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Racism. Inequality. Privilege

24 Oct


What I took away this evening hearing Tim wise speak was a better understanding of privilege.  Privilege is invisible, not only white privilege, but any dominant group enjoys an obliviousness to the lived experiences of marginalized groups. I also learned a lot about systemic racism, how policies that have long been set in place sometimes have racialized effects. Since polices such as these have always seemed to be in place it is often perceived as normal. Fixing the problems that these policies cause is difficult because in a legal sense it is a situation that the courts do not have the power to change.

Many topics that Tim Wise covered were rebuttals to commonly heard when the topic of racism or inequality is brought up. Mr Wise, explained how as Americans, we tend only to acknowledge the parts of History. Many marginalized groups have been oppressed in our history, Blacks, Latinos and Asians alike.

The election of a president of african american decent is a frequent fact called on to support the idea that Racism is dead in America. This type of “individualistic assessment” can be considered a fallacy of logic as one successful outlier is no where near proof that racism has been eradicated.

“I’m not prejudice, i have friends in marginalized groups” Counterexamples Mr. Wise used for this  point really resonated with me. it struck me as a great thought process (at least for males) to actually examine the Privilege we enjoy. heterosexual males create partnerships with women, marry them and become interdependent. HOWEVER that does not exempt them from sexist dispositions.  as males, the need to empathize and understand the experience of women is never really felt.  the same example can be applied to all other instances of privilege, and inequality.


Oceans (11 characters, but 5 important white ones)

2 Mar


I watched the movie Oceans 11 (2001), which is the first in Steven Soderbergh’s trilogy.  I thought this would be a good movie since there were so many different characters, and wanted to take a look at what kinds of characters were cast and the different roles they portrayed.  It is about a man named Danny Ocean who assembles a team of eleven people to pull off a huge heist of three casinos.


The first thing I noticed about the general plot and characters was that Danny Ocean (George Clooney) was an older white man, who assembled a diverse team to help him perform this heist.  Although there were two major black actors (Bernie Mac and Don Cheadle), they were not listed on the promotional movie poster as lead characters:

File:Ocean's Eleven 2001 Poster.jpg

I found myself thinking of the hegemony:  although the movie had a cast of whites, blacks, an Asian, Mexican, etc, the lead actors/actresses all happened to be white.  The two black actors played important roles, but they were not mentioned as “leading” roles.  The Asian in the movie (Shaobo Qin) played a small part as “The Amazing” Yen, who was a circus-performer type of contortionist, which seemed pretty stereotypical to me.  When first watching this movie I thought nothing of it, but after taking a more oppositional reading, I would not be thrilled if I was an Asian-American man and this was how my culture was portrayed.  I realize that the fictional team of casino-robbers chose this type of character due to the difficult maneuvers he had to pull off while robbing the safe, but I don’t really think it mattered.  I noticed something we talked about in class – that the characteristics of whites are much more diverse than others in media (there were young, old, smart, and stupid whites in the movie, yet only a few characteristics of other races).  I do think the film did a good job of being fun and entertaining, and even employed positive relationships between different races and ethnicities.  But as always, there were things we talked about in class that were portrayed in this film, no matter how lighthearted they were meant to be.

The Manipulation of Women

3 Feb


This week, I watched two of the latest episodes of Family Guy via Hulu. In the first episode, Meg, the overweight, unattractive daughter of Peter and Louis Griffin, turns 18 years old. No one shows up to her birthday party which is typical because she’s also unpopular on top of  everything else.  Quagmire, Peter Griffin’s best friend, shows up and gives Meg a cheap gift in an attempt to try to seduce her. Meg is ecstatic because someone finally gives her some attention. Peter spend the remainder of the episode trying to avoid Quagmire from taking advantage of his daughter while Louis insists that they have to let her explore because she’s an adult and it never works when you try to tell a girl what to do. When Lois sees that her husband is right he asks her if she will admit that all women are stupid.   The second episode I watched was called “The Blind Side” and starts off with Peter’s mentally disabled boss being fired. He is replaced by an attractive, deaf woman whom Peter tries to immediately seduce.  Peter tells his friends about his new boss and they host a “Disabled Ladies Night” at the bar in hopes that these women would be desperate enough to sleep with them.  Brian comes on to a girl and finds out she is blind. They go out on a nice date but Brian later finds out that his date doesn’t like dogs. He spends the rest of the episode deceiving his date that he’s a loving and caring man by tricking her into thinking he took her to Paris and making her believe that he fought off imaginary guys who were ironically trying to “take advantage of her”.





These two episodes (and probably all those before and after) view women as being unintelligent and easily fooled, particularly less attractive ones like Meg and diasabled ones like Brian’s date.  Meg  is unwanted and often mistreated and this is why Quagmire comes onto her. There is a stereotype that women who have low self esteem are easier than those with higher ones. Quagmire stated several times throughout the episode how easy it would be to “get” Meg.  Brian on the other hand did not know in advance that his date was blind, but only saw a pretty face. However, as soon as he found out, he spends the rest of his time finding ways to trick her and manipulate her as if she were stupid just because she was blind. I also find it interesting that Peter, who is married openly flirts with women but his fidelity is never questioned.  Family Guy is notorious for poking fun of all racial, class, sexual, size and gender identites but instead of giving off the message that this is not okay, they promote it.  To some, this is a great thing that will help us as Americans get over our differences. To others, all this does is perpetualize our differences.


I used to really be into Family Guy when I was a teenager in high school but as I’ve grown older, I view it as more raunchy and inappropriate with every episode, not to mention I seldom laugh at any of the punchlines anymore.  I used to be the kind of person who viewed Family Guy as helping us get over our differences but now I feel like it just makes us ignorant. The point of view is generally told from that of a middle-class, married white man which represents all four of the dominant ideologies (white, patriarchy,capitalism, and heterosexual). As we discussed in class, because this is the dominant, privileged group, there isn’t much one could say to get under the skin of someone in the dominant group as opposed to those in a marginalized group.

Sexy Crime vs. Upbeat Singing

6 Nov

Summary: For this week’s assignment I watched Glee on Fox and Covert Affairs on USA Network. On Glee, Sue is still running her campaign on the basis that all art and music programs should be defunded. The school musical is then canceled due to it costing too much money, which Sue brought to the attention of the principal. The kids in the musical were attempting to fund the play themselves by selling ad space but when Kurt’s dad hears about the defunding he is livid and decides to round up local funeral home owners to buy enough ad space in the program to fund the entire play. Kurt’s dad, ironically named Burt, then decides to run against Sue. Brittany befriends a new foreign exchange student from Ireland because she thinks he is a leperchaun only she can see. Mercedes convinces Brittany and Santana to leave the New Directions and join the new singing group led by another teacher. This is an all girl group and they are all excited to finally be out from underneath Rachael Berry’s spotlight. Finn becomes jealous of Blaine because of his increasing amount of leadership he has shown. Puck and Quinn babysit for Shelby, (Shelby adopted their baby Quinn and Puck’s baby at the end of season 1), and Quinn sets up stuff in Shelby’s house to make it look like she is a bad mother. Her plan is to call child services and hopefully get her baby back.

On Covert Affairs Annie Walker, who is an undercover covert officer, attempts to get an Asian man his American citizenship and in the process of leaving unnoticed he is poisned with a special type of radiation. Later on in the show we learn that Shen’s friend from China,the only other person who knew about Shen leaving, is the one who poisned him. Annie finally tells her sister Danielle about her job as a spy after lying and living with her for two years. The sister is extremely upset and feels betrayed. The episode ends with Danielle packing up the pent house Annie lived in and kicking her out.

Analysis/Application: In the episode of Covert Affairs Shen and Annie are transferred and treated in the biohazard unit in the basement of the hospital. While down there, Shen confides in Annie that the first thing he wanted to do when he arrived in America was to go to a baseball game. He loved baseball and became interested in it because of his little brother. The aspect of an Asian man liking baseball is a bit stereotypical just because of the fact that nowadays there are many Asain basebally players, so was his character Shen only written to like baseball because he was leaving China and was of Asian decent? This association between baseball and Asian people is easy for an audience to interpret which is why I believe it was written like that. There is also another agent that works within the C.I.A. who is of Indian decent and his name is Jai. The spelling of his name with an ‘i’ instead of a ‘y’ identifies him with the Indian culture. Another huge anchor of this show is that Auggie, the intelligent I.T. agent who helps Annie run all of her missions, is blind. He lost his sight during a special operations mission in Iraq and is amazing at his job. This show and his character are great role models for breaking the mold about disabled members of society and what they can achieve.

When Burt runs agianst Sue (not sure of the title they are running for but it is at a very local level) it mimicks class warfare. Sue is the coach of the cheerleading team which is given whatever they want, no matter the cost, no questions asked simply because she is Sue and everyone is afraid of her wrath, including Principal Figgins. Burt resembles the hard-working middle class because he runs his own auto-mechanic shop, wears flannel shirts and baseball hats (white trash video anyone?), and loves sports. However, this stereotypical dad has raised a gay son alone, which is a huge premise and plot of the show. When Brittany automatically assumes the foreign exchange student from Ireland, Rory, is a leperchaun it is primarily because she is the ditz of the show but it also reflects how we as Americans associate people from different countries with popular things or facts we know about that specifc country.

Response: These are two shows that I have grown to love and continue to watch into both of their third seasons. They are different from each other in different ways but they are not so different as to scare viewers away. Glee espcially tackles difficult issues that have been under-represented for too long. Even in flashy dance numbers and Mariah Carey inspired outbursts the show still manages to keep viewers tuned and challenge the norms of society. Covert Affairs is different than a lot of other crime shows mainly because it has a strong, smart, and kick-ass female as its lead character and a blind man for her sidekick. Talk about interesting duos! The international dealings of terrorists, mobsters, embassy rulers, and more has led this show into a third season within a year of its first episode. I know I will notice more and more different stereotypes and identities while watching this show because it deals so much with international people and situations.

Ability Identity in Media

7 Oct

Summary: I watched the show Modern Family which airs on abc from 9pm – 930pm. In this episode Jay helps manny with a school fundraiser that involves Manny selling wrapping paper in order to raise money for his school’s drama club. Gloria lets her and Jay’s dog out (Stella) without closing the gate and Stella runs away. Cam also makes a huge mess in his and Mitchell’s kitchen and neglects cleaning it. Also Claire tries to petition to get a stop sign placed in a dangerous intersection without much help from her husband and kids.

Analysis: This show had a wide age range and also depicted a minority race. The things that stuck out to me is that most of the characters did whatever they wanted even if they were asked to do otherwise. Every character had the ability to do the right thing (some did end up doing the right thing) but didn’t. An example would be Jay and Manny, Manny wanted Jay to just buy his wrapping paper instead of going out and selling it himself. Another example would be when Claire asked her family to help get signatures to help but up a new stop sign but they all conveniently found something else to do. Gloria also left the gate open resulting in Stella running away, and Cam not cleaning up the kitchen because he doesn’t like to even though he made the mess. With all this being said all of these characters had the ability to perform the tasks that were presented to them but didn’t, and I believe this feeds into the stereotype that all Americans are lazy.

Response: To me there were a lot of identities portrayed as well as stereotypes in this show. For example you can say that overweight man/boys are lazy because Cam didn’t want to clean up and manny didn’t want to sell his wrapping paper because he didn’t like walking up hills. Another one could even be Jay trying to teach Manny to be a salesman and not to give up, and giving Manny scenarios like “what if your about to lose your house are you just going to give up”. This is example of men doing whatever it takes to provide for their family. Another stereotype that was brought up and actually debunked was that the husband was the leader of the family and actually even though Phil is the breadwinner of his family he says that Claire is actually the quarterback of the team, and the rallies the rest of the family to get signatures for the stop sign. With all this being said I actually believe that the moral of this episode is not to give up so easy, and to think about how your actions may effect others.