whitewashed: breaking through

View the Zeega documentary here: http://zeega.com/121175

WHITEWASHED: BREAKING THROUGH is an expository take on the treatment of Asians/Asian Americans in the music and entertainment industry. This documentary is narrated by three Filipino American hopefuls, one who aspires to be a Broadway star, another who is a singer/songwriter, and one who is a DJ/hip hop artist. Through their experiences being both Asian American and a creative individual, WHITEWASHED gives viewers the ability to see how difficult it may be to break into mainstream media from three different sides of the spectrum. Accompanying these interviews are supplementary footage that further explains and gives insight to the subject at hand.

This interactive documentary aims to showcase the talent of young individuals living in a society that is slowly beginning to accept them for who they are, without focusing on racial/ethnic constructs.

Satan’s Trance

The juxtaposition of horror film/television clips, and electronic music (with cosmological and haunting characteristics), and documentary footage from raves/electronic music festivals (that possess qualities of the occult) is experimented in this project.

With these media devices combined, I hope to embody this sensory experience that Grosz explains “as the contraction of vibrations…the forces of becoming-other” (Chaos, Territory, Art: Deleuze and the Framing of the Earth, 80-1). Essentially, how can we experience Hollywood-defined magic and the magic associated with music and rave culture differently?

The quandry of it as the mediation of object and experience, or science and religion, is what drew me to this video experimentation of the mediations created by media in occult and horror film. While sensation is, perhaps, the only state of consciousness that is impossible to scientifically measure, as are the limits of magic, I find it more valuable to visually see how it can be created/manipulated.

Continue reading this analysis here: Satan’s Trance

“Whitewashed”

Most refer to the term “whitewashed” in reference to the way someone of a minority race acts, talks, dresses, etc. I’ve always had a problem with this word and want to re-define it in a way that can educate and eliminate the stereotypes we have in our society.

“Whitewashed” surrounds the issue of Asian/Asian American representation in the media, and addresses the following questions: How do these messages and images translate to how we see ourselves in the real world? Does it affect the way we wear our hair or put on our makeup? Are we appropriated by “beauty” standards or do we fight against them?

Growing up biracial, the rarity of having a role-model in mainstream media that was identified and portrayed as a person of mixed race affected my own perception of self in society. Questions of whether to identify as solely Caucasian or Asian, or how to cope with this struggle are issues many like myself have dealt with even throughout adulthood. While today’s literature examine both topics separately, there are no studies that confront their interrelatedness. There are also no full-length documentaries that challenge the pragmatics of mixed race representation in media and popular culture, and its effects on multiracial people. There exists countless films, plays, music and text that feature multiracial Asians whose ethnicities are rarely acknowledged. Instead, Hollywood reverts to what I refer as “whitewashing,” a term that is the premise of my documentary and a topic we have yet to see covered in documentary film.

The entertainment industry has its checklist for actors and musicians regarding their physical appearance. Half Asians do exist in the media yet their ethnicities are consistently whitewashed. When biracial actors are casted as monoracial characters, it presents a fetishized and ideal Hollywood image of race provoking false imagery to viewers. In the 2003 film Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, Chinese actress Lucy Liu’s father is played by a Caucasian actor; in 2009, Caucasian actor Justin Chatwin played the famous Japanese anime character Son Goku in Dragonball: Evolution. In Sika Alaine Dagbovie’s “Star-Light, Star-Bright, Star Damn Near White: Mixed-Race Superstars,” she states, “In the entertainment industry, a star’s biracial identity may fade, be tucked away or even disappear according to audience perceptions and star construction” (2007, 219). Though the author primarily focuses on African American celebrities, she makes a clear point that these biracial stars’ roles can easily be reduced to either “tragic or exotic” (Dagbovie 2007, 221). Actor Dean Cain, who is half Japanese, is known for his role as Clark Kent/Superman in the television series Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. While Cain does not play an Asian character, there is an underlying tragedy in the role of Clark having to be two separate people, which is essentially what biracial actors must struggle with. Exoticism is portrayed in the recent series Nikita where lead actress Maggie Q, half Vietnamese, is the typical dominatrix, yet her ethnicity is never acknowledged. These are two prime examples of whitewashing and they have yet to be exposed in documentary cinema.

Continue reading this literature review here.

Blogs: The Vogue of the Internet

An examination of a blogger’s power in the fashion industry.

In 2009, designers Yohji Yamamoto and Marc Jacobs invited a 13 year-old blogger to sit front row at their headlining Spring fashion shows during New York Fashion Week. Almost overnight, bloggers ascended from the seats behind their computer desks to the front row. Sitting amidst prominent entrepreneurs in the industry like Vogue’s Editor-At-Large, Anna Wintour was the eighth grade blogger, Tavi Gevinson. Within two years Gevinson’s fashion fame led to a number of collaborations with designers, guests posts for blogs, and most recently the launch of her own online magazine, Rookie.com. This teenager is only one among the hundreds of “influential” bloggers known worldwide who boast thousands of followers and make yearly salaries of up to three-figures. Bloggers today hold an incredible amount of power in all realms of fashion due to the success of their technological counterparts. Reigning over web portals, bloggers are now regarded as the Young Turks of the fashion world, the new gate-keepers of dictating trends. This essay will explore the virtual trendsetters’ convergence in fashion media outlets and how their powerful role in the blogophere is changing the industry.

Continue reading here: Blogs: The Vogue of the Internet

“A Feminist and Ideological Examination of Clueless”

Senior Thesis, Loyola Marymount University ’10

The purpose of this study is to understand the 1995 film, Clueless, in its social context through feminist, ideological and metaphoric lenses. In the zeitgeist of the 1990s, the Generation X movement serves as inspiration for the “coming-of-age” movie that Clueless embodies, but uniquely through comedic and satirical elements. The director, Amy Heckerling envisions the culture of the 1990s through metaphors that exist within the film. Clueless is a representation of third-wave feminist discourse through the main character Cher and her best friend’s exercise of girl power. The paradox of a feminist text however, exists within the ideologies of womanhood and how the teenagers are characterized as stereotypical of Beverly Hills, California. Ultimately, these characters and the backdrop of California serve as metaphors in understanding society’s role as a determinant for stereotypes and eventually, self-growth.

“Outside a new day is dawning
Outside Suburbia’s sprawling everywhere…
New York to East California
There’s a new wave coming I warn you
We’re the kids in America.”

-The Muffs, “Kids in America”

Read it in its entirety here: A Feminist and Ideological Examination of Clueless

An Analysis of Counterfeit Culture

For those that take an interest in fashion, wearing the latest trends in designer labels can be easy for the financially stable, yet prove to be very difficult for those that cannot afford them. From purses to jackets, sunglasses to high heels, the counterfeit merchandise culture has become one of the most popular alternatives to owning designer fashion. These counterfeit manufacturers are increasingly growing in expertise that it is now difficult to tell the real from the fake. In fact, a recent episode of the television show, The City¸ proved that even the creative director of Elle magazine could not tell the difference between a real and fake handbag. With price tags up to more than half the price of the original, the growing popularity of counterfeit goods leads me to examine how it shapes our society into consumer culture. Using the theories of Pierre Bourdieu and Jean Baudrillard, I will examine the extent of power the designers and consumers have in the reproduction and consumption of counterfeit goods. While both theorists agree that the power to buy knock-offs lies in the buyer, ultimately it is the consumer culture we live in that guides our desires in owning the latest trends.

Counterfeiting is illegal worldwide, yet there is always a high demand for knock-off designer goods. Selling these counterfeit purses and watches attracts naïve tourists and employs those that need to make ends meet despite the consequences of their vendors being shut down. Bourdieu would find the phenomenon of counterfeit merchandise as a result of culture because he sees it as a type of economy, or marketplace (Ritzer, p. 181). People utilize their cultural norms rather than economic capital. When people see a Rolex watch, they associate the person wearing it to having high status. However, if the Rolex is counterfeit, that person’s status is called to question. Bourdieu believes that “people pursue distinction in a range of cultural fields” (Ritzer, p. 181). Society distinguishes what is high or low class by the products that are consumed by each class. Counterfeit goods are most commonly associated with lower class statuses. Because they are sold on the streets of Chinatown and not Rodeo drive, counterfeit goods carry the demeanor of being cheap and low class. Bourdieu explains “rational” habitus as the “precondition for appropriate economic behavior” (p. 64). Thus, a capital that exists in a lower economic status will produce goods that are accessible to those living in that habitus. In relation to field, the acquisition of capital for the designer goods is low in economic, cultural, social and symbolic capital and therefore this habitus must provide an alternative—counterfeit goods.

Continue reading here: Sociological Analysis of Conterfeit Culture

On Sororities

In January 2010, when the spring semester at LMU beings, approximately four hundred girls will “rush” for their desired sorority. Mostly comprised of freshman, these girls will spend their first weekend of school prepping for “rush” parties where they meet sorority members who will later on determine their fate. The three-day long recruitment process is understood to be an emotional roller-coaster. Throughout the weekend, girls are chatting, eating, and breathing sororities and Greek life to the point where they become sleep deprived and exhausted. The longing to get an invitation back to the sorority of their preference awaits them on the final night of rush week. Bid night is one of happiness and sadness as girls open their bid cards to find either an invitation to the sorority of their dreams or be crushed with defeat. Is ending up in the sorority of her second-choice suffice? In this paper, we will explore the different facets of LMU sorority life.

A total of ten girls participated in our focus group, in which seven were active members of a sorority and three had dropped out. This sample of girls was perfect in getting a sense of what it is like to be a part of a sorority at LMU. In this paper, we will first discuss our methods of conducting the focus group study; second, we will discuss our findings and themes that emerged from discussion; lastly, we will further examine the limitations of research and opportunities for further research on this topic.

Continue reading this research paper here: Sororities at LMU

Critical Response to Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance”

In the documentary, Dreamworlds 3, Sut Jhally states that in order for a musical artist to have a successful music video, “the more bizarre, the better.” The word, “bizarre,” has no connotation to the female body, but music videos define this word as having much to do with how the female is perceived. Though Lady Gaga is a female empowering artists, her new video, “Bad Romance,” both conforms and deviates from the videos in Dreamworlds 3. “Bad Romance” is a successfully bizarre music video, though not in the way Sut Jhally defines it. The video begins with an eerie instrumental with Lady Gaga posed at the center of her posse. Unlike the image of women that Dreamworlds 3 portrays, as being estranged from the male artist and are presented as an accessory for men, Lady Gaga is positioned at the center sitting on a throne. This is an image that is most commonly seen in rap videos and a woman is rarely put in that position. In this sense, Lady Gaga deviates from the gender roles told in Jhally’s film. However, images of Gaga are still seem from the “male gaze” that is common to almost all music videos that Jhally and Gayle Wald point out.

In Gayle Ward’s article, “I Want it That Way: Tennybopper Music and the Girling of Boy Bands,” she states, “female gender traditionally has been defined in relation to women’s perceived availability to a sexualizing and objectifying (male) performers” (p. 128). Throughout the “Bad Romance” video, Lady Gaga is acting in relation to how she wants to be perceived by the surrounding males. Though she is not physically grinding (dirty dancing) on the men, commonly seen in hip-hop videos, she still dances in front of them and gives them a show. Dreamworlds 3 suggests that without the presence of a man, women are subjected to finding other ways of pleasure. They look at themselves in a mirror or sensually touch themselves to fulfill what is missing. In “Bad Romance,” there is a moment when Lady Gaga has a still pose in front of a mirror. As she sings, “I want the touch of your hand,” she moves her hand down to her crotch in a Michael Jackson-esque manner. The choreography of “Bad Romance” is also comprised of dance moves that require touching the body, which conforms to Dreamworlds 3’s main argument.

Sut Jhally says that in music videos, women are used to get attention and to tell a story. Though not as sexually abused as the women in hip-hop videos, Gaga uses her body as a piece of art. She wears little to no clothes in most of the sequences yet the camera does not pan up and down her body to examine it. Instead, the camera captures a full view of her body as she poses. The only close-up footage of Gaga is her face. There is one sequence in the video where Lady Gaga is completely nude, though she portrays some kind of mammal, with visible vertebrae on her back. The scene is shot in a very dark room so the body is barely visible and in no way does it provoke a sexual innuendo, despite the fact that she is naked. In these scenes her privates cannot be seen on camera, something very different from that of a naked girl in a hip hop music video.

In “Who(se) Am I,” the author says that although female empowering artists “speak of the sexual power they have as being derived from their physical attractiveness to men,” it is still a “power granted by male desire, rather than a statement of the power of female sexual desire” (p. 142). This is seen throughout the Lady Gaga video however in the end, she lays in bed next to the charred corpse of the man she seduces appearing to have killed him after having sex with him. The dominatrix image Lady Gaga portrays both deviates and conforms to Dreamworlds 3, in that she is presented as a sexual aggressor though she appeared to have her way in the end. Jhally states that music videos present women as sexual aggressors. These ideas are relevant in Lady Gaga’s video and the song itself. The concept is a double-edged sword; artists that want to further their success in the music industry seem to have no choice in conforming, though not completely, to what is “normal” for music videos.

The Effect of Online Social Networking on College Students

During the last five years, the social networking phenomenon has caught the attention of college and high school students. Sites like Facebook and MySpace give anyone the ability to communicate with friends, family, and co-workers—even complete strangers. Though Facebook, for example, started as a site devoted solely to college students, its popularity and expansion has led to this incredible level of worldwide access. Now, anyone from every dimension of the world can join the Facebook community, meaning that anyone can view a user profile. College and high school students still make up a large population on these sites and are unaware of the consequences that follow routine updates of their public profiles. With international access, how are students to know who views their profile and personal information? While Facebook gives the option to control privacy levels, some users choose not to take advantage of it. The result is public scrutiny or unwanted admiration by users that view personal photos, comments between friends and other visible applications. Upon seeing the information displayed in a profile, a user unknowingly creates an identity and image that is perceived negatively or positively by other users.

The power of social networking has control over our perceptions and behavior. In the beginning of my study, I wanted to examine the effect of Facebook and MySpace on college students. I decided to focus solely on Facebook and not MySpace because over the past four years, Facebook transformed magnificently to being the primary mode of communication for college students. Though MySpace provides great insight to extensive identity construction, with the personalization of a profile page, the tools Facebook uses to generate an “image” was a better fit for my research.

I began my research with the question, how much of an impact do social networking sites have on college students? Essentially, how can viewing a profile alter views of our peers? In his article, “Facing up to Facebook,” David Eberhardt writes, “some students form negative opinions about their new peers before they ever personally meet them” (2007, p. 21). For incoming freshmen, their first instinct is to look up their assigned roommate on Facebook; based on what they see on his/her profile, the student determines whether or not they will get along. This kind of prejudging behavior “robs incoming students of significant social learning opportunities” (Eberhardt, p. 21). The immediate perceptions formed just by looking at a Facebook profile affect they way in which students make friends on and off-line.

From this I developed my hypothesis that all college students rely on Facebook for peer communication. Considering how students portray themselves through online social networks raises concerns about how online social networking affects students’ integrity and identity formation. I hypothesized that students use Facebook to meet new people and form perceptions of them. When students depict themselves as something other than their authentic, David Eberhardt predicts the result as an attempt to express behaviors that match that false image. “If students choose to act in this manner, many of their personal resources may become directed toward fulfilling a vision of themselves that has been created to match their perceptions of what others expect rather than learning to find their own voice and determining their genuine identity” (Eberhardt, 2007, p. 21).

Continue reading here: The Effect of Online Social Networking on College Students