So Says I...

Race, Gender, and the Media.

Race, Gender, and the Media.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Final Project

Introduction
I got the idea for this research project while watching my DVD of the first season of the sitcom, Popular, that aired from 1999-2001 on the WB. This quirky high school drama/comedy centers on a number of students and their war with each other to claim the elusive prize of popularity. There are the “popular” girls, Brooke, Nicole, and Mary Cherry, who are all blonde. And then there are the “unpopular” girls, Sam, Carmen, and Lily, all brunette. Ironically, Brooke and Sam must live together because Sam’s mom and Brooke’s father are now engaged, and as you can imagine drama escalates.

On the episode “Hard on the Outside, Soft in the Middle,” the battle of the blondes versus non-blondes is put to the ultimate test. When Brooke receives an A on her science paper because it’s packaged in fine leather, and Sam receives a C on a paper she spent 2 weeks perfecting, but left a mere coffee stain on the cover, she is puzzled. She questions her teacher, Ms. Glass, on the reason for her grade. Ms. Glass admits to what Sam suspected, and when Sam retracts the unfairness of it, Ms. Glass then replies: “No, that’s natural selection.” Sam proclaims to her friends that “brunettes are second class citizens,” and even suggests that her own mother favors Brooke over her for her blonde tresses, giving her the “bigger meat” at dinner, referring to when she serves pork chops. The brunettes then challenge the blondes to an experiment on natural selection. The brunettes go blonde, and the blondes go brunette, to see whether or not their hair color affects how they are treated by others. Just as suspected, the girls see a large change. Lily, an animals activist, who when brunette tried to rescue a lobster with a gimped leg from a restaurant, was rejected by the owner and told she would have to pay $5,000 for it. He called her the “girl with hair the color of mud,” but then offered the Lobster to then blonde Mary Cherry for a measly $5. When Lily returns to the restaurant as a blonde, he then sells her the lobster for only $3, and shuns away the now brunette Mary Cherry, claiming her “money is no good here.” Sam finally gets “the bigger meat,” and receives an A on her paper packaged in a sparkly gold folder, even though the pages inside are blank. Brunette Brooke, on the other hand, receives a C.

Although this show might be extremely outrageous, over-dramatized, and a bit satirical, it does beg some questions. This is where the basis of my project came. Carmen refers to the 2 biggest sex symbols of our time, Marilyn Monroe and Madonna, both former brunettes that went blonde to become what they have. She states: “Blonde equals sex, and sex equals power.” How true is this? Does being blonde give females this “power” over brunettes from T.V. and film? Or is this just what Ms. Glass refers to as “natural selection?”

Corpus and Method
For my corpus, I decided to take off from the series, Popular, where I got my research objective, and compare it to a number of high school teenage-based movies, and test this out to see just how prevalent this may be in the media today. I viewed Mean Girls, Cruel Intentions, The Hot Chick, Clueless, Saved!, and Can’t Hardly Wait. I first used quantitative analysis by coding each of the main female characters, and whether they were blonde, brunette, or other, for measure. I then observed their behavior and role in the film, and whether or not they held more power over the others, or if they were being subjected to lesser power by those others holding more power over them in the film. I wanted to see just how blondes are presented as compared to brunettes in these films -- whether each was presented as being sexual, non-sexual, innocent, evil, intelligent, or non-intelligent. I broke these categories up, and listed each character that fell into each one, and compared the results.

Findings
After filling out my chart, I found many interesting findings. Out of the series, Popular, and the 6 movies that I analyzed, 6 of the main characters that were blonde played more sexual roles. Only 1 brunette, however, had a more sexualized role that was also a very evil, manipulative character as well. Absolutely no blonde characters in any of the media I observed were portrayed as being very non-sexualized, but 3 brunettes were. This clearly presents that more blondes play sexual roles than that of brunettes, and brunettes are more likely to play the frumpier, less sexually appealing roles. After the once “mud haired” Sam transformed into a blonde, she looked confidently at her 3 blonde foes and told them: “We can take your power, your grades, your men, and your lobster.” These blonde roles that are sexualized also seem to result in them having more power, or confidence, whether natural selection or not.

As for the more innocent portraying roles, 2 brunette characters fit into this category, while only 1 blonde character did. As for more evil, villainous characters, surprisingly 4 blondes fit into this role, while only 2 brunettes did. 2 of these blonde evil vixens were from Popular, which blatantly made out blondes to be so. So if you were to discard those 2 for being too biased upon observing, the blondes and brunettes would both be equal with 2 each, remaining neutral.

When it came to which characters were presented as more intelligent or non-intelligent, I was not so surprised. Absolutely none of the blonde characters were presented as particularly intelligent, but 7 blondes were made out to be the very antithesis of that. 2 brunettes were intelligent, and 3 were non-intelligent. This does not say much about the brunette characters, but it clearly shows that in today’s media blondes are clearly not looked at as being very intelligent, and more often portray the stereotypical “bimbo,” or “airhead.” In the episode of Popular, Sam’s mom decides to go blonde as well. When she tries to describe just how the new color makes her feel, Sam iterates: “Liberated? Free from the shackles of down intellectualism? Dumb as a box of rocks?” “Yes,” her mother smiles. These days it seems that women find more power in beauty than intelligence. Sam, who is very intelligent and strong-willed, finds freedom and empowerment by simply changing the color of her hair.

Discussions/Conclusions
By producing this study, I hoped to discover something new aside from all the stereotypes that come with the age-old blonde versus brunette debate. What I found, simply, is that for the most part these stereotypes still remain true today, at least in media aimed at the teenage generation. Blondes still seem to dominate more roles that incline being very sexual, and non-intelligent. Brunettes seem to be more prevalent in roles where they are the more intelligent characters, and sometimes result in them also being less sexually explicit. Does this particularly prove what the episode of Popular said, that blondes hold more power? As for sexual power? Yes. Jessica from The Hot Chick, the blonde captain of the cheerleading team, used her beauty and sex appeal to flirt with a boy at a smoothie shop into not charging her and her friends for their drinks. Regina from Mean Girls coincidently was played by the same actress, Rachel McAdams. One could say she also almost played the same role. Regina, although not a cheerleader, is the leader of “The Plastics,” and the most popular girl in school. She seems to get whatever she wants, and other girls in the school worship her like a celebrity, copying everything she does. One girl even states: “One time Regina punched me in the face. It was awesome.”

The one brunette character from the selections I watched that presented a very sexual presence was Kathryn from Cruel Intentions, played by Sarah Michelle Gellar. What I found interesting about this casting was that Gellar, who found fame as a blonde on the WB TV show, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, actually dyed her hair brown for this role. As Kathryn, she was a very evil, manipulative student body president of her Catholic school, who challenges her brother in law to a bet to see if he can rapture the virginity of the innocent school master’s daughter, Annette, played by the blonde Reese Witherspoon. If he can do so, she will have sex with him, and tells him so in a very sexual, perverse manner. After seeing this I wondered -- Can blondes be sexy, but not truly evil at the same time? Would people not believe this character to be as real if Gellar were to have kept her blonde tresses for the role? Perhaps for such an evil role, only a brunette could pull of such villainous traits. This is a study I would like to pull from this and challenge more intently.

In the end, does the blonde really get “the bigger meat?” It might not be as blatant as the writers of Popular suggested, but in these roles today, blondes still do seem to take charge of these sexually powerful roles. But they also play more dumbed-down roles, and who really can respect that? I suppose it just depends on what you yourself value, and what you don’t.


Research Chart


Just for fun, here's a clip of Popular when Mary Cherry, now brunnete, tries to buy back Lil' Babe, and is rejected.

X-3!!

So I did finally see X-Men yesterday, and I have to say I was pleased. I was a bit disappointed in how they presented the transofrmation of Jean Grey into the Phoenix. I didn't like how they made her so eerie, and sickly looking. In the Comics she was lively and sexy, and rose to the air with wings of fire set all around her. That's the Phoenix I wanted to see. But other than that, I thought the movie was rather good.
As for gender roles I saw in this, there were really not that many. In a movie about superheroes, both men and women are looked at as very powerful. The one thing that stands out is what someone in class pointed out one day. Storm, played by Halle Berry, continually fights abother black mutant throughout the whole movie. What is this saying? I'm sure it's not saying much, but more for comedic measures, but it also seemed as if they were playing off the whole "Jerry Springer" theme, that black girls done ever get along, and constantly target one another to fight. That's just a thought.

No TV for me...

I never had much desire to work for TV, particularly the news, but after hearing the 2 speakers we heard yesterday, my decision is even more clear. It is just such a shakey career, constantly new people coming in, making changes, cutting people, moving people... I need stability, and I am not the type that likes to travel all the time. I hope that whateevr career move I take, that I can be somewhat settled, but I know that is a longshot, especially early in my career when I try to establish myself.
I did like, however, how theyre TV show took off so nicely. It is neat to hear how those connections can take you places. I will definitely try to make sure that no matter what, I never fully brun any birdges, because who know how that might come to help me later on. I know in this business, who you meet is your ticket. And with my winning personality I'm sure that I will do fine. ;)

W&G

Yesterday we talked a little about how homosexuals are presented in the media. This, ofcourse, is a kind of personal issue for me, because I am gay. Though I am gay, I do not particularly fit the stereotype we see a lot on TV. I do not prance around swinging my arms, calling everying, guy or girl, "Hey girl!" and wearing sparkly tops and rainbow socks. I have many straight male friends, and enjoy just as much as the rest of them going out for a couple beers and watching the Mavs play. I do, also, however, have a group of gay friends who sometimes do fit some of those stereotypes, and I love them for it. We come in all shapes and sizes just as do any straight people, and I wish the media would present that more. As in the case of Will and Grace, Will is more of someone I can relate to. Very focused on his career, successful, and passionate. Jack, although hilarious, represents a lot of the things that make the homosexual lifestyle look so bad. He often has sex with lots of random guys, and that only enhances the already stagnant view that our lifestyle is all about sex. I do not engage in such acts, and only do so with people I care about. I love Jack, and he cracks me up and wouldn't change him for a thing. I just wish more "Will" characters were prsent in TV today as well.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Your money's no good here!

Here's a video clip of newly brunette Mary Cherry, getting rejected for the lobster, by newly blonde Lily, from the episode I talked about in the previous post. It'll give you an idea of jsut how outrageous this crazy show just is.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Wogs51Ou5k

Exquisitely stereotypical.

I am working on my final project, for which I am watching some episodes from the TV series "Popular" that aired on the WB back in 2000-2001. The show is a very quirkey high school drama/comedy, that looks at high school in a very sarcastic, way over-dramaticized, larger than life style. I'm focusing on the portrayal of women, and how they interact with eachother, and the power that sex can bring. In the episode I just watched, in which the 3 popular girls, who are all blonde, challenge the three "unpopular" girls, who are all brunette. They have a "natural selection" challenge, in which they each switch eachother's hair color to see if they really do get treated differently. Ofcourse what happens is way out of this world, and not real, but what it is dramaticizing is simply the truth. I will cover this more in my project.

One thing I thought was funny was what I saw after watching the video today in class about how asians are depicted in movies and TV. There was a small side story to the plot of this episode, where a foreign exchange student who is Asian (her name is Exquisite, no lie) moves to the school, and is interested in the very obese football jock, Sugar Daddy. All while he thinks someone so beautiful as her would never be interested in her, she, who does not speak English, thinks that she does not deserve him for she is not beautiful enough. At the shows end, she finally is able to speak an English sentence, to which she tells Sugar, "Exquisite loves Sugar! Love Sugar long time." While the show was trying to show that beauty lies in the beholder, a good message to try and depict, it also ran down the stereotype that the video descried of Asian women being sexual subserviants, who's main goal is to please their man. The whole episode we felt that Exquisite was a woman of just that, exquisite, non-shallow taste, but then ends the show by saying that to him, thus then leaving us with that same view in our heads. Ay yay, yay, yay!!

Manipulative Mickey...

So I doubt I'll ever be able to watch a Disney movie and appreciate it the same as I did a kid, anymore. Thanks Ms. Lambiase!! Haha. Today we watched a video that showed all the many depictions of race and stereotypes in the Disney animated movies. Ofcourse I already knew about the sexual inuendos, like the preist's erection in The Little Mermaid, as we've all shared a few giggles over seeing those. But I never really realized just how many racial stereotypes are in these movies as well. From the asian siamese cats in lady And The Ramp, to Scar in Lion King, they're as blunt as can be. I was most disturbed by the fact that pretty much every "dark" character in the films, is most always the "bad" guy. I understand that darkness goes with evil, and it wouldn't make sense to make a character "bright" by the evil one, but in some instances it goes further than that.

One thing that the video did not really touch on was the Sea Witch from The Little Mermaid. To me, this might sound crazy, but I've always seen her as a big drag queen. Funny I know, but look at her. She's even got the Adam's apple going on. She takes Ariel's voice away, that one might say is a symbol of her femininity, something that men who dress as women can never completely obtain. Once she gets Ariel's vocals, she then pursues the prince, but the prince sees through and cannot completely be transpired for her, like he was for Ariel, eventhough she cannot communicate. Maybe this is a testiment to the fact that nothing beats the real thing. Men can try to become women, and go after men in their fake eyelashes and breasts, but they can never completely take that role.

"Crash"!!

So Monday night I watched the movie Crash, as we were assigned to do so in class. I have already seen this movie about 5 times, because I bought the movie several months ago. I bought it before all the hype had come about from it, and it got nominated for all the major awards. I saw it at the store, and noticed it had my favorite actress, Sandra Bullock, plus a large casts of great actors, and decided I'd buy it, as I don't really ever rent movies. I was not sorry I did. I love this movie. It touched me like no other movie has been able to. It makes you look at how we treat and view eachother in a real limelight, and makes me question how I must make others feel by my own actions and words.

I grew up in central Texas, about 45 minutes north of San Antonio in San Marcos. At my school, I'd say approximately 80% of my classmates were hispanic. In Crash, one scene has Don Cheadle and his Puerto Rican girlfriend fighting because he reffered to her as a Mexican on the phone with his mom. She corrects him by telling him she is not from Mexico, therefore not a Mexican. He replies to her by saying "Well in all those great cultures you mention, who was it that got them all together and decided that they should all park their cars in their lawn." She then storms off out of the room. This reminded me and some of my friends in high school, and how we would soemtimes make comments like this about the large number of Mexicans that lived around us. Even hispanic friends of mine would make fun of them too.

As for gender roles depicted in the film, they were extremely hard to find because the movie was SO focused on the issues of race so blatantly. It did seem though, however, that the women played stereotypical roles somewhat. Sandra Bullock played kind of the stereotypical wife to a polititian -- didn't work, stayed at home, very pretty, conservative. The wife to the Muslim man plays a very subserviant wife, staying out of his way as to not upset him, for he is the rule-maker of his household.I also noted that besides the girlfriend to Don Cheadle, every woman in the movie did not work. In a movie that concentrates so much on racial diversity, you think they could have made these female roles a bit more diverse as well.

That said, I still love this movie. I'd really hate to admit to a movie actually "changing my life," and I still won't; but, this movie sure did make me look at mine. I'm really glad that this movie was assigned to us, because I think everyone should at one point see this movie, and soak it in.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Mini-Study

Bryce Smith - Mini-Study assignment

“Women dress much more alluring and sexual and also present themselves that way in music videos than men do.”

Two-sentence summary of findings:
Men in today’s music videos are often dressed rather sophisticated, in non-revealing clothing. Women, on the other hand, are often dressed very alluring and scantily clad, in revealing, tight clothing, and depict themselves in very sexualized roles.

Summary of the previous study:
The previous analysis of such trends in music videos was done in a summary by Julie Andsager compiled of many separate studies in the book “Sex in Consumer Culture,” (Chapter 3: “Seduction, Shock, and Sales: Research and Functions of Sex in Music Video”) edited by Jacqueline Lambiase and Tom Reichert. These studies culminated provided evidence that women in music videos tend to play much more sexually explicit roles than men do.

Its most important foundation literature and how it relates to your own project:
The most substantial amount of information used by the previous study was by Seidman, Andsager and Roe, who examined music videos played on MTV and CMT, and coded the percentage of men and women attired in alluring/sexy clothing. This study showed that barely any men in these videos were dressed this way, but women dressed this way accounted for nearly 1/3 out of their total videos that were tested.

Corpus and method:
My corpus was comprised of watching the current most popular videos on the 3 major music channel networks – MTV, VH-1, and CMT. I viewed a total of 12 videos, 4 videos each from each of the three channels. I then split the 4 from each channel, and watched 2 videos by male artists, and 2 by female artists. I first used quantitative analysis by coding whether or not the music artist was male or female, and then observed how they were dressed. Next, using qualitative analysis, I recorded detailed descriptions of the videos for further study of how each artist portrayed themselves in their video.

Findings:
Of the MTV videos I viewed, both women (Rihanna and Kelly Clarkson) were dressed in revealing, sexy clothing, while both men (Nick Lachey, Ne-Yo) were dress more demure. Both of the women also danced and performed their songs very seductive and sexually. On VH-1, 1 woman was dressed very scantily clad and presented herself in a very overt sexual fashion (Mariah Carey), while the other was fully dressed and conservative in a simple top and slacks (Natasha Beddingfeild). One male was fully dressed (Daniel Powter), while the other video centered around him as he sang the song and stripped his clothes to then jumped off a cliff into the water below (James Blunt). On CMT, one woman was dressed kind of suggestively for some of the video, and rather demure the rest of it (Faith Hill), and the other woman remained rather conservatively dressed in her video (Carrie Underwood). Both men (Tim McGraw, Keith Urban) remained appropriately covered in their videos.

Conclusions:
The previous study showed that men dressed provocatively in music videos barely hit the radar, and from my mini-study I can see that this has not really changed very much at all. As for women, this number remains higher than that of men, and looks to have only increased over the past few years. In these videos, the women also present themselves as more of objects of sexual prowess and seduction much more blatantly than that of men, who generally just perform the song, while other elements besides themselves take focus of their video. To extend this study, I would watch many more videos to get a better analysis of these findings. I also think it would be interesting to see how many female videos center around the woman and their sexual appeal, than that of men, and how many of their videos center on a storyline outside of just focusing on the artist. I would also like to examine country music videos by females in particular, as it seems that this is the only music genre that seems to have maybe decreased, or is on the verge of decreasing the sexual content of their videos. Such artist as Faith Hill and Shania Twain, who capitalized on sexuality in their videos a few years ago, have since toned it down in their recent efforts to what seems to be the back-lash from the conservative movement that seems to be taking place in the country world.

Not just games anymore...

Yesterday we talked about video games and music videos, and how women are portayed. I used to play video games when I was little, but haven't played them much since. If I do, the games I have played have been such games as "Zelda" and "Mario Kart", which are cartoons and intended for all ages. I have heard of such games as "Grand Theft Auto", but never really seen them. I was shocked at how provative some of them are. Hookers in video games? Are you kidding? My little nephew plays video games constantly, because my brother does and they play together. They played shoot 'em up games, like Halo and Doon, in which they go around and shoot people pretty much. I used to play games kind of like that back when I was younger, and I'm probably the most non-violent person you're likely to meet. But these games were not near as violent as the ones out today. i don't know how I feel about that, but if games like these are all you seem to play,a nd spend hours upon hours doing so, it can't be that great for children and their detriment.

Britney, Britney, Britney!

So, I knew inevitably in a class that centers around sex in the media, the name Britney Spears was sure to eventually pop up in our discussions. The past couple days of class she has come up A LOT. Why do we love her? As much as I detest her, I love her. Maybe living with 2 roomates who absolutely adored her, it simply rubbed off on me. Or maybe I just don't have enough of a life, that keeping up with her dramatic, crazy mess of a life keeps me whole... whichever, she is someone we love to hate. And I think now that we see her kind of going down the drain, as her career deteriorates as we speak, we are getting complete pleasure from it. But at the same time, we secretly want to see her eventually come back and blow us all away. We are a celebrity-obsessed culture, and the tabloids and papparazzi that inhabit the store check-outs consume a lot of people's time! Why? I think there's plenty of different reasons. But what really bothers me are that p0eople want to imitate these celebrities, who more and mroe these days are not of the utmost respectable nature. The Paris Hiltons, Lindsey Lohans, Britney Spears that so many young girls idolize can only contribute to the falling morality of today's youth.It is sad, but at the same time, I really don't see a resolving answer for it. People of Hollywood and the media world are going to have to realize this downfall, and think less of what money they can make of it, and try and promote stars and images that are better role-models for today. How to do that? I just don't know...

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Newspapers love Halle

Thursday in class we talked about newspapers and did an excercise analyzing the content of what are put in newspapers. My group dissected the "GuideLive" section of the Dallas Morning News. This is always my favorite section of the newspaper, because I love music, movies and anything entertainment, which this section covers. By taking a closer look at this section, it kind of bothered me. Out of the whole entire 5-6 page section there was only 1 picture and 1 article, which was small at that, of anyone of another race than white. And what further makes this more disturbing is that the article was on HALLE BERRY. Halle Berry, who might as well be white. What I mean by that is she is one of the most fairly skinned black people I've ever seen, and hardly has the mannerisms that would define her as otherwise. Not that Halle Berry tries to be "white", she just garners more attention from people even so that are not particularly enamored by other African Americans in the media.

This just seemed like an easy route for the newspaper. In a newspaper that featured atleast 4 different pictures and articles on Tom Hanks, you think they could afford to add a little more diversity to the blend.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Women working in the Media

Today we had a guest speaker (forgive me for not remembering her name!) who came to give us insight to being in the actual TV media feild. She has worked for a few different news teams, and had a lot of insight as to the profession. The main focus of her discussion was about the absense of females in the workforce. I thought it was really interesting in how almost 2/3rds of college journalism students are women, but only maybe 1/3 of women actually make up the total number of employees working in the feild! I do notice that women overtake journalism in college, because I am a male, and can usually count on being one of the few in every journalism class I take, as is evident in this class now. I always thought it would maybe give me a leg up, as there are so many women in my feild, that me being a male might let me stand out when I go out and try to earn a career in the feild. But now I learn that eventhough these women out number me in the classroom, males out number women ultimately in the workforce. I guess this would have to do with the fact a lot of women start their own families and don't return to the workforce, or other such factors, but it still seems a little off. In a world that has become so liberal and independent, and more and more seems to caiter to the fact that women empowerment is at an all-time high, it's still surprising that in these times men still overpower women in most workforces.

I respect women's opinions, and see that they bring sensitivity and morale to most everything that they do. This is needed, particularly in the media feild that continues to be bombarded with cheauvinistic and crude opinions, losing sight of the audience and their overall feelings and opinions. I am a gay male, and I can appreciate women for I have the benefit of being able to connect with them more than the average heterosexual male. This is one reason I think I persoanlly will be able to flourish in this industry, and hopefully have a lot to bring to whatever path it is I end up taking, but I hope that when I do more women will be there with me.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

News today...

Today in class we discussed the news, and what content was selected to air on it. The subject of deaths, and which ones were important, or "news worthy" enough came up. Apparently the only stories worth reporting are those of someone being killed in a car accident, or murdered, or some other disasterous situation. But, really, who would really want to hear about someone dying of old age? I know I wouldn't, and people die of such things all the time, there would not be enough air time to cover all of them. I don't really like hearing about people being murdered, or killed in car accidents, etc. But it still is intriguing and lots of people want to know the details, so in essence, I don't see this is a bad thing. The one qualm I do have with the news is they focus too much on the bad that is going on but not enough on the positives. I feel depressive when I watch the news, because it just shows all the horrible things happening, and not enough positive to uplift me for the day and think opitimistically about the world that we live in!!

Monday, May 15, 2006

Why not men?

Today in class we talked a lot about gender roles, a lot of which are in advertising on TV. The topic of only women being the star of commercials for cleaning products came up, for some reason specifically the "Swiffer." I thought about this a lot, and though I agree that it is a bit offensive and maybe even degrading to women, but also makes sense because women ultimately are the most dominant target market for these products anyhow... I had my own thought -- why not men? Yes, the stronger target market is women, but do you really think a woman would be turned off by a commercial for a cleaning product if it were a man using the product? I think, if anything, it would only make the commercial stand-out more, and catch people's attention for not blending in with the rest of the stereotypical crap that is out there. Women would be intrigued, and would still see the benefits of the product, because no matter what they're still going to clean. They might even see it that if a man can use the product, which most men seem to not care about cleanliness near as much as most women do, then the product really must be that easy to use, or that effective. Men might see the ad and be prone to want to try it out seeing that a man is using it, and it not be seen so feminine.