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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.

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Media’s Influence In Creating Identities

9 Mar

Group: African Americans

I can recall experiencing the influence of television at the age of 4. An episode of My Three Sons showed Ernie ripping up a letter that had made him angry, so I decided to exercise my theatrical abilities by ripping up my sister’s monopoly money. My mother had to explain to me that we can not emulate or believe everything we see on television because what we see doesn’t always represent reality or the truth. I was blessed that my mother took the time to explain the basic realities of television. Unfortunately, too many people take what they see at face value and therein lies the problem. Although I had someone to make sure I challenged what I was viewing, I’m aware that television still had an impact in shaping my identity.

I find it disheartening that after so many years minorities are still protrayed more often than not in a negative light or they have to play second to their white counter parts (BBF), or the lighter the skin, the more acceptable. I saw an article addressing how critical it is for our society to embrace diversity. Even in a so called positive image the hegemonic theme is clearly visible with the white men front and center, while the darker men and women are strategically place in the back.

I believe the majority of Media moguls will continue to produce what they feel is more profitable, despite the fact that research has shown the unhealthy affects that negative and unrealistic images has had on our society.

I also believe that classes like Media and Identity will help change our society. Eventually the younger generation will be in charge and hopefully those who have chosen the field of media will make positive changes because of their exposure to the truths and dangers of media. Hopefully they will be able to create realistic and positive identities and we can experience real diversity.

In the meantime we need to promote and support pro-social media whenever possible, keep fighting for more positive representations of the marginalized groups and keep these awesome dialogues active.

Response: I have always considered myself to be a critical thinker, but Media and Identity has taken me to another level of consciousness.

Reflections On Racial Identity In Media

9 Mar

This blog has really opened my eyes to the injustices that occur in the media in correlation with racial identity. However, it’s also helped me realize the incredible things that are being done in the media industry to further bring racial awareness and pride to what consumers view, hear, and read. When I read a book, watch a movie, or listen to the radio, I don’t often think about racial stereotypes unless it’s a prominent theme of whatever I’m watching (like in the film Crash). So to become aware of these things as an assignment has been really interesting and has opened my eyes to see certain themes in the things I view even now, after the assignment. I think it’s important for us as humans to be aware of racial identity and the negative and positive aspects it brings in correlation with the media industry because where there is ignorance there is no room for growth, and by eliminating ignorance and taking steps to make more consumers aware of racial issues in media, we can all become more educated and well-rounded citizens.

I’ve really enjoyed this assignment and I think it was extremely beneficial to the class as a whole as it sparked conversation and allowed us to look into things we normally wouldn’t even notice. From now on when I consume media I know I’ll be keeping these theories in mind and be better equipped to understand them in my daily life. Like the penguin Opus in “A Wish For Wings That Work”, above all we must embrace ourselves and those around us for who they are and celebrate diversity in all ways, including through racial identity.

Sucker Punch Sucker-Punched Minorities?

2 Mar

This week I chose to write my blog about the movie Sucker Punch, starring Emily Browning, Jena Malone, Abbie Cornish, and Vanessa Hudgens. Sucker Punch is a film about a young girl called Baby Doll who is put in a mental hospital by her abusive stepfather. She falls into an alternate reality as a result of trying to cope with what’s happening to her, and in this alternate reality she works with fellow patients Sweet Pea, Blondie, Amber, and Rocket to try and escape the hospital. Rocket, Blondie, and Amber all end up dying at the hands of their captors, and in the end Baby Doll sacrifices herself to make it possible for Sweet Pea to escape.

 

This movie doesn’t deal with racial issues in a controversial way, as the plot isn’t centered on a particular racial issue. However, the cast is rather diverse; Blondie is played by Vanessa Hudgens who is Latina, and Amber is played by an asian actress. Sweet Pea, Baby Doll, and Rocket are all white. An interesting point to note is that the people who run the mental institution are all white. This includes the dance instructor and the “warden”. There are actually no black characters, and no Middle Eastern characters at all. I don’t think this was a purposeful move on behalf of the casting directors seeing as racial issues are not a point of discussion throughout the movie, but I think it’s worth noting the irony of white characters in powerful dispositions.

 

Personally, it didn’t bother me initially that African American and Middle Eastern people were underrepresented in the film, but now that I’m writing this blog, it is somewhat unnerving. However, I do give credit to the casting directors for representing strong-willed women who are hispanic and asian. The only issue with this is that all of the main characters (namely Baby Doll, Sweet Pea, and the warden) are white, while the ethnic actors play lesser roles.

Pussified white men need black thugs to kill for them

2 Mar

For this week’s blog I decided to watch Horrible Bosses. Despite being hilarious, If you do an oppositional reading of the film you see that there is no real racial representation. You see three white men that say they hate their job, but their bosses suck. So since their bosses suck so bad they decide to kill them, but in order to do that they need to find a thug to coach them. So they go to a ghetto bar where everyone in the bar is black. They come across Jamie Foxx’s character Motherfucker Jones who becomes their murder guide. The part that seems really odd about the film, is that why the three guy’s bosses suck, their jobs all seem to be high paying and affords them comfortable lives. The fact that these three white guys with descent lives have to go find people of lower sophistication to help them kill their bosses shows how spoiled they are. On top of that the first thing they think when lower sophistication is mentioned is black people. Hilarious movie, but doesn’t do much for racial equality.

Oceans (11 characters, but 5 important white ones)

2 Mar

Summary:

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.

Analysis/Reaction:

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.

No Good Deed Goes Unnoticed

2 Mar

Group: African Americans

Summary:  I chose Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds (2012). A successful, wealthy businessman, Wesley Deeds (Tyler Perry) has always done what’s expected of him, whether it’s assuming the helm of his father’s company, tolerating his brother’s misbehavior at the office or planning to marry his beautiful but restless fiancée, Natalie (Gabrielle Union). But Wesley is jolted out of his predictable routine when he meets Lindsey (Thandie Newton), a down-on-her-luck single mother who works on the cleaning crew in his office building. When he offers to help her get back on her feet, the chance encounter with someone so far outside his usual circle ignites something in Wesley. This one good deed may finally spark his courage to exchange the life that’s expected of him for the life he’s always really wanted. A moving, uplifting drama about coincidence, courage, and the defining choices we make on our paths to happiness. (iTunes)

Analysis/Application: My family was in total shock when I suggested going to see a Tyler Perry movie, because they all know how much his use of buffoonery and stereotypes grate on my nerves. However, this movie seemed to have a different feel, so I decided to take a chance. I should have known the stereotypes would make their appearance. The playbill is as follows: The angry single black female, the angry black male who demeans and disrespects women, the upper class snob, the handsome masculine males, the light skinned and thin women (mainstream’s idealized representations of beauty). This movie also delves into socio economic differences.

Well, I must confess; I actually enjoyed the movie. I felt it exhibited characteristics of the Para-social Contact Hypothesis. Tyler Perry’s approach was practically identical to our group’s pro-social project. He utilized a predominately black cast as the dominant group with a few whites as the minorities, making sure the members of the hegemonic dominant group were accepting and not oppressive.

I actually felt some of the stereotypical characteristics began to fade as we became more knowledgeable about each person’s background. The angry black woman was suffering from hardships in her life and most likely Post Traumatic Syndrome. Addressing real issues that many people deal with took the focus away from race, thereby making it a movie not just for and about black people. It’s now a movie that shows African Americans in the same light as the dominant group. He also demonstrated the pro-social concept by reaching out and helping someone in need, which often inspires others to pay it forward.

I just wish we could get rid of some of the idealized images and stereotypical characters. It would have been nice if Wesley’s true love could have been someone like Jill Scott or Vanessa Williams instead of Thandie Newton.

I’m also tire of the disrespectful black male. Many black men deal with serious issues, but not all black men act them out through anger, drinking and infidelity. My father died this past August at the ripe old age of 88 and I never saw him handle life’s problems or situations with anger. I never heard him say a curse word, he never abused my mother or spoke ill of her. He was a faithful husband and devoted father. That’s my reality and that’s what I would love to see portrayed in the media. It’s apparent, we need more Bill Cosbys.

Response: I guess you have to crawl before you can walk. This movie was at least a small step in the right direction. Hopefully Tyler Perry and others in the media will continue down that path.

Black Dynamite

26 Feb

Normally, when you think of a superhero-what constitutes them as Super is having the ability to perform some sort of mystical power. Black Dynamite doesn’t necessarily have a supernatural power, but the power of words, presence, and Kung-Fu. BD’s character is a mash up of comedic antics by Rudy Ray Moore’s Dolemite- a 70’s pimp with a charisma that warrants him respect in the black community. There are also elements of Jim Kelley’s bravado, appearance and mannerisms, as well as John Shaft’s machismo and appearance. BD also has an army of women that knows Kung-Fu, and he utilizes when there is a need to attack the man (hegemonic ruling class). The overall motif is 70’s Blaxploitation with a heavy influence from Dolemite, as well as some elements from the movie The Spook who sat behind the door– where Dan Freeman, a black man from the Southside of Chicago, and a secret Black Nationalist, graduates from an elite university and became the first black to integrate the CIA. He later takes what he’s learned to unify the black community to fight against police brutality and racism.

The main cast: Michael Jai White … Black Dynamite, Obba Babatundé … Osiris, Kevin Chapman … O’Leary, Tommy Davidson… Cream Corn, Richard Edson … Dino, Arsenio Hall … Tasty Freeze, Darrel Heath … Militant 2, Buddy Lewis … Gunsmoke, Brian McKnight … Sweet Meat, Byron Minns …Bullhorn, Phil Morris…Saheed, Miguel A. Núñez Jr. …Mo Bitches, Kim Whitley…Honey Bee, Salli Richardson-Whitfield…Gloria, and John Salley…Kotex.

“The story of a 1970s African-American action legend named Black Dynamite. The Man killed his brother, pumped heroin into local orphanages, and flooded the ghetto with adulterated malt liquor. Black Dynamite was the one hero willing to fight The Man all the way from the blood-soaked city streets to the hallowed halls of the Honky House” (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1190536/). There was no other way to sum up this masterpiece of parody/satire of African American stereotypes and identity during the 1970s.

Analysis

Michael Jai White’s character, Black Dynamite represented Black Power, by his choice of wearing an Afro, black or brown leather coats, and having a moral compass pointed towards fighting the establishment. His line of work and personal life is questionable, but he finds time to help the oppressed. The stereotypes that are prominent in this film are: all Chinese people know Kung-Fu, Black women (duality- high intelligent view of self, tends to be revolutionary and feminist; lower intelligent view of self, seductive and submissive), Black men are involved in some sort of criminal behavior. Black Panthers (Black Power Movement) are characterized as radicals, or gun totting community organizers; and all white women have jungle fever.

What stuck out the most in regards to Size Identity was the character Honey Bee. She was BD’s bottom chick, the one that handed all his business affairs and trained his team of elite fighting women. She was a large woman with very high self-esteem, conscious of her pride and sexuality, but also played into the stereotype of being submissive when faced with some adversity. There was never any representation of her or Gunsmoke (large black male, aide to the cause) depicted as comic relief, just as supporting characters. To better label the characters identities; everyone wearing Afros regardless of being good or bad were conscious of their blackness and lived by to some extent the ideologies of the Black Power Movement or Afrocentric. Those whom hair were processed- permed, straighten represented Eurocentric or Ghettocentric identities.

Response

Overall, Black Dynamite is a hilarious film that parodies 70’s Blaxploitation films, with continuity errors, shots with the boom mic visible, and jump cuts. Other than the obvious, the reason I chose this film was how the representation of blacks in media were portrayed during that time. It also gives focus to the three sub groups in the black community (Triple Quandary Theory) represented in the film: Afrocentric, Eurocentric, and Ghettocentric. The Afrocentric has a higher intelligent perception of self and in having this chooses to be the change in their community, even if it takes evasive action. The Eurocentric identifies with the hegemonic class and tries to integrate and in some cases sabotage or suppresses the movement. The Ghettocentric really didn’t care, more consumed with drugs, sex, and partying- nihilistic. There isn’t much concern with size, more so how one individualizes them self in comparison to collective thought and representation- we need to do better as a society as opposed to I gotta get mine, a la the American Dream.

Whiteness Reigns

24 Feb

Group: African Americans

Summary: Law Abiding Citizens (2009) Starring Jamie Fox (Nick Rice) and Gerald Butler (Clyde Shelton). Clyde Shelton’s family is brutally murdered. The ones responsible are caught. However, because of improper procedure, the D.A., Nick Rice only has circumstantial evidence. So he decides to get one of them to testify against the other. When Shelton learns of this, he is not happy. Ten years later, the one who was convicted is being executed but something goes wrong; his execution goes awry and he suffers. They learn that someone tampered with the machine. And the other one is found dead, killed in a gruesome manner. Rice suspects Shelton, so he has him picked up. At first, Shelton agrees to a plea agreement with Rice but changes his mind. It appears that Shelton is not done; it appears he blames the whole system and is declaring war on it going after everyone involved with his family’s case. So Rice has to stop him but Shelton is way ahead of him. (IMDb)

Analysis/Application: I’m sure a defense lawyer would present his case for this story as the portrayal of a man betrayed by the system who decides to teach the system a lesson. A man who wants us to really question whether or not the justice system is fair. It’s a story about a man who challenges us to exercise prudence in our decision process.

I would argue in my cross examination, it’s another message that reiterates and reinforces the superiority of the dominant group, via bait and switch. Initially Nick Rice is portrayed as the intelligent and handsome D.A. with high aspirations. He’s a loving husband and father who just want what’s best for his family. He is totally opposite of the stereotypical black male normally seen in the media.

Shelton is just an average guy who is relying on Rice to handle the murder trial of his wife and daughter. He appears discouraged and hopeless when the outcome is not what he expected. But in the blink of an eye Shelton takes the reins and begins to reign. He is now portrayed as the stereotypical white male, extremely masculine, highly intelligent, wealthy, manipulative and always in motion.

Shelton is fully exercising his power and Rice finds himself at Shelton’s beck and call, even while Shelton is in prison. Shelton makes it clear that he is trying to teach Rice a lesson. Rice is also being blamed for Shelton’s vicious behavior. His peers intimate that his personal goals and ambition fueled his trial decisions and they question whether or not he made the right call in the Shelton case. The audience may also view Rice as being self-serving and smug by the way he bragged about his 96% conviction rate. It’s obvious Rice’s self-esteem is taking a blow and his character and morality are being tarnished. Bash the brother, what a surprise!

Rice was eventually heroic by killing Shelton; but Shelton displayed a martyr stance as the flames began to form around him, which I’m sure eliminated many of the negative thoughts and feelings toward him. It’s sad to say, but I can see the audience still having sympathy toward Shelton, despite his diabolical acts, since he was a victim of circumstance.

Response: The hegemonic ideology has been a repeat offender and a threat to society; therefore, I hereby sentence it to death.

The Reincarnation of Buckwheat, Amos and Andy

17 Feb

Group: African Americans

Summary: This week’s assignment became a brutal task for the following reasons: My quest was to find brand new prime-time programming or programming that has brand new episodes featuring African Americans. To my dismay there were little to none, unlike the days of the 80’s and 90’s when there seemed to be a barrage of programs with a black cast or featuring black actors. The Jeffersons (1975-1983); Diff’rent Strokes (1978-1986); Gimme a Break (1981-1987); The Cosby Show (1984-1992); 227 (1985-1990); Amen (1986-1991); A Different World (1987 – 1993); Frank’s Place (1987-88); Family Matters (1989 – 1998); Fresh Prince of Bel Air (1990 – 1996); In Living Color (1990 – 1994); Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper (1992-1997); Living Single (1993-1998); Sister, Sister (1993 – 1999); Martin Lawrence (1992-1997); The Wayans Brothers (1995-1999); Malcolm & Eddie (1996 – 2000); Jamie Foxx Show (1996-2001); The Steve Harvey Show (1996–2002). Good news; I found two shows: The Finder and Tyler Perry’s House of Payne. Bad news; It was agonizing to watch them. I literally found myself in a house of pain.

The Finder airs Thursdays @ 9 pm on Fox. The show follows the adventures of Walter Sherman (white) an Iraq War vet who suffered brain damage in an IED explosion. The brain damage triggered in Walter the ability to “find” things, he sees connections between seemingly unrelated events, objects or people that other investigators would miss. Walter is assisted by his “legal advisor” and bar owner Leo Knox (black), US Deputy Marshal Isabel Zambada (white), and teen parolee and thief Willa Monday (white), who is serving her probation with the team (IMBd).

Tyler Perry’s House of Payne airs Fridays @ 9 pm on TBS. It’s a comedy series about a multigenerational, working class family who experiences all of life’s struggles with faith, love and most importantly humor (TBS).

Analysis/Application: To the naked eye The Finder is a show about two buddies living an adventurous life, while helping people find whatever it is they may have lost (a dead body, a missing father, a guitar pick, a murder weapon or a pair of lucky socks). To my investigative eye it’s clearly another show that promotes the use of hegemonic and BBF programming; just as I expected. For some strange reason I found the Leo Knox character to be slightly reminiscent of the Buckwheat character.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6tzAcD9CGto&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V0kkYW5s-KQ&feature=BFa&list=PLE040D0E52EAAFD79&lf=results_main

Although his character (a former lawyer) is not the negative stereotypical portrayal of a black man, it still had sort of a blackface aura to it. Somewhat like the characters played by Willie Best.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FbaGrXQ2GTw

This show also continues to reinforce the white male dominance by making sure Leo always stays one – two steps behind his comrade. It’s somewhat of a modern day Green Hornet and Kato.

Tyler Perry is the creator of Tyler Perry’s House of Payne. Many people have accused him of perpetuating negative stereotypes of blacks in his movies and television programs. I must confess; I agree with mixed emotions. I truly believe he is trying to educate and promote prosocial behavior by addressing serious issues as gang violence, Alzheimer and domestic violence. I’m sure Perry would call it edutainment and if it helps someone then the method he used was not in vain.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qD5Yf8kn3Wk

I’m personally not a fan of buffoonery or slapstick in anyone’s message. I think the problem with using this method is the double standards in our society. When whites do something crazy it’s an individual thing, but if they’re black it represents of the entire community. There was a time when we didn’t have a say in our negative representations, so I really don’t understand why Tyler Perry wouldn’t use his power and influence to include more positive images. He seems to feel that most blacks can only relate if the message is delivered with an Amos and Andy method. Given his enormous fan base and success; he may be right.

http://www.tbs.com/video/?oid=225803&eref=sharethisUrl

http://www.tbs.com/video/?oid=224684&eref=sharethisUrl

Response: We’ve come a long way baby, but we have a long way to go.