Thursday, August 7, 2008

Extreme MakeOver or is it an Extreme Explotation?

What you see is not always what it seems. This is most apparent in everyday television. The media has always been able to dictate how we see things. And with the boom of reality television, the media is able to discipline our thinking through real people and no longer through paid actors. From telling us how to meet the ideal to how to make the perfect home, reality television does it all and teaches all. A perfect example of how reality television clouds our vision is the show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. The show allows the viewer to see a team a construction workers go to work as they help build a new home for a family in need. Sounds great, but things are not always how they seem.

Everyone wants to live the "American Dream" In this show, a lucky family gets the chance renovate their sometimes small, broken, or rundown homes and change it to a dream house. A team of construction workers work diligently to provide a new home for these families in seven days while the family goes on vacation. In each episode, the host begins the show by picking the deserving family. He and his team watch a video made by the family detailing all of the problems the family has and why they deserve a new home. For most of these families they are poor and just looking for an alternative way to make it. And for the majority of them they believe that this show is the alternative. I believe for many families in America today who face troubles like the families on the show, they've become dependent on the show praying to god that they get picked. I watched the show and I believe that every family that has been chosen is indeed deserving of ABC's promise of an Extreme Makeover, but once the cameras stop rolling, can they afford it? What are the corporations real motives, is it really to help deserving families?

Who gets to pick the people who get on these shows anyway? ABC gets to assign who is needy and who is not. Since the gap between poor and rich is caused by the same capitalistic system that produces this show, by deeming who is poor and needy, they are reinforcing capitalistic ideals. For someone who is watching the show in a similar situation as those on Extreme makeover, how can one expect them to feel. They would want an extreme makeover also and would trive for it. Thier goals have changed.

The show itself is quite moving. The way the show is put together and stories the show finds make it a must see show. Lets take Harpers family for example. They are a family of five who recently just moved out of the housing projects and into a home which has a bad septic system. When it rains waste pours into their home making their home almost unlivable. To add more to the story, the host is in the hospital on a hospital bed. He says that a hospital bed will not stop him from helping a family in need. So he sends the team to design the biggest house they've built.

The harper family is indeed in need of help but building them a huge home is not going to
solve the harper families problems. Laurie Ouellette states that shows like extreme makeover serve to obscure the social nature of want and encourage individualistic responses that necessarily fail to address the full scope of the problem. What the show fails to do is fully address the problems of the family. For many of the families on the show, they are given a upper class house on a lower class budget. Yes, the harper family has a terrible home, but how did they get into that position. The show fails to analyze some questions such as financial state of the family and education. They also fail to guide the family once the cameras stop rolling and the family must pay off an old mortgage for the house that was torn down, huge utility bills, new property taxes, and an overall higher standard of living full of brand name products.

What the viewer must understand, is that when it comes to reality television, no matter how great and touching it looks, it has been produced in such a way to give that effect. Jennifer Pozner states that the viewer tune into reality television because these shows frame their narratives in ways that both reflect and reinforce deeply ingrained societal biases about women, men, love, beauty,(and in this case) class, and race.(Pozner, 97)

After seriously analyzing the show I began to believe that the show does not only help some of the families on the show, but they also exploit them. Extreme makeover uses the grief and the suffering of other people to entice the viewer into believing that our society is still giving out great charity. The only charity here is the new problems shows like this give to these families. And the charity is scarce.There are plenty of families in need, but only one family gets chosen each week. Wouldn't it be a greater charity if ABC used the thousands of construction workers that help one family, and instead split them up in teams to help many. The houses would most likely be smaller but the overall contribution would be greater.

Works Cited:

Pozner, Jennifer L. "The Unreal World." Women: Images & Realities, A Multicultural Anthology. By Amy Kesselman, Lily D. McNair and Nancy Schniedewind. New York: McGraw Hill, 2002.

Ouellette, Laurie & Hay, James. Better Living Through Reality TV. Blackwell Publishing: 2008.

Image taken August 8, 2008 from

Friday, August 1, 2008

Sex for Sale and Its Free

Sex sells, if you believe otherwise, turn on the television, open a magazine, or take a walk around the town. The average human being is bound to come across some sort of advertisement in their daily lives. Advertising has become such an impacting influence in today’s society that human beings are beginning to rely on it. Along with an increase in advertisement, I think its safe to say that today’s society has also seen a significant increase in sexuality and the producers and suppliers of America’s favorite products are capitalizing. It has become increasingly common to see less clothes and more sex in ads today and unfortunately the female body is the biggest victim. And although advertisers are exploiting the female body, it is our culture today that has allowed this objectification of women to happen.

It is the history that preexist today’s society that has allowed the objectification of women to be ever more common and sometimes unnoticed. Since the beginning of time, women have always been the victims of the man’s elite status and thought process. Throughout history women have been molded from the Victorian woman to the common housewife to the sex objects of Ads today. Women have become mere products and prisoners of our society and as a society we have devalued the female body: “In assigning value to women in a vertical hierarchy, it is an expression of power relations in which women must unnaturally compete for resources that men have appropriated for themselves” (Wolf, 121). Take a few ads from the above collage for example. The Francescobiasia ad on the bottom left corner of the collage leaves me confused to what exactly is the product, “Is it the purse or is it the female body holding it”? Unfortunately, the consumers who witness this ad most likely don’t ask this question because we have been structurally conditioned into thinking that women are indeed products.

Our society today has become obsessed with the female body and also with sex. And instead of fighting ads like the ones above, we have accepted it. Many women have emulated it and use it as a model: “I plastered my family’s refrigerator with pictures of models I’d torn out of YM, Seventeen, Sassy, and Teen, and also Vogue, Cosmopolitan, and Mademoiselle-a strategy I used to remind me not to eat”(Higginbottom, 93). It has fueled female competition that has been influenced by ads seen above. Women want to be the sex object that receives the attention from men because “A woman’s sense of worth in our culture is still greatly determined by her ability to attract a man” (Hesse, 18). Therefore in a world where we are obsessed with sex and are constantly using women as objects, I believe it is safe to say that, sex sells.

Works Cited:

Hesse-Biber, Sharlene Nagy. The Cult of Thinness. 2nd Ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007. 11-31

Higginbotham, Anastasia:
Teen Mags: How to Get a Guy, Drop 20 Pounds, and Lose Your Self-Esteem. 93-96

Wolf, Naomi. "The Beauty Myth." Gender and Women's Bodies (1991): 120-125.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Blog Post 1: Transformers or My little Pony: Role toys play in gender.

“The Media are an important purveyor of information about gender; they promote stereotypes of masculinity and femininity” (Newman, 89). In society today children are becoming the newest victims of big business and are being exploited by commercialization and advertisement. Companies are using video games and toys as labels of masculinity and femininity. Companies use different tactics to market their products to different genders. Through their advertising, they reassure the consumer (both child and adult) of society’s norms by labeling products either masculine or feminine. Toys and products marketed to kids play a role in the gendered socialization of children.

To see how toys influence the gendered socialization of children, I asked my ten year old nephew to come up with wish list of the top five toys he would like. Believing that I was going to buy him some new toys, he quickly grabbed a pen and began jotting down names of many different toys. When he finished, the sheet of paper looked like a grocery list. After I told him could only pick five, he sighed and picked his top five. The list was as followed:

1. Grand theft auto 4 (Xbox 360)
2. Madden 2009 (Xbox 360)
3. A remote control race car
4. A pair of boxing gloves.
5. NCAA official basketball.

So after he handed me the list with a big smile on his face, I went online to see what I would find. My first stop would be Eb games, knowing that I could find the video games he was asking for there.

One of the first things that caught my attention upon reaching was an advertisement at the bottom of the page for another game. The game was a racing game, being advertised by a topless girl. My first thought was “This girl has nothing to do with this game”. Anyhow, I continued to search for the games Grand Theft Auto IV and Madden 2009. I was only interested in how these games were being marketed to children. It was obvious that both these games were being marketed to boys and not girls. On the cover of Grand Theft Auto, you’ll find a sexy woman, a motorcycle, a man with a gun, and a police chase. This game was obviously made for the young child’s need to feel like the macho bad boy and is degrading towards women. “Most video games are designed by males for males. Female characters are often provocatively sexual, scantily clad, and voluptuous.”(Newman,91). In terms of advertisement, they are filled with fast cars, fast women, and fast money. These advertisements and this game feed the boys fantasy to be someone they see in the movies and on television. As for madden, the cover was a picture of the NFL star Bret Favre. On television the advertisements included football games and words from Bret Favre himself.

When searching for a remote racing car, the toys were advertised by two young boys who were clearly competing on whose car was faster. The competition factor of being a boy was evident in this toy. I want my nephew to have the fastest car and if I were his father, I would be compelled to buy him the fastest one. And after talking to him, it is clear that he does want the fastest car. Even at the age of ten, he believes that he must have the fastest car in the neighborhood to show off to his friends. Toys like these feed young boys egos or even create them. It’s all part of being a boy I guess.

Michael Messner “views gender identity not as a thing that people have, but rather as a process of construction that develops, comes into crisis, and changes as a person interacts with the social world.”(Messner, 121) Through video games and toys, young boys are thought to be competitive and macho, while girls are taught to be ladylike and make fake cakes and take care of babies that burp, cry, and even poop. Every toy and every game has a certain gender that they target. The boxing gloves that my nephew asked for were easy to find, but finding gloves for a girl, not so easy. And when I did find gloves for girls, they were pink and sometimes had butterflies on them. All toys are gender specific. Even basketballs are made for specific genders. The girls’ basketballs are smaller than the boys’ basketballs. Some of the girl basketballs are pink and yellow, while the boy basketballs are blue and red.

In conclusion, whether you shop online or shop at a department store, all toys have their specific target market. Boy’s toys are competitive, macho, build egos, and are adventurous. Girls’ toys teach how to cook and how to take care of a child. They are cute and cuddly. For example, take an advertisement for “My little Pony”, shown on television. The actors in the commercial are young girls in little dresses that look so innocent. The narrator is a woman and music is calm and soothing. But when it’s a commercial for a remote control RC car, the actors are boys who are competing in the backyard. The narrator is a man and the music is rock. This is how toys are being advertised. Boys are being molded into rough playing competitors, while girls are being told to stay in the house and act like mommy.

Work Cited:

Messner, Michael A. "Boyhood, Organized Sports, and the Construction of Masculinities." Journal of Contemporary Ethnography (1990): 120-137.

Newman, David M. Portraying Difference: Race, Class, Gender and Sexuality in Language and the Media. New York: McGraw Hill 2007. 71-105.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Family Guy Analysis

The Family Guy series has always been a contreversial one. The cartoon goes above and beyond and is not afraid to attack all aspects of race, class, gender, sexuality, and ethnicity. The episode "Don't Make Me Over" is a perfect example of how the show portrays the identity categories of race, class, gender, sexuality, and ethnicity. From the beginning of the show, all the way to the very end, it is easy to pick examples that conflict hegemonic/counter hegemonic representations of ideologies related to these identities.

The show begins in a school setting. Megan, a teenage girl in high school, is peered into asking out a boy. His name is Craig. Craig is portrayed as the All American bad boy that plays by noone elses rules but his own. He sports the bad boy look and the bad boy attitude. The guy all the girls want. When megan approaches him, she is turned down. Because of this, Megan believes she is ugly. A likely feeling that many girls like Megan in today's society feel. When she tells her mother of the situation, her mother's solution is low rider jeans and shirts that sport the words "little slut" and other oppressive slurs. In today's society, shirts like this exist, and young teenage girls who seek attention from the "Bad Boys" or just want popularity believe they must wear these shirts that demorolize to get it. Sadly, for many young girls today, this is the reality. Sex sells and sex gets the most attention. So Megan is made over into the typical blonde white girl that wears make up, sexy low rider jeans,and tight shirts with the words little slut on them. Craig now ask her out, not because of who she is, but merely because of what she has become; the sexy blonde girl.

The second example has to do with The Asian correspondent Tricia Tacanawa. Tricia is portrayed as the stereotypical Asian women with the small eyes and an accent. She has black hair and a round face. This portrayal feeds into the stereotype that all Asian women look like this. This portrayal of ethnicity is wrong, but exist in society today.

The catergory of race is also portrayed in episode. Peter's one black friend, is portrayed as the black guy with few words. However when he does speak, his speech is a bit slow and drags. When Peter turns the guys into a rock band. The black guys outfit is a disco suit with a afro. While the white guy in the wheel chair's outfit is rocker outfit with long hair. And Quagmire wears an outfit resembling that of which Tommy Lee would wear. Later on, the family is introduced to Dr. Diddy, the black producer who wears a gold chain and wears his hat backwards. Bryan who has always been questioned as being racist barks at him everytime he sees him. Dr. Diddy vocab consist of the words 'Yall" and "Aint".

Gender was also portrayed in the episode. The female is not a dominant figure in this show. Megan for example gets taken advantage of and Peter is sent to beat up the guy that took advantage of her. This is reinforcing the idea male dominance. Anytime Lois has an issue or problem, she approaches Peter and ask him for his idea. Even if she feels that something is wrong, she goes with what Peter says. Peter is an idiot, but he clearly still maintains the dominance in the household. Even though Lois is portrayed as smarter and more level headed, Lois goes by whatever Peter says because he is the male. This reinforces the idea that woman or smarter, but guys are stronger.

Sexuality is always potrayed in the family guy episodes. For example, Peter is the head of the typical heterosexual family with a wife, daugther, son, infant, and pet. In this particular episode, many homosexual comments are made. When Peter is putting together the band, the guy in the wheel chair makes a reference to looking like a queer because they all had different outfits. I believe he was making a reference to the YMCA group who wear different outfits. The tinman from the Wizard of Oz was portrayed as gay. In the jail scene, there were many gay comments made. A guy braded the son's hair and Peter signed a mans butt. Just to name a few homosexual comments.

All in All, the Don't Make me Over episode of Family Guy simply just reinforced the things that we in society do daily without even knowing it. Its almost making fun of our ignorance. From wanting to be skinny blonde white girls to making racist and gay comments, we do it all. This episode was a perfect example of how the show portrays the identity catergories of race, class, gender, sexuality, and ethnicity.

Family Guy. “Don’t Make Me Over.”
Season 4, Volume Three, Disc One, DVD. 6/5/05
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation: Beverly Hills, CA. 2005.