Posted by: hannahchild | December 8, 2008

drama is always fun

In class this week we discussed the presence of stereotyped characters and how they are displayed in the media. For the purpose of this blog, I have chosen to analyze the entire CW TV series “Gossip Girl”. I will examine the stereotype of the wealthy, white teenager living in Manhattan. I am qualifying my analysis in the way that Bonnie Dow (1996) qualified her arguments in the book “Prime-Time Feminism: Television, Media Culture, and the Women’s Movement since 1970. 

I am writing this to display my point of view of how materialistic the series has their Manhattan-residing characters appear, how those character contrast with the less-rich from Brooklyn, and how that typical depiction feeds the public’s desire for unrealistic drama.  I know that my view on the portrayal of these types is not the only way to interpret the material I have watched, nor is it necessarily the best way either.  I am not saying that the way I view the television show is the way that everyone else does. Hopefully my discussion of this stereotype and television show will cause the reader to reconsider their own conclusions that they draw from the text.

In my opinion, the “Gossip Girl” television series contains characters who are typed as rich and beautiful (1) to fit the public’s demand for drama, by (2) creating contrasts with the less rich in their peer group. Through this television series, the teenagers living on the Upper East Side of Manhattan are portrayed as rich, white, beautiful, and backstabbing. They are elite and let everyone else know it, especially those who they contrast with the most, those living in Brooklyn. Serena Van der Woodsen, and her best friend Blair Waldorf are among the wealthy elite of Manhattan, while Dan Humphrey and his sister Jenny are among the less financially secure from Brooklyn. Dan and Jenny are by no means poor, and the loft they own is quite large, but compared to the filthy old-money teens from the Upper East Side, they simply are not good enough.

This classic dichotomy of rich and “poor” fuels the drama in the public’s eye of entertainment. In several episodes, Blair picks on Dan for his lower social status, creating tension between the two characters. Blair also uses Jenny’s lower status and her want to be in the elite circle to her advantage, by getting her to do things in exchange for nice dresses or jewelry. This drama created is so unrealistic in its demands; however, it is what the public wants. People don’t want to watch people like themselves, but they want to watch people living a life that they can only dream about. Some might say that this conflict and discrepancy between Manhattan elite and Brooklyn artsy is just a reflection of real life; however this drama series is more than reflecting real life, it is completely exaggerating it.

The stereotype that “Gossip Girl” endorses may not be an entirely realistic one, and the conflict that the rich stereotype produces with its less-rich counterparts may not be either, but it does, however, certainly fit the public’s insatiable desire for drama that cannot be filled in their own lives.


References

Dow, B. (1996). Prime-time feminism: Television, media culture, and the women’s movement since 1970. Philadelphia: University Press.

Schwartz, Josh. (2007). Gossip Girl [Television Series]. USA: College Hill Pictures, Inc.

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Posted by: hannahchild | November 18, 2008

Last Straw Arizona

According to all-knowing Wikipedia, a copyright is a legal concept, enacted by governments, giving the creator of an original work of authorship exclusive rights to control its distribution for a certain period of time, after which the work enters the public domain. But according to a slightly less formal source (if that’s possible!), urbandictionary.com, a copyright is “a lame excuse to rake in as much cash as one can, while keeping the others at bay”. I don’t necessary see copyrights as that definition in full; however I think that the length that a copyright lasts it’s a bit excessive.

In the United States, a copyright lasts the lifetime of the creator plus seventy years. Seventy years by itself might be a full lifetime, plus another say, half a lifetime, since the creator probably wasn’t a baby when the work was created.  So that is at least two generations before the work created by the artist becomes public domain! That’s a very long time!

During this day and age, it’s plain to see that the public, specifically the younger generation, thinks that copyright laws are infringing and unfair. I would say that the main reason for this would have to be the harsh restrictions placed upon music file sharing. With this relatively new ability to receive, exchange, and listen to music that anyone has, simply by sharing over the internet, many copyrights are broken every day. This should not be okay, and with all the suing that goes on, we are let know that its not okay. In the Constitution it states that Congress shall have the power “to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.” There, in the law of our land, it says that the creator of the work shall have exclusive rights to it for a limited time.

However, at the same time, such an extensive copyright law does not serve for the benefit of the community, but rather privileges the few while at the cost of creativity. The outdated lifetime + seventy years law does not factor in modern internet technology and its usage for the promoting of ideas. I have been to many a concert where the singer, before he begins the B-side off his record, states that we all should “feel free to illegally download it to our hearts content!”. Of course the crowd goes wild, but I see his position. It is promoting his music, and that fan who downloads it might tell someone else. And that someone else will buy his new CD, as will I, because I wish to support him and the music that he creates.  I believe that the length that a copyright lasts is all together too long, when promotion of the arts and ideas can go on serving the public, and benefiting the creator, all on its own.

Posted by: hannahchild | November 11, 2008

Sensational!

These days, it might be hard to find completely truthful coverage in the media, especially when it comes to the science and health industry. The mass media has been known to, in the past, sensationalize stories about personal health and medicine in order to sell more papers and bring in the advertising revenue.  In search of one such sensationalized article, I explored The New York Times and found an article titled “Cholesterol-Fighting Drugs Show Wider Benefit”, by Pam Belluck. This article is about how a new study suggests that cholesterol-lowering drugs, called statins, already taken by many people with high cholesterol, could also benefit relatively healthy people as well. These drugs are said to significantly lower risks of heart attacks and strokes, and also heart related deaths. 

The study involved nearly 18,000 people worldwide, and tested men 50 and over and women 60 and over. They found that when taking statins, their risk for heart attack was more than cut in half.  They also considered the test to be so successful that they stopped after two years on an original five year test plan. While such a big number of people tested is significant, I was still somewhat of a skeptic and continued to doubt the article.

My greatest concern with this article was the fact that the study was sponsored by a pharmaceutical company, like many studies are. This one was sponsored by AstraZeneca, who just happens to make and sell Crestor, the most potent statin on the market. This seems like a biased side to be on, however, they presented facts and studies that showed that there was little to no increase in muscle or kidney problems, which is the main concern of consumer health advocates.

The majority of the article is spent talking about how it will benefit the bulk of the population, and particularly target the statistic that half of heart attacks occur to people without high cholesterol. This was a trigger for me to recognize a sensationalized story. However, the article began to references different doctors and their concerns about the downsides of such usage. With varying and questioning opinions, I began to trust the article’s findings more. One such concern mentioned was the cost that the widening use of this drug would cause the health system. Another concern, voiced by Dr. Mark A. Hlatky, a professor of health and research at Stanford University, was that of expanding this drug usage and if the amount given would be equal for people with different levels of protein. The other credible sources listed in this article made the coverage seem more complete and valid.

In my opinion, this coverage was hardly sensationalized. I believe that the facts were presented in a way that did not simply promote the use of this drug, especially for financial gain. It would be quite a step in the right direction if all health and drug related articles were as unbiased and full of cross references as I found this one to be.

Posted by: hannahchild | November 4, 2008

milk is just milk

Ridiculous music begins playing and hokey rhymes scroll across the screen. Someone coming across this website, White Gold, has no idea what it is or what this strange world means. As I explored this interactive site for the first time, I found myself annoyed with the ugly man with white hair, singing and playing his guitar. But as perplexed as I was, I found myself exploring all the options the site offers, like being the photographer in a photo shoot and traveling through time. I couldn’t help delving deeper into the strange White Gold world. Until I heard the muscular man sing about milk, I didn’t even know what this site was about. But it turns out, white gold is milk! The whole interactive community was an advertisement for milk!

Online branded communities are a relatively new thing; a tool that companies use as a marketing device. This is a very smart idea for corporations, as they can promote their product and allow their consumers to be entertained and connect with other consumers. I have seen other such communities, like the Harry Potter online community, where fans can participate in wizarding activities, chat about the books, and buy their products.

However, I believe that such advances make the consumer very powerful. With online communities, the buyer does not passively consume, but instead can talk with other buyers and stir up ideas or revolts. By talking with one another, they can demand more from companies than just reliability; they can achieve the advances that they would like to see. 

I would not say my attitude towards milk has changed at all after experiencing whitegoldiswhitegold.com, not just because the site was strangely perplexing, but also because milk is something I already know I don’t like very much. Also, I find that milk is a strange product to promote. Who is going to see commercials for milk and then go to the grocery store and say, “Oh here is this ‘milk’ I have been hearing so much about! I had better try some!”? In my mind, perhaps a more unknown product could better benefit from online branded communities. Sure, people can have fun exploring the endless site, but their milk buying will be happening regardless of whether or not they have seen the online community.

Posted by: hannahchild | October 30, 2008

its child’s play

My assignment this week was to write about a mass medium that could send undesirable messages. All the time today, we hear about how violent movies and TV shows are, and how they are desensitizing our population. But how harmful are they really? Based on secondary research I conducted, I do not believe that violent movies alone increase violence in society. 

According to research by Elizabeth Newson, violent movies, such as the movie Child’s Play 3, influenced the behaviors of two ten-year-old boys and led to their murder of two-year-old James Bulger in 1993. Newson admits that it would be impossible to find a single cause for such sadistic behavior in young children, and that it would be nice to believe that these children murders were just a rare occurrence or freak case. But she then goes on to point that violent films “suggest brute force is a prerequisite for manliness…and that violence offers an effective solution to all human problems”. Newson believes that, when watching movies, young children are seeing emotions expressed that they have never before experienced themselves. They then see the actions of the violence to be the way that situations should be handled.

 However, as convincing as her argument was, Martin Barker criticized her research, saying that Newson’s case studies were very reliant on press accounts and opinions, rather than independent research. In Barker’s argument, he validates his position and further indicates that there is not even any evidence that the child murderers had even seen Child’s Play 3.  Barker’s main point is that humans should not blindly blame the media before taking into account someone’s mental state and other such factors. People are not copycats, and can realize what is right and wrong. This study would support the limited effects theory, stating that mass communication alone is not responsible for audience effects.  

It is hard to say whether there is a best way to discover whether media has harmful effects on society and, if so, what that effect is. Because claims that violence in movies is directly related to violent crimes are so easily refuted, I think that the best way to interpret these acts is like Barker suggests. “…We must look beyond a specific film to think about the specific context in which it has been consumed, and the wider social background of the people”. The correlation between violent movies and violence in children may best be explained by the fact that the children watching the violent movies are already more likely to commit violent; they are most commonly minorities, from lower economic backgrounds, have bad grades in school, and whose parents had lower educational achievement.

Although some research states that heavy exposure to media violence can lead to more aggressive behavior, research is rare that claims direct and isolated connections between violent movies and criminal violence. I think it is safe to suggest that exposure to violent movies alone does not cause a child to commit violence. There are many other factors, such as parents, mental wellness, and home life, that can contribute to a child’s act of violence.

Violent movies are certainly a subject where there continues to be much disagreement over its implications. Since it is such a tough subject to evaluate, the true and long term effects of violence in movies to children may never be known for sure.

References:

Barker, M. (2003). The Newson Report: A Case Study in Common Sense. The Audience Studies Reader (pp. 74-90). London, England: Routledge. Retrieved October 29, 2008, from MLA International Bibliography database.

Newson, E. (1994, June). Video violence and the protection of children. Journal of Mental Health, 3(2), 221. Retrieved October 29, 2008, from Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection database.

Mozes, A. (2008, August). Many kids under 15 watch violent movies. Health Day Reporter. Retrieved October 30, 2008, from American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

Posted by: hannahchild | October 20, 2008

Alternatively Awesome!

This week in class, I learned all about alternative media. I guess I knew about alternative media before, but I never really was able to classify it with the definition that I now am able to. Alternative media’s goal is not for profit, and it seeks a broad, non-elite audience. It is structured to subvert societies’ defining hierarchal relationships.  Compared to mainstream media, alternative media is much more cause and awareness focused. When I compared these two types of media, I found interesting distinctions.

For the first time in my life, I read WireTap, a “national news and culture magazine by and for socially conscious youth”.  The stories covered were very youth oriented, but not in a way as though catering to children. The topics discussed, such as more environmentally friendly college campuses, anti-nuke youth, and tattoos, are specifically interesting to the teenage demographic. In the Washington Post, the news stories are extremely informative and fact based, mostly interested in showing numbers. While the lack of youth direction is apparent in the Washington Post, the presence of youth based material is not necessary to qualify something as alternative media. I found the WireTap articles to not necessarily be the kind of news articles that are published by rushed deadlines in order to get the latest current event to the public. It rather focuses on current and ongoing causes, that hopefully inspire others to become more socially conscious.

The topics covered in the Washington Post were mainly about the world’s events, but from an aloof and fact-based point of view. An article about the upcoming presidential election focused on the numbers and polls happening.  I had to move my mouse to click on and close a pop-up ad, and then I was confronted by multiple more ads on the side banners.  Compared to an article from WireTap, about youth who, as a generation, are setting out to promote peace and living without nuclear weapons, the Post article seemed less engaging. In the anti-nuke youth current event writing piece, I learned about campuses who are working against nuclear weapons. Full of inspiring quotes and depictions of people making differences, the WireTap article is clearly written to make others aware of the difference that they themselves can create. There were no side-bars full of advertisements to make money for the site.

In a WireTap article called “Getting Real with a Community Organizer”, a political perspective was made clear. This is unlike the Washington Post, who remained mostly neutral on political side issues. The WireTap article explained how someone in the role of a community organizer, someone who is active in the community and does good things for it, was helping a central east side of L.A. become a better place to live. After vividly depicting the scene, and how the community organizer is helping so much, the author then included a quote from Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin. The role of community organizer was “mocked and vilified by Governor Palin”, he said. By stating that, this alternative news site took a decided leftist side on politics.

I found alternative media, concerned with building a better world, to be highly interesting and informative. The news stories I read were pertinent and important. Alternative media has a way of making mainstream media appear to be solely profit based and much less concerned about the worlds well-being as a whole.

Posted by: hannahchild | October 14, 2008

Custodians and Soothsayers!

Here it goes! This is my first graded blog post for my Journalism 201 class.  The assignment this week was about the monitoring of election coverage.  With the election so close, it is not hard to find an overload of political information everywhere you look. This weekend, I chose one media source, a political podcast, and watched eight days of coverage, for a total time of three hours. Using the podcast, I was able to view days of coverage previous to the day that I began the project. During the time of coverage that I watched, I was to look for the roles that the media fulfilled, based on Kathleen Hall Jamieson and Paul Waldman’s book “The Press Effect.”  The roles that I learned about in lecture are: press as custodian of fact, press as storyteller, press as psychologist, press as soothsayer, and press as patriot. I have used Toulmin’s model to diagram my argument.

I believe that the CNN Live Politics Daily podcast did a reasonably fair and sufficient job of covering the election over the past eight days. The coverage was perhaps not without any flaw, but the mix of stories and coverage of candidates led to an adequate depiction of presidential race news.    

I watched eight days of political coverage, the most recent one being the coverage for Sunday, October 12th. In five of these segments, the role of “press as a custodian of fact” dominated the coverage.  In the remaining segments, the same role, though it was not the leading one, was still prevalent. There were special sections and mini-segments devoted solely to checking claims and determining fact versus fictitious comments. In one example, the reporters took a claim made by Senator John McCain, who said that Senator Obama thought that subprime loans were “a good idea”. The reporters did a fact check, and found that Senator Obama in fact did not say the sub-prime loans were a good idea, and that Senator McCain had left out important parts to the quote. It is fact checking like that which leads to fair and correct reporting of the news.

Occasionally the media would play the role of “press as soothsayer”, where they tried to anticipate the outcome of Obama’s comments, or which states would go to which candidate. An example of this role is when, after explaining Senator McCain’s strategy, the reporter predicted that the strategy would backfire with independent voters. However, such a prediction, while unfounded and clearly uncertain, does nothing to damage or bias the news that the viewer is receiving.

The most important mold for reporters in the media to fill is that of “press as a custodian of fact”. It is by filling this role that journalists help the public by giving them correct facts, defining terms, and inspecting and explaining misleading statements.

The “custodian of fact” role in action means that the public is getting a fair and correct summation of the news, allowing them to draw their own conclusions. For the public watching the news, who has no personal knowledge of the news, other than the program they are watching, getting a fair and correct newscast would be extremely important. If the media were to take on the role of storyteller for the majority of coverage, the public would be receiving a biased story that was created with hand-picked facts to fulfill the story they wanted to tell. A journalist is to tell the news so that the citizens can think for themselves, and I believe that is what the CNN Live Politics Daily podcast has done.

Posted by: hannahchild | October 4, 2008

Hello World!

Hello world! I am Hannah Child and this is my birth into the blogosphere! I am a freshman at the University of Oregon, and the main reason I am creating this blog is for my Journalism 201 class, also known as Mass Media and Society. I am very excited about this assignment, because besides the fact that this is way better than heavy text books and final exams, it also allows me to express myself and begin creating my “digital footprint”, as my professor calls it. I usually enjoy writing, but sometimes I find myself with the inevitable writer’s block. I hope this will not happen on too many posts on this blog, not only for the sake of the entertainment of the reader, but also because my grade depends on it!
So first, a little bit about myself. I am from Sacramento, California, where the coldest it gets is 55 degrees Fahrenheit. I went to Rio Americano High School, and graduated with a class of a little over 400.  I live(d) with my family, which consists of my mom, dad, sister, and puppy! In my free time, I enjoy doing many things, but one of my favorites is listening to music. I am a huge music fan! My favorite bands are Jack’s Mannequin, Something Corporate, The Spill Canvas, and Augustana, but I will listen to just about anything! I also enjoy working out, playing soccer, reading, playing the piano, and talking with friends. This summer I worked in a used college textbook store for the local community college, where I packaged, bought back, stored, and sold more books than I ever care to see again! But I got some great experience, dealing with people at least!
In this blog, I will be not only fulfilling assignments for my J201 class, but also making my opinions known to the world! Haha, okay, not quite the whole world, but hopefully someone will be interested in what I have to say. I am also quite fortunate to be blogging in an election year, with less than a month away from the date itself!  That topic alone could fill many blog posts! I am also eager to peek into the lives and minds of my fellow classmates, who have this same assignment.
As far as college goes, I am very excited to be here in a new state and experience this new chapter of my life! I hope all who read my blog find themselves somewhat intrigued, and mostly not falling alseep!!
Until next time,
Hannah Banana

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