Friday, May 30, 2008

Reality Television or Government Take Over?

Have you ever wondered where the idea that men are good and women are bad came from? Why are women labeled as gold diggers, whores, or emotionally unstable? More importantly why are men almost always viewed as the dominant gender or provider? These are gender and race roles that have been created to maintain traditional western cultural ideals. Instead of blatantly saying men are superior and women are to be submissive the government has found a new median to maintain these stereotypes, and that is Reality Television. “Author’s Laurie Ouellette and James Hay argue that the government is doing this through utilizing the cultural power of television. They simultaneously converge TV images with magazines, books, websites, and mobile devices to create a guide of ethics, behaviors, aspirations, and routines for ordinary people {3}.” My goal is to prove that reality television is ultimately linked to the government and used as a source of socialization; as well as a tool to endorse traditional ideologies of gender or race roles.

Reality television can serve society for a number of purposes such as entertainment or education; but it is said that it could never be a contributing factor to a society’s socialization. I believe that this statement is not true. In fact I have several pieces of evidence that can prove such. “To start the definition of reality television is described as a genre of television that presents unscripted programming that deliberately depicts the representation of real people as well as actual events opposed to professional actors {1}.” “I find the idea that reality television is not used as a source of socialization highly unlikely especially because reality television has exploded from the mid 1990’s up until this point and has over more than 40 million viewers {3}.” Reality television is all around us today, and is now the new pervasive tool used by the government and other media medians to maintain traditional gender and race roles or inequalities.

Before reality television the ideals of gender roles, race roles and other traditional ideas were embedded in magazines, other types of television shows, and even formed in children’s toys and literature. These mechanisms were used as way to unobtrusively train Americans on how to act as women, as men, or how to act if you were part of a certain race. It is my belief that even though the government had all these underlying sources to contaminate the minds of Americans they didn’t want to stop there. They wanted to be apart of the wide range pervasive networks of television as well. I mean when you really think about it, reality television is the easiest way to inconspicuously slide in an abundant amount of ideologies through humor, sympathetic or identifiable stories. The “networks” tell these stories and it appears to be realistic; and that is where most viewers are sucked in. The show may mirror some type of physical or psychological issue in which they are dealing with, and almost automatically the story appears to be real because a particular viewer has gone through the same thing in their life span.

The viewer watching this story then watches how the “ordinary” person deals with this issue on reality television; and applies these “resolutions” to his or her life. Indefinitely there is never a resolution in media marketing because the government always wants you to feel as if you need them. So as viewers watch these images they are plagued with the ideology that there is something wrong with them, and if they do the things they see on TV such as plastic surgery, money management, or adapt to a certain lifestyle their lives will change dramatically. It is at moments like this that I can see exactly how reality television and other media medians are used as socialization sources. Both women and men viewers get the images of what a women should look like, act like, sound like, or be from reality television. “It is ideologies such as this that become identifiable institutions in which influence peoples moral, domestic arrangements, or their actions; its almost as if it becomes a “governing system” {3).”As a result of these blurry subtle images being leaked into television women are developing severe cases of psychological issues with their bodies, and their gender roles as a whole; and even though men aren’t scrutinized as much they are also being marketed in a particular way. No matter what the case if you’re a man or a woman in American society there is never going to be a time where an individual is deemed perfect; and there is always going to be a “way” for you to fix yourself or become better.

These ideals are constituted through constant repetition of exploitive character traits or expectations of particular individuals in society. For instance women in reality television are usually portrayed in two ways either sympathetically or as the hyper-sexualized female. Either way these stigmas are a result of the inability for these particular individuals to measure up to society’s standards. The sympathetic woman is shown as a person who may not be able to catch up to the new age fashion, or is not keen on how to keep a man, her children, or her hair for that matter. This woman is usually the ordinary housewife that audience members feel needs and deserves help. Usually, the way this woman can change is if she looses weight, gets her hair died, and puts on some type of sexy apparel. This idea is technically very contradictory because other media tells women that it is not ok to be too sexy. So changing a women that was at one point too bland, into some now hot sex kitten leaves the women in a confused state of mind because either way she isn’t good enough.

“Author Jennifer Ponzer describes the hyper-sexualized female as usually falling under the category of unintelligent, catty, bitchy, money grubbing, gold digging whores {4}.”“Which is another contradictory expectation because men are shown through montages in media as financial stabilizers, or the bread winners {4}.” In theory this is saying men are supposed to take care of women; these women are supposed to be sexy, and keep themselves thin and beautiful. Yet, in the same breath these types of women are viewed as being out for the male’s money and whores; yet if they aren’t sexy enough there still is a problem. “This is an example of how reality shows frame their narratives in ways that help both reflect and reinforce deeply ingrained societal biases about men, women, love, class, and race leaves the audience blind sited {4}.” Making them unable to differentiate if the images they are seeing are fictional or a type of realistic image because the images cross over into their every day lives. This leaving these constant changing images or messages a source to govern individuals every day lives.

Reality television shows are so pervasive in society because they encompass so many characteristics. Though they are not deemed as resourceful resources of socialization they act as such. They appear to be a starting place for people to find a concept in which they can model their lives around; as far as what to be, how to be, and what the societal norms are of a particular gender or race. An example would be the show Extreme Makeover. This show brings on contestants who go through a crucial 8 week make over process. The participants go through several plastic surgeries procedures. They are taught how to eat, work out, and keep their bodies and minds fit. At the end of the journey two contestants are completely made over; their bodies, clothes, ultimately their lives. After each person gets done with this process they are evaluated by doctors and other specialist and a winner is picked based on the how good the participants results were. On one particular session of Extreme Makeover where a woman who had no teeth, was going bald, and was divorced was brought on. “Interviews with her family were shot were they said that she doesn’t act like a “woman” should; she never gets dressed up, she never does her hair, and her daughter said “that’s probably the reason my dad left her”. Even the contestant admitted that she felt she was ugly, too big, and not pretties enough to be like the rest of the women in her town {5}.” This is a prime example of how reality shows give the portrayal that something must be wrong with the individual if they are not fitting the standards. “The resolution that is given is try harder, do better, plastic surgery, or some type of self improvement method. Beauty or style makeovers are offered as a dimension of self improvement almost always {3}. When shows like these are helping to set the standard of realistic life issues viewers also known as the consumers are sold various ideals on how to improve themselves.

“Overall through my analysis of reality television I have discovered how reality TV has been inserted as an informal tutorial guide for viewers in governing and policing themselves and others in society {3}. “All while not offering any type of explanation for these ideals, problem solving methods, and or advice given {3}.” I have undoubtfully realized that reality television is much more than entertainment; instead a cultural technological revolutionary key. This key can either unlock the resolutions to societies so called “issues”; or lock the general public in a world that will form into a people who are brainwashed by the idea that in order to be successful they need to achieve images portrayed in the media.



{3} Ouellette L., Hay, James. “Better Living Through Reality Television”. 2008 and

February, USA/ MA. pp 1-18 and 105-110.

{4} Pozner L. Jennifer. “The Unreal World”. Chapter II, pp. 96-99


Friday, May 23, 2008

Beauty or a FALSE Reality?

Beauty or a False Reality

The collage above represents the ideology of beauty that has been established throughout western culture. The images of tall, thin, white women have been plastered on television, billboards, and on the covers of magazines as examples of what the successful ideal woman should be or look like. These women are viewed as products, and as a result of seen by men as objects. Media uses advertising as way to create body expectations from both men and women. The problem with this ideal is that it doesn’t exist. The definition of “beauty” is fictional in fact the expectations are continuously changing depending on the impact that it has on men and their control status over women in society. These images send a contradictory messages to women; making it seem realistic that they could one day be these images with enough hard work, or even perhaps become the idealistic woman that every man craves. Also most of the women shown in these images are being viewed in a sexualized or submissive manner. These images can also make women confused as to if they are supposed to be aggressive or passive.
Naomi Wolfe says “that this beauty ideal is a currency system that has been shaped into a belief system used to keep males dominant in assigning value to women through physical standards {1}.” The issue with the ideals of beauty is that it has now began to define other aspects of society referencing women such as “myths about motherhood, domesticity, chastity, passivity, and in many ways has affected the job types women acquire {1}.” When these images are portrayed all through out the media and become ideals that individuals are socialized by; they later assist in the creation of contradictory messages. These messages are contradictory first because the images of these women are not realistic, second because women are being seen as successful or in control because of their beauty; realistically they are being controlled by other dominating factors such as men or the media. Third the images these women portray give a false representation of what the attributing characteristics of a woman are; and were created as a method to distract women from advancing to dominant positions in society.
Media has its own way of projecting cultural ideologies or perspectives through women. A lot of the ads that are shown of the quote on quote beautiful women have been re-touched, glossed ,or display women in a submissive positions. Other women who see these images base their lives or how they need to look or characteristics of behaviors they should possess or display. “A college woman argues it is these very images that make women feel as though their bodies have failed the beauty test. As a result they get so involved with their bodies, exercising, plastic surgery, and self improvement they are distracted from other important aspects of selfhood that may challenge the status quo {2}.” The fact that these images are unrealistic leaves women trying to combat a problem that can never be resolved. So in many ways the beauty myth is created to distract women from enriching their status in life.
Overall, the median responsible for the contradictory messages society is receiving about beauty is the media. In order to address the ideals of beauty full force women need to realize that as of today the roles they take in media coverage, exposure of particular body images, and constant marketing of a false representations of beauty is contributing to a serious issue. “Another college woman explains how important a women’s sense of self worth can be, but she also describes it as being determined by a women’s weight or attraction {3}. This is a prime example of how women are conceptualized in certain manners by individuals that are outside of their gender. One needs to evaluate who is making the determinations as to what is beautiful; if men are making the validations then how are women in control?” If women don’t find a mechanism to combat males validations of what beauty is; this problem, these depictions and/or expectations are going to become worse.

{1}Wolfe, Naomi. Gender and Women’s Bodies. Chapter 2 pp. 120-123
{2} Hesse, Biber. The Cult of Thinness. Chapter 3 pp. 61-66
{3}Hesse, Biber. The Cult of Thinness. Chapter 1 pp. 11-19

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Barbies, Homemakers, and Gender Inequality as the “New” Black

“ Mom, I want a new Brat doll” or “ dad can I have that new video game please? These are some of the frequent questions asked daily towards stressed overworked parents. I’m almost sure all parents want to make their little girl or boy happy so they give in to these demands; thinking most times it’s just a toy. Before getting a new toy may have been difficult because parents were working or doing other tasks. So taking time out to go to the toy store was out of the question after an exhausting day. But in 2008 the world of online shopping has become a great source. Online shopping is really easy, especially if an individual is looking for toys for children. All you have to do is go online to find his or her favorite toy. It’s almost impossible for you to pick the wrong toy, because as soon as you scroll down there are three categories {1}. On one part of the page lies a category of toys for girls, and in the middle outdoor stuff, and to the far right there is a category for boys. Most parents go online, click, and buy. It’s really sad to say that some parents go shopping with the mindset that they are actually buying their kid a toy that will make them happy. Instead, they are buying a toy for their child that may be aidingin societies unequal distribution of gender roles. It is my aim through a small shopping experience to expose how children’s toys have become the new age vehicle for distribution and implementation of societal gender roles.

During my excursion I analyzed toys that fell in the age range from 5-7 for both girls and boys. I focused on their colors, their themes, and what type of messages they were sending to children. I found that in each category there was a complete contrast of toy selections. In the girls section the toy selections where dolls, make-up, plastic kitchen sets, nail design, skates; and the most infamous Brat Dolls shown with a flower watering pot while her boobs protruded out. One other really interesting toy I saw was the Lego set that was glazed in pink, but on the front of the box a house and a little girl jumping rope was shown. The colors were almost all the same every page I went to; the colors were either pink, purple, yellow, or some type of pastel color which leads me to think a young girl would have to be extra cautious about making sure the toy didn’t get dirty.
The selection of toys for boys was completely different. The colors shown were bright reds, blues, and black. These are all very dominating colors. Also the toy selection had symbolic characters that boys could identify with in society like fire men, action cars, air pilots, planes, baseballs, and animals like dogs and lions; amongst other things there were toys shown that would challenge young males intellectual capabilities like cash registers dealing with money, chess sets, there was even a tool set shown. Just from viewing a couple of toys on line one could see that there are serious gender roles that are being represented through toys. Analyzing the toys for boys I got the idea that if I were a boy I could fit many identities. I could be a fireman; I could be a business man, a captain, a tool man, or even architecture and build things. “Author Goerge Lipsitz addresses the idea that these type of identity traits or gender roles are not just thrown into society but inserted gradually; and accepted over a period of time. They began to become encouraged and accepted when they are identified through new products. He noted that products sold have traditional, historical, sanctioned practices of behaviors (Lipsitz, 43)”. These roles and jobs listed above for boys are very dominant in today’s society, and are some of the most important people we utilize to keep our economy and world thriving. So in a sense they are highly valued. The idea that all of these characteristic are being portrayed to young boys and girls as being a male oriented is scary.
Out of all the toys I observed from the girl’s selection the theme seemed to surround the ideas of beauty, a women being soft, taking the role as a care taker, or insinuating that a girls place is at home. I say this because all of the toys were babies, barbies, doll houses, nail kits, hair streakers, or make up. This is a really scary thought because the age group that I typed in was from
ages 5-7. I thought to myself is this what we are teaching young girls today, beauty and homemaking over brains? At the age of 5 – 7 why should a young girl be concerned about her nails, streaking her hair, or pretending she is cooking dinner for a husband she doesn’t have? Why weren’t there toys in this selection that challenged young girls or showed them that they could be anything they wanted to be? Or even showed them they could have a career outside of being a nurse or a mom?
I can answer my own question and say this is happening because toys, media, and the gender roles or expectations of children have become embedded in society’s stages of socialization. The media is an important purveyor of information about gender. It is from very young stages of girls lives that they are taught they always need to fix something on their bodies whether it is their hair, nails, or their face. While being faced with all these issues they are also being socialized under then norms that they need to be tender, affectionate, and take care of the house or home. I’m almost sure every girl has been told “act like a lady” ladies don’t do that”. Gender roles are everywhere, if young girls don’t get it from toys they get it from parents, television, or they learn it at school. Newman argues that “everyday symbols in our lives are what we use to represent who we are and what we stand for (Newman, 73).” He also talks about how images we view in the media are becoming ideals that both women and men base their lives on.
“Newman says that women are portrayed as sex objects whose only attribution is beauty or idea that they are shallow, vain, or materialistic (Newman, 92).” This quote explains my argument; children are being brainwashed or what some call ‘socialized’ at an early age and being shown through toys and media what roles they play in society. Whether society wants to admit it or not there is a problem, and we are all contributing to it. The idea that a girl that’s between the ages of 5-7 needs to be beautiful only plays into the images that are shown on television today like the Swan, America’s Next Top Model, or even the reality shows that show dozens of women trying to find love in one man. It is these very images that create attitudes of inferiority, guilt, and negative body images in young girls and women in today’s society.

The problem with media, gender roles, and consumer consumption appears to take on the presence of a web that has spun out of control. But as consumers, mothers and fathers we all have the power to take control. It’s true that the categories that differentiate both males and females is constantly being embedded in our minds and in our culture; but we can fix it. As women we can stop buying those products for our daughters, sisters, or friends that make the statement that they need to change. Men can stop trying to identify or take on the role as a dominator and actually view women as human; if men stop roughing their sons up, and telling them “boys don’t cry” this may make them understand its ok to express emotion. I’m not sure these are the steps to addressing such a terrible problem that existed for so long in our society but, it’s a start.

2. Newman,. “Portraying Difference: Race, Class, Gender, and sexuality in Language and the Media”. Chapter 3 pp.72 and 92
3. Lipsitz, George. “The Meaning of Memory: Family, Class, and Ethnicity in Early Network Television”. pp. 43-44

Monday, May 12, 2008

Professor Gamble do i no...cuz Pop culture Rocks..if you didnt you do