Friday, August 7, 2009

Final Project

Esquire a “Magazine for men’ was to a great extent about women” (Breazeale 231). Similarly, Unilever’s line of Axe grooming products for men is to some extent about women. Just as Esquire magazine, Axe objectifies and exploits women in order to create a niche for men in the beauty industry and show that their targeted consumers are unequivocally heterosexual. All of their commercials boast that any unattractive and undesirable man can use their products to instantly become sexually appealing. Our “Hatchet” commercial exposes this marketing strategy by portraying the product user as comparably unattractive to females and appealing to males.

Works Cited
Breazeale, Kenon. “In Spite of Women; Esquire Magazine and the Construction of the Male Consumer.” Gender, Race, and Class in Media 2003:230-242.

My Contributions to the group project:

  • Assisted in Screenwriting
  • Played the drug addict/gwaking passerby
  • Wrote the paragraph featured at the begining of the video
  • Snuck Pizza into the library (with the help of Keshia)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Are We Color Blind?

Women are continuously berated with messages telling them there is always something they can do to become beautiful. Racially diverse women are told that light skin is more beautiful and are inundated with cosmetics that bleach one’s skin. The same company approaches Caucasian women with tanning products, informing them that “exotic” women have a greater sex appeal. The dichotomy that exists between the ideal skin color of racially diverse women and Caucasian women subjects females to a hypocritical and unattainable ideal of beauty which makes them more easily marginalized.

Anastasia Higginbotham argues in her article “Teen Mags: How to Get a Guy, Drop 20 Pounds, and Lose Your Self Esteem” that the American media is nothing more than a “blur of contradictory messages” (Higginbotham, 96). Advertisements constantly present female consumers with catch-22 images, boasting clothing, accessories and make up that will improve their looks. Skin lightening and tanning creams provide women with this same self contempt, but at a greater cost. While make-up and apparel are fairly inconsequential commodities that can easily be altered, skin color is much more immutable and defining. “If they really wanted girls to love their bodies, they would give them a few more…colors to choose from” (Higginbotham, 96) observes Anastasia Higginbotham.

It goes without saying that relentless assessment of women against a paradoxical ideal of something so defining as skin tone decreases her sense of self worth. According to Naomi Wolf author of The Beauty Myth, constant judgment of arbitrary traits is “An ideology that makes women ‘feel worthless’… destroying women physically and depleting us psychologically” (Wolf, 124-125). Worn-out self esteem caused by relentless judgment of identifying traits like skin color makes women less competitive and easier to marginalize. Beauty is with out a doubt the “best belief system that keeps male dominance intact” (Wolf, 121).

Works Cited

Higginbotham, Anastasia. “Teen Mags: How to Get a Guy, Drop 20 Pounds, and Lose Your Self Esteem.” 93-96

Wolf, Naomi. “The Beauty Myth”. 120-125


Friday, July 17, 2009

Blog Post 1

“Recess” was a series on the Disney Channel that exemplified the adventures of six, fourth grade friends during recess. In the episode, “The Beauty Contest,” the clique of catty stereotypical girly-girls known as “the Ashley’s” plot revenge on the tomboy Spinelli by entering her in a beauty contest. Inspired by her ambitious African American jock friend, Vince, Spinelli becomes determined to win the beauty contest. As Spinelli’s self-proclaimed coach, Vince oversees her transformation into a sure beauty pageant winner. During the contest, however, Spinelli is overcome by a great sense of morality and individualism which drives her to admit to the judges that she is in fact a tomboy and not an artificial girly-girl. Moved by her honesty, the judges award Spinelli the first prize for “Being herself.” This particular episode of “Recess” harbors inferential racism which portrays all of the characters of color in a negative light, thus promoting multiple subtle hegemonic images. However, this same episode also exposes multiple commonly exaggerated female character tropes and proves them to be inadequate and artificial, thereby airing an overtly counter hegemonic message.

All of the girls who are labeled as “Ashley’s” share multiple common attributes; they are all portrayed as upper class, catty, synthetic, and manipulative. These girls seek to humiliate the tomboy, Spinelli, by entering her in the pageant. They specifically stage interactions with her on multiple occasions just so they can belittle and ridicule her. In fact, one of the Ashley’s even trips Spinelli during the beauty contest. Eventually, the blonde Caucasian Ashley visits Spinelli after the finalists are announced, and congratulates her opponent on her transformation, “I mean, before you were just a regular, low class kid. But now, you’re just like one of us,” she gushes.

Spinelli’s transformation supposedly allows her to “emerge from the chrysalis a beautiful butterfly,” as her friend Mickey puts it. However, the transformation shows Spinelli modifying purely physical characteristics: her walk, her hair, her clothes, and her manner of speech. Pozner explains this behavior by recognizing that girls can win beauty competitions or become “perfect tens simply for (sic) being pretty, passive and intellectually unthreatening.” (Pozner, 98) In the episode under question Spinelli does exactly this. She transitions from an “untamed,” aggressive smart-mouth to a makeup and hair-product laden, submissive, pageant doll. Spinelli’s new image almost verbatim fits the promiscuous, antagonistic, manipulative “harem girl” of the reality world described by Opener, “In this unreal world, women aren’t just stupid-they’re also catty and bitchy” he claims. (Pozner, 98)

David Newman a well-known Sociologist explains, “More generally, television continues to present stereotypes that show women as shallow, vain, and materialistic characters whose looks overshadow all else.” (Newman, 92) He also asserts that, “The media-most notably, television-play a significant role in providing the public with often inaccurate and oversimplified information that indirectly shapes attitudes.” (Newman, 104)

However, as Stuart Hall delineates in his essay “The Whites of Their Eyes,” “If critics of the media subscribe to too simple or reductive view of their operations, this inevitably lacks credibility and weakens the case they are making because the theories and critiques they are making don’t square with reality.” (Hall, 89) In other words, overt sexism and oversimplification in this particular case strips the “harem-girl” character trope of its credibility. Because an honest tomboy wins the beauty contest over passive aggressive, calculating drones, young girls learn through positive affirmation that it is OK to possess rugged, manly qualities.

Although the episode tackles sexism in a head on, counter hegemonic fashion, it addresses race in a much more inferential and inconspicuous manner. In fact, the audience is exposed to exactly three ethnically diverse characters, all of whom have negative ulterior motives. Furthermore, two out of four of the antagonists, “the Ashley’s” are of color. Of these four Ashley’s, two are Caucasian, one is African American (with kinky hair), and one appears to be Latina (with stereotypically curly hair and noticeably thicker eyebrows than any other male or female characters). It is also interesting to note that it is the Latina Ashley and African American Ashley who are the first to be eliminated from the beauty pageant.

Similarly, Pozner observed that in most reality TV shows, “women of color are tokenized and often eliminated shortly after each series debut.” (Pozner, 98) This episode of a children’s TV show is no exception. The two racially diverse Ashley’s are the first to be eliminated from the beauty contest.

The inferential racism is further propagated by the fact that all three of the judges arbitrating the competition are all Caucasian individuals. This episode of Recess provides a prime example of Newman’s idea that the normative group is able to define and pass judgment on minority groups. It does so by reinforcing repression and subjugation of different races to grossly misconstrued and negative representations that are inevitably unsuccessful. It is in this way that “Media spectacles demonstrate who has power and who is powerless…They dramatize and legitimate the power of the forces that be and show the powerless that they must stay in their places or be oppressed.” (Kellner, 9)

American youth are unknowingly subjected to racist ideas through shows such as “Recess” which have “inscribed in them as a set of unquestioned assumptions. These enable racist statements to be formulated without ever bringing into awareness the racist predicates on which the statements are grounded.” (Hall, 91)

Although the episode “The Beauty Contest” of the Disney channel TV series “Recess” conveys subtle directives against racial diversity that support hegemony, it does openly addresses sexist images propagating counter hegemony and encouraging young women to “be themselves.” Such dual messaging allows media companies to further camouflage racist ideas. Bifurcated portrayals are able to pass unquestioned by mass audiences making it easier for such subtle messages to reach American youth. Much like the Trojan horse, this episode of children’s media presents kids with subtle and hegemonic racist messages gift wrapped in a blatant counter hegemonic anti sexist plotline. (What media companies are really trying to say is “Be yourself”-as long as you are white”)

Works Cited

Pozner, Jennifer L. "The Unreal World." Learning Gender. N.p.: n.p., n.d. 96-99.

Newman, David M. Identities and Inequalities: Exploring the Intersections of Race, Class, Gender, 

and Sexuality. N.p.: McGraw-Hill Companies, n.d.

Hall, Stuart. "The Whites of Their Eyea, Racist Ideologies and the Media." Gender Race and Class in Media, A Text-Reader. 2003. Ed. Gail Dines and Jean M Humez. 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 2003. 89-93.

Kellner, Douglas. "Cultural Studies, Multiculturalism, and Media Culture." Gender Race and Class in Media, A Text-Reader. 2003. Ed. Gail Dines and Jean M Humez. 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 2003. 9-20.

Lull, James. "Hegemony." Gender Race and Class in Media, A Text-Reader. 2003. Ed. Gail Dines and Jean M Humez. 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 2003. 61-66.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Assignment 1

Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson has undeniably been the topic of much discussion in the past week or so. It goes with out saying that he was a trendsetter and an idol to many but was also the center of much controversy. The "King of Pop" was undeniably neither white nor black, male nor female, and his sexuality remains a mystery.
How then was such an enigmatic and undefined individual able to conquer the musical industry in a world where so much is defined and delineated?

Victoria's Secret
I can't say I shop at Victoria's Secret tooo often but I do love the few items from the brand that I do splurge on. Most women undoubtedly feel frustrated and undermined by popular culture and the idolized images of skinny/petite women with superflous "assets," I would have to adit that I have always been amused/ thankful for the White heterosexual males in cushy boardrooms that likely come up with these images. If it wasn't for them my currently pleasureable and choice-filled shopping experience would probably turn into a never ending scavenger hunt for the right sizes.
It is rather ironic how society's perception of beautiful changes so constantly and completely. About a century ago the word beautiful was used to describe a woman who was pale skinned and buxom. Today the same word is used to describe women who are tanned and emaciated. In fact it is likely that the word "beautiful" is percieved differently in almost every culture around the world. "Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder" (Cheesy and cliche, I know)

Russel Peters
For a "Post Racist" world we are truellyy very racist. How else could comedians such as Russel Peters climb to the heights at which they currently revel? Call me a fruit but in the perfect world that exists in my mind, racism should be defined as the "Ability to recognize and celebrate the differences between individuals" and according to my own personal definition above we should all be racist. This is what I believe Russel Peters is able to do he openly airs the differences and stereotypes that exist in today's society, he spares no race and often proves these generalizations to be false.

Grease has always been a classic and is often used as the musical at various high schools but wowww this blogger is actually kind of completely right. I never did like that Sandy changed at the end but I never took it tooo seriously either.

Tabloids you find at the Airport