viernes, 27 de febrero de 2009

Personal reflection#3 - Tracking race and gender stereotypes in the media

Ocurrence 1:
- 02/17/09 – (radiofranceinternationale) – 3 pm
- Online french newspaper
- Black Guinean soccer player suffers verbal racial attacks during a game, agressor faces nocharges because he claims he was drunk.
- Racism.

Ocurrence 2:
- 02/23/09 – JMC 4853 – Race, gender and the media – 6 pm
- Bell Cort Room, OU Law School
- Class experience - Dean Evans
- Interesting lecture on the history of OU’s first African-American student and the history of the black people of America which I’m learning so much about and as a foreign student I was aware but not involved in.
- Evolution of american society within racism.

Ocurrence 3:
- 02/24/09 – Governor’s room OMU – 12 pm
- PAN AMERICAN Student Association officers meeting and tasting
- Discussion about the typical hispanic dinner that will be served next Friday at our cultural night, some basic ingredients such as beer or jelly cannot be used because we are expecting arab guests who by are by their religion unable to eat these. Dilema arouses when we have to choose between having this idea in mind despite the fact that it unables us to really allow guests to “taste” our culture. Solution is to adapt the menu but that means it is no longer Latin American. Will people notice?
- Cultural assumptions about people unaware of Latin American culture/ gastronomy.

Ocurrence 4:
- 02/25/09 – ENG 3423 – Film and other expressive forms – 7-9 pm
- Gittinger 0317 (T, W, TR)
- Film screening – Professor Joanna E. Rapf
- A Raisin in the Sun, Daniel Petrie (1961) – Based on a play by Lorraine Hansberry.
- African-American racial and gender stereotypes. Discrimination, segregation and asimilation during the 60’s. It is very important that a late version for TV was shot last year, this means that this issues are still recurring themes in society.

Ocurrence 5:
- 02/26/09 – ENG 3423 – Film and other expressive forms – 1.30-3 pm
- Jakobson 102
- Extra lecture – Professor James Ragan
- Discussion and comparison between the adaptations and meanings of A Raisin in the Sun, Daniel Petrie (1961) and The Godfather, Francis Ford Coppola (1972) within their historical contexts and its relationship with present US history regarding Obama.
- Breaking apart the stereotype. Family values from Americans (and inmigrants) point of view and their process of integration/ segregation in society and asimilation of their cultural roots.
- African-American racial and gender stereotypes. Discrimination, segregation and asimilation during the 60’s.

Ocurrence 6:
- 02/26/09 – Campus – 3 pm
- Personal conversation/debate with classmates after the lecture.
- Discussion about why is Obama’s whiteness not aknowledged when he’s portrayed by the media.
- Racial assumptions.

Ocurrence 7:
- 02/27/09 - - 10.04 am
- Online chilean newspaper (conversation with a Chilean exchange student whose friend died)
- Shocking news about a racial attack in Miami against Chilean exchange workers.
- A 60 year old American shot a group of young chileans in their home killing two of them and leaving three more seriously injured. The guys had come to the US to work for four months in the company Win USA. The neighbours decribed the agressor as a “racist”.
- Racial discrimination

Ocurrence 8:
- 02/27/09 – – 4 pm
- Mexican advertisement for Verizon Wireless
- Scandalous use of machism used as a joke to advertise a cell phone company offer. Directed especifically towards Hispanic communities.
- Gender assumptions and community stereotyping.

Personal reflection:

As a media student I’m totally aware on the amount of stereotyping there is in the advertising and information bussinesses. However, what mostly shocks me is how “well accepted” or integrated is this issue in nowadays society. The fact that advertisements and incidents which degrade the image of women or racial minorities certainly shows that society is not only used to being exposed to these ideas on a regular basis, but that they’re unreactive towards them being broadcasted. However, there are still unfortunate and uncomprehensible crimes against equality going on in the world such as the news about Miami that a friend of mine came over to tell me this morning. I can't understand how there are people insane enough to kill others just because they belong to different nationalities, there is so much left to do in the world that I fear that makind will never have time enough to eliminate prejudices.

Nontheless, I believe that education and interaction of cultures is the way to solve this problem, as so far in my personal and daily experience I have just found myself with friends, teachers and situations which involve a prosperous view worldwide human intearction. This is experience has come to me as an opportunity to break down stereotypes that the media had put into my mind during my life and enabled me to make extremely important friendships based on tolerance and understanding. Surrounding myself with international people gives me hope whenever I find myself watching a racist advert. It is a fact that we conceive certain ethnic groups with a certain perspective dependeing on where we come from. For example, while American society is way more concerned about racism towards African-American people, Europe takes this issue to a different level. In fact gender discrimination is the biggest cause for concern lately in countries such as Spain, where violence against woman is so present in he news that they no longer cause an impact on the reader or viewer as they used to do.

And so, by living this year in the United States I believe that I’m getting to understand better how America’s mind works and I really appreciate how lately most of my classes have been spinning around a similar axis because there’s no way I could have learned about all of this from a first hand experience in my home country. It is probably for this reason that I get so emotionally altered during screenings of movies such as A Raisin in the Sun or lectures such as Dean Evans’ or Professor James Ragan’s. It is then when I consider myself as a privileged woman for being able to witness Obama’s triumph over racial discrimination and the evolution of mankind towards a fairer social world. I am witnessing the construction of history from the first row of the world’s theatre.

viernes, 13 de febrero de 2009

Personal reflection#2 – Hairspray and privilege

Set in the city of Baltimore, Maryland in 1962, in the time of John F. Kennedy's presidency and during the Vietnam War. The musical Hairspray was first released in 1988 under the direction of John waters and recently filmed by Adam Shankman in 2007. This is a very relevant time to set the movie on as it was the year in which “Dr. Martin Luther King spoke in front of 3.5000 people at Willard W. Allen Masonic Temple urging continued non-violence demonstrations opposing segregation”. Also, “President Kennedy ordered federal marshals to escort James Meredith, the first black student to be permitted to enroll at the University of Mississippi”. However, I would like not just to analyse this 20 year old cinematrographic piece of art but its recent remake and its relationship to America’s present history.

*Timeline and article about the movie and its historical context:

For those who haven’t watched the movie or can barely remember it concisely right now here goes a quick review: Tracy, the protagonist of this film is obsessed with a TV teen dance show, The Corny Collins Show, whcich remains a racially segregated
program. The host and all of his Council Members are obviously white and so black kids are only allowed on The Corny Collins Show on "Negro Day", which is held the last Tuesday of each month. However, youngsters are mean and this film isn’t just about racial discrimination as Tracy is bullied by her classmates and rejected at the TV programme’s audition for being overweight as well as supportive of integration. She will lead to them to protest for equality and claim their right to participate in the contest without racial discrimination.

*Clip of Tracy being teased by classmates in school:

As far as I’m concerned, remakes from old movies or adaptations from novels, comics or any other piece of art are not just brought into the screen for any irrelevant reason. In the majority of cases the director has found history repeating itself and society in need for advise or realisation of a determined issue. Therefore, they decide to rewrite recognised storylines in order for the audience to easily read between lines a newly intertexualize its mesage and apply it to modern society.

Somehow, this movie reflects how the simple fact of being “different” to what majorities describe as “normal” was and still is a cause for rejection and exclusion from certain social activities. However, we are all different in a sense and so having a female, white character which doesn’t really fit into the perfectly stereotyped 60’s teenage girl as a protagonist enables the audience (composed by differentiated people) to rapidly and efficiently identify with her and therefore easily understand the movie’s main message. Tracy’s ackowledgement of her “inferiority” in opposition to the other girls in school is at the same time an open window that enables her to identify herself into the afro-american kids in school. However, to these kids she is the “different” one as comparisons always tend to depart from the point of view of the majority. Nontheless, her dancing skills are her tool to integrate into this group and be accepted by those who are discriminated just as her and join forces to fight against inequality.

Another thing to be taken into consideration about this movie is how it visually depicts unearned advantages and conferred dominance within the society during the 60’s (and less strictly but still present nowadays), as the TV show wouldn’t audition this so called “cool kidz” for their dancing skills but because of their physical appearance, especially skin colour. And so, dominance of the white pretty rich kids shows the inequality of privilege distribution. The teens getting rewarded aren’t necessarily the ones who diserve it the most.

This movie is somehow used as a tool to protest against racism and other types of discrimination and is calling for society to stand up and fight for their rights and a fair treatment. However, denial is a very present issue that lies in modern societies and this could be a problem at the time of interpreting this movie on modern times. I first watched it in Spain a year ago and I remember my mom commenting how unbelieveable the plot seemed to her even within the based upon context of the movie. She thought of it as a reminder of what used to happen during a time in which racism was considered to be inevitable in the United States, while in Spain we had a dictatorship going on and everything during that time spinned around the issue of racial superiority and the national pride. And so, the fact that Spanish society has changed so dramatically from that time to the present made my mom interpret this movie as a reminder of what happened, as many historically based Spanish movies tend to do nowadays.

Unfortunately, my reading was a little bit different. I believe that the remake of Hairspray actually demonstrates that race is still a main concern in moder american society and that it is yelling to the audience to stand up and stop denying reality; to reivindicate equality; to remember and avoid commiting the same errors once and again. And probably this movie fulfilled its purpose by encouraging americans to suppport Obama on the last elections. It may seem a stupid point to bring up but it is also true that the new media make societies move and are very influential when it comes to making decissions.

In fact, on a second level, we could discuss the resemblance between the movie’s finale and the elections results. Against all expectations, Hairspray ends with Inez (a young black girl) being elected winner of the The Corny Collins Show, just as Obama was fairly elected President. It is also one of the biggest moments of American and world history that he has become the new President and I am glad that I’m here as an exchange student to be a witness of this foresighted change. In the movie, this victory meant that the programme was finally integrated despite many people’s rejection such as one of the presentor’s declared frustration. Nontheless, she is caught red-handed by the camera confessing that she tried to trick the results and fired from the show as a sign of fair decissions and integration.

*Clip of the last scene of the 2007 Hairspray movie:

All in all, this is basically a movie about race and the unfairness of white privilege. However, this issues were certainly of greater importance at the time when the film was first made and the one it is based on, thefore in order to catch the modern audience’s attention newer and also denied issues should de brought into the scene. Despite many criticisms about John travolta’s female role in this remake, I believe that this is no way an offensive newly introduced element by Shankman, but a claim for homosexual and transsexual integration towards society’s acceptance of personal changes and decissions that individuals should be allowed to make. It is a major concern in modern societies which are introducing the right to gay marriages into their law systems despite criticism and opposition from many groups.

*Interview with John travolta about his transformation:

Using what we talked about in class, the readings and after watching Tim Wise’s video, I have tried to illustrate all of the points stated by reading subtdly between this movie’s lines and analysing this hidden social issues in its original and actual context. It is obviously my personal view, but anybody is free and invited to leave some comments and express their opinions about my readings or add some
of their own.

martes, 3 de febrero de 2009

Personal reflection #1

Gulliver’s travels was the first book I ever read as a child, but I doubt my ability at the time to read between lines and approach the satire that involves Jonathan Swift’s collection of novels. However, while I was sitting quietly at the end of that intimidating class full of foreigners to me, I somehow felt small and wished for the earth to swallow me before anyone pointed at me asking what race meant to me. And somehow, I thought of myself as an equivalent of Gulliver himself.

Somehow, every other student in the room became one of those creatures that Gulliver encounters during his multiple travels. They may seem one thing at first sight, but they may not see the world through the same eyes. As the class was discussing wether race was used to categorise differences between people, it also came up the use of race as a differentiation tool to put these same characters into boxes. However, depending on who you are and where you are at the time, you may be dragged from one box to another.

As to what race is referred, I could have quickly been categorized as a caucassian female, yet I myself certainly did not feel as being part of the biggest group in the class. My first impulse would have probably been a simple two category breakdown between Americans and foreigners (Spanish in this case).

In an attempt to try and make my point clearer I would like to highlight that before we start differentiating individuals we also have to bare in mind the social context of the place we are at and certanily the personal and social values of each person involved. As a matter of fact, the cultural reality of each country will be a crucial element to take into account at the time of breaking a society into racial divisions. Meanwhile, these may fall into similar or equal sereotypes. This is because despite having different social realities and values, the influence of media (and especially US products) have the power to transfer these values and behavioural patterns concerning ethnical groups to the rest of the world as one big audience.

On the other hand, as I already stated before, foreigners from Europe such as me would consider the members of the class Americans. However, every American in that same class broke that division down into smaller groups such as Afro-americans, Asian-Americans, Native-Americans and so on. I would for sure be able to appreciate those groups if asked because of the influence of the media and the obvious physical diferences between races, but those words are not as necessary or as common in societies such as the one I come from, where the main distinction is brought up by ethnicity, nationality or religion.

I don’t know if many people here might know, but inmigration is a pretty new phenomenon that has been increasing in European countries over tha past decades, as not long ago we were the ones to inmigrate. In opposition to this, the United States is a multiethnic country which has grown to become what it is nowadays by the amount of foreigners that once traveled to the US in search for an opportunity as it continues to happen. The fact that the interaction of cultures is part of American history makes race an actual matter of disscussion and distinction on the media and its various products. In addition, these many distinctions have many to do with the variety of politics and rights that each country has been build up on.

Now, I find this class and the disccussion of race in the US a magnifficient opportunity for me because in countries such as Spain (in which the media are starting to categorise characters on the news by their nationality) we could learn from both the errors and improvements that have occurred here so far. I work as a newspaper reporter back in Spain and I’m seriously concerned about the long-term effects of this new recurring fashion in which the media continue to bring up race and nationalities as one of the main issues on the news by constantly relating then to phelony and crime. In my opinion, this will only encourage society to relate both ideas and enter in a vicious spiral which will take away chances for integration and interaction between cultures and finally will end up arousing fears and fobias that could result in isolation of people in their own “boxes”. Especially in a world in which an individual barely belongs to a certain race, country or etnicity, but to the environmental reality that has taken part in their development as a person throughout its many life experiences.

All in all, I would like to go back to my home country and ty to put into practice as much as I can get to learn form my whole experience as an exchange student in the US and this class, just as Gulliver did. I know that my scarce knowledge won’t have a radical effect in the way society and the media distinguish between different types of mankind. However, if I can manage to get my readers to understand and appreciate the different ways to approach race and at the same time be able to understand better what I see when I’m watching foreign products, my goals will have certainly been achieved.