Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Facebook: Dislike?

This post is in relation to the lecture I and a group of my colleagues presented this past Thursday. Each one of us took a different aspect of Facebook to speak about. My position was that of the negative, as inferred by this post. Though my speech was slightly different from the information I have posted it is an example of what I presented.
While looking over the information of what makes Facebook, a social media power. I found that the creator of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange had felt that Facebook was the largest US spying machine ever created. Although, these are very high accusations of the website, there is truth in what he preaches. Facebook is similar to that of big brother, watching our every move and keep track of us. The genius part of it is the fact that it is powered by the people. We the people help to empower Facebook. By adding everything about us, we are creating an archive of our lives that is easily accessible.
Through this exchange of information, we find that any government agency, foreign or domestic, can gain access to everything they could need to control us. Through looking at someone’s Facebook, you could learn who their parents are, their significant other, and so on. This data is quiet power, it lays dormant. However, if the time ever called for it, it could be accessed. There is even a word for this access of information, a neoprint. A neoprint is the name for the archive file of your Facebook life, however, this is only accessed after a police or government agent has a warrant to obtain it. The neoprint contains every message sent, received, wall post, people you have dated, photo tags, friends, rejected friends, and status updates.
The fact that people are unaware of this is what makes Facebook so powerful, it can hold a plethora of information about your life, yet does nothing with it. Which brings about the idea that people need to be open their minds to the safety issues of social networking sites. Questioning what is the point in hosting your whole life for the world to see. What are the benefits and disadvantages.
Furthermore, Facebook has slowly been redefining our social communications sphere, by adding new platforms in which to communicate. Although this sounds ideal, it can be seen as major issue for human nature. Facebook is one of the most popular ways to keep in contact with one another, however, contact is made from a distance. This could create social problems for most children growing up, mainly their ability to properly read body language or the nuances of the facial muscles. However, these are just theories; there is no concrete proof on whether or not this could be a side effect. It is something to consider when thinking about the future of face-to-face communication.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Smurfs Communism

           The theory of the Smurfs representing the communist society within a children’s cartoon show has been disputed for quite some time.  Antoine Buéno, a French sociologist, has even written a book, The Little Blue Book, that reinforces this idea that the Smurfs hold more political ideals than what we realize.  During an interview with Thierry Culliford – the son of the creator, Pierre Culliford – had stated, “… [this] is positioned between the grotesque and the not very serious… My father absolutely wasn’t interested in politics.  When there were elections, he asked my mother, ‘What should I vote?’” (Horn).  Just because Thierry Culliford states his father was not a communist, does not mean the show did not hold a communist message.
            If we are to view the Smurf society as a communist society, we must deconstruct what we are given.  From the beginning, we can see the Smurf society has absolutely no form of currency and trade.  Furthermore, there seems to be no need or desire for such a commodity.  Instead, we find a society that is based on the equality of everyone who lives within it.  Even the village itself is a representation of perfection that is communism, everyone working together to better the community.  Thus, the village is placed far away from the outside world (capitalism), so the Smurfs can work uninterrupted.
            Each Smurf is even given a name based on their job title, examples being, Doctor Smurf, Handy Smurf, Baker Smurf, and so on.  Being that each Smurf’s name is designated by their job title, it shows the importance of that Smurf within the community.  This is also helpful for the audience to differentiate between all the Smurfs, due to the fact that they all dress and look the same.  As each member of society looks the same, wears the same outfit, lives in tract mushroom housing, and even eats the same things shows true communist equality amongst the people, no one is better than the other.  Except for one Smurf, Papa Smurf.

            Papa Smurf is the only true individual in this utopian society.  He wears a fully red outfit, – as opposed to the white outfits everyone else wears – he has a beard, and is given the highest position in the village.  His position is never given in detail, but it is assumed that he represents a wise father figure.  Papa Smurf does not force his opinions upon the people, but he does advice them how to live their life in the best manner possible.  His appearance has been compared to that of the father of, The Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx.  People have even theorized that the word Smurf is an acronym for, Soviet Men Under Red Father.  Further, showing ties between the Smurfs and communism.

            The only adversary the Smurfs have is Gargamel, who represents capitalism.  He is the embodiment of everything that is horrible about capitalism, greed, ruthlessness, and self-gratification.  Gargamel is seen to have absolutely no friends or outside contact with the world, his only companion is his cat.  His representation helps to illustrate the idea that capitalism is a based on the needs and wants of an individual as opposed to the needs and wants of the society.  Although, throughout each episode of the Smurfs they constantly defeat Gargemel, which proves the idea that communism is stronger than capitalism (at least according to the writers).
            Thus, the Smurfs represent the ideals of Marxism, “historical specificity of human affairs and the changeable character of social formations whose core features are located in the material conditions of existence” (Barker 12-13).  However, since the original author has never claimed that the Smurfs were created as the communist utopia, people can only deconstruct what they see.  Even Antoine Buéno agreed with this, “I believe that his work (like others) conveys and concentrates a certain number of stereotypes given to a certain society and period. The analysis of the Smurfs tells us more about the sociopolitical environment of Peyo than about Peyo himself" (Horn).

Work Cited
  • Barker, Chris. Cultural Studies: Theory and Practice. London: Sage, 2008. Print.
  • Horn, Heather. "The French Debate: Are Smurfs Communist Anti-Semites? - Global." The            Atlantic Wire. The Atlantic Wire, 6 June 2011. Web. 21 Aug. 2011.       <http://www.theatlanticwire.com/global/2011/06/french-debate-are-smurfs-communist-           antisemites/38534/>.

Monday, August 15, 2011

James Bond, Ethnocentric Superstar

            James Bond is a character that has been idolized and idealized since his creation in 1953 by Ian Fleming.  Since 1953 to the present James Bond has seen quite a bit of scrutiny by many researchers and fans alike, whether it be his objectification of women or British Imperialism.  However, there is one aspect of James Bond that is often dismissed and viewed as British Imperialism; this is the concept that James Bond represents Caucasian ethnocentric views of the world.  This is directly seen through his dominance of foreigners to his subjugation of their countries.
            Ethnocentrism is a term coined by American sociologist William G. Sumner, the term means, an attitude expressing one’s own culture or ethnic group as superior or centralized in comparison to other ethnic groups/culture, this can also be extended to religious traditions and so on (International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences).  At first ethnocentrism may look similar to racism, however, it is more closely related to xenophobia and prejudice, because it represents the centralization or superiority of one’s race without the effects of hatred.
            Throughout the decades, James Bond has represented a powerful masculine figure of British power; nevertheless, James Bond is the reflection of the western superiority/dominance in an ever-shrinking world.  His characteristics of being handsome, charming, masculine, and cunning, are the pinnacle traits of the perfect western male.  Even through his objectification of women, James Bond is still exerting his ethnocentric beliefs, for each time he sleeps with another foreigner he is further portraying the image that he is the perfect choice for these women.  Through this act, James Bond is given the commanding role of “screwing the opposing country” and it’s women, thus further propagating his status as a western ethnocentric superstar.
            Demonization is the key example of ethnocentrism in James Bond.  The majority of James Bond films involve an antagonist who is of eastern descent, representing the fears that the east bring to the west.  Through the Orientalization of the enemy, the audience is given a clear picture of the differences found in the protagonist, who is a western white male, and that of the antagonist, who is oriental.  This concept of Orientalism of the Bond foes is distinctly based on the relationship history of the west and the east, (in opposition of being racist) specifically, the times in which they fought one another.
            However, through the usage of James Bond the west is given a chance to continually defeat the east with each new film, and through this, the west is able to maintain their control over the east.  Through this propagation, there will always be a strong sense of ethnocentrism that follows the path of James Bond, whether it is what woman he chooses to objectify or what country he chooses to dominant.  As long as there is a demand for James Bond, there will be a constant control over popular culture around the world, which in turn will further give the west complete control over our perception of the east.

Work Cited

Thursday, August 11, 2011

‘10’(1979) vs. Man, Woman & the Wall(2006)

            Many may be wondering why these two films have been chosen to be compared and contrasted.  Both films are from different eras, different countries, and have very different interactions between the characters, they do have something in common, which is their envisioning of what and who a woman is from a far off perspective.  Which brings about the question, have men changed since the late seventies or has pop culture continued to shape the idealized view of a woman.
            ’10’ and Man, Woman, & the Wall (MWW), are both considered to be romance/sex comedies, though MWW and the wall at times seems to border on the Japanese genre of Pink Eiga (Pink Movie, softcore pornographic scenes found in film).  ’10’ centers on an older man who has a love interest, though he is also going through a mid-life crisis.  He then happens to find a woman who he considers an ‘11’ out of ‘10’, on the attraction scale.  This leads to him becoming obsessed and creating a fantasized idea of whom she is, which then leads to him following her around the world.  In MWW, the main character is a twenty-something who lives in a small apartment and has no girlfriend, but happens to have a thin wall between himself and his next-door neighbor, whom he begins to fantasize about who she is and what she looks like.  This leads to the main character devising different methods in which to become a part of his neighbor’s life.
            First, let us dissect what women of desire represent in each film separately, by the end there should be a mutual relationship that is shared amongst them.  Bo Derek, the woman of desire in ‘10’, is in actuality a very liberal woman who envisions sexual freedom and individualism, according to Barker she would fall under raunch culture.  Her position in raunch culture is explained best by Barker, “Raunch advocates sexual provocativeness and promiscuousness by women as women…women identifying within this ‘culture’ speak of their rights to objectify sexuality like a man…” (312).  This is not to say that she is a woman who embodies anything evil or wrong, but because she embodies this idea, the main character begins to find her less attractive as he begins to learn more about her.  This is because the main character still holds the concept that for a woman to be beautiful she needs to represent, the good wife.  The good wife according to Barker is a woman who embraces the ideals of being a domesticated, passive, well-mannered woman (307).
            In MWW, the desired woman is imagined before she is ever seen by the audience and the main character.  Because of this, the audience is given the chance to be truly connected to the main character and to see what he sees through his imagination.  Similar to the film ‘10’ the audience and the main character learn the personality of the desired woman only at the end, only to find they are somewhat disgusted by the woman’s nature.  Though the difference between the two films are that the protagonist in MWW meets and befriends his love interest fairly fast, whereas in ‘10’ the protagonist doesn’t befriend his love interest until a little past the half-way point of the film.
            The scene in question in the film is where the protagonist is spending time with neighbor, after her boyfriend had left her.  From there she begins to get drunk and tries to seduce the protagonist into coitus, the main character views this action as not fitting his idea of who this woman is or what he would like her to be.  The woman in this film does not represent raunch culture as did Bo Derek’s character in ‘10’, though both women are the subject of a man’s interpretation of what an idealized woman would be.  Both men seem to view the women as having the personality of, the good wife, but as each film progresses we learn neither of these women share this ideal, thus forcing the men to reject them.
            This aspect of how men from two different cultures are able to come up with the same idea of what a perfect woman should be is very intriguing.  It proves the point that pop culture over the past few decades has created an image of what the perfect woman should envision, in opposition to who they truly are.  Because of this media control, we can see a clear trend of how women are being viewed, whether it be the interpretation of the late seventies or that of the 21st century, there seems to be very little that has changed in the man’s mind of what a woman is. 

  • Barker, Chris. "Sex, Subjectivity, and Representation." Cultural Studies Theory and Practice. London: Sage Publications, 2007. 301-13. Print.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Jerry Maguire

            After watching Jerry Maguire, I began to contemplate the under lying message of love that the film portrays.  At first, I felt the film was very idealist in terms of its execution of character relations and love.  However, as I finished the film I began to slowly change my point of view of the whole film’s view of love, though I must admit that I belief that the film examines love in three different angles.
            The film first introduces Tom Cruise and his soon to be wife, Kelly Preston.  We are thrown into their session of wild lovemaking, which is coincidentally our first meeting of this couple.  From this depiction, both characters are more interested in a physical relationship or a relationship built around the idea of loving someone for what they look like.  However, as the movie progresses we learn that this is most likely the truth.  Both Tom Cruise and Kelly Preston seem to have no emotional attachment to one another, only caring for one another based on their physical appearance and their social status.  It is important to note that in the final scene between these two characters we find that Tom Cruise would be considered the weaker of the two in the relationship, since he shows signs of emotionally caring about one another’s feelings.  Whereas for Kelly Preston’s character, she is incredibly strong willed and bull headed, however, she is able to assert her dominance over Tom Cruise and fulfill her role as the ‘aggressive I don’t take no for an answer corporate woman.’  This leads the audience to view Tom Cruise in a more positive light, due to his fragility since he has just been further knocked off his pedestal since losing his job.
            The second relationship we encounter is that of Tom Cruise and Renee Zellweger.  The relationship they share with one another is a very idealistic.  Their relationship is a perfect example of Hollywood’s typical awkward/cute first time encounter, Tom Cruise helping Renee Zellweger find her child at the airport terminal.  From there their relationship slowly builds, and finally at the end Tom Cruise confesses his love for her.  This whole relationship is completely based on the wonderful fairy tale ending of most movies, where prince charming saves poor Cinderella from her wicked step sisters, but in this setting, prince charming saves Cinderella from her sad lonely single mother life.  Honestly, this relationship seemed very unrealistic.  This is for the fact that Tom Cruise’s character regardless of how far he fell from grace in his own point of view, would not settle for such a woman.  It seems almost out of character, because even though Tom Cruise’s character has changed quite a bit, it is easy to figure out that he is still very aware of how attractive he is.  Most notably in his bachelor party scene where we see a video of his ex-girlfriends talking about him, giving the audience an idea of what type of women he usually dates.
            For the third couple, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Regina King, their relationship seemed the most real.  Even if the audience were to perceive their relationship as the ‘perfect marriage’ due to their close connection and constant affection, their relationship can still be considered to be the most realistic in the film.  In one view point their marriage is perfect, but at another angle their relationship is what we all strive for, understanding and cooperation.  But what makes their relationship so real is how they are both balanced characters, whereas every other relationship is borderline bi-polar.  We have Tom Cruise who is having a serious mid-life crisis, which at times is compared to that of a person who suffers from bi-polar disorder.  Kelly Preston’s character who is overly aggressive and domineering, probably has incredible self-esteem issues and has had to hide her emotions for so long that she is no longer truly stable unless she is in control of another person’s life.  As for Renee Zellweger’s character, she isn’t as bad as the two other characters, but she is still guilty of obsessively looking for a new husband/father and someone to support her since she is far too weak to manage most of her life on her own, thus she is still living with her older sister.
            For Cuba Gooding Jr. and Regina King’s characters, they work well with one another because both actors have chemistry and the characters are able to make themselves vulnerable without looking like they are flailing about on the floor looking for someone to pick them up and give them a direction.  For these main reasons, I feel this couple stands out far more than all the other couples in the movie.  They are the stereotypical perfect marriage, but at the same time, they are characters that we can see as being sane.