Friday, January 30, 2015

SOTU: Obama's Use of Rhetoric

Throughout his address Obama employed various rhetorical tactics, ultimately strengthening his arguments and capturing his audience. He would often reiterate his thoughts, especially when concluding an argument, thus tying together all he said and summarizing his ideas. In addition his use of logos was very effective, stating facts that logically support his argument. These facts such as over eleven millions jobs being created, are positive and in turn lead to the association of Obama with these national successes. Diction was one method used which particularly stood out to me.

Obama used diction in conjunction with all other rhetorical strategies. Using words such as “us” and "we" he was able to construct a sense of commonality with his audience as well as inclusive terms adding to the impression of a connection between the audience and himself. In his speech Obama also utilizes pauses, adding emphasis to his points. He also sets up his sentences with a negative point then moves to a possible solution to the issue previously introduced. By doing so he is able to more effectively persuade his audience adding appeal to his proposed solution.

His diction is also characterized by easily understood vocabulary. This aspect enables him to appeal to a much larger and more inclusive audience rather than strictly directing his ideals toward those with a higher education or social standing. Obama also used pathos and ethos throughout the address. Captivating his audience by speaking about the difficulties faced by americans as well as criticizing the government. He is able to make himself seem very relatable and be perceived as an ordinary person with the same struggles and views.  


Cultural Analysis: Race in Media

The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, First aired in March of 2005 receiving three Emmy nominations was set in the Tipton Hotel in Boston focused on the lives of twins Zack and Cody, who live in the hotel. Additional characters on the show included the hotel's heiress, London Tipton,Mr. Mosby, the hotel manager, and Maddie, the candy counter girl. The show employs these additional characters to help break out from multiple racial stereotypes present in our society today.It does so by assigning an authoritative role to a black man, Mr. Mosby, thus going against preconceived notions of the inferiority of african americans. The show also contradicts the stereo types of dumb blonds and smart asians with Maddie and London's roles. 

 Mr. Mosby shows hard work and competence throughout the series often using complex vocabulary and taking part in sophisticated activities and hobbies. Diverting from ideas which developed from the Jim Crow/Sambo stereotypes of the late 1820's which depicted blacks as carefree, irresponsible, and quick to avoid work. Maddie another hotel employee is extremely hard working, coming from a middle-class family, and is also very intelligent. Her character serves to deconstruct the standard of a wealthy dumb blond which is omnipresent in our society today. Lastly London Tipton is depicted as a vapid and half-witted asian girl unable to conduct the simplest of tasks. 

While characterizing these roles with traits completely opposite to those seen in the stereotypes described may seem a over exaggerated and unnecessary it works perfectly due to being a children's show. The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, is ultimately successful in dismantling many of the stereotypes surrrounding our culture today. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Obama's State of the Union Speech

The presidential state of the union address has traditionally served as an opportunity for the president to lay out his annual agenda as well as to elaborate on some of the tasks his administration will be trying to focus on. This widely viewed speech allows the leader of this nation to explain and convince to his people what he is doing for this nation and how it will benefit them. In president Obama’s most recent state of the union address he accomplishes just that, and in one of the most persuasive fashions I've seen in a while. The speech's success can be strongly traced to the effective use of rhetorical strategies.

One of the point’s Obama focused the most on in his speech was the success of what he called ‘middle class economics’. He used this term as an umbrella for all the economic and social policies he executed that were aimed at strengthening and growing the middle class. He used an appeal to logos to validate his claims for their success, stating facts and statistics as evidence. When the rhetorical device of logos is used effectively it gives the audience clear and logical reasoning to be persuaded. Obama uses this to his full advantage and in turn delivers a speech with strong legitimacy and persuasion.

Obama's State of the Union Speech

Obama gave an incredible State of the Union Speech. I am not one for politics just because I don't really understand it, and that's what I was expecting when I began watching his speech. But that isn't what I got. Obama gave a speech that really had nothing to do with politics, and was very interesting. He made it very easy to listen to, and somewhat enjoyable. Maybe some of this is due to the rhetoric he used.

One thing I noticed that Obama did quite often was repetition in his sentences. When he would begin to finish a point he was talking about, he would wrap it up with repetition. In two cases, I saw this to be true. He would say "Or will we..." and also "I believe..." These were used so effectively that I even found myself agreeing with whatever he was saying. It was a very powerful rhetorical device.

Another rhetorical device he used was logos. Logos is one of the most persuasive device. If someone isn't convinced by feeling, the have to be convinced by the numbers. President Obama's use of logos included talking about the increase in jobs across the nation. Obama said over eleven millions jobs have been created, and America's economy is the best its been since 1999. By saying these little facts, as an American, I feel that something we are doing as a nation has been working.

Obama used repetition and logos, but in my opinion, the most moving device he used was pathos. When Obama introduced Rebecca and her husband, I immediately knew what he was going for. He gave us insight in the struggles they went through, which gave us a sense of sadness, but then he hit us with their success story, which gave us a sense of pride. Obama even said that Rebecca and her family wasn't alone, and that most of America is Rebecca and her family. It was a very personal thing to consider myself similar to Rebecca. Obama made us feel that what he has been doing for our Union was the best that could be done, and I believed it.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Obama's State of the Union

Obama's State of the Union address was very well crafted from a rhetorical standpoint. He used a wide array of techniques ranging from appealing to his audience and occasion. He also used logos, pathos, and ethos to his advantage.

Throughout his address, I noticed a lot of repetitive patterns. Obama would say something, them it would invoke a response in his audience--prolonged periods of clapping. Usually he would bring up a fact or statistic about our nation's improved conditions, or even used humor to invoke a response in his audience.

Although, the audience on screen does not completely represent the entire audience that he was giving the address to. Many groups in the audience did represent larger groups in our nation, such as Republicans, Democrats, upper and lower classes. Obama uses this audience to create an occasion and use pathos to appeal to a particular audience. He uses a working-class mother as an example of the economy's improvement to show how well off she is now. This sort of example will correlate to many other Americans just like her.

Obama later transitions to the things that are bugging him about the current state of our nation. He makes references to a few failures within our nation, such as the government shutdown and college education. He uses these things to address how he hopes to see our nation in the future, and lays out a plan to execute his ambitions.

Obama crafts his words in a way that most can understand. He refrains from using terms that many would have a hard time understanding, and his diction allows him to speak to a wide range of people. He does however throw in a few terms like "middle-class economics". But overall, this appeal helps him reach his entire audience.

Obama makes a lot of strong points in his address, but his use of pathos and ethos, strong diction, occasion and other speaking techniques, allow him to captivate his audience and prove to them his argument.

Obama's State of the Union Rhetoric

Obama's State of the Union was a pivotal to the next two years of his presidency. He approached this speech to a newly elected congress, more of whom than ever being opposed to his policies. Knowing this, Obama came to the speech with a compromised air, determined to find common ground in Congress.

One of the primary themes of the speech revolved around Barack's new girlfriend, Rebekah Erler. Rebekah was introduced as the classic, middle-class American girl. With her sweet American charm and good looks, it was easy for her to win over the hearts and minds of the old, bitter Congressmen. Obama continued to rub her into the face of the audience throughout the speech, whenever he seemed to need a fall-back to common ground. Obama talks about how the plights of the recession forced Rebekah and her husband to seek new job opportunities and to move across the country. The story of this family's determination to make their American Dream come true, even through the hard times, serves as a model of the true American family.

Obama also uses this lucky gal to feed into his plan to provide Americans with two free years of community college. During the recession, Rebekah took out student loans so that she could go to school, and earn her place at a better job. It would've made Rebekah's experience much easier if she could have attended her first two years for free, and who doesn't want to help Rebekah?

With the help of Rebekah, Obama used moderate rhetoric to appeal to the idea of compromise in the conflicted Congress. By getting everyone on the same page with their universal love for the American Dream, Obama achieved this compromised tone. Now it is up to Congress to make these hopes for compromise a reality.

SOTU: Finessing Around Politics

This year's State of the Union address was seen by many as a wild success in the department of speeches; Obama successfully employed rhetorical techniques that emphasized his points, delivering each line with finesse. As always, the address was a heavily nationalistic presentation, drumming up a lot of the 'F*ck yeah, America!' spirit that people love.

Throughout the entire speech, Obama pairs his diction with ethos. He refers to the people of our country as "we," and through this assertion, his speech solidifies that although he may be our leader, he is one of us. Unity through all classes and lifestyles was a key theme of the address, making everyone feel involved and drawn in.

Appealing to logos, Obama was sure to incorporate impressive statistics; the 81% reduction in troops stationed in Afghanistan and the middle east was a figure that everyone could rejoice over, regardless of political allegiances. Statistics aside, he further employed ethos with ironic comedy, stating that more must be expected of the government. Obama criticizes the acceptance of the government for not screwing up, pushing us, the people of the United States, to not be content unless forward progress is being made. Continuing his simple, logical approach, Barack spoke on equal pay, denouncing the decade old pattern that women get paid less than men for the same work. Through these straightforward, easily agreeable points, Obama created an address that was based in principle, rather than trying to finesse his way around different political interests.

Really, the address is almost all logos based. It was rather unconventional for a State of the Union, which in my experience have typically been more politically loaded. The impressive lack of this content was very strategical; the speech was crafted to appeal to all Americans, either through support of the troops, a rising economy, equal treatment, and firm opposition to terrorists and those who threaten us as a country.

Rhetoric in the Obama's SOTU Address

      In Obama’s State of the Union Address, he talks of both the hardships and successes that America has recently experienced, as well as its strong unity and potential for success in the future. Through Obama’s rhetorical personalization and assertion of community, as well as his pathetic appeal and support to the wants and popular beliefs of his nation, Obama stresses his want for government reformation, persuading America to put his plan to action for a more prosperous future nation.

--Obama has many pauses throughout his speech.
     --The pauses are climatic and create emphasis, making Obama appear powerful.
--Obama constructs his sentences by starting with “we can’t.”
     --This structure puts the negatives out in the open first.
     --When Obama then states what “we must” do, it seems like the perfect
        solution compared to the preceding “we can’t” statement,
        persuading his wants/plan.

--Obama uses words such as “we” and “us.”
     --This personalizes himself with America and creates an appealing sense of community,
        gaining support for his plan.
--Obama inserts superfluous yet powerful words such as “any” and “every.”
     --Creates emphasis and shows Obama is not exclusive.

--Obama states many facts and statistics.
     --Many of the statistics are of positive successes that the United States has had.
     --This makes the audience associate these positive successes with Obama,
        persuading the audience to believe that Obama is responsible for them,
        creating appeal.

--Through Obama’s stating of positive statistics, he is creating a trustworthy and
     knowledgable image to the audience.
--Obama uses informal diction and has numerous humorous insertions.
     --This makes Obama appear to be like and almost equal to the “normal American.”
--Obama wears a suit and dresses formally.
     --This, obviously, creates a professional image and a high reputation for America.

--At one point, Obama intently attacks the government.
     --This is appealing to the public because it is what the public constantly does,
        making Obama appear like he supports the public’s beliefs.
--Obama states the many challenges that Americans must face.
     --This shows that Obama truly cares for the public and understands what they
        are going through, pathetically appealing to the audience.
--Obama also stresses the need for safety against terrorists.
     --This appeals to the audience's sense of security and makes Obama appear to be
        a protector and a hero on behalf of Americans.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Obama's SOTU Outline

To be a politician, you don't really need education, you just need to be good at talking to people and persuading them of something. You need to evict emotion and make someone want to vote for you, or at the very least support you. Barack Obama is very educated, as were most presidents, but one of the most important things is talking-- look what George W. Bush was able to do with Iraq. 

Though I don't know the name for it, Obama used a strategy that he's used in the past to say: "Hey. Look. I'm making a difference in the lives of American people." He told a story about Rebekah and Ben from Minneapolis, who just wanted to live the American Dream. I don't even remember what the story was trying to prove-- but it makes one feel very 'ra ra ra' about Obama and America. That's why it works.

Obama also did some impromptu ethos (though it may have been thought-out.) He said that he has no more campaigns to run (normal ethos,) and then some people started clapping. That's funny itself, and instead of just laughing with them, he said: "I know, because I won both of them!" Quite good ethos. And funny too.

Something else that every president since Reagan in the 83' state of the union, Obama invited someone to honor. He invtied Alan Gross and called him out. Another time I don't know the name of the device, but it's rhetoric none the less.

Cultural Analysis: Racist Commercials

In todays society there are few people who tolerate racism, so when it’s seen on popular brands and found in the media it becomes a big deal. Aunt Jemima is a famous pancake brand that can very easily be considered racist. The company was originally called “Self Rising Pancake Flour” but was renamed to Aunt Jemima based from a popular song played by white people in blackface. In the song the character aunt jemima was portrayed as a slave mammy on a plantation. Today Aunt Jemima is portrayed as a mammy stereotype on pancake boxes and more.

Aunt Jemima today has encountered a few subtle changes in her appearance, she has lost her red headband and her cheeks have slimmed however many still view the depiction of her as racist. Advertisements like these still air on television everyday and new ones arise. Today there are new Popeyes commercials that have taken the mammy stereotype and modernised it depicting a black women with an apron on cooking fried chicken to a slightly racist slave melody. Racist images like these are not uncommon and have existed in the world of advertising for more than a decade now

Friday, January 23, 2015

An Op-Ed On The Portrayal of Race in Media: Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Brooklyn nine-nine is a relatively new television sitcom, premiering in late 2013. The show starts off set in the fictional 99th Precinct of the NYPD in Brooklyn, following a team of detectives and newly appointed captain. The single-camera series is shot in a similar style to The Office, adding a very relaxed and informal atmosphere to the show, a technique that adds to the shows humor. The show, comedy wise has not yet disappointed. It has won two Golden Globe Awards in 2014: one for Best Television Series– Musical or Comedy and one for Andy Samberg for Best Actor – Television Series Musical or Comedy. Not only has the show racked up quite a reputation, award wise, but it might also be the most progressive show on TV at the moment. The cop comedy is on-point when it comes to portraying women, gay characters and people of color in a realistic, unforced way. This show steps out from the mold of two common racial stereotypes that are seen in many shows. This show does two things, it puts a black man in a position of authority in a non-aggressive way, and it subverts the "angry black man" trope.

Not only is Captain Ray Holt (Andre Braugher) a person of color, but he also addresses his sexuality from the very first episode, revealing that he is a happily married gay man. We learn that despite his hard work and competence, Holt was held back in his career due to politics and prejudice. Now that he finally has his own command, he wants to prove himself via his success. Holt is alternately stern and caring (seriously, does your boss download whale songs to help you sleep?) and is a fantastic leader.

Another progressive approach the writers achieve, is they never default to lazy cultural stereotypes and instead build complex characters. An example of this is Sergeant Terry Jeffords (Terry Crews), who is reinstated after a previous breakdown. Though he loves to work out and keep his "tough guy" image, he's also a doting father to twin girls and constantly worries about what would happen to them if he got hurt in the line of duty. Jeffords can spiral into rage if his officers are in danger, or if a line-up makes him miss the farmer’s market. Oh, and he really loves yogurt.

Although it's unfortunate that, in 2015, both of these things are even issues in today's media, it's the plain truth. This show is brilliantly able to integrate both of these common stereotypes into their show with out beating it into the viewers head. This show does it so seamlessly that while you're watching it, you don't even realize the barriers its breaking. Other shows should most definitely pay close attention to this ground breaking t.v. show when trying to deliver a similarly progressive message to a millennial audience.

Black Leaders

While watching the show 24 on Netflix, I realized something that had been true in more than one other TV show. The angry black police chief that either made to look unfit for he job, or made to be the bad guy by ruining the main characters plans. In 24 a TV show about a Counter Terrorist Agent, the police chief is made out to be a grumpy man who is too quick to judgment and makes too many both cases, the black police chief is the only person standing in the way of the white main one hand, it represents progress that a black man is in a position of strength, but the stereotype of the angry black man rooted in the “brute” stereotype, along with him being portrayed as the bad guy is still a problem.

While this problem can be looked at as progress for black actors, it still signifies that old stereotypes are still prevalent. In 24, the main character, Jack Bauer disagrees on a judgment call the CTU director made. The decision was made out of a hunch and even though Bauer had a lead that could give more clarity to the situation, the director went ahead and made the call. It turned out to be disastrous and his job was in jeopardy until the main character found the evidence and gave I to the director, saving his job. Having the black leader make many mistakes leads right into the common conception that black men are not fit to lead.

The black quarterback is another reinforcement that a black man can not lead a group of men. In the NFL, the quarterback is the most important player on the field because he is in charge of operating the offence. The stereotype for black quarterbacks is that they can run fast but do not have the mental capacity or arm to successfully run a NFL offence. Tim Tebow, a white quarterback had the same strengths as many black college quarterbacks. He was fast, aggressive, and ran a offence that fit his skillset, but did not translate to the NFL. Tebow was encouraged to play quarterback in the NFL despite his flaws. The problem here is that black quarterbacks who face similar challenges Tebow did and have the same skillset are encouraged to change position. Black quarterbacks are not giving the benefit of the doubt and that plays directly into the stereotype that black people are not as fit to lead as white people. The stereotype of mental superiority of whites over blacks is still common today and the evidence is in what we watch on TV every day.

Cultural Analysis: Can Hyenas Have a Race?

After watching parts of The Lion King last year in sophomore english and having discussions about implications of race in the movie, I immediately became defensive. No one wants to believe that their favorite childhood movie could have possibly racist undertones that may have unknowingly shaped the ideas of children for two decades. Although many parents still allow their kids and especially their daughters to watch Disney princess movies it has been my experience that most people are able to clearly label the message of weak female characters and explain to their children that these popular tales are not the reality. The Lion King, while sometimes mentioned for its perhaps racist undertones, is usually overlooked in the list of stereotypical or offensive tropes that Disney often perpetuates.

For those not familiar with The Lion King, it is somewhat similar to the plot of Hamlet in that the main character Simba’s father (Mufasa) is killed by his evil uncle (Scar), although it takes place in the savannah with lions and other animals. For many movies the easiest way to recognize race is through image, and it is definitely true that Scar and his henchman hyenas have darker fur. However I am not sure that this is the most direct way that the movie comments on race. It is a widely accepted knowledge in our culture that lightness represents the good and darkness the bad. Because many of the frightening scenes have a darker lighting and deeper shadows while the happy musical numbers are bright and vibrant. Because it is not just the the evil characters color that is dark I don’t believe that it represents the animal’s race.

One part of The Lion King that is much more obvious than the color of the animals is that sound and voices of the characters. Shenzi played by Whoopi Goldberg and Banzai voiced by Cheech Marin are both hyenas and people of color. While Ed the third hyena is played by a white man the character has very few lines and is portrayed and incredibly unintelligent. Anyone can tell that the way that these three characters speak is much different from the rest of the lions. They are the only ones that use what could be considered slang while the rest of the ‘good’ characters speak using correct grammar all the time. These characters are also separated from everyone else and seem to bring with them famine and destruction. The portrayal of these animals seems to send a message that people who may have hispanic or other accents should not be trusted and are evil.

The movies becomes very complicated to talk about in terms of the rest of the cast. Mufasa (Simba’s father), and Sarabi (Simba’s mother) are both voiced by black actors, who use proper grammar. In the end I am not sure I am any more sure about the portrayal of race in The Lion King than when I started. Although I certainly believe that there are stereotypes of race that could be absorbed by young children unknowingly I still feel that The Lion King has a strong positive message for kids and should not become a banned movie in households. As long as parents are able to talk to their children about how race affects their lives and the lives of others.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

A Perfect American Family for a Perfect American Audience

Saturday Night Live has always been good at observing the way our society works and reflecting on it through humor and skits. One particular skit, “The Dudleys”, is about a family sitcom that goes through several changes. The sitcom begins with a typical white nuclear family as its main characters, but after several complaints surface on twitter about how it’s 2014 and one of the characters should be gay, suddenly Mrs. Dudley is replaced by a gay man. All is well until more complaints pop up because there aren’t any black family members. Next thing you know, Mr. Dudley is replaced by a gay black man. The show and its characters continue to evolve as more complaints come in until finally they end up back where they started with the white Mr. and Mrs. Dudley.

This skit shows not only the influence of social media over entertainment but also that in an time where being “politically correct” is held in such high regard, it is difficult to achieve that “correctness” in the media and in everyday life. No matter how much is done to please the public, there is always someone who will have a complaint. Some will say that things need to be more radical, others will think things need to be more conservative. There is no doubt that shows today receive complaints just like “The Dudleys” received. It seems like every show on television recently has at least one gay character and one black person. However, these characters often take on supporting roles, or are just there for comedic relief, and the incorporation of them into the shows sometimes feels forced.

The role that these characters play in T.V. and films should no longer be a stereotyped one. Blacks, gays, and other minorities shouldn’t only be represented in the media as the “token friends” or sidekicks.The entertainment we consume on a daily basis constantly shapes ideologies of what it means to live in America. If the media were to be politically correct in a responsible and truthful way, rather than a sugar coated way, perhaps the perception of American life could then be an honest one.

The Line Between Racism and Comedy

In the television show, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, the main characters are all white and do not have a very firm grasp on how to behave around people of other races. The first episode of the first season is titled “The Gang Gets Racist” and the group gets a chance to make more money for their bar. The way that they do this is by getting help from a friend to promote their bar. The catch is that the friend is black. In any normal situation, this would not be a problem and things would just carry on like nothing was different. In this situation, the owners of the Irish bar, Paddy’s Pub, are racist without even really knowing it. This episode is an example of how race is projected in our own American culture. In the very first scene as the black friend first walks into the bar, they think that he is a robber or a guy coming to start trouble. If it was a white guy that walked in, they wouldn’t think twice about it, but since he was black they thought that he was going to cause problems.

This is a prime example of how the world that we live in is still a little racist. Even though we have made great steps toward a more equal future, the producers of the show can still make jokes like this and it is relevant. This is not to say that all black people start trouble, but more on the fact that they were able to make this joke and get a response out of it instead of people not knowing what they were talking about. The world that we live in is nowhere near the racism that Fredrick Douglass experienced as his time as a slave, but unfortunately it still has a place in society.

Race on the Show Community

One of my favorite television shows to date is Community. It features laugh-out-loud humor, and plot lines that step outside of the box, while still managing to balance the line between comedy and insanity. It's charming, well-made, and entertaining. It also features people from all different backgrounds regarding religion, race, gender, age, etc. This works extremely well given the setting being a community college. Community deliberately uses stereotypes to point out flaws in the way we view certain groups of people.

First let's take a look at Shirley. She is portrayed as the stereotypical big black woman (similar to the "Mammy" character, very happy, loyal, and not seen as a typically "sexy" character). She is very Christian, motherly, and is a great example of the "sassy black woman" stereotype we see so much in modern media. But what Community does, is they take her character, and they use it to point out the way we view these types of characters. For example, in one of their Halloween episodes, Shirley dresses up as Glinda the Good Witch. But her friends, as well as the other people at the party, all assume that she is dressed as Miss Piggy. For a woman with her size and demeanor, people automatically jumped to that conclusion, and it caused her to feel genuinely upset. The show deliberately pointed out the way Shirley is stereotyped.

Senior Chang when first introduced, gives a long (and somewhat insane) speech about the fact that he always gets asked why he of all people teaches Spanish, as seen below;
"Every once in a while, a student will come up to me and ask, 'SeƱor Chang, why do you teach Spanish?' They say it just like that. 'Why do *you* teach Spanish? Why you? Why not math? Why not photography? Why not martial arts?' I mean, surely, it must be in my nature to instruct you in something that's ancient and secret, like, oh, building a wall that you can see from outer space! Well, I'll tell you why I teach Spanish. It is none of your business, okay?"
Now look at Troy. We see a black, tough guy football player. Stupid, self-centered, and basically what you'd assume him to be like. Yet when Troy comes into the study group, it becomes clear that he not only has a nerdy side, but he is kind, well meaning, and (surprise!) actually has a personality outside of football. He becomes best friends with Abed, a very nerdy, quirky guy, and they spend a lot of their free time doing random dorky things and watching "Inspector Spacetime".

This goes for pretty much every single character on the show. They all come from different backgrounds, and they all both embody and debunk the stereotype surrounding them, which isn't an easy feat to do. You can be a Christian woman and still get drunk at bars and have low moments. You can have a romance with the main character (Jeff) and still be your own person. You can be black, asian, biracial, while still being your own person. The list goes on and on. It's so nice to see a show that can point out the flaws in stereotyping groups of people, while not shaming those who DO fit the stereotype. It's a wonderful breath of fresh air to have outlandish crazy storylines and characters, while still accurately portraying race. It's not seen often, and it's not always done right. But when it is, it is so utterly worth it.

"He's a real gym rat": Stereotypes impetuated by sports commentators

Sports commentators have the unique ability to shape our reactions to the game's events. A neutral viewer's energy and reactions are most often dictated by the commentators' energy and reactions. Many commentators though, perpetuate racial stereotypes.

Off the top of my head, here are some of the words used only to describe white players: gym rat, high motor, scrappy, hustle, high (insert sport) IQ, good fundamentals, deceptive speed/athleticism. As a result, white players are often-times underrated. Black athletes probably have it worse. They are mainly praised for their athletic skill rather than their team work or other qualities. A few common adjectives for black athletes: raw, fluid, durable, natural, fast, powerful. These seem harmless, but there are rare instances where it gets worse. A commentator once praised a black athlete's "getting away from the cops speed," although the commentator was himself black.

All of this stuff has been addressed before. My opinion though, is that this stuff is not a big deal. When a black athlete is described as fast, it's because he is fast, not because the commentator is consciously or subconsciously trying to perpetuate a stereotype. And black athletes are, in general, faster than white athletes. In fact, since black people could fully participate in the Olympics(starting in 1984), not a single white athlete has even received a medal in the mens' 100m sprint. That's not luck, so there must be some reason black people are faster. People get offended when innate physical differences between races are mentioned, but this one at least is fact, as are many others. What we should be worried about is stereotypes about mental capacity and personality.

Sean Hannity vs. Jay Z

Sadly, we live in a world in which news is presented through political lenses the projected images and concepts are often lost and obscured by these biases; any conservative would tell you to watch out for CNN News, while any liberal could tell you that Fox News edges more on the side of entertainment than news. Although this duality of truths is not something that should be embraced, its benign nature allows for it to be overlooked for the most part, and people continue to watch the stations that cater towards their personal beliefs.

Recently, Fox News crossed a line that brought it from benign territory into a spotlight, a spotlight that revealed their racism and hypocrisy. Following the non- indictment of killer cop Daniel Pantaleo, Fox ran the following headline about a certain meeting the Governor partook in: “Andrew Cuomo Meets With Admitted Former Crack Dealer To Discuss Police Policy.” The article is so based in slander that it doesn’t even touch upon the issues that warranted the meeting, or the positive impact the meeting could have had. So, who was this dark, evil criminal getting private time with the Governor? It was Shawn Carter, better known as Jay- Z, the 7th richest musician of modern times and one of the most business smart musicians, building an empire off of everything from cigars to sports teams. If Fox finds it appropriate to name Jay- Z by events and choices he made well over two decades ago, why don’t they call George W. Bush a coke-head cheerleader? Why does their slander apply only to a successful black man? Jay- Z man who embodies all of what Fox News seems to believe black men should be, as evident in this clip from Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show.” Fox is reaching for a villain, and they chose the wrong man. Focusing on 20 year old crimes rather than the present fact that Carter is a stand up citizen, a family man, and a successful entrepreneur, it is clear that while Fox wishes they could condemn his success because of his color, they over extended their reach.

Fox also seems to completely ignore the impact that Mr. Carter has, as his influence over the youth spans eons past whatever (hopefully negligent) impact of Fox News. With 12 best selling albums, Jay- Z is a household name. My 50 year old parents know him, and frankly, they too are much more intrigued by the reversal of fate and success story than mistakes he made in his youth that he has now owned up to.
This whole story was a painfully clear attack on black success by Fox; they chose a man who exemplifies success and possibility, an icon of hope with his struggle from the Marcy Projects to a net worth of nearly $500 million, and ended up making themselves looks like racist fools.

Sean Hannity takes yet another L.

"Good kid, m.A.A.d city" - A Kendrick Lamar Cultural Analysis

Compton is a neighborhood in Southern California often glorified by rappers and middle schoolers who have never even seen an impoverished community. Many of reading this I bet have never been within 500 miles of the place, but when you hear "Compton" your mind immediately takes you to a ghetto where rappers and gangbangers run free.
Kendrick Lamar is here to set the record straight about Compton and the people who live there.
Being from Compton, Kendrick's childhood and adolescence were a running theme through the album.
In an interview, it was stated that the album artwork was showing how he saw things through innocent eyes for so long, but eventually that went away as he came to understand the realities of Compton and similar areas.
Throughout his lyrics, Kendrick Lamar challenges the glorification of Comtpon. The two song I see this very clearly in are the namesake(s) of the album: Good kid and m.A.A.d city. They work together very well- I'll analyze Good kid, but I encourage you to take a look at both if you haven't already. Good kid analyzes what growing up in Compton was like for him. The hook reads:
"mass hallucination baby // ill education baby // want to connect with your elation? this is your station baby"
The hook takes the meaning of: Mass Hallucination lays out what the song is about: preconceptions that he had when he was in Compton-- about gangs, police, violence, and drugs, to name a few. Ill education refers to his running theme about how people in poverty (namely African Americans in Compton) don't receive the education that they need to succeed in this world and get out of the ghetto.
The first verse is about how he wants to get away -- run away (to fire bullets that stray // track attire just tell you) from Compton and gang violence. "I don't mind because one day you'll respect the good kid mad city" is him saying that he doesn't mind the harassment and gangs anymore because he knows that he'll come out better than them.
Here's the important thing-- Kendrick Lamar making this album itself is deconstructing what people know as race and ghettos-- it provides a story of what it's like growing up there and can help prove a point to those who glorify Compton and the African-Americans living there.

30 Rock's Rockin' Racial Representation

I was originally going to write this in a way that attacked 30 Rock, a sitcom about running an NBC tv show, for it's offensive and stereotypical portrayal of African Americans. After all, Tracy Morgan, one of the leads of the sitcom, plays a wild, not intelligent, rude tv actor (Check out some of his crazy history). He's low class and crude. But, as I reconsidered the show, I realized that his character takes black stereotypes that have existed for decades and blows them so out of proportion that he demands that we realize the stereotypes. His character is a satire of black stereotypes. His utter lack of intelligence, and carefree and goofy nature mock the Sambo stereotype. He does ridiculous things, like running through the streets in his underwear and striving to make headlines for doing such things, but underneath all the stereotypes, there's the real person. The real Tracy Jordan that sometimes comes out loves and cares about his family and friends and just wants to be famous. 

The variety of black characters portrayed on this show add to the satire. While Tracy Jordan is off doing something crazy and pointless, we see Toofer, a stark opposite of Tracy. He's a Harvard graduate and the most proper and pristine person on the team. And Dot Com, Tracy Jordan's body gaurd, in nearly every episode shows off his extensive knowledge and in depth understanding of American history, contrasting with Tracy's utter lack of academic knowledge (Check it out!). 

So, if one were to watch the show and only observe Tracy Jordan one might think, as I thought, that the show portrays a one sided and negative image of African American people. But after looking at the other African American characters on the show and considering the statement of Tracy Jordan's character might be making, one can argue, as I've tried to here, that the show attempts to fight black stereotypes.

A Much Needed Album: Yeezus

Kanye West released his album Yeezus, filled with crucial criticisms of American Society, in 2013. Kanye makes it blatantly clear in this album his discontent with how racism has evolved over time, and how it manifests itself in American society today.  With song titles like Black Skinhead, New Slaves and Blood On The Leaves, one can quickly recognize the theme of race in this album. I consider this album a very significant release in American media, as it brings back clearly unsettled issues from the past and makes it known that race isn't gone and is still an overwhelming issue in society today.

Kanye West's first race-oriented title in this album is "Black Skinhead", an ironic and satirical title, as Kanye has been accused of being racist towards white people in the media. Some of the first lyrics the listener hears are, "They see a black man with a white woman, At the top floor they gone come to kill King Kong." Here, Kanye could be referring to his relationship with Kim Kardashian and how the media has portrayed him in this relationship: like a monster. Other powerful lyrics as the listener continues through the song are, "If I don't get ran out by Catholics, here come some conservative Baptists, claiming I'm overreactin', like them black kids in Chiraq bitch." With these lyrics, Kanye is expressing his annoyance with religious groups disagreeing with his lyrics, and how if it's not 'Catholics', it'll be 'Baptists' - meaning some conservative religious group is always critiquing him. The next lyric is a strong and angry sentiment towards the media/government/world for ignoring and being aloof about the shooting in Kanye's hometown, Chicago which lead the black youth there to refer to it as "Chiraq".

The next race-oriented title on the album is "New Slaves". This is a satirical and unrested song of capitalism and the evolution of racism in America. There are constant striking lyrics in this song, the first verse being,
"My momma was raised in the era when
Clean water was only served to the fairer skin
Doin' clothes you would have thought I had help
But they wasn't satisfied unless I picked the cotton myself
You see it's broke nigga racism
That's that 'Don't touch anything in the store'
And it's rich nigga racism
That's that 'Come in, please buy more'
'What you want, a Bentley? Fur coat? A diamond chain?
All you blacks want all the same things'
Used to only be niggas, now everybody playin'
Spendin' everything on Alexander Wang
New Slaves"
This song brings back the past, from the segregation era to slavery. This song is exemplifying how black people have not become free in our society because they are in a sense, modernly enslaved to materialism and capitalism, but are still treated like slaves and discriminated against greatly. In this from of enslavement, blacks are discriminated against by store owners that assume that black people don't have any money and are told not to touch anything. Kanye is satirical about the stereotype of black people all wanting expensive material possessions, and how these desires once again enslave them to capitalism. 

The next, and final, striking race-oriented title on the album is "Blood On The Leaves", which opens with Nina Simone's voice singing "Strange Fruit" - an analogy for black bodies that would hang in the trees after they were lynched by white men. This reminds the listeners, most likely members of American society, where black people once were in American society and how things have changed since then. 

I think this album had a huge impact on American society. It focuses listeners on society and the injustices African American people are still facing in our society today. The satirical and passive-aggressive attitude that I sense from Kanye in this album is how I would expect white people to feel when listening to this music, which they certainly do. 

Where Are All the Black Swans?

Ballet is very “white”. A dancer myself, I have worn the same white tutu in performance after performance as a sylph or swan or wili or shade; ballet glorifies white fairylike creatures of all kinds. The ubiquity of white extends beyond just costumes. Ballerinas themselves are predominantly white.

There is much debate about the reasons behind the definite lack of diversity in ballet companies. Popular arguments include economic inequality, the shortage of role models of different races, and racism on the part of dance companies and the ballet community. Some dance professionals are known to believe that blacks cannot be ballerinas because their bodies are unsuitable for ballet. This racism is, unfortunately, still prevalent in some dance companies. Ballet training is notoriously expensive. The lack of diversity in ballet may be due in part to a class divide that does not favor the racial minorities; the lack of diversity is an echo of white privilege and racism in the past.

Misty Copeland is one of few black ballet soloists in prestigious ballet companies across the country, and is soon to be the first black female principal dancer of ABT. She is paving the way for ballerinas of color across the country by speaking out about her challenges and the challenges of others.

A happiness mask for Oskar

The mask would be worn during the day, and would be very form-fitting. The mask would be exceptionally comfortable because it would fit faces perfectly due to its film-like composition. The mask would also be see through, and could be worn without attracting attention. It would have sensors in it to keep track of facial expressions. At the end of the day, it could be plugged into a computer and it would have quantitative data on the wearer’s happiness levels  based on which expressions were used the most throughout the day.

This mask could help Oskar, because he had an idea for a complex tear-drainage and reservoir system to record data on the general public’s happiness “forecast” (38). These masks could possibly be used to determine a daily happiness forecast based on user’s daily results by region. Oskar would enjoy this greatly, because it is more feasible than his reservoir system, and therefore more likely to be produced and used.  

GTA V - a Cultural Analysis

GTA V, one of the fastest selling video games of all time, has grossed over a billion dollars, and is available to virtually anyone who has bought a console in the past 10 years. If you own a PS3, Xbox 360, PS4, an Xbox One, or a PC (coming soon), $59.99 will buy you access to inaccurate portrayals of most major races.

The game's developer, Rockstar North, exaggerates stereotypes to a degree that most intelligent people will understand it is satire. GTA portrays African Americans as street gang scum. Driving around the virtual city of Los Santos, African American pedestrians are rarely found anywhere except for the slummy urban part of the map. In story mode, every mission involving African Americans other than Franklin, one of the three main characters, involves street violence and/or illegal drugs. The ignorance with which these African Americans act in the game is so noticeable that one can hardly call it anything else than satire. Rockstar not only pokes fun at black stereotypes, but also White, Mexican, and Asian stereotypes. Two of the three main characters are white, one being from the suburbs, and one who is portrayed as a desert-inhabiting redneck meth dealer. The suburbanite white man is named Michael. His wife flirts sexually with her private yoga teacher, and is frequently touched inappropriately by her private tennis coach. His daughter is a wannabe prostitute, and his son a lazy bum. The manner in which they act is also exaggerated, acting with the same level of ignorance as the blacks within the game.

U.S. Apartheid

America is losing in the race against racism. Around the world, nations who had legal discrimination much longer than the United States now have more equality between races than we have today. Poking fun at this seldom discussed fact, The Daily Show turns the table on how accepting Americans think their nation really is. Throughout Jon Stewart's interview with native South African Trevor Noah, the two comedians, often ironically, open our eyes to the American ignorance about modern Africa as well as the fact that what was once seen as the worst racial climate in the world is now more radical in terms of its race gap in wealth than the United States. This bit highlights the lack of steps taken by America to   form a more equal nation by comparing it to Apartheid Africa. We imprison more African Americans now than South Africa did when discrimination was the law. What they are saying about race on the show is clear: we can't place America on its "all men are created equal" pedestal anymore. If we pop our heads outside of our own country and look at this progressive world around us, we will notice it is now facing the fact that its civil liberties lag behind the rest of the world. 

Childish Gambino; Modern Visionary, and Young Black Freedom Seeker

Since the release of Childish Gambino's first full length album in 2011, he has been preaching and trying to close the gap between white privilege and subtle racism that still lurks in our progressive society. Donald Glover, or better known by his stage name Childish Gambino uses the most creative forms of rhetoric in his words to do this.

Gambino's use of ethos is very strategic. For example in an interview with him on "The Breakfast Club" radio station, Gambino says that the demographics show that primarily white males listen to his music. The way he answers this question was very powerful, saying that he uses his lyrics to implant in white people so that they can subconsciously carry out his words. The way these two things connect is by white privilege. Gambino says that white people have the power to get the word out that black people are important and that black voice still isn't heard. This idea is incredibly complex, and controversial. Gambino simply doesn't care what people think of him as long as he is making culture. This is a different way of looking at things, but it is however working towards equality.

Childish Gambino in his song "Hold You Down" uses a great amount of pathos and ways to make the listener understand what he goes through as a black man. One lyric is "Dude you're not not racist cause The Wires in your Netflix queue." These lyrics are calling out people who may think they aren't racist but actually contribute to subtle racism. This brings up the next lyrics "subtle racism, its hard to pin it cause you'd only understand it if you were me for just a minute" This is another example of ethos that makes you digs deep and makes you think. These lyrics make you think like I touched on above, so in turn emotions are brought up in a result he indirectly appeals to pathos.

Although Childish Gambino goes about his freedom seeking business in a way that may be seen as radical or wrong it works for him. One way he empowers young blacks is by saying that black people in this time make culture. As a person Donald Glover is truly trying to make people equal. He himself says he is racist because that's the way the world is constructed. Gambino  says this because he is trying to sympathize with the people of the world in how he knows there's racism around because that's how our world is rooted and we should keep striding for freedom and equality. The American criticism given by Donald moves us forward and will make the world we live in a better place.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine – Diversity at its Best

Brooklyn Nine-Nine provides a great example of diversity on mainstream television. Racial diversity is acknowledged and accepted, but not the focus of the show. The show follows the fictional 99th Precinct of the NYPD on their day to day crime investigations. Andre Braugher stars as the captain of the Precinct, Captain Holt, a gay black man who has fought for equal opportunities at every point in his life. He completely breaks stereotypes about men of color and of gay people, and is a wonderful captain of the precinct. Holt is an intelligent, brave, and stern leader, and provides a positive influence on his team.

The show also presents another positive image of a successful black man in Seargent Terry Jeffords, played by Terry Crews. He loves to exercise and is forceful, but his character completely dispels the stereotype of a violent black man. He is overly sensitive, married, and has twin daughters, is always worrying if he is being a good father. He creates a unique image, combing tough guy and loving father, and describes himself as the Ebony Falcon, "monogamous and too tired for sex so his only indulgence is fresh fruit yogurt parfaits." While these unique characters allow for hilarious jokes, they also provide positive images of black men, without focusing only on their race.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine also presents two Hispanic women, completely different, but both unique and compelling. The show does not address their race in the same way it does with Jeffords and Holt, but Amy Santiago played by Melissa Fumero, and Rosa Diaz, played by Stephanie Beatriz break out of traditional gender and race stereotypes. Santiago is Cuban-American, and the show presents her as an uptight rule following sycophant. Diaz, on the other hand, is curt and aggressive, and doesn't take nonsense from anyone. Although these portrayals of Hispanic women are extreme to provide comedy, they still present both women as successful and intelligent. The show acknowledges that jokes about race can still perpetrate stereotypes, and so there are rarely jokes about race.

Overall, Brooklyn Nine-Nine might appear to be overplaying it's minority card, as the main character, Jake Peralta, played by Andy Samberg, is half Jewish. All of the main characters expect for one are minority races, which is very rare for a prime time show. However, the characters are natural and relatable, and the show does not focus on the experience of a minority group, but rather a group of friends who work together.  Brooklyn Nine-Nine provides a positive step in racial diversity for television, as it is one of the first popular shows to incorporate race without focusing entirely on race.


Race Analysis - The Simpsons

The Simpsons is the longest running animated show of all time and throughout their 26 seasons stretching all the way back to 1987 they have had some racist and controversial moments.  One black character in the show is Doctor Hibbert who portrays an African American doctor.  It is a racist character because every time he talks he sounds like Cliff Huxtable.  Does every black doctor have to sound like Cliff, a black doctor from the Crosby show, that is the stereotype now for black doctors. There is also racism towards Carl, a black, white color worker, who works at a nuclear power plant with one of the main characters, Homer.  Carl's best friend is Lenny, a white character who has the same life as Carl basically.  They do everything together and show that race isn't an issue when it comes to friendship. Especially in today's society with the tension between white and black people.  There are also times were they create racism though.  In the Simpsons movie, the mayor in the town announces that the town was in some sort of problem and he uses the words code black, in which Lenny responds," Black? That's the worst color there is. No offence Carl."  Carl responds," I get it all the time."  Carl's response is almost worse then what Lenny said.  The fact that Carl acts as if its normal shows it happens occasionally and it doesn't bother him when it really should.

Also I would like to bring up the fact the all the white characters are yellow in the show.  Why are other races not yellow.  Carl and Doctor Hibbert are black, Apu is Indian, and the Bumblebee man is hispanic.  The smurfs are all blue, there is no other color, so why do the Simpsons characters different based of race. If the white people are yellow then everyone should be yellow, if the white people were actually white like in Family guy then it would make sense, but in the Simpsons every character should be yellow.  Besides the black characters in the show there are also a lot of other racist characters, Groundskeeper Willie, an angry Scotsman, Bumblebee Man, a clumsy Hispanic, Fat Tony, an Italian mobster, there is also Mario and his brother Luigi, and last but not least Apu Nahasapeemapetilon(actual spelling) the Indian store clerk who works 72 hour shifts.  There are many racist characters and episodes in the Simpsons and they are all fun until people bring them into real life.

Celebrities and Their Apparent Love for Cultural Appropriation

If you're into pop culture or twitter, you've probably heard of the fights that have gone on between Iggy Azalea and Azealia Banks. Their tiffs are surrounding hip hop and black culture, a topic that seems to be increasingly popular and heated. Azalea has been criticized for appropriating black culture and using bits of it for her own benefit, while lacking an understudying for the actual struggle and oppression that comes with being a [successful] black person in America. Azaelia Banks also has pointed out the systematic oppression that this kind of appropriation brings about.

But it's not only black culture that celebrities are taking as their own. People like Selena Gomez and, again, Iggy Azalea, have videos and songs surrounding Indian culture and have gotten called out for it. Selena's song Come and Get It includes her singing over traditional sounding Indian music, while in the video she is seen dancing around wearing a Bindi. Iggy also raps with a 'blaccent' even though she is Australian.

Where is the line between admiration/art and appropriation, and when it is crossed, how does one defend themselves and their actions? A way for artists to avoid 'stealing' culture is to properly reference wherever they got their inspiration from and acknowledging hip hop history (what I'm saying obviously doesn't only count for hip hop/r&b, but fits for these examples). Iggy Azalea got slammed on twitter with r&b history lessons from a few much more legendary names than she. Also, artists should really try to avoid wearing culture-specific clothing. But alas, appreciate, don't appropriate. Something to think about... For the most part, artists put out what they know will be popular. So how much are singers like Iggy to blame for what they create? After all, we the consumers are the ones who buy it and make it popular. As for cultural appropriation and the [unacceptable] support of it, who's truly to blame and when will we know better?

The Office will always be the best show ever

I believe in my heart that the award winning TV show The Office is nothing but pure genius and one of the best shows in television history. With that aside, I'd like to talk about my favorite episode of The Office titled "Basketball". Its the 5th episode in the series, which premiered in 2005. If you're a fan of the show, you'll know exactly who Michael Scott is. Expertly played by Steve Carrell, Micheal is the regional manager of Dunder Mifflin paper company, Scranton branch. Micheal is an ignorant, arrogant and clueless man who is rude and inappropriate at the worst possible times. But the best part about him is that, at the end of the day, you can't help but love him. The reason I'm writing my cultural analysis on this particular episode is because of the blatant, and deliberate use of racial stereotypes used superbly for comedic effect. Throughout the series Micheal drops countless unforgettably stereotypical remarks that make you laugh, not only because of how offensive they are but also because you can't ever believe someone would actually say something that irrational. For example, in the episode "Basketball", the office employees play a pickup game of basketball with the warehouse workers. The episode starts out with Micheal telling a story about his pick up basketball game adventures and how everyone their watched him make every shot he took. He then says that, "Their jaws just dropped. African Americans!", implying that all black people are good at basketball and that they were impressed by his ability as a white man, to shoot hoops. But Micheal isn't done yet. Later in the episode he announces the starting lineup and says "Stanley, of course". Stanley is a black man and questions Micheal on why he said "of course". Michael pretends like he doesn't remember saying it. Michael also denies Oscar a spot on the roster and says to him "I will use your talents come baseball season, or if we box". He also denies Kevin a spot on the roster because he is a large white man. Micheal is using textbook examples of common stereotypes in the sports world. The idea that all Hispanics are good at boxing or that all white guys can't play basketball is absurd and the way Micheal truly believes in them really makes you laugh. Later in the show we discover (to Micheal's disappointment) that Stanley has very little basketball talent and that Kevin and Oscar can really shoot the basketball, which completely reverses the racial stereotypes Micheal thought to be true. I have watched this episode countless times and I never fail to laugh out loud. The more I watch it the more these racial stereotypes seem to become unimportant, because the real funny part about it is that Micheal actually believes in them, when in reality they are'nt in the slightest bit true. Even someone like Kevin can play basketball.

Arrow's 'Black Driver'

The CW's show Arrow, based off of the DC Comics character Green Arrow, is quite an interesting show. Oliver Queen, also known as the Arrow, joins with a couple other people to create a team to fight crime in Starling City. The two other people on this team are Felicity Smoak, who works in the IT department of Queen Consolidated, and John Diggle, whom Oliver's mother hires as his bodyguard. By the second season, they realize that they need to be working closer together during the day to prevent suspicion when they are seen meeting together about what they do at night, so Felicity becomes Oliver's secretary, and Diggle continues in his role as Oliver's "black driver".

That last part was actually a direct quote from an episode in Season Two:

Felicity: (speaking to Oliver) "I worked very hard to get where I am, and it wasn't so I can fetch you coffee."
Diggle: "Well, it could be worse. My secret identity is 'his black driver'." [From episode 2.02]

The show seems like it is laughing at itself here. The writers know race can potentially be a touchy subject, so they made the one scene where it is focused on at all quite humorous - kind of a joke between Oliver and his friends. Arrow takes the stereotypical "black person working for a white person" and makes fun of it, as the entire situation is a cover for their partnership in Team Arrow.

In a more general sense, the show also breaks the stereotype of the dependent black person because Diggle is pretty much depicted as Oliver's equal - just without the fancy moves, costume, and arrows. Most of the time, the topic of race is not mentioned at all, preferring to focus more on team dynamics and other outside relations than on these petty differences.

Watch the scene specified above here:

Race in Django Unchained

Django is a slave who escapes slavery with the help of a German bounty hunter, Dr. Schultz, who is looking for two brothers that Django knows from his past. Together they kill wanted men and Django masters the art of being a bounty hunter. Along the way they encounter racism and stereotypes while traveling through the south disguised as a dentist and free black man.

Race is seen from the eyes of Django, Dr. Schultz, white overseers, and slaves, which is very interesting. When Django and Dr. Schultz travel to the plantation of Calvin Candie, many of the overseers along with Mr. Candie see Django as a "Jim Crow" and a "brute" after he is addressed as a free man. They harass him and see him as a slave attempting to act white. By faking his identity as a superior black man, Django gets Mr. Candie to consider him as "one in one thousand." He is saying that finding a black man like Django is very rare. The irony in this is that Django is just like the other slaves, but placed into a higher status than others because of how he is presented.

During their visit at Mr. Candie's plantation, they come across the main house servant, Stephen, an old man that is opposed to seeing any type of privilege for a black man. When Stephen is ordered to prepare two beds for the visitors he is shocked that Mr. Candie would let a black man have a bed in the main house. He is angered and says, "your daddy rolling over in his goddamn grave right now!"
Stephen plays the role of the "Mammy" in the sense that he is overly enthusiastic and loyal to his master. He even discovers the false identity of Django and tells Mr. Candie about the two men. After he is told this, he unleashes his rage and returns to the initial stereotype he had of Django. This shows how race, especially at this time, placed people into categories without reason that most did not even fit. Overall, "Django Unchained" criticizes racism using satire which provides both an amusing and interesting film.

American Sniper

American Sniper is a recent film directed by Clint Eastwood about the most lethal sniper in U.S military history, Chris Kyle, played by actor Bradley Cooper. It is based on Kyle's Autobiography. It begins during Kyle's early life, growing up in Texas, dreaming of being a cowboy. It then continues on later in his life, where he decides to join the Navy Seals. Shortly after 9-11, he is deployed to Iraq, where he serves four tours. He is accredited with 256 kills, the most in U.S military history.

During each of his tours, as a sniper, he has a bird's-eye-view of most situations. Many of the situations that occur regarding the depictions of the Middle  Eastern inhabitants are warped in such a way that it seems as if the film is trying to convince the audience that all Middle Easterners are radical Muslim extremists, who are willing to kill their own children in order to kill the Americans. 

One instance of this occurs in the opening scene. Chris Kyle is watching a group of Marines move down a street, when an Iraqi mother and her son begin to approach. The mother hands a bomb to her very young son, who runs towards the group of soldiers and is consequently shot down by Kyle. The mother rushes forward, and instead of grabbing her dying child, she grabs the bomb and attempts to hurl it towards the soldiers. The film is portraying the Iraqi people not only as violent and bloodthirsty, but as uncompassionate as well, to the point where the audience begins to question the humanity of the Iraqi people as a whole. The film clearly perpetuates the stereotype of brutish Middle Easterners. 

At one point, an Iraqi man offers Kyle and his comrades a meal and shelter in his house. But even this Iraqi turns out to be a deceptive insurgent in disguise. The film not only perpetuates the brute stereotype of the Iraqis, but the stereotype of that you cannot trust them.

If you are willing to look past a plethora of stark racial stereotypes, and are looking to kill some time, I highly recommend American Sniper. 

All or Nothing Representation (And Why it Doesn't Work)

The United States is a country that idolizes the white man - there is absolutely no debating this subject. Both racism and sexism have existed in our country since before its birth, putting white men (particularly straight, Christian white men) on a pedestal above everyone else. Despite this fact, the United States is also a very diverse nation. Both of these facts, when combined, create a very tricky situation in many aspects of American life. One of the trickiest of these situations is perhaps the problem of equal representation in media.

I will be examining the particular media of film, and two particular examples from the recent cinema: Selma, and The Hobbit franchise. Film is perhaps the media in which racial and sexual representation matter the most, due to its intensely visible nature. When a movie lacks diversity, it's impossible to ignore, because it's huge and glaring on an enormous screen directly in front of the viewer's face.

For a very, very long time, the film industry had virtually no representation for any sort of social or ethnic group that wasn't the white straight Christian male. Straight white Christian women were the only exception to this rule, although not by much - most roles that female characters had to play were sexist, stereotyped, boring, or downright offensive. This wasn't always the case where female characters were concerned (particularly during the period where the Fred-Astaire-Ginger-Rogers type couple dancing movie were popular) but as time progressed, women in film regressed into the state of All or Nothing representation. This is a state that they now share with people of color, sexual and gender minorities, and all religious minorities. 

All or Nothing representation is a spastic pattern of high and low extremes. Either the group in question is not represented at all in the film in question, or the film is entirely about being from that marginalized group.

Two of the examples I've chosen are the Hobbit movies and Selma, two very recent and very different films. The Hobbit is an excellent example of "Nothing" representation. The viewer would be hard pressed to find a single person of color in any of the three movies. I counted maybe two, and both of them were non-speaking parts in the middle of a crowd in the background of a single shot, so I hardly think that counts. In short, every single character in the Hobbit franchise is white. Selma, on the other hand, is a movie with excellent, complex roles for people of color in abundance. However, while Selma may have superior representation in pure numbers, the movie is entirely about the experience of being a black person.

Why is this a problem? By having All or Nothing representation for any marginalized group in our media - especially film - we are teaching people within these groups that the only story that they can be in is one that focuses solely on their role in a marginalized group, and it teaches the more privileged individuals outside of these groups that the people in question (be it women, people of color, sexual/gender minorities, or anything else) aren't a "normal" part of society and are only worth their surface value.

Without a question, "All" representation is far better than "Nothing" representation. In a society where so many people are completely whited out of existence in our media, it's nice to have any sort of representation they can get. However, when was the last time a black protagonist ever did anything in a film besides march on Washington or run away from slavery? When was the last time a woman got to ride in a spaceship and save the world without the hindrance of stereotypical gender roles and obligatory love interests, or having her movie dubbed a "chick flick"? When was the last time a gay protagonist got to fight bad guys and have car chases instead of having an entire two hours devoted to discussing the hardships of their sexual orientation? When was the last time a Muslim, or a transgender person, or a Vietnamese American even got to star in their own movie, much less do something interesting in it? 

"All" representation is still a step up from none at all, but is a far cry away from being anywhere near equal. The people who belong to these marginalized groups are only taught one thing from these types of films: they will never be able to become more than their race/religion/sexual orientation/gender identity/etc. No matter how many interesting stories they have to tell, the only one that's ever worth telling is the one that tells how hard it is to belong to that one marginalized group. When will we finally see a Muslim flying a spaceship, or an intersex individual discovering an ancient tomb and fulfilling an ancient prophecy, or an American Indian making a life changing road trip across a dystopian future wasteland? When will we finally stop defining people by the one trait that doesn't fit our "ideal" model, and instead let them star in the stories we've been letting white men star in for centuries?

Biggie Small's Everyday Struggle

To many, rap is seen as the music of gangsters and criminals, a genre overflowing with profanity, misogyny, and ignorant slang. It is commonly depicted as a music without real meaning, a music with a chief goal of promoting violence and glorifying gangs. But to those who have explored this extremely broad category of music, that depiction is mostly wrong. Rap (an acronym for rhythm and poetry) can be, and is, just as complex and skill requiring as any other type of music. And just like most all music it serves to convey the hardships or success of the artist threw sound.

The rapper Biggie Smalls is a great example of such an artist. But not only does he write about the individual strife he himself faced, Biggie reveals some of the fundamental problems poor communities face, from systematic injustice to destructive stereotypes, and how those obstacles prevent so many from achieving any real success. To many, including myself, Biggie illuminates these challenges through eloquent lyrics and intense imagery. One song titled “Juicy” does exactly that. It begins with him dedicating the album to all the teachers that told him he would never amount to anything as well as all the niggaz in the “struggle”. In that song he goes on to state the misunderstanding of black stereotypes and how that affected him personally. Biggie uses his musical talent to speak out against the destructive stereotypes black Americans face as well as the extremely hard task of growing up in the ghetto. In another song called “Everyday Struggle” Biggie elaborates on the truly challenging task of growing up and making it out of the ghetto. In his music, especially the song “Everyday Struggle”, Biggie reveals that for many the only way of making a comfortable living for a person and their family in ghetto communities is through criminal activity, which would then most likely result in prison time. Thus, Biggie Smalls paints for his audience the vicious cycle of poverty and crime that grips and destroys so many black lives. While most rap does serve as reinforcement to the stereotypes of poverty and ghetto communities, some artists like smalls use rap as a platform to try and eliminate them.

The Cosby Show: Blacks in Mainstream America

The Cosby Show is a marvelous example of African-American culture being launched into the American media mainstream. A staple of 1980s television, the Cosby Show "revived the sitcom genre and NBC's ratings fortunes." A black family had become the the focus of millions of families every week, white and black alike. The show did this by successfully breaking down negative black stereotypes, and by focusing on a black family that was affluent, smart, witty, and relatable to any American.

The show follows the Huxtables, an African-American family residing in Brooklyn Heights. Bill Cosby stars as Cliff, the patriarch of the family, and a doctor. His wife, portrayed by Phylicia Rashad, is an attorney. They have four daughters and a son, each with a unique flavor that adds to the family dynamic. The Huxtables are the staple of the show. Nothing is more relatable to an American audience than a fun, productive family. The professional means of financial success within the family also defy negative black stereotypes pertaining to economic and social troubles. The family's functional and loving nature is highlighted by the wisdom of Cosby's character. Episode to episode, the Huxtables encounter countless problems that are typical of families, and Cosby approaches these problems with such a wonderful grace and humor that one cannot help but love him.

Through his appeal to similarities between the races, Cosby granted a group of African-Americans the spotlight of television throughout the 80s. The Cosby Show showed America that African-Americans are capable of achieving the status of the model family, and that they share our humor, problems, and ideas. The Cosby Show launched African-Americans into mainstream America.

Racial Iconography

Race, being a social construct, is heavily present in society. We find race commonly intertwined with popular culture. Race is often present in food advertising.

Many icons of modern day food products can be traced back to the antebellum era. An example of this is Aunt Jemima’s Pancake Mix. Aunt Jemima is a clear allusion to the Mammy stereotype. In fact, the original Aunt Jemima was the perfect representation of this stereotype. This round and happy character is a clear Mammy. Although it is questionable whether or not this stereotype hold over to modern day. The Aunt Jemima figure has been slimmed down a bit, but the “Auntie” title remains. Aunt Jemima has strayed from commercial advertising recently, but they did run a commercial in 1994 where a Mammy figure is portrayed.

Another example of this is found in Uncle Ben’s rice. Uncle Ben is portrayed as the Sambo stereotype, having gray hair and a carefree nature. However in this case, Uncle Ben is simply an icon for the brand, a character that is not used in their advertising. In a recent commercial, Uncle Ben’s rice was advertised using racially ambiguous characters. The focus of the commercial was to encourage healthy eating and cooking.

Another character that we see in food advertising is the spokesperson for Popeye’s chicken. This lady matches the stereotype of a Mammy; she has a carefree attitude and a similar body type to the stereotypical Mammy. But the commercials seem to focus more on the culture of Louisiana rather than racial culture. This ambiguity can make it difficult to find the true underlying message that the commercials are sending.

While many pieces of food advertising have formerly used racial stereotypes to promote their product, it is hard to figure out whether these stereotypes still exist today. While the racist iconography may be present, the focus of many of the advertisements distracts the viewer from this. We still see these characters in many forms of food advertising. The truth remains, food companies covertly use racial iconography to promote their product.

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