Colonization in Avatar

December 21, 2009


Tonight I agreed to go with some people to Avatar in 3D. Before going to see the movie, I was pretty unaware of what it was about. I had passed over much of the press that was surrounding the film, blissfully unaware of everything dealing with other than that it was a movie James Cameron had been working on for nearly a decade, it was primarily CGI, and it was science fiction. Now, I am loathe to pass up a scifi movie (I have sat through both Jumper–painfully terrible–and D War: Dragon Wars–so bad it is hilarious–on opening weekend), so it took little coaxing to get me to go.

Preface aside: the movie was beautiful. The CGI was stunning. The scifi environment was beyond belief (which is a good thing). The storyline was wonderful; its plot was somewhere between Ferngully and Starship Troopers. And, if this were strictly a movie review I would give it 4 ½ out of 5 stars. But this is more than that; this is a critical analysis of the social issues at play within the film. This analysis will appear after the jump, and I warn you that there are spoilers, I will try to keep them to a minimum but in discussing a movie it is difficult to forego a focus upon its plot. So, here goes: Read the rest of this entry »

What Are You Reading? Why Does it Matter?

November 30, 2009

What are you reading (for fun)?

Earlier this month, Publishers Weekly published it’s “Best Books of 2009” list. All 10 of the authors are men. All but 2 of the authors are white and are from Western nations. The magazine noticed the gendered-nature of the list but stuck by their decisions. Feminist organizations responded negatively to the list, and Women in Letters and Literary Arts (WILLA), published their own list of great literary works by women in 2009.

Reading about the inequality of the Publishers Weekly list made me want to look at the books I’m currently reading, and look to see if I have a gendered or racialized tendancies in what I chose to read for fun (academic books are excluded from this list). I have the tendency to read a ton of books at one time, so, this should work fairly well. I’m including reviews and descriptions of the books I’m reading as well, just for fun.

1. Club Dead by Charlaine Harris
Harris is a white woman from Arkansas. (1951-present)
Booklist Review:

Sookie Stackhouse is having man trouble. Her vampire boyfriend, Bill, has been distant and inattentive lately. Then he announces that he is going on a business trip, which clearly is more than it seems. After a werewolf tries to abduct Sookie at work, Bill’s boss, Eric, tells her that Bill fell under the sway of his–Bill’s, that is–ex, a sexy vamp named Lorena, and has been kidnapped. Eric wants Sookie’s help in getting Bill back, and despite her hurt over Bill’s betrayal, Sookie agrees to go to Jackson, Mississippi, to find her wayward lover. Eric has persuaded Alcide, a dashing werewolf, to get Sookie access to Josephine’s, aka Club Dead, the local hangout of Jackson’s supernatural element. In between dodging kidnappers, the advances of amorous Eric, and her growing feelings for Alcide, Sookie has to find out who kidnapped Bill and figure out a way to rescue him. With some droll touches–Elvis, now a vampire, is Sookie’s faithful guard —Club Dead is ideal for readers who like their vampire fiction light, humorous, and fast-paced.

2. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
Larsson was a white Swedish journalist. (1954-2004) Review:

Once you start The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, there’s no turning back. This debut thriller–the first in a trilogy from the late Stieg Larsson–is a serious page-turner rivaling the best of Charlie Huston and Michael Connelly. Mikael Blomkvist, a once-respected financial journalist, watches his professional life rapidly crumble around him. Prospects appear bleak until an unexpected (and unsettling) offer to resurrect his name is extended by an old-school titan of Swedish industry. The catch–and there’s always a catch–is that Blomkvist must first spend a year researching a mysterious disappearance that has remained unsolved for nearly four decades. With few other options, he accepts and enlists the help of investigator Lisbeth Salander, a misunderstood genius with a cache of authority issues. Little is as it seems in Larsson’s novel, but there is at least one constant: you really don’t want to mess with the girl with the dragon tattoo.

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What Pandora Taught Me This Week: Caffeine, Work, and the American Way

November 19, 2009

Move over Oprah, I now have an electronic computer program to teach me life-lessons. Well, at least I did this morning.

Earlier today, I was listing to Pandora Radio and working on homework when this song, “Stress” by Jim’s Big Ego, came up on my playlist (not with the Disney men, of course, but this was a best version I could find on youtube–plus, it’s mashed up pretty well):

I enjoyed the song a lot (thanks Pandora), because I thought (along with a super-catchy melody) that it was a really well put together parody of how capitalism encourages people to live their lives.

The first half of the song talks about our cultural dependency on caffeine.

I’m tryin’ to cut down on my caffeine,
So when I get up
I just have one cup of coffee
And I’d like to have another cup of coffee with my breakfast.
And on the way to work, I like to get a cup of coffee.
And I like the kind of coffee you get with a doughnut
So when I get a doughnut, I get a cup of coffee.
And when I get to work I like to have a cup of coffee
Cuz I like to have coffee when I’m talkin’ on the phone.
And when it get’s a little cold I like to have another cup of coffee.
And when it’s lunch, I have an expresso.

As a student approaching looming final deadlines and completing graduate school applications, I identified with this part of the song heavily. The amount of caffeine consumed in America is a huge amount, I think we can look to the success of Starbucks as proof of that. We have a cultural dependency on caffeine, one we are socialized into. Coffee shops are appropriate hot spots for dates, wifi, and meetings–and most college campuses are equipped with more than one in the surrounding area.

How have YOU been socialized into caffeine? How many of your parents drink coffee? Do you watch Friends (coffee shop = vital part of the show)? Do you go to coffee shops? How about soda? Do you agree with me that we have a cultural dependency on caffeine? Why or why not?

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Edward Who?

November 9, 2009


That is the number of days until New Moon comes out.

What does this mean sociologically?

In the months leading up to the release of this movie, we have seen the media attempt to sway the hearts of millions of fan girls and boys away from Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), and towards Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner). The young Taylor Lautner, age 17, has had his shirtless body plastered everywhere. If you haven’t seen it yet, go to any local convenience store and glance at the magazine racks, I’m sure you’ll find it.

Taylor, a seventeen year-old and thus a minor, has been allowed to be sexy with little to no scrutiny from the media. A few years ago, however, Miley Cyrus’s cover of Vanity Fair (pictured above) caused a media frenzy, which claimed the photo shoot was too sexy for still-underage Miley, more recently, Miley has bee scrutinized for brief “poll dancing” choreography at the Teen Choice Awards. Awhile back, many blogs noticed this, and discussed the gendered nature of the situation. What do you think? Why is it okay in our society for Taylor to be sexy but not okay for Miley? Is it still a repercussion of the “angel in the house” mentality from the Victorian period?

The weeks leading up to Twilight: New Moon have also brought us something I LOVE–seriously, I enjoy them so much it’s kind of embarrassing. They’re Twilight spoofs. Whether homemade or corporately produced, I really enjoy these cultural artifacts. Such as this one, staring Taylor Swift, from Saturday Night Live:

One thing I enjoy about this sketch is that it shows how, in our society, it is okay to be attracted to some types of monsters, but not to others. This is of course, not something Stephanie Meyer invented, indeed, Dracula himself seduced women. What do you think? Do you think popular culture will ever see a (non-campy) sexy version of Frankenstein monster? What about a sexy mummy? Other than women’s Halloween costumes, I cannot think of any examples, and a quick google images search confirmed this for me. Why are humans allowed to be attracted to vampires and werewolves, and yet not to mummies or monsters? Does it have to do with how we value wealth, as vampires are often very rich? What do you think? What is the social hierarchy for monsters?



Why You Should THINK Before Making a Sign

November 3, 2009

I stumbled upon this image on the web today. The sign on the left was a real sign used at an Obama protest. This sign is a perfect example of why understanding society matters. Not getting into politics at all, the comparison between American taxpayers under the Obama administration to the massive amount of Jews murdered during the Holocaust makes this man appear to be extremely ignorant, and makes the sign seem very offensive. I like the edit that has been done to this picture, because it shows that by being ignorant of social history can greatly distort your message. This man’s anti-Obama message is not what sticks in the viewers head, it is instead the message that sticks is the man’s ignorance of world history. It just goes to show that just because something is attention-grabbing, doesn’t mean it is effective.

Discuss. What do you think?

my post about not posting and other random things.

November 2, 2009

Sorry about the lack of posts lately, I have a draft of my undergraduate honors thesis due today, and…. well, it’s kind of absorbed all my time as of late. Plus it was Halloween. Not that I’m making excuses, well, actually, yes I am making excuses, that’s actually exactly what I’m doing…. So… here goes. It’s going to be random, and you aren’t going to have to read much, kind of like a Mitchell Davis Video.

I thought this picture was interesting because I have frequently heard about how gendered the Disney princesses are, but I have not as frequently heard about the over-the-top stereotypes embedded in the Disney princes. Aside from Aladdin, who is the only lead character of the group, I feel as if any one of these princes could replace each other. What do you think? How are they stereotyped? How do these images affect children? Are more recent children’s heroes any better?   (image found via Heartless Doll)

Yes, this picture is what you think it is. Someone has created kink-wear for toddlers. It’s disturbing and it’s weird. In my discussion of it, I want to do little more than to quote Andrea Grimes and proclaim “I quit life.” The story originally came from Carnal San Francisco, who speculated that it may not ever be for sale, but simply be an artistic piece, the question they posted was “have we reached the edge of edgy?” and he concluded with this, “I am going to pose this question to test your true lefty liberal backbone: If a parent dresses a toddler in fetish wear, is it consensual? Discuss.”

And this last video is a Russian child, I think he is 5 years old, who is very strong. He weight trains. What do you think? Do you think this is unhealthy? What does this say about our cultures fascination with athleticism?

That’s it for now. I hope you enjoy, please discuss any of the articles below if you so chose, or not, but–at least think about them. How do these images affect us? How do we socialize children? Why is the socialization of children important? Why does is matter? Does it matter?

Cultural Object of the Week: Goodbye Makeup, Hello LED Eyelashes

October 28, 2009

I am so excited about this cultural object.  Japanese designer Soomi Park has created the weirdest thing I’ve seen in awhile–LED eyelashes. They were created in order create the illusion of bigger eyes, a trait many Asian women would like to have, according to Park.

There is some speculation that they LED eyelashes were created to spark social commentary on marketing towards very specific demographics.

What do you think they say about our cultural fascination with certain traits? Do you think they are a realistic fashion trend? Do you think you can see while you’re wearing them?

I expect to see Lady Gaga wearing them sometime soon.

Sources: Gizmodo, FashionTechnology

Tweet Your Heart Out… unless you’re a celebrity.

October 27, 2009

Celebrities and talent attached to companies such as Dream Works and Disney have recently been slammed with a “Fail Whale,” not from Twitter, but from their companies, which have asked them to sign contracts promising not to tweet (aka post) things that could tarnish their image. Twitter is an online micro-blogging social networking site which has come to fame due largely to many celebrities who are active users–including people like Oprah, Ashton Kutcher, John Mayer, and many others. While some companies are limiting what their talent talked about on Twitter, other companies, such as ABC, ask their talent to tweet regularly in order to generate “buzz” for their projects (source: CeBIT )

What do you think of Twitter? Do you think companies should be able to control what their employees tweet about? Have social networking sites changed the way we socialize? If so, how?

Why Miley Cyrus doesn’t tweet anymore: