Category Archives: Module

BLOG POST (Module 9): REBA CHAWLA, Single in the City?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G7rpR-ul1po

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-92uGOLGIxo

Sex and the City represented a new and groundbreaking television approach to women’s representation and sexuality in the early 2000’s. The show follows the lives of four females as they navigate the challenges of their careers, friendships, and romantic lives in their 20s and early 30s. As Arthur’s articulates in her text “Sex and the City and Consumer Culture” this show focuses on “women as protagonists, whose actions drive the narrative, replaced the marginal and narrow range of roles available previously to women characters in these genres.” This show highlights several stereotypes and sexist experiences that affect women daily and encourage discourse regarding these challenges in an attempt to spark change.

In this video clip, we see Miranda completing the necessary paperwork to purchase her own apartment on the Upper West Side, and she is met with sexist and condescending remarks during the entire process. Her broker repeatedly asks her if it’s “just you” and inquires as to why she needs such a large apartment just for herself, going so far as to attempt to set Miranda up with her son when she says she doesn’t have a boyfriend. As she’s signing the papers, the broker asks her to check the “single woman box” and inquires if her down payment is coming from her father. These offensive and sexist remarks demonstrate the negative stereotypes associated with single women and society’s discomfort with financially independent, unmarried women. Arthur’s emphasizes that this show “publicly repudiates the shame of being single and sexually active in defiance of the bourgeois codes that used to be demanded of respectable women.” In this way, Sex and the City actually brings to light a previously unaddressed issue that was considered an unsuitable topic in television series, and utilizes the scenario to spark discourse as to why this discomfort of single women exists.

It further “self reflexively interrogates media representation of the single woman although the emotional power of these residual stereotypes is acknowledged.” The viewers can see that all these issues Miranda faces while simply trying to buy an apartment does in fact take a toll on her emotionally; however, she refuses to let society’s misogyny stand in the way of what she wishes to accomplish. While discussing her encounter with her broker over her friends at brunch, Miranda shrewdly notes that if she were a man, no one would have questioned her ability or reasoning for buying an apartment. This highlights the immense double standard that females still encounter in modern day society. While this de facto sexism and discrimination still exists, the actions of the independent characters of Sex and the City prod viewers in a direction that shatters these glass ceilings and gender norms in an attempt to empower single women. The clip ends with Carrie articulating that “they’re just threatened because buying a place alone means that you don’t need a man” and they agree that it is preferable to be alone rather than settle down for the sake of being with a man.

The series does an effective job in presenting multiple perspectives to these residual stereotypes, which I believe is imperative when it comes to changing these pre existing and accepted stereotypes. Charlotte, the most conservative of the four, demonstrates the conventional perspective of marriage and female roles within such a marriage. She interjects at the end of the clip that the broker wasn’t necessarily wrong and that’s why she rents,  “if you own and he still rents, the power structure is all off. It’s emasculating. Men don’t want a woman who is too self sufficient” This statement demonstrates an alternative perspective, in direct comparison to the feelings of Miranda, Carrie, and Samantha. This is important because this show provides the one dimensional thought process as a response, in order to highlight how individuals in the real world may think of this scenario. It then further goes on to repudiate this line of thinking when Samantha sarcastically replies, “ I’m sorry did someone just order a Victorian straight up.” Samantha’s incredulous reply to Charlotte’s backward thinking comment directly represents how this series challenges gender norms and refuses to allow this preconceived notion of a woman’s single state to perpetuate in a cycle of sexism.

With that, I leave you with a few question to think about. As always, I would love to hear your feedback, thoughts, and analysis on this topic! Thanks for reading 🙂

  1. Knowing that this show aired in the early 2000’s, how do you believe current TV series are attempting to address and change gender norms more relevant in today’s society?
  2. Can you think of any characters in TV shows you watch that represent the conventional gender norms that Charlotte advocates for?
  3. What are some other way you think television series can utilize this platform to spark discourse in regards to eradicating negative and harmful stereotypes towards females?

 

 

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BLOG POST (Module 9): NANDIKA DONTHI, Gossip Girl and Bourgeois Bohemians

Trigger warning: self-abuse

In “Blair Waldorf Must Pie!”, from season 1 episode 9  of Gossip Girl, viewers are introduced to Blair’s struggle with bulimia. Earlier in the episode, Blair and her mother fight about her dad’s absence at their annual Thanksgiving dinner. Blair’s mother’s harsh words significantly upsets her, causing her to eat a whole pie and become sick afterwards. In this scene, Serena (one of Blair’s close friends) comforts Blair as they discuss the issues affecting her eating disorder and her mother’s insistence on maintaining a certain appearance.

In the article “Sex and the City and Consumer Culture”, Jane Arthurs discusses the negative side effects of the “bourgeois bohemian” culture she describes in her essay. Gossip girl is a classic example of TV show success arising from “it’s ability to ‘re-mediate’ the familiar forms of the television sitcom and the glossy women’s magazine” (Arthurs 41). Like Sex and the City, Gossip girl also addresses and depicts “affluent, white  women” and is a show in which “women’s sexual pleasure and agency are frankly encouraged as a part of a consumer lifestyle and attitude” (Arthurs 44). The show mainly revolves around Blair and Serena as they manage their families and relationships along with their high fashion lifestyle. Blair and Serena’s friendship is similar to the characters of Sex and the City in the way that “their shared culture of femininity offers an alternative to heterosexual dependence” (Arthurs 45).

While neither Blair or Serena are often pictured as single in the show, they also treat their men as “branded goods” and almost in a disposable manner. Much of Blair’s and Serena’s popularity and success in the fashion industry can be attributed to their appearance which prompts viewers to question (as Hilary Radner does) “the extent to which women’s worth resides in her looks” (Arthurs 46). This importance of appearance and lifestyle in “bourgeois bohemian” shows leads to characters who are insecure about their body image and may influence them to take drastic action like Blair does.

Despite the characters’ fractured relationships with their friends, family, and significant others and mostly dysfunctional lives, the show had a considerable impact on the retail marketplace. In the article “Forget Gossip, Girl; the Buzz Is About the Clothes”, author Ruth La Ferla along with Amy Astley, editor of Teen Vogue, explains how the show “ignited ‘a pretty huge resurgence of ritzy, preppy and collegiate looks’”, a point which is further reinforced by interviews from designers, retail buyers, and media experts. It can be inferred that this impact is a definitive example of the power of transmedia marketing and desire to achieve this “bourgeois bohemian” status.

Discussion Questions:

  • Is the impact of these “bourgeois bohemian” TV shows limited to fashion trends? If not, what other areas does it affect?
  • Are there any TV shows which currently defy any of the stereotypes that Arthurs mentions in her article?
  • How can writers and producers more accurately depict “the division between the world of work and the private world of the domestic sphere” rather than just focusing on one?

Thoughts and comments welcome below!

References:

Jane Arthurs, “Sex and the City and Consumer Culture: Remediating Postfeminist Drama”, | 3:1(2003 Mar), pp. 83-98

Ferla, Ruth La. “Forget Gossip, Girl; the Buzz Is About the Clothes.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 07 July 2008. Web. 15 July 2017.

BLOG POST (Module 9): LANCE MENDOZA, Gay Characters as another model minority in Modern Family.

Below is a scene of Mitchell and Cameron from Modern Family

In the video, Mitchell and Cameron wants to enroll their adopted daughter, Lily, to a prestigious school. They thought Lily would have a good chance in getting enrolled because of her status as an asian adoptive daughter to a gay couple . However, another couple is trying to enroll their child in the same school at the same time with qualities that seem to beat theirs.The child is African with lesbian parents, one of whom is disabled.

In the show, Mitchell and Cameron represent the portrayal of gay characters as another model minority. Mitchell, in particular, displays qualities similarly given to Asian characters — Type A, high strung, timid but smart, and economically successful. He is generally not confrontational and prefers professionalism in difficult situations. In addition, he works at law firm after graduating Cornell and Columbia University at the top of his class which contributes to the successful stereotype. On the other hand, Cameron portrays the other aspect of stereotypes given to gay characters. He has a very big personality and a flare for theatricals. As such, his bubbly outgoing personality contrasts to Mitch’s uptight manner. Although he might be flamboyant, Cameron has mainstream interests and an american backgrounds that would appeal to the viewers like football and growing up in a farm in the midwest. This might be why Cameron exist as a character since he has traits that still grounds him to the mainstream culture.

Both Mitchell and Cameron have seemingly negative traits that is actually admired by mainstream media. They have this obsession in making sure Lily’s life is perfect by going to the right schools, etc. Although we all know that helicopter parenting is generally not a good thing for the child, it resonates with our deeply ingrained idea of  pursuing material security through a solid work ethic. Seeing a gay couple going through difficulties to achieve success is much more digestible than those “getting hand outs”. As Becker puts it in his work Gay-Themed Television and the Slumpy Class, “… gays and lesbians, reported to be well educated with a disproportionate amount of disposable income, seemed to be economically self-sufficient.”

 

Another thing worth noting about the scene provided is that there seems to be a hierarchy of marginalized communities. In the video, lesbian parents with a disabled partner and african boy is implied to beat gay parents with an asian girl. Based on this limited example, It seems like the group that “wins” is the one that belongs to a less accepted marginalized group. This might be due to the saturation of “safe” token minorities being represented in the media. As such, the line of what might be seen as this “safe” token minority is being slowly pushed further towards the less accepted. This line is what becker might refer to as “edgy, risque programming”. A decade ago, during the Gay 90’s, the group that lands perfectly on this edgy and risque line would have been predominantly white gay male couples.  In other words, the change that we might be seeing might be a reflection in the shifting attitudes and identities of many Americans.

 

The change in what is considered edgy and risque in Television might also be partly motivated by the need to attract viewers in a market saturated with similar shows. As Jane Arthurs points out in her work Sex and the City and Consumer Culture, in order for a show to be successful it needs to have the “ability to innovate within a pattern of predictable pleasures … that appeals to a commercially attractive audience”. The show does this with the scene simultaneously portraying the gay characters as a model minority while calling attention to how commonly LGBTQ is represented by white males.

To add more, I think it’s interesting how the show is portraying a gay couple exploiting the slumpy sensibility. This is a recent phenomenon where “maintaining at least an appearance of celebrating social differences became de rigeur for those who wanted to be ‘hip’ and ‘sophisticated’ “(Becker). The scene in Modern Family highlights this apparent acceptance and celebration of diversity in the mainstream media. The couple knows that their non-traditional status will give them an edge since it will provide the school with a passive way of affirming their open-mindedness, analogous to the way that slumpies consume gay-inclusive shows as Becker points out.

Discussion Questions:

1.) What do you think is the direction that LGBTQ characters are being portrayed in Television is going?

2.) What do you think is today’s version of edgy and risque programming?

3.) Do you think that the representation of gay characters reflects the acceptance of LGTBQ among Americans?

4.) How do you think LGBTQ Characters should be portrayed in Television shows?

 

Relevant Readings: Gay-Themed Television and the Slumpy Class by Ron Becker and Sex and the City and Consumer Culture by Jane Arthurs

Thoughts and comments are welcome below!

BLOG POST (Module 10): HILLARY TANG, The False Self on Social Media–How Social Media Overthrows our Understanding of Reality

Social media has become such a prevalent aspect in our lives. In fact, so much of our time is now devoted to routinely staring at a screen, with scrolling, posting, commenting, and liking becoming incredibly routine tasks. Sure, social media is one of the greatest platforms to share ideas, stories, and personal aspects about ourselves for other users to see; nevertheless, it has also become one of the most damaging aspects to our personal identities.

In The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, Erving Goffman insists that we each cultivate “impressions” and perform our “parts” in everyday life. This in turn can be linked to our performance on social media platforms. For one, we cultivate an identity that may be similar or completely different from our identity in real life. Online, we attempt to control the impression that we make on others by habitually posting new content and crafting such uploads in a manner that would appeal to the audience. Nevertheless, what is seen online may be completely at variance from what is actually occurring behind the screen.

Here is a video that illustrates the truth behind the cultivation of social media content:

This video evidently illustrates Goffman’s concept of “front stage” and “back stage” as seen in social media. For instance, the “back stage” behavior consists of us acting in a manner that is truly ourselves when we think no one else is looking, and it is often the time when we rehearse certain behaviors or interactions to be performed in public. This was seen in the video by the individuals attempting to craft the perfect picture or video in spite of actually have a reality different from what they attempted to exhibit. “Front stage”, on the other hand, is the behavior we perform when we are aware that we are being watched, and is usually highly intentional and purposeful. In the case of social media, the uploaded product/carefully crafted post, depicts the “front stage” behavior that users perform.

Take the scene of the men drinking the alcohol for example: the “front stage” of this scene depicts the two men embodying those of exciting party animals surrounded by numerous friends and women in a party-like setting; however, after the end of their recording of the mini video, they are then transferred back into “back stage” behavior, where it is revealed that they are in a quiet household during the day time, and have responsibilities that they must cater to in contrast to their wild, party-like selves.

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That scene is an excellent example of social media users attempting to reinforce this image of themselves as something they are not.  They perform as these characters of  liveliness and excitement to appeal to their online audience, when the reality behind the video is that of nothing more than two men putting up a front to their fairly average, boring day.

Consider the notion that on social media platforms, we replace our identities with our online profiles, ultimately utilizing what we post to represent how we want to be idealized as. Therefore, our online selves are almost identical to that of performances – glorified in a manner that hides true components of ourselves that we choose not to reveal to our audiences.

This brings to question if we are truly representing our authentic selves or actually always performing a hyper-idealistic and artificially crafted version of ourselves. Sure, doing so gives us a false sense of superiority and self-esteem via the number of reposts, comments, and likes that we receive; nevertheless it is still imperative that we align our authentic selves with our crafted selves that we put on for our audience to witness.

Discussion Questions:

Rather than perform a certain persona that seems more appealing online, why does one not simply choose to perform that persona in real life?

In what other aspects of social media have you experienced or witnessed Goffman’s concept of “front stage” and “back stage”?

Can there be instances of “front stage” occurring in the “back stage” or vice versa?

 

THANK YOU FOR READING! FEEL FREE TO COMMENT OR ASK ANY QUESTIONS BELOW! 🙂 

Relevant Readings:  

Erving Goffman, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life

BLOG POST (Module 9): JAMES LI, Representations of Gay Characters on TV

(watch the whole clip for the first one)

(watch till 0:53) enjoy some music and dance 🙂

Glee was a famous television series that aired in 2009, with the reputation of being a gay text. Kurt Hummel, the flamboyant gay character in Glee, presents several stereotypes that are associated with gay characters on TV. The first video clip takes part in the very beginning of the whole series, where Kurt and several other main characters are first introduced. Inside the scene, we see several bullies from the football team tosses Kurt in the dumpster. If you continue to watch the series, we see that there are multiple places where Kurt is constantly getting bullied. This is connected to the stereotype that Miller mentions in the article that gay characters are usually victims in TV series. Inside this short clip, Kurt only has one line, “please, this is Mark Jacob’s new collection.” From this sentence, we can get the idea that he is coming from a family that is economically well off. This is also evident in the second video clip, where he is dressed fashionably and dancing in a large house with multiple floors. Another stereotype that we are encountering here. Gay characters are often depicted as being overly flamboyant on TV series so that producers can make audiences understand that the character is gay when they first see him.

All of these stereotypes create false imagery for the gay community just as what we learned previous weeks regarding how television creates stereotypes for other communities although we do see more gay representations on TV. The increasing appearance of gay characters on TV is mainly because the Slumpy class (Socially Liberal, Urban-Minded Professionals) desires “edgy, risqué programming” with a “socially liberal and fiscally conservative” position. These audiences want to include equality and diversity within their ideology to make them seem more liberal and cosmopolitan without challenging their economic conservatism. There are several issues that we are facing with these stereotypes.

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The first problem that we encounter here is the idea of “model minority” that Becker mentions in his essay. We see that gay characters are always educated and wealthy. What they are struggling with is social recognition of their sexual orientation. This phenomenon is evident with the character Kurt in Glee and the gay couples, Mitchell and Cameron, in Modern Family. All of them are middle-class family, who live in a decent neighborhood. We do not see gay characters who are minorities or poor as if gay people are only white and wealthy. This is a stereotype that the Slumpy class wants to see because it offers “straight Slumpies a painlessly passive way to affirm their open-mindedness.” They do not have to struggle with challenges from minorities or people in lower class if they only have gay characters that are white and wealthy on television. This allows them to include diversity and is more cosmopolitan without confronting their economic conservatism of not willing to have redistributive policies for the minorities and the poor people.

This idea leads to the second issue that we are facing with gay representations on TV. We assume the opinion that gay characters are included more and more on television because the audiences actively support gay rights. However, “consuming difference commodified for one’s convenience and being repeatedly encouraged to celebrate diversity did not guarantee that one’s consciousness was thoroughly transformed” according to Becker. Watching more television series that include gay characters does not necessarily mean that the audiences are actually supporting gay rights. It is possible to think about the idea that they are watching it only because they desire edgy and hip contents to be included in the television. It is because gay characters do not hurt their principle ideology that they allow gay characters to be widely represented on television. Becker illustrates this idea by comparing with the decrement of African-American characters on TV. If the Slumpy class truly wants diversity, then there should be more African American representations. However, we do see the fact that the Slumpies “shared the same intolerant attitudes toward blacks as older generations.” This phenomenon hints to the fact that it is not the actual gay rights that they are supporting. What the Slumpy class wants is to make them seem more open-minded with the inclusion of diversity that fits their ideology.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you think that the Slumpy class is supporting diversity and gay rights or they simply want to include more edgy and hip contents?
  2. Are there more stereotypes that you can think about are associated with gay characters? What are some TV examples that you think of?
  3. Are there any other problems that are associated with the gay stereotypes on TV?
  4. We do see quite a lot of gay representations on TV but often with negative imagery. Consider the discussion question that we did for Module 7. Do you think gay characters should have more but worse representations, or less but more positives representations?

Relevant Readings:

Ron Becker, “Gay-Themed Television and the Slumpy Class”

Taylor Cole Miller, “Performing Glee: Gay Resistance to Gay Representations and a New Slumpy Class”

Thoughts and comments welcome below!

BLOG POST (Module 8): The Noble Savage and His Curse

The depiction of the ‘native American’ as a noble savage is not a new one. According to Terrence Canote it is one that the television industry adopted from the fading throngs of show business, an industry relying on television to carry the baton until the Western genre` slowly faded and found itself as much a relic as the native-American depiction itself. Here the noble savage found himself passed onto a different role to embody, one that made use of his mysticism whilst stereotyping many of the tribal traits in commodifiable, bite-sized tropes of consumption that are palatable for consumption by the general masses.

Parks and Recreation serves both a statement and entertainment in the form of its main protagonist Leslie Knope, a character noted for her many shenanigans whilst heading the parks and recreation department in Pawnee, Indiana. Here the snippet in question involves an episode where a seven-day carnival is being held to offer the residents a social experience, albeit one whose presence is objected to by the local Wamapoke tribe who consider it an insulting commemoration of events past where their tribe found itself marginalized and comprehensively defeated in battle when it objected to said marginalization.

Consider the portrayal of the Chief Hotate in this video. Here the depiction of the past – proud, bold, honourable and brave – meets the depiction of Indians associated with today, such as cunning, capitalistic and wide ‘reverence’ as opportunists. Subsequent episodes show tribal elder Ken Hotate akin to a greedy chief-in-arms whose concern for casino profits belie concern and service to his people. Here Ken is reduced to the two different caricatures; embodying traits from both the past and present, situating him in this manner perhaps to make him more palatable for the masses attracted by the show?

Bird accredits the primary appeal of a ‘savage warrior’ to the earliest ethnographic work. Here the ethnographers didn’t ‘mean to’ portray the native American tribes as noble savages, but found the group defined by its stoicism and lack of emotion as seen in photographs released over a century and and a half.

Questions

Bird asserts; “Where personal knowledge is lacking, media have additional power as agents of enculturation” (78). If this assertion is to be agreed with, would you say the producers of Park and Recreation missed an opportunity to portray the Wamapoke tribe as more than a stereotype? What could they have done differently?

What other groups can you name that have found their portrayal on television evolve from one negative stereotype to another? According to this week’s literature would you say that during the course of said evolution, portrayal of marginalized groups tend to get a lot worse before they get better?

America is defined by McQuade (in the Batille reading) as being invented ‘in the image of its inventor’ (7). The article refers to the many myths and legends that work in lieu of coherent understanding when two cultures are vastly different, as seen in the case of Europe and the New America. Is it possible to ‘reinvent’ this portrayal of native Americans on television today? Is it still possible to honour their contribution over television without stereotyping it?

Readings: A Shroud of Thoughts (Terence Towles Canote), Native American Representations (Gretchen M. Bataille) and Gendered Construction of the American
Indian in Popular Media (S. Elizabeth Bird).

BLOG POST (Module 8): LINDA GIRÓN, Good Savage, Bad Savage — Native American Portrayals in Twin Peaks

In his essay “Fantasies of the Master Race,” Ward Churchill reveals the various way in which Native Americans have been portrayed across all US film and TV, from the appropriation of a non-distinct Native American cultural aesthetic to the cryogenesis of the antiquated Native American and the common stereotypes that have emerged from these ideals. Though this post will focus mainly on the Native American “noble savage” and “brute savage” stereotypes in Twin Peaks. However, it must be noted that outside of its two Native American characters, David Lynch appropriates a significant amount of Native American aesthetic/culture in order to create the world of magical realism that has given the show much of its quirky appeal.

Nonetheless, Lynch, spends just as much time appropriating Native American culture as he does stereotype the Native Americans on his show. The first being Deputy Hawk, right-hand man to Twin Peaks’ Sheriff Harry Truman. Just as Churchill describes, Deputy Hawk can be characterized with the same qualities as that of the noble savage trope. Deputy Hawk, played by Michael Horse, is portrayed as indubitably loyal, stoic, supportive and with just enough an air of wise elder mysticism to reaffirm his ethnic otherness.

Here, is a clip in which we seek Deputy Hawk provide Agent Cooper with valuable knowledge about the mysterious Black Lodge (that of course only he would know on part of his heritage):

As if that weren’t enough, David Lynch seems to hit us over the head with the noble savage stereotype countless times throughout the show with incredible dialogue such as this:

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Talk about putting a bandaid over some personal white guilt, Lynch. And still, even in Twin Peaks’ 25 year revival, it seems times really haven’t changed for Lynch and we begin once again with Deputy Hawk at the center of the show’s mystery that has “something to do with his heritage.”

Now, the second stereotype we see is a bit more subtle on behalf of the fact that the character’s identity is not central on his ethnicity, although Lynch’s casting of a Native American as the antagonist, Killer Bob, helps reaffirms the negative “brute savage” stereotype.

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Although in interviews Lynch reveals that casting Frank Silva as Killer Bob was purely coincidental, an accident even, that Silva had been working crew on set and had given Lynch such a fright after having glanced at his reflection in a mirror. Seems innocent enough (But, please, where’s the coincidence in a white man being scared of a brown person)? But regardless, unconscious or not, politics of bodies particularly black and brown bodies prove time and time again how color-blind casting isn’t a relevant excuse anymore. The connotations that come with having a brown man, more specifically a Native American playing a highly violent criminal, who murders young women can very easily give audiences an affirmation of these problematic stereotypes; not only for Native Americans, but for ethnic minorities as a whole.

 

Discussion Questions

  1. Why do you think television can’t seem to portray Native Americans in a contemporary light, completely separate of any mystic connection?
  2. What are some other ways directors/screen writers can include Native Americans without subjecting them to stereotypes or keeping them as token minorities?
  3. Do you think Lynch can be excused for unconsciously casting a minority as the shows grotesque villain, can racial bias be kept completely out of our ideal aesthetics for casting choices?