Saturday, December 11, 2010

Chicken or Egg?

This week Group #3 gave thier presentation about the well known tv show Seinfeld. After selected fragments of the show I could not help but agree with the group member who introduced it as "The show about nothing"...One of the questions that they posed was interesting and thought provoking. Much like the chicken or egg conundrum they asked: "Does television mimic real life or does real life mimic television?"...

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Amused into indifference

The group in charge of giving their presentation about did an excellent job of bringing to light the underlying issues associated with the social networks rampant in our “Western World”. The group did not limit themselves solely to however, they also explored and Twitter. One of the prominent questions when discussing social networks is the question of why we are so driven to publicize every single aspect of our supposed private lives for all to see. Updating statuses and checking our pages has almost become a compulsive disorder that is slowly turning into an addiction. This leads one to wonder; how is this digitalization affecting how we interact with our fellow humanoids? The group showed an amusing clip posted on that satirized this dilemma. The clip showed an individual interacting with another much as one would do online. His ridiculous behavior and blatant lack of any tact whatsoever served to demonstrate how technology can either transform us into tactless extortionist or offer us the necessary veiling express ourselves this way. The fact that someone can type in your name into a search engine and immediately have access to a great deal of information about you is eerie to say the least. Worst yet is the reality that even with your telephone number someone can find out information about you that you would never give out. Where you live, your age, your family members names and ages etc. Now with updates in social networks and “innovations” such as it is ever easier for others to know your exact location at any point in time. Why anyone would willingly put this kind of information online for all to see is beyond comprehension. As a peer mentioned in class, private detectives were once the “good old fashioned” way to find someone of interest. Nowadays however, I wouldn’t be investing in any private eye companies any time soon. I am sure this business has lost a great deal of customers because with our current technological explosion anyone with Internet access and enough determination can find your whereabouts relatively easily. The very thought is disturbing and unsettling to say the least. If Aldous Huxley and George Orwell could only know the extent of our technological dependence they would be beside themselves with angst and disbelief at our obvious ignorance of the totalitarian potential that lies within technology.



Neil Postman summarizes it best when he explores the writings of Huxley and Orwell and states:

             “Huxley grasped as Orwell did not, that it is not necessary to conceal anything from a public insensitive to contradiction and narcoticized by technological diversions. Where people once sought information to manage the real contexts of their lives, now they had to invent contexts in which otherwise useless information might be put to some apparent use.” (Postman, 1986).

Whoa! If this is not a accurate depiction of our current status I do not know what is. As Postman
sagely observed, we are obsessed with creating contexts such as youtube, Twitter, Facebook
and Myspace on which we can post copious amounts of nonsensical and insignificant
“information” to share with the world at large. If you don’t believe me just look up how many
views the toilet-flushing cat has on youtube….

Postman, Neil. Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. New York: Penguin, 1986. Print

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The ideology of Technology

Technology…at times it seems that we can’t live with it and yet cannot live without it (much like clichés =). In our western society technology and the media are as ubiquitous as McDonalds. While reading Barkers anthology on popular culture I found his discussion about technology and identity particularly interesting. Barker mentions theorists such as Turkle (1995) who see technological innovations such as gaming as a means for individuals to explore gender and identity. In her argument Turkle discusses MUD’s or Multi User Dimensions, which in her opinion enable “people…to play with identities and to try out new ones; in MUDs she suggests one can be many. This displaces the notion of an authentic identity and decentres the self without limit.” (Turkle, 362). Essentially Turkle takes the position that technology offers individuals the opportunity to “recreate” themselves in a way that would not necessarily be possible in ‘real life’ (362). Barker phrased it best when he makes the observation that “cyberspace is a dominion of playful identity construction were anything is possible” (Barker, 349). Though it appears that cyberspace offers us the freedom to recreate ourselves and sever ourselves from the constrictions of our society the reality is that this ideological fancy is misleading. The truth of the matter is that even if we sincerely believe that cyberspace offers us the opportunity to recreate ourselves in a way in which we will not be judged based upon gender, race, sex, ethnicity etc. we still carry with us those social ideologies from the ‘real world’ into the virtual world. One of the examples given in class by our fellow peer serves to illustrate the point. He mentioned the fact that a large portion of females who play Xbox Live feel the compulsion to take on male avatars while playing in order to avoid harassment. The fact that these individuals feel compelled to take on male avatars in order to be on ‘level playing ground’ with the ‘guys’ serves to illustrate how even in the virtual world certain ideologies about gender and identity carry over. As Simon de Beauvoir would point out, even in the virtual world women are still viewed as the ‘other’. Though many individuals believe that the internet and technological advances such as online gaming will help us break the ideologies that constrict our society the truth of the matter is that these ideologies are as ubiquitous in the virtual world as they are in the real world. Unfortunately for those ‘mavericks’ who believe that cyberspace is the fulcrum upon which the inequalities of our society will be abolished, Papacharissi cynically sets the record straight when she says “The Internet can then give rise to the illusion of dissent in the face of actual powerlessness.” (Barker, 355). Ouch! I couldn't have said it better myself.

Barker, Chris. Cultural Studies, Theory& Practice. California: SAGE Publications Inc. 2008. Print

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Ideology of Television

In class today the subject was one that often times we acknowledge to a degree but never really analyze further. How does television serve to perpetuate the ideologies of the dominant culture? Does television shape our reality or does reality shape television? As a wise lollipop wielding owl once replied, "The world may never know"....

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The psychosis of American Psycho

In class today we watched on of the most gruesome and disturbingly freaky films I think I've ever seen. The name says it all "American Psycho". I'm not one that enjoys or finds any sense of gratification in violent or so-called "thriller" films. Watching the film I could not help but be extremely repulsed by the main character Patrick Bateman. I know it is "just a movie" but I cannot even begin to describe how disgusted I was as I watched this psychotic individual carry out his maniacal abominations.  Granted this is probably the reaction the director wished to incite in the audience, but this film has definitely made it onto the list of films I can live without. Yes, I can analyze the film through the lens of popular culture and see how it deals with the themes of identity and capitalism. Bateman is so consumed with “fitting in” and being seen as a “normal” person that he puts on a façade to disguise his gruesome bestiality. To think that there are actually individuals like his character that can carry out this charade of normalcy while simultaneously living a life of utter depravity and insanity is chilling to say the least. From the few scenes we watched it was apparent that the characters infatuation with material goods and labels was exaggerated the point is made that in America too often we get caught up in our materialistic mindset that like those around Bateman we don’t recognize the monsters that our capitalist society has created. I cannot help but wonder though if Bateman truly is a construct and by product of a capitalist society or if he really is just psychotic. Yes I know we have discussed Foucault And how he writes that our disciplines, discipline us and how we create disciplines such as psychology, biology etc. in order to maintain order and create norms about what is and is not socially accepted. However true that may be I can honestly say that if Patrick Bateman lived next door I wouldn’t care about Foucault theories at all. My only concern would be getting him behind bars in a maximum penitentiary. Foucault could argue that I have simply fallen for the brainwashing lies of society but frankly I choose brainwashing over brainsmashing. However I have digressed from the subject at hand…Throughout the film Bateman is compulsively obsessed with having and being the best in his field. He is defined by his suits, his business cards, his fiancés social status, his high-rise apartment etc. etc. He is simply a pastiche of commercialized products and even though he is a cold blooded murderer the only things that trigger panic and anger are the realizations that someone is higher up on the social ladder than he is. He himself says “ I have all the characteristics of a human being but not a single identifiable emotion…except greed and disgust”. Now is this simply because Bateman is a byproduct of the brutal dog eat dog business world or because frankly he’s just psychotic? I say toss the popular culture and theories aside and call it like it is, the man is a few cards short of a full deck. The scene in which he butchers Paul Allen is gruesome and inexplicably noxious. Throughout his tirade Bateman continues to spew an endless rant about a popular band, their lyrics etc. like some mad advertiser pushing his products. I couldn’t help thinking that it slightly resembled that scene in the film The Truman Show with Jim Carrey. In the scene where he is freaking out because he’s beginning to question the reality of the world in which he lives. As he attempts to talk to his wife about his concerns she continues in her role as the wife and keeps looking at the cameras adverting various products. Here her “husband” is opening up to her about his concerns and all she can think about is Quakers Oatmeal. There is no denying that our capitalist system has played a role in conditioning us to being frivolous and materialistic but hopefully we are not in the depraved mentality consuming Bateman. Suffices to say that though this film did illustrate some of these concepts dealing with identity in a capitalist world, in all honesty watching that film was 40 minutes of my life I wish I could get back…

Monday, November 8, 2010

Malcolm X and Bordo

In chapter 10 of Susan Bordo’s book “Material Girl” she discusses how our culture has so inculcated within us a discontent with our bodies that we have come to see plastic surgery as a fashion accessory. In constant search for that unobtainable “perfect body” we straighten, curl, tone, nip, and tuck our bodies yet our minds continue to be fertile breeding grounds for discontent. One of the examples she brought up that caught my attention was an argument between a talk show hosts audience about colored contacts. Well the implications of this advertisement stem deeper than it may seem. Essentially the argument being made by host Donahue is that the ad glorifies blue eyes over brown eyes and makes it appear that having blue eyes is the ideal that all should strive for. The majority of the women on the show saw absolutely nothing wrong with the advertisement and thought it ridiculous that such a trivial ad was being blown so greatly out of proportion. Bordo describes how one lone woman took a stand and decried the beauty industry that festers and feeds off of women’s insecurities (which they initiate in the first place). This lone women declared that “we are brainwashed to think blond hair and blue eyes is the most beautiful of all” the women in the crowd responded to her comment with “hostile silence”. The question arises as to what the motivation is that impels us to morph our bodies. Is it truly just a simple choice we make, devoid of meaning and further implications? Or are we being conditioned to chase after an ideal emblazoned upon our brains through the media surrounding us? Bordo goes on further to make the argument that this “disciplining” or women is not equal around the board. There are racial inequalities within the beauty industry and certain groups are targeted. Bordo makes the argument that “Looking at the pursuit of beauty as normalizing discipline, it is clear that not all body-transformations are “the same”…even as we are all normalized to the requirements of appropriate feminine insecurity and preoccupation with appearance, more specific requirements emerge in different cultural and historical contexts, and for different groups.” (1103). Bordo goes on to give the example of Oprah Winfrey who admitted that as a young girl “she desperately longed to have “hair that swings from side to side” Bordo decries how this confession demonstrates “the power of racial as well as gender normalization, normalization not only to “femininity” but to the Caucasian standards of beauty that still dominate on television, in movies, in popular magazines…” (1103). However this is not the case for women alone. While reading the Autobiography of Malcolm X, one of his experience epitomized this racial and gendered bias. Malcolm X details his experience of getting his first conk, this hairstyle was popular during the ‘60’s. Basically African American men would use some sort of chemical relaxer to straighten their hair and then be able to style it. The process was excruciatingly painful and Malcolm X describes how even though he endured intense pain when it was done he stood grinning and admiring his new look. Later Malcolm X would describe this as his “first step toward self-degradation” when I endured all of that pain, literally burning my flesh to have it look like a white man’s hair. I had joined the multitude of Negro men and women in America who are brainwashed into believing that the black people are “inferior”-and white people “superior”—that they will mutilate their God-created bodies to try to look “pretty” by white standards.” (57).  I believe that if Malcolm X were brought into the discussion held during the Donahue show he would have given that audience a run for their money.

Bordo, Susan. “Material Girl: The Effacement of Postmodern Culture”.

X, Malcolm, and Alex Haley. The Autobiography of Malcolm X. New York: Ballantine, 1992. Print

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

He-Man Wuman Haters Club

While reading Barkers anthology I found Massey's argument about "gendered space" particulary interesting. The jist of Massey's argument is that "spaces are symbolically gendered and some spaces are marked by the physicla exclusion of particular sexes." (Barker, 377). Upon reading this a comical example from a well known series came to my mind. Hal Roach's series known as "The little Rascals" is a good example of this gendered space and the exclusion of particular sexes. In the 1994 film the opening scene pans in on the He-Man Wuman Haters Club as they take thier comical oath in which they "solemnly swear to be a he-man and hate women and not play with them or talk to them unless I have to. And especially: never fall in love, and if I do may I die slowly and painfully and suffer for hours - or until I scream bloody murder." Albiet extremely adorable this He-man club and oath are an excellent representation of Masseys idea of gendered space.The name of thier club says it all. The young boys that enter into the club house assert that this is their "man cave" and that "wuman"/ girls are not allowed to enter it. This is their own place and they assert that it is thier domain, any prescence of the opposite sex would be considered an infringement upon thier male domain. The club to them is as Massey says the "domain of men, connoting the primary values of toughness (either physically or mentally), hardness, comradeship and reality" (Barker, 377).

We are He-Man Wuman Haters, we feed girls to alligators, our clubhouse burned down mightly low, but we have a plan to make some dough!
-The He-Man Wuman Haters

As i read this section it also brought to mind Tamar Jefers McDonalds discussion about Romcoms and the emphasis on the bachleors lair. The bachelors apartment is depicted as one saturated in all things masculine and epitomizes "manliness". In discussing this idea of an extremely gendered space McDonald uses the film How to lose a guy in 10 Days. She relates how the film "gives a small homage to the importance of the bachlor apartment by highlighting the lair-like qualities of his place and then detailing how Andie maliciously transforms its seductive masculinity by importing frilly fabrics, cuddly toys and cupboards full of femine toiletries and cosmetics." (McDonald, 58). Although quite short this scene demonstrates the reality of gendered space and how it is depicted in the media. The bachelor pad is the man's domain, it is his "He-man woman haters" lair and women are only allowed to enter it when granted permission. Once Andie enters Ben's lair and proceeds to "feminize" his space the audience clearly gets the message that Andie has crossed the line and infringed upon Ben's male domain.