Category Archives: Television

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:

giphy-hawk2giphy-hawk

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?

BLOG POST (Module 6): SAHIBA GURAYA, House M. D.’s Token Minority A Stereotypical Representation

In season 8, episode 2 of House M. D., a new character, Dr. Chi Park (played by Charlyne Yi) was introduced and the only recurring Asian American character, along with Kal Penn in the entire 8 seasons.  

https://youtu.be/0sUCWGRjJcc?t=44s

You can start watching from 0:44 to 1:00, since it is in an interview and has a short clip from the show. Chi Park is not a very popular character, so much couldn’t be found on her, which indicates that Asian American characters quiet often play the supporting roles and are usually irrelevant.

chiiiiii mad

Dr. Chi Park is the newest addition to Dr. House’s team. Throughout the season, she is shown having anger issues, no social skills, and afraid of disgracing her parents. In an episode, it was implied that she lost her temper and punched her former boss for groping her. With her poor lack of social skills in explaining the event at her hearing with the board, she ended up getting fired from the neurology residence program and wound up working for House after he got out of prison.

House M. D. constructs Dr. Chi Park in a stereotypical sense as the Asian American “model minority” who was the top 2% in her class in medical school and works in an esteemed hospital with a well known doctor. As Ono and Pham would put it, she is also shown as “robotic,” obeying everything House says while the other doctors disagree with him and don’t follow House’s irrational decisions. This shows how the “robotic” “model minority” always repeats and obeys the authority, even if disagreeing with them.

As Ono and Pham discuss in their paper regarding Horatio Alger’s story, the show also presents Dr. Chi Park in a similar light. Dr. Chi Park’s parent arrived from Korea and Philippines, working their best to send their daughter to the best schools making sure she got the proper education. This shows how the “model minority” discourse of Horatio Alger myth is applied to this character. She is shown as a first generation Asian American who worked hard to get to where she is, who went from rags to riches, and now has a reputable occupation.

Additionally, Park is also considered to be a part of the “model minority variant,” as “yellow peril.” She is a successful doctor, working under the best diagnostician in the country. Her being successful in the medical profession, reinforces the idea that Asian Americans ultimately pose a threat to the U.S. taking the jobs of other Americans who could’ve had the potential to succeed in medicine; if not for the mass amount of Asians/Asian Americans taking all the notable jobs.

chi kissing chase.gif

Another stereotype the show tackles, is how Dr. Chi Park’s romantic interests are not in other Asian Americans. She falls for Dr. Chase and Dr. House, who are both white, reinforcing the stereotype that “Asian and Asian American women as romantic objects for white men.”

tumblr chi park

Dr. Park’s anger issues, which is always highlighted throughout the show, implies that she can’t be the rational and calm doctor like the others. Again, as Ono and Pham discuss, this shows how Asian Americans are “incapable of being the kind of doctor who cares about patients,” caring more about their selves and their problems. In turn, Park’s anger issues allows the other white doctors to become the “ideal doctor.”

With these stereotypes highlighted in the show, they reflect the codes and conventions  discussed in Ono and Pham’s reading. Not only are these stereotypes magnified in this show, but in other popular shows as well, like Vince Masuka in Dexter and Mindy Lahiri in The Mindy Project. With continuously allowing Asian and Asian American characters to play stereotypical roles, there will be less diversity of roles they can play in the television. This will not only reinforce the never-ending cycle of stereotypical-ness among Asian and Asian American roles, but restrict actors from being able to branch out from being a doctor and they will continue to be typecast.

Discussion Questions: 

  1. With more frequent Asian/Asian American actors in television such as Priyanka Chopra in Quantico, Ken Jeong in Dr. Ken, and Aziz Ansari in Master of None, do you think there should be a continuous proper representation of the Asian minority or now there is too much? Do you think these actors are breaking stereotypes and allowing more Asian/Asian Americans to branch out or work still needs to be done?
  2. Do you still see these stereotypical roles still present in television today? If so, which shows and how?
  3. Is the “model minority,” a term coined in the 1960s, still a threat to the U.S. workforce today?

Thank you so much for reading!! Any thoughts and comments are welcome 🙂

Related Readings: 

Kent A. Ono and Vincent Pham, Asian Americans and the Media: Chapter 5, “Threatening Model Minorities: The Asian American Horatio Alger Story”

 

BLOG POST (Module 5): GURO BERGSVAND, Constructed Perception in Americas Next Top Model

WARNING: A bit of profanity

Angelea – Americas Next Top Model

In this clip we can see Angelea Preston, who is clearly frustrated with her situation in the 17th cycle of Americas Next Top Model (ANTM). She has just been on the loosing team of a challenge that included an on the spot interview with all the contestants. She had received feedback saying that she was being too formal, and not herself. The judges wanted to see more of her personality. She is clearly upset, and strongly disagree with the feedback she is given.

In her article, Divas, Evil Black Bitches, and Bitter Black Women, Kimberly Springer looks into how media is especially discriminating and racist against women of color, not only people of color. Springer uses the concept of intersectionality, defined as “examining/investigating structural oppression from multiple perspectives at once,” while emphasizing her analysis of black women in media texts, highlighting that the women that she is studying are women, as well as black women. Angelea is both black and a woman. One can argue that she falls under what Springer would contend as the stereotype of an “angry black woman,” after the post-civil rights discourse and post feminist discourse has generated stereotypes that reappear in popular media. Springer addresses this in her article when she describes the stereotypical black women as constantly “difficult, lazy, obstructive, manipulative, and unnecessarily hostile to their fellow contestants.” It might be hard to see all of these characteristics in the short clip I shared, however, some of the characteristics are there. Her fellow contestant seems to find her difficult and angry. Angelea claims that when she was trying to be professional the judges wanted to see more of the hood-girl. She expresses her frustration of not feeling like she is being able to win by being herself.

One of the questions here is whether or not, or how much, is created through the editing process. Springer uses the concept of manipulated consent when reflecting on the stereotypes of black women in popular media. She claims that when you agree join a reality show you basically say “yes” to the editors “doing whatever” they want with you, but she argues that this is a bit manipulative because the different contestants believe that everyone is edited the same way. What they do not realize is the stereotypes the producers are capable of creating through the editing process. Those who edit the footage have a lot of power, and when it comes to the clip of Angelea it is possible to spot places when clipping could have been used. For example, the clip is mainly from the bus ride home from the challenge, but when the other contestant are expressing their thoughts about Angelea, she is in a private room. Therefore, these clips could potentially have been from different situations but put together to reinforce the picture created of Angelea as the “angry black woman.” Another technique used by producers to create stereotypes is by knowing how to “push the right buttons” in order to get the reaction they want from the contestants to create better, or more interesting television. Angelea is clearly upset with this situation, but do you think the producers purposely made her mad by touching on something personal in order to portray Angelea as the villain?

What do you guys think? Please comment your thoughts below!

 

Discussion Questions:

  1. Tyra Banks is the main person behind ANTM, and is one of the most famous black models of all time. Is it questionable that her show has had a tendency of producing the “angry black woman” in almost every cycle? Do you think this is in fact an editing problem that could be easily fixed with a different course of direction?
  2. In ANTM there is not only the stereotypes of black woman that are repeated in every season, but this is the stereotype that seems to be the most prevalent one. Why do you think this is?
  3. There are a set of expectations to how the stereotype of a black lady should act and carry herself in different situations according to Springer. Do you think the stereotype of the respectable black women who has control of all facets of her life is impossible for reality TV contestant to fulfill, in spite of editing and other triggers created by the producers enabled to create drama?

 

Reading referrenced:

“Divas, Evil Black Bitches, and Bitter Black Women” – Kimberly Springer

SAMPLE BLOG POST for 118AC: Problematic Representations of Asian Americans in Television

For this course, you will be required to post on this section blog. Julia, one of the other fabulous GSIs for this course, generated a sample blog post based on an entry from a previous student’s contribution. To get a get a good grade for your blog post, you will need to include the following elements:  summary of the show/performance, analysis, youtube links, questions, and relevant reading.

See below for a good sample post.

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In of season 7, episode 21 CW’s Supernatural the narrative introduced an Asian American character Kevin Tran (played by Osric Chau).

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MyeBUZyDZuE

Unfortunately, the initial introduction of this character is rife with Asian American stereotypes. Littering the walls of Kevin’s room are scholastic awards from elementary school all the way through his high school years. This promotes the “model minority” stereotype of Asian Americans who are positioned as a successful minority in order to put down other minorities such as African Americans.

Another aspect of the “model minority” stereotype is the idea that, as Ono and Pham put it, Asian Americans are “shamefully competitive, [and] desperate to get ahead” alongside a robotic character lacking emotional depth.

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Kevin’s computer screen displays this stereotype as it is full of an obsessively detailed scheduled coupled with a timer that controls Kevin’s practicing and studying down to the minute. The lack of emotional depth is portrayed when Kevin expresses a need for a perfect math score and then has no idea what to write for his personal statement

Throughout the early episodes of Kevin’s appearances on Supernatural Kevin’s identity is reduced to an external characteristic; that he’s in “Advanced Placement”. Not only does this singularly define Kevin as an overachieving student, it also indicates the perpetual foreigner stereotype in that Kevin’s English is awkward. Very few, if any, high school students reference Advanced Placement classes as “Advanced Placement”, usually shortening the term to “AP”.

Even Osric Chau admits that this initial portrayal of Kevin is “everything I’ve tried not to be… it’s everything my mom wanted me to be”.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z93IWLK5YVA

This reduction of character is bemoaned by Ali in his article, “Portrayal of Asian Men in Cinema”, as well as the use of Asian characters as either an emasculated butt-of-the-joke or a martial arts master. Interestingly enough, Osric Chau is actually very proficient and award-winning when it comes to martial arts but Supernatural does not showcase it.

Then comes the later transformation of Kevin Tran, what Osric Chau says is “the character that best represents the [Supernatural] audience and fandom”. Osric claims that Kevin represents the fandom through Kevin’s story: getting thrown into a high-paced, adrenaline-pumping series of events but sticking it out to be better in the end.

Kevin, after surviving multiple attacks and kidnappings, transforms on the show into a gun-toting, magic-using, demon punching man with a hair cut. The stereotypical aspects of Kevin’s character were thrown away, but was his cultural identity also thrown out?

Discussion Questions:

What are ways to positively portray Asian Americans onscreen without reinforcing the model minority stereotype?

How important is the rate of progress? Is there an “enough for now”?

How harmful is “ethnic/yellow yellowface”?

Are comedic roles (such as those played by Ken Jeong) more harm than good?

Relevant Readings: Ono and Pham, “Threatening Model Minorities” and Ali, “Portrayal of Asian Men in Cinema”

Reply below if you have questions about format/ wordpress/ or the blog assignment.

Welcome to Juan Manuel’s section!

“Ambiente Familiar” Mitrovica Danza Contemporánea (Mexico City) Dirección: Andrea Chirinos Intérpretes: Lilian Coffen, Luis Díaz, Nadia Lartige, Lilian Muller, Andrea Chirinos

Scholars, hi!

Welcome to the space of the nobodies and the forgotten! I’m Juan Manuel. I will be your GSI for summer 2017. As of three weeks ago, I am a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate in performance studies. My work examines choreography and contemporary dance across the United States-Mexico borders.  My current research project gives specific attention to Mexican contemporary choreographers working in cities such as Mexico City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. I just started my field work this year; that is, I am out and about conducting interviews with choreographers, watching performances, listening to debates about performance theory and aesthetics in Mexico City, and watching a lot of dance films/shows in dark spaces with strangers that I will never know. My future project will examine the role of the dance quebradita in non-traditional, migrant receiving cities such as New Orleans, Salt Lake City, and Omaha. Qubradita was a dance genre popular among working-class migrants in the United States and the rural populations in Mexico.

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Promotional image for the Colombian film for Los Nadie (2016).

For this blog, I am choosing the theme “the nobodies.” I decided to take inspiration from the 2016 film Los Nadie (The Nobodies). The film follows a group of punk youth in the barrios of Medellín, Colombia. They use juggling, friendship, and punk music as a way of life. This story charts my personal interest into the spaces and forms of belonging where the nobodies and the forgotten hang out. I grew up undocumented in Utah. As a working-class Mexican existing outside of the legal bounds of political citizenship and at times below the poverty line, my sense of belonging  was informed by being considered the worst threat to the imaginary of “America.” I consumed television, performances, and music that gave me a sense of belonging to the nobodies and anybody’s: the working-class labor force in and outside of Mexico. I watched telenovelas ( Marimar), listened to Mexican rock/punk (Rebel’dand Mexican banda (El Mexicano), and cried repeatedly while watching films such as Los Olvidados (The Young and the Damned) (1950), West Side Story (1961), and Macario (1960).

Pina Pellicer in a still image from the film Macario (1960).
Pina Pellicer in a still image from the Mexican film Macario (1960).
Anybody's wants to be part of the Jets. West Side Story (1961)
Anybody’s wants to be part of the Jets. West Side Story (1961)
A still image from the performance Amarillo (2009), produced by the Mexico City-based company Linea de Sombra.
A still image from the performance Amarillo (2009), produced by the Mexico City-based company Linea de Sombra. The story follows the many nobodies that try to enter the United States from Mexico.

When I am not watching a performance or writing about a choreographer, I spend my time on Netflix watching the London-based show Chewing Gum. The show is written by and stars Michaela Coel, who plays Tracey, a working-class girl who lives in a municipal housing project. I look forward to working with you as we examine television, social media, and performance. We will work together through this labyrinth of nobodies, anybody’s, and the forgotten to understand how power works through the intersections of gender, race, sexuality, faith, and class.

Promotional image for the series Chewing Gum
Promotional image for the series Chewing Gum