Archive by Author

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

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

Gender and the Pleasure of Looking

26 Apr

For my paper I am going to discuss gender and how it relates to the media.  Specifically I am going to discuss the pleasure of “looking”.  I am going to talk about how the pleasure of looking works for both men and women alike.  We have discussed in class postfeminism and the role that it plays in today’s media.  I will touch on this in my paper.  I am also going to discuss how we look at men and women in both positive and negative light in the media.  We look at those who have what we see as “perfect” bodies and aspire to be like them and try to emulate that body as best as we can.  Also, I will discuss how we look at those who seem to have “imperfect” bodies and how we tend to look down on at times and sometimes even belittle these people, when maybe there is nothing wrong with the way they look, other than the fact that it does not meet the so called standards that we have set for ourselves and media images.  I will focus a portion of my paper on the translation from the pleasure of looking to sexuality.  The pleasure of looking relates directly to sexuality, and I plan to look deeper into this obsession in how this developed over the years.  At this point I plan on comparing and contrasting the different forms of media.  I plan on looking a lot of movies and print ads and comparing how the two go about creating the act of looking.  Obviously they are very different forms of media, but have similarities at how they try and real people into this act of looking.  I don’t yet have the movies or ads narrowed yet, but I am in the process of finding good ones to fit in.  Overall I plan on talking about how the pleasure of looking has transformed over the years.  I think that early on this act of looking was mainly tagged for men looking at women.  I think that years ago when men maybe had more control than women, this was definitely the case.  But, as things have changed so much over the years and women as a whole have gained a lot more power and control, so too has the act of looking changed.  I think that men are still the main targets of this, but women have become targets as well.  There are a lot of print ads geared towards women looking at men.  We discussed in class how Sex and the City displays this throughout their episodes.  I think it is interesting to look at how much this has changed and how we are all becoming targets of this pleasurable act of looking.

Lucas Zwieg

Portrayal of race in the US media

24 Apr

In this blog I will be discussing the relationship between race and the media today. I will be evaluating media representation of race as a whole. This will include but not be limited to: television shows, commercials, advertisements, etc.

Race is a very controversial topic and is heavily debated amongst peers in every media outlet. The point that I will attempt to make about the media and race will be that there is still a sort of racism towards people who are not Caucasian in the media. I will admit that through the past couple of years the amount of diversity in the media has increased greatly. However, there are still many sources that portray people of specific races in there stereotypical environment.  Another thing we commonly see is inferential racism. Racism has been around for so long that I believe sometimes people do things and do not realize they are being racist because they are unquestioned assumptions, but they are in fact being racist. So I will focus on media that is portraying race, but in a manner that is not a positive representation.

The first media source that I am going to focus on for my observation is a cartoon show that is played on Cartoon Network. It is called “The Boondocks” and is about an African American family that consists of a grandfather and two children. This cartoon is a comedy and I am guilty of enjoying the program. However, when you sit back and look at it from an observational perspective, the program seems racialized. In the show the two boys are often fighting for equality of people and for things they strongly believe in. However, the way they are portrayed reflect the common the common stereotype of African Americans. To further prove my point I will give examples from the program. I mentioned briefly that the two boys live with their grandfather; a stereotype common of African American culture is that they have one absent parent; in this program they are missing both a mother and a father. Throughout the program you commonly hear the N word, the kids solve problems with violence and commonly skip school and break laws. I have many African American friends and they love this program, the creator of the program is an African American so many of my friends feel that it is not racialized. Although while watching the program as an observer instead of as a consumer, I found it to be highly racialized.

Another example that I will use will be a commercial for State Farm insurance. It is an African American couple and they need their insurance agent to help them with an automotive problem. They are presented as casual African American people with a nice demeanor and attitude. Then they start making changes to one another and the man becomes a hyper sexualized African American male with tight jeans and no shirt and the woman becomes an overly sexy African American woman with her rear end accentuated. There voices also develop the urban “slang”. I found this commercial to be racialized because of these reasons. Like my last example this media source is meant to be funny, and it is. Even though the commercial is funny it also is racialized.

To further prove my point I will examine more sources and will also look to find rebuttals against my opinion. In my paper I will further examine and develop my ideas on race in the media. This is presented as a rough draft of the ideas I will be focusing on in my final paper.

Brianna Miller

“Gender Bender”

24 Apr

What does gender entail? It’s not just enough anymore to ask for someone’s gender. To know if a man or woman is exactly that, a man or woman, the sex of the person must be asked. But to ask for the gender of a person is a socially constructed norm. One may be a woman but possess male characteristics; physically, emotionally, or perhaps just by their actions. The same is true for men (vice versa with the characteristics that is). And then you throw in the men and women who are homosexual. People that are gay are usually ranked along a “gayness” scale of how gay they may or may not act. But on top of all of that, we, as an American society have constructed a set of stereotypes of what it means to be a straight man, a straight woman, a gay man, and a gay woman. A manly man and a girly girl are the stereotypes for what (straight) men and women genders should act like. The opposite holds true for gay men and women. Media usually plays off of this when depicting these social roles in shows, movies, music, and etcetera. One show that takes a different spin on these constructs of gender is the new show Happy Endings.

Happy Endings is a show about a group of friends where each has their own distinct stereotypical role in the group. Two individuals that seem to defy the stereotypes of societal norms are Max and Penny. They do not exude the gender norm for their sexual orientation. Max is the sole gay guy in the group but one would not know it. He acts like a straight man; he loves drinking beer, watching sports, hates anything girly, and doesn’t have a higher pitched voice. In the link below Penny gets mad at Max for not being a “real” gay man for her to be best friends with. The traits she wishes to see are ones of exuberant flamboyancy that loves to shop, wear tight clothes, and touch her boobs in a platonic way. This construction of their group’s norms is quite interesting because we do not see gay people depicted this way, or at least not very often. These gender roles are being displayed differently. It makes us take a step back before relying on our societal stereotypes when judging whether or not we know someone’s gender.

To add a funny twist to the storyline, Max points out that there is no need for the typical token gay guy in the group because she displays all those characteristics herself. See the video below to watch these two situations in action.

Happy Endings clip start at 1.50 = Max not the “typical” gay guy

5.00 = Penny displays “gay guy” traits

Monica Guzdkiewicz

Woman’s New Struggle

23 Apr

As a young women in a time where I am able to pursue whatever avenue I choose I find that some shows that are aimed at my generation help show the different choices we are faced with as a sex on a daily basis. When looking for a certain medium of media to conduct my analysis of for the topic of gender I asked myself the question of, “What should I pursue as a woman?” This questions seems silly but I often found that I am at ward with myself because I am pursuing a career but enjoy things now deemed as “domestic duties.” I am a woman who wants to pursue a career but also would like to come home to a picked up home, why can’t I have it both ways? There is a show on television today that shows women in different age groups with different levels of intelligence, family and profession. Desperate Housewives is a realistic portrayal of the  choices women are faced with when it comes to family and careers.

Over the course of this class we have talked about how gender often projects a stereotype onto the characters. I believe in this show there is some tongue in cheek portrayal of typical “housewives” but there is also the contrast of women who do not have it “made,” but may be more willing to fake it until they make it. I have never been interested in this show until we started discussing gender portrayals in the media and found that I judged this show harshly. While there are still components that would condemn it to following typical media norms of women. These do fit a typical norm of having killer looks and even more amazing bodies for their age but many of them have much more to offer than a pretty face. The characters all embody some sort of turmoil that many women face throughout their life. There are also some instances where  can honestly say that would probably never happen but they are selling a television show here.

The characters often are put in uncomfortable positions as wives, mothers, friends and as women. I find that each character has some topic that may be more crucial to them but in reality affects a large portion of women. Bree is woman with a family that she tried so hard to control that they fell a part. What she desired was to be the perfect American family with two children, a mother who performed all the female duties and a successful husband. Well Bree’s world did not turn as the Norman Rockwell picture portrayed the American Dream, her son turned out to be gay the daughter ran away and her husband was killed. While that may not usually happen all to one person there are some common occurrences. The characters reflect some of the real life struggles women go through since they now have the choice of what dreams they want to pursue.

Sam Heurung