Friday, October 31, 2014

"This Week" in Pop Culture: "The Woman Issue"

The title of the class in question seemed pretty ambiguous "Popular Culture", but needing more upper level (300 and 400) classes in order to graduate next Spring didn't offer much of a choice, plus most of the other classes being offered for this semester sounded far worse (more boring) than the brief description of this class. The class can be summed up as the critical study of popular culture and its objects, actions and experiences as related to fashion, shopping, television, film, music, books, newspapers and the Internet and how it influences the public, as well as how everyday actions affect us. Further, it's the study of how culture is defined by all of these things. It turns out the class isn't so bad.

The content of the class is centered around three texts (Pop Culture Freaks: Identity, Mass Media, and Society by Kidd, Connecting Social Problems and Popular Culture: Why Media is Not the Answer by Sternheimer, The Rhetorical Power of Popular Culture: Considering Mediated Texts by Sellnow).

In addition to the lectures the class includes a lot of documentary content that is in no way dry or boring. They don't necessarily involve new revelations, the impact of society on society, to someone over the age of thirty who already has a history of questioning everything; but since the class centers around getting students, those nearer the 20 year old mark, to think critically (they do that at this University!) and not just discount things as simply "that's how it is", it's pretty important.

If you don't think media, such as advertising, has any impact on society, and you think the notion is preposterous, then your kind of ignorance isn't likely going to get much from anything said here, or
elsewhere. The whole point of advertising is to send a message, the whole point of film, of TV, of radio, of magazines, is to send a message. It is communication. And communication has impacts on people as individuals, people as groups, people as communities, societies, and nations. Communication is how culture is shaped and formed, and culture is part of what guides people, their beliefs, their morals, and the way they shape their ideals. These things do not simply materialize out of nothing. For the majority, they come from popular culture, its icons, symbols...its messages about who people are and how they should be. Not only do these things come from message in popular culture, but they do so an increasing rate thanks to advancements in technology over the last one hundred years or more.

The most interesting thing that has come from the class, so far, is that it took a habit of looking at the meanings and messages, and forced it to be "deeper". How so, you ask?

Glad you asked.

To illustrate, we turn to a recent AdWeek article ( that picked up attention on Facebook (you can read the "awesome" comments here

This is the ad at the center of the current debate (it's for Victoria Secret).

Many people were "debating" (arguing like children) over the body message, but only a few actually hit on what the obvious issues are. At the time of discovery, nobody mentioned the "other message".

The issue isn't so much that the women are all thin, which makes the message: If you don't look like
them you are not perfect, and you will not be perfect until you look like this. But you can try to achieve this perfection if you buy these panties (or bras).
No. It's not that.
It's that the perfect body doesn't exist for the majority of the world, and it doesn't even exist for these women - if those perfect bodies did exist then Photoshop wouldn't be needed for the advertisement. That's just obvious if you think about it - and is also a message Jean Kilbourne conveys in Killing Us Softly: Advertising's Image of Women - which is provided below all of this text. (if you unaware of the prevalence of the use of Photoshop in advertising please do watch the film, and check out the famous Dove commercial

Second, and more subtle, is the message found when really looking at the words associated with the images in the advertisement. The prominent image(s) you are supposed to focus on is that of barely dressed women and their bodies. That should be obvious to anybody who understands advertising, and/or reality. They are the focus of the ad (though some might claim that the panties and bras are supposed to be). The advertisement implores you to "Explore the Collection", and by that it means explore the bodies. And by referring to these women, these bodies, as a "collection" it transforms them into objects, objects to be admired, desired, objects to be collected, objects that are not people. Put simply, it dehumanizes them. And you're right, they probably don't care. But the point is not them caring or not, it's about what the message teaches young girls, young boys - it's about how that message is carried out in society and reduces women to objects and opens them up to being treated in violent and dangerous ways.

And before you choose to go on the stock tirade of "Well women buy the products, it's their fault. They should just stop buying products that communicate these types of messages!", look to media and advertising and find the options where these messages aren't being conveyed. The options are small, and in some cases, nonexistent.

Just as a "fun" side note, there was another Facebook post today that caught the attention of many, and incited loads of stupid comments:, all regarding a "Sexy PhD" Halloween costume and the response it got on Amazon by women with PhDs (comments, which, are hilarious.
The most ridiculous argument (as the time of discovery) was that "There's a market for it"...and so that somehow means it's okay, and nobody should have a feeling or thought about it. Don't be upset about it, just accept it...because consumerism...or just as bad...accept it because status quo.

If the kind of pacifist attitude was dominate in this country (which is the United States, in case you're new to this blog), so many changes in society would have never materialized. Like the female right to vote, like the end to slavery, like the American so many things.
It's in the blood of Americans not to stand for the status quo.

Having said enough on the subject, you can learn more, perhaps more eloquently communicated, by watching the provided films following this entry.

From a female standpoint, the feelings they claim women have regarding these images is just as true as not. If it wasn't true, the beauty industry wouldn't be raking it in, eating disorders would wouldn't be prevalent. The issues wouldn't be so real, and if they weren't real, nobody would be talking about them.

As a quick point, this post should in no means indicate that the writer of this entry is a "feminist", or "feminazi" or whatever the cool trollish slang is these days. Rather, the goal is to inspire deeper thinking, to learn to not take things at face value, because as a matter of fact, advertising does matter, media matters, and the issues that arise from a culture manufactured by messages people discount as "just advertising" or "just TV" also matter.

The following are four recent documentaries recently presented in class that center around female images and the media messages as related to music and advertising, as well as the implications they have on women and society. While most of the focus is how this affects women, don't worry guys, there's a video here that focuses on you too (it has more to do with movies and video games...the Boy Scouts...and maybe your dad - but definitely society).

Before you comment here, or elsewhere, watch at least two of the videos (particularly the first one); basically, don't be a dick about it, don't be a troll about it, don't be cyberbully, a douchebag, or an ignorant waste of human space.

You probably have time to learn something, and if you don't then you really shouldn't be reading this blog post, or be on the internet. Bookmark the page. Come back when you have time.
As always, comments from people who know how to communicate like adults, are welcome.

Happy Halloween. When you're done here, go have fun being something slutty. ;-)

Killing Us Softly 4 by 1989jkm

<clicking on the image takes you to the video located here:>

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Breif Reflection on 'Democracy in America' by Alexis de Tocqueville

It's interesting how classes from different departments have commonality. Last semester for a class on American Political Thought, de Tocqueville was a required text. When selections of his 1835/1840 work Democracy in America showed up as a reading and reflection assignment for a Media Law and Ethics class this semester, a visceral link was made - so much so that it inspired the undertaking of a massive credit course, an independent study course in the political science department, next semester. Specifically in the area of political communication, mass media, and voter behavior.  A bit social science-ie, but it should be enlightening, and a good way to round out the final semester (still, it's fun to play with the idea of staying on to get a minor in political science, just for shits and giggles). It's self-directed and one-on-one. A new experience to be sure.

It's surprising how many academic topics overlap, politics and (mass) communication particularly.

While in the thick of research and writing, it seemed prudent not to neglect this blog. Despite the expanse of time between entries, you, dear readers, are never far from thought; nor is the therapeutic release that's missing from writing here.

Anyway, the following is a (very) brief reflection on de Tocqueville's text. It got a "Well Done" by the professor, which is an achievement, because she is difficult to get approval from.

Reflection on 'Democracy in America' by Alexis de Tocqueville

In the chapters of Democracy in America provided, de Tocqueville discusses the factors that make America’s political and legal system unique compared to that of its foreign counterparts. At times in these selected chapters he seems to harbor idealistic notions of the potential for America’s new political and judicial system in the early 19th century.
De Toqueville attributes a decentralized government, in which the people, not an elite group or small collective, have more sway over the political and judicial operations of the country and are key to the order of the land. He states that this makes for a “less [...] regulated, less enlightened” (83) society and this broad reach, though boisterous, is perhaps less efficient. De Tocqueville positively credits the Constitution’s relatively rigid power, which is allowed by the people, and the wielding of its power by the judicial system, for granting the courts “immense political power” (92) over American society. 
In reflecting on the various aspects de Tocquevill observed in the American political and judicial environment, what may have seemed a nearly ideal situation in his eyes at the time, would perhaps seem altogether different in the modern age. As the country has grown since his time, decentralization may no longer seem so beneficial, as integral processes of politics and law have become burdensome due to it. The systems involved in effective law and politics have become weighed down in bureaucracy, ineffectual to progress. These issues can be attributed to a problem created by an extensive decentralized government spread out over a vast terrain and impeded by special interests of the very men claimed to have been elected by the people. Additionally, a growing culture of Constitutional reverence has worked to hinder aspects of social advancement.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

So That Happened...Again...


One of our first tests and we failed to answer all of the questions. This isn't the first time, sadly.

It happened last Fall semester too, much to our chagrin.

Last semester is was an entire backside of the question "booklet" (which resulted in a horrible grade). Needless to say it was an embarrassment, and we managed to bounce back and pull an 'A' out of the class...but...
This time it was about a quarter of a multi-faceted short essay question. The class was Media Law and Ethics, and the part we failed to answer was one that we had nailed answering in the review session the week before about utilitarianism. The suckie part about it is that the class only has three tests the whole semester. Aside from a paper coupled with a presentation, this is all there is to be graded on. *gulp*

We had prepared for the bad testing grade, having realized days later that there was a high chance that the question had not gotten answered completely. The guys at work got to hear about the worries, as we fretted about the grade. To which they responded: "Were you just sitting at your desk thinking about ethics?!"...supposed that's opposed to sitting there thinking about nothing, which is probably what they do all day.

The test was finally passed back this week (two full weeks after having taken it), and the could have been worse, but based on what the professor could have been soooo much better.
As is, we got out of the test with a fairly high 'B' and a repeat on a lesson from last year...

You're never as smart as you think you are...ya know?

On the upside we've started to decrease the hours at work (but only by 3.5 hours a week so far) so there's more time to focus on the avalanche of assignments, tests and essays that has started to cause stress headaches and malaise. It seemed more prudent to deal with the lack of income and not have to pay to take a class over again. Additionally, having a nervous breakdown is not conducive to passing classes either, and if anything has been learned over the last several years, especially by journaling - it's easier to notice the signs, be honest and be proactive, than it is to pretend that everything is just fine and end up worse off for it. Guess that's one lesson we've actually learned...maybe?

Friday, October 3, 2014

Diary of the Guinea Pigs: The Final Days

<< Day Twelve

So the last day was actually this past Sunday, which ended at noon. The Saturday excessive eating was brutal. Like, disgusting. Mostly dinner was the worst. All-in-all the calorie count was over 3800. This for a body with a RMR (Resting Metabolic Rate) of just over 2400 calories. So, the excess alone was just a little less than the amount of calories we eat in a day normally. It still is unclear why they end the study that way. It seems cruel. Not only that, but it caused a 3 pound wight gain - which has came off since then. Yesterday they redid the weight, the DEXA and RMR test so that they can adjust the calories for the next two week portion of the study coming up a week from this coming Monday.

Oh, yeah, this is what 3800+ calories looks like:


3800+ Calories
So, the first session is over. (yay, no more milk!)

Tonight is the first night having alcohol in 18 straight days (yum), tomorrow will be the first coffee (mmmmm) since the same amount of time.

Overall it was a good experience. The weight loss was great. Like super great. It also provided a lot of much needed studying opportunity, and the next session will be essential to writing at last two of the six essays that are due in the next couple of months. The research for them has been underway for weeks now. Like, swirling madness of Russian serial killer fare, geological related fracking research, mental illness and pop culture, First Amendment and internet bullying legal cases, and implications of smartphone mobility and social media as related to life as spectacle. Plus a yet-to-be-determined midterm essay of as yet unknown topic origin. There's no real central core, just branches off of branches. Maybe it's fitting.

In terms of the semester, because this will probably be one of the last posts for a long while...
Turns out taking six classes (18 credits) in one semester was a bad idea. At least once a week we're fighting back tears walking to the car in the transition between classes and work; stress, panic attacks, and escape-by-sleeping and sprinkled between endless reading and going to work. Work, which despite the paycheck, is a waste of time intellectually, as it's primarily menial labor and the time would be better spent studying, reading, writing and maintaining our position on the Dean's List.

Just trying to keep the end in sight, and remember that it's only a couple of months, and we can plug through, and we can do this, and we're so close to done (only one more semester after this!) that anything less than ending strong would just be a massive disappointment.

Here's to staying strong...and we're not just talking tonight's drinks.