Friday, February 22, 2013

Blog Post #5: Wesch

Blog Post #5: Reflection:

Wesch certainly has a way with words. His TED talk engages the viewer, and his use of technology certainly cemented his point.  In fact, his talk is very inspirational, in that he starts off by citing the mindset that many people probably face (that the world is on fire) and concludes his discussion by finishing up the story (that the combined efforts of many – motivated by the efforts of one individual – can stop the fire).

I liked that he pointed out the irony of the Dove commercial (a video of a beauty company criticizing the beauty industry); at the same time, I can appreciate that Dove provided that commentary to the general public, because it’s a thing that most people don’t even notice. We’re subjected to so very many advertisements every day that they become ingrained in us to the point where they’re almost “natural.” As a sociology student, when I saw the commercial I thought about the benefit a video like that can have on de-brainwashing people; on waking them up from that trance; how something like that could help and prevent children from being susceptible to that brand of advertising (and the subsequent self-esteem and body issues that come with it).

Indeed, I viewed its parody in a similar way. It made me think back to my own childhood, and I wondered if my favorite Dr. Seuss book, The Lorax, effected my views on the environment and deforestation; which further made me think about the socializing effect of children’s books (as a form of media); and how children are so easily influenced. And this brought me to how the modern technological era will affect the kids growing up right now.
Plus, the Dove spoof video provided a great example of his message: that such efforts can make change! That one person can make an impact. Technology can be used as a new vehicle for saving the world, especially when infused with teaching young people to be knowledge-able rather than simply knowledgeable. Although it isn’t easy to “connect, organize, share, collect, collaborate, publish” in real life, the media does make it technologically easier to do such things. This harkens back (to me) in fan-campaigns. While this doesn’t quite compare to changing the world and fixing the problems within it, I still love seeing the power of a good fan-campaign, because it’s an example directly relevant to me that working together can accomplish goals. Right now, for example, there are several campaigns in motion to save the shows Green Lantern: the Animated Series and Young Justice (whose cancellation you might have read about before on my blog).

One of these efforts (my favorite of the bunch) is sending toys (preferably superhero toys) to a charity. They’re calling it Heroes for Heroes. The goals are that it will: 1. Make a bunch of kids happy, 2. Produce sales for the show’s merchandise, which will make the network happy (but doing it in a way that helps other people so that it doesn’t feel like a waste), and 3. If enough people send things in, perhaps receive media attention. I, personally, am a fan of hitting multiple targets with one arrow. But Wesch’s talk reminded me that fifteen years ago, that kind of campaign wouldn’t have been possible (or would have at least been far more difficult), because all of the organization was done online and there wouldn’t have been another way for the fans to connect and collaborate to accomplish the goals. (FYI, I won’t know if the Heroes for Heroes campaign is a success for about a week or two probably, because the send in date was today so the charity hasn’t even received the toys yet. Mine should get there by Tuesday, but that’s with 2-day-shipping from Amazon, so it might be about a week before the others get there). 

I pic of some of the stuff I sent in.

Questions, comments, Concerns?

Perhaps in class or in the comments we could further discuss the impact of having technology in the classroom. Do you, like Wesch, think that it will be an overall benefit if utilized correctly? Or do you think it will cause the majority of the population to fall into a techno-zombie –like state? How do you think we could use technology to change the world?

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Blog Post #4

Blog Post 4: Quotes:
“While this is largely a history of roles and expectations, the teenagers I’m discussing aren’t some exotic species—they’re real people. And that’s what makes them so difficult to deal with,” (Hine 3).

Hine emphasizes throughout his piece the importance of viewing teenagers as people; indeed, he asserts that teenage-hood is simply a stage of development, not its own entity. Further, his quote connects to our class more tangibly by embodying our third class assumption: “Teenagers are not some alien life form.” He identifies such in almost the same terms, claiming that they aren’t “some exotic species.” Throughout his piece, Hine makes sure to emphasize that teen-aged is just an age (between 13 and 19) and that those who fall in that category vary in levels of maturity; as such, he criticizes standardizing though use of “age.” Ultimately, the ambiguity of teenage-hood (that teenagers are treated as both children and adults, and yet as neither) leads to problems in treating them as individuals, instead of as a collective.

“Only by looking at people in their teens in the centuries before there were teenagers is it possible to understand how artificial the concept of teenager is,” (Hine 5).

Early in his piece, Hine notes that his examination is viewed through a historical lens; this is referenced several times, when he compares teenagers in the 1990s to teenagers in the 1940s, and 1960s, and 1970s. As such, he indicates that how teenagers are viewed varies by when the teenagers are viewed. Each timeframe provides a different culture and a different attitude. As such, I would argue the futility in comparing teenagers from the 1940s and present day teenagers, as the social milieu in which they are comprised completely differs. Indeed, this also connects to another in-class assumption: “Youth is a culturally constructed category.” Thus, the cultural frame in which we view society effects how society views “youth” (teenagers).

“What we seem to believe is that today’s teenagers are uniquely threatening” (Hine 13).

Hine points out that today, teenagers are viewed as more of a threat. He points out that concerning school shootings, the vast majority were committed by teenage boys. However, he also notes that violence was also prevalent in the past, but at the time the weapons utilized were pocket knives, not semi-automatic machine guns, and thus could only harm one person at a time (rather than a whole slew of people in moments). I would argue that the media is also used as a tool to blow things out of proportion. Similar problems probably occurred in the past, but were not as widely known about (personal opinion). It’s not that teenagers are more threatening “now;” it’s that they’re viewed as more threatening.


I thought what Hine mentioned about the juxtaposition between how the media portrays teenage sexuality and how people want teenage sexuality to actually be was particularly interesting. Ads always over-sexualize teenagers (the ad with thatgirl from Dawson’s Creek that we saw in class is an easy example! -- note, the ad linked is a different ad then the one shown in class, but has the same things we noticed); yet, various schools try/tried to promote abstinence as the only form of birth control (which is just a whole bundle of issues I’m not even going to start in on). I find the irony very amusing.

Update: here's a copy of three ads with that Katie Holmes girl from Dawson's Creek:

Works Cited

Hine, Thomas. The Rise and Fall of the American Teenager. New York: Bard, 1999.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Blog Post #3

Blog Post #3: Quotes

Raby’s article “A Tangle of Discourses: Girls Negotiating Adolescence” happened to serendipitously coincide with both the current subject matter of one of my other classes, as well as of the subject matter of a class I took several years ago.

In regard to the first, the connection is in a pseudo-inconsequential way. At this stage in the semester, my Senior Seminar in Sociology happens to be discussing interviewing as a form of qualitative analysis. As this study also happened to incorporate that technique, the Methodology was reasonably engaging.

As to the latter connection, that is to the course Adolescent Literature (consisting of studying young adult fiction), which I attended many, many moons ago.  Funnier is that after class on Thursday I ran into my professor from that course (the wonderful Dr. Cook). Ultimately, though, several aspects of Raby’s piece reminded me of themes we discussed in that course. 

The major overarching theme of the class (when I took Adolescent Literature) was “power,” and the various dynamics involved. This plays well with what Raby discusses on page 443 of her article in her section on Agency. Raby explains that of the five discourses she discusses (storm, becoming, at-risk, social problem, and pleasurable consumer), “the storm creates an understanding of teenagers as powerless in the face of the inevitable tempest of hormones and uncertainties that they must cope with,” (Raby 443). Although much of my previous course is blurry, I find the pattern of the relation between “power” and “adolescence” intriguing.

This also connects to her discussion of rebellion versus resistance. She explains that rebellion is associated with teenagehood and given negative connotations, whereas resistance (less infantilized) is not. Instead, she insists that “teenage rebellion should often actually be understood as resistance” (Raby 446). This would help reduce the stereotyping of teenagers as an alien life form (as we discuss in class) and more greatly legitimize them as people in their own right.

As a side, I should note that the results her interviewing yielded somewhat surprised me, in that my experience with “adolescence” was far less dramatic. Even when I was a teenager myself, I didn’t quite think in the same terms as the girls Raby spoke with. I believed as a whole that, like people in general, the majority of us were decent people. Occasionally there was a kid or a group of kids that did something dumb, but (usually) that was just a stupid decision on their part and rarely out of malice. Or perhaps my view of teenagehood was skewed by the group of kids I usually hung around with; we were often too busy stressing over term papers to care about the goings-on of our fellow classmates. It was pretty drama-less (with the exception of stress from homework, and flailing about whatever was happening in the shows I was watching and the books I was reading, because Fandom). Also, my mom is really liberal, so I never had a reason to resist (or “rebel”), and figured that most of the kids who did probably had a reason to (like, that their parents weren’t giving them enough freedom to make decisions, or something). But… yeah. I digress.

In class, I’d like to further discuss the breaking down of teenage stereotypes. Indeed, I’d also like to discuss the ways in which the media portrays the five facets Raby describes (storm, becoming, at-risk, social problem, and pleasurable consumer), and how it feeds in or negates these stereotypes. Perhaps we can also discuss whether we think these portrayals are ultimately positive or negative.

Works Cited

Raby, Rebecca C. "A Tangle of Discourses: Girls Negotiating Adolescence." Journal of Youth Studies 5.4 (2002): 425-48

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Strong Female Protagonist

Hey ya'll! If you're looking for an engaging web comic to read, look no further than Strong Female Protagonist. It's wonderful. Link is in the name.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Perfect Rec is Perfect

Hey ya'll,
For anyone who's interested, here's a link to the first issue of Princeless, a beautiful, wonderful, pretty-much perfect comic book featuring a fantastic protagonist.

I've only read the first issue so far, but I'm planning to buy the trade soon. Princeless stars protagonist Princess Adrienne and her dragon Sparky, and is both funny and thoughtful.

Seriously though. Read the first few pages, at least. Then you'll be hooked. Trust me. The first two pages are posted below for your convenience (I couldn't find page 3, sadly). Check them out!

Here's a link to a wonderful interview by the author.

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Second Blog Post! (take a looksie, if you'd like)

Reflection (though it actually ended up more like a Hyperlink post):

Linda Christensen’s “Unlearning the Myths That Bind Us” strongly resonates with me. As an aficionado of animated television programs, I have, for the past few years, been looking at cartoons and children’s programs from a similar lens. In fact, I’m kind of programed to observe such details regularly in the shows I watch (much to the annoyance of my mother who often just wants to sit back and enjoy them, especially after a long day of work; and who doesn’t particularly want to hear me rant about why [inset show title here] really dropped the ball on that subject or how those characters on [insert show title here] are presenting negative stereotypes).

Like Christensen’s students, I have also looked back at the programs that have influenced me; but unlike her students, I did not struggle with this. It’s pretty clear in my life how television programs have shaped me. When I was obsessed with Dragonball Z, I was always frustrated that of my dozens of action figures, I had only three girls (Android 18, Bulma, and Gohan’s girlfriend Videl or something). While my cousin would flaunt his Vegeta toy, the characters I had were clearly inferior on the show, so when we played his toy would go “Super Saiyan” and defeat mine with ease, as the only one that even stood a chance was Android 18.

But I loved action shows; so when Powerpuff Girls and Kim Possible came into existence, I was thrilled to have female-led superhero shows to fall back on. And while both shows likely have their instances of negativity, they also have episodes that packed powerful messages. On Powerpuff Girls at least (which I have recently rewatched), there are at least two episodes that had strong, feminist messages. One involved a female thief who tries to convince the sisters to hate men in order to get away with stealing Susan B. Anthony coins; not only are the girls taught a lesson by three of their female role models, the episode also provide a history lesson about Susan B. Anthony and her quest for equality (the episode is called “Equal Fights”). Further, in another episode called “Members Only” had the girls attempt to prove themselves to their heroes in the Association of World Super Men (AWSM), only to have the misogynistic group turn them away (despite besting them in each challenge).

If you watch the clip, you’ll see the beautiful exchange as the girls best the stereotyped household gender roles. The episode ends with the AWSM being unable to defeat their opponent and the girls having to save them and the planet. At the end, the AWSM begs the girls to join their team.

When she discusses the newer Disney animated films, I nodded in agreement; regardless of how enjoyable Aladdin and Pocohontas are, I can see their problematic parts. I did, however, want to read more about her analysis of Mulan, as it remains my favorite Disney film, and I’m interested seeing which aspects she finds troubling.

Her section on the Black Cinderella brought to mind several thoughts. She explains the negative messages of Cinderella, but also gives an example of an improved (though still far from perfect) modern rendition of Cinderella staring Cindy Ellie, which is more culturally and socially conscious. Her description made me want to read this story, but it also makes me want to write my own retelling of Cinderella in which the central message isn’t how-to-get-your-man and that beauty-is-everything. This section also reminded me of a made-for-TV version of Cinderella that I still have yet to see, but which stars a multi-racial cast. Thus far, I have only seen gifs from it (via Tumblr), but the parts that I have glimpsed look (at least slightly more) promising than the original Disney version.
[start at four minutes in until about five minutes in]

It also made me think of another modern retelling that starts a male person of color and has a completely different (better) message.

I like that Christensen then transitions into what to do with this newfound knowledge. After all, it’s true that knowing there are problems but not knowing how to go about making change is frustrating. Wisely, she first describes her students’ irritation with seeing through the glass screen (see what I did there? Tying it back to class? Yup, I’m that good); she then explains how she helped them channel their outrage in productive ways. 


While I enjoyed the article, I would like to emphasize that while most animated programs have some kind of flaw in depiction, there do exist some exceptions. While I watch all shows with a critical eye, there are moments when I’m quite proud of the messages the shows are producing. For example, while Gravity Falls could use more characters of color, there is a scene at the end of the first episode (after siblings Mabel and Dipper defeat their adversary together) in which the twins are allowed to each pick whichever item they’d like from their great uncle’s shop:


And Mabel (proving herself more than two-dimensional) choses the grappling hook, which I especially approve of because she isn’t defined by gender roles. She likes wearing her bright colored sweaters and cute outfits but she also will chose a grappling hook over a doll without any difficulty.

Indeed, one show (recently cancelled, go sign this petition to save it please!) that typically displays both a decent amount of female characters, persons of color, and presents characters from various socio-economic backgrounds is the show Young Justice. First season, the leader of the team is Aqualad (Kaldur, a person of color), and another one of the leads is Artemis, who is half Vietnamese (and also from a low income family, as evidenced when she receives a scholarship to a prestigious prep school and attends to make her mother happy, despite feeling very uncomfortable in her new setting). The character Rocket (also a woman of color) appears several times at the end of the season. Better, in the second season we’re introduced to a variety of new leads, including Jaime Reyes (Blue Beetle) and Karen Beecher (Bumblebee), and if the show progresses we will be seeing much more of Virgil Hawkins (Static Shock), whom we’ve only met briefly thus far.

Only a the first season characters are included above, but the characters Young Justice includes are typically reasonably varied and diverse; and when they divide into teams, I don’t remember a time when there wasn’t at least one person of color included (whether it be Jaime, Kaldur, or Karen); and while they could include more female characters, the ones they do include at least portrayed well and not as token females, like many other shows. Animated programs do have a long way to go, but they are (slowly) progressing.