Week 14

Both graduate and undergraduate students post comments.

10 thoughts on “Week 14

  1. Kerra Taylor

    I feel like after reading articles by Hooks, Straayer, Peters, and Weiss all of them or at least the majority of them continue with queer spectatorship but it builds on the previous article by Gauntlett and that yes there are more males than females on television, but now race and socio-econmical factors are being included.

    Straayer points out that while spectatorship started with the male gaze, lesbian films become problematic, because the audience questions where are the male characters? Some of the lesbian movies are meant for the viewing pleasure of the male audience, whereas other movies are politically correct to say that women are indeed lesbians which make them “dikes” which ultimately excludes the male characters. However, Peters looks at the representation of the gay and lesbian community more closely based on realistic portrayal of these relationships. For example, he closely examines Queer as Folk in how, yes, overall, the show has helped coax out a lot of gay and lesbian people but the show also becomes sexist and racist. Meaning that the show only bases its characters on white, middle-class men and their gay relationships more than lesbian encounters or other races. I feel naive after reading about this show, because I have never seen it and I didn’t know it had such sexual content. I always thought that is was a comedy show or something more like Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. Then again, we are talking about Showtime, the same network that shows The L Word.

    Hooks, on the other hand, does not talk about queer theory but rather how is race being represented in the male and female characters and how often are they featured on television in ratio of white domination. When black characters are figured in, do most black women relate to them or do most women boycott television all together because of this. Meaning, what is the behavior or expectations of these female characters and are they considered racist? She talks about the history of slavery and what did it mean to gaze into a white man’s eyes.

    Media: This brings to mind, movies like Crash with white, black, Asian, and Hispanic characters and how we interact with each other on a daily basis, which for this movie it plays with the negative connotations of stereotypes. It kind of bashes out socio-econic factors too with these stereotypes such as white domination that equals power and financially secure, Asian people trying to escape from the poverty and harsh conditions of poor countries, Hispanics that are often considered gang bangers, or blacks that often commit theft, and lastly terrorism based on misguided notions of ethnicity. This is a good, strong movie. I also enjoy Parenthood, just because one of the relationships is based on a interracial marriage Crosby and Jasmine have a son, Jabbar that is part black and part white. I enjoy this show just because I do not know of a lot of shows that integrate a family that has multiple types of relationships: interracial, a single mother, stay at home mom, or the mom that is the breadwinner.

  2. Jay Oetman

    I especially enjoy hooks as she expounds on the intersection of race, gender, and class; and that intersection is key in understanding media treatments of disenfranchised groups.

    It is vital that we as scholars understand how various groups are traditionally treated, it is even more important as media creators to understand those treatments and the tropes which are either subverted by new media creations or re-enforced. Media so often falls into the same ruts of treatment with exceptions and re-approaches in the minority. hooks has done much to comment on the treatment of characters of color and especially women of color; and all creators of media must keep in mind the lessons she has to offer.

    Media: This week I viewed another episode of “Modern Family.” This show’s premise comments continually on the ever-shifting notion of what the American family looks like. We have the traditional family where the father is an idiot, the mother is an overbearing know-it-all and the children are typically irritated with their “white people problems,” this aspect of the show follows very typical tropes in comedy television programming. However, the show also positions a family with a senior citizen father with his young beautiful latina wife and her son. Most interesting for me however is that sector of media which I intend to study, queer representations in media. It is hilarious to view the gay fathers’ antics in relating to their Asian adopted daughter, but their dynamic also relays very fascinating aspects of this new portion of family society which is evolving in this period of history, the “gay family.” In this “Halloween” episode, the gay fathers throw a costume party for all of their friends. Invited to this party is a young transgender woman who dons a princess costume. The princess’ presence at the party becomes very interesting because the Asian daughter of the gay couple has been informed that her mom was a princess. This ruse was adopted by one of the gay fathers because his daughter questioned him about her mother. The daughter’s intense fascination with princesses was reinforced by her father’s myth created to quell her concerns as to the location of her mother, but what is interesting is the way in which a contemporary show feels empowered by an ever evolving and tolerant society which can begin to accept new notions of what constitutes family.

  3. Karsten Burgstahler

    I wanted to address Peter’s article “”Pink Dollars, White Collars.” As a fan of multiple series on Showtime, I know how subversive the channel can be. I attribute “Dexter” and “Homeland” as two series that have helped television become a viable rival to film as far as serious drama goes. But Showtime is definitely concerned with pushing the limits, so I have to ask: when it comes to “Queer as Folk,” did Showtime desire to represent the LGBTQ community? Or were they looking at a topic that would be “controversial” because it fits their brand?
    Peters mentions that the show originated on a British channel dedicated to providing shows that represented minority groups. As far as Peters explains it, the channel didn’t promote the show as controversial. Of course, the relationship between a 29-year-old man and his 15-year-old lover is about controversial as the series could get — not only do we see two gay lovers have penetrative sex on television, but the 14 year age difference means that one of them is a minor.
    But Peters also says Showtime picked up the series because they saw it matched their slogan of “pushing the boundaries.” I just wonder how many executives saw the show as providing a normative depiction of gay and lesbian lifestyles rather than something everyone would be talking about. Of course, Showtime has to attract viewers, and has a greater barrier to do so because it is pay cable. Do these characters exist on American television only so that Viacom can say “look at what we’ve got?” I’ve never watched the show, so I’m sure someone who has can enlighten me as to whether the show is mainly focused on the sex or if it genuinely develops the relationships between the gay and lesbian characters. It appears from the readings that sex is the primary objective.
    Of course, even if the show was only taken on because of its subversive qualities, it had some positive effects. Queer viewers turned in because they wanted frank and straightforward portrayals of the LGBTQ community, because presentations on networks were made for comedy (“Will and Grace” or “Ellen”). But they weren’t afford this option on a network show; rather, they had to cough up the money to see it.

    I haven’t commented on a modern romantic comedy yet for this class, so for my final media review I’ll look at Richard Curtis’ “About Time,” which came out two weeks ago. The movie stars Domhnall Gleeson as Tim, a man who discovers all the men in his family can travel back in time, and Rachel McAdams as Mary, a normal girl who gets absolutely no character development, much to the detriment of the movie. Seriously, all I can tell you is that she reads books for a living and loves Kate Moss. That’s all the development she gets.
    “About Time” works when it focuses on the relationship between Tim and his father, played by Bill Nighy. The film balances scenes between these two relationships, but Tim’s dad is fleshed out well. It’s interesting McAdams took on this movie, considering four years ago she starred alongside Eric Bana in ‘The Time Traveler’s Wife,” basically the same movie. The only difference there is that Bana couldn’t control his time jumping, so he revealed his secret to McAdams and she had to learn to live with it. McAdams was the focus of the movie and had the chance toe develop her character, a woman who doesn’t know when the man she loves will simply disappear. That movie has a heartbreaking ending and is superior.
    So because Mary doesn’t know Tim’s secret, she stands around, raising his kid and giving him advice about how to help his sister. Tim is able to control his entire relationship with Mary by jumping back in time (He goes back several times to get their first time in bed right), which is meant to be a romantic and funny fantasy of being able to correct your mistakes but actually ends up being kind of creepy. Like I said, “About Time” is good when it develops Tim’s relationship with his dad, but his relationship with Mary is left sorely lacking.

  4. Evette Brown

    I am grateful to Dr. Leigh for including the oppositional gaze reading in this course because it offers keen insight into how scholars can frame media texts through the lenses of race, gender and class. I am a critical media scholar, so I often use the oppositional gaze to both read and deconstruct media texts. Being a Black Feminist spectator allows me to view media through a lens that is authentic to my experiences as a U.S. Black American woman.

    For instance, I am examining representations of Black female sexuality in Tyler Perry’s “For Better or Worse” for my final paper in this course. I am not a fan of Perry’s work because it relies on controlling images of Black American women to reach a church-going audience. However, the oppositional gaze allows me to enter a paradoxical space where I can both appreciate Perry’s influence and success while also critiquing his texts.

    I agree with hooks’ interpretation of the oppositional gaze as a site of both interrogation and resistance. Black Americans have been misrepresented in cinema and television from the beginning, but we have not remained silent. Often, Black media makers have responded to misrepresentation with counterbalancing imagery.

    When Black Americans were depicted as brutes, jezebels and coons in “Birth of a Nation,” Oscar Micheaux and a legion of other filmmakers created an entire genre (race films) in response. It is this continual resistance that makes the oppositional gaze such an important framework to deploy in critical media studies.

    Media Response

    I’ve used this space to respond to “The Mindy Project” before. However, I believe it’s appropriate to revisit the series given this week’s focus on the oppositional gaze and a recent episode that explored the intersections of race, gender and class. “The Mindy Project” focuses on the antics of Dr. Mindy Lahiri, a self-absorbed, obnoxious and love-crazed obstetrician-gynecologist. Each week, the audience delves into the hilarious personal and professional lives of Lahiri and her coworkers, including Dr. Danny Castellano, Dr. Jeremy Reed, and Nurse Morgan Tookers.

    “The Mindy Project” is a groundbreaking series because it features a diverse cast; Mindy Kaling, an Indian-American woman, serves as the creator, executive producer, lead writer and star. This is a first for network television, and makes it difficult for people of color (like me) to critique the series. I support “The Mindy Project,” but I also critique the imagery and the messages.

    One of the criticisms I’ve leveraged against the series is the failure to address race. All of Kaling’s love interests on “The Mindy Project” have been White men. Though it is important for media to incorporate interracial dating, Kaling never mentions race and neither do her partners. The reliance on colorblindness in dating does little to explore the tensions that may arise between an interracial couple e.g. issues with relatives, how to raise children, religious differences, cultural traditions, etc.

    I also have an issue with “The Mindy Project’s” underdevelopment of the sole Black American character, Tamra (Xosha Roquemore). Tamra is a receptionist in the office that Lahiri and her coworkers own. She’s loud. She dances for no reason. She’s always late to work. Her boyfriend is an Eminem-esque White man that doesn’t value her. She has children, but she’s not married. In essence, Tamra is a caricature of Black womanhood.

    Instead of dismissing these issues, the writers tackled them in a recent episode titled “Mindy Lahiri is a Racist.” The episode unpacks many of the critiques of the show. I view this response as an active attempt to address the intersections of race, gender and class, and how these multiplicative identities impact Lahiri and Tamra.

  5. Ryan Freels

    Walters is at once wary and embracive of the queer movement. She is for a movement that fights against societal expectations on sexuality. However she dismisses the desire the move on from feminism and its insights on gender that are still relevant today.
    Moorman gives a mixed reaction to the prominence of lesbians. On one hand, it is good that they are not just ignored,. We see many gay characters, this reaching a certain height now with one of Disney’s shows planning a gay couple on Good Luck Charlie. However, lots of these appearances are fleeting, or hetreosexualized. While shows such as The L Word gives voice to lesbians, it presents them in a way that is physically typified for the male viewer.
    The views of bell hooks takes into account the power of the gaze with black feminism. She discusses how the gaze’s power is so well recognized that people want to have the ability to tell one when and when not to look. As a black woman, being a part of two oppressed people, Black Americans and Women, this is particularly noticeable. This grants the desire to sneak-a-peek and rebel. It also constructs new struggle that black men and white women don’t have, such as Hattie McDaniel playing “the mammie) and serving Vivien Leigh’s beauty.
    Weiss reminds us the gay community did not just pop up in Hollywood, but has existed as a subculture, with the best historical accounts being gossip and rumors. It also becomes apparent in Hollywood’s inconsistent image of femininity. Actresses such as Katherine Hepburn were known for their non-traditional mannerisms.
    Strayer notes that the feminist film theory needs to pay attention to the sexual differences discussed because they disprove the gender binary structure. It shows a problematic side to narrative films that their can not be a lesbian heroine. This is because a lesbian fights the gender norms embraces by film. While there has been progress here, the heterosexual couple are deffinatley typified in most froms of media. If it wasn’t, The L Word would not be notable.
    Peters understands that some of the portrayal of queer community can in general be like hot lesbians, such as how producers sell Queer as Folk. This is very well stated when Pierce in Community becomes respectful of gay rights after the gay community buys is product. He states that gaining respects through capitalism is “the American way”.

  6. Katie Voves

    I thought it was interesting that in the Weiss article that she seemed to be insinuating that lesbians have the a similar kind of oppositional view when watching films that black women have. It’s not exactly the same, as a white lesbian woman would be able to identify more with many of the characters and stars whose sexuality was questioned than a black female audience, however they are still taking a view of the film that differs from the mainstream view. We see this is the last line of the reading where Weiss says, “For lesbian spectators who saw Garbo’s film in the early 1930’s, however, Queen Christina will always be the lovely girl who dressed in male attire and refused to marry, and no amount of heterosexual cover will ever change her.” The lesbian audience saw Garbo the way that they wanted to see her, in a way that they could relate. While bell hooks encouraged black women to take an oppositional view where they didn’t identify with anyone, either the looker or the one being looked at, the lesbian audience took an oppositional view where they took the place of the looker in a way that wasn’t socially acceptable.

    1. Katie Voves

      There has been a lot of talk about the uniforms for female officers in the new Star Trek movie, since they’re basically the mini dresses from the 60’s show that make no sense as a military uniform. However I think that the biggest problem with the uniforms in the new movies aren’t the dresses which I can accept as a nod to the original series but the fact that no where on the dresses in there a place for the rank of the person wearing it. On the male uniforms there are bars on the sleeves that indicate rank, however these bars are absent on the women’s uniform. The lack of bars strip all the every female officer of their importance as well as making less military sense than the dresses themselves.

  7. Jane Flynn

    I really enjoyed bell hooks reading ‘The Oppositional Gaze: Black Female Spectators”, although afterwards I was left with a feeling of huge disappointment from the media. The creation of the ‘oppositional gaze’ was a response to the presence of racism in the media, which still continues today. I have to admit that until now, I have been quite ignorant to the presence of racism within the media, and am now left feeling like I have been supporting this racism, in an unintentional way, due to this ignorance. Until Evettes lecture on racist stereotypes, I was unaware that all these stereotypes were a cover up for racism, to make it seem acceptable. I know that the disappointment in the media is partly due to my own ignorance (until now) of the presence of racism, but I can’t help but feel that I have supported racist practices, for example, through watching movies produced by Hollywood.

    Further more, through the use of racist practices, Hollywood shuts out a huge amount of viewers, and actors/ actresses, who could contribute to the criticism and development of media. Although I understand that some members of racial minorities are critiquing media in its relation to racism, I can’t help but feel that the presence of racism puts off a huge part of the population who would have otherwise been able to participate in the critique of Hollywood productions.

    In reading Wendy Peters paper ‘Pink Dollars, White Collars: Queer as Folk, Valuable Viewers, and the Price of Gay TV’, I was also left feeling let down by the media. Due to the way in which cable TV channels choose what to make shows on (based on groups wealth, and therefore likelihood to tune into the cable channel), there is also a huge under representation of Gay, Lesbian and Queer individuals on the TV – again, the medias very narrow selection is shutting out individuals, and so viewers who are not aware of this selection process will be supporting this unfair practice. Whilst I understand that to continue media production, cable channels must make a certain amount of money, it leads to a very unbalanced representation of minorities within society – perhaps if the cable companies were not so focused on profit, the media would be a more open space, that represented more classes and groups of people within society.

  8. Nick Nylen

    Recently I presented on bell hooks essay “The Oppositional Gaze: Black Female Spectatorship”. In it, she critiques a few things, namely Laura Mulvey’s “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” where Mulvey develops the idea of the male gaze. Hooks reveals that Mulvey’s famous writing expounds on the issues of white middle class women while purporting to be about all women. Historically, there was an irrational white fear of black male sexuality, specifically that black males would prey on white women (this is demonstrated in the cinema, particularly in D.W. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation”). The darkness of the cinema, therefore, provided a space for black males to engage in looking without fear; and they would engage in the male gaze. Black female spectators, on the other hand, were unable to find a comfortable way to look at films.

    Hooks develops a different kind of gaze, one she calls “the oppositional gaze”, based on the experience of slaves looking at their masters even when they were told not to. This was a means of rebelling, of maintaining their agency, of critique. She asks that spectators, specifically black females, use this type of gaze to create their own interaction with films, subverting the forced male gaze.

    Recently I saw Steve McQueen’s “Twelve Years A Slave”, an adaptation of a memoir of the same name written and published by Solomon Northup in 1853. Northup was a free and highly-educated black man living with his wife and two children who was kidnapped by southerners and sold into slavery. As slave owners might murder slaves who were educated and might start a rebellion, Northup had to pretend to be uneducated. The film chronicles his suffering, but also his incredible endurance and ability to restrain himself from total despair.

    It was interesting to see a literal oppositional gaze. Northup, as an educated man, is especially prone to looking at first as he is used to being a free man. His looks often lead to reprisal–in one scene he is nearly lynched for looking and rebelling. His looking and awareness of the goings-on of the plantation also put him in precarious situations.

    Of all of the films I’ve seen concerning the topic of American slavery, this one felt the most gracefully handled. Unlike Spielberg’s Amistad or Tarantino’s most recent Django Unchanged, Twelve Years A Slave was written and directed by black filmmakers (Steve McQueen, dir. John Ridley, writ.). As a result, I think, we don’t experience slavery as mediated by white folks. The film centers around Solomon Northup, obviously, but the other relatable characters are for the most part black. The white slave owners and slave drivers are othered and we’re not placed in a position to empathize with them. The few white characters that are relatable have minimal screen time and are often there to move the plot along. The slaves are also not portrayed as a homogenous group, they have a multitude of personalities and come from all walks of life.

    I wonder if its possible to look at a film with an oppositional gaze and enjoy it, ‘fall into it’, at the same time. I’m certain that as we look closer and more critically–certainly from a gender perspective–12 Years A Slave has its flaws, but it also is, I believe, a tremendous achievement.

  9. Daniel Sliwa

    Reading Response:

    Hooks discusses representation of race on television, with whites being the most dominant. There’s no happy medium when it comes to representing race on TV or in media. Typically, there’s always one or two ethnic characters on a white dominated show or there’s an all ethnical casted show with no white characters whatsoever. It’s a dilemma, because it raises questions of how the audience should react to say one of the token ethnical characters, mainly because they’re handled so poorly.

    Usually, the character seems like the odd man out, the loud mouth, the imbecile, pretty much just the joke of the show. They’re their to get laughs and just follow the rest of the characters as they move through the plot. Does this help the audience relate or distance them? My belief is it’s the second.

    Straayer discusses in his article how lesbian charactes can be tough to deal with as well, because the male audience will have issues sharing a perspective with the women. What’s also tricky is how the male audience must relat to these characters, while also being sexually aroused at times by them.

    Media:

    The “L Word” is a perfect example and I think we discussed it best in class how the show is great for breaking down barriers but also problematic because all the characters look to pretty and not really realistic. The show also depicts one character trying to get with a married woman.

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