Saturday, April 07, 2007

Hart's Rules For Everything #253: All Forms Of Media Are Arguments For Or Against Something

So my girlfriend and I went to see the film, The Last Mimzy, a couple of weeks ago and it stimulated a flurry of thoughts. When my mind begins running like this I’ve just got to put it on paper, so here it goes.

If you ask someone about the media planting messages into our heads many people would quickly identify commercials as the primary culprit, and then probably add dramas and sitcoms with “moral” messages. That same person would probably go on to claim that, while society may unwillingly consume these messages, they are uniquely unaffected. These specific and easily identifiable examples of the media attempting to “cram” messages down our throats are just a cover though. It’s easy to watch Seventh Heaven and node when the show tackles issues like teen pregnancy or drug use, but have you ever stopped to think about what’s going on “below the surface.”

I was skimming channels and came across a television show I’d seen several times before. I’d tell you which one, but I truly believe that the name is fairly inconsequential due to the fact that a litany of programs mirror the subject line. In this particular episode the show attempted to tackle the issue of teen pregnancy. The main character, a beautiful and smart girl, finds out that a high school aquantance of hers is pregnant and now must decide what to do about it. The interesting part is that it seems as if the show does not make a connection between premarital sex and teen pregnancy. Let me explain. While the main character is promiscuous and sexually active, she is beautiful and successful in school. Her pregnant friend however is significantly less attractive, more introverted and hails from a lower economic class. Hmmm… So the episode’s message is that if you get pregnant you could be faced with difficult choices like whether to have the child or have an abortion (adoption is somehow left out), but the overall show’s message is that premarital sex is acceptable, permissible, and even encouraged as a sign of “love”, and only low income, unattractive, “uncool” girls will get pregnant… See a problem?

This brings me back to The Last Mimzy. I don’t want to spoil the movie, but lets just say that while the majority is very well done, with just a few environmentalist overtones, during the last ten minutes they could have simply had Al Gore come onto the screen and give a speech and it would have lost nothing. Here’s my point… This movie primarily directed toward children, and while to adults the subtle environmentalist political messages may be ignored, and will probably not change anyone’s opinion about the issue of the environment, we must ask ourselves, “What about the children?” Children process information differently than adults. In cases where adults choose to assimilate those messages that support our current way of thinking, and disregard those that oppose that it, children recognize trends. I’m sure we all can think of certain things we believed (and may still believe) simply because we were continually exposed to it when we were a child. Think about God and religion. Many of the beliefs we carry are not taken from arduous study of the religious text, but instead by exposure to preachers, Sunday school stories and the like. When the issue of God comes up, we comfortably rely on “the way we were raised.”

Now consider the simple truth that more and more children spend more time with the television set than with their parents, and the fact that dramas, sitcoms, and CARTOON SHOWS are heavily laiden with messages encouraging political philosophies. That’s right parents, that’s not YOUR Teen Aged Mutant Ninja Turtles that your kids love… GI Joe, Transformers, and the list goes on… All of these programs repeatedly perpetuate political agendas like Man-Made Global Warming, Homosexual Acceptance (not simply tolerance), and even negative sentiments toward America’s role in the war in Iraq. Parents must realize that, just because a television show is animated, does not mean that it is automatically free from political or social bias. Just consider on last thing…

It has been said that ALL forms of media make arguments either for or against something… Think about it and get back to me…

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Hart's Rules For Everything #13: Don't Let Someone Else Create Your World

This is a universal truth that many people spend their whole lives denying until finally, late in life, they realize how much of their life has passed in concert with a wish. The words I try and live by are slightly different. "All we are promised is this moment in time, all we control is our own attitude and perception. We all live in a world with a population of one." This means that we all create the world we live in individually. The good, the bad, the ugly... These concepts only exist in our personal worlds. Need proof? Think about the last time you had a REALLY good hair-day or just went on a fantastic date with someone special... The world suddenly looks a little different huh? Think about the last time your boss was riding you hard or the last time you got a traffic ticket... the world looks a little darker right?

We should realize this and somehow find a way to change our tiny little universes into the place we want to live, not spend all our lives hoping that we somehow stumble into a wonderful world created by someone else. Get It?

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Hart's Rule #33: Most People End Up Finding What They're Looking For...

Good, bad, either, or neither, it's just a fact of life that if you want to find something bad enough, you have a funny way of finding it. Everyone is capable and probably guilty of adhering to this rule, but in academia this is a dangerous and juvenile mistake to make.

It was once said that "If a man thinks he is going to die tomorrow... he'll probably find a way to make it happen." This is very true in American society when looking specifically at issues of race, gender, ethnicity, etc... Academics decry and strike out against common social stereotypes, while replacing them with some of their own. For example, the idea of the Asian woman stereotype is one of the most interesting catch 22 situations. The stereotype of the submissive, docile, and over sexual Asian woman is described by academics as a "Lotus Blossom" and is adamantly attacked when it rears its ugly head. Conversely, the stereotype of an Asian woman who is wild, combative and unrestrained is labeled as the "Dragon Lady" and similarly hated and fought against by academia. For characters that are obviously one dimensional these stereotypes are as egregious as depicting black characters as slaves or ignorant ape-like people, but in academia there is a disturbing tendency to search for even the most easily explained inklings of these stereotypes in films and television and immediately attribute these to stereotypical character development. If a woman is sexually promiscuous, it is not because the character is representative of real world women that are, in fact, sexually promiscuous, but instead this character is quickly labeled as a one-dimensional stereotype and forgotten. If a female character is also of Asian ethnicity then the first time she shows any sexual interest or is shown in any role of servant, even if she's a waitress and her career is not of any significant importance, she is immediately labeled as a "Lotus Blossom." Furthermore, if the same character is ever emotionally distraught and it results in any manner of physical confrontation, then she is a "Dragon Lady."

Some who make these accusing claim that what they are doing is exposing stereotypes that are, at times, too subtle for many average viewers to identify. They claim that they are capable of exposing these incidents thanks to their highly trained eyes and extensive understanding of social theories. I believe that a different term applies more fully and accurately than either of two explanations... Many of the incidents that are identified by academics are simply the result of "Self-Fulfilling prophecies."

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Hart's Rule #96: It Doesn't Take A Lot To Convince Someone That They Are Right...

Bill Cosby, Condelesa Rice, Colon Powel... What do all of these people have in common? All of these people are extremely successful, well educated black men and women who have at one point or another claimed that in order to get ahead in America, young black people must hold themselves to a high academic and social standard and must stay away from drugs, alcoholism, teen pregnancy, and criminal behavior. All of these individuals have also been repeatedly criticized by black leaders for "selling out" or for being "Uncle Toms" due to their opposition of such deleterious behaviors. These successful individuals are ridiculed and ostracize for "not being black enough", and by daring to challenge a proud culture to not view itself as victims, but as survivors. All the while many black people around the country cry out for the stereotype of the the sexually promiscuous black female and the criminally active black man to be laid to rest.

It is interesting to note that while these individuals are catching the brunt of black leaders' might for challenging the society's cognitive status quo with personal success, individuals such as 50 Cent, Snoop Dogg, Ciara, Ludacris, and many others seem to be ignored. These individuals are arguably more influential in the lives of young black men and women than Rice, Powel, and Cosby. These celebrities have become famous for claims ranging from being shot 9 times (50 cent), to being proud to be viewed as a purely sexual object (Ciara). In the case of Snoop Dogg, his image has been shaped by his music, his interviews, and his two pornographic films to be inextricably linked with marijuana use. With these celebrities openly glorifying criminal behavior and rampant sexuality, wouldn't you think that at least some black leaders would consider whether this activity perpetuates the stereotype that they claim must be fought against?

The first claim that many black activists make is that in primarily white movies and television shows, black people are relegated to secondary roles and are rarely made primary story interests. However, it is interesting to consider that in primarily black movies such as Friday, Hussle and Flow, and The ATL that black people are depicted as pimps, pot-heads, and prostitutes... The question that comes to mind is which role is most harmful to the goal of racial equality in America. As Hart's Rule says, if white America does indeed have a mental picture of blacks as over-sexual potential public threats, then it won't take a lot to convince them that this stereotype is a reality. So what is served by supporting or ignoring those celebrities that endorse that stereotype, while degrading the accomplishments of those who obtain success?

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Hart's Rule #23: School's Good, Experience is Better...

I've seen it a million times... The sparkle in the eye, forcefulness in the voice, and the overwelming desire and expectation to "change the world." Yep, that's the typical student in many journalism programs across the country. I've been to countless journalism and broadcast news conferences from New York to L.A. and from Chicago to Houston, and you can spot these students at each and every one. Typically their zeal for social change is substituted for actual experience within the field. Their idealism is knows no bounds. Many times their additudes are encouraging and usually refreshing, but unfortunately there is usually a significant drawback to unbridaled ambition. This takes the form in an inability to understand or absorb the simple basics of media as a money making entity.

I'm reminded of one of the first jobs I had after graduating from college with my Bachelours degree. I was working in a small radio station and was in charge of promotions. I felt confident, afterall I had made strait A's in my broadcasting and advertising classes. I had run the University's radio and television station for three years. I knew what I was doing... or so I thought. My first day on the job I had a million new ideas on how to make the station a stunning success, I would write proposals in perfect form requesting information such as sales forcasts, advertiser records, and trade agreements. I would often times approach the job with the same passion I had just a few years earlier in my classes and in college media. I was ready to change the world, which at that point consisted of a radio station that only reached a little over 15,000 people, and I would soon find ou that I was WAY out of my league. I found myself running into walls created by my misconseptions and unintentionally stepping on coworker's toes. This resulted in a conversation with my general manager who put it to this way, he said that school is important, it will teach you the basics, it will teach you concepts, but it does not teach you the neances that create successful radio and televison stations. Since that conversation I've worked in several televison and radio stations, both big and small, and have seen countless recently graduated college students who, upon encountering the same actual world truth I did, became discouraged that their conception did not match up with reality.

In regard to Tuesday's class this is significant because of the complexity of the race/sex/gender issue. In countless college classrooms students sit, idealism in one hand and a full bag of inexperience in the other. The goal of a fully impartial media that attempts to cover stories and situations from the standpoint of social equality is interesting to think about academically, but in reality there is very little academic reflection when three significant broadcasts must be produced a day and your station is clinging to a two point lead in a major market. In the case of "Action News" in Philidelphia, the average citizen does not appoach and affectively "buy" that genre of program for the entrinsic news-worthiness material it covers, but instead uses that program for shock value, for basic quick information, and all-to-often to reinforce beliefs and perceptions they already have. Some my claim that it unfairly depicts the black community by more frequently showing stories involving black deviants, but the fact remains that that program was the number one newscast in the market at that time. It is also interesting to note that even the presence of black producers and reporters did not significantly change the content of the program. Even the most ardent academic should be at least willing to admit that they are giving the public a product that is in high demand and has been rewarded for doing so. Isn't this the very essence of supply and demand? In order for change to occur, the change must not start with the media, but must instead begin with the public. Even the most idealistic reporter or producer will ultimately lose their job if their product is not interesting or in demand from the public, and even the most sensational newscast will be canceled if society agrees that they want more substance and less flair. Student's must recognize this and understand that in order to affect the society small steps must be taken, and one must work through the system, not against it.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Hart's Rule #87: Start at the beginning, it makes it easier to finish at the end!!!

So I'm kicking off summer at UNT with the ever-popular class Race, Gender and the Media, and I came to a startling conclusion... At this point in my life I thought that I would be capable of starting assignments as soon as I recieved them and "not putting of until tomorrow what you can accomplish today..." Yeah, let tell ya that that is NOT the case... I have found that I simply become a better procrastinator... so let's rephase that old saying, how about "Don't accomplish immediately what you can put off 15 times until the last possible moment while telling everyone how well it's coming and finally pull an all-nighter to finish." Yep, that pretty much does it... Let's try to change this a bit during the summer