Tuesday, December 16, 2008
When discussing the issue of the reporting of criminal activity by the media, it must be acknowledged that you can find stories of white criminals (typically white men). The majority of the crimes you see reported regarding white men are more high-tech and of much higher “status” than the ones which you hear concerning minority criminal activity. By “higher status” I do not mean that I condone their behavior in any way. I simply mean that the white criminal activity that you see is usually that which resembles the scandals of Enron and Watergate. These crimes involved embezzlement on a grand scale, in contrast to the crimes involving drugs and gang activity which are characteristic portrayals of minorities.
In contrast to minority women who are often portrayed as hypersexualized, white women are characterized as “civilized” and “proper.” This is common in films which are more recent as well as those which are more dated. In the classic musical My Fair Lady—the film which is based on it—the overbearing, bossy, commanding bachelor Henry Higgins “shapes” the poor Eliza Doolittle (played by Audrey Hepburn), into what a woman of English high society was supposed to be. He teaches her how to speak as those in high society do and to walk with grace and poise, as well as how to address others. He actually wages that he will make her more civilized and presentable enough to attend a royal function. This portrayal of the “civilized” and “proper” white upper-class woman has become a paragon to many white women as well as many women of color. Hepburn’s character, after she becomes “civilized,” is a goal to be obtained to many women. She is the “superior” woman because she is accepted into high society and is even thought to be a Hungarian royal-born at the royal function that she attends.
Overall, the portrayals of whites within the media are vastly superior to those of minorities, even in the cases of criminal activity reporting. The inequities between these portrayals are exceedingly obvious to most people, but seem to be largely ignored.
A particularly famous instance of a white woman playing a minority character is in John Cromwell’s 1942 hit movie, Son of Fury. In this film, the famous Gene Tierney plays a woman native to a tropical island opposite the equally famous Tyrone Power. Tierney’s character is named Eve by Benjamin Blake (Power) when he “discovers” their tribe on the remote island. Eve is incredibly hypersexualized within the film, and spends the majority of her time trying to “get in Ben’s pants” as it were. She is also shown to be inferior to him through her use of simple sounds to communicate, whereas her male co-star speaks English.
While researching for this blog I was disheartened to find that so many minority roles have been played by white actors and actresses. I was even more disheartened when I watched these films and rarely found anything that was not stereotypical of the ethnicities of the characters. It is my hope that the media will no longer use white actors and actresses to play the parts of racial minorities and will, instead, find actors who are of the same race and ethnicity as the characters which they are portraying.
Monday, December 1, 2008
In every instance in which Miss Swan appears she speaks in a stereotyped voice style which has been generalized to all Asians. One particular example of this is the skit in which Miss Swan goes through the drive-thru at "McRonald's." In this skit (link above) she is trying to order food, but confuses the man working in the drive-thru when she cannot understand him. Her answers do not match his questions, and eventually he becomes fed up and the skit concludes with him simply throwing the food into her window. Her final words state that she has done this on purpose in order to get the free food. This instance portrays the stereotype that Asian immigrants to the U.S. are either too lazy to learn to speak "proper" English or do not learn "proper" English in order to manipulate situations. The latter of these two scenarios is not as widespread as the first, but in my dealings with others, I have often heard people say that Asians really can speak "proper" English, but they choose not to in order to be annoying. This stereotype was popularized in the film Dude, Where's My Car?, which starred Ashton Kutcher and Sean William Scott as two stoners out to find Kutcher's car. While in search of the missing car, the pair go through a drive-thru Chinese restaurant where the employee in the drive-thru keeps repeating "and then..." to the point at which Kutcher become so flustered that he starts smashing the drive-thru speaker. This stereotype became immortalized in that moment, and has been further perpetuated by the endless "and then..." jokes told by those who have seen the film. Miss Swan's manipulation of the "McRonald's" drive-thru employee is also a way in which this--quite frankly--annoying stereotype has been perpetuated.
Below is the link to another clip in which Miss Swan is portrayed as lacking "proper" English skills. The skit portrays Miss Swan as a 1-900 phone-sex worker. A man calls the number, and Miss Swan speaks in her stereotypical Asian accent. She proceeds to confuse the man and aggravate him. This portrayal also shows the hypersexualization of the Miss Swan character. Rarely would one see a portrayal of a white woman as a phone-sex operator on television. While the situation is meant to be comedic, it does subconsciously reinforce the stereotype of Asian women as hypersexualized due to the fact that Miss Swan is "talking dirty" to the man on the other end of the phone call.
Alex Borstein's portrayals of Miss Swan are another way in which the stereotypes surrounding Asian women are demonstrated within the media. While the show MadTV is known as a comedic skit show, it is easy to see that it is a constant reinforcer of the stereotypes and, therefore, the marginalization of Asian women as well as many other minority groups.
Monday, November 17, 2008
One actor who has come to play many Asian roles is the Bobby Lee. Bobby Lee (pictured at below as an Asian woman) is a regular actor on the popular show MadTV and has also appeared in other television series including Curb Your Enthusiasm, Mind of Mencia, and American Dad. His experience in film includes roles in Pineapple Express, Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, and Accidentally on Purpose. A predominant theme in his career has been the portrayal of stereotypical Asian figures. In many MadTV skits he has played a Korean scientist and a Japanese high school football player, as well as the character that is often referred to as the Non-typical Asian. In this latter role he plays a character that is often categorized into the stereotypical Asian roles of being a "brainiac" or bad driver, but his character always denies being any of these things. However, his other characters in MadTV are consistent with the aforementioned stereotypes of Asians. His contrasting portrayals are somewhat disconcerting. While he has portrayed characters that do not follow the stereotypes of Asians, it cannot be denied that his portrayals of these stereotypical figures are a form of secondary oppression. While they are done in jest, his characterization of these stereotypes serves as a way to further these conceptions which are widely held throughout the public.
Another stereotype that is dominates not only the Anime and Manga forms of animation but is also a growing trend in film is that of the horny Asian school girl. This figure is pictured as wearing a short, tight school uniform which includes a skirt, white, blouse, tie or bow. This character is, oftentimes, a young girl, but she is drawn as having large breasts which are accentuated by her tight clothing. These types of images serve to perpetuate the stereotype of the hypersexualized Asian, a common portrayal of minority women.
A common binary in the portrayal of Asian women is that they are either quiet and submissive or, like many Asian men in film, ass-kicking martial arts masters. The first element of this binary plays into the common perception that Asian women are quiet and submissive, setting them up to be the other to the outspoken, self-sufficient white women of the Western world. Because of this stereotype the internet bride market has a high demand for Asian women. Men believe that they will be getting a wife who will be completely submissive to their will. As a result of this perception, many Asian mail-order and internet brides either take on these personas—possibly denying a part of who they truly are—or are sent back to their countries of origin because they refuse to conform to this stereotype. The image of the Asian woman as a martial arts expert often entails that she is also a cruel and unfeeling woman. One example of this portrayal is in the movie Rush Hour 2. In the film, Zhang Ziyi (pictured above) plays a villain who is a martial arts expert that is cold and heartless. She fights Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker’s characters with fierce veracity and seems to get a sick pleasure in hurting others.
While the images of Asians in the media have made some progress over the years, it can be argued that this progress has been slow-moving and minimal. Like other minorities, the stereotypes of people of Asian origin still dominate their representations within the media.
Friday, November 7, 2008
While I will not argue that the conflicts in the Middle East are not newsworthy, I cannot help but notice that the headlines under the umbrella of the Middle East are typically also found on the tabs that pertain to the global threat of terrorism. In fact, every story that I looked at pertaining to terrorism also pertained to the Middle East. One cannot help but be curious as to why this pattern exists. If one was to dig deeper, would they find that terrorism comes from or occurs solely in the Middle East? The answer to that question is a resounding "no." However, the media has chosen to put a great amount of effort into turning the public's eye in the direction of the Middle East when the subject of terrorism is addressed.
This type of focus on the Middle East has assisted in the perpetuation of the "terrorist" stigma that can follow those of Middle-Eastern decent. Studies have shown that these images from all media sources influence the ways in which even children view those who are different from themselves. If the majority of what we see in the news or other media sources regarding those of Middle-Eastern decent associates them with terrorism, how is the public at large to see images which are contradictory to those mentioned before and form opinions which do not make this association?
The link below is to an article with the headine, "Bombings Kill 5 in Iraq." The main point of the article is to report the incidences. However, the lack of images of the Middle-East as a place not riddled with terrorists has led to a disturbing trend in American attitudes toward those of Middle-Eastern decent. Another problematic aspect of this story is the image that accompanies it. The caption reads, "A U.S. soldier secures the site of a bombing Thursday in central Baghdad." In this statement there are sparks of the idea that the U.S. is somehow rescuing the Middle-East from terrorism. It leads one to believe that the U.S. is the only thing standing between the countries of the Middle-East and oblivion. Whatever the reality may be, it is detrimental to state that the U.S. is acting as some kind of savior to another region of the world. To follow this train of thought is to slip into the "us vs. them" binary, in which we (the U.S.), are all-powerful and great, and those in and from the Middle-East are childlike and in need of being rescued. This leads to the portrayal of those of Middle-Eastern decent as less than Americans, as well as the perpetual stereotype of all Middle-Easterners as terrorists. If one was to follow this train of thought, one would inevitably come to the conclusion that, for so much violence and terrorism to be occurring there, most of the people there must be okay with that type of behavior or participating in it. Stories such as these do not communicate the entire truth concerning the Middle-East, only the dark and violent aspects.
Sunday, November 2, 2008
This trailer is an excellent example of the media's portrayal of African Americans. It shows the gang violence which many have come to associate with black neighborhoods, as well as the hypersexualization of black females that is a prevalent image within the media machine. The images contained in this trailer, as well as in the movie itself, were meant to communicate the reality of some of the problems that exist in some black neighborhoods. The unfortunate truth is that much of the public has come to generalize these images to all black neighborhoods and the individuals who exist within them.
Below is the link to a clip from the Wayans brothers movie, Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking You Juice in the Hood. It also demonstrates many of the same themes as the trailer above, but in a comedic way. This is a common theme throughout the movies of the Wayans brothers. This could be addressed as a form of secondary marginalization in the way it perpetuates the stereotypes of African Americans which have been produced in many other forms of the media.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Above is a link to a blog site (powered by WordPress) where multiple revelant aspects are discussed that fall under the umbrella of Race in the Media. The tag line on the page is "a blog on race and media...and why it matters." This statement is the simplest expression of what those involved with this blog site do. The basis of this site is the discussion of the way in which race is portrayed within the media. Much like my own blog, they have entries addressing certain aspects of their topic, but the site has a much larger base. On the home page one can search through their blog entries chronologically, by category, or by entering terms into a search bar. It is evident from the categories included in their list, that many more of the blogs as of late have addressed the upcoming presidential elections. This is not surprising due to society's interest in this election because of the current economic climate and the possibility of a president of color entering the White House. This site offers much more than just one persons views. You can read the blogs of many people addressing each topic, and you can even click on a link and watch "Meet the Bloggers," a show where guests who are knowledgable about the current topic come in and have discussions with a few bloggers who have done extensive writing on the subject matter.
The most recent topic is titled, "Race in the Presidential Race." They have included work by the bloggers who will be featured on the show as well as video clips from YouTube which address the issue at hand. I found the site to be quite interesting. I read the work of multiple bloggers, and found that their thought were often well-articulated, and that they had done much research into the topic. Many of the blogs discussed the idea of whether or not there is a "Bradley Effect" at work in this election, with the majority of the blogs leaning toward a "no." Other topics that were discussed was the cantidates' exclusion of race from their main points within their campaigns, and the discussion of whether of not Sen John McCain is racist. This blog topic has been well discussed by the individual bloggers, and I feel that it represents the overall work done within the blog well. All-in-all, I found the blog to be quite informative and I admire the work that those involved have put into it.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Due to their cumulative placement on the so-called inferior end of the dichotomy of race in society, it is not an unheard-of or absurd conclusion that an individual person of color would be used to represent all other people of color within their ethnic group. For example, certain actors have been representative of all people of the same ethnicity within film. There have also been instances when actors of color have portrayed a person from within an entirely separate ethnic minority.
One example of this type of representation has been within the show M*A*S*H. The idea for this extremely popular show grew from the movie of the same name directed by Robert Altman in 1970 and the novel by Richard Hooker. The show was set in South Korea during the Korean War and reached millions of viewers over its eleven seasons (eight years longer than the Korean War actually lasted). Many of the extras on this show played Koreans on both sides of the war. However, it is a commonly known fact that the actors chosen to play these roles were often not of Korean descent. People whose families originated in many different Asian countries filled these roles during the course of M*A*S*H. Actors of Chinese, Japanese, Laotian, Vietnamese, and Cambodian descent were often substitutes for Korean actors. While this may have occurred due to a lack of Korean actors in the areas where the show was filmed it, at times, seems as if the show’s directors and producers felt that the American public viewed all people of Asian descent as the same. This contradicts the idea of so-called individuality in American culture because it ignores the fact that the hundreds of actors used in the show were from many separate countries and presents the idea that each Asian person is equivalent to every other person of Asian descent in their cultural beliefs, appearance, and customs.
Many actors beyond the extras in M*A*S*H who are of Asian decent have been typecast within roles which ignore their cultural heritages. The famous Chinese actress Lucy Liu has played characters of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean descent. Rosalind Chao, who appeared on M*A*S*H as an extra, is a first- generation Chinese American actress who has played Chinese and Korean characters. Michelle Krusiec (pictured at right), a Taiwanese American actress who had her first leading role in the 2004 film Saving Face, has also played roles in which she portrayed Chinese and Japanese women. The most recent and one of the most famous incidents of this type of cross-cultural portrayal by an actress was in the film Memoirs of a Geisha. In the film Ziyi Zhang, an accomplished Chinese actress and martial artist, portrayed the main character, Sayuri, a Japanese geisha.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
The representation of race within the media machine is an ongoing issue in the U.S. and in the world today. As societies advance in technology, communication, and education, the media is always present and is more than willing to put in their opinions of current events, trends, and almost everything else out on the market. In an article I found at msnbc online, the media is now putting in its critique of the issue of race within the presidential campaign. The link above is the direct link to the article.
As the article states, race has not, as of yet, come up as a major factor within either the Democratic or the Republican presidential campaigns. Both Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain have avoided bringing race into their run for the presidency in a substantial way. Representatives from both camps have stated that they feel that race will not be as large of a deciding factor for voters as many would believe. With all of the other issues on the table right now, such as the economic crisis and the war in Iraq, both candidates have demonstrated that they find race to be a much less mitigating factor in the election process than it has been in the past.
While reading this article I couldn’t help but wonder why those in the media felt compelled to write the piece. It seems to me that they are almost pushing for race to become a bigger issue within the election.
There is truth in the fact that other people within the Democratic and Republican parties have used language which has pertained to race and racism. Comments such as those by Congressman John Lewis and Governor Sarah Palin have been seen as being racially motivated. Indeed one could see how these comments might influence the public, but the question then becomes: To what extent? Will these loaded comments from other politicians influence the overall public views of Obama and McCain, or is it that extensive media coverage of these topics will influence voters?
Only time will tell for certain whether or not race will play a significant role in this presidential election. However, it seems obvious to me that articles like this one will always exist as a way in which the media can flex its influential muscles. After all, if the media did not spread the word about the comments made by these politicians outside of the presidential campaign or write stories pertaining to the topic of a candidate’s race, would it be as big of an issue in the U.S.?
Saturday, October 4, 2008
While most people go about their day not contemplating the impact that advertising truly has on the American consumer, there are many who have seen the images these ads contain and are repulsed, disgusted, offended, or at least confused by the messages that are sent. One cannot help but wonder why designer companies like Versace, Adam’s Boots, and Christian Dior would continuously exploit the female body within their advertisements. The answer is simple: profits. These types of ads work on two levels to suck the dollars out of the American consumer’s pocket.
For men, these ads state that if they buy the advertised products, then women who look like the models in these images will be attracted to them. Take, for instance a magazine advertisement for Versace couture containing a nude woman. This ad is used to market clothing but, perplexingly, the woman in the picture isn’t wearing any. The answer to the question of her portrayal within in the ad is clear. It alludes to an equation used by many advertising agencies to boost sales:
Man + Sexy Ad = Profits, Profits, PROFITS!
This Versace ad is meant to lead men to daydreams in which wearing Versace makes naked, pool-playing women appear. I don’t know about other people, but I can surely state that I have never seen a woman play pool naked, let alone a model.
Despite its blatant intent to attract men, this advertisement also works to bring in women consumers. The image perpetuates the American ideal of the woman’s body. It teaches women that this is the way in which their bodies should look. Many women who see this ad will begin to believe that, by this logic, they are less of a woman because they do not look like the model featured here. To compensate they may develop eating disorders or obsessive dieting and exercising strategies. Women may also decide that the buying of Versace products will, in a way, make them sexier and thus more attractive to the opposite sex.
The underlying message of this advertisement for Adam’s Boots would be hard to mistake: “Buy our products and she will get down on her hands and knees and lick your boots.” This advertisement is a clear example of the portrayal of the woman’s body in the media. She is depicted here as subservient and animalistic. She is posed in an almost dog-like fashion with her face low to the ground and her tongue extended. This type of animalization is not uncommon in advertisements containing women of color.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
One only has to pick up a copy of a movie with a gang in it to observe this stereotyping of black men. Movies such as John Singleton’s Boyz N the Hood and Phil Joanou’s Gridiron Gang directly depict such forms of gang violence. While the film strives to bring the detrimental effects of gang violence to the attention of not only the black community but also the rest of the general public, one cannot dismiss the fact that it is one of the few films of its kind. Another point to consider is that there are even fewer movies that depict this type of violence within white communities or other ethnic communities. Other films such as Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood, directed by Paris Barclay and written by Phil Beauman and Shawn and Marlon Wayans, make light of gang violence within the black community. The film exploits many stereotypes of the black community such as perpetual gang violence among males, black women having multiple children from multiple men, and underage parents in a comic fashion.
Other ethnic groups are portrayed in films depicting gang violence as well. The number of movies featuring gangs within the Latino culture is on the rise. Films such as Blood in, Blood Out, directed by Taylor Hackford, and Michael Pressman’s Boulevard Nights depict aspects of the violence in Latino gangs and the outcomes of such violence. Despite the existence of such movies, the fact remains that the media continues to focus more on the gangs that exist within the African American community than any other group.
Movies featuring white males involved in gang violence are relatively rare in number when compared to the number of films featuring men of color involved in gang violence. The gangs depicted in these films are usually those of Neo-Nazis, such as the gangs in Tony Kaye’s American History X, the British film This is England by Shane Meadows, and James Merendino’s SLC Punk (though there was only a short segment featuring this Neo-Nazi gang in the latter). Rarely are the white gangs in these films depicted to be committing violence on the same scale as gangs with members of ethnic minorities.
One cannot dispute the fact that, while gang violence is becoming a major aspect in films today, gangs within ethnic communities receive much more attention from the media than those within white communities. While the fact is that more gangs within minority groups exist, should this mean that the media should choose to focus on them without much regard to gangs within white communities and the dangers they present?
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Because the media is so ingrained into our society, most people have begun to rely on it for almost all information that they receive. Oftentimes, opinions expressed within the media (either implicitly or explicitly) are also construed as fact. For example, within the reporting of criminal activity in the news, how many times does one see or hear that the crime was perpetrated by a black person? Compare this number to how often a person will see a report of a crime committed by a white person. One can even examine the differences in the natures of the crimes which are being reported. The news is not solely to blame in its biased reporting of crime. Within television and film one is far more likely to see a person of color commit a crime than a white person, and even when there are an equal number of crimes portrayed, the nature of the crimes of white people are very different from the nature of the crimes of persons of color.
Another aspect I intend to examine is the representation of bodies. How are the bodies of white people portrayed within the media and how does this compare to the representation of the bodies of people of color? One can see a multitude of advertisements which portray bodies of color as “exotic” or more animalistic. On the other hand, white bodies are seen as more proper and “civilized.”
I wish to examine and critique these issues concerning the representation of race in the media along with many others throughout the semester. Along with these examinations I hope to be able to discuss with others topics such as where we draw the line and how deeply these messages and images have become ingrained into the mind of the average consumer. I am open to any suggestions that people have regarding different avenues within this topic or any sources that may be helpful. I look forward to my research into this topic that has been discussed in so many of my classes.