Monthly Archives: February 2013

Week 6 – Whiteness

1) Why do we not commonly talk of ‘white’ as racial marker?

‘Whiteness’ is an unmarked category. Richard Dyer has called it an “invisibility” of culture. It is rarely talk because of racial power position. He says that being white secures you a position, they have power, a dominant and privileged position, thus believing that they can speak, feel and act on behalf of everyone else. Being white, there are no form of anxiety attached to it. If you are white, there is a very low chance of racial abuse because being white gives you a powerful position.

Popular culture has made or positioned ‘Whiteness’ or the white culture as an empty culture, bland and boring. Does it exsist? In the lecture, Sharif answered, ‘when we think about culture, we don’t think from a racial dimension’ and he argues, ‘we must remember invisibility and put race on the agenda. It is race, it is positioned culturally as white and a particular brand of whiteness’. It becomes so normal. ‘Whiteness’ is a social norm. “As long as race is something only applied to non-white peoples, as long as white people are not racially seen and named, they/we function as a human norm” (Dyer, pp.1). It’s a social construct. So much attention is given to other races and not many studies have been done on the ‘white’. In Western culture, studying history is studying ‘whiteness’, where the ‘Whites’ have always had a dominant role. We are trained to see ‘Whiteness’ as the social norm. He also goes on to say, “To be normal, even to be normally deviant (queer, crippled), is to be white” (Dyer, pp.12)

2) Find a fictional or entertainment media text that shows something about whiteness e.g. TV programme/song/advert/film/music video (not news)You’re your blog provide a link to the media example and a few sentences on why you’ve chosen it and what it shows about whiteness.

This clip is from the movie done by the Wayans Brothers called, ‘White Chicks’. It’s a film about two African-American police detectives who go undercover as white girls to keep their appearances up.

In this particular scene, we see the undercover detectives dressed as white girls getting into a verbal argument with the other rival and popular blonde girls. The detectives start throwing ‘Yo Mama’ jokes, which is commonly known or associated to ‘black’ jokes. When the detectives jokes about, you can feel their ‘blackness’ or ‘ghetto-ness’ come through their jokes while being white. As compared to the blonde girls, their jokes fail to deliver.

Whiteness is seen something performed and white culture is mostly seen, presented and positioned (popular culture has made it seem as an empty culture) as bland, boring while ‘other’ cultures are seen as vibrant, loud and exciting. The ‘Yo Mama’ jokes, coming from a black culture makes the scene exciting as the undercover detectives successfully delivers while we hear dull and boring jokes from the popular blonde girls, which aren’t very funny because the ‘Yo Mama’ jokes are not very much part of a white culture.

Week 5 – Public Sphere and Space

1) “examinations of the internet as a public sphere all point to the conclusion that online digital technologies create a public space, but do not inevitably enable a public sphere.” (Papacharissi, 2009)

There is a clear distinction between public sphere and space. Public is a sphere where citizens, people gather and come together, like a forum, to express opinions, to engage in debates over regulations, rules, laws etc in a space or an area where it’s regulated by higher authorities, leaders, organisations and the government. Papacharissi said something similar where he mentioned, “The public sphere presents a domain of social life in which public opinion is expressed by means of rational public discourse and debate”.

Whereas public space is a social space given to everyone to meet and communicate.

2) Papacharissi (2009) argues that for a variety of reasons it might not be appropriate to think about the internet as the public sphere. However, she does argue that there are ways in which it enriches democracy.

What examples does Papacharissi give of ways in which the internet enriches democracy?

The Internet is now a sphere that acts as an intermediary between the public/society and state/organisations. In the liberal model of a public sphere, “mass media has played a big role in informing and directing public opinion” (Papacharissi, pp.5). It has enabled access to information, made it possible for privately motivated individuals and groups to challenge public agenda, bridge a connection between government and citizens and allow two-way communication (Papacharissi, pp.9). Discussions can be done online, opinions can be expressed which then can be empowered by people who feel the same way and this helps connect people of democracy. This can be through blogs, where society has a chance to be media producers. Kerbel and Blooms said that “some bloggers exerted sizable influence over mainstream media, usually by creating noises over issues or political candidates initially marginalised by mainstream media” (Papacharissi, pp.14). Bloggers blog their personal thoughts and publish it in a public sphere where readers are invited to read. It provides an alternative view and thoughts from mainstream media. An example Papacharissi quoted from Semetko and Krasnoboka, where users in Russia and Ukraine, “sites of online only newspapers are of primary importance and online versions of offline news outlets, along with politician web sites, only minimally used”. Blogs can be a powerful medium in the case where unofficial advocacy blogs in Kyrgystan has lent it’s support to a revolution, voicing opposition thoughts to the republic’s leadership by “providing information not available through mainstream media” (Papacharissi, pp.18).

3) In your groups find an example of internet use that you think contributes to democratic possibilities. Provide a link to this example on your blog and write a short paragraph explaining why you think it works. Link this to the Papacharissi discussion by noting whether or not this is a classic public sphere use of the internet or a different way of enriching democratic process

http://www.number10.gov.uk/take-part/public-engagement/petitions/

Number 10 Downing Street is the residence of the government and this website has provided members of the public or citizens a platform to contact, engage and communicate to the government. Under the ‘Take Part’ tab, you can find various pages that ordinary citizens may partake in. We have chosen the ‘Petitions’ page as our example. Here, you may submit an online petition (or e-petition as they call it):

“You can create an e-petition about anything that the government is responsible for and if it gets at least 100,000 signatures, it will be eligible for debate in the House of Commons.”

Members of the public are given power to contribute as successful petitions will be discussed in on a higher, more powerful platform: the House of Commons. Papacharissi has said that “politicians and media institutions make use of digital media to supplement their own agendas and objectives” (pp.18), the website is a good example of it. In a way, it is a different take from the traditional petition signing. Their voices and opinions maybe heard, thus democracy is achieved. But this model as Papacharissi has mentioned “the model may ultimately have a democratising effect but does not bear a direct resemblance to the public sphere” (pp.18).

Week 4 – Boys Don’t Cry

1) Repertoires of masculinity:
Take one of two key scenes and make notes on the signs of masculinity displayed through the representations of the characters Brandon Teena and John Lotter. Create a set of bullet points to address this question: What actions, clothing, language, signs and ways of looking demonstrate or act out their masculinity?

1:01:33 – 1:02:35
Late Night Birthday Scene…
Lana’s Mother and Brandon are sitting on the sofa, Lana and her friend are dancing, John comes in and sits down next to Brandon.

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Actions

  • Brandon Teena
    • Legs spread
    • Wide posture
    • Beer between legs
    • Face shows a dominant tension
    • Looks withdrawn after talking to John
  • John Lotter
    • Legs also spread
    • Also keeps a wide posture, as he sit next to Brandon and they both have a wide posture, neither submit hence causing their arms to over lap each other
    • He puts his arm around Brandon to show his dominance over him
    • He also expresses dominance with light-rough physical contact
  • Lana’s Mother
    • She has crossed legs
    • Beer in hand
    • Tight posture
    • She shows the opposite actions to Brandon and John, which is a great contrast to the masculinity on the other side of the sofa

Clothing

  • Brandon Teena
    • Loose jeans, legs are not bare
    • Baggy hoodie, hides his figure and covers arms
    • Dark coloured clothes, masculine colours
    • Short hair, masculine style
  • John Lotter
    • Also wearing loose jeans
    • T-shirt and an open long sleeved shirt, arms are not bare either
    • Also sporting dark coloured clothes, masculine colours
    • His hair is long but unkept and he has styled facial hair
  • Lana’s Mother
    • She wears light grey skirt which leave her legs bare
    • She also wears a blue t-shirt that leave her arms bare
    • Her clothes are feminine which again contrasts heavily with John and Brandon

Language

  • John refers to Brandon as man
  • John is protective over Lana and warns Brandon off, this is John attempting to show Brandon that he is the Alpha-Male
  • He always mentions that Brandon is staying in his house, which again implies that John is the Alpha-Male
  • John talks about Lana in terms of looks and hint towards sexual stories, objectifying the women as an object for Brandon and John to look at

Signs

  • John and Brandon sitting and over lapping each other, not in a sexual way but it shows that John doesn’t feel uncomfortable in the situation and accepts Brandon as a man.
  • John sees Brandon as a “sexual threat” because he has a relationship with Lana, which is why he chooses to prove to Brandon that he is the Alpha-Male

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Ways of Looking

  • We see John and Brandon from a bystander perspective
  • We see Lana from John’s gaze as he talks about her. She is there to be looked at in the scene

 

2) A pattern of looks
Take one scene involving John or Brandon and identify a patterns of looks in the way that Mulvey does: This might include identifying who looks at John and Brandon – and who do they look at and how? Whose gaze is the audience directed towards? Do we look with certain characters and not with others? Whose eyes does the audience watch John or Brandon through? Do we see other characters through John or Brandon’e eyes? Are we offered a separate gaze or do we take up the gaze of other characters in the film?

1:17:40-1:20:30
Unveiling of Brandon

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At the start of the scene we are looking at Lana who see’s Brandon as neither male nor female, but accepts him for who he is. They are in a close up shot symbolising an intimate moment together. We are looking at them in unison.
The duologue between the two at the start of the scene is also abstract from the rest of the scene, only they are involved and can hear each other, until Lana addresses the off-screen cast, we then become lookers from their point-of-view.

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Lana pronounces that Brandon is a man but she is not believed, the mother lashes out towards Brandon and we are left looking at Lana who is looking upset towards Brandon.

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Once Lana leaves the scene we are given the gaze of a bystander upon John who is clutching Brandon aggressively, and who has the control in the scene. We see him as the alpha male.

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Brandon is dragged into the bathroom and we are still looking inward upon the scene from a bystanders perspective, as if the events were a spectacle. The actions John takes upon Brandon by un-clothing him is a spectacle for John, and once it’s been revealed he opens the door and forces Lana to see Brandon as a girl but Lana still refuses to accept Johns gaze. We are shown Brandon through Lana’s point-of-view during this and we are looking at Lana as she gazes upon Brandon and his sexual identity.

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Once Brandon’s identity has been revealed to Lana, Brandon is no longer Brandon but Teena, and Brandon through Teena’s eyes looking back at Teena, the two sexual identities are shown as comparatively different during this scene. When we see Teena through Brandon’s eyes it is clear she has been stripped over her Brandon identity, The blue shirt Brandon is wearing, it dangling next to Teena, this is a clear symbol for the transformation between Brandon and Teena.

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Week 3 – Post Feminism

Feminist and the values can be commonly understood as the fight for gender equality, the rights of women in a patriarchal society. It has always been easy for men over the years where they have always been in a position of power and play important decision making roles. With the first wave of feminism in the 1920s, activists fought for the rights of women where they should be allowed to vote and have jobs. Between the 1960s to 1970s, the second wave of feminism happened. It was the equal rights movement.

Post feminism is no longer a struggle of equality as feminism has already achieved its aim. Feminism has helped paved the way for women to look forward and now, aspire to achieve their goals and dreams without being held back by society’s dated expectations. In this week’s reading on Individualism, post feminism and female subjectivity in consumerist China, Li mentions “The fashion model has become the ultimate archetype of beauty, dominating the iconography of women … fashion and fashion models are essential to the manufacturing of both modern women and modern lifestyles (1998, pp.80)(Thornham and Pengpeng, pp.196). No longer do women belong in the kitchen but are gracing on magazines covers and flaunting their beauty, as some sort of way of female empowerment. Now other women are looking at covers, advertisements, billboards etc. admiring and wishing they could be like them just like the interviews published in the readings. In McRobbie’s reading, she highlights that “media has become the key site for defining codes of sexual conduct” (pp.354). This is similar to how the girls interviewed, look up to models who grace the magazine covers. Feminism, in a way, has been a thing of the past. This is done by “provocatively ‘enacting sexism’ while at the same time playing with those debates in film theory about women as the object of the gaze and even with female desire” (McRobbie, pp. 354). Females are empowered and they look up to each other as role models, to become better women.

Post-Feminism, the Market and the Media

This article talks about the way media influences the ‘post-feminism’ movement by choosing and limiting the information presented in it’s products. Also that the products the media presents encourages per-say an attitude towards feminism – either anti or pro – and that this directly influences the movement politically.

Week 2 – The Jeremy Kyle Show

The article suggests two popular criticisms; The first suggest the shows viewer are immoral and that daytime television is wasted upon seeing people humiliated and embarrassed (even if they are unaware) for the sake of entertainment. The second says that “…the popularity of television talk shows is a symptom of societal ills”. That the society enjoys watching confrontation and the shows fill this need.

The shows also increases moral prejudice and create a sense of “public flogging” of people that do not conform to the social norms.

In relation to the The Jeremy Kyle Show, class, is used to separate the middle class house wives/single mums (which is the shows target audience) with the lower class “guests” of the show.
The guests are shown as below average and do not conform to the social norms of the shows target audience and in turn it strengths the stereotypical boundaries of the lower class. Before the show the wardrobe and make up department may make the guest look out of the ordinary and unacceptable to the audience. This is similar to what the reading mentions, ‘Television often succeeds at making real people vanish into stereotypes, at positing real audiences as demographics at best, mindless consumers at worst’ (Birmingham, pp.134). The assertion that television has always relied on a ‘certain passivity in their audiences not only to effectively sell products but also to reinforced preferred ideological positions’ (Birmingham, pp.134) is true because The Jeremy Kyle show is doing the same thing. Audience sitting in the studio include lower class individuals who some deem ‘unintelligent’ therefore, are consider passive.

Below are some examples of guests featured on the show, which can be associated to society’s lower class (or ‘chavs’ here in UK’s society):

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The talk shows have replaced the old age days of the freak show but still similar. As both shows are expected to react to the viewed with disgust and dismay (Birmingham, pp.136), which in the case of The Jeremy Kyle show, still happens as audience still view guests on the show with disgust, horror and laughable reactions. The format of the talk show allows the viewer a say in the discussion, creating a “inverted hierarchy” in which the viewer has the power of judgement against the guests. By empowering the average viewer with a feeling of superiority. This reinforces the hierarchical structure of the societies status’.

Although talk shows are faced by an authoritarian figure, who follows the social norm, the agency behind the scenes provide the content and manipulate the guests of the show. The authoritarian figure is used the steer their guests towards the controversial parts of their story. Even if there is a reasonable explanation. In the case of Jeremy Kyle, he is the only authoritarian figure, the judge, jury and the executioner, all in one. In episodes of the shows, he can be seen screaming and shouting at his guests. He does not take a slow, cautious approach but instead puts down, belittles or humiliates his guests by his superiority and outbursts which often draws reactions such as laughters from the audience present in the studio. This in turn strengthen his superiority, authoritative figure he currently holds.

The reading discusses about how television is used as a tool of consumerist society, that effectively communicates the sovereignty of the status quo and has a goal of producing of a consumer society that is uninterested in politics (Birmingham, pp.134). To achieve this goal, the television must introduce anxiety and offer relief (Birmingham, pp.134). This is mirrors The Jeremy Kyle Show where the ideology of the show plays on the insecurities of the viewer and increases the stereotypes as defined by society. By showing the viewer a person who does not fit the social norm the viewer is able to feel “better” about their own lifestyle and superior within society, even if though this is just a temporary illusion.

Week 1 – Ideology in Media

Ideology is a set of ideas that are commonly held within a group of society. It’s a system of values, beliefs and attitudes that is said to be accurate, a fact and important. They define the norms for society or how a society should function.

The media hides ideological views within its products. The views it portrays are influenced by “the most powerful sectors of industry” as told by Adorno and Horkheimer in Enlightenment as a Mass Deception. In the reading, it is said that,’film, radio and magazines make up a uniform system’ for the culture industry and that they are just business is an ideology to account for the rubbish content they are still and continuously produce (Adorno, Theodor and Horkheimer, pp.32).

Content produced is still based on what consumers wants and needs. We buy and consume things based on the products the media chooses to present to us. Because of this, we accept it with so little resistance. Using ideology, the media can make it seem as if the products they are displaying, if bought, will help them achieve in life and make themselves more socially acceptable. This resonates with the passage in the reading:

“The public is catered for with a hierarchical range of mass-produced products of varying quality, thus advancing the rule of complete quantification. Everybody must behave (as if spontaneously in accordance with his previous determined and indexed level, and choose the category of mass product turned out for his type” (Adorno, Theodor and Horkheimer, pp.34).

This is a big problem in society where by doing this, the media takes away our individuality and freedom, and leaves us incapable of thinking of our own ideas and ideological views. The culture industry has blurred the lines of ‘art’, ‘reality’ and ‘life’ by selling consumers the ‘average’ life. But clearly it’s dominant ideologies. The players in the modern culture industry has made it more than average just to appeal to consumers.

Introduction

This is a blog for Debates in Media Studies. The blog will discuss, comment and think on the ideas and opinions put through via various media texts.

Members of this blog group include:

Natasha Yow

Chad Keating