimes) success. On the other hand, Jesse is a spitting image of lower non-working class in media representations:  he’s an otherwise unemployed drug dealer in his 20’s living from meth paycheck to paycheck. In the article “Consuming Trash” by Laura Portwood-Stacer, Jesse fits four of the predominantly mentioned “white trash” characteristics: transients, neglected children, drug users, and perpetrators.

As an audience member, the partnership between a man in the middle working class and a man from the lower class who is portrayed on the show as “white trash” is very different. Together, the duo somehow works together enough to gather millions of drug dollars. In this episode, the difference in class rankings become helpful to Walt and Jesse; they’re able to secure the help of Saul Goodman, defense lawyer for Badger. When going to acquire his services, Walt is the first one to walk into Saul’s office. When Walt walks in the door, the audience is treated to mass chaos in the form of a defense attorney’s waiting room. Kids screaming, injured lower class members, and various forms of the typical aesthetic of “white trash” fill the room. This places Walt in a very strange position, as he obviously does not fit the class stereotype of “white trash” being portrayed everywhere else in the waiting room. The cinematography during this scene was also very powerful, using audio mixers and camera angles to place the audience directly in Walt’s point of view. This decision by producers alone shows that the middle class is seen to have power over the lower class. The producers could have done this shot from one of the lower class waiting room attendee’s point of view, but Walt’s point of view (the middle working class view) was envisioned as more powerful towards the audience. I think this decision also shows that television actively works to please the middle class audience by frequently taking the lens elsewhere: the lower class or the upper class. This paints a picture where middle class problems are ignored so that predominantly middle class America doesn’t get upset over some television episode.

Another part of the episode that stood out was the Saul Goodman defense attorney commercial. These commercials are the epitome of “white trash”. I did not find the exact commercial used in the episode on YouTube, but here is an example of the testimonies of Saul’s customers:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YPR9ORpwBEU

The first testimony is actually from Badger, Jesse’s seller who gets arrested in the episode. As a commercial within a television program, the satirical outcome while addressing issues of class is quite clear. All of the people portrayed in this commercial would have been considered “white trash”, and the producers of Breaking Bad decided to go for absolute comedy in making these “Better call Saul!” commercial segments. While they were quite hilarious, analyzing the undertones of the video isn’t quite as sunny. Yet, audiences watching this episode are able to see how the “happy” customers in the Saul commercials look nothing like the desolate, downtrodden, and depressed customers in the waiting room at Saul’s actual law office later in the episode. I think this was an interesting move for the producers to make. They definitely hit you with two different bricks here. As an American audience, we mostly focused on the Saul commercials and not the actual implications of the situation. This ignorance is apparent through the internet boom of “Better call Saul” memes and tweets.

Conclusion

This episode satirically overemphasizes the quality of life gap between the middle working class and the lower non-working class; it exposes real problems, but the satire during the episode overshadows the mentality that we should get out and do something about these problems. The in-lecture video “Class Dismissed” provided understanding on how large the divide is between middle class and upper class and how frequently this gap is misconstrued or ignored; the gap between lower and middle class is even more desperate for help and attention. Television programs expose the problems and advocate for class consciousness, but fail to do motivate audiences to get out and do something about it. Laughter is a preferred coping mechanism.