This week’s readings were on the topic of entertainment media.
Ch. 3 talked about how powerful seemingly ordinary TV shows can be. I had no idea that the Pentagon provides subsidies to TV shows and films that portray the military in a positive light. It makes you wonder what ideals other shows are promoting. The main takeaway point of this chapter for me was understanding and looking beyond the surface to see that there are hidden agendas everywhere. Part of the democratic process is to be informed, so it’s pretty astounding how we as consumers simply view certain shows for their shallow surface value. This idea was illustrated in the chapter’s analyzation of Chocolat, a film I just assumed was about a woman, her daughter and some really tasty chocolates. Maybe we all know on a subconscious level that shows like Real Housewives or MTV’s Sweet 16 are all about materialism and superficiality, but it’s like a train wreck from which we can’t pry our eyes. And obviously the rest of the population agrees, which is why there are so many spinoffs and franchises of something like Real Housewives. Shows like Honey Boo Boo, Little People Big World, Amish Mafia, Gypsy Wedding and the like quench our seemingly insatiable thirst for watching people on the fringes of society—the freaks. But this is nothing new—think about circus sideshows. We are entertained and spellbound by the “spectacle.” The chapter also discusses one of my favorite shows, Sex and the City. Though I understand the criticism, I don’t think the show is a bad example. By watching the show, you realize you aren’t JUST a “Carrie” or a “Samantha”…. You’re all of them. Your boyfriend or spouse isn’t Steve, or Mr. Big, or Aiden or Smith. He’s all of them. People are multi-faceted, and though the show seems to pigeon-hole each character, it also shows viewers that you are more than the sum of your parts, and you can be Carrie one day and Samantha the next. An issue I do feel is unrealistic is the financial aspect—how can Carrie afford designer shoes and a great apartment when she’s just a columnist? It’s definitely providing an unrealistic and highly romanticized view of a journalist’s life. Not only that, but for Charlotte too, who works in a gallery.
Another issue raised in this chapter was globalization. Popular American shows are syndicated around the world (“entertainment is more globalized than news,” p. 53). But many of these shows contain cultural norms, references and rituals that are specific to this country—so how can we measure or account for the way in which other countries will take those norms? Example: I have been told by many of the Asian students in this college that they watched American shows like Gossip Girl in China. They probably thought that’s how many Americans behave and live, which isn’t actually true. How does this impact their view of American culture?
Ch. 17: What influence or implications do cultural or ethnic “niche” shows have? Example: Jersey Shore (“Italian Americans”); Shahs of Sunset (Persian/Jewish Americans); Duck Dynasty/Swamp People (rural/country Americans)? What kind of example are these shows setting for young people? As a person of Persian heritage watching Shahs of Sunset, on one hand I was appalled at how the characters were basically caricatures of Persian behaviors/stereotypes, but part of me was happy that Persians weren’t being ignored on TV for once (or portrayed in an unfavorable light, like as a terrorist). Which is the lesser of the two evils?
Strasser’s article about the boy and the Easy Bake oven reminded me of a memory from my childhood. Growing up an only child, I only had mostly female toys such as Barbies. Whenever my male cousin would come over, he would play Barbies with me. He made me promise not to tell anyone—probably because he was older than me and had been already indoctrinated by gender stereotypes. I, on the other hand, had no idea why it was socially unacceptable for him to play with dolls until much later. (By the way, he’s a straight guy… if that matters at all.) We see men in traditionally “female” jobs/roles such as fashion designers and assume they’re gay. The other day I was looking at the staff of Elle Magazine and saw Kevin O’Malley’s photo. Joe Zee is a very well-known gay Elle staff member, but I was a little shocked when I read Mr. O’Malley’s biography and it said he was married and lived in NY with his four boys. I consider myself a pretty progressive person and yet I had fallen victim to easy stereotyping. Lesson: don’t assume.
Re: Harassment, Misogyny and Silencing on YouTube, I found it disturbing to read the user comments after her YouTube post. But sadly, this is common. Feminism has such a negative connotation—still—and people don’t understand its implications or its very basic definition. This article discusses the Sarkeesian issue further. Does the physical appearance of the female matter? If Sarkeesian had been a hyper-sexualized blonde woman, would she have been addressed differently? What do looks have to do with it?
“Anita Sarkeesian is controversial because she levels a critique at video games that suggests they are a male-centric entertainment medium. Some people feel threatened by this; others think she’s wrong.” – Erik Kain
– How do norms and rituals communicated in popular American shows shown in foreign countries impact their view of American culture?
– How psychologically harmful are reality TV shows to youth populations?
– How does reality TV promote ideas about American social mobility? Does it seem easy or hard to attain based on what you see depicted on-screen?
– What influence or implications do cultural or ethnic “niche” shows have?
This was a really good article about Asian American stereotypes on TV.
Nicki Karimipour; firstname.lastname@example.org