Monday, August 31, 2015

Twenty One Pilots: The Violence of Silence

Twenty One Pilots is a relatively new hit band and they are becoming more and more of a household name with hits like "House of Gold" and "Stressed Out". One of their most loved songs is "Car Radio".

"Car Radio" at first glance is about a man whose car radio was stolen, but that simply isn’t the case when the lyrics are truly broken down. “I ponder of something great… I know it’s dire my time today, I have these thoughts, so often I ought to replace that slot with what I once bought cause somebody stole my car radio and now I just sit in silence”. The band is truly trying to shed light on a very serious problem in American society, suicide.

When Tyler Joseph, the band’s lead singer and songwriter, is talking about his car radio he really means it as a metaphor for the things in life you use to distract yourself from life’s big questions. “I hate this car that I'm driving there's no hiding for me…I ponder of something terrifying cause this time there's no sound to hide behind”, Joseph expresses the fear of dealing with life’s problems and how that now without his distractions there is nowhere to hide from these questions in life. A feeling that can be matched by almost any young person in America. “I could pull the steering wheel” this line reveals a sad truth how some might see suicide as a way out for these situations, a way out of the harsh reality.

Suicide has become more and more of a phenomenon in America. In 2000 the suicide rate in America was 10.4 people per 100,000 Suicide is now the 3rd leading cause of death among people ages 17- 12, and Joseph is showing how the hard questions in life can lead to those kind of thoughts.

Later in the song it is stated that “There are things we can do, but from the things that work there are only two, and from the two that we choose to do, peace will win and fear will lose, it is faith and there's sleep, we need to pick one please, because faith is to be awake, and to be awake is for us to think, and for us to think is to be alive, and I will try with every rhyme, to come across like I am dying, to let you know you need to try to think”.

Joseph is stating that faith represents life and sleep represents suicide or death. The point is made that life is important, but it isn’t easy. Life makes you ponder these decisions, makes you think, and when all your distractions are gone you need the faith that things will work out in the end.

Joseph uses this song to capture a snapshot in life that everyone goes through and tries to help guide them though this silent moment.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Modern Family: Promoting or Defying Stereotypes?

Modern Family was groundbreaking when it first aired in 2009, depicting two of the main characters as gay and in a committed relationship. Since then, it has become one of the most popular shows on television. The show has won numerous awards for its unique and humorous take on the family of today. Modern Family has become more relevant in today’s culture with the recent Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage. Mitchell and Cam, the gay couple featured on the show, recently got married on-screen. Although Modern Family promotes some gay stereotypes, the show presents Mitchell and Cam as just another American couple with the same interests and aspirations for a happy family life.

Modern Family, however, does feed off of the stereotype that gay men are feminine and style-conscious. Many of Mitchell and Cam’s friends are other gay couples, many of whom have unusual names, such as Pepper, Longines, and Crispin. Pepper throws theme parties for their gay couple friends, which Mitch and Cam frequently attend. Many of their friends are fashionable, and have great taste, like Mitch and Cam. As a sub context of many story lines, they seem to be always obsessing over the newest art piece or fashion trend.
Following another stereotype, Cam is a flamboyant and extroverted character. His appearance, along with his personality, highlight a common misconception about gay men. Cam wears daring fashion pieces and has an interest in the arts while also taking on the role as a “stay-at-home dad." While Cam is portrayed as the typical gay man, there are layers to his character that defy his stereotype.

Cam grew up on a farm in a conservative family in Missouri. He frequently talks about his life before moving to California, and how he would have to “rough it out” living on his farm. Cam also has a strong interest in sports and is a high school gym teacher and football coach. He also was a football player at the University of Illinois.

Modern Family displays Mitch and Cam as any other American couple, struggling with financial issues while raising a daughter and balancing work and family life. While Modern Family does depict the couple in a light of stereotypes, it also shows them as the new ‘normal’ family of today.

Friday Night Lights: Truth or Stereotypes?

The television show Friday Night Lights follows the lives of young, high school students in a small town in southern Texas, known as Dillon. The community revolves around the sport of football and thrives on the commotion of the Friday night games. While the show portrays realistic struggles that small towns may have, especially those in the southern portion of the United States, and focuses on the average life of a teenager, it is much too stereotypical. The idea that a small, southern town would experience poverty and racial issues is far too predictable.

In Season 1, Episode 15, all is going well in the football game until race issues become a problem. It seems as though the plot itself is not enough to be its own show. The idea of the high schoolers and the hype about the town’s football team becomes repetitive. Naturally, dilemmas are needed to make the show more interesting. Being that it takes place in the deep south, the show experiences a handful of problems with different races on and off of the field coming together in a civil way.

While race is definitely still the cause of a lot of conflict throughout the United States, specifically in the south, it seems as though the show adds to the stereotypes of the south being a selection of small, run-down, poor, racist towns. There is also the relationship between the coach’s daughter and the star quarterback that seems far too much like a fairytale.

Pretty Little Liars: Promoting or Breaking Down Stereotypes

Pretty Little Liars is a popular television show that is watched by many around the world, especially by teenage girls. It focuses on the lives of the four main characters, Emily, Spencer, Hannah, and Aria as they deal with their friend Alison’s kidnapping. On top of that they are trying to find out who the person is that is targeting and stalking them over text. The show is them trying to reveal the identity of that person. Pretty Little Liars is a show that simultaneously breaks and promotes the ideologies and stereotypes of today's society.

Pretty Little Liars breaks down the ideology and stereotypes of society because the show target the idea that girls need a guy to come and save them when they are in trouble. The show also has characters who face many issues and topics that are relevant in teen lives today such as sexuality and body image. There are multiple occurrences in the show in which one of the four main characters has to defend themselves. There is a situation in which the characters are on a Halloween train and Spencer is attacked by a masked figure while walking in a deserted part of the train. She has to defend herself in order to escape the situation. There are multiple issues and topics that emerge throughout the course of the show that pertain to many teen issues today. One of the biggest topics that is addressed is sexuality. One of the main characters Emily is struggling with the fact that she is a lesbian. The shows portrays her journey and how her relationships evolve. Body image is another issue that is seen through Hannah who struggles with image throughout the seasons of the show. Hannah loses weight because she was bullied for being over weight.  Hannah’s story focuses on body image and striving to be the "perfect size" which affects many teenagers today.

While Pretty Little Liars does a nice job of focusing on breaking down stereotypes,  it also portrays unrealistic situations and the stereotypical mean girl. There are many situations throughout the show that are simply unrealistic, one being the premise of the show that four girls are targeted by an anonymous stalker who knows everything about them. Also the main characters often commit crimes in their quest to find out who is stalking them without getting caught. The way that they avoid the law in some situations seems unrealistic. The show also portrays the stereotypical mean girl that is seen in many movies and television shows. Alison was the mean girl and the leader of the group. Alison had the stereotypical influence over her friends that mean girl in movies and television show often do. Overall Pretty Little Liars is a work that portrays some elements of society in a way that breaks down the traditional ideology but in some cases it tends to conform as well.

Wreck-It Ralph: Fun-Loving, Animated Movie or Eye-Opening PSA?

Wreck-It Ralph is a Disney-animated movie that was released in 2012. This movie takes place in an old-school arcade world where the protagonist, Ralph, is tired of being the bad guy in the video game Fix-It Felix Jr.. Though the movie appears fun-loving and a stereotypical animated film, further observation reveals the effect and issue of America’s obsession with materialism and aestheticism.

In the film Ralph is depicted as aesthetically disappointing according to America’s standards. Ralph is tall, stalky, has big hands and feet, tattered hair, a protruding nose and buck teeth. Also Ralph is not wealthy; he is “homeless” and lives in a dump full of bricks and sleeps on a tree stump. The hero in the game Fix-It Felix Jr., is a skinny, well-dressed guy with perfect teeth, a button nose, and full hair. Not only is Felix the hero of the game, he also lives in the penthouse suite of an apartment and carries around a golden hammer from his father that fixes anything it touches. The townspeople in the game praise Felix and demean Ralph not only because Felix is the hero and Ralph is the villain but also because Felix is “pretty” and wealthy and Ralph is “ugly” and poor. The townspeople are depicted as ditsy and fake, blindly following Felix and praising him unconditionally no matter what he does. The townspeople mirror the American people, who blindly follow beauty and consumer trends and praise the ideas of materialism and aestheticism.

The actions of Felix and Ralph during the course of the movie also accentuates and pokes fun at America’s obsession with money, power, and beauty. Tired of being seen as the bad guy, Ralph goes to other games within the arcade in search of a gold medal - which he believes will validate him as a hero. When he returns from another videogame with a medal, he is surprised to find that he receives no heroic praise but instead is presented with an abandoned, out of order game. Ralph relied on material things for approval and success and he ended up coming up confused and short. Americans often rely on material things to bring happiness and use material objects to monitor success. However, material things don’t necessarily fulfil self-satisfaction or validate actions and American’s often end up still depressed and confused why their material excursions came up short.

Felix relies on his golden hammer to accomplish tasks and without it he has little developed skills and success. Disney uses Felix’s reliance on his hammer to poke fun at America's reliance on quick and effective material objects. Not many of today’s teenagers can live without their phones, calculators or other electronics for assistance, which are products of wealth and entitlement. These products once again fuel the large flame of materialism and aesthetics that has spread among the U.S.
The characters and ideas in the movie Wreck-It Ralph may seem fun-loving on the surface and maybe that’s what Disney intended. If Americans take a simple break from gawking over pretty pictures and material possessions, they can look under the surface of the animated film and observe a mirror, reflecting the faults of Americans, right back at them.

Wreck-It Ralph Trailer:

"Animals" by Maroon 5 Cultural Analysis

I wrote my analysis on the song Animals by Maroon 5. It’s a current pop song that came out some time last
year and was nominated for MAD Video Music Award Song of the Year.

 Although the song is extremely catchy, the lyrics and video are extremely demeaning, and disturbing. In the video, Adam Levine is stalking a woman, and has scenes of him dancing around in a meat locker and rubbing himself with blood as he fantasizes about her. Songs like this unconsciously make people accept the objectification of women in society. It portrays the idea that the woman he is after is a piece of meat to him, something he wants to satisfy his hunger.

There’s also an underlying theme that the woman has no choice but to be with him when he says, “Maybe you think that you can hide, I can smell your scent from miles”. and “Yeah, you can start over, you can run free, You can find other fish in the sea, You can pretend it's meant to be, But you can't stay away from me.” Also in the video, it shows him following her down a street, and watching her from outside her window, and taking pictures of her and hanging them in his house. This, to me, is making a statement that this is acceptable. That women should expect to deal with completely inappropriate behavior from men.

Ethnic Stereotypes within Disney's Pocahontas

Pocahontas, a film produced by Disney in 1995, tells the story of a young Native American woman in the 1600’s who falls in love with British colonizer, John Smith. The film is supposedly based off of real historical events, however, the film’s depiction of these events is extremely inaccurate, and reinforces a broader trend of ethnic stereotypes toward Native American people.

Many other films and stories today contribute to the stereotypes of Native American people in the 1600’s, such as the DreamWorks production of Spirit, and the American Girl Doll “Kaya” series. Disney’s Pocahontas perpetuates these stereotypes while presenting a both conventional and comfortable, yet inaccurate, version of the early colonization of the Americas.

One example of the stereotypes depicted in Pocahontas is that all Native American people were “one with nature” and were entirely unsupportive of the manipulation of their environment. The movie’s iconic song “Colors of the Wind” is about how important it is to preserve nature: “How high will the sycamore grow? If you cut it down, then you'll never know.” However, prior to Columbus’s “discovery” of the Americas, the land was already thoroughly dominated by mankind-- much of the land had already been manipulated and changed by the people living in it in order to improve living conditions. For example, forests were cut down into plains in order to make hunting easier. Also within the film, the Native American tribe is portrayed as a small, nomadic group living in small huts in the wilderness. However, research has shown that the Native American people had actually developed large and highly advanced cities prior to European colonization.

Pocahontas is not the only work of culture that perpetuates racist stereotypes; these types of generalizations are made often throughout American culture, and it is important for them to be noticed in order to help pave the way towards a deeper understanding of the role that people of color play in American history.

“Not Your Way” Hits Every Target But One

Not Your Way” is a song by the up and coming band MisterWives that deals with the issue of gender equality and society’s standards for women. This song is very relevant at this point in time because a third wave of feminism is gaining strength and will soon be fully underway. Although the song “Not Your Way” by MisterWives promotes one false stereotype about women, it is overall a true piece of work that rejects most accepted truths about women in American society. While the song’s second verse perpetuates the dominant ideology that a woman’s worth is determined by the way she looks, the first verse and chorus of the song break down the common misconceptions about women’s roles in society.

In the second verse, the song makes the argument that large corporations and businesses have lowered girl’s standards and therefore created a larger gap in inequality. The lyrics are “Lower and lower our standards go as your money grows”. This argument, however, can be countered by the fact that a woman’s physical appearance does not determine her worth. The way a woman looks should not be a factor in whether or not she is deemed equal to men, and whether or not she decides to wear short skirts or turtlenecks does not affect the fact that she is entitled to an equal opportunity to everyone around her. 

The first true issue discussed in the song is the way women are expected to behave in society. The songwriter explains that women are expected to look pretty and keep quiet, instead of actually voicing their opinions and creating change. She says that women are only supposed to “look their best” and that girls’ voices are often suppressed. There is truth to this statement, especially the point about girls being valued more for their looks than their brains. Often in American society, women are judged primarily on the way they look, rather than on their opinions or the way they think. This argument may be a bit exaggerated, though, because in recent years women have started to speak up and get their voices heard more and more often. Unfortunately, many women in American society still feel that they do not have a voice and are only worth as much as their clothes are.

The next argument the songwriter makes is that in America,some people believe that women have already made enough progress in the fight for equal rights, and shouldn’t be asking for more. She mocks these people when she says “but look how very far we have come/ cast a vote, wear pants, and prop up a gun”. She is pointing out the fact that just because women can vote or wear pants does not mean that they have equal rights with men. This is a very valid point, as many women in America do not realize the severeness of the inequality that they face every day. Lots of people in America are simply unaware of the problem, therefore this part of the story is true. The song continues to point out that women can and should have control over their own lives and are capable of doing more than simply being a “trophy wife”. This is another slight exaggeration, as some women have become very successful on their own and are already beginning to tear down the stereotype, but is all in all a true story because lots of women in America do not realize their own worth.

  This song is a step in the right direction for women’s rights. Not only does it attack stereotypical ideologies regarding females in America, but also blames other parts of American culture such as big corporations that create misleading advertisements and TV shows for the gap in equality. Even better, this song sends a message to women, both young and old, that they do not have to conform to these stereotypes and are capable of forging their own paths.

Dark Knight Rises: You Think Stereotypes Are Your Ally?

The Dark Knight Rises is a blockbuster movie premiering in 2012, embracing America's true love for superhero/action movies. This movie is the last of Christopher Nolan's Batman series, therefore the events from the previous movies have affected Batman in this one. In this concluding movie, Gotham City faces terrorist attacks waiting for their hero to arise and save them, only for Batman to have been self-exiled for too long, thus creating more problems for himself.

But America just can't seem to get enough male dominance and overly sexualized female "sidekicks" aka attractive females who can fight but still needs to be rescued by the main male character at some point. The Dark Knight Rises reinforces gender stereotypes with its interactions and assumptions of the main characters, but also shines a light on the fragility of our world.

The main female character, Catwoman, is played as a stereotype in many ways. She's seen as a conceited, beautiful woman who will do anything to get herself ahead. In one scene where she and Batman team up, Catwoman leads Batman straight to Bane, the lead terrorist, to save herself from them. Her actions cause Batman to be tossed into a prison at the bottom of a hole outside of the country.

Catwoman is also portrayed as a sexual object who becomes the love interest. Throughout the movie, the female characters always look their best, fighting crime in makeup, perfect hair, skin tight and constricting bodysuits, and heels. Meanwhile, their male counterparts wear flashy yet comfortable and movement-allowing costumes.

Not only are the female characters stereotyped but the male ones too. Batman is supposed to be deemed as heroic and brave, yet he comes off as having a god-complex and being selfish. He feels the need to be the savior, be the one who rights all the wrongs. But at the same time, he has next to zero regards for the outcomes of his actions such as economical damage.

Through all of the stereotypes, the movie does depict a true aspect of human nature. It portrays how fragile the world is, how quickly America is to result in war and fighting, especially when there is a reward for us in the end.

Blank Space Defying Gender Stereotypes

Taylor Swift’s famous song, Blank Space, is continuously at the top of the billboard charts week after week. However, after the music video came out, the song caused quite the controversy. 

The music video starts off with Taylor Swift in the perfect fairytale relationship; riding on horses, eating in fancy dining rooms, and carving initials into a tree. Halfway through the video, Taylor Swift turns crazy and is seen wrecking her boyfriends clothes, phone, car and more. Some would say this is a reference to Taylor Swift’s clinginess, however, some would say she is mocking how society views her.

Taylor Swift receives much criticism for singing about her feelings, however in the Blank Space music video, Taylor Swift is able to make the point that women are all portrayed as “crazy” by their exes, and ultimately how feminine emotions are equated with craziness.

In the music video, Taylor is seen ruining all of her boyfriends stuff. In one repeated line of the song, Taylor says, “Got a long list of ex-lovers, they’ll tell you I’m insane.” In today’s culture, men will talk about their exes by saying, “they’re crazy” and Taylor is able to make fun of this culture stereotype through her video. She also uses the line “Boys only want love if it’s torture” to display how men martyr themselves in the relationship. In the Blank Space video, Taylor portrays the idea that women are oppressed in today's culture because men force women into seeming like the crazy one in the relationship.

The Blank Space music video tells a true story because it tells a truth about American culture today, and although it portrays stereotypes, it uses these stereotypes to make fun of America’s misogynistic culture.

Gossip Girl: Unrealistic Virtual World

Gossip Girl, a TV show trendy years ago among the teenage population, and now popular on Netflix, provides for one to be a critic of American culture. Taken place in the Upper East Side of New York, the show follows eight teenagers, Dan, Jenny, Vanessa (the ‘outsiders’), Serena, Chuck, Blair, Nate, and Eric as they navigate their life in New York. All are absorbed in the wealthy, dramatized society. The show’s plotlines are over-exaggerated and usually result in betrayal and feuds. However, when observed closely, the show may convey an underlying truth. Therefore, Gossip Girl demonstrates the stereotypical lifestyle of the wealthy through the portrayal and actions of its characters, and yet the show provides little deeper and meaningful truths. 

Gossip Girl displays a small level of truthfulness, and also shows overused, fabricated scenes. For example, when Vanessa finds Dan’s secret book about his personal relations with his wealthy friends, Dan confesses how he will never be able or want to fit into their society. Dan does not care about the repercussions, but would rather share the truth about his friends’ world. However, Gossip Girl represents a more fictitious society. The characters in the show often flash their wealth, wearing high designer fashion, riding in limos, and attending prestigious gala parties every week. Additionally, Blair, the ‘queen bee,’ requires that no one sits above her while she sits on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art before school. Blair often acts and treats people as though she rules New York. Moreover, the tips Gossip Girl receives through her website contain harmful information, showing how these group of ‘friends’ can be very manipulative and damaging towards each other. 
Gossip Girl reflects the cliched behavior of rich and spoiled teenagers, but still delivers a sort of authenticity. Gossip Girl portrays a potentially prominent society to be tawdry. In Gossip Girl’s world, most problematic situations result in ideal ways. The romanticization of this ‘perfect’ materialistic world seems to intrigue most Americans, leading to its great popularity. The effect of Gossip Girl may be overwhelming, making one question the similarity of today’s modern society.

A Song About "You"

A Song About “You”
The song You was made by an artist named Cam Meekins. The song is about a girl he was close with who he loved and how she took her own life. it connects with people being self conscious about themselves and how someone’s it leads to suicide, how it affects other people in your life, how much they will miss you and how much they cared for you.
In the song You, by Cam Meekins, he talks about a girl who took her life and how it impacted him and the people around him. He talked about the girl he cared about who took her life and because she did so many people were sad and it affected them. This song supports society because some people i know have dealt with this and i was there for them to help them through it.
I have only one argument and that is about hiding depression and how many people go through it not wanting to tell anyone and sometimes they don’t tell people about it and it leads to them departing this world and them leaving behind people hurt and broken. This is in the news a good amount and it’s sad to see because many people care about people who have died. This whole songs explains what she meant to Cam Meekins ad how it was impacting to his whole life.

I’ve grown up knowing some people who went through a situation like this and it was hard for them and even for me. I have know a few people who took their life because of a situation the felt like they couldn’t handle or not even finding out the reason. Cam Meekins in the song said “ Remember I was just a trapped kid and forgotten, but you believed in me, that’ll never be forgotten”. In these quotes you can tell how close Cam Meekins was with the girl he was talking about because he felt like she saved him and lifted him up. This is a quote supporting his thoughts about after she died and how much he cared for her. This whole story also breaks stereotypes because she was a beautiful girl who seemed to enjoy life and looked forwards to having a good future to just suddenly killing herself and not saying why. This was a sad song but a great one that I would recommend to everyone

Friday, August 28, 2015

American Sniper: Another Untrue War Story

American Sniper is an award-winning, critically acclaimed but extremely unpopular movie. The movie is based off of Chris Kyle’s memoir of his time in Iraq as history’s deadliest sniper, which gave Americans a unique look at the realities of the Iraq War. However, many critics questioned how much of this story was reality and how much of it was Chris Kyle’s “reality.” After Chris Kyle was deemed an American hero for an ephemeral period of time, the release of the movie caused many to believe that Chris Kyle was racist, sexist, and, above all, a liar. American Sniper is a clear example of the predominant, invidious notion of Muslims in the United States which qualifies this story as false through stereotypes, historical inaccuracy and unrealistic heroism.

One major and recurring theme throughout the movie was that of seemingly innocent and gregarious Muslims eventually revealing themselves as terrorists and villains. In one scene, a Muslim man invites American soldiers to his house for a holiday meal, but is later discovered to be an informant and a terrorist. In another scene, a boy is seen carrying a cylindrical object, which he received from his mother, and that object is revealed to be a bomb intended to kill American soldiers.

According to O’Brien, a war story is supposed to make you uncomfortable; it is not pleasing nor moral, not simple nor straightforward. Chris Kyle’s account is simple and straightforward. The principle character makes it clear who the enemy is, and makes the viewer comfortable with that fact that he has killed over 160 people. Muslims are generally characterized as terrorists, which is what a large portion of the American public wishes was one hundred percent true. 

On top of stereotyping all Muslim people and even women in general, most of the “true” events were completely fabricated for the sake of Chris Kyle appearing as a modern hero. According to much research conducted concerning the life of Chris Kyle, many events that appeared in the book did not actually occur. The enemy sniper, Mustafa, that Kyle reportedly killed is still alive. The robbery at a gas station that he reportedly stopped never even happened.

O’Brien says war stories are never glorious, but Chris Kyle’s version of events is complete romanticized heroism. Although Chris Kyle is no longer here to defend himself, it is clear that his original story was false, which made the movie adaptation of American Sniper seem even less true. If this movie is what passes as a cinematic masterpiece, it is clear that Hollywood needs to diversify its' industry.

Does Friends Tell a True Story?

Few TV shows are as iconic or as genre-defining as Friends. It tells the story of six friends in New York- that's the entire premise. The rest of the story is built around the personalities of the characters, which leaves the show open to be either fantastic or terrible. I believe that despite some shortcomings, Friends is a true story due to its openness, honesty and its surprisingly realistic characters.
One of the reasons I think Friends is a true story is because it doesn't claim a deeper meaning. Nothing “happens for a reason”, it just happens. Within that framework, the characters and story explore a peculiar type of honesty. All of the characters are inherently flawed, to the point where sometimes they're just downright unlikable. This makes them feel more like "real" people, even when they act completely unrealistically.

It's not perfect, of course. There are several issues with Friends. For example, the "everything works out in the end" trope and the almost-too-perfect romantic pairings between the characters by the end of the series. This, however, is a conceit of the genre in my opinion. The situations and reactions may not be the most realistic, but a truly realistic sitcom would be incredibly boring. Once you suspend disbelief, Friends delivers on exactly what its title promises, and in the process becomes a very true story about people just living their lives.

It's Always Chaotic in Philadelphia

The semi-popular American sitcom, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, is about four friends and a father who own a low-budget Irish themed bar in the city of Philadelphia. Each new episode centers around a new, and often obscure, problem “the gang” faces. The four friends usually solve their challenges in an innovate, immature and naive way, during which there is always much fighting and chaos. While the show may be intended as a satire that pokes fun of various different social stereotypes and conceptions, what really sticks out is the ever present chaos and disorganization that “the gang” partakes in. This constant disorder and arguing perpetuates certain social stigmas pertaining to stereotypes often associated with the working class. These stereotypes would include opportunistic, lazy, egocentric and aggressive. 

In one episode one member of the gang, Dee, attempts to evade taxes by claiming a baby she has as a surrogate as a dependent. The IRS quickly catches on to her scam, but she continues wrap herself further into the lie by constructing cribs and even go so far as to holding a funeral for the fabricated child. Scenes like these promote stereotypes that paint the working class as opportunistic and wont to take advantage of the system. 

In other scenes, the characters show off their large egos. One example is when members of “the gang” plays an elaborate board game they invented. Dennis and Dee who are on a team together and have always one the game whenever it had been played. Both Dennis and Dee have no problem rubbing their victory in the faces of Mac and Charlie, who have never won. Besides being extremely egocentric, the characters are also exceedingly violent. The prize of the same game mentioned earlier is smashing the opponent's’ game pieces with hammers until they have been destroyed as much as possible and walk away in silence. 

While a very entertaining TV show, It's Always Sunny is perpetuating harmful stereotypes. 

American Story from Japanese Producer

The purest works of true American culture can be hard to find. One such work is an “underground” hip-hop song called “Think Different” produced by the late japanese DJ “Nujabes” featuring Substantial, an MC from Maryland. “Think Different” is one of Nujabes’ more celebrated non-instrumental pieces and was released on his debut album Metaphorical Music back in 2003. Despite the fact that the track came out well over a decade ago, its lyrical content is relevant now more than ever. Rap has become a leading mainstream music genre in the past 10 years and has been evolving more rapidly in the past couple years than it has been in a long time. More one-hit-wonders are charting and tons of experimental and underground rap albums are gaining cult status. This begs the question of how to tell the true stories from the false ones. 

“Think Different” breaks down popular rap stereotypes and cliches by explaining why rappers choose to lie and tells a true american story. Substantial displays this through his lines about how he doesn’t participate in violence or drug abuse and how he is more emotionally confident than the mainstream artists this song is directed at.

Hip-hop has developed a bad rap for being shallow. Popular rap focuses largely on material possessions and romanticized images of violence. Substantial wrote “Think Different” to deconstruct these cliches. He starts the song with the line, “You bust lead? So do I,” busting lead referring to shooting bullets, a symbol of gang violence that rappers claim to take part of. He clarifies the statement with the line “Except mine impregnates the page giving birth to thoughts that unify.” In the first bar Substantial writes the thesis for the rest of the song. Other rappers participate in immoral acts that are harmful to the image of hip-hop, and he spends more time being a poet. Later in the song he says “Cats I chill with rap about revolution, while you rap about drug abuse and distribution.” Substantial says that he prefers to use hip-hop as a medium for something important or socially conscious, like this track, instead of rapping about illegal acts. Much of the verses that don’t reiterate how Substantial “thinks different,” are his lines about how he respects women and is comfortable in his own skin.

In the first verse, Substantial says, “I’m pouring my heart out in everything written while you’re scared to look soft, heart remains hidden.” This sets up the line “You fall in love with body parts, I connect mentally, with my female counterpart before we bond physically.” Substantial says that while other rappers objectify women, he likes to get to know a woman before having sex. This line is also a great example of how he is honest in his written works and isn’t scared to “look soft.” All of this adds up in one really striking piece of art that defines American culture much better than most hip-hop songs have done recently.

“Think Different” connects with two distinct cultures that Americans are equally aware of. There is the culture of illegal acts, drug abuse, sex and city life romanticized by famous artists, that most americans know about through media and music, and the culture of those who don’t get this rap culture, which most people can easily connect with. The tone never changes throughout the song, making the song feel real, except for one line that lets Substantial’s feelings come through better than any other. He connects with his fellow artists by saying “We all front sometimes, that’s how MC’s be.” He admits his mistakes and bragging and humanizes himself and the rappers the song is directed at. This is the most important line because it shows how Substantial is being completely transparent when telling this true american story.

“Think Different” is a really simple song, lyrically. What it stands for, however, is much greater. If Substantial can break away from the stereotypes affiliated with his work, other artists can too. Some of them could be better rappers or more popular and influential rappers. Some of them could be artists of a whole different genre or even a whole different medium. A true American story can be told in even the most unlikely places, even a hip hop song from from twelve years ago.

Sexist Sterotypes in Dear Future Husband

Pop singer and songwriter Meghan Trainor has a tendency for writing stereotypical yet catchy songs. Her supposed body-positive anthem, “All About that Bass,” skyrocketed to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts in 2014.

She attempts makes “curvy” girls feel confident, yet body shames “skinny b*tches.” Trainor’s song is a failed attempt to teach girls to accept themselves the way they are, however the overall message correlates with the lyric, “‘cause I got that boom boom that all the boys chase/ all the right junk in all the right places.” Trainor is essentially saying that if the male population approves of your body than there is no reason to feel self conscious. This same androcentric tone is prevalent throughout her newest song, “Dear Future Husband.”

“Dear Future Husband” is just as catchy as her previous top hit. Trainor outlines her requirements for a husband by saying she needs a man to “treat her right” and she’ll reward him by being “the perfect wife” by “buying groceries/ buy-buying what you need.”

This song sets sexist standards for what a marriage between a man and a woman should consist of. She also states she will let her man “rock her body right.” Today in modern culture sex is a mutual act, not solely for the husband’s pleasure as Trainor portrays it.

Throughout this vintage style-music video, Trainor is seen scrubbing floors, baking and deciding between suitors. She infers that she expects a man to treat her like royalty, not as an equal partner. She sings, “take me on a date/ I deserve a break/ and don’t forget the flowers every anniversary/ ‘cause if you treat me right/ I’ll be the perfect wife.” Trainor goes on to say, “you gotta treat me like a lady/ even when I’m acting crazy.” By saying this she furthers the sexist stereotype that women in relationships "act crazy" and are emotionally vulnerable.

These outdated gender roles throughout this music video are absurd. It’s unbelievable that a song this politically incorrect was allowed to be produced in 2015.

Running Straight Outta Compton from the Violence

"Straight Outta Compton" is a song sung by an American hip-hop group named N.W.A. The group originally consisted of Dr. Dre, Eazy-E and Ice Cube. However, DJ Yella and MC Ren joined later. Their album, released in 1989, sold 750,000 copies before they ever went on tour. N.W.A. uses a lot of profanity in their music. On average, their songs contain 32 profane words. "Straight Outta Compton" contains 34. Today, profanity is being used more and more in everyday music, especially in rap music. Surprisingly, there were fewer curse words in music in the late 80’s and early 90’s than in today’s music. There are a variety of references to violence and crime in the song as well. Because of this, Straight Outta Compton was one of the first albums to use the “Parental Advisory” sticker.

"Straight Outta Compton" is a song documenting the ups and down of gang life in a low income community. The artists present their view of life from living in a ghetto. In one line Ice Cube says, “When I’m called off I got the sawed off, squeeze the trigger and the bodies are hauled off.” Here he references gang life in late 1980’s Compton, California. He is saying gang members are willing to back up other gang members even if it means killing some people. Currently there are gang issues in Pilson and the Little Village area. There are many known Latin Kings members in Little Village, making it a very dangerous place. In ghettos and very low-income neighborhoods there tends to be more crime, violence and gang activity. Later on in N.W.A.’s song, MC Ren references burglary and weaponry in two lines, he says “Just like burglary, the definition is ‘jackin’ and when illegally armed it’s called ‘packin’.” Both of these are very common themes throughout N.W.A.’s songs but also in the news today. However, gun violence has dropped 48% since 1993 (4 years after N.W.A.’s album release).

A Cultural Analysis of Marvel's Ant-Man

I recently watched the popular movie Ant-Man with a few of my friends. Part of Marvels’ hit series of superhero movies, it made $57 million its opening weekend. In it, the protagonist Scott Lang’s trouble finding a real job and as a result of being a convicted felon reveals an insight into a very real american problem.

Scott gets released from jail in the first ten minutes of the movie, and his trouble finding a job is the reason that he ends up getting super powers at all. The only work he can get is at Baskin-Robbins, and even there Scott is quickly fired when his manager finds out that he spent time in jail. Scott is unable to get a real, well-paying job, even though he clearly has some amount of useful skills based off events prior to the beginning of the movie. The American prison system doesn’t serve to prepare its constituents for success outside of jail, and Scott’s plight is a prime example of this. Originally, Scott is completely averse to returning to crime. He rebuffs his criminal friend’s efforts at recruiting him for a heist twice, only giving in once he loses his job at Baskin-Robbins. He only accepts the offer to break into Dr. Hank Pym’s house after he is unable to make honest money due to his prior offenses.

America is seen around the world as “the land of opportunity”. However, for the significant portion of it that has spent time in jail, this is simply not true. A study conducted in 2010 by Kris Warner and John Schmitt states that “ex-offenders lower employment rates for men [in the United States] by 1.5 to 1.7 percentage points”.

Ant-Man also fits very well into our criteria of what makes a “true” American story. Scott’s trouble finding work, while made mildly comedic, is not necessarily exaggerated. It also connects with the current social context of our troubled prison system. Signs offering to find jobs for felons, and even shops like Felony Frank’s catering to those unable to find jobs otherwise point to a situation more serious than one just confined to a superhero movie. With little opportunity to find jobs, many felons are forced to return to crime. While clearly a superhero movie, Ant-Man dives deep into a very pressing problem to America today.

You can find the study I sourced at

Dexter - Control of the Mind

It’s safe to say, the majority of people have some type of need; whether it’s always having a phone or constantly washing your hands, it has to be done. For Dexter, the main character of a hit T.V. show, his need is killing people. It’s typical to think the main character is the enemy, but this serial killer specifically kills serial killers only. On special occasion, a rapist or kidnapper has tasted his knife as well, but it’s portrayed that these people are well deserving of their death.

If he goes too long without killing, he faces everyday challenges that could result in harm of an innocent or loved one. Multiple people feel a not-so intense urge, or else anxiety builds up in them. Half the people say it’s all mental and they can make it go away without achieving their need, while others would differ. Dexter like many others, have habits that are imprinted in their brain that they cannot break, but that’s the same as saying they aren’t in control of their own mind. Everyone has the power to break such a habit, it can only take over if they let it. 

In our society, things like O.C.D. and anxiety are looked upon as weaknesses, which the only way to cure is by getting help. It's becoming programmed in many kids that there is something wrong with them, that only outside help can cure them. Sometimes, that may be the case but if more motivation and information is represented as much as "help" is many more people would understand that they are in control and that they can teach themselves to fix their habits, without any pricey outside help that's portrayed as necessary to these people. In Dexter, he doesn't believe he's in control of his life. His "dark passenger" has been inside him since Harry, his adoptive father, took him in and gave him "Harry's code" to live by. The idea of having his own life, and being free of his habits was never viewed as an option from his eyes. His need to kill is always a must, and never an option to him. Our society has formed into a weak-minded community who don't believe they are as strong as they truly are.

Remember the Titans Defies Racism Riot

Remember the Titans, produced in the year 2000 and based on a true story, accurately represents racism of the 70’s. The movie tells a story of an originally all white football team from the south coached by a white coach. The school decides to hire a black coach and incorporate black athletes into the football program, becoming the first school of the south to immigrate. The story questions racism by mixing a white and black football team together.

At first the two teams are not willing to play together. Denzel Washington, the hired assistant coach, threatens the boys that they will either have to play together or that they will be cut from the team. Washington mandates that two players of two different colors will have to get to know each other by the end of the first week. Two characters, however, do not have such an easy time getting along. Gerry Bertier and Julius Campbell are socially paired, but neither respect where one another comes from, which barricades their friendship.

Julius puts up a poster that supports African-American culture that Gerry refuses to keep up on “his” wall. Julius responds, “You better use your x-ray vision superman, you’re going to look right through it cause it ain’t coming down.” which then results in a physical fight. This does not critically injure either player, however later on, Gerry gets into a car crash and becomes paralyzed from the waist down.

Coaches and team members are some of the first to arrive to the hospital, standing by Gerry’s side. When Julius gets to the hospital, Coach Boone(Denzel) notifies him that Gerry has been paralyzed from the car crash. Julius is heartbroken and immediately walks over to Gerry’s parents. Julius begins to repeatedly apologize to them, when Gerry’s mother interrupts his tears saying, “He doesn’t want to see anybody but you, Julius.” Julius respectfully responding, “Yes ma’am.”. When Julius enters the hospital room with Gerry the nurse says that only ‘kin’ are allowed to visit the patient. Gerry answers, “Are you blind? Don’t you see the family resemblance.”.

Gerry, in a vulnerable state, comes around to confess that he was afraid of Julius before, for a reason he could not understand, but really only hating his brother. Julius then explains that one day Julius and Gerry will move to the same neighborhood and grow old together. Sharing love and brotherhood in the hospital bedroom expresses the turning point in discrimination between the two. Racism is a dominant ideology of American culture, be that as it may, Remember the Titans tells a story that defies and overcomes racism.

Here's the movie trailer:

The Good Left Undone

I decided to take a look into one of the Chicago-born band “Rise Against”’s most successful songs they’ve ever made, “The Good Left Undone”. I feel that this work, specifically from the lyrics, is very real and not really artificial at all because despite the overall message being a bit clichéd, the way it’s presented is really refreshing.

I chose this work because the band itself was created relatively recently so they’re still extremely popular with a large crowd. This song heavily reflects the ideologies of our current society by enforcing the (somewhat clichéd) ideal that unless we all change what we’re doing pretty heavily, the world is going to eventually give up on us and we won’t be able to fix what we’ve done to Earth.

An idea presented throughout the song is that while we’re already pretty far gone, there’s still hope for us to change. This is evidenced by the opening line of the song where lyricist Tim Mcllrath says “in a field where nothing grew but weeds, I found a flower at my feet”. He’s perpetuating the idea that despite what we’ve done to the land that we live on, there’s still hope for us to change it. This isn’t surprising to hear from the band, because an idea that the band often talks about in their music is saving the environment.

This piece of music is very important to talk about because it’s perpetuating the extremely important idea that we need to change what we’re doing to the Earth and we need to do it quick.

If you'd like to hear the song, click on the video below

Accept or Reject Racial Stereotypes?

In honor of football season starting in the IHSA, the movie, “The Blind Side,” correlates well with football season beginning and the social and race issues going on in America today. “The Blind Side” features Sandra Bullock, Quinton Aaron, and Tim McGraw. Although this movie came out in 2009, there are relevant issue risen throughout the movie, that remind Americans whether a story told is true or not and how these stereotypes affect today’s society. Controversy with racial stereotypes are subsequently associated with social class stereotypes. As exemplified in other pieces of recent American culture, such as “Straight Outta Compton” and “Selma,” racial stereotypes can cause the most controversy, or make people of all races feel uncomfortable. “The Blind Side” is just another part of this trend that has been building for decades. This American cultural piece is a good, paradoxical example of conveying social class and race stereotypes, both promoting and breaking the typical ideologies society has. Analyzing the accepting and rejecting stereotypes in “The Blind Side” is done with the help of knowing the characteristics of a true story and a false story.

“The Blind Side” contains specific scenes that help prove the stereotypes for race in America are false. For example,white people are stereotyped to be racist. While this statement is seemingly true, because there are white people who are racist, it is not true in the sense that all white people are racist. In “The Blind Side,” Leigh Anne Tuohy rejects this stereotype when she takes in low economic class, black, Michael Oher. A white person would not open their nice home up to a black person and provide clothes and food for them with nothing in return, if they were racist. Furthermore, the stereotype that black people are only good at sports is also rejected when Michael Oher proves he is more than just a big football player. Although Michael Oher is his team’s best football player, he needs to get his grades up to qualify for an academic scholarship for a D1 school. With the help of his teachers and tutor, Michael devotes time to his studies as well as juggling football. When writing a paper for English class, Michael demonstrates and learns of his capability to write and perseverance. He is ultimately able to and accepts a college offer with his improved GPA.

The fantasy world that isn't so different from our own.

Cultural Analysis (SPOILER ALERT!)

Recently, I have begun to re-read 10 books by Rick Riordan, that begins with "The Lightning Thief," that regard Greek and Roman mythology while following the adventure of a certain set of heroes that end up saving the world several times over. At first glance, this seems just about as real as flying pigs, but the characters and problems that they face actually seem both real and relatable.

There are many aspects of the characters’ struggles and personalities that speak a lot towards everyday social, physical, and emotional problems. Many times throughout all 10 books, the characters go through many unflattering human emotions, as well as the “warm-and-fuzzy” ones, creating a large attachment between reader and character. The struggles and obstacles that the people must overcome are a fun fantasy, and hold all sorts of morals and lessons to be learned. All of these concepts are, if not necessary, extremely important for the young audience that the books are targeted at.

When a character in these books becomes happy or cracks a joke, you can’t help but smile due to the brilliant writing style set up by Riordan, such as when two of the characters, Leo and Jason, make fun of each other playfully, it shows that in their essence, they’re still teenagers and their antics are fully relatable. The obstacles that the heroes have to face are all seemingly impossible, but also have important morals attached to them. In the end of the first series, the main character Percy hands over his only arms, to the main antagonist Luke, who was hosting the titan lord Kronos, in order to have Luke expose his own weakness to defeat Kronos and himself. This shows that even against all logic, it’s beneficial to have some trust.

These morals, as well as emotional connections are extremely important to all audiences, and that’s what makes Riordan’s works so astounding as works of American culture.

Shipbreaker ... A True Story?

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks ... A True Story?

The Immortal Life of Sense and Crime, Discovering the Secrets of Americanah ... True Stories?

Into the Wild ... A True Story?

Different Seasons ... A True Story?

Outcasts United ... A True Story?

A Girl Who Fell From the Sky .... A True Story?

Will Grayson, Will Grayson .... A True story?