Monthly Archives: October 2012

Caution: Explicit Content

Don’t worry, this post is clean. But the title made you curious. Even though the title warned you, you clicked on it. Good for you. You took a risk. You’re an adult. You are responsible for protecting your own eyes. But what about children?

Minors usually have parents or guardians that regulate their media intake. However, since most kids get home from school before their parents get home from work, those parents must rely on other means of regulation. Some examples include setting televisions to only show programs that fall below a certain rating, disabling the play of explicit lyrics in iTunes, and setting restrictions for certain websites.

Even though most of those items work well, some things slip through the cracks. This happened to Tipper Gore and her daughter in 1984. They bought a Prince CD  and were listening to the song “Darling Nikki”. This song contains sexual references and Mrs. Gore was unpleasantly surprised. A few months later, she started the Parents Music Resource Center with the intention of censoring obscene music.

This wasn’t the first time that groups tried to silence popular music. In the early days of jazz it was known as “the devil’s music” or “jungle music”.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) finally agreed to place a warning label on obscene content. However, it is up to the record label’s discretion to decide to put the label on CDs.

Backfire. It soon became a status symbol. Because it was forbidden, it became more desirable.  That’s the way we think. That’s why you clicked on this post. That’s how kids were deciding to pick up the music.

 

During the senate meeting in August 1985 on what had been titled “porn rock”, musicians stepped forward to explain why the label was a bad idea. John Denver stated that he was against the censorship and pointed out the futility of it. He stated, “That which is denied becomes that which is most desired, and that which is hidden becomes that which is most interesting. Consequently, a great deal of time and energy is spent trying to get at what is being kept from you.”

His predictions came true. Soon, there were t-shirts, metal signs and sales for the music with that label on it skyrocketed.

 

Kids can’t contain their curiosity, especially when it’s something that is hidden. Curiosity is good for them; exploring, discovering new things, making small decisions and figuring out who they are and what they want. So although this plan backfired, I’m glad it stopped where it did. Labeling a CD as obscene is a lot different than censoring it. Perhaps it’s doing nothing more than cultivating a healthy sense of curiosity.

From despair to hope

After we watched the film Dreamworlds in class, I was depressed. I’m a happy person. I don’t get depressed. But I was in a 3 hour funk.

The images that I saw felt like they had been literally branded onto my eyes. How do people think that this is the right way to behave? The very first thing that popped into my head was… “It’s hopeless. We can never change everyone.”  I have decided to take a step back for a while and focus on something else.

Then I found this Halloween gem. Last week, ABC News set up cameras in a department store and placed actors who posed questions to their fellow shoppers. Can my son dress up like Belle? Can my daughter dress up like SpiderMan?

The reactions were astounding. Every person they questioned sided with the mom. Even small children scoffed at the costume choices.

All except one couple.

Their conversation with the mother was heartfelt and open. And it gave me the lift out of the funk that I needed. Even during this scary time of year, there’s a little hope. Someday, kids won’t be boxed into gender roles. Maybe that day can be today.

 

What are YOU going to be for Halloween?

I’m on a boat!

The film Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes explains how many hip hop influences can reflect negatively on society.

When we said who our favorite hip hop and rap artists were, the first artist that came into my mind was the parody skit group “The Lonely Island.”

I was able to watch one of their videos using the frame that I received from the hip hop video and I realized that this is more than just a funny song and video, it’s making fun of the entire hip hop scene.

Warning: this is the clean version, but it looks like they missed a couple of words.

At the breakfast table, the guys are acting normal, just eating cereal. But as soon as they step onto the boat, their whole attitude changes. This implies that people can be who they truly are in the comfort of their own homes but must put on a front before going into public.

The cameras are all positioned below the singers to suggest a feeling of dominance. Much of the posturing in this video is similar to the other videos we saw in class but instead of throwing money at the camera, they throw burgers.

Their phrases are also ridiculous, making fun of similar lyrics in rap music. “Never thought I’d be on a boat/It’s a big blue watery road” and “Hey ma, if you could see me now/Arms spread wide on the starboard bow/Gonna fly this boat to the moon somehow.” Fly a boat to the moon? RIDICULOUS!!!

Because their message resembles modern hip hop and rap so closely, they are a big hit with teens and young adults. A lot of their other videos are equally as funny/foolish. Hopefully, the kids that are watching this can see that these parodies are exposing popular rap music as the ridiculous show that it is.

Oh, and the parental advisory sticker that comes with explicit CDs? We talked about how kids who see that are more likely to want those items. Check out T-Pain’s shirt at 2:40. It’s a status symbol now. But that’s a topic for another blog entry.

“Gay.”

I love musical theater. The singing, the dancing, the story… it’s all wonderful! I have over a week’s worth of songs from musicals on my iTunes and I make a pilgrimage to New York City every year for the express purpose of seeing Broadway shows. I have a radio show on the college radio station dedicated to musicals old and new and can recite the entire libretto of Phantom of the Opera on cue. Both acts.

It’s clearly a passion of mine and I’m always excited to talk about it. One time I met someone at the pub and began describing how much I loved musicals when he cut me off. “Gaaaaayyyy.”

Excuse me? “Only gay guys like musicals.” I was incensed. Who put that idea into his head? “Everybody knows it. If you’re in a musical, you’re gay. If you like musicals, you’re gay.” Conversation over.

The idea that gays are the only ones interested in musical theater is still perpetuated even today. In any film or television show, watch a man sing any song. He is instantly labeled feminine and must change.

It’s true that many homosexuals have been involved with musical theater since it’s inception. Thomas Dukes in an article for the GLBTQ Encyclopedia stated:

Musical theater during its peak in the first two-thirds of the twentieth century served gay men in several ways. Perhaps most important, it provided a safe place for gay men and straights to meet on a culturally neutral, although closeted, playing field.

The musical theater made male participation in song and dance–activities identified with highbrow effeminacy in many parts of American society–acceptable in a popular entertainment form that reinforced the validity of heterosexual romance. Thus, gay (as well as straight) men could engage in culturally suspect behavior and win approval for doing so.

Because so many gay actors, choreographers etc found a home on Broadway, when the AIDS epidemic came to the United States in the early 1980’s, Broadway took a huge toll as their stars began to fade. There are now many Broadway groups that stand up to help raise funds and awareness for AIDS research and medicine, most notably Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids.

Neil Patrick Harris really finishes this post for me. The 2011 Tony Awards opening number is what I’ve been trying to say all along. Broadway’s not just for gays anymore.

“I’m not Bootiful!!!”

I have a friend who filmed his daughter throwing a fit. She’s about 6 or 7 years old. Fits are common. But here’s the difference between this fit and others.

He lets her help photoshop pictures sometimes but this time, he didn’t take away the red eye in a photo of her.

She won’t even let him point the camera in her face and covers her eyes, SCREAMING. She believes that because she can’t be fixed on the computer, she is no longer beautiful.

My friend posted on Facebook about the incident: “What kind of monster did I create? No more letting her help with photoshop. She is getting a little to worried about her image.”

I agree. He’s a good dad who knows what he’s looking at now. Media literacy wins this battle and I think he’ll be more careful about what she’s exposed to in the future.

Naturally Angry: Boys Vs. Girls

Charles Darwin: naturalist, teacher, daddy?

Yes, Charles Darwin had ten children, though three died very young. While most parents these days take pictures of their children for posterity, Darwin went one step further… he filled a diary with detailed notes about what his son William did. Referring to William as “the child”, Darwin made some very interesting observations about what children know and what they are taught.

Anger is an emotion that affects us all, and we have discussed in class that it is more acceptable for men to express anger than it is for a woman. This may be something learned or, as Darwin suggests, it’s natural for males, even in childhood.

Darwin had the following thoughts on the subject in 1877…

“Anger. – It was difficult to decide at how early an age anger was felt; on [William’s] eighth day he frowned and wrinkled the skin round his eyes before a crying fit, but this may have been due to pain or distress, and not to anger. When about ten weeks old, he was given some rather cold milk and he kept a slight frown on his forehead all the time that he was sucking, so that he looked like a grown-up person made cross from being compelled to do something which he did not like. When nearly four months old, and perhaps much earlier, there could be no doubt, from the manner in which the blood gushed into his whole face and scalp, that he easily got into a violent passion. A small cause sufficed; thus, when a little over seven months old, he screamed with rage because a lemon slipped away and he could not seize it with his hands. When eleven months old, if a wrong plaything was given to him, he would push it away and beat it; I presume that the beating was an instinctive sign of anger, like the snapping of the jaws by a young crocodile just out of the egg, and not that he imagined he could hurt the plaything. When two years and three months old, he became a great adept at throwing books or sticks, &c., at anyone who offended him; and so it was with some of my other sons. On the other hand, I could never see a trace of such aptitude in my infant daughters; and this makes me think that a tendency to throw objects is inherited by boys.” – Charles Darwin A Biological Sketch of an Infant,1877

So according to Darwin, anger is just another part of male life, not learned and not taught. But I think that if it is seen and perpetuated, it can get out of hand, as we observed in The Bro Code. Alternatives to angry outbursts ca be taught at an early age and that’s when change can occur for the better.

Like a little girl

“Verklempt” is a Yiddish word meaning “full of emotion”. It’s fine to express happiness in today’s society but not sadness. Why?

I read Mike’s blog post about a great story and he said, “The Jason McElwain story almost brings me to tears every time I watch it.” Almost. I watched the same story and I almost cried as well. Heck, I watched the clip 3 times and got goosebumps and watery eyes every single time. But the tears didn’t fall because I held them in check for two reasons. I was about to go to class when I saw the clip and people tend to associate red, puffy eyes with something bad that happened.

Crying has been taboo in our society for a long time because it is associated with weakness for both men and women. If men cry, then they are “acting like girls.” If women cry then they clearly can’t handle life. In 1994, Sesame Street realized this trend and released a short film saying that it is alright for anyone to cry.

The video says that it’s alright to cry if you’re overwhelmed. Work and school present many overwhelming facets of life. Comedienne Tina Fey had this to say about crying in public or in the workplace in her book Bossypants, “Some people say, “Never let them see you cry.” I say, if you’re so mad you could just cry, then cry. It terrifies everyone.”

So crying clearly has an affect on more than the crier. For example, when I see men cry, whether in films or in real life, I feel more emotional than I would if a woman were crying in the same scene. Is it because I have been conditioned that when women cry, it’s normal but if men cry then something has gone really wrong?

A Jezebel video shows how men are portrayed crying in films and it’s usually supposed to achieve a comedic outcome or it’s the result of rage.

I have never seen my father cry. Ever since I was a child, I have seen more women cry than I can count. Is this because women are more sensitive or is it because men have been trained very carefully to never shed a tear?

In this extreme case, an award is offered to the first man to drop a tear onto the table. After over 30 minutes, not one of them can do it. A woman comes on afterwards and produces many tears in less than 30 seconds.

If we’re conditioning males to become emotionless tough machines, it isn’t a wonder that we see so much violence among males in our society today.