About BMC 277: Media and Diversity

This course asks students to critically examine the role of the media in facilitating and challenging the social constructions of race, class, gender, and sexual orientation in U.S. culture.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

"Acceptable" Sexuality: Kissing on Television

By Shayna Bane

On November 25th, CBS’s “Early Show” covered Adam Lambert’s American Music Awards performance with a story that blurred his kiss with his male keyboardist. The story then showed the 2003 Madonna-Britney kiss from the MTV Video Music Awards uncensored. CBS released this statement regarding the double standard:


We gave this some real thought. The Madonna image is very familiar and has appeared countless times including many times on morning television. The Adam Lambert image is a subject of great current controversy, has not been nearly as widely disseminated,and for all we know, may still lead to legal consequences (Shea).


Not covered in this statement was Madonna and Britney Spears’ overt heterosexuality and Adam Lambert’s much flaunted homosexuality. It might be fair to argue that the Lambert performance was obscene except that pop music is built on selling sex, and award show performances often seem to compete in terms of “shockability.” Lambert and endless pop stars before him have done what has come to be expected of them – generate publicity through controversy (“For Your Entertainment: The Adam Lambert Controversy”). Spears and Madonna did this as pop stars in a very similar way in 2003, but without the same outcomes. This brings us to the question: Why was Lambert’s kiss blurred and not Madonna’s?


The simple answer could be that television still often upholds heterosexist norms and assumptions. While Madonna and Britney’s kiss could be deemed homosexual, in real terms, it is not. The kiss was a practice and was not reflecting a lifestyle (beyond a pop star lifestyle that requires controversy for survival). The two were gay pretenders and their homosexuality was temporary – not living beyond the kiss. When the kiss was over, the two returned to their heterosexual life of straight privilege, and so too did their heterosexual viewers who were mere voyeurs. Diane Raymond (2003) agues in Popular Culture and Queer Representation:


…how [shows involving gays] resolve tensions often results in a [rewriting] of heterosexuality and a ‘containment’ of queer sexuality, that is, that the resolution these programs offer enables viewers to distance themselves from the queer and therebyreturn to their comfortable positions as part of the dominant culture (99-100).


This means that while there is movement toward more tolerance of alternative lifestyles on television, it is only when they are contained and controlled. In his 2008 AfterElton blog, Brent Hartinger covered a long list of gay kisses on television, from Will & Grace to Greek, but all of the shows covered in the blog were scripted, making the kisses controlled by television producers and gatekeepers. Even reality shows have producers behind them choosing content. An unscripted kiss between two men, one of which is flamboyantly gay, on a major network is hardly contained. The censorship of the kiss by CBS on The Early Show, on the other hand, allowed for the distance Raymond described.

Adrienne Rich described popular culture’s tendency to portray heterosexuality as normal while portraying alternative sexualities as “other” as “compulsory heterosexuality” (Raymond 103). CBS’s censorship and non-censorship was just that, compulsory heterosexuality – the Madonna-Britney kiss was a heterosexual practice rather than a signal of a homosexual lifestyle. Kissing and lesbian play between women (regardless of actual sexuality) has come to serve as sexual entertainment for heterosexual males and, as such, has come to be as much a part of heterosexuality as homosexuality. Thus, The Madonna-Britney kiss was normalized and uncensored while Lambert’s was made a practice of the “other” by censorship.

Meaning is never fixed, and media consumers, regardless of resistance to dominant messages about sexuality, the family, and love, are still subjected to dominant ideologies’ messages about these lifestyles (Raymond 100). The meaning behind CBS’s actions on that November morning, if viewed as representative of mainstream culture, could be interpreted as: the dominant ideology still does not make room for true male homosexuality on commercial television.

Works Cited

"For Your Entertainment: The Adam Lambert Controversy." After Elton. Word Press, 26 Nov 2009. Web. 1 Dec 2009. .

Raymond, Diane. "Popular Culture and Queer Representation." Gender, Race, and Class in Media. Ed. Dines, Gail and Jean M. Humez. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 2003. Print.

Shea, Danny. "CBS Blurs Adam Lambert Gay Kiss, Shows Madonna-Britney Kiss On “Early Show.”Huffington Post 25 Nov 2009: Web. 1 Dec 2009. .

Pink and Blue and Watched All Over: Toy Commercials as Cultural Pedagogy

By Sam Guenther

It is well known that gender ideologies are naturalized through institutions such the family, the church and the media. Schemas are cognitive frameworks that help organize and interpret information give rise to gender stereotypes (Gorham, 12/10/09). Of particular concern is the way such schemas and stereotypes are learned. One important way is through children’s play. Television is an important and pervasive educator for young children and much concern has been placed on commercials targeted at children’s toys. In this paper I will consider several recent commercials for popular toys. I will compare how they construct masculinity and femininity.

Quite simply, the toy commercials are a cultural pedagogy. Toys have long been used to teach children about gender roles. For example, little girl’s dollhouses have “taught” young girls how to be good house wives and homemakers. By taking care of their pretend home (doing the dishes, baking, playing dress up) girls grow up learning that accelerating at these chores should be their goal in life. Modern day toy commercials continue to “teach” children gender roles. While some facets of the media have evolved to showing more equality among gender, toy commercials have continued to differentiate male and female toys to the extreme. Utilizing a textual analysis of various commercials for children, one can easily witness stereotyped gender roles and various ideologies.

In Hasbro’s commercial for the Rose Petal Cottage, an excited little girl is shown doing housework in her playhouse. The pastel-colored house comes equipped with a washer and dryer, an oven with plastic muffins, and a crib and rocking chair to rock your baby doll. In addition, the tune that is playing in the background sings, “I love my laundry it gets so clean. Taking care of my home is a dream, dream, dream!” The content in this commercial suggests that a little girl’s only ambition is to grow up to be a homemaker concerned with baking and doing laundry. This commercial also establishes the deeply rooted ideology that a woman needs no other skills than homemaking because her husband is the bread winner.



While the Rose Petal doll house teaches girls how to be good homemakers, Mattel’s Barbie Shopping Boutique teaches them how to dress to please a man.
In this commercial, little girls have a spinning wardrobe in which they can mix and match outfits and a check-out counter for their purchases. Every plastic piece, including the credit card, is painted pink. The Barbie dolls shown are all blonde with big busts, tiny waists, and long legs. Mattel’s commercial emphasizes that the main activity little girls should be concerned with is shopping and buying clothes. Also, this introduces young girls to the ideology that to be happy, girls must have a great wardrobe and be skinny and blonde.



There is a striking difference between commercials aimed at girls and those aimed at boys. In the commercial for G.I. Joe toys, for example, little boys play with the jet fighter, “Hurricane,” and the Humvee, “Hammer.” Both toys come equipped with either plastic missiles or launching foam missiles. The commercial consists of both boys firing missiles at each other while destroying the surrounding by running the “Hammer” into things. Much different from little girl toys, this commercial focuses on violence and physical activities, whereas the commercials for young girls focus on nurturance and stationary activities. Commercials for young boys such as the G.I. Joe commercial introduce young boys to the stereotyped gender roles of males. They are expected to enjoy violence and rough play.



Another commercial also features violent role models. This one, for WWF Stretch Wrestlers toys, pictures two boys playing with stretchable action figures of their favorite WWF wrestlers. They are shown in a miniature fighting ring as both boys smack their figures against the other. The actual WWF wrestler is standing above his own figure saying, “Your stretching me into a wimp!” Unlike girls, the boys are engaged in physical activity as well as competition among one another. The toys in which they play with are called “action figures,” not “dolls” and once again violence and toughness are shown to be vital components in young boys play.



Katherine E. Barnett (2004) states that, “gender is a social construct, meaning that what we thing males and females should do or how we think males and females should behave is not based on one’s biological sex” (185). In other words, Barnett suggests that institutions such as the media and in specific, commercials, can easily teach children how they should think and act through its content. Commercials themselves are part of a cultural pedagogy and the information they teach to children can have detrimental consequences.

Beginning at this stage, children are beginning to establish their identities as an individual, as well as a male or female. To form identities, they often look to television or commercial contexts and identify with the stereotyped media constructions of people. Jean Kilborne (2004) agrees that the media exposes young girls to unattainable ideals of physical perfection and the ideology that women are less powerful than men. The ramifications of these images and ideals cause a significant drop in a young girl’s self-esteem and can culminate in desperate attempts to emulate physical perfection and be wanted by males. Girls can form drinking problems, be subjected to date rape, or form eating disorders.

Likewise, Jackson Katz (2000) speaks on the effects media has on young boys. Katz focuses on the strong correlation between media featuring aggressive, beefed up, vulgar men and violence in males. He insists that the media is raising generations of young males in a society that “glorifies sexually aggressive masculinity and considers as normal the degradation and objectification of women.” For example, Katz considers sexually explicit rap and hip-hop videos as well as entertainers such as Howard Stern and professional wrestling. While Stern, according to Katz, orients his show around pornography and the commodification of women’s bodies, professional wrestling focuses around crude male dominance and violence. Katz insists that the effects the media constructed images of men are becoming increasingly dangerous and violent.
While the exact effects of such commercials cannot be determined, it is likely that they have negative cumulative effects on, not only individual boys and girls, but upon the culture in which almost all American children live.

Works Cited
Barnett, Katherine E. “Destructive and Constructive Characterizations of Women in
Disney’s Mulan.” Race/Gender/Media : Considering Diversity Across Audiences, Content, and Producers. Boston: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon, 2004. 184-90. Print.

Gorham, Bradley W. “The Social Psychology of Stereotypes: Implications for Media
Audiences.” Race/Gender/Media: Considering Diversity Across Audiences, Content, and Producers. Boston: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon, 2004. 14-22. Print.

Katz, Jackson, and Sut Jhally. "Put the Blame Where it Belongs: On Men." Los Angeles
Times
25 June 2000, Commentary M5 sec. Print.

Kilborne, Jean. “The More You Subtract, The More You Add: Cutting Girls Down To
Size In Advertising.” Race/Gender/Media : Considering Diversity Across
Audiences, Content, and Producers.
Boston: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon, 2004. 103-109. Print.

Legally Straight: Reading Queernees in Boston Legal

By Ryan Radke

While gays, lesbians and bisexuals are portrayed more often on television than ever before, GLBTs are still the punch line in many shows. In this blog, I will analyze the relationship between two men, best friends, in the legal drama, Boston Legal . Boston Legal is a show that is now of the air, however it was a big hit when it first came out. This show was a spin-off of the hit legal drama “The Practice”. Boston Legal was nominated for many awards including Emmy nominations for best Drama Series twice, including its final season. The show was extremely liberal in its politics, as on a weekly bases it seemed to be tearing down George Bush and the Bush administration and the conservative ways of thinking in America in favor of new progressive ways of thinking. James Spader and William Shatner both gained a lot of respect from doing this show. During its run Spader won the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series twice, and Shatner won best supporting actor once. Shanter also won a Golden Globe for best actor in a supporting role. James Spader plays a controversial lawyer names Alan Shore, who is known for his strange methods and progressive thinking. Meanwhile Williams Shatner plays a has been star lawyer named Denny Crane, who is only still at the firm because his name is on the door. Unlike Shore, Crane is extremely conservative and seems to represent the writer’s vision of Corporate America. The two are constructed as very straight, as they are both obsessed with women and sex. Much of the episodes feature steamy sex scenes the men have with various women. This show follows many of the conventions of the “buddy narrative.” The two men are close, but there are always women in the background to assure the audience that the men are heterosexual. Towards the end of the show, however, the characters steer away from the conventions of the buddy narrative, and confront the issue of their relationship head-on.



In this episode, Denny and Alan actually wind up sleeping together. Alan is actually having night terrors, and is sleep walking. One night, he wakes up at the edge of his balcony in a high rise apartment building. As a result, he asks Denny to come sleep with him to make sure he doesn’t hurt himself. Despite protests, Denny does come sleep with Alan. Alan winds up tying himself to Denny in order to avoid sleep walking. This leads to a rather humorous scene between the two, however, as the series goes on it is Denny who is often times suggesting sleepovers to Alan, despite his original protests. This is a significant transformation for these two because they are very vulnerable characters. They have sexual relationships with women, but they struggle to make those relationships emotional and as a result the relationships are very short and stagnant. However, the willingness to sleep over more and more as the series goes on shows that the two are able to bond emotionally with each other, despite the fact they can not bond emotionally with women. As a result, the two are closer to each other than they could ever be with any woman.

Their relationship is hinted at in other episodes. For instance, at yearly Halloween parties, Alan and Denny usually dress in matching costumes. The costumes are usually of the girly variety. One year they dressed as pink flamingoes, another year they dressed as the Lennon sisters. They came to these parties together, dressed the same, and not in the manliest of costumes. In fact, in the final episode of the show, the relationship between Alan and Denny climaxed when Denny asked Alan to marry him so that he could protect his assets as he got older. Despites Alan’s uneasiness about the situation, the two are married by a Supreme Court Judge.

The implied homosexual relationship between Alan and Denny is a constant source of the show’s humor. And, while their heterosexuality is, overtly, guaranteed by the numerous scenes of heterosexual sex, the show does address the fluidity of sexuality, as much as in could, perhaps, in the main protagonists in a mainstream drama on network television.

Are Gay Men the New Women of Advertising?


By Donikea Austin
Women are portrayed in two ways: non sexual mothers/homemakers OR hypersexual, young, always available, passive sexual objects. Gay men are now also occupying these roles…Recently, there seems to be a trend in using gay men in advertising to sell traditionally feminine products.

Carson Kressly, best known for his work on the show Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. He appears in an ad for Clorox 2 washing detergent. In the past in advertising, men were rarely if ever used as spokespeople for household products. Clorox did go against the grain by using Kresly, however in doing this, they are equating gay men and heterosexual women in their traditional role of homemaker. In doing this advertisers are saying that gay men and women can be used interchangeably and have similar household roles. One of the problems that arise when gay men are used this way is that it places them at a lower status, with women, and takes away the fact that they are males. The other problem with this is that it is in some ways a symbolic annihilation of gay men. In this case the men are being put in situations that make them seem like women and it takes away from the fact that they are men and not just feminine gay stereotypes. This specific ad which is targeted towards women provides Kressly as an easily consumable figure of gay men.
Another trend in advertising that features gay men portrays them as extremely passive and hypersexual. For example, the ads for Dolce & Gabbana feature a group of men aggressively looking down at a passive woman, in the first ad, and a passive man, in the second. Not only do the ads show a sense of dominance over the passive figure, it also shows what appears to be a gang rape of the passive characters. The position of the passive characters is also important in these ads, the woman is positioned with her hips trusted, and the man is positioned with his legs open.

Over the years we have seen a rise in the number of openly gay figures in the pop culture and the media. However the way they have been portrayed has changed slightly. Gay men at one point were portrayed exclusively as a joking character, a buffoon or a negative figure. While those types of portrayals are still around today, we have seen a rise in the way that they are portrayed similarly to the way women have been. This may be because in our label obsessed society, for some people you have to fit into one of two categories, male or female. The problem with classifying gay males is that they have the physical characteristics of males, however they are attracted to males like females in our society are thought to do, and they are stereotypically flamboyant as women are thought to be. With this mentality, gay men by default are classified as women and not men.
The only way that there can be a change in the way that gay men are advertised is to create a different schema for gender roles. We need to be more receptive and understanding that people do not necessarily need to be classified into different groups in order for us to understand their roles in society.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Men of the Square Table: A SCWAMP Analysis

By Jasen Sokol




The SCWAMP method of analysis can be a useful tool in the analysis of media. According to Grinner (2004), SCWAMP analysis is an intersectional framework, meaning that the “ideological positions [straight, Christian, White, able-bodied, male, and property holding] are interconnected and relational” (200). Grinner also noted that the relationships “are shaped and affected by the society in which they are embedded” (200). The Miller Lite “Men of the Square Table” ads are a good candidate for such an analysis as they are debates about “Man Law,” or rules that men should follow in order to be proper men. The debates take place inside of a glass cage located in what appears to be an empty warehouse. Aired in 2006 and 2007, these ads are clearly geared toward men and perpetuate the idea that straight, White, Christian, able-bodied, male, and property-owning people are the dominant force in society.

S-Straight
The Men of the Square Table are considered to be highly masculine celebrities. Some of these men include retired Pittsburgh Steeler Jerome Bettis, actor Eddie Griffin, professional rodeo cowboy Ty Murray, and professional wrestler Triple H. All of these men are straight. In addition, they tend to frown upon things seen as feminine. For example, the “Double Man Law” states that it is not acceptable to leave a game early to beat traffic, nor is it acceptable to bake anything on game day. Clearly, the feminine is devalued. In many cases, men frowning upon acts that are seen as feminine can be viewed as homophobic. One such instance involves a debate about whether or not it is acceptable to put a lime in one’s beer. The conclusion reached by the Men of the Square Table was that one should not “fruit the beer.” (Man Law, 2007). Since fruit is a slang term for a gay person, this was a veiled jab at the LGBT community.

C-Christian
All of the Man Laws discussed by the Men of the Square Table are seen as universal, so no discussion of religion takes place during the discussion of man laws. This makes sense because the man laws are actually promotions for Miller Lite beer. It would be unwise of Miller to try to portray man law as being restricted to one religion, or portray a religion as being in violation of man law, because it could lead to a backlash by that religious group. However, one could argue that men writing laws into a book does have religious overtones. Just as the Man Laws were written into a book that all men are expected to follow, the Bible was written by men and all Christians are expected to follow its teachings.

W-White
Although there are minority members of the Square Table, they seem to take ancilliary roles. The White characters take both of the lead roles in the commercials. Burt Reynolds is usually the moderator of the group, making the final proposal of man law to be written into the book of man laws by the scribe, an elderly white man. In addition, the Black characters argue strongly against the man laws more frequently than the White characters. An example of this can be seen in Jerome Bettis, who believes that it is okay to put a finger in a friend’s beer while carrying it from the bar, give high fives, and hit the top of a beer bottle with another bottle so that it overflows. Another example is a man of Hispanic descent who believes that it is acceptable to give high fives and to “fruit the beer” by putting a lime wedge in it. All of these actions end up either being in violation of man law or, in the case of the high five, exempt because there is no suitable replacement. This shows that the White Men of the Square Table are the dominant forces at the table.

A-Able Bodied
Many of the Men of the Square Table are athletes or are involved with some athletic activity. The only person at the table who could be considered not able-bodied is Aron Ralston, who had to cut off his own arm in the desert when a boulder fell on it. However, the act of cutting off one’s arm is considered manly. The most visible example of being able-bodied is Triple H, who airs his disagreements with man law by asking if he will no longer be able to rip his shirt off and then actually ripping his shirt off.
M-Male
Clearly, the man laws are geared towards men. They involve things that are considered manly, such as sports, drinking beer, giving high fives, and crushing beer cans on one’s forehead. However, light beer is usually seen as a feminine product. By crafting a campaign that is geared toward men, Miller is trying to portray light beer as a masculine product. This has been a growing trend lately, as light beers are now frequently seen in association with sports and rock music.

P-Property Owning

Despite the fact that most of the Men of the Square Table are rich and famous, they are not portrayed as such in the commercials. Instead, they are seen as working-class average Jjoes. This can be seen through their casual dress and the use of men such as Ty Murray and Jimmy Johnson who have a southern accent. The one exception to this is Burt Reynolds, who wears a suit and tie and speaks in a calm, professional manner. Reynold’s affluent appearance combined with his status as the leader of the Square Table shows the relationship between the have and the have nots in our society.

The Miller Lite Men of the Square Table commercials are clearly geared toward men and perpetuate the concept that straight, Christian, White, able-bodied, male, and property-owning people are the dominant group in our society.

References
Grinner, L. A. (2004). Hip Hop Sees No Color: An exploration of privilege and power in Save the Last Dance. In R. Lind (Ed.),Race/Gender/Media (, pp. 199-205). Boston: Pearson/Allyn & Bacon.

Man Law. (2004, January 14). Retrieved November 25, 2009, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8RLCD-PpWqU

Television’s Newest Gay Stereotype on Glee

By Markanne Benich

Television shows have come a long way over the past decade in regards to representing gays and lesbians. Since the 1990s, with the coming out episode of Ellen, gays and lesbians are no longer invisible. It is now easy to tell when someone is gay or lesbian on a television show. In this paper I will look at a fairly new televisions series, Glee, and one of its main characters, Kurt. Kurt is gay and loves singing, dancing, and fashion. While it is refreshing to see a gay main character, he is still stereotyped; he is, in fact a caricature, of a gay man who is a hyper-feminine consumer.

Gay man as consumer of fashion
On a recent episode of Glee he is asked to give Rachel, another member of glee club, a makeover. He does this at first just because “makeovers are like crack” to him, as he states on the show. He sees that Rachel is in desperate need of fashion advice. He then finds out that she wants to look better in order to impress a boy at school. Kurt is there for her heterosexual desires. By getting a makeover, Rachel hopes to get the attention from Finn, who is also a member of glee club. Kurt, however, has not yet had a love interest on the show and is desexualized. While other characters have relationships on the show, he is disregarded when it comes to relationships. His main focuses are on glee club and fashion.

Queer Eye for the Straight Guy is similar because each of the men on the show have a particular area of expertise such as fashion or interior design, while Kurt seems to be well-rounded in some of the topics on Queer Eye. In the same scene that Kurt gives Rachel a makeover, he makes a comment about the way her room is decorated, hinting at the fact he likes interior design as well as fashion.



Gay man as hyper-feminine

In another episode Kurt learned and performed Beyonce’s “Single Ladies”. He then taught it to the football team and performed it in order to get himself ready for the field goal kick that makes them the winning team.



All of the other guys in glee club are straight and masculine (two members are on the football team) while Kurt, the only gay person in the club, is coded as highly feminine and flamboyant. There is no doubt that Kurt, played by Chris Colfer, is a popular character, but it may be hard to relate to him because he is so one dimensional. He was given a somewhat more serious storyline on one episode.

In this particular episode Kurt came out to his father and the audience was able to sympathize with Kurt and see that he was struggling with telling his father. However, it was more or less turned into a joke because when he told his father, his father told him that he knew he was gay since he was about three years old and wanted a pair of “sensible heels for Christmas”. Since this episode, there have been few serious moments. Even when they are somewhat more serious, there is still a joke wedged into the scene for comic relief.

While this was a more serious episode, the issue seems to be forgotten about for the most part. The issue is also depoliticized because the conflict is taken out. While gays and lesbians are more accepted in society, some still disagree. While it is refreshing that gay characters like Kurt have become more visible on broadcast television, the characters are too often portrayed as non-threatening comic relief side-kicks to the “more important” heterosexual characters. Unless television moves beyond these roles, it is likely gays and lesbians will continue to be marginalized.

Works Cited

“Glee-Teaser: Single Ladies.” Youtube-Broadcast Yourself.. N.p., 22 Sept. 2009. Web. 9 Dec. 2009.

Murphy, R. (2009). Preggers. In R. Murphy, Glee. Hollywood: Fox.

Murphy, R. (2009). Hairography. In R. Murphy, Glee. Hollywood: Fox.

Stempel, L. (2009). Queer life for the straight eye: Television‘s commodification of queerness. Race/Gender/Media: Considering Diversity Across Audiences, Content, and Producers, 2.

Yellow Fever

By Kit Yi Ng



The question this video clip from Why Asian Guys Can't Get White Girls, centers on why it is more common to see white guys dating Asian women than Asian guys dating White women is explored. While, explicitly, it attempts to clear up some stereotypes of Asian guys, there are, implicit deeply rooted ideologies presented.

The video clip is divided into four scenes. In the first scence, Philip chats with his Chinese friend to talk about the phenomenon of "yellow fever". In the second one, Philip tries to find out the reasons behind "yellow fever" and how can be more attractive to girls. Later on, in the third scene, Philip carries on to find ways improving himself to be more sexually attractive by asking a white guy for advice. In the last scene, Philip's Indian friend tells him that love should not be a matter of race.

Firstly, as the clip starts with the conversation between two Chinese, the main actor, Philip, asks his friend why white guys are taking all the Asian girls away, using the phrase "yellow fever" to describe this phenomenon. Philip continues to complain that, because he is not welcomed by White girls, he is left with little opportunity. The Chinese words on Philip's shirt mean "White people cannot understand".

To understand “yellow fever,” Philip asks his Chinese friend, Chris, who tells Philip that the reason is because White guys have more hair and nicer butts. He says that these two features are very attractive to Asian girls. Clearly, his opinions are based on social constructions of images of white and Asian guys.

After listening to Chris's opinions, Philip asks the hot White guy for advice. The White guy teaches Philip how to catch girls' attention and his skill is saying "ni hao ma" to Chinese girls. Philip does the same, in a poor accent, but fails to attract the White woman’s attention. The White man here is clearly superior. No matter what the White guy does, he is more attractive than Philip to girls. When Philip does the same thing, he only looks silly. For example, he tries to gain the attention of a white girl by giving her some signals. However, the white girl ignores him. He never gains girls' attention, and his attempts are humorous. Moreover, Philip was not satisfied with opinions from his Chinese friend, Chris. Instead, he turns to a white guy for more authoritative answers.

In the last scene, Philip talks to Richard, who is Indian. Richard tells him that the only thing which matters is his personalities other than physical attributes. While, at the end, love is shown to be “race-less,” the ideological message, and source of humor, found throughout the rest of the video cannot be negated.

Edward Said (1979) noted that the West is often depicted as developed and superior while the East is portrayed as undeveloped, mysterious and inferior. Said noted also orientalist romanticism in West synchronized White men’s heterosexual desire for Oriental women. In this video clip, the main Chinese actor, Philip, fails to catch girl's attention but the White guy does it without any difficulties, thereby emasculating Philip, and essentially objectifying Asian women. Despite the message of the last scene, the video clip delivers an implicit message that race does a matter.

References
Said, Edward, Orientalism (Vintage Books: New York, 1979).

Hardcore Reality: Hardcore and American Commercialism

By Josh Scott

In an American society in which money, beauty, and success are considered somewhat synonymous, it is natural to assume that all forms of media must conform to this ideology that is created by the majority. Although some might argue otherwise, music is a form of media which is just as susceptible to the views of its listeners as television, for instance, is affected by ratings. Many genres of American music have been changed by the media when they “come out of the underground”, or are simply elevated to the larger American audience and put in the spotlight. Music, is simply another medium in which messages that corporations wish to distribute through discourse can travel. One of the most important ways that advertisers and merchants choose to advertise in the music scene is through clothing. Over the course of recent history, many genres have fallen victim to American ideology in the forms of fashion, and other visual aspects and are exposed to be a form of discourse the same as anything that is displayed on any more common form of media.

When contemplating the effects of the media on music a specific term “sell out”, is often thrown about. The term is referring to the commercialization and cooperation with artists and larger corporations that are involved in the money making aspect of musical production rather than the artistry. Bands that “sell out” are often discarded or forgotten by followers who claim to respect the artistic integrity of the music. A way in which selling out is recognized is clothing that musicians wear, and fashion has become a large aspect to musical forms because clothing, has been found to be a very strong form of advertising, and with musicians being constantly exposed to a large following, merchants try to outfit bands with their own clothing. The term “sell out,” may be skewed towards the negative connotations intended towards the musicians, but it is the media that is responsible for creating the music that we learn to love regardless of artistry. So it is clear that it is impossible for music to avoid the media, and most music in many ways is created by other forms of media, so it can be assumed that the collaboration between the media and musical artists can be considered an American ideology.

To demonstrate how a musical genre can be changed or skewed by other types of media in America, the hardcore genre, and more specifically the clothing associated with it, is a very interesting topic of discussion. The origins of hardcore evolved from several bands of white middle-class punk-rockers creating a new genre music which spawned off of punk-rock with a much faster and aggressive style and very controversial lyrics. In the mid 1980’s a very symbolic band to the genre was the band Minor Threat, a group of young white punks dressed in plain t-shirts and jeans (often ripped, stained, or bloodied) and singing of many topics that angered them. The point of hardcore at the point of its creation was to bring upon a self-destructing form of music that would send a message and excite the listener. Early hardcore lasted only several years, before merchants could affect the plain look of the band members and outfit them with more elaborate clothing. As could be predicted, but recently a new form of music has arisen that has retaken the name of hardcore music, this time with clothing that does not at all resemble its predecessor.



Modern hardcore is a blend of metal and punk music which does not resemble either of the genres fully. Modern hardcore has swapped the battered t-shirts and jeans of hardcore punk for colorfully printed shirts and distinctive “skinny jeans.” The new form of hardcore is highly commercialized in that many of the clothing styles of popular bands have found their way into stores, and via commercialism, into an American fashion style. The white controlled genre has also found itself on the way out as many more bands start to introduce African American members, such as the modern punk/hardcore band Whole Wheat Bread which is comprised of all African American members. This swap of punk values to commercialized rock is a switch that finds itself rooted in American ideology in that money is a very important part to the society. Music doesn’t have the ability, as with any medium, to escape ideology or creating its own discourse because a need for success, which is defined by revenue in America.



Hardcore is a very good example of how America has a deep rooted philosophy and ideology which consists mostly of money related issues. Clothing, and expression through garments is a modern interest of merchants because it is a very good way to advertise despite the message of the music. So the issue of American musicians “selling out,” can be tied not to a problem with the philosophy of the musicians, but rather a much bigger aspect of an American Corporatism. The introduction of African Americans into white-controlled genres also is also a modern trend of action which resembles an overall shift in feelings of Americans. So music does not find itself free of the ideologies that are present in American society but rather exemplifies them in a visual and audible form that most Americans can relate to.

A Shot at Love or a Shot at Fame: A SCWAMP Analysis of Tila Tequila

By Kristen Fisher

For two years, “A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila” was one of the most well known shows on MTV. According to Brian Stetler of the New York Times it was ranked number 12 on the list of top cable television shows, reigning in 4.2 million viewers. Tila is an Asian bi-sexual searching for love from either a man or a woman. The show consisted of sixteen straight men and sixteen lesbian women competing for “A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila”. With many straight reality dating shows out there, there was bound to eventually be a dating show to reach out to the gay community. A SCWAMP (Straight, Christian, White, Able-Bodied, Male, and Property holding) analysis allows us to see that most desired norms are not necessarily portrayed within this show (Grinner, 2004) .

Straight
The show centers on the issue that Tila Tequila is unsure if she prefers men or women. Tila is often seem having relations with either couple and even goes on dates that include one person of either sex going with her. The end of the first season Tila ended up choosing a man to spend her life with. However, the relationship did not last and she had a second season. At the end of the second season she chose a woman to be with. This further portrays that straightness is not necessarily the desired attribute since she chose differently the second time around.


Within this show the ideal of straightness is not really a norm or what is desired. “A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila” attempts to display that ideal that love is more enviable than straightness; i.e. it does not matter whether you love the same or the opposite sex, as long as love is what is found. The idea that Tila is sexually aroused by either sex is a way to pull in a large male audience. The producers of the show may not actually care if Tila finds love or not, but using this idea pulls in a larger audience. Most dating shows have been formatted like the show “The Bachelor”, but this show pulls in a more curious audience since Tila is looking for “love” from either sex.

Christian
The idea of Christianity is not explicitly brought up within the show. However, many of the men on the show have tattoos of crosses showing that Christianity is indeed something that is a desirable trait to them. During one of the episodes Tila invites all of the women to go on a date with her. On this date she asks that they dress up like angels.
The imagery of angels is most often connected with the idea of heaven and Christianity. However, the acts that are performed while wearing these costumes would in no way be related with the images related to an angel. While wearing these outfits, Tila and the women drink heavily, and engage is sexual acts and discussion. These acts in no way promote the idea that Christianity is one of their higher desired characteristics because they in no way relate with common morals of Christianity.

White
In this show, whiteness is not displayed as most valued within our culture. Being that an Asian-American was chosen for the show is one main reason which portrays this. The show tends to commodify Tila’s female “Asian-ness” as purely sexual. This show tends to promote a common stereotype we may see within the media. This schema allows men to believe that since Tila is a very sexual and seductive woman, all other Asian women must be this way as well. This allows men to believe that Asian women may be more desirable, in a sexual way.
The contestants within the show are also of different races and backgrounds, furthering the idea that whiteness is not a solely desired characteristic. There is a larger White race within the men than any other race, but the way these men represent themselves is in a way that is not always associated with Whiteness. Most of these men dress and act in a stereotypical way often associated with Blackness. These men are all dominating, tough, and dress in ways often allied with “gangsters”. Since the White men tend to act in a Black way, this furthers the idea that Whiteness may not be such a high attribute.

Able-Bodied
Being able bodied is an attribute within the show that is very desirable. Tila put all of the different contestants up for many different challenges. In order to win these challenges, and win a one-on-one date with Tila, the contestant that is most able-bodied is always the most likely to win. Tila also often mentions how she likes women who are tough and aggressive. This idea of “toughness” goes along with being strong, fit and athletic. All of the men within the show are also very muscular furthering this ideal that being able-bodied is strongly desired.

http://video.msn.com/video.aspx?mkt=en-gb&vid=b80cf21e-5312-4d26-91d0-0b45ff08419c

Male
Men are in no way valued more than women within this show. Since Tila is a bi-sexual and unsure of which sex she prefers, both sexes are treated equally and equally desired. Both men and women had one giant bed to live in, and no certain sex was given any special privileges. At the end of both seasons the final two always ended up being a male and a female. Again, at the end of the first season Tila chose a male which may invite people to believe that men may be more valuable. However, the second season Tila chose a female ridding the idea that men are more desirable.

Property Holding
Being a property holder may not necessarily seem as something that is highly desirable within the show. Everyone within the show comes from many different backgrounds. Although Tila portrays herself as being a highly materialistic person, we are invited to believe the main reason she decided to do this show was because she was looking for love. They allow us to believe that Tila did not come on the show looking for any specific economic, intellectual, or cultural background, but rather she was looking for characteristics that allowed her to decide if she wanted to be with and love a male or a female. However, on the surface we may believe love is what is truly desirable to Tila, but by being on this show she acquires a lot of fame. We often see Tila wearing designer clothing and expensive jewelry. Seeing Tila enjoying a lifestyle such as that invites us to believe she really does enjoy expensive things and may actually prefer someone with a higher economical background. After each season none of Tila’s relationships ever work out. This furthering the idea that maybe she was not really looking for love, but rather the fame and glory of being on the show.

“A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila” invites us to believe that some values on the show may or may not be desirable. However, the show is there to make money and to please the audience. Whether they believe a certain quality is more desirable than another or not, they will put on a front to please their audience and keep them interested in a show. We might believe that Tila is looking for love, but the show is just putting on a front to reel in their audience.
Works Cited
Lind, R (Ed.). (2004). Race/Gender/Media. Chicago, Illinios: Pearson Education, Inc.
Stetler, Brian. (2007). Ratings: ‘Tila Tequila’ Closing in on ‘Spongebob Squarepants’. The New York Times,

Gender and Batman

By Micheal Rodeno


The Batman the caped crusader, the dark knight is the only super hero that does not have any supernatural powers to defeat his crazed enemies. Batman has been a popular mythical character to young boys since the 1950’s. In this blog entry, I will examine the specific characters portrayed in the Batman the Animated Series cartoon and how they construct masculinity and femininity.

Bruce Wayne/Batman


Bruce Wayne is Gotham’s richest man and most eligible bachelor. He fits the ideology of everything that is good. Everything from his socioeconomic status to his physical physique is nearly flawless. His alter ego Batman never fails to save the city from the crazed maniacs that try to hurt the innocent people of Gotham. Physically Bruce Wayne is huge and does not have an ounce of fat on his body. His bat suit brings out all of Bruce’s overwhelming physical features. In fact most of the male characters in this series have a similar body type. Even though Bruce Wayne inherits all of his wealth from his Mother and Father and he is usually a very private person he is still very highly regarded even though he has little to do with the daily functions of the Wayne Corporation. The people of Gotham bow to him in two different forms either as himself or his alter ego Batman. Batman also has a protégé that he took in when his parents were slain Dick Grayson and his alter ego Robin.

Dick Grayson/Robin

Dick Grayson could be considered a miniature version of Bruce Wayne in every sense he also fits the ideology of everything that is good. He also has to grieve with the loss of his parents just as his mentor Bruce Wayne did. As Bruce’s closest confidant and the only other person who knows about his secret life besides his butler Alfred he stands to inherit all of Bruce’s wealth if anything happens to him. Dick is also a very popular figure on a smaller scale at Gotham University and is also sought after hard by most of the women on campus. Even Physically Grayson is a smaller version of Bruce with mostly the same facial features and the same cut up body without an ounce of fat. He is not as physically imposing looking as Bruce but he is still in great condition. Robin learns from Batman the way of the streets and about the mad villains that are trying to destroy Gotham. Robin is Batman’s sidekick in every sense of the word he does not get to drive the Bat mobile and is often never seen as the hero when both have a share in saving Gotham from whatever attack they face. Batman receives all or most of the credit. Any variation of Batman is not complete without some of the insane villains Batman faces off against.

The Joker

The Joker is the arch nemesis of Batman and Robin and is the dynamic duos biggest threat. The Joker is the ideology in the show of everything that is bad. The Joker is horribly disfigured mentally and physically. The Joker has no feelings and will do anything to get laugh which usually means trying to hurt the people of Gotham and kill Batman. The Joker physically is not physically not very physically imposing he is tall and skinny. His skin is ghostly pale due to him falling into a vat of chemicals that made him go mad and changed his pigmentation. His clothing is also very different than that of Bruce Wayne he wears ugly purple suits while Bruce Wayne wears fine clothing and wears a high tech suit when he is Batman. While Bruce Wayne stays away from the bright lights of the media the Joker embraces the spotlight by high jacking TV stations to the people of Gotham can see his retched smiling face. Joker like most criminals has to steal all of his riches in order to perform his crimes. The Joker is seen as the bottom of the barrel and the scum of the earth who strikes fear into the people of Gotham.

The women of the show such as Selena Kyle/Cat woman, Pamela Eisley/ Poison Ivy, Harlene Quinzel/Harlequin and Barbara Gordon/Batgirl are all petite young and beautiful. They all have long flowing hair, rail thin stomachs, voluptuous hips and large breasts. These women are seen as objects to the powerful men in the show. The women are never seen as powerful until they change into their costumes and become their alter ego’s.

Pamela Eisley/Poison Ivy

Pamela Eisley also known as Poison Ivy is an example of a women who only becomes powerful until she has a costume on. Pam dated Harvey Dent before he turned into Two Face and nearly killed him by poisoning him after Harvey wiped out an extinct plant. Pam before turning into Poison Ivy was just seen as a harmless beautiful girl that Harvey Dent dated. After this incident Pam becomes Poison Ivy and is one of the most dangerous and feared criminals in Gotham.

Selena Kyle/Catwoman

Selena Kyle also known as Catwoman is the object of Bruce Wayne’s affection for most of the show while Batman is the object of her affection when they are squaring off against one another. Selena is not really seen as a villain in the show because she does not side with the other villains and does all of her jobs independently. Selena much like the rest of the female characters is seen as a beautiful woman on Bruce Wayne’s arm until she changes into her cat suit. When she is Cat Woman she is a cat quick thief who is capable of taking on any male challenger.

Harlene Quinzel/ Harlequin

Harley Quinn is a former clinical psychologist whose mind has been warped by the Joker. Harley is madly in love with the Joker and will do anything to please him. She is considered to be of little threat at all just a beautiful woman that the joker cant flaunt and do some of his dirty work. In a particular episode Harley runs away from the Joker and captures batman and has him tied up over a tank of hungry piranhas. She calls the joker because she wants to show her what she has done. Harley thinks Joker will be proud of her accomplishment and they will kill Batman together. When joker enters the room he becomes enraged because she has came closer to killing Batman than he ever has. Joker cannot get over the fact that a woman did a better job than him on something that consumes his whole life.

Batman portrays many ideologies for both men and women in terms of what is right and what is wrong and how each sex should be indentified.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

White People’s Place in the Hip Hop World


Mike Rodeno
One of the most recent phenomenon’s of our time is the influx of hip hop and rap music in popular culture. A rather obscure form of music and expression as of twenty five years ago is arguably the most popular form of music today. Hip Hop with its fast pace, clever lyrics and overwhelming intensity has taken over the music world not just with people in the inner city but people from all backgrounds. It is not common in this day and age to hear the sounds of Jay-Z or 2Pac blasting out of a car in a suburban or rural neighborhood. There has only been one incredibly successful white rapper Eminem. So that got me thinking what impact do white people have in predominantly African-American culture?



When you are talking about hip hop the number one thing you must start with is the artist. Many white people have tried to make it big on the rap scene many more have failed then have been successful. The only really big name in the rap scene is Eminem with his multi platinum records that he put out in the late 90’s early 00’s. Eminem was really big in the game and always will be but he has been somewhat forgotten for the past four or five years. Other white rappers that have been somewhat relevant are Paul Wall, Lil Whyte, Bubba Sparx and of course Vanilla Ice with his earth shattering hit Ice Ice Baby. Rap artists that are not black have to be absolutely exceptional at their craft because they are not the norm and white people are not the main target audience for rap music. Therefore unless a white rapper is supremely talented like Eminem the chances of a white rapper getting signed to a record deal are not very likely.




Except for a few great white rappers who have made it such as Eminem or the Beastie Boys most people think when white people rap it is funny or some kind of joke. Shows such as Andy Milonakis have mocked the genre of Hip Hop often using ridiculous lyrics that are never used in hip hop. When white people are rapping they are usually not taken seriously it is usually seen as a joke or a novelty. As I searched YouTube for videos of white people rapping all I could find is people either mocking the genre or just rapping for fun. I could not find any videos where there was a serious song. I think there is a perception in our society that this music is not for anyone else therefore not many white people makes an effort to make it in the rap industry as a white person. Many people believe white people do not have the talent, rhythm, street credibility or the look needed in order to be a successful rapper.
The most important thing to any musician including rappers is how many albums they sell. In the rap world who consumes the most rap music? According to Bikari Kitwana’s book Why White Kids Love Hip Hop 70% of all rap albums sold are bought by white people this is an amazing number. This statistic shows that white people may not be the face of hip hop but are the people funding the industry. Hip Hop is an awesome example of how a predominantly black genre of music has transcended to every walk of life. I love hip hop myself it is actually my favorite genre of music I have been listening to hip hop since as long as I can remember.

The main reason we don’t see many white people in the world of hip hop is because the people who own the record labels who are mainly white don’t think the people want to see white rappers. Most of the people who run these record companies are white and decide who they feel have the image and talent worthy to have a record deal. Many of these labels are looking for the thugged out black youth. Many white rappers have tried to make it but never have had the image that the record companies are looking except for a white rapper like Eminem that grew up on the streets and has tremendous talent. White people in general don’t usually fit the image that the rap community is looking for.


Eminem the most well known and successful white rapper has undeniable talent was discovered by rap mogul Dr. Dre in the late 90’s. Eminem has topped the charts from the point he broke onto the main stream until the early to mid 2000’s. Eminem is really the first rapper that really spoke about problems that white people have mainly suburban kids. White people had been listening to rap long before Eminem came around but he was the first rapper that most white people could identify with because of the color of his skin. His influence really spiked the interest of many whites in rap music. The thinking was well if there is a guy who looks just like me rapping why I can’t I listen or try rapping myself. Although there has not been a megastar rapper since Eminem his impact on hip hop especially in the white community is still felt.



Many whites that listen to rap are perceived of trying to act black or bluntly put being a “wigger”. White people that listen to rap are sometimes seen as people who are pretending to be something they are not. When a white person is seen blaring rap out of their car in baggy clothes and a crooked hat a great deal of people find this image ridiculous or not correct. The thought is that you should know your role as a white person and blaring rap music is not part of that role. Many white people think well how can I relate to this kind of music this is not my world I have never been shot at or dealt drugs. I believe that most whites listen to rap music because of the fact that many of them cannot relate to these experiences and want insight into another somewhat fascinating and dangerous world. Listening to rap is there only ticket into that world.


Whites are not the face of the rap industry but you could make the argument that they do fuel the industry. According to Bikari Kitwana’s book Why White Kids Love Hip Hop 70% of the people that buy rap albums white people have a huge influence on hip hop culture that goes unnoticed. In addition to all the record sales white people account for in hip hop most of the owners of the record labels that rappers are signed are ran by white people. Therefore whites are in control of the image that most rappers convey. Whites are more prominent then most people think in an industry that on the surface is dominated by African Americans.


Works Cited
Kitwana, Bikari. Why White Kids Love Hip Hop. New York, NY:
Basic Civitas Books, 2005. 114-120. Print

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Cut Off Your Stereotypes: Art Fern and the Dumb Blonde Schema

Jasen Sokol

The recent scandal involving David Letterman and his affair with a female colleague has brought discussion of the role of women in late-night talk to the forefront. A recent New York Times article mentioned that Letterman’s show has had a “strikingly small number of women” as writers over the years (Cohen). This fact that women have played a minimal role in late-night television has meant that women are often objectified in the jokes and skits presented by the hosts. However, this is not a new phenomenon. For decades, Americans tuned into The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson to end their day. As such, he had a very powerful platform with which he could influence public opinion. The skits included in his program did not always put forth positive images of women. One such skit is the Tea Time Movie in which Carson plays a salesman named Art Fern who is accompanied by his sidekick, the Matinee Lady. Although these skits were humorous in nature, the portrayal of the Matinee Lady as a dumb blonde represented a negative portrayal of women on one of the most popular shows in television history.



One of the ways in which the Matinee Lady's dumb blonde portrayal can be seen as degrading to women is the way in which she is portrayed as just plain dumb. In many cases, the Matinee Lady makes statements that make her seem as if she has very little intelligence. In one skit, Art Fern says that a sound is that of a bull being neutered. The Matinee Lady responds “does that mean they take off all of the bull's clothes?” (Carson Show). Later in that same skit, Art Fern is describing a funeral home's promotional bumper sticker that says “honk if you're horizontal.” After hearing this, the Matinee Lady goes on to demonstrate for the viewers the difference between horizontal and vertical and appears to be very proud of herself afterward. Fern replies that the Matinee Lady should get her brain “checked out before the warranty expires” (Carson Show).

However, the most notable part of the blonde schema that can be seen in the Tea Time Movie skits is the use of the Matinee Lady as a sex object. The Matinee Lady is objectified numerous times in every skit. An example of this can be seen in a skit advertising insurance policies. In this skit, Art is describing why people should buy Shifty's Insurance when the Matinee Lady picks up an arrangement of insurance policies and holds them over her breasts. When he sees this, Art says “look at what these policies cover!” Clearly, Art Fern is not talking about accident coverage or vehicle replacement, but rather the Matinee Lady's breasts (Carson Skit). Another instance of the Matinee Lady being used as an object can be seen when Art says that classes at the University of Hay, or Hay U, start at dawn because being early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise. Playing off of the fact that she is portrayed as stupid; the Matinee Lady asks if going to bed will make her wise. Art responds “no, but it will make you wealthy” as if to suggest that she would be a good fit for a job in the prostitution industry (Carson Show). Any doubts about what Art thinks about the Matinee Lady can be cleared up in the middle of each skit, where they are caught making out when the camera pans over to them. This confirms that Art Fern sees the Matinee Lady as little more than a pretty face on a pretty body and something for his enjoyment.



Although the Tea Time Movie skits are clearly parodies of infomercials, the way that the Matinee Lady is portrayed can cause problems for blondes in the real world. In fact, a study performed by California State University revealed that blondes are more likely to remain sidekicks in the business world simply because they are blonde. The study showed that blonde women are rejected for jobs more often than brunettes and are usually paid less for the same work (Bates). This is due to an anchoring bias, or a tendency to focus too heavily one one trait or characteristic when making decisions, that has developed against blondes and has been perpetuated by the media (Anchoring Bias). The Tea Time Movie is a prime example of this perpetuation. This phenomenon is a real-world example of another phenomenon seen in the Tea Time Movie skits. It is clear in the skits that Art Fern values the Matinee Lady for her sexual attributes. However, his constant downgrading and insulting of her shows that he does not value her for anything else. Because of this, blonde women and women who choose to be blonde by way of hair dye are often put in a bind whereby they may feel that they will be thought of as more attractive if they are blonde, but will be looked at as inferior in the workplace

Johnny Carson's Tea Time Movies were intended to be a humorous look at the way that products are sold on television. However, beneath all of the fast talking and fancy slogans lies a slew of sexual jokes and degrading statements against the Matinee Lady that made her seem like little more than a sex object for Art Fern to enjoy. This tendency of late-night television to downgrade women continues today, as many shows do not have a single female writer. Portrayals like this have led to blonde women having less of a chance to be successful in the working world than other women, and as such they must be eliminated so that all women can have equal footing in the working world.


Works Cited
"Anchoring bias in decision-making." Science Daily: News & Articles in Science, Health, Environment & Technology. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Nov. 2009. http://www.sciencedaily.com/articles/a/anchoring.htm.

Bates, Brian. "The New Blonde Bombshell." The Observer [Manchester, United Kingdom] 29 July 2001: n. pag. The Guardian. Web. 1 Nov. 2009.

"Carson Show- Art Fern And TeaTime Movies." YouTube - Broadcast Yourself.. N.p., 20 Oct. 2008. Web. 1 Nov. 2009. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IHw825yq98M.

Cohen, Randy. "Is Letterman Hurting Anyone?." The New York Times 12 Oct. 2009: n. pag. The New York Times. Web. 3 Nov. 2009.

“Carson Skit#4." YouTube - Broadcast Yourself.. N.p., 29 Aug. 2006. Web. 1 Nov. 2009. .

The McDouble Standard: You Don’t Have To Be Smart To Enjoy a Latte

Ashleigh Prigodich


This past year, McDonald’s has come out with a new line of coffee-house-style drinks from their version of a coffee shop called the McCafe. The advertisements for this product line follow the same pattern: two “intellectuals” sit in a coffee shop drinking their lattes and reading. One of the characters mentions that McDonald’s is now serving various coffee drinks. The two then go back and forth discussing how wonderful it will be not to be a poser anymore. In this paper I will consider how the ads construct intellectualism, and set up a dichotomy between intellectual interest and both femininity and masculinity.

The ad below focuses on two men sitting in a coffee shop sipping on their lattes. They are dressed in “typical” coffee shop attire: sweater, glasses, and nicely trimmed facial hair. Man #1 is reading a rather large book when the second man looks up from his paper and informs his friend of the new drinks.

The interaction between the two men is meant to be comical. Its humor comes from featuring feminized men, who are, because of McDonalds, now “free” to be their more masculine selves. Man #1 appears to have a lisp. The other man takes off his turtle neck sweater while Man #1 takes off his glasses while saying, “I don’t need these glasses. They are fake.” They both hide their masculinity to fit in with their surroundings. McDonalds, in essence, is selling both masculinity and authenticity, by situating coffee shops as intellectual, feminine, and inauthentic spaces.






The next commercial is almost identical.




Here shows two intelligent-looking women sit together with some form of reading material. They are wearing sweaters, glasses, and scarves loosely draped around the neck. Again, woman #1 looks up and says that McDonald’s is serving lattes. Both women discuss how wonderful it is not to have to change their image to fit the coffee shop standards. Now they can read gossip magazines, wear heels, and not care about the location of Paraguay.

This commercial implies that femininity is somehow contradictory to intellectualism. The ad’s humor is premised in the dichotomy between sexuality and one‘s capacity for learning. But why can’t women be smart and sexy/goofy at the same time? One of the women claims that she wants to show her knees but apparently it goes against proper coffee shop etiquette.

The ads set up a dichotomy between its store and coffee shops. McDonalds is equated with authenticity, where men and women can be their “true selves. Coffee shops are constructed as inauthentic and pretentious. These definitions work well with the target audience. McDonald’s advertises its business as a restaurant for the “common man.” It appeals to working class who want a meal at an inexpensive price. To make fun of educated people reaffirms those beliefs of the people who frequent the restaurants. This ad devalues the notion of being book smart while emphasizing the gender-based stereotypes. Knowing about the world and opening one’s mind by a sense of reading isn’t important and is frowned upon. Therefore…

Knowledgeable and well educated = elitist and bad

This concept of anti-intellectualism can have a negative effect on the masses. What was valued and deemed essential in order to succeed in society is poked fun at. No person is actually smart. We just do it for the coffee.

Who the Wild Things Are

Donikea Austin

In white American culture non whites are often portrayed as exotic, more sensual and overly sexual. As author and ad critic Jean Kilbourne points out in her documentary Still Killing Us Softly, non white women are portrayed in a way makes them seem less human. (Lazarus, 1987)

What is happening when we create and view these images? This blog will look at three different forms of media that all show black women as animals or in the form of an animal. These ads come from November’s Harpers Bazaar issue with Naomi Campbell. We will also be looking at an ad from a liquor company in the U.K., and lastly rapper Lil Kim on the cover of Vibe magazine.

Harpers Bazaar is a fashion magazine that caters to an upscale female clientele. It features the latest designs from luxury fashion lines as well as insider beauty tips and “$500 Steals” from high end stores. Most people featured in the magazine are white, and this reflects the consumers of the magazine. In this image model Naomi Campbell is dressed from head to toe in zebra print, playing jump rope with monkeys in what seems to be a zoo exhibit. She is being watched by a white man who seems like a tourist, possibly on Safari. This image shows the white man kneeling on a rock and observing her as if she is simply one of the animals in the wild, while she plays gleefully unaware of the man. It reflects a racial hierarchy; Campbell, a famous wealthy model is reduced to an animal. An animal to be observed and ultimately consumed by a white male. Not only are the characters in this picture important, but the camera placement seems to be part of the message as well. The male tourist is perched above Naomi Campbell which is a visual reflection of power; in this case the man has more power because he is above the woman. The audience is also situated in a way that has them above Naomi Campbell, looking down into her exhibit.

The second image is an ad for a U.K. liquor company called Wild Africa. This company is famous for turning people into animal like characters for their advertisements. In this specific ad we see a black couple in a simple embrace, however, in this ad the women is literally part animal. She seems to be turning into a leopard and, has already scratched her date. The tagline is “Unleash your wild side”. It seems as if this black woman is posed as someone who cannot control their animal instincts and will turn into a prowling beast if given the chance. There are also undertones of sexual promiscuity, although the woman is wearing what appears to be a wedding ring on her finger the ad makes it seem as if she is taking part in an illicit affair.

Lastly, the cover of Vibe magazine features female rapper Lil Kim as a wild cat like animal posing next to the title “Sex Kitten. Lil Kim is ready to roar.” Vibe is a magazine that caters to the black community as well as fans of Rap and Hip Hop music. It typically features articles on black music, fashion, movies, television and occasionally politics. Lil Kim is a famous rapper known for her vulgar lyrics and outlandish costumes; she is one of the few female rappers to have won a Grammy and to have crossover success in the music industry with collaborations with pop stars like Christina Aguilera. On this cover, Lil Kim is on her knees crawling, with her hair blown out into a full mane, her mouth with a snarl and her eyes designed to look piercing and very cat like. Unlike the previous ads, where women of color are visually compared to animals, in this ad, the woman is the animal. She does not just act like an animal, she is an animal.

This image is based on the philosophy Eugenics—where a black woman is constructed to be somehow different, and fundamentally inferior.

All of the above images are based on the philosophy Eugenics—where a black woman is constructed to be somehow different, and fundamentally inferior. Eugenics is the process of selective breeding, to breed the human population up by only mating the best specimens. In Eugenics the best specimen was thought to be the people who belonged to the superior race with the idea that these races were innately, even genetically better than the other races. The images in this blog are especially resonant within our culture. There is not a large representation of non-white men or women, and because of this limited representation, these images hold a great deal of weight. Essentially, non-whites have been symbolically annihilated. Women and people of color, women in particular, are portrayed, it is all too often in a way that metaphorically treats them as less-than human.

References
Lazarus, M. (Director). (1987). Still Killing Us Softly: Advertising's Image of Women [Motion Picture].

Women in Video Games: Half-Life 2 – A New Perspective

Josh Scott

In 1998 a popular game took store shelves in the form of “Half-Life”, a first-person viewpoint shooting game which changed the way that the games were viewed. Prior to the release, shooters of the first-person type were typically very violent games that were focused on the sole purpose of killing any creature that moved in the animated world in which the character moved. Half-Life changed this by introducing a complex storyline and puzzle-based play to the time tested and popular method of run-and-gun gameplay. Six years later the sequel to Half-Life (aptly named Half-Life 2) added a different spin to the genre, gender equality. Shooters, which are primarily a male dominated genre, typically over-sexualize women, depict them as weak, or do not include them at all in gameplay. The introduction of a certain character in Half-Life 2 has expanded the perception of women in the FPS genre and may be redefining women in video games in the more modern era.

The story of Half-Life 2 revolves around a character that the player takes the role of, Gordon Freeman. Gordon fought his way through an alien invasion, and through a military quarantine in his first encounter in the original Half-Life. This time, the aliens have taken over the earth and he must fight with a resistance of remaining independent humans to try to free themselves from control. In the beginning of the adventure Gordon is introduced to Alyx Vance, a young woman who is also a freedom fighter and it is her who is the focus of the very fair gender portrayal in the game. Alyx is a unique character because she is also ethnically mixed, half black and half white. But the most important part to her persona is that she is equally as adept to fighting as Gordon, and in many circumstances, better.

It is not uncommon to see a female character fighting along-side a male character in modern action games, however, where Half-Life differs is the production of the game itself. Created Valve Inc. Half-Life 2 was a incredibly difficult task to undertake and, according to their website, took a combined total of 5 years and $40 million to create. Such an epic undertaking in the gaming industry demanded some changes along with it. So with the characters that were included in the game, complex story driven voice-overs were used. This brought each character to life in a way that games, such as the earliest arcade games, failed to achieve. To the point when Half-Life 2 was released the gaming industry was brimming with new ideas and the Half-Life genre continued to expand out of the simple blood and gore of most common shooters and into the realm of intelligent design.

Alyx is not the first female character to star in games that was as inclined to fighting as men. Lara Croft, of the “Tomb Raider”, series of video games was a female character who played the controllable main character in the game. She was incredibly athletic, kin to shooting, and was also very fond of destroying many supernatural and human characters. The difference between Alyx and Lara is the area of over-sexualization. Lara displays in incredibly large bust size, a very small and uncomfortable outfit, and an unblemishing depiction throughout the game regardless of the environment she is fighting in. Alyx’s outfit is much less revealing and fitting, she wears a pair of jeans, and a jacket which is slightly unzipped which exposes a necklace but does not reveal any cleavage. Between the two of these characters it is easy to determine which one is made to look very sexy and which is meant to be viewed more as a believable character.



At several points in the game, Alyx displays the ability to overcome obstacles much easier than Gordon can. There are also several circumstances, such as a scene where Alyx becomes responsible for Gordon’s life when she is mans a sniper rifle as the player navigates an enemy infested landscape, where she can also outsmart him, and hold her own in combat at his side. The combat aspect of Half-Life 2 is not unlike many other shooters on the market, it is no less violent than others, but does not rely on blood and gore to make a statement. Alyx is a partner in the adventure, rather than an idol of sexualization, which is somewhat uncommon in video games, and surely in the first-person shooter genre.



Video games are an expanding genre which are not unlike many other forms of media, such as films and television. They reach a very large audience of people of all ages, and the stereotypes and discourse we see in other mediums are also held securely there. Over-sexualization of women can be seen in television, films, and music. The introduction of the character Alyx in the game Half-Life 2 is an example of how women can be viewed equally in media in the context of the game/film/music that is being perceived.

Ideology and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

Ryan Radke

A SCWAMP analysis is an intersectional analysis that explains that ideological positions are interconnected and relational. These relationships are shaped and affected by the society in which they come from. The ability to identify the dominant ideologies in the media provides us with a way to consciously conform, or resist these norms that are forced upon us defined by SCWAMP. SCWAMP stands for Straight, Christian, White, Able-Bodied, Male, and Property holding. These are the norms that the media today portrays. To be these things is to be desired, to be the opposite of these things is to be inferior and not good enough. One television show that exemplifies the SCWAMP ideology originally aired back in the early 90’s. This show has reemerged as a piece of popular culture thanks to its reruns being showed on multiple networks during multiple parts of the day where it can be watched. This show is the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

S=Straight
Throughout the show Will and Carlton constantly have on thing on their mind, girls, girls, and more girls. One does not realize when this is the case how much this pushes heterosexuality as the norm on you. However, the fact that you are never shown a homosexual relationship tells you that heterosexuality is the norm. There is one episode however where homosexuality is made fun of.



Thus, by watching the Fresh-Prince of Bel-Air one can be conditioned without even realize it to consider heterosexuality the norm, and act negatively toward homosexuality.

C=Christian
Although religion is not often something that is focused on during the show, however there are two weddings during the show. In one of them Will’s Aunt is getting married in what is undoubtedly a Christian ceremony. In the other Will’s buddy Jazz is getting married. Will’s uncle Phil, at this point a judge, presides. However, the ceremony still contains the traditional Christian construct. These two weddings train you to see Christianity as the norm, thus, any other wedding service is not the way normal people get married.

W=White
The W in SCWAMP stands for white. On the surface this does not seem like it would apply. After all, the show is about a would black family. Upon further examination however, one can see an ideology that values whiteness. Fore example, one of the things that Will picks on Carlton the most for, is acting like he is white. Carlton is constructed as holding white values; acting white.



Will comes from the streets of West Philadelphia, in the “hood”. Carlton should be different than white people because he is black. Will thinks that Carlton conforms too much, to what would be considered the good thing to be. Carlton is too much like his white friends from the prep school, he just acts to normal, to much like the other kids, and to Will he should be different. However, Will’s mother sent him to Bel-Air to become more like his Carlton. In a sense his mom sent him away from the largely black neighborhood where he grew up, to the largely white neighborhood where his normal cousin lives. Thus one can conclude that being white is of value, and that people of other races should try to act white.

A=Able Bodied
The A stands for able-bodied. Throughout the show, Will makes fun of people in the family. Will makes fun of Carlton for being short. Carlton’s lack of stature is his imperfection. Carlton is constructed as holding white values; as acting white. At the same time he is made fun of for not being masculine. Furthermore, Will make’s fun of his Uncle Phil for being overweight.



Again, Uncle Phil’s weight is his disability, which makes it something to be made fun of by the cast. Will on the other hand is tall, and is a star athlete, a spectacular basketball player. As a result, Will, and his physical appearance and ability is constructed as superior.

M=Male
It is obvious to see how being male is the norm in the Fresh Prince. Will and Carlton get into most of the trouble, and Uncle Phil is the bread winter in the house. Although Will’s Aunt Vivian is a College Professor, this is rarely referred to. Aunt Viv is rarely seen leaving or coming home for work, where as in every episode Uncle Phil is seen in one of those two roles. The norm is thus male. It is normal to be male in the professional world. Furthermore, Will and Carlton go to an all boy school until the middle of the show when there show starts allowing girls. This is frowned upon by Carlton initially because he feels like it is not normal for girls to be able to go to school with him. His school seemed more normal when all boys went to school there.

P=Property Owning
Will’s Property-Owning Uncle Phil is looked at as being normal. When Will got in to trouble in Philadelphia, his mom sent him to Bellaire to live with he rich uncle because that would provide Will with a better place to grow up and get him away from his poor hood life in Philly. This creates the thought that being Property Owning is what is normal, and what every boy needs.
From all of this we can see that despite a façade which would make this show seem like it promotes a different look for black people in America, it really denigrates the black race. In the end the show states that Will’s uncle’s family is better because they are more white. They are more civilized, they live the way all people should live, the white way. Will was sent to his aunt in uncle to change himself, to stay out of trouble, essentially to turn white so that he could live in normal society. This is the true message of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

From all of this we can see that despite a façade which would make this show seem like it promotes a different look for black people in America, it really denigrates the black race. In the end the show states that Will’s uncle’s family is better because they are more white. They are more civilized, they live the way all people should live, the white way. Will was sent to his aunt in uncle to change himself, to stay out of trouble, essentially to turn white so that he could live in normal society. This is the true message of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.