October 21, 2008

Blog on Media Portryals

Media Portrayals

Richard Bursch’s writing: Five Decades and Three Hundred Sitcoms About Class and Gender had me thinking about what we are watching on television. He brought up amazing points saying that character’s depicting working class men are shown to be dumb, irresponsible, messy, and unreliable. Those in the middle class are shown as sensible, intelligent, and mature. One great example that comes to mind is the show Yes Dear. It has two sets of parents living together because one of them can’t afford rent (the working class family) The dad of the working class family is overweight. His wife constantly has to tell him how to take care of the kids. His children outsmart him and are shown to be out of control at times. Where as the middle class family has a calm, brilliant child. The father is very smart and calm. He constantly has to give the working class dad guidance in his day to day decision making. The working class dad is represented as a failure at life, at supporting his family, and the main element highlighted in his role is how stupid he is. The middle class dad is always the calmer one, he takes care of everything whenever a crisis arises, he teaches his kids manners, and is shown as a loving husband. I was trying to come up with an example of a middle class or upper class dad who’s unintelligent and is portrayed the way this working class dad is…I couldn’t come up with an example.The difference laid out in this show is exactly how Bursch describes in his writing.
Bursch’s piece talks about how inferior statuses are represented by using negative stereotypes of minorities, women, old, and young. These stereotypes are placed into character roles. The problem with this is that viewers aren’t consciously thinking about the negative images they are watching and the ways in which it affects their views of other members of the depicted groups. Think of children and teens watching shows with such inaccurate representations. They start believing and connecting these made up characters with how the real world works. If they see a dumb blonde and a dumb black person on television, that’s what they’ll assume all blondes and all black people are like.
Bursch also talks about how television can devalue higher status characters by making them have opposite characteristics. He gives example like men acting feminine and adults acting childish. They often will use this strategy when showing a person with contradicting status positions and the lower status characteristic will overshadow the high status characteristic. This is greatly degrading to both sides of the matter. For instance, a man in real life that is very feminine will be thought of as a less status for acting that way and women are thought of as being a lesser status because if men act like them, it is devaluing to them, so they are obviously a less status.
The whole reading is extremely interesting because you can think of numerous examples in our day to day life. It’s frightening how completely bias and discriminating these shows are.
-Rachel Ward

October 26, 2008


I didn't realize all the different ways racism was incorporated into our language before I read the chapter on language. It talked about how we see black as "the bad guys" or evil, and white as purity or the "good guys." While this is true, I don't really associate white people as the good guys or black people as the bad guys. But the fact that black has negative connotations is racist because our society labels people of African descent "black" so that can place those negative connotations on a that race. I've never really thought of this before, probably because I am white and it has never really affected me, or my "color" has never been labeled as evil. Also the use of the word slave over African people devalues the person, because the word slave makes it seem like less than human. It really devalues African people when history books say things like “Europeans immigrants moved to America, and slaves were brought to America.? I never realized how derogatory that phrase was. The book even says how “people in Western cultures do not realize the extent to which their racial attitudes have been conditioned since early childhood.? I also found the disabled part pretty interesting. I am a waitress and I work with a guy who washes dishes and everyone thinks he is crazy because he talks to himself for hours. I’ve noticed that he makes racist comments towards my customers. He says things like “they don’t know what’s going on? just because they have a different accent and aren’t white. The book says that when you put the label crazy on someone, all of their behavior becomes dismissible. When he makes comments like that or makes suggestions at work on how we should do things differently, everyone at work just kind of ignores it because we don’t see any of what he says as valid. We excuse him for his racist behavior because we think he is crazy, and we don’t listen to his arguments for change because we think he is crazy. It’s sad, but it is true.
Allie Kallman

November 18, 2008

Racism in the English language

Racism in the English language

When I read the title of Moore’s article I thought to myself, “great another far left critical analysis with extreme claims and unsubstantial evidence;? however, my first assumption was proven wrong after I started to read the article. The “A Short Play on ‘Black’ and ‘White’ Words? is cleverly written and pointed out the obvious inaccuracy in our language. Although the comparisons of white and black words are obvious they many not be realized by the general public, myself included. I am reminded of a quote: “the only thing a fish cannot see is the water it swims in.? We are submerged in our language. We use it every day to express our ideas, feelings, and perspective through a verbal system in hopes to be more deeply understood. Moore points out that language is “an integral part of any culture? and moreover then just daily use our language “develops in conjunction with a society’s historical, economic, and political evolution; it also reflects that’s society’s attitudes and thinking? (p. 524). So I am compelled to ask: What does our language say about our own culture? I am not a linguist nor a scholar in the English language, so I will not attempt to answer the question for you, I will, however, answer it for myself. It appears, through the examples used in Moore’s article that we are far from a color blind society. Although I would argue that “white? is not always portrayed in a positive light (white devil and pasty pop into mind) as suggested by Moore, I would; however, agree that on average that “white? is associated with more positive connotations relative to that of “black.?
But subtle connotations and denotations of racial superiority/inferiority found within the language is not the only way in which “racism? is structured in English. In the section Ethnocentrism or From a White Perspective, Moore points out that certain words are used to “distort the understanding of the reader or listener? (527). Specifically he points out how the usage of the term “slave? takes away the humanity of the black men, women, and children, who suffered under complete control of slavery. It was suggested that the term “slave? be substituted for a more accurate clause describing the issues at hand. “Black people forced to work for no pay? or “African people held in captivity? where suggested. I have found that when I substituted these phrases, a definite shift of meaning occurred. The humanity of the people enslaved was brought back and the true horror of slavery becomes more evident and not so sugar coated.
Also the way we chose words and formulate sentences, can have an underlying racist tone. A quote from McGraw-Hill’s text states, “At first it was slaves who worked the cane and they got only food for it. Now men work cane and get money? (p. 527). The above statement suggests that slaves (“black people forced to work for no pay? or “African people held in captivity?) were less then human. Slaves worked in the fields before men. To be completely honest I had to re-read the quote because I missed the point Moore tried to make. To many the word choice may obviously be racist, but I doubt for those who skim text or are young would have caught the subtlety.