Technology and Her

The “Body Electric” reading about electric belts and the intimacies of technology reminded me of the movie Her, in which a man falls in love with his computer’s operating system. The de la Pena article is closely related to this movie through the general theme of societies’ different uses for technology, and also the connections humans can develop with technology. In the reading it is a purely physical relationship, but the movie is more concerned with the emotional aspect (although there are some uncomfortable scenes that tackle both). Currently, we use technology to connect with other humans, for the most part; but artificial intelligence as it is shown in the film would likely change that dynamic drastically.

Aside from the fact that I really enjoyed this movie, I wanted to write about Her because its imagined future so closely resembles the electric belt craze of the very real past. Considering one of the goals of this course is to make the ordinary foreign and vice-verse, what could be considered strange about our culture’s behaviors and attitudes regarding technology?

Race Outside of the Ferguson Case

http://thesaltcollective.org/asian-americans-might-talk-ferguson/

Liz Lin analyzes the influence of Asian Americans on the topic of Ferguson. She argues that few Asian Americans talk about the subject or even participate in the effort of the case. Furthermore, she talks about the advantages and disadvantages of being Asian American. Although her article is about Asian Americans, her ideas also reveal the disadvantages of being hyphenated Americans in America. Asian Americans are advantaged because they are generally described as hardworking and smart. However, they are disadvantaged because they belong to neither the American or Asian side.

More importantly, Lin highlights the definition of race in her article. Lin, a professor and a consultant states, “Race is complicated for us. On one hand, we’re disadvantaged in many ways.  We’re perpetually seen as foreigners, as people who don’t belong here…Multiple laws have been passed to exclude us from immigration and citizenship” She suggests that hyphenated Americans are always considered foreigners despite assimilation to America or naturalization. The second part of the quote ties back to readings in lecture that talked about immigration exclusion acts. The article proposes the question: Does race matter outside of the case? Is race an issue in the protests and other events of the Ferguson case? 

The Conflicting Feminism Messages of Disney Princesses

http://www.buzzfeed.com/lorynbrantz/if-disney-princesses-had-realistic-waistlines

Susan Douglas examines how the media and popular culture convey conflicting ideas of what is right for a woman in America. She explains the contradicting messages of the strong, free, independent and defiant women and the ditsy, thin, commercial women in the 1960’s.

In today’s media and popular culture, we still see similar contradictions. Many young children growing up idolize their favorite Disney princesses and, to their credit, many of these princesses are strong, independent women who don’t need no man. However, as this Buzz Feed post highlights, animators draw these women with unnaturally small waists, conveying the idea to young children that you can only be a beautiful yet strong woman if you are equally unnaturally thin. The alterations of each character demonstrate that these princesses can still inspire children without causing such an issue with self-esteem and body image.

For years, Disney has tried to produce progressive characters and stories that represent the world’s diversity. I wonder if Disney will soon create a princess or protagonist with an average body who is conveyed as just as strong yet beautiful as the other princesses like her. It would also be interesting to see how that manifests in the lives of young children and how they view themselves.

“Electric belts” in the Modern Era

While the Electric belt is something that we awkwardly shy away from as a strange form of connection with technology in America in the late 19th century, we have similar pieces of technology that function as a cultural connection in our society today.

Big hero 6

The move Big Hero 6 portrays a friendly healthcare robot named Baymax that becomes the companion of a 14 year old boy. In the movie’s town of San Fransokyo, robots and more innovative technology than is currently seen today are prevalent in society. This movie portrays a similar idea of the electric belts in its use of technology. Robots become companions almost and humans even find a way to form emotional bonds with the robots. While this isn’t exactly what is seen today in society, we still form similar connections with technology today as is seen in people’s attachment to their phones and other pieces of technology. Most people when asked would respond that they feel “naked” to some degree without their phone on them at all times. While Big Hero 6 takes connection to technology to new heights, it raises the question, what does the audience find most alluring about Baymax? Is it the portrayal of man being able to interact with and grow close with technology? Or is it as simple as his lovable and friendly demeanor?

A New Reaction to Feminism

Left to right: Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hiddleston,  and Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Left to right: Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hiddleston, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt

American Identity and the 1890s masculinity crisis was a result of the uprising of one of the first feminist movements. The media emphasized this “moral panic of boys,” and as a result, such things as the electric belt and other technologies were developed to enhance one’s manhood. The establishment of explicitly male-centered activities such as Boy Scouts of America and other groups were also formed in order to reassert male place and dominance in our society.

The male reaction, or lack thereof, to Elle Magazine’s feminism campaign spearheaded by actress, Emma Watson, emphasizes how our culture is currently in a much different state than when feminism first arose. The image provided shows three famous men in our culture wearing t-shirts that point out how both genders can be feminism-supporters. We can see how the media and celebrities’ endorsement of ideas greatly affects how we react to and define our American identity.

Do you think the recent popularity of feminism is a result of celebrity endorsement and the popularization of the idea that it is “cool” to accept change nowadays?

The extreme reactions to Anita Sarkeesian in the gaming community

On youtube, reddit, and other large social media sites, the mere mention of Anita Sarkeesian will flood your inbox with outright hatred. Her videos focus on the role of tropes in video games, specifically the offensive portrayal of women in some video games. She talks about the “damsel in distress” trope associated with many video games and asks the gaming community, and gaming developers, to do some introspection when it comes to the writing of the stories for their games.

The reactions to her critiques have been extreme, and laughably illustrative of her point. The gaming community is sexist against women. It is exceptional to find a game that portrays female characters with nuance and character development, and it is exceptional to find a female critic that is *not* ridiculed because of her gender.

Reactions to Anita Sarkeesian’s videos have included threats of rape, murder, and harassment. She is constantly harassed by Youtube personalities in the gaming community, and faces daily personal attacks because of her critical perspective.

Here is an example: [warning: explicit language]

What If a Disney Princess Lived In the Hood

Esther Park

 

An imagined community is a socially constructed community because it is constructed by the imaginations of its members that believe they belong to that community.

 

This cultural text is a music video that explores what it would be like if the Disney princess, Belle, lived in a “ghetto” African American community. The ghetto is an imagined community that has been popularized through pop culture. Most of the famous Hip Hop artists grew up in the “hood” and have talked about their experiences of growing up in these imagined communities. Todrick Hall, the director of this film has included racism and the hegemonic idea that approves the racism. (This also ties to Blackface because the audience was not bothered by the show and the theatrical make up.) The imagined part of the ghetto community is the stereotypical lifestyle of the African Americans, the way they dress, talk, treat others, etc.

 

The imagined community of the ghetto is often taken in a negative way. If the people living in theses communities have imagined themselves in the stereotypical types of ways, is it their fault that they are seen negatively? Or did our hegemonic ideals allow us to poke fun at their differences to make their imagined community seem negative?

Gender Roles in Reality Television

http://robhasawebsite.com/survivor-2014-casting-types-success-winner-statistics/

“Reality” television is a genre that is known mainly for being mostly unscripted and, more importantly for this blog, a relatively unknown cast. For competition shows like Survivor, the challenge falls on the casting director to create a compelling cast to get the viewers to watch. This generally means that potential cast members will fit into one of a decently small number of predetermined archetypes. The first link above shows research into specific roles that contestants fill, down to how well they tend to perform. What is interesting about this list, and the reason it relates to this class, is that they directly separated the roles between men and women. Some roles are remarkably similar save for gender, like Seduce and Destroy and Siren, while others like “Oh No You Didn’t” are roles limited to just one gender (and sometimes race too, but that’s another topic).

This provides an interesting dynamic when looking at the show. “Mommy Dearest” is an archetype that appears on most seasons, but is always a woman-exclusive role. Several other women’s roles often center around beauty. In contrast, when looking across the male roles, you see remarks about athleticism and “intensity” much more often than in women’s roles. It speaks volumes about how casting believes we view “reality”, that these archetypes represent “reality” best.

Sneaky Authority Figures

http://www.sociologyinfocus.com/2012/02/08/hegemony-the-haves-and-soon-to-haves/#more-1345

Hegemony is a political or cultural dominance, or authority over others.

In this online article, a mother uses her adult figure, her authority figure over her daughter to get her to do what she wants her to do. However, she does this in a sneaky without her daughter noticing. Instead of telling her daughter “It’s time for bed,” knowing the she will resist, the mother asks her “this or that” questions to get her preferance. Each question receives an answer that leads to her daughter falling asleep without the girl even realizing what her mom is doing. There was no force used. The child was just outsmarted because her mother is older and knows how to trick.

The article then gives an example of figures using their superior position to get older people to do or believe certain things. The socially powerful convince those below them in society that it is their fault they are poor or have less.

Think of other ways that this sneaky, less forceful way of coercion is used. We do not realize when it’s used so there could be many things out there. Why do authority figures have to use their mindsets to get those who are inferior to feel low?

The Supplement Body

https://endoftheamericanmale.com/

In The Body Electric Carolyn De la Peña argued that our close relationship with technological advancement changed our views of our gender-specific roles in society, and has contributed to our understanding of them in the 21st century. Peña makes clear how acceptance of new technologies is facilitated when they are seen to fix our perceived defects, deficiencies, and deviance. Our implementation of such fixes is achieved through intimate devices such as the Pulvermacher belt.

The Link above entitled “End of the American Male” is a very long advertisement for a hormone supplement called “T Drive” produced by ASRESEARCH. The “T Drive” add, more of an infomercial, adds to where its belt predecessor left off by making the claim that the new threat on the “American Man” is three “feminizing” hormones linked to estrogen that cause all of man’s “lacks” and deviances. Furthermore they claim that these hormones are found everywhere: tap water, plastic bottles, food. ASRESEARCH with their “expert” Paul explain that their fully “natural” hormone supplement pill is the only option to cure all of man’s defects, and links the boost in testosterone and elimination of “feminizing” hormones created by the drug to success, wealth, and all other attributes of an “alpha male,” which is presented as the natural male form.

Peña’s ideas are thus illustrated in contemporary examples, as the continued modernization, industrialization, and globalization that has happened over the past century has led to the new “miracle cure” — the “hormone” and other chemical supplements disguised as a natural fix. The incorporation of such cures is literal, in that, rather than applied to the body, we take them into the body in the form of powders, power bars, many different supplements deemed not only “ok” but also “healthy” and restorative.

There are many products that are sold that promise to make us better in some way, what are your experiences with these? Do we see them elsewhere: makeup, diet pills, etc.?