Thursday, December 16, 2010

Myspace Participation

My contribution to the myspace group project was creating the entire powerpoint. coming up with topics and textual references to those topics was difficult. My efforts to find those things failed. in order to contribute more I discussed the textual references with Janette. By doing that we came up with a clear way to present the information. I surveyed people by posting the survey on Facebook. After all the surveys were done I tallied up the results that were used for the game.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Unscrupulous Mirage of Perfection

The cultivation of the era after the enlightenment has eliminated the distinction between high and low culture. Instead of the clear cut distinction between the two, high and low culture is now blurred together which has given way to the creation of subcultures. Lash, a professor of sociology and cultural studies, has characterized postmodern culture as ‘figural’, that is it puts stress on the visual, draws from everyday life, and immerses the spectator in his/her desire for the culture object (Barker 202). As a product of this blurred culture, postmodern culture has paved the path for individuals to freely express themselves and question norms that have been socially accepted because we were told that’s the way it has to be. The best illustration of this ‘figural’ culture can be seen in any production from any media form. Television is implicated in ‘the provision and the selective construct of social knowledge, of social imagery, through which we perceive the “worlds”, the “lived realities”, of others , and imaginarily reconstruct their lives and ours into some intelligible “world-of-the-whole” (Hall, 1977: 140; Barker 315). As the media continues to provide insight into postmodern culture, it creates a fabricated image of an ideal self. This media production of an ideal self fuels the obsession of those who are trying to achieve the unattainable. In order to understand this obsession, we must explore the factors that shape social and self identity.

Although postmodern culture promotes nontraditional views, traditional gender roles will always be strictly encouraged among individuals. Starting from the moment we are born, we are socialized to fit a gender role according to our biological makeup. These learned gender roles building blocks for the creation of self-identity, that is, the verbal conceptions we hold about ourselves and about our emotional identification with those self-descriptions (Barker 215). Embracing the identification of self provides prominent effects on confidence. Gender socialization is a crucial factor in creating self-identity. “Born a Boy, Raised a Girl”, originally aired on TLC in 2005, is a documentary about Brian and Bruce/David Reimer. The Reimer twins were both born as boys, but due to botch circumcision surgery, David’s penis was cauterized. Dr. John Money, a psychologist in the field of gender identity, recommended that David’s parents socialize him as a girl. With much hesitation, they agreed to raise David as a girl and raise his brother, Brian, as intended. They arrived at the decision to raise him as a girl only because they were told that he was too young to remember anything anyways. Money was conducting an experiment, “John/Joan” case, in order to learn about gender neutrality. All throughout David’s youth he didn’t have many friends, and was constantly teased. Sensing the difference between himself and the other girls, he lacked the capability to fit in. If he was a girl, how come he didn’t feel like a girl and have the same interests as the other girls? His interests were centered on items, such as clothes and toys, primarily made for boys. His parents brought the inquiries about his feelings to the attention of Dr. Money, but he persisted they continue socializing him as a girl. His relentless attitude was produced by biased expected results and hypothetical fantasies of received praise for his findings. During a quarrel, out of spite and jealousy, the truth was mistakenly revealed to him by his brother. Finding out the truth was bittersweet. All his inquiries about feeling different now made sense, but he questioned his parents about their decision to raise him as a girl. Never being able to fully accept the fact that they put him in that situation, David committed suicide. This nature vs. nurture case provides evidence that we are not born as a blank slate. Our biological composition predisposes gender socialization and self-identity.

In addition to biological composition, the construct of identity rely heavily on agents that influence social identity. Social theorist, Charles Cooley, believed that an individual’s sense of self is derived from the perception of others. The Looking- Glass Self Theory involves three major components: 1) One imagines how they appear to others. 2) One imagines the judgment that others may be making regarding that appearance. 3) One develops a self image via their reflections (Gordon Marshall). The agents that shape social identity are constantly changing. Identities are discursive constructions that change their meanings according to time, place, and usage (Barker 217). The predominant framework of social identity is molded by the institution of family. Youth is an especially formative stage of development, where attitudes and values become anchored to ideologies and remain fixed in this mould for life (Barker 408). Starting at a young age, the indoctrination of morals, values, and beliefs is done by the family institution. This skeleton helps guide the individual in making decisions on future influential agents. As the age of adolescence starts, the school institution becomes the influencing factor on social identity. As an adolescent’s ability to understand what is socially expected of them and acceptance of different cultural views expand, identity starts to take on another form in regards to The Looking-Glass Self Theory. The recognition and acceptance of cultural difference are key elements in designing an open minded characteristic. This open minded characteristic is beneficial when adapting to a new social identity. Sometimes, the association with other cultures’ values, morals and beliefs can influence or even change that of your own. The inner core of the subject was not autonomous and self-sufficient, but was formed in relation to ‘significant’ others, who mediated to the subject the values, meanings, and symbols-the culture- of the worlds he/she inhabited (Hall, 1992b: 275). “Outsourced,” is a sitcom that uses comedic depiction about the differences between American and Indian culture. A retail call center that sells gag gifts is losing money by keeping the company in the United States. Todd, portrayed as a “typical American”, eats red meat, watches football, and is considered to be a “lady’s man”, is chosen to be manager of the call center in India. Upon his arrival, he immediately notices the cultural differences. These differences lead him to quick assumption that his decision about managing the company in India was a bad one. As compared to Westernized culture, Indian culture is not modern The Indian culture reveres the cow as a sacred animal which means that they do not eat red meat. Indian women are not as independent as American women in regards to dating. The dating pool of potential suitors is chosen from applications that have been reviewed by the parents in order to arrange a marriage for their daughter. Although the final decision is made by the bride-to-be, the dating regime is opposite of that in America. The first stage of getting to know your partner is done after the marriage has happened. Love is considered to be a product of marriage instead of a predecessor. Marriages are sometimes arranged to achieve higher social status. In India, women act in accordance with traditional gender roles. That is, they are still the homemaker, child bearer, and fulfill and obey the husband’s wants and needs. Upholding family honor is highly prioritized as compared to the high prioritization of material objects in Westernized culture.

Television is at the heart of image production and the circulation of a collage of stitched-together images that is core to postmodern cultural style (Barker 203). The media targets the adult audience by identifying the utopian self with produced images of flawless skin, tight, sculpted bodies, and social status represented by extravagant commodities. Various social movements have exerted appreciable amounts of effort in attempts to diminish traditional gender roles. As a result of their efforts, the dream of achieving gender equality seems to be contradicted by the media’s pseudo- representation of the ideal self. The portrayal of utopia enforces traditional gender roles that affect both males and females. Giddens describes identity as a project. By this he means that identity is our creation (Barker 217). The creation of this project starts with For Butler, identification is understood as a kind of affiliation and expression of an emotional tie with an idealized fantasized object (person, body part) or normative ideal (Barker 299). The creation of this project has turned into an obsessive quest in efforts to achieve the idealized fantasized object. The craze surrounding the ideal self starts with influencing the vulnerable youth. Celebrity kids, such as Justin Bieber, Jonas Brothers, and Miley Cyrus, are major contributors to youth culture. The unpretentious infatuation with these “moment celebrities” attribute to the exploitation of the naive youth. Trying to achieve an ideal self in youth culture constitutes going to extreme measures to convince their parents to buy every single item that displays the celebrities’ logo. McRobbie argues that the active and changing character of femininity is marked by the transformation of girls’ magazines in response to the ‘sophisticated and discerning young consumer’ (McRobbie, 1991d; Barker 419). Teenage girls sometimes develop eating disorders in efforts to be beautiful feminine women just as they are portrayed in the media. The learned helplessness in some situations is seen as a form of attracting teenage boys. The achievement of traditional masculinity is expressed through protection for the perceived helpless girl. The construct of social identity during teenage years is crucial in shaping adult social identity. If those perceived gender characteristics follow them into adulthood, problems may occur. Teenage boys are conditioned by traditional masculinity which has encompassed the values of strength, power, stoicism, action, control, independence, self-sufficiency, male camaraderie/mateship and work, amongst others (Barker 302). If boys do not meet this expectation, they are seen as less which can lead to low self-esteem which can sometimes lead to depression and substance abuse. Men have been acculturated to seek esteem through public performance and the recognition of achievement (Barker 302). Recognition of achievement has always been represented with posh commodities. The horrible economic status of the country has lead to the decrease of consumption. Material representations of achievements affect both men and women. Identification with high social status shapes yet another social identity. As portrayed in American Psycho, identity is based on fashionable name brands, the location and status of restaurant and bars, and of course physical appearance. Representations are always matters of contestation. Consequently, it is difficult to know what an unambiguously positive image would look like (Barker 453).

With target audiences for gym advertisements being men and women, the pressure to be in shape and lead a healthy lifestyle have become contingent with the thought of finding romance. The desire to attain that ideal, tight, sculpted body has driven some individuals to extreme measures. Some regularly diet and exercise, in addition to diet and exercise, others attend the gym more than once a day and others turn to plastic surgery. Plastic surgery provides an individual the option to fix any flaw or imperfection or change and enhance features to reach the epitome of perfection. The media produced images of fantasized perfection have helped develop and instill some kind of shallow characteristic in every individual. The shallow characteristic is unconsciously shown through the enforcement of gender roles and social expectations of physical appearance. We are exhorted, urged and disciplined into adopting the ‘right’ healthy attitude towards our bodies. Health promotion strategies are clearly based on the division of actions into the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’, whose management is our ethical responsibility (Barker 123). ‘Good’ health is now being promoted through organic and natural food. The media’s craze with organic items has influenced many companies to jump on the band wagon. Starbucks sells packaged coffee beans that have been certified organic. The package also provides information about where the coffee beans were grown. Starbucks organic coffee beans were grown under organic shade in a forest. If a package is certified organic, even though it is more expensive than industrialized farm products, it will be sold because of the good health connotation that is attached to it. Slenderness and a concern with diet and self-monitoring are preoccupations of western media culture with its interest in a ‘tighter, smoother, more constrained body profile’ (Barker 310). In certain situations, the perfect body type cannot be accomplished simply by diet and exercise. In efforts to help those who find it difficult to diet and exercise, the LapBand procedure was created. The advertising method used to promote the LapBand claim, “Diets Fail.” Of course diet and exercise are not effective to the individuals who are extremely overweight and obsessed. Just because it does not work for them, does not mean it does not work in general. The context of that catch phrase suggests that it is ok to eat junk food and lead an unhealthy lifestyle. When an individual reaches an uncontrollable weight, the LapBand procedure can take care of that problem. This procedure feeds into the ever-growing obesity epidemic. As stated before, the management of health is our ethical responsibility. The well-being of one’s self is only possible through dieting and the promotion of a healthy lifestyle. Although the topic is heavily stressed by the media, it should be of great concern to everyone.

Postmodern culture was produced by the blurring between high and low culture after the enlightenment. The figural characterization of this culture puts stress on visuals, represents everyday life, and saturates an individual’s desire for a cultural object. The driving force behind the individual’s desire for that cultural object is a product of misrepresented media imagery. There are many agents that influence the structure of identity. Traditional gender roles are at the core of these agents. Identity is a product of social and cultural meanings that are constantly changing. Therefore, as the social and cultural meaning changes, so does identity. Self-identity is the emotional identification to self-descriptions. Biological composition predisposes socialized gender roles that govern self-identity. Social identity is structured by expectations and opinions others have about us. It starts with the institution of family as a youth and continues with the institution of school as an adolescent, then just continues to change throughout life according to time, place, and usage. Morals, values, and beliefs differ between cultures. Gender roles are culture based. The media constructs a desired image of the ideal self. This ideal self is unattainable because it is a product of social expectations as created by traditional gender roles. The efforts that go into achieving utopia affect the actions of adolescents, teenagers, and adults, whether they are male or female. Diet and exercise promote good health. The exploitation of organic and natural food has consumers eager to jump on the band wagon. The catch phrase, “Diets Fail,” promotes an unhealthy lifestyle that can lead to obesity. As the media continues to use mass deception to drive consumerism, Joan Didion states, “When we start deceiving ourselves into thinking not that we want something or need something, not that it is a pragmatic necessity for us to have it, but that it is a moral imperative that we have it, then is when we join the fashionable madmen, and then is when the thin whine of hysteria is heard in the land, and then is when we are in bad trouble.”

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

It's Not So Radical After All

Homosexuality is highly stigmatized because society has always viewed it as a deviant act. During the early 1950s, with no supporting evidence, the American Psychological Association (APA) had classified homosexuality as a mental illness. This classification was due to biased information deriving from religious beliefs, mental health professionals, and social attitudes. Others viewed it as a personal choice that could be cured through extensive conversion therapy. About a decade later, psychologist Karen Hooker conducted a study to see if there was any correlation between homosexuality and psychological development and illness. The results of Hooker’s study provided evidence supporting the fact that there is no difference in the mental capabilities of homosexuals and heterosexuals. Soon after her study was published, the APA removed homosexuality from the mental illness category. Even with the negative label detached from it, homosexuality is still stigmatized because some members of society see it as unnatural and immoral. With more exposure through social movements and media, society has learned to adapt to the acceptance and tolerance of the LGBT community.

Before the emergence of LGBT social movements and scientific research providing evidence that homosexuality was not a mental illness, it was rarely openly expressed. Homosexuality had to be hidden from society because there was a lot of hostility from those who opposed it. Their hostility toward homosexuals was shown through vandalism, verbal abuse, and sometimes even violence. Some instances even include criminalization. Many gay activists have made efforts to protect the LGBT community. Harvey Milk, an openly gay congressman from San Francisco, was killed because of his sexuality. This sparked outrage in the gay community, inspiring them to come together for a vigil in his honor. The amount of people that showed up in support for Milk was surprising. The societal views on the acceptance of homosexuality slowly started to change after Milk. Anti-discrimination laws were passed to give homosexuals an equal opportunity in the work field. More laws, such as anti-crime laws, were passed to protect the gay community as time progressed.

The media has played a big role in showing the normality of the LGBT community. The L Word, a series on Showtime, was based on a group of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender friends. Six main characters, primarily lesbian, portrayed how they lived their lives, their careers, and romantic relationships. With the LGBT community already being seen as radical, this series shows that we’re really not as different as people think. Bett and Tina have been in a monogamous relationship for seven years and are planning on starting a family. Alice, a bisexual, is a blogger who jumps from relationship to relationship with men and women trying to find the perfect one. Dana, a closeted lesbian, is a famous tennis star that fears that coming out will ruin her career. Shane, a bonafide lesbian, is considered to be a “woman’s woman” and can never be in a committed relationship with just one person. Jenny, straight woman turned lesbian, is a writer whose book is turned into a movie that is supposed to be a blockbuster hit. These characters define a point that Judith Butler tries to get across by stating, “It is important to recognize the ways that heterosexual norms reappear within gay identities, to affirm that gay and lesbian identities are not only structured in part by dominant heterosexual frames, but they are not for that reason determined by them (724).” Therefore, the LGBT lifestyle should not be criticized against because there is no actual evidence that proves a difference from the heterosexual lifestyle.

As society becomes more exposed to the LGBT lifestyle, even though it is still considered radical, it becomes more and more accepted. People do not feel as pressured to hide their sexuality. This acceptance has stemmed from various movements and exposure through media.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Chasing the Ghost of a Good Thing

As we walk in, we notice that the bar isn’t as occupied as usual. There are two distinct groups of people here tonight: older people in business attire that seem to just have gotten off work and come to unwind, and the others are college students that are looking for a good time. Looking around at the few couples in the room, no real passion can be sensed. One couple, male and female Latino, are sitting at the bar conversing. The male’s body language shows that he is very interested in this woman. His whole body is facing the female and as they talk he is looking her in the eye. The female’s body language, on the other hand, is opposite from his. She is sitting there, inattentive to what he is saying. As he talks, she is not looking at him; instead she is looking around the room or watching TV. Another couple, male African-American and White female, is sitting in the middle of the room at a table by themselves. They are also conversing but both of them are very attentive to what the other person is saying. They rarely take their attention away from each other. In the back of the room sits another couple, White male and female. Even though they are there with a group of friends, it doesn’t stop them from being all over each other the whole night. The last couple I saw was two people probably in their twenties. As they approach the bar, the girl is approached by a male that is not her boyfriend. The guy that approached her is obviously drunk and trying to spit game on her. Her boyfriend notices this and tries telling the other guy to back off but he just kept persisting. The boyfriend, obviously bothered, starts to get firm with the guy and he starts backing off. When they go back to their table they start making out and every time they stop, the guy wipes his mouth. As the night progressed, the guy in couple one eventually gave up on talking to the woman he was with and they both are just sitting there watching the crowd. His body language drastically changed. Now he was also facing the bar either watching TV or gazing into the crowd. The second couple continued to engage in deep conversation, but as their night ended, they paid more attention to the crowd than each other. Nothing changed with the third couple. The whole time we were there, they were all over each other sucking face. The last couple ended up leaving shortly after because the girlfriend started looking like she was going to get sick or pass out from drinking too much.

On the first day of class we were asked to define love in our own perspective. There are many degrees of love, but the love I will be referring to is romance. I deeply believe that love is a facade. It is something we spend a lot of time thinking about. Love is this thing that we can never grasp. We are all chasing the ghost of a good thing. When people think they have fallen in love with someone, they actually haven’t fallen in love with a person; they’ve fallen in love with the idea of what that person could be and what the future holds for them.

Finding love at a bar is almost always unheard of. People usually go to a bar not to look for romance, but to indulge in something that the na├»ve know as love, but to everyone else it is lust. In “Romantic Comedy Boy Meets Girl Meets Genre”, McDonald states:

Maybe… Or Maybe the whole love thing is just a grown up version of Santa Claus, just a myth we’ve been fed since childhood so we keep buying magazines and joining clubs and doing therapy and watching movies with hip-hop songs played over love montages, all in this pathetic attempt to explain why our Love Santa keeps getting caught in the chimney.

Saussure states, “Our definition of the linguistic sign is a combination of a concept and a sound-image.” Love is just a word that the media has connected some arbitrary meaning to. Since all we know about love is what the media shows us, no one actually knows what real love is. The media portrays love to be the greatest thing in the world. People search their whole lives for the perfect love, and most of them fail at finding it. This is due to all the high hopes the media generates. When reality sets in, those hopes and dreams of finding true love are crushed in a heartbeat. A great example of this comes from a scene from “500 Days of Summer”, in which Tom gives a speech about how the media can construe people’s views of love. He blames the misinterpretations of romantic comedies and love songs for giving him this fake sense of this thing we call love.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

In answering the question, how do we know who we are, there are many elements that need to be considered. It starts with biology. Being a male or female is what starts to shape who we are. Society has put different standards on what is expected from males and females. As brought up in class, parents tell their children that they can be anything they want to be. This gives us freedom to choose who we want to be to some extent. Who we are is ever changing. Everyone wears masks to hide their true identity. It’s like we’re trying to convince ourselves to be something or someone that everyone else wants us to be. Why are we so easily influenced by other people? It is part of a vicious cycle of being accepted into a social group. We’re afraid of the reaction we would get if we really expressed what was on our minds. The scene from American Psycho is a great example of this theory. Around his peers, Jason Bateman appears “normal”. When he is alone at the club, his true identity peeks out. We are our own puppets and puppet masters. We pull our own strings to make us do what we think people want us to do.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Culture Through the Ages

The meaning of culture has greatly evolved over time. It started out with the idea of upper-class people being so privileged that it allowed them to be exposed to different aspects of life. Therefore, the meaning of culture was associated with art, literature, and classical music within the upper-class. With the upper-class having the advantage of “above culture”, many thought that it was going to be used to dominate the “below culture”. Below culture, an underground type of art, literature, and music, was considered to be culture that lower-class people were exposed to. As more and more people became interested with the below culture, above culture seemed to die out. Presently, there are no distinctions between above and below culture. Culture today is thought of as being a collection of a group’s ideas and beliefs, and values.