The practice of media criticism does not necessarily suck the fun out of something. If one goes in to the consumption of media fully aware of where their lines are and what sort of messages the entertainment is propagating, only can safely consume said media. The problem with entertainment is that it is never entertainment for entertainment’s sake – or, at least, it shouldn’t be. Awareness of what the media you are consuming is doing and saying about women, minorities, and society as a whole is important for eventually improving upon those “norms.
As much as we love media and talking about how awesome it is, sometimes we have to talk about the really not so awesome parts of it. Like the subtle but almost constantly perpetuated oppression of minorities.
I wanted my first-year film students to understand what happens to a story when actual human beings inhabit your characters, and the way they can inspire storytelling. And I wanted to teach them how to look at headshots and what you might be able to tell from a headshot. So for the past few years I’ve done a small experiment with them.Some troubling shit always occurs.
It works like this: I bring in my giant file of head shots, which include actors of all races, sizes, shapes, ages, and experience levels. Each student picks a head shot from the stack and gets a few minutes to sit with the person’s face and then make up a little story about them.
Namely, for white men, they have no trouble coming up with an entire history, job, role, genre, time, place, and costume. They will often identify him without prompting as “the main character.” The only exception? “He would play the gay guy.” For white women, they mostly do not come up with a job (even though it was specifically asked for), and they will identify her by her relationships. “She would play the mom/wife/love interest/best friend.” I’ve heard “She would play the slut” or “She would play the hot girl.” A lot more than once.
For nonwhite men, it can be equally depressing. “He’s in a buddy cop movie, but he’s not the main guy, he’s the partner.” “He’d play a terrorist.” “He’d play a drug dealer.” “A thug.” “A hustler.” “Homeless guy.” One Asian actor was promoted to “villain.”
For nonwhite women (grab onto something sturdy, like a big glass of strong liquor), sometimes they are “lucky” enough to be classified as the girlfriend/love interest/mom, but I have also heard things like “Well, she’d be in a romantic comedy, but as the friend, you know?” “Maid.” “Prostitute.” “Drug addict.”
I should point out that the responses are similar whether the group is all or mostly-white or extremely racially mixed, and all the groups I’ve tried this with have been about equally balanced between men and women, though individual responses vary. Women do a little better with women, and people of color do a little better with people of color, but female students sometimes forget to come up with a job for female actors and black male students sometimes tell the class that their black male actor wouldn’t be the main guy.
Once the students have made their pitches, we interrogate their opinions. “You seem really sure that he’s not the main character – why? What made you automatically say that?” “You said she was a mom. Was she born a mom, or did she maybe do something else with her life before her magic womb opened up and gave her an identity? Who is she as a person?” In the case of the “thug“, it turns out that the student was just reading off his film resume. This brilliant African American actor who regularly brings houses down doing Shakespeare on the stage and more than once made me weep at the beauty and subtlety of his performances, had a list of film credits that just said “Thug #4.” “Gang member.” “Muscle.” Because that’s the film work he can get. Because it puts food on his table.
So, the first time I did this exercise, I didn’t know that it would turn into a lesson on racism, sexism, and every other kind of -ism. I thought it was just about casting. But now I know that casting is never just about casting, and this day is a real teachable opportunity. Because if we do this right, we get to the really awkward silence, where the (now mortified) students try to sink into their chairs. Because, hey, most of them are proud Obama voters! They have been raised by feminist moms! They don’t want to be or see themselves as being racist or sexist. But their own racism and sexism is running amok in the room, and it’s awkward.
This for every time someone criticizes how characters of color and female characters of color especially are treated in text and by subsequent fandoms. It’s never “just a television/movie/book”. It’s never been ”just”.
For some reason, I become almost irrationally angry and annoyed whenever that Durex commercial plays on Spotify.
I suspect it’s because it perpetuates the same old tired sexual stereotypes, but in a more transparent (and damning) way.
What we usually hear is that women are crockpots and men are microwaves, that women just need a little more time to “warm up” — descriptions that are generalized and often misleading in and of themselves. But the language is passive, and doesn’t necessarily imply that either scenario is bad.It’s descriptive, not prescriptive.
But this commercial takes that idea further with the more explicit language that is used — it heavily implies that women need to be “sped up” and men need to be “slowed down.”No longer are the differences between sexual temperature and speed simply described; now they are presented as problematic.And of course, Durex’s product is the solution to this problem.
The connotation just really frustrates me in a way that is difficult to articulate. I realize that it’s just an advertisement, and that when marketing a product sometimes broad statements and general claims have to be made (this particular condom they are marketing is supposedly engineered to speed her up and slow him down, so it does make a sort of sense to market it in such a way).
I just wonder if it plays a little too much into insecurities we all have about sex in the first place. I know my initial outrage is, “Who are you to tell me that I don’t ‘warm up’ fast enough? That’s not a decision you get to make, nor is it a declaration you’re qualified to give across the board.” And from a brief Google search, I seem to not be alone in my frustration.    
If you’ve heard the commercial, what were your initial thoughts and feelings? What did you take away from it?
It all began almost a year ago with a picture I posted on Facebook.
I never thought I’d begin a story this way.
This picture talked about how Twilight’s darling, Edward Cullen, is actually far more of a creepy abusive stalker than he is an ideal boyfriend. At the time, I was a die-hard skeptic of Twilight, and had absolutely no interest in it whatsoever…other than to poke fun at the obvious flaws I assumed that it had.
To my surprise, within an hour or two of posting this picture, I had several friends who commented, rushing to defend the series. The overwhelming sentiment was that I couldn’t judge the books based on the movies (not that I had seen those, either). Furthermore, I was not allowed to bash the series until I had read the books and better informed myself.
And that’s how I decided that I was going to read the Twilight saga.
As is my habit, I alerted the general public of my peers to this decision along with my intention to blog about the experience (I know, I know, I’m a little late for the review — but I’m rereading them now and planning to start cranking out reviews). When Paige heard my plan, after she was finished laughing, she told me that if I liked the first book, she would read it, too.
(I did NOT like the first book. You’re welcome, Paige.)
After that, I was ready to throw in the towel, but I was persuaded by devout Twilight fans that “Alright, the first book sucks — but it gets better we swear!” So I collected the rest of the series, including the movies.
Reading the books alone was something I knew I could handle. Watching the movies? Not so much. When I read, things can only get so bad. Seeing someone else’s take on what I’ve read can be torture. So I managed to rope my husband into watching the films with me, then decided that Paige ought to share in our torment.
Understandably, she was hesitant.
After some haggling, we came to a gentleman’s agreement: she would watch all 5 movies with me…if I would watch 10 movies of her choosing.
Come on. That’s only fair.
As we watched movie after movie after movie together, we did what we always do when sharing the things that we love (and love to hate). We talked. We discussed, analyzed, raged, fan-girled — the more we talked, the more we realized how awesome it is to share thoughts and observations about fantastic and not-so-fantastic stories.
And that’s what Slightly Cultured is going to be all about. It’s about inviting you to join us in talking about the things in life that entertain us, so we can all discover together why the stories we love are awesome. You can subscribe to our YouTube channel (first video coming within the week!) or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. We look forward to geeking out with you!
On the character development of Steve Rogers.
Minor spoilers for Captain America and The Avengers.
Hey guys. Dani here.
If anyone didn’t know, I’m a big fan of what Marvel is doing with its movies. I’d have to say that my top three favourite super hero movies are Captain America, Iron Man, and The Avengers (though I must say, The Dark Knight Rises is up there as well).
Before I first saw Captain America, I was skeptical. I expected it to be a USA-worship-fest in which the strong white American man saves the day for everyone of every gender, race, and creed. I was very, very pleasantly surprised at the deliberate character development. In particular, I loved Steve’s spirit. Indomitable. Cheery. Strength of character in the face of fear.
But in particular, I loved his reply to the question, “Do you want to kill Nazis?” He said simply, with no bravado, “I don’t want to kill anyone. I don’t like bullies. I don’t care where they’re from.” He disliked any imbalance of power used to oppress, no matter what. I admired that greatly, and found him a character that I could love and support.
After my first viewing of The Avengers, however, I was slightly frustrated. Don’t get me wrong - I loved every minute of it. I found it witty and emotionally engaging. But I was frustrated with Steve’s portrayal. He seemed far broodier than he had been before. Less trusting. Far more reserved, yet more volatile when provoked.
But the more I thought about it (and upon further viewings), I realized that this was the right direction for his character to go.
Because he was still fighting oppressive power imbalances. First Loki, then SHIELD, even Tony. Those he saw wielding their power seemingly without acknowledgement of responsibility or accountability vexed him. His broodiness didn’t just come from being on ice for 70 years and feeling displaced in time. His broodiness came into play because suddenly the good guys were every bit as flawed as the bad guys, and he found himself caught in the middle.
I was very gratified to see him riding away on his motorcycle at the end of the movie, looking much more like his old self. And I’m very excited to see how his character continues to develop in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
What were your thoughts on the movies, Steve in particular?
Angela/Hodgins ———-> requested by Anon.
This is why I love Bones. Because I feel so very akin to Angela. So incredibly enthusiastic about life but only capable of embracing it a little at a time.
And they give her free agency through the whole series, and even when she falls in love with Hodgins it never has any bearing on how we as the audience view her character. It is just something wonderful that happens in her life, one that was clearly meaningful way before meeting Hudgins.
And her relationships with the other women in her life are in no way influenced by her job performance or romantic interests. She gives of herself with fluidity, she knows how much of herself to withhold, never letting go of who she is or what she loves. She doesn’t have things figured out, but is truly enjoying the learning process that is her life.
So in some ways I relate to Angela, and in some ways I learn from her.