Monday, February 3, 2014

Talking Points #1 on Christensen: Unlearning the Myths That Bind Us- Linda Christensen (Hyperlinks)

In “Unlearning the Myths That Bind Us”, Linda Christensen discusses the stereotypes, gender codes, race codes, disability and class codes that lie underneath media, particularly in children’s cartoons. These codes, she says, are what shape young minds by the time a child has turned three, and teach them how to act, look, and perceive others. Dubbed as the “secret education”, these hidden lessons form and shape the identity’s of children all the way into their adult years, where the myths they were taught about the roles of themselves and others are supported even more in magazines, advertisements, and other TV shows.

While reading Christensen’s analysis of media and the secret education, how she taught her findings to her students, and her goal to spread her knowledge through her students with the hope of social change, I began to connect her analysis to reality television shows. Race and gender codes, stereotyping, and all of the portrayals of power and inequality based off of privilege are relevant in almost all reality television—which is an example of how the secret education extends outside of children’s cartoons and into adult life.
For example, in the reality competition shows like The Bachelor and Flavor of Love, women are taught that they have to compete for a man’s love by being the “best” and keeping that man’s attention through physical looks and effort to “prove” their love. These women are also given titles during the shows that stereotype them based off of their race, weight, personality, and more—just like cartoons that stereotyped a black person as the “buffoon”. Some of the titles given to the contestants on Flavor of Love have been: “Buckwild”, “Krazy”, “Miss Latin”, “Hottie”, and “New York”. Not only do these titles diminish women to what they look like and where they’re from, rather than who they are, but they also often create images of what women of different ethnicities are like based off of their titles. If a child grows up in a predominantly Caucasian area, and their only information about “others” (p.126) is from reality television, than the one black contestant titled “Hood” that got into a fight on TV will be their only representation of that race.

This reality television shows support Christensen’s argument that women are taught two myths: “Happiness means getting a man, and transformation from wretched conditions can be achieved through consumption” (p.133). She connects these myths to Cinderella because Cinderella fights with her sisters and the rest of the town for Prince Charming’s love, and because Cinderella is only seen as beautiful when she transforms her look from rags to riches. The story of Cinderella also creates a stereotype for the “Prince Charming” or perfect man that defines him as powerful, wealthy, and physically attractive. Both of these stereotypes and codes are found in shows like  Joe Millionaire  where women are attracted to a male only if he fits the “Prince Charming” criteria, and in the UK show The Swan where women undergo plastic surgery to transform from an “ugly ducking” into a beautiful “swan”.

Questions/Comments/Points to Share:
In class, I would like to point out that all of these "secret education" lessons are found in many more examples, and as Christensen points out, we all adapt to them without realizing it. I know most of these stereotypes are untrue, but I'll occasionally associate an Asian person as being smart, because that is how TV and media has portrayed the Asian culture.

This relates directly to how people perceive teenagers. When we wrote 5 words to describe a teenager in class, we wrote the ones that society has made us associate teens with- emotional, wild, angsty, shopping etc. because of our vision of teenagers from magazines that target the teen audience, TV shows like the ones on Disney Channel, and reality TV shows like 16 and Pregnant. Most of these terms may not have even based on personal experience, but rather the identity/idea society has provided us with for teenagers through the help of media.

Example of how teenage characters are scripted to act in TV shows: April Ludgate from Parks and Recreation is the only teen character in the show and is depicted as an angsty, rebellious college intern that hates working and is always whiny and bored. 

No comments:

Post a Comment