Monday, November 26, 2012

Stereotypes of the Middle East

"You share the same religion with men who cherry picked the bible to justify slavery. Those assumptions you made, those quick generalizations; what about the vengeance and the blood shed in the old testament, the Crusades, the Inquisition… are these events guided by a religion of peace? No, they are guided by self-important men who think they know more then the God they claim to worship. This was not the work of religion; it was arrogance, it was hypocrisy, it was hate. Those horrible men who hijacked those planes hijacked my religion that day too. They insulted my God. So, no, this isn’t “too difficult”. It’s a privilege to be able to serve this victim to show him that care and love that was so absent that day." - Arastoo Vaziri 

    Once again, I turned to television this week when I began to think about Middle Eastern stereotypes. The quote above is from the television series "Bones," during a recent episode about 9/11. It is stated by a Muslim character, who is asked if a case on a 9/11 victim is too difficult to handle. I feel that this quote speaks loudly and clearly to the topic of Middle Eastern stereotypes. For the most part, media does not cater to this view on Muslims and people of the Middle East. Like in Disney's Aladdin, the image of a violent and bloodthirsty people is usually portrayed.  Until I saw this episode and read about it for class, I never realized the strength and history of this stereotype.  It had not occurred to me that before 9/11 I had been feeding on bits of stereotypes against a whole people. When the news and war on terrorism sprouted I always thought that was the reason for all the bad vibes and feelings around the Middle East, I did not realize how far back the stereotype extended.

      I must admit that I have held these ideas too, without even realizing it.  There is a Muslim family in my neighborhood at home.  I remember that even before 9/11 I was afraid of them.  Their foreign appearances and head garbs were so different looking and I did not trust them.  After 9/11, I felt uneasy every time I saw a Middle Eastern man in the airport.  This is not something I am proud of.  Every time I felt these things I would tell myself that these ideas and worries are unfounded and unfair.  But even though I knew my judgment was wrong, it did not stop me from feeling the way I did.  That feeling is one of the sad evolutions of a stereotype, to the point where a person can induce unwarranted discomfort simply by looking a certain way. I hope that with this class and even more knowledge under my belt I can fight the way this stereotype has been established in my brain.  Some may say ignorance is bliss but I think that is wrong, especially in this case.  I hope that by being better informed about this, I can take a step away from this ignorance.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Stereotypes in Glee

     This week's reading goes into depth on how everyone has stereotypes in the media. I decided to watch Glee after reading about all these stereotypes that people don't even notice anymore. I felt very aware of the stereotypes presented in the show.  Although I love the show, Glee gives me mixed feelings because the whole concept plays off the idea of stereotypes.  It is considered a progressive in trying to point out these problems and present more accepting and forward thinking ideals.  However, as helpful as the show may be in pointing out some issues in today's society, I don't feel as though the show has actually done anything in the realm of stereotypes.  For the average american watching the show, I feel as though the characters are viewed as entertainment personalities and not cultural statements. 

   I found a blog post that complains about the stereotypes in Glee as being too extreme.  Many of the commenters argued that this is the whole purpose of Glee, to point out these extremities in a funny way.  Although I agree that Glee is not out to offend anyone, I know I laugh at the stereotypes because they are relevant and familiar.  Glee simply does not make me want to change my thinking or views.  I can not help but wonder if the younger Glee audience is made more accepting and socially liberal than their peers.  I question if it is possible that, for the younger audience, Glee may actually create the pervasion of many widespread ideas about certain groups.  While some may grow up believing in gay marriage, they may also grow up convinced that all homosexual males are effeminate and fashion conscious, which is simply not true.  Although I still plan to continue watching Glee I feel as though the show may cancel itself out.

Monday, November 12, 2012

"Gangsta Rap?"

     The reading about "gangsta rap" was incredibly entertaining and interesting to me.  Although I recognize the morals and values expressed in rap music are often far from respectable, the scholarly prose of the article made it difficult for me to take seriously. I do not wish to discredit the author of the article, and I agree with many of the points made within the piece.  However, I am slightly embarrassed to say, the language used made me laugh despite the serious topic.  When reading the formal sounding text of this article, I couldn't help but think of rap songs I own and feel as though the author went about the topic in a too-serious fashion.  His words almost made me discredited him despite the good points he made.  The view of the power structure between White men and African American rappers in this piece also seemed more harmful than good to race and class stereotypes.  I was surprised that the article almost seemed to degrade African Americans when commentating on the dominance structures of rappers to white men.  Saying they can not challenge the white power that gives them money seemed like a step backwards, which went unnecessarily beyond the argument against degrading women.

       Rap music is well integrated into today's culture and pop music.  I have grown to enjoy the rap/R&B genre which tends to be more soft than the music described in this piece, though this is not always the case.  I own several songs by artists like Ludicrous, which carry degrading lyrics towards women. I don't take much offense to rap lyrics although I have heard a song or two that has put me on edge.  Despite my apathy towards some rap music however, I do realize the serious implications pointed out in this piece.  The misogynistic behavior of rappers, as described in this article, is unacceptable.  I know men, who love heavy "gangsta" rap music, who would never consider actually physically hurting a woman.  However, I do see how these raps can make the listener less sensitive to abuse and disrespect towards women.  Encouraging such behavior is wrong and the resulting attitudes are unacceptable.  

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Indian Princess

      The article and reading for this week hit a wrong note with me. I grew up going to national parks and always wanting to surround myself with nature. On a trip to Arizona I found myself surrounded by "Native American" culture and was inspired by their relationship with nature and careful use of resources. Despite this positive opinion, I think I have always had a fictional idea of true Native American life.  Although there may have been more truth in my previously held conceptions about Native Americans than the "sidekick" or "warrior" stereotype, I still have been affected by the media's portrayals.  My favorite movie as a child, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, featured a Native American and a horse as the main protagonists. This character still had many of the featured stereotypes of Native American culture in the media.  As the reading pointed out, between all the tribes that previously existed in North America, only some wore feathers and lived in teepees. However, this image has been mine, and many others, long ingrained perception.  Even now in more recent culture the "Indian Princess" has become a popular image in halloween costumes and fashion.  These costumes and clothes mostly reflect the media stereotype, not the actual reality.

      I was surprised too by the classes reaction to the article about Disney and the Lone Ranger. Everyone seemed to feel so strongly one way or the other about it.  I personally am on the fence about the ordeal.  I feel as though the stereotype that will most likely be featured in this film is more ignorant than damaging.  It will not give Native Americans a bad name but it will continue misled ideas into the next generation.  However, many were arguing that Disney would not want to do anything politically incorrect since it would cause outrage.  However, I believe stereotypes do not always push negative qualities, they just maintain an unrealistic generalization.  So while Disney may not be directly "offensive" and crude, chances are the image they create of "Tonto" will still be a false image of what Native Americans were truly like. Even if the movie does create a more positive and heroic role for the character, it will be stereotyped.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Sex, Beauty, and Advertising

     I was particularly interested in the topic of "Sex Advertising" by guest speaker Jacqueline Lambiase this week. Advertising surrounds us all the time, but I had not really considered the way sexual appeal is used in advertising.  Although I have identified certain commercials as being sexual before, I never realized how it could affect brand recall or even how people view sex itself. The statement "sex sells" is so true, and taboo or not, it is part of our nature. From an advertising standpoint the use of sexual images and innuendo seems almost to cancel itself out.  If an image captures someone’s attention but does not make them remember the product, then the advertisement has only done half its job. As a student who hopes to have a career in the arts and entertainment, I feel these concepts run concurrent with my future.  My close study of the conception of beauty as a result of advertisement is also closely related to this idea. 

    Because products, television, billboards, and commercials surround us all the time they have such a commonly unacknowledged potential to affect people's perceptions.  Advertisements set the standard for beauty, love, creativity, social standing, and of course, sex.  I feel that people don't realize the power images and products have over the way society is shaped since the constant flux makes it seem as though it is a numb process. However, without our realization, these pictures are affecting us with things as simple and primal as sex. Although I try and be aware of the things that I am surrounded by and how they affect me, this class and presentation have made me realize there are still many ways the media affects me that I still have not realized. Because sex can be more taboo in comparison to beauty and gender I feel that these issues in advertising are not as well discussed.  Although we may find ourselves surrounded by sexual images I am more likely to comment on a commercial I find to be sexist and offensive than something I find to have lots of sexual innuendo. This lack of discussion and communication is yet another problem in a world full of media.