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Bell Hooks and Pop Culture

After watching Bell Hooks’ interview, I was unable to think about anything else for the next 48 hours. She discussed a lot of the issues that I had thought of, but not to the extent of scrutiny that she had. Her analytical way of thinking blew me away in awe. I understood that the mass media played an important role in the everyday life of America, but I didn’t really consider how “the mass media is being used to get the women out of feminism and back into some patriarchal mode of thinking? (Hooks). And she is correct. Hooks uses some interesting strategies to watch films critically. She talks about how women are framed just right or how black women are “color coded? to appeal to the white supremist consumer. Hooks also uses some key theories and terms to analyze pop culture. Those terms are as follows:

--White Supremist Capitalist Patriarchy: “interlocking systems of domination that define our reality and not to just have one thing be…important issue, but for me the use of that particular jargonistic phrase was a way, a sort of short cut way of saying all of these things actually are functioning simultaneously at all times in our lives…? (Hooks).

--Enlightened Witness: “being enlightened witnesses when we watch representations, which means were able to be critically vigilant about both what is being told to us and how we respond to what is being told? (Hooks).

--Constructed Narrative: representations, such as documentaries, biographies, and news casts, are never truly depicting the actuality, but are depicting some sort of “actuality? façade that is streaked with covert and overt messages that further the goals of the creator, writer, etc.

--Color Coding: Hooks thinks that in rap videos and movies the female body is being “reinscribed in very traditionally sexist pornographic way?. She then goes on to say that even the Black female body is being represented as adhering to the white supremist culture as “the light skinned, preferably long haired, preferably straightened haired female (who) becomes once again reinscribed as the desirable object…?

--Commodified Blackness: “Blackness in a commodified form can be possessed, owned, controlled, and shaped by the consumer.? However blackness in the form of an “engagement with black culture might require one to be a participant and therefore to be in some way transformed by what you are consuming as opposed to being merely a buyer? (Hooks?).

I would have to agree with Hooks, de Beauvoir, and Friedan (McCabe) in their statements that the images of women produced in a patriarchal pop culture is a major contributing factor to gender and racial hierarchies and inequalities. Examples of these statements can be seen almost anywhere you look or listen in history or present day. I thought it was interesting how Hooks responded to the OJ Simpson Trial. It was refreshing to see how she didn’t get sucked into the white vs. black aspect of the case (like what seemed every news caster did), but how she focused on what everyone else should have been focused on: domestic violence to such an extreme it led to homicide.

After watching Bell Hooks’ interview, I will be more of an “Enlightened Witness?. But I just won’t be an “Enlightened Witness? when it comes to film, but also an “Enlightened Witness? when it comes to pop culture in general. For example, I have never been a fan of rap music. I have always despised the way that women are portrayed by the men and how captive the women seem. However, I have (ignorantly) never thought about how the white male CEO’s have the ultimate control over what is produced and put out on the market for mass consumption. Belle hooks has inspired me to become more active in the research aspect of pop culture consumption. But on the same line of thinking, another part of me wants to say, “Hey Bell Hooks, wait a minute! Aren’t the “artists? producing what the CEO wants, because the CEO knows that is what will sell big amongst the masses of America?? So who really "started the fire" in this case? Is it the “artists? because it’s their words? Is it the CEO because of their greed? Or is it the masses of America because of their ignorant consumption? If America didn’t want it, it wouldn’t be bought and thus wouldn’t be sold or produced. It is quite a complicated circle in my head right now.

Comments

I know what you mean about the complicated circle of "who to blame." It seems problematic to take the heat off the artists themselves, since they are ultimately the ones speaking these words and appearing in these videos. Then again, hooks is absolutely correct in saying that this type of music wouldn't be so prevalant if there wasn't a huge market for it. It's definitely some vicious circular logic!

I felt the same sort of impact after hearing her speak. I've been noticing "color coding" more often. In almost every sitcom starring primarily black actors, the wives almost always have lighter skin than the husbands. "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" was the one exception I could find. The original actress who played Will's aunt was dark-skinned. She was later replaced by a lighter-skinned actress. I'm not sure if the producers consciously chose a lighter-skinned actress or it was by chance. Great blog, btw.

I agree with you. I also have often thought about many of the points she had brought up but never as in-depth and critically. After watching this film I have also really started to notice 'color coding' and 'constructed narratives'. I have really learned how to develop the thoughts that I had originally into a different way of looking and thinking about things.

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