For my extra credit assignment, I decided to talk about social media sites and how they can be used as a tool for social change. I want to discuss both the benefits to using social media to discuss issues in our world and the serious limitations and negative side to the use of this type of popular culture. First of all, social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, all play a major role in our society; since their creation, they have risen to the top of the types of media used by every day citizens. This is a great thing because when millions of people visit a certain website it can be used to further inform people of issues in our society. Long past are the days were a social injustice can occur without the entire world knowing. Take for example Maria Teresa, a lone black woman who defied marching neo-Nazis in Sweden; if it wasn’t for Twitter her extremely brave act would never have reached the some 10,000 who viewed her act on twitter including famous writer J.K. Rowling. This is the major upside of social media, with so much information flowing around the internet we have come to an era where examples of social injustice are at our fingertips and it is our duty to use this gift to make a difference. For the most part we have, sites like Facebook and Twitter have been used to set up large scale protests, start funds for certain charities or people who have suffered from mass disasters. However, like everything else in this world, there is always someone who is looking to take advantage of the kindness or outrage of others. For every one instance where social media is used to correct a social injustice, there are dozens of scams designed to take advantage of those who are actually trying to make a difference. Not to mention the thousands of posts claiming to be social injustices, but are really just people complaining about their lives. Don’t get me wrong, I do truly feel for those who have truly suffered at the hands of others, but it really frustrates me when I see someone use Twitter or Facebook to complain about their lives, especially when its about superficial stuff. Its one of the main reasons I don’t use social media, which in truth is to my disadvantage because I do really like trying to make a difference in this world. Not using one of the biggest forms of popular culture in our society really only limits the amount of good I can truly do. Overall my point is that when used correctly, social media sites can be an effective tool for fighting off social injustices, but maybe there should be a site created solely for this reason. Maybe if we created a website with the sole purpose of correcting social injustice we could accomplish a lot more. There could be links on the actual site that could inform you on how you can effectively help. That would be a neat idea.
Today, our world is overflowing with different types of pop culture; we have social networking sites, television, film, novel’s, comics, video games; and for every one of those types of pop culture we have an infinite of sub genres. It is a lot to process and yes some of it is just silly cat videos, or someone tweeting an awkward date they are currently experiencing. However, these types of media can be very useful in bringing to light social issues in our world, some even go so far as to affect change. A pop culture source that is rapidly gaining popularity is the comic; since the turn of the century those who would classify themselves as nerds or geeks have seen a decrease in the amount in which they are ostracized. This has given rise to a love of comics by not just children and “nerds”, but by people of all backgrounds and peculiarities. With more people actually investing time in reading comics, it has become a great form of media to express social issues.
One of the most significant social issues that comics of all genres have really taken a stab at correcting is the negative view woman get in our society. The idea that a woman has to be an overly sexual being relying on the whims of men just isn’t true, and the use of the comic to express this is great because it is still a very open source of media. There is very limited censorship, nothing like that of television or film; and one of the biggest contributors to comic art and storylines is the independent sector, meaning there are thousands of social issues covered. Recently, the role of a strong female leads has become more pronounced in comics, and I would like to share a few of the series I find to have the most powerful impact on our society.
Saga, having won numerous Eisner and Harvey Awards and the 2013 award winner for best graphic story, has been noted for its diverse portrayal of ethnicity, sexuality and gender social roles. It’s easy to love a space opera, but a space opera that is bold enough to start with an opening line of “Am I shitting? It feels like I’m shitting!”, that takes the cake (Vaughan). And, once you realize that this is shouted by one of the main female leads, it takes on a whole different meaning. Alana, who is giving birth in the first scene, is a badass warrior woman, but she makes leaps and bounds over that cliché. She is at any given point cocky, vulnerable, stubborn, loving, short-tempered; never afraid to express her feelings or thoughts, often times cussing to get her point across. It is clear that she enjoys sex, but she is never overly sexualized; there is nudity, but you’ll never see Alana in a skin-tight suit with her breasts popping out. Her outfits fit whatever terrain she is currently trying to traverse; you’ll never see her trying to climb a mountain or hike through snow in 4-inch-high-heels. In fact, Alana is surrounded by a slew of significant female leads including her mother in law. There is one female role, however, that blogger Maddie Rodriguez describes as a feminist nightmare. The Stalk embodies all the common stereotypes, “bleach-blond, pillow-lipped, busty, Barbie-wasted and constantly topless.” Why would the creators of Saga do this? It wouldn’t have anything to do with the fact that in addition to all the cliché’s described above, The Stalk is also a ruthless, half-spider, assassin. (Rodriguez) Essentially Saga lives to push the boundaries of what we perceive as acceptable in our society, a line equally pushed by the next comic I will talk about.
Like in Sage, Paper Girls immediately throws you into a situation where the socially acceptable version of a woman is thrown into question. One of the main characters, a twelve-year-old papergirl named Erin, is accosted by some older boys on Halloween, looking to take advantage of a “weak, helpless girl.” Then, the view pans and you are greeted by a full page spread of three commanding looking paper girls on bikes; with a speech bubble above the girl in lead saying “Cool costume, faggot.” This line is immediately followed by “You heard me, AIDS patient. Get lost.” (Vaughan) Now to be fair, those two lines hit pretty hard on some other social issues, but Mac, so called by her friends, is called out on that by those very same friends. Right off the bat, this comic hits you in the face, and it’s saying that this isn’t going to be another story where the hapless, helpless girls are saved by the macho heroic man. This comic is clearly aimed at an audience of girls closer to their early teens; through vulgarity and badass-ery it try’s to teach girls that they don’t need to be afraid of expressing themselves. The main girls aren’t dressed scandalously, showing no more skin than their forearms, neck, and face. Paper Girls even attempts to impress upon its audience that it is okay for girls to branch out into fields previously not occupied by women; shown when Erin recognizes Mac as the first girl paperboy. Furthering the punk machismo tone of this story Mac goes on to light up a cigarette and verbally go toe-to-toe with a police officer, not backing down until he drives away. Its obvious that Paper Girls doesn’t send the best message to children, and girls in particular; but the correct intention is there, and they do a damn good job at showing that women can be empowered.
Although technically the next two comics I want to talk about started out as television shows, I felt obligated to include them due to the nature of their strong female cast. Both Firefly and Buffy the Vampire Slayer were created by writer Joss Whedon; I don’t know what led to Whedon’s fascination with the strong female role, but he pulls it off in an unbelievable fashion. Firefly, a western set in space, introduces one of the strongest female leads I’ve ever seen. Zoe, described by her husband as a “warrior woman” takes no shit from anyone, and although not explicitly sexualized, still retains both her sexuality and allure. It is clear from the beginning that she does not need a man to make her happy; she is with her husband, not out of necessity, but because she loves him. In fact, Zoe and her husband Walsh basically switch classic gender roles. She is the one who goes out, fights battles, takes on jobs, and does most of the heavy lifting; while her husband stays home, or in this case the ship, and watches over things. There is another strong female lead I would like to mention, Anara; she is what the Firefly universe refers to as a Companion, in essence an escort. However, unlike how escorts are viewed in our society, Companions have unbelievable social standing, unfettered access to the core planets, and are viewed as spiritual leaders as well as sexual companions. This paired with Anara’s combat training makes for one powerful woman, and although she accepts cash for sex, she chooses her clients and has total control over her situation.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer is another series with a strong female presence; Buffy is the chosen one, picked to defend our world against the forces of evil. However, unlike Zoe in Firefly, Buffy’s attitude outside of her late night vampire ass kicking’s is very feminine. She wears makeup, dresses in clothes that although not scandalous, are not modest either, and she gets crushes. Though, there is always the underline concept that she can take care of herself. The great thing about this series is the diversity of the female lead, and that is covers several aspects of female empowerment including sexual freedom, or a woman’s right to choose her sexual partner regardless of race, gender, or in some cases mortality.
Next we have a comic that made huge waves when it was released, Spider-Gwen. In order to understand this comic, you need a little bit of backstory. Marvel recently released a new run of Spider-Man entitled The Amazing Spider-Man, in that run every Spider-Man from every universe came together to stop an enemy. In one of these universes Peter Parker never becomes Spider-Man, instead Gwen Stacy does. She was so popular in The Amazing Spider-Man, Marvel decided to give her, her own run, thus Spider-Gwen was born. This is truly a big deal, for two very important reasons; the first being that she basically took over for Spider-Man, one of Marvel’s oldest super heroes. Since comics started their climb up the ladder of successful forms of pop culture, they have really tried to diversify their lineup of superheroes. Incorporating more female leads, and even changing the race and sexual orientation of some of their older heroes. I believe that Spider-Gwen is the current culmination of that effort, her takeover of one of Marvel’s most notorious superheroes just shoes how ready the public is for a society more open to strong and influential women. The second reason why Spider-Gwen is such a big deal is because unlike every female superhero or villain, ever, she is not overly sexualized. Her suit isn’t skin tight, in fact it almost looks baggy on her, her female form although noticeable isn’t over exaggerated, and her shoes are appropriate for the type of work she is doing. I think this is an essential step forward for a genre overrun with leather suit wearing, busty women, generally placed in supporting roles. I’m very glad to see that Marvel is taking steps in the right direction, but why did it take so long to get to this point? Because although significant, it shouldn’t have taken until 2015 to get a female lead like Spider-Gwen, especially considering that the first major female superhero, Wonder Woman, was created in the 1940’s.
Wonder Woman is heralded as both a feminist icon and a failure; in reality she is a bit of both. When World War II began, American men were being shipped over seas to fight, this left a giant hole in the American workforce, and who better to fill that hole then women. There was this great call for women to stray away from their lives of complacency in the household, and to look for work in sectors usually occupied by men. One of the driving forces for this movement was the creation of Wonder Woman by writer and psychologist William Moulton Marston. Marston was a feminist, however, his version of feminism didn’t view men and women as equals but rather women as superior. By creating the hero of Wonder Woman he sought to achieve two goals; inspire women to reach their true potential, and to prepare young boys for the coming matriarchy (Duggan). During this time Wonder Woman was seen as this extremely independent woman, needing no help from men. In fact, she consistently cast aside the idea that all women want are a husband and children, and never being the damsel in distress herself, she is usually the one rescuing the main male figure, Steve Trevor. Now the way in which Wonder Woman was viewed during the war, and after the war was over, are very different and is the main reason there are ongoing discussions on whether she was an icon or failure. At the end of the war Wonder Woman began to transition from this solo superhero who cast aside modern ideals of a woman’s behavior, into this helpless damsel in distress whose main priority was her love life. At one point she even gives up her powers and Amazonian past in order to live a home life with male lead Steve Trevor. Although this major setback lasted until the 1960’s and 70’s, since then she has made a comeback, returning to her wartime ideals. Wonder Woman may be a scandal clad woman with a fixation with bondage (her golden lasso), but she was instrumental in the advancement of women in our society, and I would be remiss if I did not pay her all that she is due.
The equality of women in the eyes of men is something that can’t be changed overnight, nor is it something that one person can fix alone. However, that doesn’t mean that one person can’t make a difference. Expressing your convictions through a source of pop culture is important if there is ever to be significant change. It is more than obvious that people, both men and women, are trying to not only express a desire for gender equality, but are using that desire to exact change in their own work and the work of others. The comic as a media source is rapidly growing in both popularity and influence, and with great power comes great responsibility; what better way to test that power than to fight for a cause that should have been won decades ago.
Duggan, B. (2014). Wonder Woman: Feminist Icon, Feminist Failure, or Both? Retrieved June 05, 2016, from http://bigthink.com/Picture-This/wonder-woman-feminist-icon-feminist-failure-or-both
Latour, J., Rodriguez, R., Renzi, R., & Cowles, C. (n.d.). Spider-Gwen.
Rodriguez, M. (2014, December 3). Brian K. Vaughan’s ‘Saga’ Is the One Comic You’ll Be Hooked On — Even If You Don’t Read Comics. Retrieved June 05, 2016, from http://www.bustle.com/articles/51382-brian-k-vaughans-saga-is-the-one-comic-youll-be-hooked-on-even-if-you
Vaughan, B. K., Staples, F., & Stephenson, E. (2012). Saga. Berkeley, CA: Image Comics.
Vaughan, B. K., & Chiang, C. (2016). Paper girls. Berkeley, CA: Image Comics.
Theoretical Tweet: The ANGER and STRENGTH of one far outweighs the hate of many others. Tess Asplund, I am proud to live on the same planet as you.
Moisescu, C. (2016, May 5). Lone woman defies neo-Nazi march: ‘I was angry’ Retrieved May 06, 2016, from http://www.cnn.com/2016/05/05/europe/swedish-protest-nazis-woman/index.html
- (2016, May 4). Entomophagy Won’t Kill You: You’re Already Eating Bugs. Retrieved May 6, 2016, from https://twitter.com/4entoFOOD/status/727770036211953665
Entomophagy for Change
Being raised in western civilization, the farming industry is a natural part of our economy, it is something we don’t even question. However, can an industry as large as livestock production really have no drawbacks, are there no other solutions? According to van Huis (2011), greenhouse gas emissions from livestock production make up for about 18% of total human induced global emissions. The rearing of macro-livestock (cows, pigs, chickens, etc.) occupies one third of the Earth’s ice-free land surface, and meat consumption is expected to double in the next 40 years as people globally get wealthier (Mosley, 2014).
One of the biggest issues is cattle, or more precisely a cow’s diet. A cow is able to live on a diet of grass alone through a process called enteric fermentation, a digestive process that breaks down carbohydrates by microorganisms into simple molecules for absorption into the bloodstream of an animal. When the microbes break down the grass they produce methane gas that the cow then releases. (van Huis, 2011). A single cow can release 500 liters of methane each day, and with there being 1.5 billion cattle in the world, that’s roughly 750 billion liters of methane being released into the atmosphere every day (Mosley, 2014). That coupled with the fact that methane is 25 times more potent then carbon dioxide, is one of the main reasons that alternatives for macro-livestock are needed.
There are a few ways in which we could try to limit the amount of emissions produced by cattle; one such way is to change their diet to something that will produce less methane, another option is to choose a different kind of meat to eat, chickens and pigs produce far less emissions then cattle. The best strategy is to find another source of animal protein, which leads to the idea of entomophagy, or the consumption of insects by humans.
The idea of entomophagy is an age-old phenomenon as proved by archeological evidence and fossilized feces. However, the consumption of insects has been inhibited in western cultures due in large part to the advent of organized religions that allowed only certain meats to be eaten. As well as the impact of a globalizing fast-food culture; creating a large demand for macro-livestock, limiting the want for more sustainable substitutes such as entomophagy (Premalatha, Abbasi, Abbasi, & Abbasi, 2011).
Insects are poikilothermic, meaning they spend much less amounts of food energy and nutrients than macro-livestock. Plus they are much more efficient at transforming phytomass (plant biomass) into zoomass (animal biomass), far more animal protein is produced per kilogram of phytomass consumed by insects than their macro-livestock counterparts (Premalatha et al., 2011). Another advantage that insects have over macro-livestock, in terms of entomophagy, is that they have much higher fecundity and growth rates. Meaning that each individual has the ability to produce thousands of offspring as compared to just a few in conventional livestock, and these insect offspring reach adulthood in a matter of days compared to months for fowl or years for cattle (Premalatha et al., 2011).
Ultimately the livestock industry is unsustainable; it takes up too much space on our planet (approximately 1/3rd), the amount of meat produced is far less than desirable, and the environmental impacts are disastrous. Entomophagy is a great solution, however it is not the only one; going into the future it is important to recognize the limitations of our current system, and make changes to negate them.
Mosley, M., Dr. (2014, August 20). Can eating meat be eco-friendly? – BBC News. Retrieved January 20, 2016, from http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-28858289
Premalatha, M., Abbasi, T., Abbasi, T., & Abbasi, S. A. (2011). Energy-efficient food production to reduce global warming and ecodegradation : The use of edible insects. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 15(9), 4357–4360. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.rser.2011.07.115
van Huis, A. (2011). Potential of Insects as Food and Feed in Assuring Food Security. Annual Review of Entomology, 58, 120928130709004. http://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-ento-120811-153704
During this assignment I learned a few things but it started with the tweet. I have never really been into twitter and this assignment helped to push me out of my comfort zone, allowing me to create a tweet both powerful and bold. I think writing tweets can be simple but actually writing something that leaves an impression is hard. I also learned how difficult it is to write from a journalistic perspective because I am used to writing opinion pieces or research papers. Overall, I enjoyed this assignment because it really pushed me out of my comfort zone and allowed me to write from a perspective that I am not used to.
If you were born in the eighties or nineties you grew up around the reality of trained sea animals; seals, dolphins, and most importantly Orca whales. Orca’s, or more commonly known as killer whales, are gorgeously breathtaking creatures. So, naturally, showing these magnificent beasts off to the public is a good idea. Right? Well, according to the documentary Blackfish, it was wrong, so incredulously wrong. Never has a film been so in your face about the atrocities we have committed towards our neighbors in the animal kingdom. We took these children away from their mothers, their families; shipped them to unknown places; threw them in swimming pools, and left them there to live out the remainder of their days performing tricks as shadows of there former selves. From the beginning, the film holds nothing back, within a matter of minutes you are confronted with the fact that these captive whales are dangerous. It becomes clear that the deaths of SeaWorld trainers at the hands of captive killer whales is not due to the whale’s nature, but is due to the effect that captivity has on Orca’s. Blackfish makes clear the fact that Orca’s are extremely loving and family oriented creatures with the emotion centers of their brain being even more developed than that of a human’s brain. In addition, there has never been a single human death committed by an Orca in the wild.
Through every interview, every monologue, every clip; it is clear that what is being done to these animals is wrong, even the many trainers who spoke during this film admit to knowing that something about the situation didn’t seem right. The film is so powerful, captivating its audience from the get-go; contrasting the happy-go-lucky attitude of SeaWorld’s marketing team with the heart wrenching truth of every captive Orca’s reality. Some could say that Blackfish is biased; a film created by animal-loving, big company hating, activists. However, the truth of the matter is that this film is actually very accurate. There is no other way to tell this story without showing the facts, without saying “this is what the public was (is) being fed and this is what was (is) truly happening.” The directors use clips from inside SeaWorld, first hand accounts, documents, and scientific evidence to prove their point. That point being, Orca whales should not be held in captivity, we should not imprison them in a four by four cells of water, make them perform tricks like a common house pet, and not expect some sort of repercussions in return. There is only one real problem with this film and it’s that it doesn’t quite give enough. Blackfish proves without a doubt that what is being done to these animals is wrong, but what happens from there? After watching this film, what are we as a public supposed to do about it? It is easy to watch a film like Blackfish and feel anger and outrage, but often those feelings leave you as you exit the theatre. They get buried under thoughts of; “yeah it sucks, but what am I supposed to do about it? How am I supposed to stop a multi billion-dollar company like SeaWorld?” Often our outrage gets overcast by a lack of readily available solutions, and this is really the only thing lacking from an otherwise powerful and provocative film.
Cowperthwaite, G. (Director). (2013). Blackfish [Motion picture]. United States: CNN Films.
Group 1: (The Effects of Electronics)
So Group 1 decided to discuss the effects of the overuse of electronics in our current society, and the type of popular culture they chose was a magazine. They title their magazine TYTL or The Young Technology Label, and as far as I am concerned, they nailed it. For the amount of time we were given, they really did a fantastic job, so much so that if they continued this magazine outside of the classroom I would consider reading it. The magazine was both informative and engaging, with fun puzzle games to keep your attention, they really did a good job. In truth I never knew that internet/ cell phone addiction was such a problem, one that was actually being discussed out in the world. I mean, 1.6 million car crashes a year as a result of cell phone addition, with over three thousand resulting in death. That is real stuff.
Group 2: (Your Mental Heath and You)
Now I really enjoyed this groups project; as someone who has suffered from serious anxiety issues in the past, I truly understand the importance of tools used to lower stress, anxiety, and depression levels. The Zine that they created was gorgeous and really helped to get their message across; especially the sections on music, art, and literature therapy. Music can incite such emotion bringing some to tears by releasing bottled up emotions, and as far as literature therapy goes, its one of the best forms of self therapy. Just the simple act of writing about your day has been proven to lower stress and depression. I wish everyone in this group had brought the same passion to their sections, it felt like some of the latter sections were rushed and even though their means of relaxation were spot on, I didn’t learn much from them. Although over all I loved this project.
Group 3: (Podcast on Food Insecurity)
This group really went above and beyond, I thought nobody would choose a podcast as a media form because it takes a lot of planning, and generally you need experts to record. However, this group did it all, plus their topic is something I have a personal interest in. now, I already knew most of what was discussed during their podcast due to my own personal research on the matter, but there was one thing that Jessica Cole brought up that I didn’t know. I never realized there was so much talk going on recently about food security in higher education; I mean, you always here the jokes about a college students diet, but you never really understand until you’re actually living it. It’s true that financial aid doesn’t really account for the cost of food for students, but I don’t really think it is something you can solely blame on our financial aid system. For one, the cost of education in our country is quickly getting out of control, and the cost of living has been increasing in Portland at an alarming rate over the last decade.
Group 4: (Group Game – race equality in Hollywood)
I literally didn’t write a single note down about this group because I was so immersed in the game. It completely captivated me to the point that I forgot it was a group project I would have to write a reflection on. It was a fantastic game, bot creative, entertaining, and informative. They covered a lot of concepts that although not unknown to someone who watches Hollywood movies, but things that aren’t really discussed in depth. The more I played the game the more I really understood how much of a racial separation there is between lead actors in movies. Plus, the fact that it extends past the actors and into the executives who control Hollywood. What really surprised me was the bonus question; I never knew that 94% of all Hollywood executives were white, that really sucks, and shows how little progress the industry has taken towards race equality.
Group 5: (My Group)
My group was awesome, obviously we killed it so I’m going to move past us.
Group 6: (Cultural Diversity):
I thought that this group had a really interesting social issue; there is a lot you can learn about other cultures when you look at their food, clothing, and holidays. However, I’m not really sure what the popular culture form was, it looked like a power point. It was a good power point, but I’m not sure if you can classify it as a type of popular culture. Moving past that, I thought it was really interesting some of the points they brought up about cultural food, and how eating is generally a social gathering. People get together to enjoy a meal, and it brings them together; so it makes a lot of sense that if you wanted to learn more about a certain culture you should enjoy a meal with someone from that culture. Same thing goes for cultural Holidays; if you really want to learn about the values of a culture what better way than to experience traditions steeped in religious significance.
Group 7: (Life 2.0)
This group was fantastic; the game was meticulously thought out, and fit their social issue to a T. I actually considered doing a Life type game for our project and every idea that I had considered was included in Life 2.0, and then some. They included people of all different races, and did the research needed to figure out what kind of education was statistically more likely for a person of that race and gender. They research the type of jobs most likely to be acquired by each level of education and even included the types of housing usually offered to someone with a certain income. I also was really impressed with the wild cards, or the cards that had random things happen to players like win the lottery or go to the hospital. I was really disappointed I didn’t get to see this game demonstrated because in my opinion this group worked the hardest on their project by far, and I am including my group in this.
The social issue that my group and I chose was bullying; I know that a couple of my group members had younger siblings, but what really made this issue important to me was my sister. My sister is 12, and is a pretty big nerd, she loves Harry Potter, Pokémon, Star Trek, Star Wars, and so many other great things. Its one of the biggest things I love about her, but you know how kids her age can be, she gets a lot of grief for it sometimes. Kids can be mean, and so I wanted to use our project to make a point; not just to children, but to adults also. We settled on a children’s book as our popular culture form; we figured it could not only get the attention of children, but their parents as well. I do really like how our book turned out, but like most things, it could have been better given more time. Although it was perfect for the assignment given I was left with a sense of incompleteness because it truth this book will never reach the eyes for which it was intended. It makes me want to continue the work my group and I started so that our message is received by more than those in our class. It really surprised me how much enjoyment I got out of creating something with a purpose, and its something I want to delve into more. As far as the process of actually creating the children’s book, each person in my group had a specific task, and since I was the one with both the camera and Lord of the Rings action figures it fell on me to take the pictures that would be used as the graphics in the book. I don’t often have a reason to use my camera so I was really excited to stretch my photography wings. It was easily the most fun I’ve had this term in a class; having to set up all the figures in the correct ways, making them show emotions or actions outside of the personality of their character. My favorite scene to make by far was Lord Sauron being depressed in bed, holding the covers up to his face. Like always, I really enjoyed working in a group; some of my favorite projects have been done in groups; I find that in college, with so many lectures and large classroom sizes, we really don’t have the opportunity to get to know our classmates. Working in a group really gives one the opportunity to learn from their peers, and also the opportunity to work on a project type previously unexplored by oneself. If it wasn’t for Ali’s unbelievable skill with rhyming, we would never have been able to create such a wonderful story. Personally I drew a lot of inspiration for this project from the little girl who was interviewed during the Wonder Woman documentary. That girl is almost identical to my little sister, so much so that I actually thought it was her when I first watch that interview. That’s really what gave me the idea to center our project around bullying.
I absolutely love video games as a form of popular culture; there are so many directions a game can go, from a simplistic game aimed at teaching you something to an in depth fantasy world with the sole purpose of expanding your imagination through immersion. The best thing about video games is as they get more and more of a following around the world, the quality of games and the people they can impact just continue to grow. One of the biggest things coming to video games are the virtual reality headsets; it gives a whole new meaning to the idea of being immersed into a game. I am a pretty avid gamer, there are a lot of reasons why, but I think the biggest reason is that I often find myself bored in the 21st century. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of fun things about our world, and a lot of challenges, but like so many others in my generation, I yearn for something more. I want to fight a dragon, or escape from a horde of rampaging zombies, or just fly through space and discover what’s lurching in the dark corners of our universe. One of the most anticipated titles I have been waiting for is No-Mans-Sky; a space exploration game, but one that isn’t like anything we have seen before. What really makes this game different is the sheer vastness of the universe you play in; unlike other games, each planet isn’t created by hand. Every aspect of No-Mans-Sky is created by mathematical formulas, and because they haven’t needed to create the universe by drawing it they haven’t had to limit the size of the game. In No-Mans-Sky’s there are approximately 18 quintillion planets, and each planet is the size of an actual planet, meaning it would take roughly two weeks of gameplay to walk around the planet once. To me, this game represents where video games are taking u; we are getting closer and closer to being able to fully experience realities unavailable to us in the real world.
One of the most spectacular things about the current video game world is that there has been a stark increase of female gamers over the last two decades. According to a CNN article by Larry Frum, nearly 45% of all gamers are female; this is amazing to me, and it really shows how wide of an audience video games reach. The fact that there are more and more female gamers shows how video games have started to mature; and branched out to reach a wider audience. I’ve read a lot in the past couple of years on how women are fighting to make video game not only more gender equal, but to allow for the rise of powerful female characters who aren’t half naked all the time; this is something I can totally get behind. What really strikes me as surprising though, is that there are people who are threating women pushing for equality in video games. I had no idea that video game equality would be met with such animosity, but according to an article aptly named Gamergate, there are some pretty scary things being posted on social media sites. So worrisome in fact, that the FBI has taken a serious interest in the threats.
First off I just want to start by saying I am a huge comic book nerd, nerd in general really, but that’s besides the point. I included the noun nerd because for decades it was used to describe anyone who enjoyed comics or anything of the like. Realistically I am nothing like the classical description of a nerd, I played sports all throughout high school, hung with the “cool crowd” and generally kept all my nerdish tendencies to myself. It wasn’t till I graduated that I really started to accept that part of me; and it was at this time that I started to discover the true value of comics, superheroes, or anything beyond the scope of “normal” media. Let’s take Wonder Woman for example; she has been such an influential character when it comes to the empowerment of women. Although she was created by a man in the 1940’s, she showed that women didn’t have to be these helpless creatures forever destined to spend their lives in the kitchen or the bedroom. She has reached and inspired millions of women since her creation, and her influence still grows today with the creation of Wonder Women day celebrated in my very own home town of Portland, Oregon. She is even getting her own motion picture in 2017, which is a big deal considering most superhero movies are dominated by male leads. The value of comics doesn’t stop there though; marvel has recently started changing some of their leads to incorporate more forward-thinking ideals. Some examples are female Thor, further running with the idea of an empowered female lead, and male superheroes who are openly homosexual. It’s not just the superhero sub-genre of comics that are making social impacts; because the comic is such an opened platform for media with limited censorship, most indie comics cover ideas or concepts often too intense for traditional media. One of the first comics I ever read, Saga, combined cursing, uncensored sexual content, and genocide to make for a very impactful message. Going along with the strong female lead, the comic Paper Girls has an entire cast of females, and each one is more strong-willed and kickass than the last.
To be fair, it’s really easy to say that comics are impactful considering I am from the United States, built on all it’s free-speech, and freedom of the press greatness. However, it is not just the U.S. that is seeing the impact of comics. Dr. Naif al-Mutawa created The 99, an Arab style justice league; he is using comics infused with Arabic style ideals to promote tolerance and peace. In an article entitled “Islamic Super Heroes” President Obama is quoted, saying “His comic books (Dr. Mutawa’s) have captured the imagination of many young people. His superheroes embody the teachings and the tolerance of Islam.” This is just further proof of not only the ever growing popularity of comic books, but the significant role they can play on influencing not just the youth of the world, but people of all ages, and religions.
In an age where we are pummeled by media from every direction, I often become lost and unable to determine which source of media is truly relevant, and which is just tabloid garbage. This, along with the rise in technology, has really diminished the value of the written word. Why would we read a twenty-page journal article on the effects of Methane gas in the atmosphere, when we can watch a ten-minute clip on YouTube, and effectively proclaim to the entire populace that we are experts on the matter. In THIS generation, graphic novels such as Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi and Journalism by Joe Sacco holds true to the detailed text needed for certain stories while still catering to our ever growing want for captivating graphic forms of media. From the onset Persepolis captivates you, its artistic style of heavy black and white evenly separated comic strips along with the unintimidating text sizes draws you in. This novel, so unthreateningly simple at first glace is not all what it seems. You’ve heard the phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover” well Persepolis embodies this idea to it’s fullest. Told through the eyes of a child, this book lulls your mind into feelings of childlike euphoria, but this is when it gets interesting. Bam! All of a sudden you get images of death, of public executions, citywide bombings, and torture; and yet, the child’s demeanor doesn’t change, she still enjoys her life. I was so confused when I first saw this, the idea of these things happening in my own backyard is unfathomable to me as an American. We live in our own private bubble of 1st world safety, which is why it took me so long to realize that this was her reality. She lived this day and night, 24-7, four weeks a month, twelve months a year until she was twelve, that’s terrifying to me. This graphic novel, or comic book, or whatever you want to call it hit home with me; ripped through the numbness to violence of this age and hit home, that is not an easy accomplishment.
Now Journalism, although just as powerful, was a different kind of graphic novel all together. Containing several journalism stories in one book, Journalism takes a much more real approach to introducing you to some of the horrible realities of our world. Although still comic book-est, each image is based on real photos taken by Joe Sacco, and he focuses much more on the facial expressions of each person. The emotion of the scenes jumps out, you feel immersed, completely sure that you experienced this moment yourself and not through the lens of media. Interlaced with large quantities of text both narrative and speech, Journalism gives you everything found in a standard newspaper article. However, unlike it’s predecessor, Joe Sacco’s own style of media brings something more to the table; it brings human emotion, it brings depth, it brings reality. The rough rugged lines of his art combined with the deeply informative writing that only comes from a well decorated journalist, makes for an unbeatable combination. I’ve often wondered what it would be like to jump into my favorite books and experience them firsthand, however, after reading Journalism I wonder no longer.
Over the past couple of weeks my mind has been flooded with thoughts of how the media interacts with its citizens. It may be because I have been binge watching The West Wing, which has strong undertones of the bizarre and sometimes ruthless ways of the media. It’s also possible that both of my popular culture classes this term has something to do with my mind state; but the point is, I’ve been thinking about it. It’s because of this that David Puttnam’s Ted Talk on the role of the media in politics and democracy as a whole really lit a fire under me. He took the quote, “you must take care to avoid acts or omissions, which you could reasonably foresee would be likely to injure your neighbor,” and applied it to the broad definition the media seems to have of the truth. Puttnam concluded that the media has to decide if their job is to inflame or to inform. He strongly argues that it is their job to push the latter, and denies this as a form of censorship; he asks, why do both the truth and freedom of speech have to be mutually exclusive, why can’t large companies with greater influence be held to a higher standard? My answer would be; to impose these sort of limitation on the media would not only hurt freedom of speech, but would be a major blow to democracy. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely agree with the concept of higher standards for both the media and major corporations. I should not have to double or triple check something written in the paper just to make sure it is true, nor should I have to worry if companies are trying to pull a fast one on me. However, to impose such limitations breaks down the fundamental concepts on which this nation was built, and ultimately lessons the freedoms of its people.
Let’s take for example, Michael Pollan’s docuseries “Cooked,” which I feel really shows why limiting some forms of the media would be so difficult. On the one hand you have this great series that shows how the act of home cooking has been reduced by the rise of the fast food industry. The docuseries does a fantastic job of instilling in you the idea that the art of cooking is disappearing; everyday families taxed by ever increasing work hours find solace in easy, fast, and cheap food. Pollan even enforces his points by contrasting America with India. India, which is a rapidly developing country, is starting to feel the effects of the fast food industry. Pollan goes on to state that India has found a very real solution, a sort of Post Mates for home cooked meals, where mothers and daughters will contract out their skills as cooks. On the other hand, Pollan completely disregards the fact that a major reason why these mothers and daughters are contracting out their culinary skills is because the poverty level in India is rising do to their ever growing population, and in order for some families to survive, every member must work. Another issue is that Pollan barely spends any time talking about how much more expensive it is to cook at home, especially with fresh ingredients. Because we have our own issues with poverty, it just makes more sense to go out and eat the cheap stuff you can find at McDonalds or Taco Bell. Getting back to how this ties into regulation in the media, could we really condemn Pollan for omitting some of these facts? Or is “Cooked” truthful enough to pass Puttnam’s standards? And if so, is that where we drawn the line? My point is that once we begin to impose major restrictions on civil liberties, it wont stop until the core of democracy crumbles away, leaving our nation as nothing more than a hollow shell of what we once were.