Propaganda

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Disney Villains

Disney has been in the movie business for more than 70 years now in telling stories that whole families can experience together. Using the Disney formula, the multi-billion dollar franchise has made many films where the beautiful good guys are against the ugly bad guys, and the good guy gets his or her prince(ss) at the end of the story. But what connotations do the villains have with their characters and how are they portrayed opposite the heroes/heroines of the story?
Let’s look at the heroines first. In Cinderella, the title character is the step-daughter of a wicked step-mother who uses her as a maid in her own house without a profession of her own. Cinderella is a tall, beautiful blonde woman while her step-mother has black hair, is dark in character, with a British accent, a concept Disney uses often to identify the villain in the story. But Cinderella doesn’t save the day and make the “happily-ever-after” happen. That would be the handiwork of the Prince, who only falls in love with Cinderella after seeing her only once in a beautiful dress and dancing with her. The Prince pursues to find her and marries her, and Cinderella’s happy ending is granted because of her beauty (http://muse.jhu.edu/demo/film_and_history/v034/34.1frankel.html). In that respect, she is hardly a heroine, but a damsel-in-distress. This story has been a cause for many stories to tell girls to wait for their prince to come and rescue them from their life of servitude. This is much like the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, almost exactly.
In The Little Mermaid, Ariel is a mermaid and princess of the oceans with a talent for singing who falls in love with the handsome human prince Eric. Her physical characteristics are basically the same as Cinderella, except that she’s a mermaid, of course, and she has red hair, but she still is a very attractive mermaid with a skinny waist and a full-sized bosom, much like Cinderella. It might be worthy to note that she is partially-clad dressed while a mermaid. In the story, Ariel asks Ursula, the sea witch and villain in the story, to turn her into a human to get the prince Eric to fall in love with her. What is the catch? She has to give up her voice, forcing Ariel to use “her looks, pretty face, and…body language” to get Eric to fall in love with her. The problem is that Eric only knows Ariel by her singing voice, because that’s the only thing he could recall about her when she rescued him from drowning, thus making Ariel’s task much harder. So how does Ariel contrast Ursula? Ursula is a much over-sized ugly woman who is seeking revenge. She is purple, so no race is given, but this sends out the idea that good women are attractive and bad women are unattractive. Even in this story, where she must earn the love of Eric, Ariel still is the damsel-in-distress that must be rescued by Eric, who destroys Ursula.
In Pocahontas, the title character is the heroine of the story, contrary to what Disney usually does, and is not a damsel-in-distress. Her character could not be farther opposite of the villain of the film Ratcliffe. Pocahontas is an American Indian princess with copper-colored skin, black hair, and is dressed suggestively. No doubt the woman is attractive and actually has a romance with Captain John Smith. Ratcliffe is an English colonist, white with dark connotations, who is driven by greed. It is worthy to note how the female villains up to this point and as we will see with more examples that they are “ugly, fat, or old,” but when the villain is a male, he is a “strong, powerful character.” The subliminal messages are uncanny.
In the movie Aladdin, the title character and hero is a handsome orphan who has to steal food to survive and lives in an abandoned home. His physical characteristics are light-skinned, clean-shaved, with a light voice for the character. The villain is Jafar, the Sultan’s royal vizier, a strong powerful character who lives in the palace. His physical characteristics are dark, bearded, almost always wearing black, and has a dark, sinister voice. His appearance is sharply and very dark, much like many Disney villains that are “drawn with sharp angles, oversized, and often darkly” (http://lass.calumet.purdue.edu/cca/gmj/OldSiteBackup/SubmittedDocuments/archivedpapers/fall2002/Artz.htm). Compared to Aladdin, of course his appearance would make it obvious that he is the villain, whereas Aladdin and many good guys in Disney movies are drawn with “juvenile traits such as big eyes and round cheeks.” This physical characteristic is very obvious on the damsel-in-distress in the movie, Princess Jasmine, a strong-willed and determined princess who feels trapped in her world. Unlike the other damsels in Disney movies, she doesn’t wait for her prince to come to rescue her. She actually runs away from the palace, thus introduced to Aladdin and falls in love with him. But Disney uses the concept of attributing the villain to physically dark characters over and over again, possibly striking a subliminal message that non-White people are bad, and these messages are constantly exposed to children. This leads to mistrust and possible resentment of people not of the same race as the child.
We see this also in The Lion King, where the good king Mufasa is golden in character and physique, whereas his brother, the villain Scar, is dark in character and physique. It doesn’t just stop there. The voice of Scar is done by a British actor (again with the villainous Brit). Like the character of Jafar, Scar is also drawn with sharp angles and darkly, not to mention ugly, whereas Mufasa, Simba, and all the other good characters in the movie are drawn smoothly. Also in The Lion King, ethnic characteristics are used in the hyenas, Scar’s henchmen. Disney has done quite a job with making people of ethnic backgrounds villainous and evil. To be fair, the voice of Mufasa is done by James Earl Jones, an African-American actor, but there is nothing ethnic embedded in the character the Black actor voices.
In Beauty and the Beast, the villain is Gaston, a boastful, arrogant White hunter who is handsome and desired by the women of his village. He is probably the only character in Disney movies where his darkness is not physically noticeable until near the end, when his evil is apparent and is the driving force of the town to destroy. His desire is Belle, the beauty of the village and the inventor’s daughter who indulges herself in books. She rejects him, driving Gaston mad to attain her at any cost. The story goes that Belle’s father is kidnapped and imprisoned by a prince-turned-beast. Belle asks Beast to trade for her instead to save her father and Beast accepts. We immediately see Beast’s bad character, but slowly, with the presence of the beautiful and physical characteristics of Belle, he becomes a kind being, which causes Belle to fall in love with Beast despite his physical hideousness, thus breaking the spell holding Beast in bondage with his beast appearance and turning him back to the handsome prince. For once, Disney made a movie that forces the audience to look past appearances to see the “beauty and the beast” among the characters. Gaston may be the physical stud, but he is a beast inside and that characteristic ultimately leads to his death. Beast was a beastly character, both inside and out, until Belle, the beautiful character both inside and out, taught him how to be kind and gentle and made him a beautiful person by the end of the story.
In conclusion, parents need to screen even Disney films before letting their children watch them to make sure there are no connotations and subliminal messages that the parents don’t want their children to catch on to. In this side of the world where racism is a hot-button issue, Disney films add fuel to the fire. Not only that, but objectifying women is apparently encouraged, since the only way a woman can be a good character is if she is physically attractive. Otherwise, she is unattractive, and that is only a characteristic villainous women have. Which brings up one final point: only male characters’ goodness is not related to their physique as we saw in Beauty and the Beast, but with women we see quite the opposite standard.

Conclusion

Thanks to this class, I will never watch a movie again without thinking “Does this movie have a diverse cast?” or “How are women portrayed in the movie?” or “How is [ethnic group] represented? Do they use stereotypes in portraying the character(s)?” But I have happy that I chose to take this class. Frankly, I took this class because a friend of mine from my journalism class was going to take the class and the title had the word “Race” in it, and being from a minority group (Arab-American), I thought the class would be interesting. After taking the class, I now have the confirmed opinion that every student in high school must take this class so they know what kind of messages people expose themselves to during the multi-tasking of multimedia. And Dr. Lambiase should teach all the classes. I’m not saying that to suck up to her. I just think she presented the material in a completely objective way. The only thing left to post is my term paper. So this is Ayman Taleb signing off. Peace out.

I Have Been Bamboozled

After watching some segments from the film “Bamboozled,” I was overwhelmed with images I wanted to get out of my head when it hit me: Spike Lee wanted America to think after watching his film. In the film, an African-American show creator came up with an idea for a racist show to put on TV so that he may get fired. It completely went the other way and the show was a success. The scene that hurt me the most was “The Pilot,” when the two black actors were in the dressing room putting on the degrading black make-up on them and later the stunned audience applauded and laughed when the cues were given. And that’s when it hit me: as long as the audience gives racists high ratings, the racists will have a racist show or idea or derogatory thoughts to put out there. If audiences were smarter, just a little bit, they could see they are in control of the content on TV, not the other way around.

Simplex Idea

I have a crazy simplex idea that should be easy to grab: Don’t judge someone based on the color of their skin, ethnic background, gender, or any other insignificant factor that the world today uses to make some people less than human. If a person was carried by a woman during pregnancy, consider that person a human being.

I am Part Everything

A concept that I have tried to follow my whole life is don’t wish unto others what you don’t wish for yourself. I don’t wish evil to befall anyone. I don’t wish it on my friends or my enemies. One of those things I don’t wish on anyone, even my enemies, is hate. I believe in talking out commonalities and celebrating our differences. I believe in judging a person based on what is past the skin level, beyond race and gender. I identify myself as a human being that is part everything, because I believe that is the only true way that people will get past the ignorant practice of preference because of race, gender, or other factors in a person’s life they cannot control. I am part white, black, red, yellow, brown and every other color on the spectrum and identify myself as part of the human race. I am offended when someone uses a racial slur or a derogatory statement that makes the accuser feel superior to his subject. I don’t stand for fun at the expense of others. I stand for justice for all people.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Analyzing the Analysts of Disney

In this crazy place we like to call planet Earth, there are five companies that are virtually taking over the world: Microsoft, Wal-Mart, McDonald’s, Exxon, and Disney. Disney without any doubt has put up quite a fight to maintain an innocent image. It actually reminds me of a huge security official with a gun to my face, screaming, “We are lovable people!” But seriously, Disney has pulled quite a show since its founding, bringing popular fairy tales and stories to the screen through animation to a family audience. So what are Disney critics complaining about? As family-friendly as Disney is, there are some values that Disney subtlety stamps out of children that they may not be aware of. For example, racism and lack of diversity in Disney films are quite present. Never do you see people of different ethnic backgrounds in the same community in Disney films. All the characters and the extras are virtually the same. The Latin dog, ethnic characters, and characters with dark physical characteristics tend to be an evil character.

Up to this point, I was in agreement with the analysts of Disney. Then they started saying things that I don’t think make any sense, particularly seeing how their proof was taken out of context. They pointed out in the film Mulan, the title character almost single-handedly defeats the invading Huns, but she does not get her family honor until a gentleman caller comes to the door. This is just plain false. After Mulan saves China, the Emperor himself acknowledges her accomplishments and offers her his own personal medallion and the sword of Shan-Yu, the Hun leading the invasion, to honor her family. When she goes home, before even greeting her father, she presents the gifts to him, but the father tosses the gifts to the side, hugs his daughter, and says “the greatest gift of honor is having you for a daughter.” The fact that Captain Shang came to call on her was just a plus. But that is not the only example of reading too much into a Disney film or reading it all wrong. The analysts made a true claim that in The Lion King, the hyenas have Urban and Latin influence in their evil characters and Scar, the main bad guy, is a physically dark character. What they forgot to say in this critique was the fact that Scar was played by Jeremy Irons, a well-known White British actor, while Mufasa, Scar’s brother and king, is played by James Earl Jones, a well-known African-American actor. The critiques also said that the Beast from Beauty and the Beast was an abusive character that let his temper roam around him. They completely misread the film and totally missed the point of the movie. The title Beauty and the Beast is a double-meaning title. Beauty is a representative of the character Belle, a beautiful character inside and out. Beast is a representative of the character Beast, who in the beginning of the film is a beast inside and out. But when Belle, Beauty’s representative, is imprisoned in Beast’s castle, her character rubs off on him and makes him beautiful on the inside, causing Belle to fall in love with Beast, and leading to the breaking of the spell, making Beast return to his true beautiful self.

Basically, my point in this entry is this: Analysts of Disney or anybody must be balanced. They cannot just point at the criticized and say, “Bad!” They have to acknowledge the good the criticized did in the field they are critical in. That’s what I tried to do with this entry: balance out the criticism.

Diverse Mutants, Conservative Good Mutants


If I am going to be critical of X-Men: The Last Stand with respect to race and gender, I have to be critical of the graphic novel as well. Let’s look at the good guys first: Wolverine, Professor X, Beast, Storm, Cyclops, Ice Man (not sure if that’s his character’s name), Rogue, Angel, Invisible Girl (not sure of her name), and Gene Grey, but in the movie her character goes between the good and bad guys, her evil alter ego named Phoenix. The bad guys are Magneto, Fire Man (again, not sure if that’s his name), Mystique, a male Asian mutant, a female Black mutant, and a female White mutant. Total number of males between all the characters is nine and the total number of females is seven, so the males are slightly higher in number than half of the characters. When analyzing the race of the characters, 13 are White, 2 are Black, and one is Asian.
Now I think it is interesting to note that when you analyze the good guys and bad guys separately, you get different conclusions of diversity. Among the good guys, we have six guys and four girls, nine White and one Black. Among the bad guys, we have three guys and three girls, four White, one Black, and one Asian. Isn’t it weird how the more diverse group is the bad guys?
Also in the movie, I saw Storm, the one Black good girl, fighting the one Black mutant girl exclusively during the two major conflicts between the good and bad guys. Have they no one else to fight during the battle? Or is the movie showing how a Black girl can be good or bad, but the good one will win? Something to ponder about…

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Men in Maxim Ads


I have found that men are in less than half of full-page Maxim ads. Those that are in the ads are typically shots of the whole body while standing and fully dressed whose race was white, unlike the ads with women in them, where they are usually partially clad, reclining in ¾ shots.

The previous study of Malkin et al. in 1999 stated that “visual images on both men’s and women’s magazine covers tend to portray what women should look like and what men should look for. There is minimal focus on the male body.” I would like to further that statement and include advertisements in men’s magazines, particularly Maxim.

The most important foundation literature I am using is our textbook that states over and over again that women are objectified in advertisements and men are hardly ever handled with the same treatment. I want to prove that men in men’s magazines are not represented like women are in that they are fully clothed not objectified. This is a place where heterosexual men want to see beautiful, luscious women, not beautiful luscious men.

I will look at the latest edition of Maxim for the men in full-page advertisements and do a quantitative analysis of the subjects. The analysis will cover the categories of total number of full-page ads, total number of full- page ads with men, view of cover subject, pose, dress, sex factor, and race of the men in the advertisements.

I have found that inside May’s edition of Maxim, there were a total of 63 full-page ads. Out of those ads, there are a total of 30 ads with men in them. The view of the cover subject revealed no surprise. There were no face shots; only two head and shoulders shots, four waist up shots, five ¾ shots, leaving 17 out of the 30 ads were whole body shots. If you’ve been keeping score, we are two short of getting a total of 30. That’s because the one of the shots was of a man’s shoe. Now had those 17 males been dressed partially clad or even suggestive, this study would have been a moo point. The fact is that out of the 30 ads of men in the magazine, 20 of them were dressed in demure. Four men were dressed suggestively and five men were dressed partially clad, with no men in the nude. Out of the 30 ads, 14 of them had at least one sex factor, most of which the man in the ad was getting some form of sexual attention from a beautiful woman or the ad made the man look very attractive using the product, thus causing men to think their women would think more of them if they used the product being advertised. Lastly, interestingly enough, out of the 30 ads, 26 of the men were white, 2 were black, and 2 of unknown race.

I have concluded that men are not presented at all like women are in a men’s magazine. Frankly, I’m not surprised, because many men view women as sex objects or beautiful beings, and in this venue of a men’s magazine, they just want to gawk at beautiful women. The audience of this magazine is heterosexual men, so my guess is that they don’t want to see a partially clad man when the contents of the magazine have plenty of partially clad women. As long as heterosexual men view women as beautiful beings and don’t gawk at beautiful men, and men use this magazine to look at beautiful women, advertisers will use demure dressed men in ads. Otherwise, Maxim would probably have been named The Advocate.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Sex in Commercials


When we talked about sex in commercials in class and saw the statistics on how much sex adolescents are exposed to during the commercials of their favorite programs, I was pretty shocked at the numbers. About 68% of most commercials imply sexual behavior. Personally, I don’t want my (future) kids to see that when they’re young. While we were talking about all the stuff that a lot of people are bombarded with in the media and video games, I thought to myself, “my kids are going to hate me,” because I am going to say no to just about everything they’re going to want that most other kids have. Maybe the solution to the problem is to handle it how my parents did with me: explain to my kids that sex is a natural part of life and to make sure to be there for them if they have any questions about sex whatsoever. I was shocked (my jaw had actually dropped) when Dr. Lambiase said that her brother and those guys his age said that their fathers didn’t give them the sex talk. I think that is ridiculously wrong and parents need to be on top of their children’s sex education.

Merchants of Cool: Mooks and Midriffs


The video "Merchants of Cool" I think was a fair video about how researchers in the advertising industry collect their information to be able to appeal to youth, but the information they get in their research is not fair. The male teenager, it seems to the researcher, is not "just a mook," but the female teenager is a midriff. What is that about? Why wasn't the female given the luxury of being not "just a midriff" I wonder? But I do have to hand it to advertisers though, they do know how to sell to their audience, and if their audiences are mooks and midriffs, then they will learn how to sell to mooks and midriffs.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Does Sex Sell?


After four hours of sitting, listening and being bombarded with advertisements that predominantly use attractive women to sell a product, I couldn’t help but wonder “Does sex really sell?” After thinking about it for a day now, I’m not so sure that it does. However, I am convinced that sexy sells. All these supermodels with “great figures” are used to sell a product which a lot of the time has nothing to do with the product itself, thus degrading women to objects, not subjects. Talk about a sick world. But to be fair, women have always been thought to be beautiful creatures, as they are and their beauty is used to sell. So… sexy sells.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Just a thought...


If news media is covering some stories and not other because of the race of the victim for the sake of high ratings, wouldn’t the problem lie in American society in favoring the white race over non-whites? News media get a lot of their money by advertisements, and the cost for advertisement would be set by the ratings. So the high ratings are representative of what the American public wants to see.
Possible solution: Journalists need and must and should STOP using the laymen’s stereotype and think of black, Hispanic, white, red and yellow people and everything in between as just people of flesh and blood. People will listen to what journalists have to say because Hello! that’s how they get their news.

Tracey


Tracey Everboks (I hope I spelled her last name correctly) came in to our class the other day and spoke to us about females in the working field of journalism and in the newsroom. Tracey probably is one of the few people whose first impression to the bosses are unbiased: Tracey is a woman stuck with a unisex name.
Mrs. Everboks spoke about how hard working in the newsroom is for a woman as opposed to a man. I think it is just sad that a person's professional career is effected because of something that frankly was put in between their legs that they had no say to. Everboks said that most women left the field because they felt discriminated in the news rooms, unlike her early suspicion of women leaving the field for more money or taking care of their families.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Propaganda


We live in a world where we are encouraged to consume by the very same source that we consumed, like buy products advertised in a magazine or a television you purchased. You bought the media outlet as a source of stress relief, something to relax to after a long, hard day. You tune in to your TV or magazine and are bombarded with advertisements about the latest fashion in clothes and products. Being a consumer, you are pushed to go to the store and buy that product that you realize only after spending $300 that you only temporarily wanted it, and who knows if you are going to use it as much as you thought you were going to.