7 May

Sexuality is engrained in our transnational media culture. This paper will identify various media texts and evaluate one text in more detail, focusing on sexual ideologies and cultural boundaries that the text pursues to push beyond the limit of socially accepted.

Sex does more than sell these days. It defines our world. In my Youth & Sexuality class last year, we viewed so many aspects of youth adolescents. One young couple in the movie Juno discovered the thrill of parenthood in their teens. Although not uncommon, there still seems to be a social dilemma created when a teenage mother tries to make it in the world. This topic is so integral to teen culture, MTV has developed a reality-TV show, 16 and Pregnant:

‘MTV’s 16 and Pregnant’ is an hour-long documentary series focusing on the controversial subject of teen pregnancy. Each episode follows a 5-7 month period in the life of a teenager as she navigates the bumpy terrain of adolescence, growing pains, rebellion, and coming of age; all while dealing with being pregnant.

Each story offers a unique look into the wide variety of challenges pregnant teens face: marriage, adoption, religion, gossip, finances, rumors among the community, graduating high school, getting (or losing) a job. Faced with incredibly adult decisions, these girls are forced to sacrifice their teenage years and their high school experiences. But there is an optimism among them; they have the dedication to make their lives work, and to do as they see fit to provide the best for their babies.
http://www.mtv.com/shows/16_and_pregnant/season_3/series.jhtml, visited 5/2/2011

In mainstream media, companies have pushed the envelope of what has become acceptable. The Italian Ice Cream maker, Federici, released and series of print advertisements that burst open the realm of socially acceptable media.
These three ads portrayed various aspects of members of the Catholic clergy in compromising advertisements. The first ad I looked at contained two male priests that were close to an intimate kiss. Behind them is an ornate wall, such as in a place of worship or church. One priest holds the ice cream while another holds the spoon. One priest’s next is exposed in a very seductive manner. The text of the ad reads, “We believe in Salvation.”

The second of these ads shows a nun in a habit holding the ice cream. The text of the ad reads, “Immaculately Conceived.”

The third of these ads shows two scenes. First, the priest and nun are close to an intimate kiss. In the second scene, the priest and nun are scantily clad in a sexual position. The texts read, “Miss Temptation,” and, “Submit to Temptation.”
Social culture, especially in the U.K., is respectful of religion. The governing organization that regulates marketing In the United Kingdom, U.K.’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), ordered the Italian ice cream maker to never run the ad again. The ASA received six complaints about the ads, and felt the images portrayed were significant enough to have offended a large population of Catholics.

There are so many facets of socio-sexual norms broken in these advertisements. “Priests and nuns just don’t do that.” It is scandalous and sacrilegious. The texts play on holy verbiage and violated the protected sanctity of a person’s right to have a religion or faith free of ridicule. To incredibly violate this social norm is to violate the people of the nation. In Federici’s case, a country lashed back because the sensuality they tied into their ads violated the freedom they had been given to explore religion and sexuality.

Advertisements

Dis-abled or able? Misrepresentations and stereotypes of disability in the media: Marlee Matlin on The Apprentice

3 May

More often than not, then media is the window through which people see how the world works. We gather our beliefs, our vocabulary, our trends, and in some ways our identity from what we see in the media. A common theme today for companies is to sell sex and people commoditized by sex, but with the statistics being that one in five people lives with a disability (Rilley), I feel that the disabled community is not only misunderstood in many circumstances, but also greatly under-represented. Often in television shows or movies a disabled person is played by a popular heart-throb or well-respected actor that is in fact not disabled. For example, in the 1988 movie Rain Man, award winning actor Dustin Hoffman plays Raymond, a severely autistic man, but in fact, Dustin Hoffman isn’t autistic at all; he isn’t even disabled. This raises the question of why the media industry chooses not to cast truly disabled individuals to represent themselves. Surely there are disabled individuals who can act or have talent, but the media’s choice to misrepresent disabled people shows a lack of authenticity, sincerity, and respect to the disabled community. Can they not be trusted to behave and perform like a non-disabled individual would? Are they incapabable of understanding or completing a task? I have to wonder how often disabled people ask themselves these questions, and in my paper I intend to look at disability in the media and evaluate the different sides to this issue.

Because of my admiration for Marlee Matlin and her activism in the deaf community, I chose to look at her representation on the show The Apprentice. This season she is competing on a team of high-powered, opinionated women and her constant struggle to appear able, rather than DIS-abled is something that is very apparent when watching the show. In the second episode of this season, Marlee’s team has the task of creating a children’s book and presenting it to an audience. Marlee feels that the book should be about a lion that finds its voice, but the team quickly shuts her down and one of her fellow cast mates, Dionne Warwick suggests that the idea would make children sad or pity the lion. Marlee is very offended and defends not only her idea and her own disability, but all people with disabilities that are still capable human beings. When I was watching this episode, I couldn’t help but feel that Marlee not only had no hearing, but she had no voice. It made me sad to see how her teammates stereotyped people with disabilities, and it made me realize how little representation that disabled people get in the media. Whatever images and stereotypes that we have are most likely developed from the media, not from the disabled community itself. I find it inspirational that Marlee is not only so brave, but so passionate about bringing to light the rights and dignity that disabled people have.

In my paper I want to look at how the disabled community is not only represented, but also how the media portrayal has influenced our stereotypes about disabled people. I am going to examine the audience/media consumer, and also the voice of the disabled. I want to gain a better definition of what disabled means especially to disabled people. I also want to evaluate what the future in the media holds for the disabled community and how that will affect society and our cultural views of disabled people.  Because the media often portray such a slim part of the disabled community, I am going to look at how the media uses the “supercrip” and the helpless, or pitied individual to represent such a slim part of the disabled population. With that I also want to look at how these stereotypes are being challenged today and how not only the media, but us as consumers of the media we can be more inclusive to such a largely under-represented group.

Madilyn Miller

Does this “no strings attached” present women in a positive light?

2 May

The media has been telling us for ages how to be a woman and how to be a man. We are given examples on what a normal man or woman acts like through television shows, series, and films. Commercials provide us with clear instructions on what we need or what we need to do in order to be a normal man or woman. Typically, I find that the media tells us that men are supposed to be independent, aggressive, dominant, and violent. Women, on the other hand should be gentle, dependent, affectionate, and emotional. Though we all know that there are varying degrees of all of these traits in people regardless of their gender, the media still attempts to make us believe certain attributes of men and women are innate, rather than learned.

After reading Laura Mulvey and Rosalind Gill, I was curious as to what their take would be on the film “No Strings Attached” with Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman. In ways, this film seems to go against the grain of the traditional “chick flick” because the woman tends to hold more emotional, sexual, and economic power over the man. But upon further consideration, this film is a comedy. In other words, a women having power while a man lacks power becomes humorous. Why is this funny? Is this funny for the right reasons?  Not only that, but what does this female sexual “no strings attached” theory do for women’s portrayal in the media? My paper will attempt to uncover some of these answers.

The two main characters in the film “No Strings Attached” are Emma and Adam. These two characters have been friends for a long time, but one morning spontaneously “hook up.” Afterwards, they worry about their friendship being ruined, but then decide to agree upon being causal sexual partners with “no strings attached.” Emma, a doctor, does not believe in love but rather that “monogamy goes against our natural biology.” She constantly pulls away from Adam who admits that he is falling in love with her. It seems as though the traditional ideas of mainstream media gender roles are reversed in this film. Emma comes off as an independent, dominant and unemotional being while Adam is more companionate, affectionate and emotional. In the end, it seems as though the characters need to reverse back to their traditional roles in order for a real relationship to occur.

Ultimately it takes Adam and Emma adhering to traditional stereotypical roles in order for the relationship to work. Emma ends up becoming neurotic about the relationship, emotional, and confused. This causes Adam to pull away, begin seeing other women, and ignore Emma all together. When Emma finally calls him to tell him that she is falling in love with him, he reprimands her and tells her that she needs to have this conversation in person. It seems as though Emma’s confident views on relationships eventually shooed Adam away, and until she became more submissive to his relationship needs, they were unable to have any type of friendship or relationship.

The main ideological assumptions that this text makes is that the modern woman is more confident and has more sexual freedom. We can also gather that this text depicts an untraditional take on gender roles, because this is the first time we see this type of relationship work out in a chick flick. This film challenges traditional gender roles and shows elements of post-feministic views. In my paper I want to further discuss these issues and attempt to understand whether this film has positive or negative repercussions on gender roles in the media.

Clare Boyer

Disability Portrayal in Malcolm in the Middle

2 May

Initially I planned to write my paper about the portrayals and representations of disabled characters in network television shows in general. Due to the lack of characters with disabilities on TV my options were limited. I had two shows in mind for my analysis; Brothers and Malcolm in the Middle. However, the show ‘Brothers’ was canceled after last season so I decided to focus in on just Malcolm in the Middle.

Malcolm in the Middle aired from the year 2000 to 2006. Malcolm in the Middle has won numerous awards including five Emmy awards, a Grammy, and an American Comedy award.The show ran for quite a while and developed a popular young actor in Frankie Muniz. Even though Malcolm (Frankie) is the center of attention in the show, I analyze the show from the perspective of Stevie Kenarban.

Stevie Kenarban is Malcolm’s best friend, played by Craig Lamar Traylor. Stevie plays the role of a disabled young character, who is in a wheelchair. In reality Craig is not in a wheelchair, so his character is a complete acted out portrayal of a disabled boy. Stevie also has severe asthma so he talks very softly and puffs his inhaler frequently. The show never explicitly identifies what exactly his condition is but according to Wikipedia online sources, he only has one lung.

Malcolm in the Middles attempts to portray Stevie’s character in ‘typical’ manner. Stevie met Malcolm through their shared interest in comic books, and Stevie is considered a regular teenage boy, not letting his disability get in his way. However, there are many instances where Stevie’s disability becomes a factor and focus of certain scenes. There are many disability stereotypes that play out in the show such as, the sympathy role, or the disadvantaged role. Other characters sometimes express sympathy for him because he is in a wheelchair and is considered to be at a social disadvantage. Many critics disapprove of the sympathy role because they feel that being handicapped is not a disadvantage but rather a different lifestyle. In the show, Stevie uses his disability to his benefit by using his handicap to get favors done for him and getting things from his parents using techniques of guilt. He also uses his disability identity to get attention from girls at school and pull pranks, getting other kids in trouble. This is a portrayal that is not typically common in other television series with handicapped characters. There are certainly images of sympathy, guilt, and fear of disability on network television, but Malcolm in the Middle is unique in its form of presenting Stevie in a comedy series.

In the episode displayed below, Malcolm is about to get in a fight at at school, but Stevie ends up taking the punch instead. There is an intense reaction to a small incident simply because the boy ‘hit’ a “crippled”. This episode shows some of the stereotypes common in the media. The clip also challenges the stereotype by incorporating a comical reaction by Stevie himself, who exaggerates the event to receive attention from his peers. What is the message being sent about having a disability? It is possible for kids to view disability as a advantage rather than inconvenience. The question is whether or not this representation is realistic due to the fact that there are many disabilities that do affect teenage life, possibly making it difficult to fit in.

The show, Malcolm in the Middle plays with the role of disability in media. The show challenges some of the stereotypes placed on disability such as disability as a disadvantage. In my paper I also relate Stevie’s character to some of the topics discussed in the class readings. I analyze the text through the medical/ individual model from the reading. The medical model basically focuses on pity or awe and the ‘supercrip’ concept of views on disability. I also touch on the concept stated that representations of disabilities are more about the reactions of the non- disabled instead of the disability itself (class notes). This concept is demonstrated in the video link, where the non-disabled characters react dramatically to a soft punch,  rather than the disability itself representing the incident. Stevie wasn’t hit because he is disabled, but the reaction was dramatic because of his disability. The reaction of the non- disabled characters was the comical part; this is where the text challenges the representation of the disability as stated before.

Glee & Their Non-Gleeful Audience?

2 May

In my blog I want to focus on two characters from Glee. I am on the fence of what my main topic should be but I know that I want to talk about the misrepresentation of disabilities found in Glee.

Disabled people have been traditionally confined to a narrow spectrum of roles in the media. Two types of characters chosen for the majority of disabled roles are ones who are pitied or supercrips. In Heroes of Assimilation: How the Media Transform Disability, it is expressed that one in five people have a disability and are “shamefully misrepresented in the fun-house mirror of mass media” (1). Glee is a family television show that has proven to be one of a kind. Glee is a prime example of how different disabilities are portrayed in the media. Two characters that stand out because of their disabilities are Emma Pillsbury and Artie Abrams. There is a difference between a good depiction and bad depiction of disabled characters. Representing only the negative aspects of disabilities is far from beneficial to disabled communities. But it isn’t beneficial either to bombard the public with only supercrip portrayals. It is important for popular television shows to give an equal representation to all sides and stories.

Either media outlets counter the typical characterization or play along in instances of disability representation. Artie Abrams is paralyzed from the waist down so he is in a wheelchair. Those with disabilities want to feel normal and accepted, but when given pity it makes them feel different than the mainstream. The great thing about Arties is that he is a very social teen with many friends and in a well known social group at school. I have seen plenty of shows that portray people in wheelchairs as constantly needing help with transportation to fitness. Artie does not tolerate pity from his peers; he counters the stereotype that disabled people need help from others. The overplayed portrayal of pitied disabled Americans in the media is the fault of media producers and gatekeepers. Economic power is tightly linked to representational power.

Emma Pillsbury has OCD and has it bad. She is constantly disinfecting and going through her daily rituals. The portrayal of characters with OCD is somewhat new. As most people know, people with OCD have difficult everyday obstacles, but are able portrayed sometimes as unable to live “normal” lives. Every person has obstacles and difficulties in situations and it is the ability to overcome them that allows a person to succeed. Emma is controlled by her OCD and looked at as a freak. This representation of OCD is not comparable to the different severities of OCD. Her character is always shown doing her rituals and has become known for her disability which is exactly what people do not want to be only recognized for.

A supercrip is a person with a disability who overcomes his inabilities to live in society as a normal nondisabled person and achieve goals and aspirations that never seemed attainable. The supercrip character is used too often to represent the majority of disabled people. This gives a large percentage of disabled Americans a false sense of hope and identity.

The main reason that the large percentage of Americans with disabilities are not represented correctly or fairly is because the creators and designers of television shows, movies and magazines are more interested in the “dollar-and-cents dynamic that governs, to far too great a degree, what makes it to the screen or page”  (1). There is a lot of controversy about whether Glee is representing disability populations fairly. Some believe that Glee is another example of how to not represent these populations because they improperly inform the audience of what OCD and paralysis is all about.

Rheanna Nelson

Ellen DeGeneres: A force for Sexuality in the Media

2 May

In recent years, sexuality has come a long way in media and society as a whole. In the past, sexuality was a topic rarely discussed. For example, gay, lesbian, and transgender individuals were often associated with a negative stigma, thus media often avoided the topic. Over the past few decades, shows have begun to introduce sexuality as a way to inform consumers about the topic and as a way to eliminate negative associations.

Ellen DeGeneres is a public figure who has proved that she, and homosexuals as a whole, live normal lives. Throughout her career as a stand-up comedian, actress, and talk show host, Ellen has become a role model and voice for those in the GLBT community.

 

Comedy and Acting Career

Prior to her debut to fame through her talk show, Ellen was a stand-up comedian and actor. Her career began as an emcee at a comedy club in New Orleans. In 1982 she was recognized nationally when a taped club performance won Showtime’s “Funniest Person in America”. She was recognized for her stand-up several times in the following years. Ellen’s acting career began in “Open House” a sitcom on FOX. From there she moved to ABC’s show “Laurie Hill” which led to her role on “These Friends of Mine” which later changed its name to “Ellen” from 1994 to 1998. In 1997, Ellen received the Peabody Award for her role in “Puppy Episode” in which her character, Ellen Morgan, came out as a gay woman. She was the first out lesbian main character on a TV show that aired on one of the top three network channels. Sexuality has always been a difficult and often avoided topic. Her role in this show was controversial but paved the way for opening up the subject for discussion. Although the show didn’t last long after the coming out episode, it was still a victory for Ellen and the GLBT community. Her following acting gig ran from 2001 to 2002, in which she was the star of the CBS sitcom “The Ellen Show.” From there Ellen appeared on a varity of shows including the “Larry Sanders Show.”

 

“The Ellen DeGeneres Show”

“The Ellen DeGeneres Show” is a talk show that addresses all aspects of society and culture. The show focuses on the controversial topic of sexuality including gay, lesbian, and transgender issues. Since its beginning in September 2003, the show continues to be a great success. The first year of its debut, “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” was nominated for twelve Daytime Emmys and won four.

Ellen herself has become a large name and an influential figure. Recently she was noted in Forbes’ time five “most influential women in the media”. In a February 2008 show, Ellen spoke about Larry, the victim of discrimination due to his sexuality. Larry was a 15-year-old boy who was shot by a classmate because he was gay. She spoke of this instance to bring light to the issue of violence against GLBT individuals. Ellen stated:

On February 12th, an openly gay 15-year-old boy named Larry who is an eighth grader from Oxnard California was murdered by a fellow 8th grader named Brandon. Larry was killed because he was gay. Days before he was murdered, Larry asked his killer to be his Valentine. I don’t want to be political, but this is not a political issue, this is personal to me. A boy has been killed and a number of lives have been ruined.

Somewhere along the line, the killer Brandon got the message that it’s so threatening and so awful and so horrific that Larry would want to be his Valentine that killing Larry seemed to be the right thing to do. When the message out there is so horrible that to be gay you can get killed for it, we need to change the message.

Larry was not a second-class citizen. I am not a second-class citizen. It is okay if you’re gay.

I would like you to start paying attention to how often being gay is a punch line of a monologue or how often gay jokes are in a movie. And that kind of message, laughing at someone because they’re gay is just the beginning. It starts with laughing at someone, then it’s verbal abuse, then it’s physical abuse, then it’s this kid Brandon killing a kid like Larry.

We must change our country and we can do it. We can do it with our behavior. We can do it with our messages that we send our children. We can do it with our vote. This is an election year and there’s a lot of talk about change. I think one thing we should change is hate. Check on who you’re voting for and does that person really truly believe that we are all equal under the law? And if you’re not sure, change your vote, we deserve better. My heart goes out to everybody involved in this horrible, horrible incident.”

Ellen’s comments regarding Larry’s death exemplifies her passion for equality for all and to eliminate the discrimination of individuals based on their sexuality. With her success, Ellen can be a voice for all, including Larry.

Relationships

Being a public figure, all aspects of her life inevitably become public as well. I plan to analyze the impact of Ellen’s relationship, in particular the one with her partner Portia de Rossi.

 

Connection to “Popular Culture and Queer Representation” by Diane Raymond

I also intend to connect Ellen and her role as an open lesbian to Diane Ryamond’s article “Popular Culture and Queer Representation.

 

Disability in the media

1 May

In my blog I will be looking at how disability is viewed in the media.  Those with disabilities are sometimes viewed as the ones who we awe pity to, while in other times they are viewed as the supercrips.  Media is often the medium through which disability is constructed. Often people with disabilities are viewed as the burden or outcast of the society where they are object of violence. In most of the times we see disability persons incapable of participating in simple life activities, such as building successful intimate relationships.

Moreover, “Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare”, is a healthcare center where children with disabilities are helped to live with their disability and get around their barriers to fulfill their hopes and dreams. In an advertisement made to promote the center, a child (Alex) with a rare genetic syndrome is shown as the strong 6-year old kid where he can read and write at the same level of those who are older than him by three years.  The advertisement breaks the notion that: disabled children cannot be as smart and intelligent as normal/healthy kids. It also shows that disable children do not need to be pitied and awed but need to feel encouraged and supported.

Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare promotes their center through a series of short videos.  Although, Each video shows a different story, presenting a child, suffering from a different disability. Yet, each video breaks a stereotype towards people with disabilities.  In another example, we see Bella, a young energetic young girl suffering from a condition that affects 1 out of 100,000.  Bella is shown in the video living and acting just like any other girl at her age, she: runs, laughs, plays, and jokes normally despite all what she went through. The advertisement here is trying to show that children with disabilities are no difference than healthy children. They go to school they have fun, and also have unique personalities and characters. We are all the same.

I believe these promotions go well with Charles Riley’s article “Disability in the Media.” In his article Riley shows how the media outcasts the disabled people and portray them as the “other”, where we as healthy people differ from them. They are most of the time shown as the ones who: are pitiable or pathetic, object of violence, sinister or evil, ritual or laughable and burden or outcast, and that is few to mention. For instance, in season 6 episode 3 of “Can’t Hardly Wait” we see Jimmy a disabled character trying to make an intimate relationship with Ashley, but he keeps on failing. If we look deeply in Jimmy’s character we find out that Jimmy is portrayed differently than any other guy of the same age. Jimmy is unable to make intimate relationships because he is a disabled guy. This shows the stereotype about disabled people in a way or another. It shows that disabled people are incapable of making sexual relationships and are incapable in participating in simple life activities.

But the question remains who benefits from misrepresenting and stereotyping disabled people in the media? Also, another question, is it ethical to misrepresent a certain group of people in the media? If not, then why is it still on the media?

Citation:

http://www.gillettechildrens.org/fileUpload/All%20About%20Gillette.pdf

http://www.tv.com/degrassi-the-next-generation/cant-hardly-wait/episode/753463/recap.html?tag=episode_recap;recap