Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Gillmor and visual communication after 9/11

There are myriad reasons why Sept. 11, 2001, was a life-changing day, for anyone "who was older than a baby" at the time, as Dan Gillmor says in his Introduction of the book "We the Media: Grassroots Journalism By the People, for the People" (2004). Among the many reasons it was life-changing for me was that I was taking Advanced Reporting that semester as a junior in the news-editorial program at UNL, and I was really starting to come into my own as a journalist. I was making the transition from being a reporter to a copy editor and designer.

However, I was not in my Advanced Reporting class on 9.11.01, as I should have been. My uncle had died a few days before, and I had flown to Austin, Texas, on Sept. 10, to be there for his funeral on Sept. 11 - at 9 a.m.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Gay Men + American Television

There are many thoughts that ran through my mind when reading, "Representing Gay Men on American Television," by Kylo-Patrick Hart, and the prevalent issue was how many times I have remained silent in class when the topic(s) of gay culture have emerged. It is with little shock or surprise that I am a gay man, but one in which that I rarely let my sexuality define me. I'm a Soldier, a journalist, a bartender, a graduate student and a cellist. I have friends in every walk of life, of every shape, color and religious preference, and of varying degrees of sexual orientation. So I will say, first and foremost, that I do believe gay characters on mainstream television does to some degree shape the minds of society. I think it important to add that it has more effect on those with no gay friends, family members or co-workers, at least not that are open about their sexuality. Those with no "open" or "out" relationships (friendships) with gay men and women in life probably do struggle with accepting homosexuality as commonplace, let alone fully believing it no more a choice than loving someone of the opposite sex.

I grew up watching the series listed and talked about in this article. And to show you how much they influenced or had an impact on me--I could only remember the gay character from Rosanne. While I loved, and watched religiously, 90210, Melrose Place and Party of Five, I could not actively remember those gay characters listed. Still ashamed of admitting my own sexuality, I did take the first leap as a 17-year-old freshman at Northwest Missouri State University, when I wrote my analysis of gay culture portrayed on television in a 2003 editorial. I would later go to attempt launching Nebraska's first full-color, high-gloss LGBT magazine and even years after try again in an online format where I could offer up my own opinions of gay culture in Nebraska.  

Hart's analysis is accurate, even to this day. Last year, while the list was large for supporting roles of gay men and women in broadcast television programming, only five leading characters among four shows prevailed. Cable television programming would add an addition of four gay or lesbian characters to leading roles, and countless supporting roles. 

Do you believe gay men to still be stereotyped? I would say, of course--stereotypes exist because there are truths to them. I wouldn't say that we are always fairly represented in mainstream media, but a few are fighting to keep some stereotypes at bay. Anderson Cooper and Ellen are prime examples of media leaders that break through the stereotypes provided in fictional programming and showcase a diverse (and inside) look at what being gay really means.

While I have yet to turn on a television today, I am pleasantly surprised to come across a NY Times article that a few Key Republicans announced today their support for gay marriage and the reversal of Prop 8 in California. I hope that news outlets hit this issue hard (as usual as of late), and that the media can again act as a catalyst for positive change in equality and human rights in America. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Black Folk Don't

In Whites of Their Eyes, Hall (1981) described the effect media play in transforming and reinforcing racist ideologies and stereotypes. He suggested that racist ideologies are collective and unconscious processes, not isolated concepts originating solely in the minds of individuals. According to Hall, racism in media can be overt or inferential. Overt racism might come in the form of giving open or favorable platforms to individuals with racist opinions, while inferential racism is more subtle and subconscious. Inferential racism might resemble a television program that presents a particular race in an overly simplified and generalized manner. If the only news about a particular race, for example, is negative, then imagery of those situations reinforce already negative stereotypes. Inferential racism creates what Hall described as unquestioned assumptions about individuals without unpacking what those assumptions are predicated on. According to Hall, “ideologies tend to disappear from view into the taken-for-granted, ‘naturalized’ world of common sense” (p.19). The result creates a deep ambivalence about racial stereotypes.

Much of the media that Hall referred to was television and movies. The shift to network communication likely creates forums for challenging a lot of traditionally held stereotypes. Just as one example I came across this web series called “Black Folk Don’t”. Every webisode focuses on one stereotype about black culture, and subtly challenges viewers to think about the way they construct their identities and how some stereotypes create self-fulfilling prophecies. The clips are entertaining, and often thought-provoking.

Hall, S. (1981). The Whites of Their Eyes: Racist Ideologies and the Media, in Dines, G. and Humez, J. (eds.) (2003). Gender, race, and class: A text-reader, pp. 89-94,Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

DeLuca's idea on environmental activism and rhetoric

In "Making Waves", Kevin DeLuca seems to argue that political environmental activism is an anomaly in the traditional sense of "civil discourse" in the rhetorical sense.  In the past there have been certain norms and boundaries that were followed. If you had a protest you got the proper paperwork from the city government to do so. Now, he claims "when taken seriously as rhetorical activity, image challenge a number of tenets of traditional rhetorical theory and criticism, starting with the notion that rhetoric is 'reasoned discourse,' with 'reasoned connoting 'civil' or 'rational' and 'discourse' connoting 'words.'"  Essentially, political activism is the next step in the evolution of rhetorical theory. No longer are we defined by using words alone but also actions, including impromptu protests and other ways of challenging the status quo including possible illegal activities such as trespassing and civil disobedience. 

DeLuca gives three snap-shot examples and shows how recent political activist groups sought to create a change. Greenpeace successfully brought to the American conscious the act of illegal whale hunting. The leaders of Greenpeace are influenced by Marshall McLuhan and his ideas of attracting media attention. Then he examines Earth First! and their occupation of trees to save them from being cut down. The backlash they faced in their "ecoterrorism" lead to violence and possibly even murder. In Kentucky, strip-mining and hazardous waste dumping have not only left the earth barren, but also effected the health and lives of the citizens living there. Civil disobedience by a group of elderly citizens brought about public attention and legislative action.

The history of rhetoric is also important to remember and DeLuca shows how culture in the last 50 years has help the evolution of rhetoric become what it is today. Historically, Deluca mentions Aristotle's On Rhetoric and the long standing tradition of eloquent speech and decorum used when engaging. He goes on to explain the civil disobedience of the 60's and 70's died off with the era of Regan and only now are we seeing the next steps of real rhetorical change. 

Many examples since the writing of this article bear witness to this idea. This article written in 1999 and since then the explosion of the internet has allowed such  flow and exchange of information like never before. Also, movements such as Kony, the Occupy movement and the Arab Spring further this idea, although not tied to environmentalism, necessarily but the use of "mind bombs" to impact the public consciousness. 

Visual Literacy and image events

Deluca (Making Waves) makes sense, in that he criticizes authors for being neglectful of rhetorical analysis of images. “We must recognize that the conversation of the culture is centered not in the New York Review of Books but in the television experience.” He goes to explain that in this new media environment we need to a new framework to analyze the completeness of the television. At the time he wrote the article visual analysis was still being viewed through a prism of print.

The intellectual dissection of television and film isn’t comfortable to most people and particularly so at the time the articles were written. The general population didn't have the framework to do it. They were still thinking about the print medium as the medium suitable for analysis. I think it’s an easier medium for analysis, the purpose of print is a straightforward clarity, and that isn’t the case for film/television.

It may be easier to make the case in the future.  The digital revolution has transformed the average person from a media consumer into a media producer and gives them a better concept of creation and the intellectual framework for media analysis. An average person today takes 1000 times more photos and video than they would have twenty years ago and there is a similar increase in participation in digital design and layout. Its bringing visual literacy to unprecedented levels in our society, and especially in the instances of “image events.” So maybe our experience as content creators reduces some of the passive visual experiences and makes visual literacy as important in society today as written literacy was in the past.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Can we counteract women being portrait as objects?

After reading the two readings of Kilbourne and Perry about woman being portrait in media as sexual objects I was reflecting about 3 things:
a)     You can really only blame media about this situation? I don’t think so. I believe media is one of the main influencers as it reaches a large amount of people and especially women. Trying to add to what Miran wrote on his post, word-of-mouth among women is a really powerful influence. Some months ago I read an interesting book about marketing for women named “Why she buys”. In this book it is described why women are such a great source of purchasing influence and how important is for brands to provide a good service and experience with a brand in order to get their name across. There is also a common saying I used to hear back in college that most women dress and shop only to be seen by other women not only for men which I think it’s true and reveals how vanity, insecurity and a need of self-affirmation are serious issues among many of us.

b)     This idea takes me also to the question…do really women care being objectified? It might be something they even enjoy? Personally, I will never want to be considered an object. While we cannot disregard the impact that advertisement in magazines have in teenagers I am just thinking if those women who appears in hip hop videos are only passive individuals being influenced by media as well as the audience.I think most of them find the easiest way to survive or make good money by exposing themselves in those kinds of ads or videos. Maybe, some others have not had any access of education opportunities and the only way for them to “succeed” might be dancing seductively and showing their attributes. Moreover, I think for most of these women doing this might not mean being objectified but means exerting some kind of power over men. What I want to mean by this is that they have the power of their sex over men and they don’t care if they are being put next to the Rolex or the fancy car. In fact, the idea of being next to those expensive products might give them some sense of “value” and it doesn’t matter if this is associated with a price. I honestly think that some of these women might feel proud about what they’re doing. It is sad but I think some of them feel powerful and role models for other women interested in following this path.

c)      There is any way to stop these media influence or this is going to get worse? My guess is this might get worse. It is kind of an obvious answer but another question I ask myself is there is a way to counteract all these negative influence? There is a huge industry behind all these hip-hop videos and magazines ads and even TV shows and all of them are interconnected. The main reason behind all these sex and beauty industry is creating a constant dissatisfaction with self-image so you can keep buying products and constantly struggle to become as one of these girls. However, this negative influence of media also benefits in a huge way to health industry such as nutritionists, plastic surgeons and psychologists. I am not sure if just education and home or at school would be enough to counteract these negative influences.

Examining the male-dominated society

The readings by Jean Kilbourne and Imani Perry reaffirmed many of my own experiences being a woman in a male-dominated society; although, I do also agree with my classmates Jenny and Miran that media/advertising is not the main culprit for the pressure on women to be thin or to have self-esteem issues. I concur that our peers have a much greater influence on self-esteem. However, I would go one step farther and say that I believe it’s the influence of the men in a woman’s life that shape how a young woman responds to what her peers say about her and what she sees in the media.

I have always been a bit of a feminist and usually get upset when something is put forth as a male-only activity. I easily could have been a news copy editor when I was starting out as a journalist, but I have always liked watching sports, and when I found out how few women were working as sports journalists, I set out to become a sports copy editor and succeeded in that profession for several years.

Where does that way of thinking come from? My father.

Kilbourne's Overkill on Thinness

Jean Kilbourne takes a strong stand in "The More You Subtract, The More You Add; Cutting Girls Down to Size" that advertising and the mass media plays a huge role in the development of adolescents and their insecurities. At a time where teenagers are looking for approval from their peers, and will do just about anything to receive it, they're also faced with the challenge of being accepted in society.

Specifically with females in America, Kilbourne states the problems range from low self-esteem, eating disorders, binge drinking, date rape and other dating violence, teen pregnancy to even a rise in cigarette smoking. "It is important to understand that these problems go way beyond individual psychological development and pathology. Even girls who are raised in loving homes by supportive parents grow up in a toxic culture environment, at risk for self-multination, eating disorders and addictions" (pg. 259)

This toxic Kilbourne speaks of is advertising and it's "potent messengers". I do agree with this article that there is a double standard for females in our society. That most females are to be nice, sweet and polite but at the same time expected to stand up for themselves, speak their minds and fight for power in society. I have witnessed numerous times when a man speaks his mind and no one flinches but when a female does she is called rude names instead of respectful ones.

I also agree with the article that teenage girls are extremely desirable to advertise to as they're developing brand loyalty at this age and will do (spend) whatever it takes to fit in and look cool. The facts of this article are startling when looking at the effects of advertising and the peer pressure to be thin plays in young females lives including:

  • Nearly half of the women who frequently read magazines wanted to loose weight even though only 29% were actually over weight. (Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston) 
  • 70% of college women say they feel worse about their own looks after reading women's magazines. (Stanford University and University of Massachusetts) 
  • 40-80 % of fourth-graders are dieting. 
  • 1/3 of twelve to thirteen-year-old girls are actively trying to lose weight by dieting, vomiting, using laxatives or taking diet pills. 
  • In one high school, 63% of girls were dieting compared to only 16% of men. 
  • The single largest group of students who considered or attempted suicide were girls who felt they were over weight. (Massachusetts survey)
  • After three years of television becoming available in Fiji (starting in 1995), 74% of teens felt "too big or too fat" and 62% said they had dieted in the past month. 
I agree it's tough to be different. I was one of the first pole vaulters in the state of Nebraska growing up and was far from thin. I was also a female power lifter benching 200 lbs and squatting 300 lbs as a high school senior only 17 years old! I embraced my athletic body but it definitely came with the comments. I remember one meet in middle school when I was wearing my track shorts and a guy yelled, "I bet you could squeeze my head off with those huge thunder thighs!" While my first thought was, "What an idiotic thing to say," my second thought was of self-conscious. I was very aware that my body was not the typical figure you'd see in Seventeen but then again, that wasn't a magazine I read growing up. I read Sports Illustrated, Track & Field News and watched sporting competition vs. high school television dramas. 

While I understand Kilbourne's analogy of "cutting down to size" also referring to her sense of self, sexuality and her longing for power and freedom, I feel she places too much importance on television and magazines. Most of her examples are pretty extreme and stereotypes all females to being submissive and brainwashed to be thin. I think we have come a long ways (in certain areas) since this article was wrote in 1999. Female participation in sports is growing, Dove's campaign for Real Beauty makes a strong stand against weight loss and the growing knowledge of what miracles photoshopping can do. I also feel parents can play a huge role that can make a much larger effect on a teenager's image than the negative effects of mass media. 1) They can help by feeding their kids a healthy diet to prevent obesity 2) keep their "screen time" to a limit and make sure they're still being active and 3) talk to them and give reassurance of their self esteem and figure. Sometimes I feel there's a bigger need to address obesity in today's society now than anorexia but that can be left for class discussion or a different math problem of subtracting and adding. 

Women, girls especially, have seemingly always had an uneasy relationship with the media and advertising. So often we hear about how advertising and media pressure girls to look a certain way, dress a certain way, act a certain way. As we mentioned last week in class, an example of this obsession over looks can be seen in pre-awards show coverage of celebrities and what they’re wearing. Dresses get criticized, as well as hair and makeup, and more often than not their bodies in addition to that.

Image Events and the Keystone XL Pipeline

On a muggy August night in 2011, I found myself joining a crowd of 300 protestors shining flashlights at the Governor's mansion, chanting, "No more pipeline! No more pipeline!" Truth be told, I felt a little silly. But I believed then, as I do now, that the Keystone XL pipeline is a bad idea for Nebraska and for the planet.

Also that year, I attended a hearing on the pipeline and I held an "I Stand with Randy" event in my neighborhood. Randy is a Nebraska rancher who became the face of the movement when he refused to allow TransCanada access to his land. Randy, and three other Nebraska ranchers were arrested recently at the White House as part of a national pipeline protest.
                                                               Protesting the pipeline before

                                                                                                     the hearing at Pershing.
The protests, demonstrations, lobbying efforts and petitions were led, in part, by Bold Nebraska, an organization that can be credited with helping derail the pipeline, at least temporarily. Bold Nebraska often uses "image events" as described by Kevin DeLuca in "Making Waves." In the initial stages of the pipeline protest, the messages by Bold Nebraska were not just about the environment, although protection of the fragile Sandhills eco-system was considered an important issue. Image events were also designed to frame the issue as protecting the rights of Nebraska landowners, a message that resonates with conservative Nebraskans.

In making waves, DeLuca suggests the image events by radical environmental groups are not just "the desperate stunts of the disillusioned" and that they have a power of their own that lies outside of traditional rhetoric. DeLuca says, just as politicians use advertising and photo ops, "subaltern counterpublics participate through the performance of image events, employing the consequent publicity as a social medium though which to hold corporations and states accountable, help form public opinion, and constitute their own identities as subaltern counterpublics."

In today's networked age, the internet is also used as a way to spread those image events even further than DeLuca's "televisual" era. YouTube, Facebook and Twitter can help solidify image events as a tool for change.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Where we are with minorities and gays on network TV

After reading Kylo-Patrick Hart's article and Cedric Clark's four stages of media representation, it got me thinking, where are we on TV today in regards to gay and minorities?

To take a snapshot of this, I proposed using the four major broadcast networks, ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC. Counting only active shows which have not been cancelled, there are 60 current prime-time non-reality shows between these four networks. The table after the jump represents all 60 shows and represents how many gays and minorities appear in either the main cast or the stable of major recurring cast members (based on research on IMDB, Wikipedia and show websites).

NBCThe Office22Gay Hispanic
NBC30 Rock04One in main cast
NBCChicago Fire03
NBCParks and Rec02
NBCGo On02
NBCUp All Night01Maya Rudolph
NBCNew Normal21Centers around gay couple
NBCGuys W/Kids02One in main cast
NBC1600 Penn03Likely cancelled
ABCPrivate Practice02
ABCScandal04Top Two Main Characters
ABCOnce Upon a Time00
ABCModern Family23Heralded for ecclectic cast
ABCThe Middle00
ABCGrey's Anatomy44One bi; all in main cast
ABCThe Neighbors03All playing aliens
ABCCastle02NYPD chief and detective
ABCMalibu Country01
ABCLast Man Standing01
ABCHappy Endings11Straight-acting gay man
ABCZero Hour02
CBSHIMYM10One bi-sexual
CBSBig Bang Theory01Main cast
CBSPerson of Interest01Main cast
CBSTwo & A Half Men00
CBSNCIS: LA01Main Cast
CBSMike and Molly03
CBSCSI02One died off
CBSCriminal Minds01Main cast
CBSBlue Bloods02
CBS2 Broke Girls02
CBSElementary02two in main cast
CBSHawaii Five-O04Four of six main cast
CBSPartners21Most likely cancelled
FOXSimpsons00None in voice cast
FOXFamily Guy10Various gay/minorities
FOXBones02Two in main cast
FOXBob's Burgers01Rare mailman appearance
FOXAmerican Dad10Comedic relief
FOXRaising Hope00
FOXNew Girl02Two in main cast
FOXThe Mindy Project02Mindy is Indian
FOXThe Following00
FOXCleveland Show03Whole Family; 3 voice cast

The results show there are approximately 111 minority characters on prime time network television in the United States. Many of the minority actors are in staring roles and a few shows (Scandal, Grey's Anatomy, Hawaii Five-O) even have mainly minority casts. As for gay actors, there are far fewer with only 24. A few shows (Modern Family, The New Normal, Glee, The Office, Parnters).

If I had to categorize where minorities are at on Clark's scale, I'd put them between step three, regulation, and step four, respect. They could definitely occupy more spots but the numbers are trending up each television season. As for gays, the scale is harder. Some networks like ABC and Fox with eight each, are trending towards step four. Others like NBC with five and CBS with only three are still situated around two or three. In fact, CBS's show Partners is slated for cancellation and is currently off the air, while its lone other character is How I Met Your Mother's Lily Aldrin who is married with a child and has only passing comedic references to her bisexual tendencies.

***EDIT*** Here is a little lighthearted addition I received from a friend this weekend that kind of goes with my post.

Monday, February 18, 2013