Friday, March 25, 2011

Talking Points No. 7///////Argument: Ball, Colonialism is the Lens and Hip-Hop is the Mirror

In “Colonialism is the Lens and Hip-Hop is the Mirror,” Jared Ball is arguing that the concept of colonialism is one that can be a focus of the perspective through which we view hip-hop music and the culture it promotes. Furthermore, when referring to general hip-hop, Ball is focusing on mainstream hip-hop and the implications it has on our viewpoints. For example, Ball states “Black poverty is not the result of the choice to purchase “spinning rims” as D’mite suggests, it is that fundamental to colonialism is the monopolization of land ownership which forces, promotes and relegates only the purchase of rims and other trifling goods to the poor. And if this basis is understood all systems of media and popular culture can be more clearly identifiable as to their function and necessity in keeping image, thought, and action within what those in control find to be acceptable ranges.” In other words, blaming hip-hop for poverty rates for people of color is not an accurate assumption. What is really happening is that colonialism is still an evident problem that keeps money and property in the hands of a small part of the population while people of color are encouraged by producers of that mainstream media to purchase “trifling goods.” There are stereotypes being perpetuated and reproduced here, and it is designed in a way that keeps systemic oppression happening. Ball is arguing that once we recognize that “those in control” are deciding what is acceptable for different demographics, we can apply the concept of colonialism to this and see who is in a position of privilege and power and who is being dominated and suboordinated.

An example of the kind of message Ball is describing could be found here (not that the song isn't good, because it really is, and it could be perceived as West making a positive statement about mobility for people of color...but that's an oversimplification of implication, which I think is an implicit point in Ball's article).

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Connections: Glee Episodes, Raby and Grinner

When viewing these three episodes of Glee (Pilot, Never Been Kissed and Furt) as texts, comparitively, they seem to transcend limitations and boundaries more than other contemporary television shows. There are a variety of characters who fall into different categories and experience different forms of oppression because of their identities. For example, there is a disabled character whose disability is not ignored but is also represented in a limiting light. The same concept goes for Kurt, since he is a gay character who ultimately receives support from many of his peers but is represented in a limited way. These teenage characters are displayed with alternative lifestyles than those depicted commonly (dominant ideology in the media as discussed by Grinner), however, they are still stereotypical. There is a lot of focus on problems like bullying and emotional intensity in the teenage years, which is based on real-life problems teens are facing today. However, by representing this issue in the media, in a sense it is perpetuating ideas discussed by Raby such as "the storm." Reputations seem to be very important at the high school that the show takes place at, making teenagers seem shallow, stupid, vapid and clique-y at many points in the show. While reputations are in fact something that many teenagers think about, these representations also send messages to those who perhaps aren't so aware of those kinds of social dynamics, and it becomes hard to distinguish whether stereotypes have any validity or if teenagers are conditioned by media like Glee and emulate what they see re-presented to them. In terms of SCWAAMP, the show appears to promote messages such as equality when it is not necessarily doing so. Though there are gay characters featured on the show, it is still predominantly hetero-centric. It focuses around themes like marriage and having babies without recognizing these things as institutional mechanisms that do not help us acheive equality. In the marriage scene in Furt, it is clear that the wedding is based on Christian tradition and a priest is marrying the couple and therefore holds authority. The characters on the show are predominantly white, and the representations of non-white characters are fairly stereotypical. There are no characters featured in these three episodes who are not American. There is one character who is not able-bodied, and he is shown as someone who needs a lot of help and is often victimized by peers without having discussion about why this is an issue that deserves attention. The females on the show, such as the cheerleading squad, definitely are shown trying to dumb themselves down and cater to male characters like Puck in the restaurant scene, which shows that the male characters are given more power in the show. Finally, none of the teen characters are property owners, however, in the scene in which Puck is singing outside on the steps with a guitar, they mysteriously gather 300 dollars from performing. What teenagers randomly have so many dollar bills to spare? The whole show is different at first glance, but when analyzed more closely it is clear that dominant ideology and stereotypical discourses for representing teenagers are both at play here.