Sunday, March 1, 2015

Sexism in Raiders of the Lost Ark

In 1981, the Indiana Jones franchise was born. The witty and adventurous archeologist, Indiana Jones, is likable and the fast-paced storyline is well-written. While, I've personally adored this movie since I was shown bits and parts as a young kid, there's still faults to be found within Raiders of the Lost Ark. Most notably, the movie is steeped in sexism.

The first time women are shown in the movie is in the Dr. Jones's archeology class. The room is filled to the brim with pretty ladies who, as the scene goes on, are more intent on the doctor than the class itself. The idea that the entire class of ladies are only there for him is comedic, but disvalues the women who are there to be educated. It becomes a statement in the movie, however briefly it is shown for laughs, that women will take a handsome man over their own college education. If this seems far-fetched, remember that one camera prominently frames one girl's face who has written the message "Love" and "You" on her eyelids. This is just a simple, early example of the sexism that follows within the movie.

The only character who is a woman and has a name in the movie is Marion Ravenwood. Admittedly, she's the opposite of how most women are portrayed in action or adventure movies. She's tough, stubborn, and unafraid of speaking her mind. Nonetheless, her character is put in numerous damsel in distress situations that demonstrates her lacking ability to save herself or appear competent. Upon seeing Indiana Jones after their last meeting ended with their romantic relationship falling apart, Marion orders him to leave her bar only to require his help when she's confronted by the Germans. What could've been a scene that demonstrated her unforgiving nature was crumbled when the movie decided to make her helpless. Along with this portrayal of appearing incompetent, Marion is repeatedly demonstrated as a bit of an air-head, such as when she admires her reflection in a dingy mirror while her and Indiana Jones are leaving Egypt to return to London. She swings the mirror around in an attempt to use the less dirty side of the mirror and hits Indiana whose recovering from a brutal fight. He makes a loud scream and Marion, finally finished looking at her reflection, asks if he said anything. In another situation, Marion becomes hysterical when she's put in a pit of snakes with Indiana. While this is an expected, human reaction to being tossed into a pit of snakes, it's juxtaposed to Indiana's stoic and serious reaction to the snakes (and he's the character that's terribly afraid of snakes, not her). These small moments in the movie make it difficult to take Marion seriously and makes her seem almost childish in comparison to the capable Indiana Jones.

Along with this, Marion is constantly seen as a plot point for the movie. She's the daughter of Abner Ravenwood, a man that Indiana Jones had looked up to and required help from to gain understanding on the Ark. The only reason Marion is included in the movie is by her connection to the Ark and her stubbornness to not leave Indiana alone, but to in fact follow him to make sure her debts are repaid. Throughout the movie, Marion is put through trial after trial in which she's kidnapped, nearly tortured, almost blown up, and just about entombed. She's not put through these events on her own volition, but rather as an object that has no say in the matter unlike her partner, Indiana, who is shown as willing to jump into these kinds of situations. The movie constantly has Marion as the helpless character and, at no point, does she successfully demonstrate an active role to get out of a bad situation. Along with this, what happens to her is turned into emotional pain for Indiana Jones, such as when he believes she was killed in a truck explosion. This discredits Marion's own emotions and reactions to her situations and makes whatever happen to her become emotional baggage for Indiana Jones to push the movie forward.

Again, I love this movie. As a woman who loves archeology and would love to have her own adventure one day, it's always important to see similar representation in movies for ladies. On one hand, you could admire Marion's character. She has her good moments and a uniqueness compared to the cookie-cutter personalities most women get in this genre. Even so, the movie perceives both her and the entirety of young ladies as rather incompetent. I would love to see a woman who's on par with Indiana Jones and it's unfortunate to see a franchise play into the idea of damsels in distress. Hopefully, movies following in the footsteps of this franchise see the potential Marion Ravenwood and create a movie that doesn't have sexism holding back any characters.

I couldn't find a link to the entire movie, but I do have two scenes that go along with what I mentioned up above:

Archeology class scene:
Mirror scene:

Monday, February 16, 2015

Islamophobia and Poor Journalism

Since America has existed in a Post-9/11 society, fear of Islam and the muslim community has become a common and unquestioned reality in the nation. Assault, erasure, and hostility displayed against Muslims often goes by without reporting. This is demonstrated in the lack of news that shows Muslims as victims rather than the perpetrators or terrorists we often see them as. One recent tragedy goes to show the hypocrisy that surrounds the reporting of Muslim hate crimes.

Earlier this February, three Muslim students were shot and killed in their home in University of North Carolina's Chapel Hill Campus. Two were newlyweds, while the third was a younger sister to the new bride. While many large news outlets such as CNN or MSNBC were slow to report it and then quick to drop it after only a day, CNN's report was suspiciously pandering to the murderer, Craig Stephen Hicks. The article, titled "3 students shot to death in apartment near UNC Chapel Hill", focuses on the motivation behind the shooting. The victim's families believed it was a hate crime, while Hicks's family believed it was over a parking dispute. A lot of the language that is used within the article uses "alleged" or "suspected" when referring to Hicks even though he is arrested and seen as the only suspect of these crimes. This softens the severity of the crimes he has committed.

As well as focusing largely on the murderer, the CNN article also treats Hicks differently than if the shooter had been Muslim. Typically, when a criminal is Muslim, the media focuses on his or her's religious views, group affiliations, and addresses them as a "terrorist" rather than a "criminal". Instead, in Hick's case, those he deals with try to excuse his behavior under the idea of parking disputes between him and the three victims. While the father of two female victims did mention that there were arguments with Hicks, the article stated, "When his son-in-law lived alone in the condominium complex, the family never had any problems. But once his daughter moved in, wearing a headscarf that clearly identified her as Muslim, trouble started, he said." This is seemingly glossed over by the article's focus on Hick's potential mental illness (Hicks's lawyer stating, "He declined to provide any details about the suspect's mental health history, but said, "obviously it's not within the range of normal behavior for someone to shoot three people over parking issues.") and parking dispute motivation (stated by law enforcement's debriefing of the case, "According to the law enforcement official briefed on the investigation, Tuesday's altercation started after Hicks found a car belonging to one of the victims in what he claimed was his parking space. Then Hicks went to the victim's condo and shot all three people in a confrontation."). While the article could divulge and explore Hicks's potential motivation being a hate crime, it rather focuses on people's appall over Hicks's tragic turn-for-the-worse ("Hicks has no criminal record, the official said. His wife told reporters he had been studying to become a paralegal.").

The article barely acknowledges a Facebook post Hicks wrote that was directed towards Muslims, stated in the article as, "In one post widely shared online, Hicks, who claimed he is an atheist, allegedly wrote: "When it comes to insults, your religion started this, not me. If your religion kept its big mouth shut, so would I." While CNN points out that this post has not yet been confirmed as entirely authentic, it does so repeatedly when regarding anything about Hicks. I would personally like to see an article where the same forgiving nature is granted to a Muslim.

CNN's report is not all bad, albeit brief in its time on the headline of CNN and pandering to the shooter. The three victims are given their own section of the article, allowing them to be humanized. Nonetheless, the article demonstrates the lingering animosity the US has against Muslims. Such films like American Sniper are applauded for its violence against Muslims and Muslims fear leaving their homes due to public hostility prompted by the recent Paris attacks and loud actions of ISIS. Even days after this story was no longer featured on the frontage of CNN, many articles regarding Islamic terrorism seemed more plentiful than usual on the news site. Articles like this report show the subtle ways in which, even in death, a Muslim can be denied the possibility of also being on the receiving end of hate.

Here is the link to the CNN article:

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Erasing and Skewing a Controversy -- American Apparel

Go to any mall or shopping center and the American Apparel clothing shop can be typically found. It's not overly avant-garde nor flashy. It boasts that it's sweatshop-free and has a range of basic colors and outfits. The company has also become notorious for its sexualized and exploitive ads of women. To add to this, its founder, Dov Charney, was ousted for reports of sexual harassment and other misconducts. All of this shows a disturbing side of American Apparel, but this seemingly is lessened in the reporting made by the Business Insider.

Titled, "American Apparel Has A Strict New Set Of Rules For Workers", one would believe that there would be an elaboration as to why the company needs to create these rules. Instead, the article is elusive and nearly unwilling to delve into the controversial subject of Dov Charney. It almost reads like an article on rape. The article employs a passive voice and doesn't clarify the controversy of Charney other than stating his, "downfall followed a string of allegations of misconduct during his 16-year tenure at the company". The reader isn't given a reason as to why Charney is ousted from his own company and why the company needs to specify new rules in the workplace.

The article states that the new rules will prohibit romantic relationships between bosses and their employees while also stating that the company will not tolerate any offensive or vulgar behavior in the workplace. Why would this need to be explicitly addressed within this new 6, 200 word rulebook? Unfortunately, the article doesn't say. The article, rather than giving context to what must be a troubling environment within the already notorious company, spends it's concise report not on the rules itself, but Charney's reaction to it. "'I gave them my entire life's work...Instead, they used this investigation to fire me,'" Charney is quoted in response to his ousting from American Apparel. This quote doesn't fit with the code of ethics and, if the article wanted to feature him, they should've supplied more information as to why he was fired. Instead, Charney's quote only causes the reader to sympathize with him. Without the information given to explain the nature of the new rulebook, the reader has only the perspective of Charney who feels angered at the change occurring within his company.

So why does this matter? The article is one of many that someone could read about American Apparel. Even so, someone reporting something as serious as the sexist and questionable nature of a company should always leave out bias or erasure of information. The reader doesn't know why the rulebook even needs to be changed nor the reason why Charney should be fired from his company. In fact, the article chooses to sympathize with this man who was kicked off the board of his own company due to sexual harassment allegations, but this seems to be barely acknowledged in the article. If a reader reads only this article, what view will they have on American Apparel? They might believe Charney is facing injustice and that the company is addressing an issue that isn't there. An article such as this has to dive in and truly give the information, not dance around it nor make the company less controversial than it truly is.

Here's the Business Insider article:

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Tyler the Creator's IFHY and Its Disturbing Definition of a Relationship

Link to lyric video:
Link to lyrics:

Music is a major part of our media. It portrays love, pain, and every conceivable emotion or experience while also highlighting and romanticizing these things. Love songs are incredibly popular and the rap genre has been one music style that has dipped its toe into the water to illustrate love and romance. Tyler the Creator is a rapper that has chosen to define love in several of his songs, but one song in particular makes one question the healthiness of this "love" he illustrates. What song could I be speaking of? IFHY (short for "I F*CKING HATE YOU") comes to mind.

The overall message of IFHY is in your face, but is still somehow overlooked by the rhythm and beat of the music. Simply, Tyler the Creator is describing a relationship a man has with his girlfriend that flip flops from being loving to being hateful. The first section of the song is focused on the speaker's point of view regarding his attraction to his girlfriend. While most of it remains mostly smitten and creepily jealous, the rest of the song dives into a disturbing range of possessive and violent behavior. Much of the song repeats the mantra, "I fucking hate you/But I love you" and employs a mix of inconsolable rage and obsessive adoration that doesn't seem very loving. At no point is this dynamic truly questioned, only that the relationship itself is frustrating due to both the speaker's and girlfriend's actions.

To make the message worse, the song glorifies the dynamic and the violence attributed to it. The speaker is incredibly possessive of his girlfriend and repeatedly threatens her if she leaves him, stating at one point,

"Actually, if you even consider leaving
I'll lose a couple screws in due time, I'll stop breathing
And you'll see the meaning of stalking
When I pop out the dark to find you
And that new dude that you're seeing with an attitude
Then proceed to fuck up your evening
Make sure you never meet again like goddamn vegans."

While making these threats, the speaker puts his girlfriend up on a pedestal by stating continuously, "You're good at being perfect" but also employing the word "bitch" to degrade her at several intervals. The speaker doesn't seem to realize his unhealthy behavior regarding his girlfriend as when he states how troubled their relationship is, he states, "We're good at being troubled", rather than finding fault with solely himself. In fact, when regarding his actions towards her, he defines his actions as being "passive-aggressive" though he threatens to kill any potential paramours she may have or his desire to kill her and himself.

Why does this song matter when regarding the definition of a healthy relationship? First of all, a healthy relationship is one that is built on trust, compassion, and a shared desire to work on the relationship. In IFHY, the relationship is nothing more than a possessive man's wish to threaten, stalk, and potentially harm or kill the woman he's seeing. Nonetheless, look up the lyrics video online and you'll find plenty of comments by people seemingly defining the song as a love song and one that might even fit their own personal relationship dynamic. Tyler the Creator's song creates a definition of love that accepts violence and possessive behavior while also permitting a sexist outlook. Rap itself has been controversial in its treatment of women, but IFHY's song could take one step further and convince its listeners that this type of relationship is perfectly fine.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Sexism in the Dermablend Professional Ad Campaign

There's a dark backdrop, a question presented, "how do you judge a book?", and a serious man in a plain, gray t-shirt sitting down in front of the camera. He's got a few piercing and a stoic expression, but he looks like any guy you might see down the street. This first impression the viewer makes is quickly destroyed as, before the viewer's eyes, it's shown that the man is covered head to toe in Dermablend concealer. He has dark, intense tattoos that, just a moment ago, were impossible to see. We see a final clip of the guy before cutting to the products and the phrase, "Go Beyond the Cover". Well, this is a different makeup ad, but one that unfortunately still indulges in sexism.

I would first like to point out that this makeup, of course, is not your typical drug store product. The Dermablend Professional is for mostly covering up tattoos or other parts of the body that typical concealer would fail at hiding. Rick Genest, the tattooed man, is a model and friend of Lady Gaga and, as the ad demonstrates, his mere disappearance of his tattoos are an endorsement within itself. Along with this, it's important to note that this product is being sold for a more specific demographic rather than a Covergirl ad. While makeup is a product to remedy insecurities, the Dermablend Professional concealers are meant to target people who would otherwise feel alienated or judged for either their tattoos or appearance.

My response to the ad is a mix of impressed surprise at the concealer's ability and curiosity as to how a woman would've been portrayed in the same ad. Imagine if they chose someone who was covered in tattoos and looked straight at the camera with the same unforgiving look. The only ads that feature women in this campaign are "Camo Confessions", which are brief videos that are shot and produced to create an intimate and vulnerable confession with several pretty ladies. They have insecurities over their appearances, but overcome it with the Dermablend products. Rick Genest also does a Camo Confession, as well, but it's focused on more of a story of how the tattoos have allowed him to express who he is in the world. The differences in just the gender of the person seems to wildly change what the ad campaign is about.

For the ladies, it appears that -since they are seemingly tarnished beauties- women are not allowed to see their differences as ways to express their individuality as Rick Genest can. While he has tattoos, there are no women that have tattoos. The stigma of being a woman sporting a tattoo typically unleashes a wave of suspicion of promiscuity, irresponsibility, and the idea that a woman is no longer "lady-like". While Rick Genest has obviously felt judgement for his appearance, it's an odd contradictory for not featuring a woman with a similar appearance and similar message of judging a book by it's cover. Though it's nice to see an ad that wants to empower both the men and women, it's disappointing to not see equal representation of the demographic that would use the products.

Women are judged immediately with superficial expectations. They are expected to have the big lashes, clear skin, and white teeth that demonstrate biological perfection. When a woman contradicts that idea and, like Rick Genest, is unapologetic for their unorthodox appearance, they are shut down and trivialized. It's not to say the videos about the woman with the severe acne aren't important to note, but the ladies with tattoos and piercings are no longer given a moment to shine like their male counterpart. He's able to be applauded for his endorsement of the ad, but it would be unlikely that the same response would be given for a woman. God forbid, she provided no justification for her appearance choices at Rick Genest does.

Rick Genest Ad:
Rick Genest Camo Confession:
Cheri's Camo Confession: