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.

Friday, October 15, 2010

"Glee" and Diversity

By: Sarah Felty

This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise, it is nothing but wires and lights in a box.
— Edward R. Murrow
99% percent of U.S. households have at least one television set while 50% of American adults cannot read above an eighth grade level.

By age 65, the average U.S. citizen will have spent nearly 9, nonstop, 24 hour-a-day years watching television.

Each year Americans watch around 250 billion hours of television.

It’s not breaking news to Americans that we watch a lot of television. Since the creation of television people have been fascinated by it and its array of endless possibilities. However, it is no longer used as just a “form of entertainment.” It has evolved into a tool for learning and a source of communication between people all over the world.

Though television is a way to broadcast information and entertain us, it also has the ability to influence us in ways no other medium can. This gives television a power and an impact that is very hard to ignore. It also allows us to experience the world around us while introducing us to knowledge or opinions we might otherwise never have encountered.

This brings me to the TV show Glee and the influence it is having on an ever-growing audience. As I have pointed out, one would be hard-pressed to ignore the influence television has on Americans. And now, one would also be hard-pressed to ignore the influence Glee is having on the young adults who worship it. (“Gleeks,” as they call themselves.) The story focuses on a group of excessively different students who are brought together, against their will, to sing in that historically nerdy “ High School Glee Club.” However, those differences end up bringing the students together to form the “Glee family.” And it’s a diverse family at that. But Glee is not about the triumph or recognition of the “high school loser” as one would think. They have instead made it the appreciation of the high school individual. I say "individual"
very specifically because Glee has been so fantastically un-specific in its array of featured char
acters. For example, Glee currently includes the only wheelchair bound character on primetime television. The main cast also includes teen moms, Asian, Latino, gay and African American characters, alcoholics, a young girl with Down syndrome, and a Jewish girl with two gay dads. However, Glee has managed to turn these traits into attributes for its characters.
Artie Abrams
, is looked up to for his struggles and intense determination on Glee but is still treated like every other kid on the show. In the episode titled “Wheels,” of the first season, the students even decide to spend a week in a wheelchair to understand Artie’s day-to-day life better. They wrap up the episode by performing a musical number in their wheel chairs to honor their friend. Artie has even had a few love interests with various characters on the show and in the current season actually joined the football team!

Becky Jackson and Jean Sylvester, played by actresses Lauren Potter and Robin Trocki, portray significant roles as characters with Down syndrome. Becky is mean cheerleading coach, Sue Sylvester’s favorite cheerleader while Jean is the all-knowing sister she goes to when she is at her worst and needs advice. They show the positive side of Sue’s character, as she isn’t very positive and help the rest of the characters to understand the heavier things in life.

Kurt Hummel, (played by actor Chris Colfer) is the fashionable, misunderstood guy who is struggling with the need to come out to his father and be accepted by his friends for who he is. Which of course they do without a second thought, but Kurts emotional confrontation with his father was quite the tear jerker, for anyone that has felt misunderstood or like they are living a lie. Though Kurt’s character is an openly gay young man who is unafraid to show his true self, he has definitely had moments of self-doubt. This led to a few episodes on the football team and even some on the cheerleading squad. In the end though, Kurt learned to stay true to himself and that is what made him happiest.

There is no doubt that Glee has made strides to include a diverse cast, but the show (now in its second season) has continued to include a more diverse mix of topics as well. Last season the show dealt with teen pregnancy, alcoholism, kids coming out to apprehensive parents, cheating spouses and sex. This season the kids have already dealt with religion, a little more sex, some LGBT issues and of course, jealousy. It’s looking good for season 2 of Glee especially with that coveted timeslot of primetime Wednesday nights (7.5 million people tuned in for season 1 and with two episodes down in season 2 there have already been 12.3 million viewers) it looks like even more people might benefit from its diverse flavor. Especially, the younger viewers for which there are not numbers out yet, but have made themselves known at concerts, events and filmings of the show that they love. Glee recently won The Hollywood Diversity Award, as well as another award from The Multicultural Motion Picture Association, here’s to earning a few more!

Midnight Express : An Example of Meaningful Adaptation of Diversity

By: Louis-Auxile Maillard

The original Midnight Express (1)is a true story : an American guy, Billy Haye, is put in Turkish jail because of drug trafficking. He was sentenced to spend thirty years in jail, escaped a few years later (2) , and wrote his story. The movie Midnight Express (3) is the film adaptation.

However, according to the original author's testimony (4) , the movie changed several points. For example, the Turkish cruelty is increased in the movie, his evasion is improved to make him look like a hero, and the homosexual relations he had during the time he was in jail are denied in the movie.

The point here is not to focus on quantitative differences like omissions, due to the fact it is impossible to tell as many facts in a movie than in a book. The point here is to focus on transformations comitted by the movie. These qualitative differences between the movie and the original story underscore a specific vision of diversity that has to be shown in a popular movie.

It's instructive to notice that the transformations in the movie have been publicly admitted by the director, who apologized for them (5). Billy Haye himself apologized for the consequences of the movie on the Turkish stereotype in America (6) . It is another evidence of the movie's willingness to influence.

Table 1 shows the four main qualitative differences between the original book and the movie:

Table 1 : Facts in the book and in the movie

FactOriginal storyMovieComparison
Hero's citizenshipAmericanAmerican=
Place of ActionTurkeyTurkey=
Hero's MaritalStatusSingleHas GirlfriendHero should havegirlfriend
Hero's Sexual OrientationHas homosexualrelations in Turkish jail.Only heterosexualHero should be onlyheterosexual
Violences comitted against the heroNothing more than expected violence in a jail.Rape committed by other prisoners and guardians. All the atmosphere is more violent than in the originalstory.The more violent the Turkish, the better it is.
The evasionEscapes without violenceKills the guardians bossThe hero has to kill his enemy's boss.

Table 1 shows the four main qualitative differences between the original book and the movie.

In the original story, Billy Haye is single. In the movie, he has a girlfriend, who attends to his arrestation and tries to help him all along the film. She represents the link between Billy Haye's former life and his life in prison. She also corresponds to the typical sterotype of the faithful lady waiting for her lover, despite he is sentenced to spend a very long time in a foreign jail. Her presence show that an American guy, even if he is trafficking drugs, is human and can have a romantic life, which is not the case of Turkish people in the movie.

Billy Haye told that he had homosexual relations in jail with other prisoners. In the movie, he is tempted to do so, but finally refuses it. Despite the movie does not present homosexuality as a bad thing, the construction of an American hero seems to have to avoid homosexuality. Notice that the movie could avoid this topic to express that it does not mind. Nevertheless, it is not the case. Furthermore, Turkish people are sometimes homosexual, as if this simple fact could create a huge difference between American and Turkish.

According to Billy Haye's interview, Turkish people are more violent in the movie than in the original story. It allows the movie to be more punchy, but it also dramatizes the action. It maintains an orientalist stereotype, according to which Turkish are violent and immoral. This is not a question of politics, because Turkey and United States of America had a very good relationship when the movie was produced. It perpetuates a racist view of Turkish people seen as barbarious.

In the original story, Billy Haye escapes from an island without any violence. But in the movie, he kills the guardian's chief who was attempting to rape him, and this death allows him to escape. At first, it means that an American hero only uses force when it is necessary, because the character is very wise and delicate all along the movie. It also means that ruse is not enough for an American hero to escape : he has to use force and to take revenge against his enemy. This final scene represents the victory of strength and wisdom against violence, and the victory of America against Orient.

These comparisons underscores that the movie wants us to believe some precise information about Turkish people and what an Amercian hero has to be, shaping the spectator's view of sexuality, country of citizenship and some other issues about diversity.

Such comparisons can only be done when a movie is supposed to follow an original story. In Table 1, the column "Comparison", which gathers all the interesting information, could not exist if the column "Original story" didn't exist. In other terms, the original story is a necessary reference to understand the movie's meaning better.

The theorical idea here is that it is possible to emphasize all the politicaly oriented issues in a movie by juxtaposing it with the original novel or true story which inspired it. A lot of examples can be found and studied in this way : Catch Me If You Can, Ian Fleming's James Bond... It concerns particularly commercial and well-known movies, where the author accords a great importance to what the spectators think.

This method could also be applied to theater plays, like Romeo+Juliette, which is a modern interpretation of the famous Shakespeare's play. Current critics about theatrical production of older plays also use the same method.

Comparing movies and their source of inspiration can provide great clues about what the media wants us to think, especially about society and diversity issues. Midnight Express is one of the best examples: when you see the movie, you don't feel how it tries to influence you. But if you read the book, then the movie's own opinion about diversity becomes obvious.


[1] Billy Hayes, Midnight Express. Dutton, 1977. ISBN 0-525-15605-4 (First edition)
[2] The real story of his evasion. National Geographic website.
[3] Alan Parker, Midnight Express, 1978.
[4] Interview of Billy Hayes part 1 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WMsNPCVbNhw 1999
Interview of Billy Hayes part 2 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_JTRs8e-FRk 1999
[5] Smith, Helena. Stone sorry for Midnight Express. Guardian. December 16, 2004.
[6] Real-life 'Midnight Express' character visits Turkey to 'make amends' :

"The Perfect World": American Television’s Virtual Diversity

By: By: Michaela Penn

Television has, without a doubt, become a central learning instructor for people across the world. From syndicated programming, talk shows, and advertisements; television influences us individually, and culturally. Aside from television, advertisements are the backbone of television programming as these are the economic base of broadcast TV. To appeal products to a broader audience, advertisements began to become more diverse showing a variety of ages, body types, and ethnicities. However this new approach to marketing has some questioning its realistic authenticity as compared to how the world really is. In this blog analysis I will take an in-depth look at two up-to-date advertisements by major corporations and how their characters are framed to show America as a cultural mesh.

“Virtual Diversity” is defined in the article Race Becomes More Central to TV Advertising as commercials that enable advertisers to connect with wider audiences while conveying a message that corporate America is not just "in touch," racially speaking, but inclusive (AssociatedPress, 2010). While these “virtual diverse” commercials show variety of races, companies intentions are examined for whether they truly interrogate stereotypes or just reiterate them in a different manner in these ads. Bradley Gorham explains in Considerations of Media Effects, Psychologists Hamilton and Trolier (1986) definition of stereotypes as “cognitive structures that contains the perceiver’s knowledge, beliefs, and expectancies about some human group.(Gorham,p17)” Stereotypes function in the same way as schemas. Bradley Gorham writes that “schemas help us categorize the world by telling us the basic characteristics of the things we encounter…a stereotype then is a schema for people we perceive as belonging to a social group. (p17)” Considering common stereotypes, schemas of a certain race, race relations, and ethnicity integration in ads, it is easy to justify people thought of these “virtual diverse” ads as inaccurate.

With evidence of gains in profits, businesses; etc by African-Americans, Asians and Native Americans the article suggests “nonwhites will be in the majority in America by 2042 (AssociatedPress, 2010).” Some say with these improvements and new lights of multiculturalism in commercials, America is changing and is moving towards racial progress. Contrary to this, an article by the Advertising Educational Foundation disagrees by saying these ads “gloss over persistent and complicated racial realities” and that “most Americans live and mingle with people from their own racial background” (AEF, 2010). I choose to analyze two particular commercials because: one they are by major corporations who have existed for quite a while and have huge marketing campaigns in America, and two because both advertisements show a mesh of cultures bonding in the same environment and enjoying the same luxuries.

A recent 2009 commercial by Coca-Cola shows teenagers enjoying a beautiful summer day by swimming and being airlifted in a huge Coca- Cola bottle. Besides the unbelievable bottle, many other things were out of the ordinary in the commercial. All of the characters are strikingly beautiful and have exotic or white features. None are overweight; the females easily fit into a two-piece bikini, and the male’s toned bodies compliment the scene. Various races are present in this commercial; however they are all constructed as White. In true American, African-Americans, Caucasians, Asians and Native Americans have different features that make them distinctive. However, all of these characters have long hair, fair skin, and thin body types. If it weren’t for a somewhat darker complexion on some of the characters they could all be assumed as White. Is it a coincidence that out of every different look each of these races has (i.e. overweight, short hair, handicap), the characters selected have much more in common than in difference. The race relations between the groups presented are incorrect. Likewise, ones schemas of African-Americans being hostile, uneducated, and rhythmic are dismissed as you see them in a more subtle playful light. After watching this, viewers would assume America is a perfect land, with diverse groups who all look and act alike.

While the Coca- Cola commercial focuses on diverse young friendships, a recent 2009 commercial by Hillshire Farm shows older adults enjoying a barbeque. In these commercial five friends, including two couples sing a song advertising the Hillshire Brat. Not only does this commercial not dismiss stereotypes, they prove them to be true. If someone has a pervious schema of African- Americans as good cooks, rhythmic, and outspoken and of Caucasians as nerdy and educated this commercial confirms them. The African- American couple is more soulful (watch the husband dancing), while the Caucasian family seems to be more preppy. The friend in the background seems to be multi-racial, but in all they seem like happy neighbors who get along well. Contrary to the Coca-Cola commercial the couples have features of their race, but this advertisement does not accurately portray racial relations. The more comedic approach by the makers of the commercial is understandable, but do five diverse neighbors really sing and dance while cooking brats? This commercial by Hillshire not only tells a consumer to buy the brat, but it also suggests that Americans of different ethnicities live in the same neighborhood and eat the same food.

Some accuse businesses of falsely advertising race relations, while others like Denise Meridith of the Phoenix Business Journal argue that it “fights prejudice while attracting buyers.” She adds that “whether one likes the quality of the ads, the quantity (of minorities in ads) has improved.” While portraying more diverse images or “color” (hence, other ethnicities) in numerous advertisements is certainly encouraging, these images makes some wonder whether minorities are in commercials as the token figures. These token characters in racial integrated commercials could merely be a company’s effort to deflect criticism or to obey with affirmative action, instead of genuinely accepting diversity. Likewise, African- Americans and other ethnicities are in advertisements with a majority Caucasians. Their white features, accents, etc. are still situated to show Whiteness as the only norm. If companies really embrace diversity, they should show a range of individuals who all look different in terms of weight, height, complexion, hair, and camera personality.

Aside from the constant construction of everything as white in American TV commercials, race relations in the above ads (as with many more) are also inaccurate. The Hillshire commercial also proves that the new “virtual diversity” advertisement trend reiterates stereotypes, by still showing races doing things they are said to do. With commercials repeating racial stereotypes commonly seen, it does nothing but confirm schemas already existing in one’s mind, this is unfortunate seeing that every Black person doesn’t dance 24-7, every White is not Preppy; etc. Diversity is beautiful, but acknowledging the truth is even better. And the truth is that race does matter in today’s society and commercials by Coca-Cola or Hillshire; etc do not accurately depict racial relations; whether it is between teens or adults. The “virtual diversity” era may foreshadow real life changes in the future, but for now these American ads are more diverse than America itself.

Want to check out more “virtual diverse” commercials? Here are a few extras I found but decided against analyzing.




Associated Press (2009, March 1). Race becomes more central to TV advertising. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29453960/

Associated Press (2005, February 22). Diversity in ads not reflected in real life. http://www.aef.com/industry/news/data/2005/3085

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, 2010. 16-23. Print.

Meredith, Denise (2003, March 7). Phoenix Business Journal. Diversity in advertising fights prejudice, attracts buyers. http://phoenix.bizjournals.com/phoenix/stories/2003/03/10/editorial3.html

Being Black in the New Age of Rap

By: Lazarus McRae

Wiz Khalifa, a 23-year-old Pittsburgh native, was born September 8, 1987. He started his career off in 2006, with the release of his first album, “Show and Prove.” The following year Wiz got signed to Warner Bros. Records, where he released his second single, “Say Yeah," sampled from a very popular techno song by Alice Deejay called “Better off Alone.” “Say Yeah,” not only received radio play, but it also made the Rhythmic Top 40. What people don’t know is Wiz is more than just a successful rapper; He is avid communicator with fans, staying in touch through blogs, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and other third party music networking sites. Then suddenly after his Two years of success Wiz’s relationship with Warner Bros. Records suddenly ended. Upon his departure, Wiz released his second album, “Deal or No Deal,” and then followed up with released the mixtape “Kush and Orange Juice.” Instantly Wiz became the top trending topic on Twitter and Google and was offered a record deal from Atlantic Records. Clearly, Wiz is a popular hip-hop artist. While, in the past, artists have promoted violence and drug use, Wiz is much more overt, signifying a change in the music culture. In this paper I will discuss Wiz Khalifa, paying particular attention his use of marijuana, and how he represents a particular construction of black masculinity.


Throughout the video, Wiz and his possy smoke marijuana heavily, as if their status allows them to disobey the laws on illicit drugs. Their attitude toward smoking shows an independence from social norms and mainstream society. In fact, in the first frame of the video Wiz is holding a joint. Later there's a scene where Wiz’s friends are on a couch laughing as if it’s the marijuana in their system that makes everything better. The significance of drug use in hip-hop artists today creates an inattention to authority and brings males from different socioeconomic statuses together, where once this would never be accepted. However marijuana illegal, still appears in all the music videos. Constructing drug use as the norm for the subculture that he represents. Years ago this would never happen; the closest thing to a drug would be tobacco. For example, in the 90’s, a west coast rap group known as N.W.A. became popular for their explicit lyrics about drugs and violence. However, not once did drugs appear in their music videos. The progression in music videos goes to show how fast America has grown as a culture. Now what were once explicit lyrics is now the realism of seeing actual drugs and violence in the video.

Black Masculinity

Drugs, tattoos, jewelry, designer clothes, and swagger are some characteristics that emit from being black in this new age of hip-hop. Males specifically have trouble relating with one another. This video is a perfect example of males bonding negatively. No longer do we see men watching football games together, or consuming drinks at the bar, we see males hanging out at the local park smoking pot out the back of a truck or a bunch of boys hanging out at home taking bong rips. This infatuation with material goods is consistent with every artist in this new age of hip-hop too. No longer are women just the objects of attention; we are exposed to million dollar homes, exotic cars, and private places. He gives mention to his sexual preference in women too. Then overly boasts in the confidence his jewelry gives him, and laughs at his intentional recommendations for marijuana. Though he gives mention to woman, rarely do you see one in a video, but if a female is visible then she is more so a prop to balance out the mixture of people, not a item to worship because of her stunning appearance. The males however, are constructed as…. According to the Kirkland, such actions taken by artists like Wiz Khalifa appear to be somewhat of an in-your-face boast. Otherwise, glorifying guns and street hustling (Kirkland).

The portrayal of drug use shows an independence from social norms and mainstream (white) society – where someone who looks like this would never be accepted anyway.

After reading the lyrics and a short recall of Wiz’s stomping grounds, Listeners are forced to assume that Wiz is giving reference to his home team, the Pittsburgh Steelers. This is song can be considered as a shout out to his homeland, but as you read the lyrics the song becomes more stereotypical and commercial. The first verse begins with Wiz talking about the paint job of his car, and then progresses with this arrogant remark. “The niggaz scared out of it, but them hoes aint,” (Wiz). And throughout the song his lyrics continue with the making of arrogant statements. On the other hand, one must notice these things, more specifically, acknowledge the stereotypical references of the black community and blacks in this new age of hip-hop that are embedded in his lyrics.

Throughout the video, males are seen smoking out of bongs, exchanging blunts with Wiz, and overall just enjoying the presence of one another in the midst of marijuana. However, these concerns do not reflect the reality that most African American’s live, where more than 15 percent are unemployed (as opposed to 8.8 percent of Whites). Without the existence of illicit drugs like marijuana, young males might find a reason to

Christian Myths as Portrayed In "The Lion King"

By: Tamara French

Disney has been cited as one of the world’s greatest entertainment companies in America (Fortune 500 2009: Top 1000 American Companies. 4 May, 2009). With their ever flowing variety of movies, films, merchandise, television, and music, Disney has been on the forefront of American entertainment. Because Disney is so universal, there have been many debates on their racial, gender portrayals and diversity within the children’s movies that they have released. Less thought, however, has gone into the religious messages some of the films portray. In this analysis, then, I will considerer how Christian myths are portrayed in The Lion King.

The Lion King (The Lion King (1994)-IMDb), with a domestic total gross of $312,855,561(The Lion King (1994)-Box Office Mojo. 12 Dec. 2010), is one of Disney’s top selling children’s movies. The Lion King is about a young cub, Simba, who sees his father, Mufasa, dying. He runs away because he believes that it is his fault that his father is no longer living, and grows into a full lion with two friends, Timon and Pumbaa, that found him in the desert and took him in. Nala, his childhood friend, finds him and tells him all about how their lands are wasteful now and that he needs to return as the rightful king. He does return, only to come back and find out that his uncle, Scar, has been ravaging the lands and that he also was the one guilty of the murder of his father.

The crime that is committed in this movie, the murder of Mufasa, is remindful of the biblical story of Cain and Abel. In the Bible Cain and Abel were brothers, much like Scar and Mufasa. And just as Scar kills Mufasa, Cain does so to Abel, “8Now Cain said to his brother Abel, "Let's go out to the field.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.” (The New International Version, Genesis 4:8) Cain was jealous of the favor that Abel had received. Scar is jealous in this way of Mufasa and even of young Simba because he feels that he should be king and should be next in line to the throne, as he was before Simba was born. There is no way he will ever get to be king unless he does something drastic and that is when the murder takes place. Scar wants power like that which Mufasa has and wants the respect and glory of everyone around him. Cain wanted similar things, he wanted the approval of God and to be shown favor and to be first to gain approval, but when he did not get that approval and instead his brother, Abel, gained the approval the envy and jealousy that ravaged him was uncontrollable.

The clip above demonstrates how Mufasa is willing to do anything for his son. When Mufasa learns that Simba is in danger he immediately runs to the rescue. He sees the danger and even though he knows that his return may not happen he still dives into the herd to save the son. Mufasa could have left his son to figure this all out by himself, but he loved Simba so much that he did not; he instead decided to step in and save a life, his life. This is what Jesus Christ did for mankind, 16"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son.”(New International Version, John 3:16). Mufasa loved his child so much that he was willing to risk everything for him, and Jesus Christ, the man form of God, loved mankind so much that he gave his life up to save humanity. So Mufasa represents that God-like image and Simba represents mankind and sin in this scene and in this sense.

Mufasa is an allegory of God; he is, a God-like figure represented throughout the movie. Mufasa is always present in Simba’s life even though Simba has drifted like a lost sheep, and ‘forgotten’ who he is. Before Simba can go back to Pride Rock, which is similar to the Promise Land, he needs to remember who he is and who he was born to be, but he also needs to ask for redemption and forgive himself. In a Christian life this would be a turning point from a life filled with sin to a life lived out for the Lord. Not only is it very clear that there are many religious aspects in this movie, but it sends a powerful message about the love of God.

Disney’s reputation precedes it throughout American culture. The messages in the children’s movies may not have been put there on purpose, but are still topics that people seem to want to understand and know. From the gender stereotypes to the religious ambiguities in their films, there are many topics that can be discussed from watching a Disney movie. The movie certainly only takes some aspects of Christianity throughout, but the Christian myths portrayed in The Lion King are very prominent when analyzing.

Works Cited

Flesher, Paul V.M. “Religion Today.” Disney’s Depictions of Religion. University of Wyoming. 18 July 2004. Web. 5 Oct. 2010

Hengeveld, Nick. Bible Gateway. The Zondervan Corporation L.L.C. 1993. Web. 5 Oct 2010
“Fortune 500: Disney.” Fortune 500 2009: Top 1000 American Companies.

The Lion King. Dir. Rob Minkoff, Buena Vista, 1994. DVD

The Lion King (1994). Box Office Mojo. 2010. Web. 10 October 2010

The Lion King (1994). IMDb. 10 October 2010 <>

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Lesbianism: Exploited in the Media for the Wrong Reasons

By: Lisa Morris

Before the 21st century, homosexuality was a topic that media tried to avoid as much as possible. In the 1960’s, homosexuality was seen as a psychological disorder due to many gay activists trying to make a change (Cecco, 1984). It was as if the gay community was neither seen nor heard. With this unjust treatment, it’s no wonder why there were many gay activists who fought for the right to have their voices heard. While homosexuality is very much in the media today, the depictions fall flat of a proper representation. First, gay representation in the media was minimal, now it’s highly exploited, but in the wrong way. Today, homosexuals are now just being seen (under media’s warped idea of them), and still not heard (at least not in the way they want to be). There are many false portrayals of gays in the media; overly feminine men, masculine woman or even acts of lesbianism for male satisfaction, just to name a few. For example, mockery towards a gay man would consist of a limp wrist and an exaggerated feminine accent (Holtzman, 2000). There have even been sexologists in Germany and England that started calling gays and lesbians inverts, which is based off a belief that men who are inverts have feminine traits, while women who are inverts tend to take on more masculine characteristics (Holtzman, 2000). Lastly, and the main topic of discussion, falls into the category of lesbians and the misinterpretation of sex that goes along with it. “Lesbian describes a relationship in which two women’s strongest emotions and affections are directed toward each other. Sexual contact may be a part of the relationship to a greater or lesser degree, or it may be entirely absent…But women who identify themselves as lesbian generally do not view lesbianism as a sexual phenomenon first and foremost” (Atkins, 1999). In this paper I will consider the construction of the lesbian as overly sexualized, presented for male viewing pleasure.

To discuss the latter more in depth, it is clear that, in today’s media, a woman seen kissing another woman is considered sexy. That is the whole idea; media wants to sell sex, and that is their interpretation of sexy. If it sells, the media is surely going to milk it for all it’s worth. But wait a minute; doesn’t the gay community have any say in this? They are the ones being portrayed in front of the world as objects of sex. There are pictures and films that contain woman making out with the intention of pleasing the male demographic. One shocking video from the television show, "The Man Show", consisted of Jimmy Kimmel going around the streets, offering woman money to see them kiss.

He even says at one point “We’re not asking you to exploit yourselves, we’re asking you to French kiss each other on television for guys to masturbate by”. Clearly the first portion of that sentence was a joke, because how is kissing another woman on television, for money, not exploitation? Jimmy Kimmel sees all this as humor and doesn’t care (and clearly neither do these women) about how this footage could affect their lives. His main goal was to reach the needs of his male viewers and sell his distorted version of what is sexy.

Sadly, this type of representation occurs all the time within media texts. Another example of how lesbianism is “sexed up” for the male demographic would be a scene out of every teenager’s favorite movie, "American Pie 2".

Three male high school friends mistake two girl roommates as a lesbian couple. After being caught pillaging through the ladies things, the three boys confess that they just wanted to find any evidence of the two woman being a couple. The girls sympathize and show the three what they want to see; which is a kiss. The boys request more, however the two ladies want to even the playing field, so to speak. The boys could only see more if they mirrored exactly what they wanted the girls to do. Once these terms were understood, the boys go as far as grabbing each other’s butts, but they stop when things get too sexual. It’s shocking, in this case, how far the three boys are willing to go just to see two woman showing sexual affections towards one another. They are so in lust for the image and the act; however, when asked to perform the same acts, they become disgusted and ultimately turned off. This brings the age old question, “why is ok when girls do it, but not for guys?” It is widely seen that girls kissing is associated with sexuality and nothing else. That scene can evoke many moods from the male. On the contrary, when the males kiss, displeasure is seen on their faces and pure disgust is portrayed. This sends the message that this type of interaction between two males is unacceptable and downright scornful. This greatly affects gay males and their standing in society. It’s unclear who to accept at this point because one portion of the gay community is seen as sexy while the other portion is seen as a mockery. If both portions can’t simultaneously be accepted and seen as one, our image of them will forever be distorted. Viewers will consequently associate gays and lesbians with the examples they are given through media.

Portrayals of lesbian acts are defined exactly the way media intended for us to interpret. As Jimmy Kimmel put it, the image is something guys can get sexually stimulated by. It is seen as entertainment to post pictures of woman kissing and it forces women into a one dimensional category which is, sad to say, sex. Lesbians then are standardized only based on sex as well, avoiding deeper issues like gay rights.

Posters such as The Kiss are sold widely in poster stores and seen quite often on the bedroom walls of males. This poster reeks of ignorance with its cheesy angelic white colors, and half naked woman on display while big corporate industries rake in the benefits (aka...cash). It’s as if media is unconcerned about throwing a pigeonholed view of a certain group out for the world to consume and believe.

With ignorant portrayals of lesbians, such as the ones provided, it’s safe to say that the wrong image is being presented. Allowing such a distorted view of woman and their sexuality evokes naive responses from its viewers. This is how media has everything to do with the way we think, act and feel. Unless personal morals and ethics come into play here, the viewer’s fate towards their way of thinking is already decided under the power of media. So far, the image of homosexuality is uncertain at this time, because people are torn between accepting it and denying it.

Works Cited
Atkins, D. (1999). Lesbian sex scandals: sexual practices, identities, and politics . Binghamton: The Haworth Press.

Cecco, J. P. (1984). Homophobia: An Overview (Vol. 10). New York: The Haworth Press.

Holtzman, L. (2000). Media Messages: What Film, Television, and Popular Music Teach Us About Race, Class, Gender, and Sexual Orientation. Armonk: M.E.Sharp Inc.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

SCWAMP analysis for Keeping up with the Kardashians

By: Leslie Purnell

Keeping up with the Kardashians is running on its 6th season broadcasted on E TV. The family is composed of the mother, Kris, father, Bruce, daughters, Kourtney, Kim, Khloe, Kendall, and Kylie, and son, Rob. Kourtney, Kim, Khloe, and Rob are Kris’s children from a previous marriage. Kendall and Kylie are the offspring of Kris and Bruce. Bruce also has children from a previous marriage, but they are not on the show. Keeping up with the Kardashians follows the family around to various events, and shows what a day in the life of the family would be like. I chose to use the SCWAMP analysis to show that the Kardashians are far from the sitcom ideal family. The SCWAMP analysis stands for Straight, Christian, White, Able-bodied, Male, and Property holding. Those categories are what are prominent in the media today. A SCWAMP analysis looks at how the media has a direct influence on society, and points out what contrasts with the norm. The analysis allowed me to examine Keeping up with the Kardashians through those six categories. When watching Keeping up with the Kardashians, the viewers can pick up on how close the family truly is. I wanted to use the SCWAMP analysis to find out why the Kardashians are so appealing to millions of viewers around the world. After comparing the Kardashians through the SCWAMP, it was easy to see that they live the idealistic world to many people who value expensive possessions.

Straight: The Kardashians focus a lot on the three oldest sisters’ romantic relationships. All of their intimate relationships have been heterosexual. Khloe is married to Lamar Odom. Kourtney has a child, Mason, with her boyfriend Scott Disick, and Kim has recently split with Reggie Bush. The family is always super involved in each other’s relationships. Kourtney, Kim, and Khloe can often be quoted saying, “When you date one of us, you date all of us.” Rob has dated girls on the show, and the family is often informed on the status of his relationships.

Christian: Khloe and Lamar recently exchanged vows at an outside venue, and not in a church. Typically Christians get married in a church. The officiate of the wedding was also not dressed in reverend or priest attire. On the show, viewers never see the Kardashians going to church any day of the week, or to any religious venue. Sometime in the show you can see Rob or Lamar wear replicas of cross chains which represents a form of Christianity, but that is the only sign of Christianity seen.

White: The Kardashians are Armenian and Bruce the step father is of white decent. Kendall and Kylie are a mix of Armenian and white, but the show is centered around their Armenian roots. Sometimes Kris will make Armenian cookies or other dishes that pertain to their culture. The four oldest children always have bronzed skin, and Bruce, Kylie and Kendall are the family members that stick out because of their skin color. Khloe, Kim, Kourtney, and Rob’s biological father was Armenian, and died of cancer when Khloe was just nineteen years old.

Able bodied: Fit and curvy are two words that are commonly used to describe Kim, Khloe, and Kourtney’s appearance. Khloe has often expressed how she has struggled with her physical appearance being that she is taller and thicker than her older sisters. Kim often stresses working out and has her own workout tapes. The Kardashians also advertise the weight supplement Quick Trim. Having a flawless outward appearance is very important in this family which partly stems from the pressure of the media. “We begin the process of perceiving ourselves from the perspective of another person, a viewpoint that gradually becomes disassociated from any specific person and becomes that of society at large.” (Brim, 1968, p.46).Kim and Kylie are both models. Some of the sisters even undergo treatments to help them remain looking and feeling young.

Male: Women dominate the Kardashian household. The show often shows how Bruce is out of the loop on decision making. Rob is the only brother the girls have, and the sisters are very protective of their brother. Male dominance is not an issue in the show. The main purpose for men on the show is for companionship. Even though men might not have a direct dominance on the women in the show, they still have an influence on how the women present themselves. It is because of the men that the women wear designer clothes, work out daily, and wear make-up. The ultimate goal for Kim is to find a man. Pleasing the men in their lives and other potential men in the future provides an example of how men have some dominance in the Kardashian women’s lives.

Property Holding: Property holding is a big factor in how the Kardashians measure success. Khloe and Kourtney own a store called Dash while Kris and Kim own a store called Smooch. The parents have recently upgraded their home to a ranch style to a mansion style home. Khloe and Lamar purchased a three million dollar home, and Rob lives with them. Kim just purchased a new house, and Kourtney and Mason live with her. By just looking at the pictures a person can tell that having a luxurious home is important to the Kardashians. Kim does not need a huge mansion for two people and a baby, and the same goes for Khloe and Lamar. Having a mansion is a way for the Kardashians to show that they have money, and make that statement to the world.
After looking at the SCWAMP analysis of Keeping up with the Kardashians, it is easy to understand why the Kardashian family is so appealing to the media. Everyone in the family is straight, able-bodied, and property holding. They are not the average everyday family, and some viewers like to see how the wealthy live. The SCWAMP analysis provides a great example of how something different from the middle to lower class everyday lifestyle is attractive.

Work cited

“Kim Kardashian big booty workout again.” Youtube-Broadcast Yourself. EEntertainment, 17
April 2010. Web. 22 Sept. 2010.

“Kris’s Territory.” Youtube-Broadcast Yourself. EEntertainment, 04 Sept. 2010. Web. 22 Sept. 2010.

Lind, Rebecca Ann. Race, Gender, Media: considering Diversity across Audiences, Content, and Producers. Boston: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon, 2004. Print.

Pictures from Google.com

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Black, White, and Racist All over: An Analysis of Interracial Couples in Film.

By: Kristen Piasecki

Film is a pedagogical tool that teaches our society about relationships. The romantic comedy genre, in particular, is the most prevalent genre that is exploited in films. Typically, the target audience for modern day romantic comedies films is young females, (Stoneking, 2010). However, a substantial amount of males are also exposed to these films. These films somehow subconsciously, yet blatantly teach our audiences particular ideologies about love and relationships. These films build an ideology of what love is supposed to look like, and what an ideal and socially acceptable couple is supposed to look like. Overwhelmingly, it appears that relationships are habitually between the same racial demographics. Couples in films of different socioeconomic classes are depicted to be socially acceptable. The exact opposite can be applied for interracial couples; the media depicts interracial couples as being out of the norm. When interracial couples are involved, their relationship becomes the conflict of the film, and the film’s narrative then centers around this constructed problem. This analysis will further elaborate on the film “Guess Who.” This film was selected because it is the most recent film in which portrays interracial couples. This film’s narratives also deal with the “problem” of enduring an interracial relationship.

It is a valid argument to imply that our society does see some interracial couples in mainstream films; however, how many of those interracial couples are dealing with a problem other than simply being? The film “Guess Who” will accurately demonstrate this question. The film’s tagline is indiscreetly thought provoking. The tagline states “Some in-laws were meant to be broken” (20th Century Fox, 2005). While this tagline is visibly direct in context, meaning that Theresa’s parents, or, the in-laws need to be broken; however, it appears there is an unresolved underlying message. The term in-law is seemingly identical to the word laws; the law being a taboo for interracial couples, and that is the law that is meant to be broken. The tagline alone is insinuating that racism is an unwritten law of our society, and our society is consciously aware of this. Although the tagline does not directly imply this, it is exposed to our society as a double entendre. Audiences are also made aware that this tagline can have two interpretive meanings.

In the film “Guess Who” the premise is another example of interracial taboo. The film portrays a young, Caucasian male, Simon Green, who is engaged to an African-American female, Theresa Jones. The conflict of this film is that Theresa’s family is unaware that her fiancĂ© is white; and this, is a problem (20th Century Fox, 2005). The film’s entire premise consists of the dilemma of if the Caucasian male will finally be accepted into the African-American family. There is one scene, in particular, in which depicts universal racism; “black jokes at the dinner table.” In this scene, Simon Green is sharing dinner and stories with Theresa’s family. Theresa’s grandfather is rather racist and upset that she has not chosen an African-American man. Shortly after, Simon interrupts and declares that his grandmother, in fact, holds a similar racial attitude for Theresa. Simon and Theresa both laugh the comments off, and assign the racism on a generational gap. There are several moments of awkward silence, and then “black jokes” is the next topic of conversation. Dinner takes a turn for the comedic better, however, results in an unfortunate conclusion when a joke takes a turn for the worst. Simon begins by sharing seemingly light-hearted jokes that Theresa’s family humorously excuses as “cute.” Oblivious to the African-American cultural, Simon shares a joke that demeans the character of Theresa’s father and grandfather, and the evening ends in silent disaster. This scene acknowledges that the racism is as equally prevalent in the Caucasian culture, as it is on the African-American culture. Racism is an action that impacts individuals on a personal level, and is experienced differently depending on each person.

Another common trend that is portrayed throughout films containing interracial couples is the set up of a black female paired with a white male. In films, the black female is portrayed to be weak, and defenseless, and the white male is portrayed to be dominate and hero –like. All movie posters are portrayed in a manner that the black female is weak and is in need of rescuing, and the white male is willing to step up and rescue her. This trend is not only racially stereotypical, it is gender stereotypical. Women are portrayed to be weak. Having a film with a weak black female is not only weakening a gender, it is weakening a race. So, when considering interracial couples, why is the female typically African-American, and the male is typically Caucasian? Perhaps it is an inaccurate stereotype that the Caucasian males are perceived to be dominate, and African-American women are perceived to be passive.

Considering an article on the 2005 film, Crash, it states “In this frame, a wealthy, light-skinned black- woman named Christine clings to a strong, comforting policeman named Ryan. Her wedding band figures prominently in the image, and her face is a mask of distress, shock, or grief But otherwise, the embrace seems intimate—almost erotic; their lips just shy of touching, the couple seems on the verge of kissing (as couples tend to do on movie posters). Ryan's face, too, seems guarded, a mask of determination—of heroism, really, for Ryan has just risked his life to drag the woman out of her burning, overturned car, and despite his fellow officers' attempts to pull him away. The sequence leading up to this shot emphasizes Ryan's heroism” (Hsu, 2). Again, this photograph depicts a weak African-American female being rescued by a Caucasian male, perceived to be a hero.

When audiences view an interracial couple in a film, the film industry frames the plotline to portray the couple to be “dealing” with the problem of being an interracial couple; but who says being an interracial couple is a problem at all? The film industry says so. It is obvious in our culture that our society tends to believe most of what is shown by the media; even fictional media (All Academic, 2009). Our society is repeatedly being shown the problems that unravel when an interracial couple develops. As a result, our society learns to adopt the fictional belief that interracial relationships are abnormal, black women are weak, white males are strong, and the ideal couple is of the same race.

Work Cited
Mulligan, Ken. and Habel, Philip. "The Effects of Fictional Media on\Real World Beliefs in Conspiracy Theories" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association 67th Annual National Conference, The Palmer House Hilton, Chicago, IL, Apr 02, 2009 . 2010-09-29 http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p364525_index.html

Stoneking, Publishers. "Divorced Dudes." Stoneking (2010): n. pag. Web. 07 Oct 2010. .

20th Century Fox, . "Guess Who." n. pag. Web. 07 Oct 2010. .

Monday, October 11, 2010

Fox 8 News Makes a Statement about Success

By: Amanda Shalkhauser

American culture is becoming increasingly concerned with beauty and body image. Body image is “a subtle and complex phenomenon that represents the byproduct of the mind’s subjective translation of the experience of the physical body into a mental image it ” (Wolfe, Nichols, & Decelle, 2010). Much of people’s self-image is “formed by way of social comparison, ” in which people judge themselves against others, even those on television, to develop their own self-image (Festinger, 1954; Kalodner, 1997). For women in American culture, the media depicts few variations of females from which they can draw their ideas of beauty. Analyses of current programming have concluded that “women on television are overwhelmingly young and thin” (Wolfe, Nichols, & Decelle, 46).

One way of understanding how the media’s portrayal of beauty affects women is through self-conception through other. Much of how people see themselves comes from comparing themselves to others, including those in the media. Gradually, people “begin to perceive [themselves] from the perspective of another person, a viewpoint that gradually…becomes that of the society at large” (Wolfe, Nichols, & Decelle, 46). During this process of self-conception through other, people are likely to find disparities between how they look and the “cultural ideal” that they are seeing.

The distinctiveness postulate suggests that the more one perceives a stimulus, such as the “cultural ideal” of beauty, the more likely that person is to internalize that stimulus (Wolfe, Nichols, & Decelle, 49.) The media constantly emphasizes the importance of beauty with countless commercials about beauty products, and shows containing women trying to achieve the perfect appearance. Women on television “who are characterized as successful at work, at home, and in love are almost exclusively attractive, reinforcing the importance of beauty to a woman’s achievement and happiness” (Wolfe, Nichols, & Decelle, 39). Repeated exposure to programming with these messages can lead females to believe that success and happiness come from beauty, or that happiness is beauty, neither of which are necessarily true.

A prime example of this message can be seen when one watches Fox News. Fox is not only one of the top news sources in the country, but it also has prominent local branches in places such as Cleveland. The news network tends to be an informative and reliable news source, and is something that a woman may watch every morning (an example of consistent media influence). The majority of the femaleand reporters that appear on Fox 8 are young, slim, attractive blonde women, with hair that is highlighted, curled, and hairsprayed to look put-together and professional, and a good amount of make-up. Of the six female anchors on Fox Cleveland’s morning show, five are attractive, white, young looking blonde women that one would typically see in the media (the sixth female is African American, but with many Caucasian features). The Cleveland Fox 8 reporting team also includes five women, two of which are white, blonde, and all of which are attractive. These women are consistent representations of the “ideal career woman” figure in a rarely-seen position of power and authority in the media, and are part of the image that females consume when watching television. anchors
Five of Fox 8 News’s six female morning show anchors.All five women have a similar appearance. (images retrieved from http://www.fox8.com/about/station/newsteam/)

Another prominent female Fox 8 News host is Greta Van Susteren. She joined the Fox team in January of 2002, as the host of the prime-time news and interview program, "On the Record with Greta Van Susteren." Greta has been a reporter for many news cases, including the trials of Scott Peterson and Michael Jackson, and those following the death of Anna Nicole Smith. She also provided on-site coverage of the Virginia Tech shootings (Fox 8 News Network, 2010). Her program “On the Record” is the highest rated cable news program in the 10:00 p.m. timeslot (Fox 8 News Network, 2010). Forbes Magazine also recently dubbed her one of the world’s 100 most powerful women (Fox 8 News Network, 1).

Before her employment with Fox 8 News, Greta was a lawyer and legal commentator for CNN. She was very “low-maintenance;” she wore minimal make-up and insisted that her brunette hair not be done for the camera – she ran her fingers through it and nothing more (Smolowe, J., 2002). In the month-long break between her employment at CNN and her new career at Fox, Greta cut and colored her hair and received an eyelift. When she appeared on Fox for her debut, Greta looked more like the typical image of celebrity beauty.

When People Magazine covered her story, they asked the following question about Greta’s make over: “Will Van Susteren's makeover increase the pressure on TV personalities to look ever younger? Her colleagues say it's already there. "The fact is that what you look like on television matters," says former NBC News president Reuven Frank. Anyone who has appeared on TV—or even in a home video—can relate. "When you go on television, you come home and look at the tape and you think, 'How did I look?' You don't care about what you said," says Court TV's Steve Brill. "That's what television is—it's a picture"” (Smolowe, J. 2) Greta says she was not pushed by her boss to receive the makeover, but whether this is true or not, it is likely that there was a pressure on her from the media field to better her appearance to increase success in her field.

Through watching the morning show on Fox 8, or Greta Van Susteren’s program, it is obvious that their anchors and reporters are highly valued for their appearance. While these news people are attractive to viewers (who are more likely to watch [those who they deem] good looking people than ugly), Fox may be imbedding a negative idea into the heads of their audience members. If women frequently watch Fox News, they may begin to judge themselves against these women. Television “cultivate[s] expectations about what beauty ‘looks’ like and how significant it is in everyday life” (Wolfe, Nichols, & Decelle, 40). Viewers are likely to attribute the successes of these prominent women in television to their beauty, and thus feel that they have to be attractive in order to be successful. This vision of beauty overshadows wisdom, hard work, and experience as a means to success, and, overall, supports a superficial society that values upon appearance instead of ability.

Works Cited

Festinger, L. (1954). A theory of social comparison processes. Human Relations, 7, 117-140

Fox 8 News Network (2010). Greta Van Susteren. Retrieved from http://www.foxnews.com/bios/talent/greta-van-susteren/

Greta Van Susteren images. Retrieved from http://creativeadvertisingworld.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/greta-20van-20susteren-20cnn-2d2006.jpg

Kalodner, C. R. (1997). Media influences on male and female non-eating-disordered college students: A significant issue. Eating Disorders, 5(1), 47-57

Smolowe, J. (2002, February 18). Nipped, tucked and talking: Greta Van Susteren debuts a bold look on her new show—and breaks a tv news taboo by spilling the beans on her cosmetic surgery . People Magazine, 57(6), Retrieved from http://www.people.com/people/archive/article/0,,20136440,00.htm

Wolfe, M. A., Nichols, S. L. , & Decelle, D. (2010). Race/gender/media; considering diversity across audiences, content, and producers. Boston, Massachusetts: Pearson Education, Inc.

Race, Crime and Film: Examining Menace II Society and A Bronx Tale

By: Andy Weidner

Over the years movies and television have become extremely popular. It is one of the most referenced and talked about themes in a young person’s life. Movies and television are important because as kids become adults they grow up with these movies and learn through movies. Films in a sense become a type of pedagogy, or teaching method. Kids in turn learn how to interact in society with the ideas that films give them. In this paper I will compare and contrast the films "A Bronx Tale" and "Menace II Society", I will discuss how the media views crime in terms of race and shapes the mind of young people through these movies and in turn shapes our society.

I chose "A Bronx Tale" and "Menace II Society" for multiple reasons. The first reason I chose these movies is that they were both released in 1993. "A Bronx Tale" grossed around 18 million dollars and "Menace II Society" grossed around 28 million dollars. The main reason I chose these two movies is because they demonstrate how Hollywood chooses to frame movies and in doing so how they over use the stereotypes.

The movie "A Bronx Tale" tells the story of a young Italian boy growing up in the Bronx. He is faced with two conflicting ideologies about how is to be raised. When he is a young boy he witnesses a local mafia guy kill another guy in the street. When the police question him he denies ever seeing the incident and in turn gains the trust of the mafia and builds a reputation of his own as a loyal guy. His father is happy that he didn’t rat out the mafia man, but he also is upset that his son is running errands for these men. The boy grows up to find that while his father is an honest hardworking guy, the mafia is a lot more flashy and fun. The movie ends with the mafia man dying and father and son attending the funeral apart and leaving together.

The movie was directed by Robert De Niro. He directed the movie to show how flashy the lifestyle of an Italian gangster can be. He deliberately showed how the neighborhood respected the gangsters and relied on them. The gangsters were men of honor and code. They were men that people should aspire to be. The violence that took place in their lives as all gangsters run into was just an occupational hazard and was for the betterment of the neighborhood and society as a whole. This movie plays into the ideology that white crime is better. It is needed for society to run and it is glorified.

Framing is almost as important as the story itself. Rebecca Lind describes Erving Goffman’s classic book of 1974 in her book Race/Gender/Media, published in 2004. “The framing of an event or activity establishes its meaning.” In the movie Menace II Society, directed by Albert and Allen Hughes, Tyrin Turner plays the character Caine who is a young African American trying to make it out of the inner city. Paula Massood describes the genre in her review of the film in 1993, “As with all genres of filmmaking, the hood films can be identified by certain industrial and artistic similarities: they are made by young, film-literate African-American men working with shoestring budgets.” These directors used framing to set the movie in the ghetto and talk about the rigors of ghetto life and how hard it is to make it out of the inner city. The problem is they overused black stereotypes.

Dianne Williams Hayes discusses these stereotypes in her article published in 2007 called, “Athletes, Outcasts, and Partyers – Films about African Americans in Higher Education.” She describes how writers and directors portray African American men in movies and television. “Films about African American in higher education are a relatively new phenomenon but they, like other films about Blacks, still frequently resort to stereotypes.” She went on to say that many of the African American characters in movies about higher education are only there for athletics or to party. "Menace II Society’s" character Stacy is another example of this. He makes it out of Watts, but only because he is an incredible athlete who goes to college on a college scholarship. The remaining characters are either killed or in jail. These are stereotypes that are hard to get over.

Films such as "Menace II Society" set social standards. People struggle their entire life to find a Cultural and Social Identity. Movies like Menace II Society shape these identities. While most people look at this story as a caution of what could happen and what you shouldn’t do. Many people look at this as what I could become, or man I need to stay out of places like that.

Clearly there are differences in how black crimes and white crimes are perceived. Like the news, black crimes are viewed as petty and are overly exaggerated and shown on the media. They are demeaning not only to the people committing the crime, but to black people as a whole. White crimes are perceived with a type of glory. People should aspire to be brilliant enough to come up with a crime like that of the mafia. They are viewed as hard working blue collared Americans, with a flashy twist. When will society view crimes for what they are and not by who commits them? When will Hollywood stop glorifying white crimes and demeaning black crimes? Will it ever happen?


Hayes, D. W. (2007, June 16). Athletes, Outcasts and Partyers - Films about African Americans in Higher Education. Diverse , pp. 1-5.

Hughes, A. a. (Director). (1993). Menace II Society [Motion Picture].

Lind, R. A. (2004). Race/Gender/Media Considering Diversity across Audiences, Content, and Producers. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Massood, P. (1993, Spring). Menace II Society. Cineaste , pp. 44-45.

Menace II Society. (1993). Retrieved October 3, 2010, from IMDB: www.imdb.com

Niro, R. D. (Director). (1993). A Bronx Tale [Motion Picture].

How evident are racial stereotypes within children’s entertainment and how influential are they?

By: Georgina Failey

“A widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.” – ‘Stereotype’ Oxford Dictionary (Dictionary, 2010)

The Media are an important aspect of our lives: we use it for both entertainment and news or information. It is found that “According to the A.C. Nielsen Co., the average American watches more than 4 hours of TV each day (or 28 hours/week, or 2 months of nonstop TV-watching per year). In a 65-year life, that person will have spent 9 years glued to the tube.“(Herr) We like to think that the TV shows and films we let children watch are purely for entertainment, but there could be subtexts that influence children’s ideologies and perceptions of different races.

“Once a company that catered primarily to a three- to eight-year-old crowd with its animated films, theme parks and television shows, Disney in the new millennium has been at the forefront of the multimedia conglomerates now aggressively marketing products for infants, toddlers and tweens (kids age eight to twelve).” (Giroux, 2010)

Disney is important to study because, overtly, it represents itself as a source of escapism and fantasy. However, it is important to note that this seemingly innocent company is a multinational corporation, and much of it’s focus is on children’s programming and products. Children are more vulnerable to media texts than adults and forming their own ideologies based on what they see at a young age. Also, how these ideologies will form their outlook on cultures and societies later in life.

TV and film entertainment is easily accessible, so there is an ongoing and long term effect that can be cumulated. According to (Giroux, 2010) “Multi-billion-dollar media corporations, with a commanding role over commodity markets as well as support from the highest reaches of government, have become the primary educational and cultural force in shaping, if not hijacking, how youth define their interests, values and relations to others.”

Clearly, the representation of race can have a long term and unconscious effect on children, and how they form ideas about others and themselves. Disney is persuasive in forming these ideologies because of its pervasiveness in childrens culture, it is a powerful hegemonic tool. I will focus on representations of African Americans within Disney films, as well as focus on how Native Americans are represented, as previously there has not been much analysis on this. The films that I will focus on are ‘The Lion King’ (1994, Roger Allers), ‘Pocahontas’ (1995, Mike Gabriel) and ‘‘Peter Pan’ (1953, Geronimi).

This clip from the Disney cartoon ‘Pocahontas’ (1995, Mike Gabriel) shows the English colonists trying to gain Native American land after John Smith a soldier has been taken captive by the Native Americans. The song ‘savages’ that the colonists sing refers to them as ‘not even human’ and ‘they’re different from us and cannot be trusted’ even though they are invading their land. Even Pocahontas herself is featured to have a reddened skin colour. This representation could give children a prejudice or a negative stereotype of Native Americans by giving them the representation of being aggressive and violent, creating dominance with the English settlers. The characters clothing makes a difference as to how they are represented, the settlers have tops, trousers and shoes in contrast the Native Americans who are wearing cloth-like material. This creates an opposition in wealth and prosperity between the two races.

‘Peter Pan’ (1953, Geronimi) has a similar physical representation of Native Americans. They are red skinned, wear cloth-like clothing, and head-dresses. This is a common representation of Native Americans children’s films and cartoons of them being primal and bellicose. One of the Americans asks them “What makes the Redman red?” This creates awareness with the audience, who are primarily children, of the Indian characters skin colour. All of the characters then take part in a dance, and they make stereotypical expressive forms of whooping and screaming noises, which are easily mimic able by children. Nancy Eldredge states “And when young children prepare to dance and sing the way they see Native people do, they'll jump all around and kick their feet and flail their arms and have no idea what they are doing. What they are doing, without realizing it, is making fun of us.” (Picker, 2001) People who have Native American ancestors find these representations offensive to their heritage, but because they are a minority Disney is more able to ‘get away’ with these stereotypes.

‘The Lion King’ (1994, Roger Allers) is a popular and favourite Disney animation winning an Oscar award for its soundtrack and voice acting. But there is evidence that there could be racial stereotyping within the film. Throughout the film there are themes of segregation, father-son relationships as well as life and death. The theme of segregation is evident through the animal characters of the lions and the hyenas. The lions live in a kingdom, whereas the hyenas live in the badlands and they are not allowed into the kingdom. Their representation is physically similar to the representation of the African American ‘Black Sambo’ stereotype. ‘The hyenas resemble this stereotype. They have bulging eyes, protruding lips, and as Scar describes them, “Vacant expressions.” They laugh hysterically and loud all the time. Two of the main character hyenas show some intelligence, but the hyena, Ed, is the ultimate Sambo. He never speaks; he just laughs and laughs, and wags his protruding tongue like a rabid dog.’ (Rockler-Gladen, 2004, 2010)

In the documentary ‘Mickey Mouse Monopoly’ (Miguel Picker, 2001) Jacqueline Maloney states “I have a girlfriend who, she's a white woman and her son is about three, and she came to me one day really disturbed and said that she had been coming back from shopping and that her son said, “Mommy, Mommy, the hyenas, the hyenas,” and she looked up and she said there was a group of black children on the carousel and playing... she could not move her son away from the attachment of the sound to the image of hyenas in The Lion King.” (Picker, 2001)

Disney may not have intended this representation to be of racism, but because the original ‘Black Sambo’ representation was seen as entertainment, then that is the intention of the hyenas, to be just entertainment The creators may have just wanted one of the characters to appear extremely stupid, and this is the stereotype that is coming across, but the hyena representations do show evidence of that of the ‘Black Sambo’. “Cultural differences in Disney's recent films are expressed through a "naturalized" racial hierarchy, one that is antithetical to an viable democratic society.” (Giroux, Animating Youth: The Disnification Of Childrens Culture, 1995) Within the film, the lions are represented high up in the hierarchy, contrasting the hyenas who live in ruins and poverty. This creates a racial hierarchy, if the representation of the hyenas are infact African Americans, that they are low down in social and cultural hierarchy.

This video of real hyenas shows that hyenas do infact ‘laugh’, one can see that their eyes appear blacked out with the colour of their fur, but in The Lion King their features are exaggerated such as the bulging eyes. The representation of the hyenas in The Lion King could infact just be an exaggeration of the real animals.

In this blog entry, I have uncovered the underlying racism within Disney films, which may allow children to see or recognise these representations in real life. Such racism does not go unnoticed.For example, descendants of Native Americans find it offensive when people mimic stereotypical actions that they have seen in films/animations, as it insults their culture. African American stereotypes and character representations have become recognisable outside of the film world, for example, when the child identified the African American children as the hyenas from ‘The Lion King’.

Works Cited
Dictionary, O. (2010). Stereotype Definition. Retrieved from Oxford Dictionaries: http://oxforddictionaries.com/view/entry/m_en_us1294280#m_en_us1294280

Giroux, H. (1995). Animating Youth: The Disnification Of Childrens Culture. Retrieved from Henry Giroux Online Articles: http://www.henryagiroux.com/online_articles/animating_youth.htm

Giroux, H. (2010, August 4). How Disney Magic and the Corporate Media Shape Youth Identity in the Digital Age. Retrieved from Truth Out: http://www.truth-out.org/how-disney-magic-and-corporate-media-shape-youth-identity-digital-age62008

Picker, M. (Director). (2001). Mickey Mouse Monopoly [Motion Picture].

Rockler-Gladen, N. (2004,2010). Race, Hierarchy, And Hyenaphobia In The. In R. A. Lind, Race, Gender, Media: Considering Diversity Across Audiences, Content, and Producers. (pp. 166 - 173). Boston MA: Pearson Education Inc. Allyn & Bacon.

Herr, N. (n.d.). Television & Health. Retrieved from The Source Book For Teaching Science: http://www.csun.edu/science/health/docs/tv&health.html