Sounds Spine-tingly-dingly!

This week’s blog assignment was to analyze how a type of person is portrayed in the media.  I believe that “The Simpsons” does a good job of incorporating multiple stereotypes about dedicated Christians, and it humorously illustrates them through the character Ned Flanders, the Simpson’s overtly religious neighbor. In my opinion, the two main stereotypes about Christians from Seasons 1-15 of the show are that (1) they live their lives in a perfect, saintly manner and (2) they live by the bible so strictly that they forcefully push their beliefs onto others. I think that Flanders’ representation of these opposing stereotypes is good for the show. On one hand, his overwhelming kindness and charity demonstrates positive aspects of Christianity. On the other hand, his narrow-mindedness and socially unacceptable acts of faith allow viewers to observe negative aspects of Christianity. By encompassing both good and bad messages, his character portrays an unbiased array of messages. However, this is my personal opinion and is based on my own interpretation of the show’s messages.

Bonnie Dow (1996) wrote that a television critique requires “explanations of perspective, and defense of positions before a critic can even begin to engage with a text.” To honor her perspective, let me point out that I am not claiming that every Christian fits into one of these two categories, and I am not saying that this is the only way to view Flanders. His character has developed greatly over the past couple decades and can be analyzed through various filters. I invite viewers to interpret his character in ways other than mine but also consider the information I present. Let me also make it clear that when I use the term “stereotype” I am referring to generalized perception that not everyone may agree with.

Ned Flanders fits the stereotype of “living in the perfect Christian manner” by being the most friendly and compassionate member of the Springfield community. Religion structures nearly every aspect of Flanders’ life. He prays at every meal and before bed. He attends church three to four times a week, volunteers, donates to charities and maintains a pristine house and yard. In season 10, he attributed his organized life and deceptively young physique to “The Three C’s: clean living, chewing thoroughly, and a daily dose of vitamin church.

Although Flanders has many remarkable qualities, he occasionally exhibits an unpleasant side of evangelical Christianity: He is unwilling to accept competing cultures, and he forces his ideas upon others. In the episode “Midnight Rx,” Flanders openly mocks Buddhism, Hinduism and Judaism while attempting to convert his Indian friend, Apu, to Christianity. Flanders’ intolerance for non-Christians also arises in “Home Sweet Homediddly-Dum-Doodily” when he tries to baptize Bart and Lisa Simpson without their parents’ consent. While the show makes it clear that Flanders acts this way with a kind heart and good intention, it becomes apparent that his firm religious beliefs sometimes make him act narrow-mindedly.

While I personally enjoy Ned Flanders’ character and am inspired by his endless compassion, his portrayal in “The Simpsons” displays his stereotypical actions. He is a genuine, kind-hearted Christian who strives for the highest, which is difficult to find in Springfield. However, his loving nature is occasionally overthrown by his strict, religious instinct to vigorously convert others to his ways. I feel that this show does a good job of encompassing conflicting “Christian labels” into one character in a humorous way. By showing both positive and negative sides to Flanders’ character, this show provides viewers the opportunity to analyze and form their own opinions about this character.

 

REFRENCES

-Brooks, James L., Groening, Matt., Simon, Sam. (Executive Producers). (1989-Present). The Simpsons. [Television series]. Los Angeles: FOX Broadcasting Company.

-Dow, Bonnie. (1996). Prime-time feminism: Television, media culture, and the women’s movement since 1970. Philadelphia: University Press.

 

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Don’t Mess With Sonny And Mickey.

  

  This week’s assignment was to discuss the length of time for which a copyright should last. I personally believe that copyright laws are too long. The current law states that a copyright will be active through the length of the creator’s lifetime PLUS seventy years after their death… This act was pushed for by our favorite actor/ singer/ producer/ politician, Sonny Bono. Thank you, Sonny, for always sticking up for to the little guy. Mickey is a small mouse and all… Unfortunately, not all creators are funded through a gigantic corporation such as Disney, and really don’t need up to 120 years of copyright protection…

     Originally, The Copyright Act of 1790 instituted that the law would protect a copyrighted work for fourteen years. Also, the copyright could be renewed for an additional 14 years if the creator was still alive. I do understand that 14-28 years isn’t enough time to productively protect an author’s income, if that is their sole profession. So, to defend our hardworking entertainers (authors, inventors, singers, actors, etc;) the U.S. continued to increase the length of copyrighted time.

     What is the whole purpose of a copyright, anyway? Many would say that it is an effective way to secure the original creativity of an author and inspire other authors to create their own, individual work. I personally see copyrights as a way for authors to receive the financial benefits of their work without worrying about infringement and having their creation stolen and profited from. So, based off of this assumption, an author would need a copyright span long enough for them to reap their benefits and… And…And, um… Well, that’s my point. Any copyright length longer than the author’s lifetime that is virtually useless and is only restricting the public domain.

     I completely agree with Eric Flint’s essay on Copyrights. He stated that “authors need to have enough protection to enable them to be able to make a living as full-time writers” and “protection has to be long enough to provide them with a motivation to write for the public.” As far as I am concerned, those are the only two justifiable concerns that authors should have. I think that a copyright should cover a span of 50 years after publication with a maximum of a 20 year extension (which would require a legal process to determine if they truly needed that extra time.) My reasoning is that 50 years is enough to cover the majority of an author’s lifetime, and if they are still alive after 50 years, they should be old enough to live on a retirement fund. However, if some complication were involved that put their necessary income at risk, the 20 year expansion would be available to those who are willing to go through the long, legal process to receive it.

      Overall, I think that a copyright term which exceeds an author’s lifetime is an unnecessary length of time. The great majority of published work will not be the next “Moby Dick” and it is not necessary to protect books that will be off the shelves in three months. Once you cross that line, the copyright is becoming a corporate evil. Not everyone can get their way like Disney can and as soon as their copyright laws expire, we are sure to see another extension forced onto the rest of us.

 

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A True Custodian of Fact

        

          In a recent article from The New York Times, Pam Belluck dishes out one of the most thorough articles I have ever read. Found in the health section, this piece responds to an array of vital questions by featuring insight from the most knowledgeable experts. In this article titled “Cholesterol-Fighting Drugs Show Wider Benefit,” Belluck explores the advantages, side effects and controversy of taking the cholesterol-lowering drug called statin. Although Belluck notes that statins can “significantly lower [the] risk of heart attacks, strokes and death,” she also investigates other situations so readers can make their own informed decisions about personal health. This is a prime example of the Custodian of Fact role, meaning that she went straight to the facts rather than allowing the article to become a sensationalized story.

          The study that Belluck researched involved testing statin treatments on nearly 18,000 people worldwide. Doctors found that people who took statins cut their risk of heart attack by more than half. Studies additionally showed that “those people were also almost 50 percent less likely to suffer a stroke or need angioplasty or bypass surgery, and they were 20 percent less likely to die during the study.” Belluck did a great job of pointing out the side effects and limitations of the study. For example, she noted that the patients being treated already had low cholesterol and no heart disease history. In a few cases, this treatment led to muscle deterioration, foggy memory, kidney problems and a slight chance of diabetes. These side effects were discovered after only two years because statins were deemed so “beneficial” that they stopped the project three years short. The facts that Belluck provided led me to question some of these findings. Were those really the only side effects? How will they know since they never completed the study? How are these healthy 18,000 able to represent the millions who need cholesterol and cardiovascular help?

          Within two well-constructed pages, Pam Belluck was able to answer every inquiry I had about this new “breakthrough.” She clearly covered the basic questions early on in the article and offered in-depth research as well. For example, she shared information about who specifically should take statin, how to find out if you qualify for it, if it outweighs the side effects and if the study was legitimate. Overall, I came to the understanding that although scientists are overwhelmed by how positive the effects are, this drug will only be specifically prescribed to consumers for a hefty price.

          This article is supported by six doctors whom Pam Belluck interviewed. I conducted research and found that each one is a credible source in the cardiovascular field.  Having so many profound facts dispersed throughout her article not only created a sense of authority but also helped me realize what a wide base of attitudes there are. Not every doctor is for statin; in fact, some are strictly opposed to it. Being able to read reliable advice from multiple lenses was helpful in creating my own opinion about this drug. I appreciated the fact that Belluck offered a variety of information and stepped back so I could think on my own. A true Custodian of Fact.

          Reading this article was not only informative but it was also inspiring. I recommend Pam Belluck’s article to anyone who can appreciate genuine, honest journalism. In my opinion, this is how all health and science articles should be written. They should be thorough and enlightening. Media should educate us, not mislead us.

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White Gold: When Zoolander Met Spinal Tap.

whitegold1

This week’s blog assignment was to explore an online branded community and share our opinion about it. I decided to chose the website that Professor Gallicano recommended, which was WhiteGoldisWhiteGold.com. It is an interactive website that features the mock-rocker, White Gold. With the looks of Zoolander, the hair of Spinal Tap and lyrics comparable to Tenacious D, White Gold is pure glory. I had never seen this advertisement campaign before and was eager to discover what it was all about.

If you have never heard about White Gold, it is because he doesn’t really exist. He is the star of a cross-platform advertisement campaign assembled by the same creators of “Got Milk?” Brian Braiker, a Newsweek journalist, stated that it is “an obvious bid to hit the ad-cynical teenage demographic where they’re most vulnerable: the funny bone. And the campaign is genuinely hilarious.” Now… I wouldn’t jump the ship and say that it is “genuinely hilarious,” though I could compare the style of humor to Will Ferrell’s ridiculous streak of sports movies. White Gold uses his tasteless tactics to lure the audience to his drug of choice: The White Stuff. However, unlike Rick James and Mary-Kate Olsen, this white stuff is actually milk. Through songs like “One Gallon Axe” and “Tame The White Tiger,” White Gold and his back-up singers, The Calcium Twins, sing about the many benefits of drinking milk. Stronger nails. Better Hair. Larger bones and muscles. Even better sleep! It’s all thrown at you on one computer-crashingly packed website.

Does the California Milk Processor Board really think it White Gold will be enough though? According to the Department of Agriculture, U.S. consumption of milk decreased 14% between 1981 and 2006. In California, where the campaign is primarily focused, the price of milk has climbed 44% in just five years. During a time of recession, as we are all experiencing now, it will be hard for one website to change the ways of product consumers. On the other hand, why the hell not? Milk is important, no matter what the price tag, and what better way to target an audience than to give them another way to spend time on the internet?

I thoroughly enjoyed White Gold and his website. It was a lovely way to waste an hour and have a few laughs. Although it didn’t make me immediately crave milk (as I am a college student who can’t always afford the white stuff) it did make me want to start actively drinking more in the future. My nails are feeling a little frail and my hair definitely doesn’t look as good as White Gold’s. I think that this ad campaign is an overall success, and a hilarious addition to our world’s most eager attempts to reignite consumerism.

 

WHITE GOLD SUCCESS

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The Paper Diet

This week’s blog assignment was to write about a mass medium that could send undesirable messages to an audience. I was required to locate at least three academic journal articles, describe the medium and cite my research. This piece will be reflecting on how pop culture magazines affect young women’s ideas of body image…

 

Cosmopolitan.

        Vogue.

              Lucky.

                    InStyle.

                         Glamour.

                                People.

                                      Seventeen.

                                             Elle.

There’s no easy escape.

Young women everywhere are constantly being exposed to and encouraged by our media to do the three essentials: Be thin. Be beautiful. Be like us. Although many find that self-consciousness is merely another stage of growing up, is being 8 years-old with a self-destructive body image just another “circle of life”? Women of all ages are exposed to impossible body standards and sexual pressures everyday. After reading three separate articles about body images in the media, and personally being victim to body dissatisfaction, I firmly believe that magazines negatively influence young women and their confidence.

According to Time Magazine, “fashion magazines [are] giving girls unhealthy ideas about how thin they need to be in order to be considered beautiful.” Some of those in agreement with this statement would be the “body activism” group located at the University of Texas. Psychologists there are conducting research that they call ‘The Body Project’. The mission being to, “get girls to understand how they have been buying into the notion that you have to be thin to be happy or successful.” This group not only helps girls gain confidence back, but also promotes self-assurance by slipping notes that say, “Love your body the way it is,” into diet books sold at Borders. According to the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, the Body Project lowered participant’s risk of developing eating disorders by 61%.

So, virtually, the media is asking women to go to “fashion mag rehab” to overcome the ridiculous standards that they set. However, let’s be honest… How can you even begin to point fingers at a magazine and claim they are the sole reason for such high numbers of youth anorexia, bulimia and adolescent sex? Insecurity in your body is something we all experience at one time or another. The 2002 Swiss Multicenter Adolescent Survey on Health showed that 40% of girls and 18% of boys were dissatisfied by their bodies (a representative sample of 7,420 adolescents.) The real question is why such high numbers? Would these numbers be as striking if we didn’t have a “vogue diet” available to twelve year olds?

 The best way to discover whether magazines truly have harmful effects on young women is through research. These studies that I examined were important because they showed how powerful media types (as taught to us by Cary) like magazines, can circulate and influence young minds. Some readers may argue that it is not the magazine’s fault because many young women are easily influenced at that age. This is where I say both sides need to take a stand. Magazine editors need to take responsibility for their audience by including realistic and healthy images in their work. In addition, a study done by Jennifer L. Derenne shows that “parents need to limit children’s exposure to media, promote healthy eating, physical activity, and encourage participation in activities that increase mastery and self-esteem.” A hopeful solution to an increasingly serious problem.

 

Every society has a way of torturing its women, whether by binding their feet or by sticking them into whalebone corsets. What contemporary American culture has come up with is designer jeans.”

—Joel Yager, M.D.

 

RESEARCH CITED:

Derenne,Jennifer L. (2006). Body Image, Media, and Eating Disorders. Retrieved October 30, 2008,      from http://ap.psychiatryonline.org/cgi/content/full/30/3/257

Gupta, Sanjay. (2002). Taking on the Thin IdealRetrieved October 30, 2008,  from http://www.time.com/time/specials/2007/article/0,28804,1703763_1703764_1810730,00.html

Knauss, Christine. (2008). Body Dissatisfaction in Adolescent Boys and Girls. Objectified Body  Consciousness, Internalization of the Media Body Ideal and Perceived Pressure from Media. Retrieved  October 30, 2008, f  from http://www.springerlink.com.janus.uoregon.edu/content/l143580074308p21/fulltext.html

 

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Alternacraze vs. Corporate Crap?

This week’s assignment was to monitor an Alternative Media Source and compare and contrast it with a Corporate Media Source. Now, part of this task involves figuring out what Alternative Media is…

According to Urban Dictionary, the word “Alternative” means…Someone who does whatever the f**k they want and doesn’t care about what anyone else says.” Hmm… So, based off of general assumptions, an Alternative Media source doesn’t sound very reliable. However, according to Brenna Wolf (our Graduate Teaching Fellow) an Alternative Media Source is one that: seeks a broad and non-elite audience, does not aim to sell the audience to advertisement companies and does not seek to gain major profit. This sounding very inspiring and a bit more legitimate, I decided to continue with the assignment.

Over the weekend, I compared articles from both CNN and Wiretap, an independent “information source by and for young people.” Although both websites offered interesting opinions and insight, they covered very different subjects, which made it difficult to compare.  Each one had a completely different web layout presenting different stories and audience options. The CNN site offered articles in six different languages with categories such as “Politics,” “Crime” and “Health” while Wiretap only offered English writings in subjects like “Youth Activism,” “Building A Movement” and “War and Peace.” Even though these are only a few examples of the many things both sources had to offer, it can give you an idea for how radically distinctive the two were.

Wiretap covered a random variety of articles that were extremely interesting, but not very up to date.  The most recent article was called, “Top Eight Voting Myths Dispelled.” This piece was very informative, offered many cited sources and was extremely appropriate for the time being. However, for a front-page main article, I would have enjoyed something with a bit more news substance. The second most recent article was from the previous week called, “Rallying The Vote,” an informative essay and interview on Keesha Gaskins. While I gained a lot of insight from reading this piece, I struggled to call it “news” because the first half was constructed in biographical essay form, and the interview portion was merely taken from separate source called “Rock The Vote.”

All of the Wiretap articles I read were very well versed and immensely educational, but I found myself wanting more. More updates. More facts. More on the scene action!

…And then I realized something. In a world where mainstream media is a political monopoly, how could an independent source like Wiretap even survive? I began to search deeper into the text and notice how difficult it would be to cover a story with no support beneath you. No expensive cameras. No news crew. No public recognition. I gained massive appreciation and respect for the work that these journalists were able to scrap together.

On the other hand, CNN was very easy to navigate. I could find anything I wanted! There were both opinion-based and factual articles, so bias wasn’t really a problem. However, all I could envision was a young Wiretap journalist in his small office desperately making phone calls to find out information while there was a CNN database around the corner. A huge building filled with nice offices, a plethora of facts and quotes and a corporate sized paycheck. “Life is good” when you have a company like Time Warner telling you it is =) 

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A Trivial Role

The debates…

The lies…

The constant struggle to win the race…

…It is all a bit overwhelming.

This presidential race has been one of the most exhausting experiences for many American citizens. Are we to be stuck with the same, old politics that will continue to lead us down this destructive path? Or, are we to blindly follow the inspiring words of a potentially hollow leader? Either way, you can find much of this nation stuck in the middle of an irresolute blur. One thing we do know is that the media is playing a key role in the magnitude of our perplexity. In a generation where a riot in Indonesia could be recorded, digitally edited and broadcasted to the U.S. instantaneously through a cell phone, it is difficult to sort through fact and fiction. The World Wide Web has enabled humans to base their opinions on incorrect statements “they read online,” which is quickly losing its validity. We are now discovering the lies and corruption that have been caught inside this sticky webbing.

This week’s ‘Mass Media and Society’ assignment was to monitor three days of election coverage from a single media source. My professor, Tiffany Gallicano, asked us to look for the roles that the media satisfied based on Kathleen Hall Jamieson and Paul Waldman’s book, “The Press Effect.” Based off of their theories, there are five roles that the media can fulfill: the custodian of fact, the storyteller, the psychologist, the soothsayer and the patriot. I will be using Toulmin’s model to construct my argument and support it by referencing these roles in how they relate to my chosen news source, The New York Times.

I believe that the New York Times’ website did a fairly good job of covering the presidential election over the past three days. However, I would like to have seen more factual, “press as custodian of fact” articles: writings that insist on finding the truth and do not mislead the reader. An example of this method would be “The Man Behind The Whispers About Obama,” a clarification piece on the rumors of Obama’s religious faith. Although I did find two articles that exemplified this role, they were overwhelmingly outnumbered by five others under the category of “press as storyteller.” In pieces such as “Congressman Rebukes McCain for Recent Rallies,” quotes are construed and strategically placed to benefit the argument, whether the whole story is being told to the reader or not. I also found one article that exhibited the “press as the psychologist” role. “A Riveting Speaker, Waving the Flag” was an personality analysis describing how much Sarah Palin “loves America… and the smell of cut grass and hay,” but lacked any factual information on her policies and reform ideals.

Although “storytelling” and “psychologist” articles are some of the most sarcastic and entertaining to read, it is my opinion that entertainment is all they are. To have a well-rounded repertoire of political opinions, a reader must be able to sort through and identify these roles to find the most reliable facts out there. As my professor once noted, every word that is reproduced through the human mind is automatically tainted with a little bit of bias. Still, “press as custodian of fact” is the closest source you can get to a reliable truth, also making it the most important role. Kathleen Hall Jamieson and Paul Waldman describe this task as “reporters helping the public make sense of competing political arguments by examining terms, providing needed information, informing the public about misleading and false statements and connecting politicians’ policies with likely facts.” While the New York Times website did have a few resourceful articles I felt comfortable relying on, the main politics page was filled with headline after headline of misinforming and trivial pages.

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