Sunday, August 31, 2014

Transform!...Must we?

Since 2007, the Transformers series has premiered four films, grossing over three billion dollars. Each film drew in their viewers with the promise of exploding cars, shattering buildings, and scantily clad women. They kept their promise by producing four movies chock full of the American ideology of materialism.

Everything in the films is about having the fastest, shiniest, and newest versions. As a country, America has always been one to encourage consumerism regardless of necessity. It's nearly impossible to watch 5 minutes of television without being bombarded with car commercials selling their "New and Improved" model.

Keep in mind, only the strongest and most developed Transformers can survive. It's as if director Michael Bay is trying to convince his audiences that they can only survive and thrive as a person if they indulge in the consumerism of the nation. If you do so, all your problems in life simply vanish, as long as you have that car.

An integral element of the Transformers is that they are always changing and never really keep the same form. Audience members watching the movies are thrilled when their favorite character changes into a new and improved fashion, completely forgetting how much they adored their prior appearance.  In the same manner, the American economy constantly convinces consumers into purchasing new products that are essentially identical to the last. As a nation, we are constantly transforming. Whether our next version will be better, that is unknown.

Bring It On: The Disadvantaged Black School Stereotype

The Bring It On franchise consists of five movies, a Broadway show, plenty of merchandise, and a cult following. Bring It On, Bring It On: All or Nothing, and Bring It On: Fight to the Finish are the movies in the franchise that somewhat deal with issues of race within the world of competitive cheerleading. While personally I love the Bring It On movies, Bring It On: All or Nothing being my favorite in the franchise, the movies do perpetrate several stereotypes. Aside from the stereotypes typically associated with cheerleaders, the Bring It On franchise supports racial stereotypes regarding the appearance and behavior of a specific race.

Note: The following content includes major spoilers of the ending of the Bring It On movies.

In Bring It On: All or Nothing, cheerleader Britney, has to transfer to Crenshaw Heights, a poor predominately black school, from Pacific Vista High School, a wealthy predominately white school. Britney is confronted by and later befriends Camille, the head cheerleader at Crenshaw, and her two friends Kirresha and Leti. After Britney joins the cheer squad she discovers she will be going head to head with her former squad in a competition to perform in a Rihanna music video and win funding for their school despite the fact that Pacific Vista does not even need funding.

This movie perpetrates racial stereotypes through the character Kirresha. She is loud, constantly eating, and has the most ridiculous name. She is the stereotypical “ghetto” black woman. Leti, Kirresha’s friend, is equally as offensive when it comes to racial stereotyping. She is a self described chola and speaks in Spanish half the time. These characters are promoting an image of what people of color are like in a negative way.
At the ending of the movie the Crenshaw cheer squad and the Pacific Vista team tie the competition. Rihanna decides the way to break the tie is through a dance off. Crenshaw uses a dance technique called krumping, a dance style that simulates fighting, to scare Pacific Vista off of the dance floor. The disturbing part is that despite the fact that the protagonists are winning and the scene should be triumphant it is shot in a threatening way. It was clear that through intimidation Crenshaw won, the scene was expressing how scary and potentially dangerous blacks and Hispanics are


However, as conciliation Crenshaw does end up winning in the end despite Pacific Vista being a better funded team with better cheerleaders. 

The Boondocks:The N-words (UNCENSORED)

The Boondocks is a show about a old man, Robert Jebediah Freeman and his two grandsons Huey and Riley Freeman. Once Robert retires he moves out of chicago's south side into a small suburb named Woodcrest, IL, for a better life. Woodcrest is a predominantly white neighborhood, So the freeman's are some of the only blacks around. The Boondocks first aired on Cartoon Networks, Adult Swim, in November of 2005. After the the first season ended in March of 2006, it was named one of the top 10 most controversial cartoons of all time, by Time Magazine. The show recently just finished its fourth and final Season in June of 2014. The one of many controversial issues of the show is the use of the word nigga. Some are very enraged that  Cartoon Network would allow such language. But the creator of The Boondocks, Aaron McGruder, argued that “... this is what night time tv is for…”.  This also this brings up issues such as, using nigga is music (rap and hip-hop) or just using the word in general. McGruder argues that he never would use nigger on his show, only nigga.
From what i've experienced, i've met people who are totally offended by the use of this word, i've met people who use the word, but are offended when someone else uses it words them. And i've met people who use it and doesn't care if anyone else uses it. But most people would agree there is a difference between nigger and nigga. Nigga is defined as used mainly among African Americans, but also among other minorities and ethnicities, in a neutral or familiar way and as a friendly term of address. It is also common in rap music. And nigger is defined as extremely disparaging and offensive; a contemptuous term used to refer to a black person. Nigger has been used for hundreds of years now, and has been offensive since it was first used, so it’s understandable why anyone would be offended by its use. In my opinion if you use nigga or nigger, you should not get offended if it said towards you. To be totally honest, I use both, and I don't care if its used towards me. McGruder said in an interview on Nightline, that “I would never use nigger in my show, My cast and I only say nigga..”. In McGruder's defense he has given a well written show that is not also entertaining but absolutely hilarious. What people have failed to realize about the show is that the idea of each episode isn’t to start controversy, but to provide an idea of what america is like today. McGruder says that “This isn't the “nigga” show. I just wish we would expand the dialogue and evolve past the same conversation that we've had over the past 30 years about race in our country… I just hope to expand the dialogue and hope the show will challenge people to think about things they wouldn't normally think about, or think about it in a very different way.” This is exactly what The Boondocks provides.
Most contriversal Scenes from the boondocks. (May contain strong language)

American Ideals Through Commercials

In 2014, Cadillac released a commercial called Poolside that stirred controversy over the issues of extreme patriotism and exceptionalism. The commercial features a buff man in a suit and tie talking about hard working Americans, who have material goods because those goods are “the benefit of taking only two weeks off in August,” when earlier the spokesperson reprimanded European culture for taking the month of August out of work. He talks about how America is far superior to any nation, and “claimed the moon.”

The commercial is not an accurate representation of American culture, and does not speak to a large portion of hardworking Americans through unsuccessfully encouraging the American philosophy that if a person works hard, they can get anything they want.

The commercial does not speak to a large portion of America because the spokesperson is a wealthy, obtrusive man who speaks his ideas as if they are facts. He says, “ We went up there (the moon) and you know what we got? Bored. So we left. Got a car up there. Left the keys in it. You know why? Because we’re the only ones going back up there, that’s why.” He plays up American success, only to talk to the intended audience as if they are a three year old incapable of understanding the supposed greatness of America. The inflection of his voice appears as if his thoughts are the correct ones, and the audience’s opinions hardly matter. He ostracizes immigrants and foreign citizens by believing America has conquered everything, and that nobody would dare question the superiority of Americans. His wealth detracts from the intent of the commercial because a majority of working Americans spend hours upon hours trying to climb the ladder of society, only to see their hopes become unfulfilled.

The backlash to this commercial displays how Americans want to move away from the stereotypical view of foreigners that Americans are narcissistic. In response, Ford released a commercial, called Upside, that displayed what an actual working class American felt and believed. That commercial reaches a larger audience because it understands that Americans want to make the place they live better. The spokeswoman says, “you work hard, you try to make the world better, you try.” The spokeswoman accepts failure, while still encouraging the public to get up and make the world a better place, while the Cadillac commercial has no vision and talks about the successes of one nation.

The contradictions and reactions between these two commercials illustrate that Americans are tired of hearing about working hard and getting good things for themselves, but want to help make the world a better place.

Musical Americana

Released in 1975, Bruce Springsteen’s album Born to Run constituted a final attempt to realize his dream of fame and fortune as a musician. The single of the same name anchored the album and described Springsteen’s desire to flee the Freehold Borough of New Jersey where he composed the song. The narrative consists of a dramatized depiction of the American experience and then a plea to elope directed towards his love interest Wendy. As a white American youth of the 1970s, it appears inevitable that Springsteen projected his bias in some form onto his work. The lyrics do, however, challenge some American stereotypes as Springsteen reflects on his mundane, verging on repugnant, surroundings and peers. These stereotypes and ideologies pervade American culture through works of popular music by artists from Frank Sinatra to Jay-Z. Born to Run reflects a belief in the ideal of separatism while challenging traditional gender expectations and proving eventually truthful in intent and impact.

The lyrics of Born to Run betray Springsteen’s fundamental belief in separatism. Separatism is closely related to the ‘American dream’ ideology. This ideology includes the conviction that the United States’ free market, capitalist system allows for any hard-working individual to advance in society. Juxtaposed to the monarchy of Great Britain or the caste system of India, American capitalism greatly reduces social stratification. It is evident, however, that the upper class of modern America maintains a firm grasp on the majority of the wealth by means of education, legal and political manipulation, and the amassing of corporate power in order to create monopolies. Springsteen notes that the working class has minimal chances of striking rich: “In the day we sweat it out on the streets of a runaway American dream.” The protagonist works hard for little return. The solution, as Springsteen sees it, is to separate from the society which stifles the individual’s success.

Springsteen decides, like the Revolutionaries of the British colonies, that the society is “a death trap, it’s a suicide rap, we got to get out while we’re young.” The idea that escaping a geographic region will brighten one’s future reflects a separatist impulse present throughout American culture. In a capitalist society, each individual fends for him or herself. Rather than identify the underlying problems causing a town or region to suffer, escape from that town. This impulsive and optimistic attitude causes American youths to constantly envision a better future somewhere else. It defines the American character, as by escaping the escapee apparently believes that the American dream is in fact attainable in a different location. Bruce Springsteen enforces that characteristic strongly in his song, and therefore the narrator lacks nuance and becomes less realistic and truthful.

Born to Run also questions gender stereotypes of American culture. These gender stereotypes and expectations are instilled in children through media of all kinds at a young age. Bruce Springsteen portrays a nuanced view of these stereotypes. The narrator speaks of himself as an isolated man, which can be construed as a stereotype. Men are seen as being independent whereas women are portrayed as dependent and vitally social beings. The narrator adds, however, “I’m just a scared and lonely rider.” The depiction of an independent man being afraid breaks the stereotype of the lone wolf. The protagonist requires a woman’s companionship both to quell his loneliness and to ease his fear. 

The lyrics go on to depict American youth attempting to live up to their gender expectations: “Girls comb their hair in rearview mirrors and the boys try to look so hard.” The idealized woman with perfect hair, and the ideal man whose greatest attribute is strength are both American stereotypes. The ability of Springsteen to recognize that these ideals are in fact superficial stereotypes demonstrates that the song is written from a truthful and critical viewpoint. In this way, Born to Run adopts a more realistic tone.

Bruce Springsteen composed Born to Run with a belief in the American dream that his audience shares. In 1975 Bruce Springsteen truly wished to leave New Jersey and search for a better life for himself. The song, therefore, contains actual emotions regarding the nature of the American dream and separatism. The triple-platinum certification of the song furthers the notion that Americans connect to the lyrics on a meaningful level. The song has taken a place in American culture of its own. Those who appreciate the song likely believe in the American dream just as Springsteen did when he wrote it, and the song’s impact is genuine. In an interesting way, this cycle of authentic belief in the American dream caused Bruce Springsteen to achieve his. The song served as a breaking point in his career, and people across America are familiar with his music. For Springsteen, in fact, the American dream is not a fallacy.

Springsteen’s Born to Run presents a valid picture of American life as he sees it. The American dream, to him, is in fact attainable as his song literally proves. Instantaneously, however, Springsteen critically reflects on his peers’ actions and the generalized traits they assume. Springsteen truthfully represents American culture as he knows it. Whether or not his version of America is equally accessible for all citizens might prove questionable. Perhaps the relatability and believability, whether it be out of hope or experience, cause the immense success of this single and Bruce Springsteen in general.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Divergent -- Feminism of the Future

As the world of today is evolving and advancing, culture is becoming more and more compelled to fiction about the future. One example of this increasingly popular fiction is called Divergent. Divergent, written by Veronica Roth, is a recent book of 2011. The book is set in a futuristic dystopia where society is divided into five factions that each represent a different virtue: Abnegation the selfless, Dauntless the brave, Erudite the intelligent, Candor the honest, and Amity the peaceful. Tris does not truly belong in any faction and is what is known as a Divergent, which is considered a danger to society and who must be executed immediately. 

Throughout Divergent, Tris defies the stereotype that women are weak and powerless while attempting to diffuse into society. Although an argument can be made proving Tris is in fact an enforcer of the stereotype, the book empowers Tris more than it characterizes her as dependent and weak. The book shows Tris' character as dominant in many ways, as she evolves during the story.

Tris is originally characterized as a weak girl who is powerless. Upon choosing the faction Dauntless, everyone is astonished. In order to join Dauntless, Tris must complete both physical and physiological tests, which question her strength. Tris, being the lowest of the initiates, is paired to fight against the best of the initiates. In their first fight, Tris loses and is still considered the weak girl developed in the beginning of the book. However, Tris never gives up and continues training. The next time she fights the best of the initiates, she is still defeated, yet contacts her opponent a few times and survives the fight for a longer period of time, thus proving increased strength.

Another example of Tris progressing into a more powerful character is shown during a game of capture the flag. Tris is on a team composed of the worst of the initiatives, who have accepted defeat even before the game has began. Disregarding her disadvantages, Tris takes control of her team and develops a plan to win. Tris' plan is executed successfully and her team wins, even though it was against all odds, proving her incorrigible vigor. 

A final instance of Tris’ tenacious character is exemplified when Tris overpowers the leader of her society. This leader controls all of the dystopia and the juxtaposition between the two supports that Tris' is a strong character. This is because she destroys the leader's, the most powerful in the entire society, attempt to rebuild part of the society. Clearly, the protagonist of the futuristic, fiction novel, Divergent, resists the stereotype characterizing women as powerless and weak, as she evolves into a woman of admirable strength and dominance.

I strongly recommend the movie!

True High School Popularity

The music video "Popular Song"  by MIKA and Ariana Grande displays a stereotype of popular high schoolers. The video shows that popularity is only for "cool" kids, who party and make fun of nerds. For example, Ariana and MIKA portray "unpopular" kids and are always carrying books around while the "populars" carry nothing. This demonstrates that in order to be popular, you have to be dumb and not care about school. However, if you were to walk around any high school in America, you would see every kid carrying a book or wearing a backpack, demonstrating that popularity has nothing to do with caring about school work. In fact, the most popular kids in most high schools are some of the smartest kids in the school. These kids actually care about their school work and they don't care if others see them carrying books or even studying.

Another example of the stereotype is in the lyrics of the song. At one point the artists say "standing on the field with your pretty pom poms...", saying that the popular girl in high school is a cheerleader. Not only does. the song say that being a cheerleader makes someone popular, but it also says that the cheerleader has to be pretty and mean. This isn't always true. It's evident that in most social situations, popularity is based mainly on social skills. The more social a person is and the more people they talk with, the more popular they are.

Finally, the most obvious stereotype in this video is the dumb jock. At one point in the video, the dumb jock dunks the head of an "unpopular" kid in the toilet. That is the oldest idea of bullying, however it isn't always the way it happens. In fact, bullies tend to use more subtle tactics like isolation and cruel teasing resorting to physical tactics only when they have to.

Popularity is not based on whether or not you care about school, how you look, or the sports you play. These stereotypes are false and don't represent the true reality of popularity in high school. Videos like "Popular Song"  enforce the stereotype that popularity is based on the old ideas of what makes people popular like being pretty or being a dumb jock when in reality, it's the positive characteristics in people we're drawn to. It's not interesting when a video continues to show the same old stereotypes. Maybe the "Popular Song" would be an even more popular video if it depicted kids in a real high school.

Feminism at the VMAs

The MTV Music Video Awards have been one of America’s top award shows since their debut in 1984. Beyonce, no doubt, stole the show this year. After only a sixteen minute performance, she received a large and immediate [social-media] response. Beyonce boldly rejected the stereotypes that men feel threatened by successful women, women can’t express their bodies sexually, and most importantly, she very publicly rejected the widely accepted but wrong definition people have of feminism.

After the show, Beyonce’s husband of six years Jay Z congratulated her on stage, calling her the “greatest living entertainer”, not at all seeming threatened or mad about her success that night. In all the years Beyonce has been a performer, she has gotten plenty of criticism regarding her lyrics and dancing. Her provocative dance routines and songs have been called ‘anti-feminist’ and ‘too-sexy’, which is ironic because no one ever seems to criticize men when they have ‘inappropriate’ or ‘provocative’ songs. It can be assumed that critics say those things because they have a false definition in their heads of what feminism is. And that’s the next stereotype that Beyonce’s performance absolutely smashed. Women have been pigeonholed into the double standard where they are supposed to be sexy for men, but the minute they own their own bodies sexually instead of men owning them, they get hate and are called sluts. Beyonce renounced both those stereotypes by including both seductive songs and dancing in her performance, and at one point, standing in front of the large and lit up word ‘FEMINIST’ while a recording played in the background from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TEDx Talk “We Should All Be Feminists”.

This broke the stereotype that feminists are all men-hating non-feminine women, and gave the correct definition (equality between men and women) the mainstream attention it needed.
Go Bey!

"Modern Family" Values

The ABC show “Modern Family” is a primarily truthful reflection of everyday family life in America. The show follows one large extended family made up of three interrelated nuclear families. Although the show succumbs some personality stereotypes, it truthfully represents many aspects of American family life through its characters and the relationships between these characters.

A few characters on “Modern Family” are cliched and feel less truthful. Claire, the mother in one of families, is portrayed as just that- a mother, with no apparent life outside of her family. She is also shown as a catty, malicious woman, jealous of the beauty of her father’s new wife and constantly absorbed in revenge plots against everyone around her, including her children. This harmful stereotype brings down women by implying that they are inherently jealous and vengeful.

The other character who is quite cliched is Jay, the father of Claire and patriarch of the family. He is portrayed as a classic older, white, wealthy man- he spends most of his time at the country club playing golf, advocates for old-school manners, and dislikes his son-in-law. However, Jay’s relationship with his adopted son Manny shows him in a different light, making him a more unique and thus more truthful character by showing him within a realistic relationship.

Although Jay and Claire are somewhat unrealistic, stereotyped characters, other aspects of “Modern Family” are more true. For example, one of the families featured on the show is made up of gay partners, Cam and Mitchell, and their adopted daughter Lily. Their family presents an alternative the American ideology of a “cookie cutter” suburban family made up of a mom, a dad, and 2 or 3 children.

Another true element of modern family are the characters Haley and Alex, the two daughters of Claire. At first glance, these teen aged girls seem to fit into the false ideologies of American society- Alex is the geeky smart girl, while Haley is the dumb-but-pretty popular girl. However, their characters are rounded out and revealed to be far more nuanced as the show goes on. Haley is shown to be much smarter than she initially appears, albeit in a street-smart rather than book-smart way. She also reveals ambition, shrewdness, and kindness as her story progresses, all traits that do not fit into her stereotype. Meanwhile, Alex is shown to have a large group of friends who share her interests, a much-needed challenge to the ideology that “nerds” have no friends at all.

What is most truthful about Haley and Alex, though, is their relationship as sisters. Like real sisters, they alternately love and hate each other, best friends one moment and worst enemies the next. But their relationship does not only exist at extremes, and sometimes, they’re just normal sisters living together and facing everyday challenges, doing homework and worrying about applying to college. The truth of their relationship and their lives allows viewers to relate, making the show as a whole more successful.

All About That Bass; Breaking the Barrier Between Feminism and Facade

All About That Bass by Meghan Trainor is a so called "body positive song" that focuses on the singer not being overly skinny yet still being confident in herself and her body. This song has had a lot of controversy surrounding it, because some people think that it is skinny shaming, and/or gives in to bad stereotypes about women and men, while still others think it is just a good body positive song with a strong message. This song could have arguable points either way, and it breaks many stereotypes about “fat” people and how they’re ugly or undesirable because they aren't stick thin. It also brings relatable points to young girls about positive body image ideas. By the same token, it puts down skinny girls, and Trainor justifies her body image beauty by bringing men into the picture, which makes the song feel less and less positive the more you think about it.

This song centers around the singer, Meghan Trainor, talking about how she “ain’t no size two” but that she is still beautiful, despite not being skinny. She also leaves a message not only about herself being beautiful, but anyone who doesn't consider themselves “pretty” with the line “every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top” This breaks down many American stereotypes surrounding women, the biggest of course being that if you aren't "skinny" you aren't beautiful. This is a great message to send, especially when a huge portion of the media is dedicated to putting down women. 

 Women aren't supposed to feel good in their own body. When you hear a woman say that she likes the way she looks, people tend to think of her as vain or self centered. Makeup is a social norm, and all over America there are commercials, billboards, etc, portraying skinny, photo-shopped, unrealistic looking women selling products of all shapes and sizes, though the woman is always the same. Overly skinny, creepily symmetrical face, tall, silky hair, essentially a barbie in human form (this is of course not talking about women who are naturally skinny, but the overly photo-shopped carbon copy images of women displayed commercially, and practically everywhere). Meghan Trainor mentions this, saying “we know that sh*t ain’t real, c'mon now make it stop.” She is breaking down stereotypes about women and giving them a nicer view of their own bodies, which is good right? Sadly, the rest of the song isn't so kind.

Despite these positive factors, she also is skinny shaming, with the line “I'm bringin' booty back. Go ‘head and tell them skinny b*tches that”, which has caused an uproar in the YouTube comments, saying that it isn't body positive if you are putting one body type down to bring another up. I completely agree, and I have seen countless people in comments with the mindset that skinny shaming doesn't exist or isn't important. This is hugely untrue, and some of the harsh things "skinny" girls hear can be hugely damaging to self esteem and confidence. It can even lead to serious eating disorders. You may say that a song alone couldn't do that, and you'd be right. But add that to hateful comments during the school day, snide remarks about food from your peers, and you get a very sad skinny girl feeling guilty, or uncomfortable in her own skin. 

Trainor also mentions in her chorus “now my mamma she told me don’t worry about your size, she said boys need a little more booty to hold at night”. By bringing the want to have men desire you into the song, makes it appear less body positive, and brings back stereotypes that women are only there to please men. They are beautiful no matter what, as long as a man wants them. This means for a woman to be confident in her body, she first must have a man's approval, which is another extremely harmful idea. 

This same stereotype can be harmful not only for women and men, but also for the LGBTQA community. This ideology leaves out gay/trans/bisexual/etc women and men entirely. It is hetero normality, which, in my opinion, can be just as harmful as the skinny shaming. LGBTQA youth are hugely underrepresented in television, movies, books, music, and other forms of pop culture. It is a rare thing to see an accurate portrayal of them in today's media, and when it does happen, the backlash the show or movie or song receives is overwhelming. It can be extremely difficult for a young LGBTQA teen to come out, or even to just accept who they are, and the media does a horrible job of making it easier. This song is no different. By pushing straight couples on screen, they are inadvertently repressing these other sexualities/genders/etc. This is of course, not saying there shouldn't be straight couples and people in the media. What it is saying, is that this shouldn't be forced onto people, or assumed, as it often is. 

Even though the song may only be certain lines or phrases portraying these kind of views and ideas, it takes away from the whole picture of body positive images. Overall, though Meghan Trainor’s song may have many strong points about body image, it should really be taken with a grain of salt, if taken in at all. Body image should be about loving yourself, that's it that's all. It shouldn't be about other people's bodies being above or below your own, it especially shouldn't be about pleasing other people, it should be about YOU. 

 After all:

Meghan Trainor's All About That Bass-Body Positivity Gone Wrong

The song is part of a large wave of media trying to be body positive, notably the company Dove. However, “All About That Bass” perpetuates the ideology that in order for a woman to feel good about herself, she not only has to put down other women, but she has to be sexually appealing to a straight man.

While Trainor is embracing her love for her body, she does so on the basis that the she is attractive to a man, the line, “Yeah, my mama she told me don’t worry about your size, she says ‘boys like a little more booty to hold at night,’” best illustrates this, as well as the way she sexualizes herself. She is presenting herself as a sexual object, providing no other way in which her body is of value.

Although she says “Every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top” she also makes disparaging remarks about skinny women, singing “I’m bringing booty back, go ‘head tell them skinny bitches that.” Not only is this shaming women who are naturally skinny, but it puts women in a terrible position where not only are they facing criticism no matter how they look, but now they’re receiving criticism from a fellow woman who is trying to be body positive.

Not only this, she also jokes about how skinny women believe they have to lose weight, writing, “No I’m just playing, I know you think you’re fat.” This completely undermines the struggle of women who have eating disorders and body dysmorphia, joking about the fact that they believe they aren't good enough, and have to be something else. I find this the worst part of the song, as it trivializes a disorder that has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.

"Blurred Lines"- Not Only Offensive to Women

Robin Thicke released a song called “Blurred Lines” in the spring of 2013, that received a huge backlash. People were outraged with the lyrics and the music video. While the song’s popularity has dwindled as time has gone by, I think the song and the comments on the song are still relevant to issues and topics of discussion going on right now. “Blurred Lines” perpetuates an accepted ideology pertaining to men and their obsessive sexual thoughts of women.

The music video shows men as creatures who see women as sexual objects. In the video the women walk around in nude and white skimpy outfits and do not speak or sing. They simply walk around and dance around as the men stare at them and sing about their bodies. And while, yes, this is offensive to women, that is an entirely different analysis that has been made often enough. Not given as often is the analysis that points out how offensive this is to men. It reinforces this idea we see throughout the media that men care about sex and only sex. The men stare at the women’s butts and boobs throughout the entire video, never appreciating something deeper than the physical qualities of the women. The song also never refers to the women as women. They are only ever called girls, animals, or b*tches. This further strengthens the idea that men see women as something less than equal human beings.

Lyrics in the song make it seem like men always assume that women want to have sex with them and find them attractive. The line in the song that is repeated over and over again, “I know you want it. I know you want it.” The man in the video just assumes that all the women want to have sex with him and assumes that they all find him sexually attractive. That stereotype of men is really offensive because there are so many men who respect women and know that not all women want to have sex with men and know that even women who do find them sexually attractive do not always want to have sex them and respect that choice.

The song also portrays men as superficial and unemotional people who look only for sexual relationships, as opposed to relationships with emotional and intellectual aspects to them. At one point in the song, Thicke sings, “Yeah, I had a b*tch, but she ain't bad as you/ So hit me up when you pass through.” The lyric implies that men only care about women as sexual partners. The man has no emotional ties with the “b*tch” he had before and as soon as he sees a new woman he disregards the first woman. The idea that men cannot or will not form emotional relationships with women is extremely degrading to the integrity of men as a group.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Getting Beyond Gender: Diversifying Our Cultural Analysis Examples

As I noted in class, the accepted truths surrounding gender roles and expectations in American society are just one of many possible subjects of a cultural analysis. Unfortunately, most of the examples we used in class only looked at American culture through a feminist lens.

I thought I would use this blog space to point to a few other examples which use race as the focal point.

Two discussions of representations of African Americans in video games, which appeared last year, are worth looking at: "This Is How We Get More Black People In Video Games" and "Race in Video Games: Why it Matters... And Why Things Won't Change Anytime Soon"

I really like these examples because they employ a different style that you might be used to seeing in formal essays -- but it is a style that works especially well in the blog format. They use a conversational tone (or structure) but are still serious and rigorous in their argument. They are not afraid to connect their analysis to personal experience -- or use personal experience as a starting point -- but their analysis is not simply a personal response; the writing is peppered with plenty of objective evidence to prove their points. 

In the end, they are smart but not stuffy.

Speaking of unconventional ways to communicate, the events in Ferguson, MO, have shined the light on how social media is changing the conversation about race. An article from talks about the power of #Ferguson to alter traditional media coverage. Another article from the discusses social media's "Ferguson Effect."

Maybe the best -- or at least funniest -- cultural analysis of media coverage of the events in Ferguson came from Jon Stewart on The Daily Show:

Truth Matters -- And Telling It Can Be Dangerous

One of the best cultural critics around, Anita Sarkeesian, receives death threats on a regular basis. Why? Because she is a woman, she publishes her writing and videos online, and she dares question the damaging stereotypes that continue to confine women in American culture, especially in the particularly patriarchal world of video games.

Thanks, Rose, for bringing this crazy situation to my attention. Read the story of how the latest threat has forced her to leave her home.

But better than that, enjoy one of her many amazing videos. Here is one of my favorites (which we will be watching at length later this year):

Friday, August 1, 2014

Blogging American Culture Since 2004!

Yep, it is the 10th Anniversary Blogging Year for my American Lit classes.

This year, because of the school's adoption of all things Google, I converted the blog into Google's Blogger platform -- so it's all shiny and new. But if you are curious about what it's looked like in year's past ....

For the past five years we've had a continuous blog running: Representing America.

To find the first five years -- and maybe some older siblings -- check out the Blog Archives.

Adding Even More Labels

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Adding More Labels

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