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Huge-o

2 Mar

Summary:

I watched Hugo the more recent movie, which was a film about a boy in the 1930’s who lives in a train station in France.  The young boy was orphaned by the death of his father, and ended up taking a job tending the clocks in the train station from his uncle, in order to avoid being sent to an orphanage.  Throughout the course of the film the boy’s mission is to piece together a robotic toy his father was working to fix before he died, and ended up finding out a lot about the original creator who was one of the first major directors in the history of film.  It was as much about the history of cinema as it was about the story of the boy’s hardships and search for a family.

Analysis/Reaction:

I actually did not see many specific issues in this film to critique, and couldn’t pull out anything blatantly stereotypical or offensive in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, etc.  The only thing I noticed was that the only main character what was overweight was the boy’s uncle, who was portrayed as an alcoholic and really just an ugly person in general, who was found dead later on in the movie.  I’ve noticed that many times filmmakers find it necessary to depict an antagonist with some kind of a physical marking (a scar, obesity, eye-patch, etc.)  In this case a dominant reading would see the uncle as an obese, irresponsible, careless alcoholic who didn’t care about anyone or himself.  But looking at it with a more critical point of view, being overweight in the real world says nothing about one’s moral character.  After I realized this, I started to think about other negative portrayals of overweight characters in children’s movies, and found this blog:

http://www.1up.com/do/blogEntry?bId=6886658

In this case, the person that analyzed Disney films found that significantly more fat Disney characters were portrayed as evil rather than good.  The findings in this case may not be very critical, but it made me think about how many times overweight characters are portrayed in negative roles in many movies.

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.

Magazine Analysis

24 Feb

I chose to cover three Urban magazines that are familiar in Black Popular Culture…

Jet, XXL, Complex

 

Sex sells… even for a Toyota Camry?

27 Jan

Summary:

For this assessment I looked at two Rolling Stone magazines and one InStyle.  Rolling Stone is a “US-based magazine devoted to music, liberal politics, and popular culture that is published every two weeks” (Wikipedia), while “InStyle is a monthly women’s fashion magazine published in the United States by Time Inc. Along with advertising, the magazine offers articles about beauty, fashion, home, entertaining, charitable endeavors and celebrity lifestyles” (Wikipedia).  The ads in Rolling Stone seemed to be mostly directed at men, but also had a few that were obviously meant for women.  The InStyle magazine ads were all directed toward the readers, who are women.

Analysis/Response:

Looking at magazine advertisements was a little more difficult to critique, since there is only one image to look at instead of all the elements that a television show offers.  The InStyle ads were all about beauty, and how to attain beauty.  Women want to look good, and companies know they are willing to pay to try to attain it.  The Rolling Stone ads were noticeably catered toward the ‘male gaze’ we talked about last week.  One ad that proved this particularly well was an ad for a Toyota Camry.  The car isn’t even a sports car, yet included a picture of the neck of a shirtless female juxtaposed with the picture of the car.  I really couldn’t understand how it made sense, other than the fact that the female at the top would catch the attention of a man, who may otherwise skim over the picture of the boring family sedan below it.

Throughout the magazines I noticed the trend that seems to be common in almost all pop-culture magazines, which was the focus on attractive, seductive, and beautiful women in many ads.  It seems to me that since print ads have to jump out at the audience on such a basic level, that everything from cars, vodka, clothes, and chewing gum must have a very attractive (mostly female) person posing with the product in some way.  The women in InStyle seemed to be depicted as experts on fashion and make-up, who are encouraging other women to buy the products because they know best.  The women in Rolling Stone magazine seemed to intentionally be depicted as mostly sex objects (either blatantly or subtly).  The main thing that I noticed after looking at these magazines was that it looks like the advertisers really don’t care about how they portray gender roles and sexism, because their bottom line is for the advertisement to be effective, even if it reinforces cultural stereotypes.

How Questionable is The Cleveland Show

21 Jan

Summary

For all intents and purposes, The Cleveland Show is the spinoff of Family Guy; it airs 9:30pm Sunday on Fox. Cleveland Brown was the token black on the previous show, where he was the butt or victim of many jokes played by Peter Griffin (a white overweight male that was legally retarded). Cleveland moved back to his home town in Virginia after becoming depressed in Quahog from his divorce from Loretta (she cheated on him with Quagmire-his good friend). Cleveland starts over with his son Jr. (whom has become obese since his parents have split), once getting reacquainted Cleveland runs into his old high school love Donna whom has also gotten a divorce from her shiftless husband Robert (she has two children-Roberta Tubbs, a teenage daughter & Rallo, an adolescent boy).

Storyline

The story begins with Cleveland and Jr. leaving the movie theatre, Cleveland thanks him for asking to go to the movies with him; but asserts that he needs to ask a girl out on a date while fending Jr. off from kissing him. After an encounter with Lester Krinklsac, Cleveland looks around and sees all of Jr.’s friends (neighborhood boys) all were on dates with girls.

The next day Cleveland surprises Jr. at school with lessons on wooing a woman; Jr stumbles through his first attempt to talk to a girl, which she took as him trying to rape her.

In the next scene we find Cleveland and Jr. eating at Choni’s Mexican restaurant. While waiting for the waitress Cleveland tries to refine his lessons for Jr when the portly waitress walks by, refreshes their salsa and gives Jr the eye. Since he stuck out earlier, why not try again with lower expectations? Cleveland leaves Jr at the restaurant to get better acquainted with the Mexican waitress.

Later we see Jr and the rest of the Brown/Tubbs family ordering food at Choni’s; the owner comes out and introduces herself and chat it up with the family. The waitress comes out and says hi to Jr and he nonchalantly returns the salutation. Cleveland responds with “that’s kind of smug to treat her like that”. [Out burst from the kitchen, with blinding light] Out runs Cecilia, a young extremely attractive 16-year-old woman towards Jr. Everyone is taken a back, why is this attractive girl all hugged up on Jr?

We find out that the waitress was her cousin and she hooked them up.

The rest of the show Cleveland is showing off how Jr’s girlfriend until Cleveland’s drinking buddies convinces him that Jr’s girlfriend is hotter than his wife. Things become hairy when Cleveland openly starts to question; why is this girl interested in Jr? Someone eventually calls immigration-because Cecilia is the only illegal at the family restaurant. As a result Jr and Cecilia elope.

We find out by the end of the episode that Jr is the same build and is kind as Cecilia’s father.

Analysis

The line of dialog that seems to pop up the most is “I worry about him so”; which leaves you with thinking that Cleveland & Donna have had some worry about Jr. Even when Cleveland & Donna are having dinner with Choni, Donna blurts out “we were beginning to worry about this one”. This leaves the audience to question is or will Jr turn out to be gay. Jr is a 14-year-old male that is overweight and at times are has a mentality of an adolescent. This can further cement the belief of Jr’s questionable sexuality with his high pitch voice, sleeping with stuffed animals, and the occasional instance where you might see him do his older step sister’s hair. In previous episodes there have been numerous instances where Jr has been portrayed as feminine. This was primarily about Size identity, the question of how can someone who is short, overweight, and effeminate could get have an attractive girl like or even want to have sex with him.

Response

The show was entertaining, but this shows how society takes things for surface value. The media always portray overweight people as being unattractive, undesirable, or not popular. Once Jr got himself a hot girlfriend his image changed. He was portrayed as attractive and he showed more confidence. Honestly, Jr comes off as someone comfortable in his skin and preferred eating than trying to get a girlfriend. It wasn’t until his Dad put pressure on him did he have a desire to change his behavior.

Look at those abs!

21 Jan

Summary:

I watched another episode of Jersey Shore this week for another analysis.  This one showed the crew doing their typical day-to-day activities like going to the gym, working at a tee-shirt store, and hitting the clubs.  This episode focused on Vinny’s problems with struggling with clinical anxiety and wanting to possibly leave the Jersey Shore house.  Pauly D. has a major “issue” when he sunburns his face and doesn’t know what to do, but ends up drinking it off at the club later on, where the normal drama ensues.  Guys search for the women, and the women put themselves in compromising positions.

Analysis:

Throughout the episode I noticed how the males are portrayed as powerful and show dominance over women by taking advantage of their drunken states and fulfilling their male interests by taking them home for a one-night-stand.  At one point one of the girls says “I don’t know who I’m gonna make out with, but it’s gonna be good!”  This was a perfect summary of how the girls in the show are sexualized, even doing it to themselves.  This episode (like many) reminded me of the ‘male gaze’ in film, where the camera lingers on the girls in bikinis and lingerie, which is obviously meant to appeal to the men watching.  But on the other hand I think it also employs a type of ‘female gaze’ since women make up probably more than half of the viewing audience, since the show is full of hyper-masculine guys with huge muscles, without shirts on most of the time as eye-candy for the women in the audience.

The commercials breaking up this show were mostly about weight loss products and a few acne products.  This makes sense because people watching Jersey Shore are constantly viewing fit bodies and not much clothing, leading many people to become self-conscious of their own bodies and wanting to look like the people in the show.  I probably wouldn’t have noticed this trend normally, but since I paid attention to the commercials it was easy to spot these patterns.

Reaction:

As the episodes of Jersey shore seem like they all have the same type of storyline and portray men and women the same ways, it was interesting for me to pay attention to the commercials, which tells you a little more about the audience who watch it.  The audience (or target demographic) are interested in working on their bodies and are concerned about their appearance (or at least after seeing so many abs and tans in a half hour).  I saw that there was not only a male gaze but it also seems to focus on a female viewer’s perspective.

The Biggest Loser: The Biggest Waste of Time

14 Jan

Summary: I decided to watch The Biggest Loser on NBC, which is a terrible, grating show that airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. I had to watch it, so you have to read about it; trust me, you’ve gotten the better end of the deal.

Now in its 13th season, the show pits a group of severely obese contestants against each other in a quest to turn their lives around and adopt a healthier lifestyle. Hosted by Alison Sweeney, a former terrible actress on a crappy soap opera no self-respecting person would ever admit to watching, the episode begins with the contestants engaging in a contest where they must predict how much weight each team plans to lose collectively. Viewers are then treated to what for some is the sole purpose of watching the program: trainers Dolvett Quince and Bob Harper hazing the living Hell out of fat people. Afterwards, the contestants learn healthy cooking tips in the kitchen and are introduced to an attractive nutritional expert, who takes the ragtag bunch on a field trip to the local grocery store. She then schools the giddy participants in common sense, no-duh pearls of nutritional wisdom that every person with a moderate IQ should surmise without any reasonable doubt. Did you know that fried chicken and frozen pizza have a lot of fat and calories in them? Apparently the contestants did not, whose reactions to this startling news were akin to the time you found out Santa Claus was a bullshit lie; color me surprised.

The remainder of the show consisted of a physical challenge involving pushing a giant wheel, collecting puzzle pieces and “sprinting” to a staging area. The Black Team won and a guy named Mike was voted off, but not before plenty of annoying musical cues, pageantry, and other annoying staples that make reality television the veritable turd sandwich it is. This show has the appeal of a school bus fire.

Analysis/Application: I’m not sure if you could tell by the tone and verbiage of my blog, but I don’t exactly like this show. For one, I feel as though it sets incredibly unhealthy and unrealistic expectations regarding proper weight loss and nutrition. According to every nutritional expert or scientist not named Dr. Nick Riveria (obscure?), people on average should only lose up to two pounds per week; anything more carries with it potentially harmful consequences. Yet at the end of every episode, contestants on The Biggest Loser must lose their shirts, parade in front of the camera for my enjoyment, step on a massive scale that should be used for measuring cars, not people, and pray to Richard Simmons that they lost more weight than their Augustus Gloop-ian counterpart. Only on a show like this are people chided for “only” losing six pounds in one week.

People can be stupid…really, really stupid. I once worked with a girl who sent multiple audition tapes to be on a reality show called The Bad Girls Club, which is kind of like Gilligan’s Island if the island were filled with Gonorrhea, whores, reeked of cigarettes, disappointment, and absentee fathers. She was soon fired for skipping out on shifts, and my soul rejoiced. For her, the opportunity of infamy was paramount to retaining any semblance of her character and morality. She was one of those people who took reality television too seriously, and my life is much better without her presence.

My point, and I do have one, is that shows like The Biggest Loser play to the good-natured, underdog, everybody-is-super-and-should-get-a-medal-no-matter-what mentally we all share, that anyone can accomplish anything if they just believe and work hard. In addition, they also beckon those who will do anything to be on television, including the systematic destruction of their overall health. Don’t believe people are that dumb? Reference the aforementioned girl I worked with for extra assurance. Of course, contestants on The Biggest Loser also have access to first-rate healthcare professionals, dieticians, world-class personal trainers, state-of-the- art fitness equipment, and the constant attention of TV cameras which only further motivate them on their journey. As audience members, we identify with their struggles and genuinely root for them, but their success is both unrealistic and unconventional, and that can be dangerous to those people (namely idiots) who expect similar results with a treadmill and a copy of Reader’s Digest to peruse. The message of self-preservation and overcoming odds can be a powerful, albeit misleading one.

Response: My response is similar to the words I used in describing The Biggest Loser; it’s typical reality drivel assigned to assuage our feelings of self-loathing as we watch other overweight/unfulfilled people wreck themselves to win whatever it is they’re looking for. While writing this, I read an article which talked about how watching The Biggest Loser can actually increase anti-fat stances amongst people, and I totally believe it. Here is the article to reference: http://www.latimes.com/health/boostershots/la-heb-biggest-loser-fat-bias-20120113,0,6268444.story.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you weren’t upset by any of my analogies or word usage. I’m a writer, I like to write what I think, and that’s exactly what I’m doing. Also, I used to be fat (218, pre-Marine Corps), so that means I can talk about this topic freely, right? Isn’t that how it goes?