Archive for the 'j4250' Category

Models are skinny, America is Fat. Can we balance the scales?

July 26, 2012

Killing Us Softly is a video series which analyzes advertising’s image of women by Jean Kilbourne, Ed.D. Dr. Kilbourne is a feminist author, speaker, and filmmaker who is internationally recognized for her work on the image of women in advertising.

Killing Us Softly 4is an update to the series she began in 1979. In the update,  Dr. Kilbourne said that media’s portrayal of women isn’t getting better. It is getting worse. I tend to agree.

However, I am conflicted. The examples that she showed were mostly from fashion magazines and show models who are unnaturally skinny. In several cases the models had visible rib cages. The video specifically mentions Ana Carolina Reston, a Brazilian fashion model who passed away in 2006 as a result of an eating disorder. At the time of her death, Reston weighed just 88 lbs.

Ana Reston from Sept. 2006.

Ana Reston at the London Fashion Week, September 2006

Reston’s Wikipedia entry states:

She had a body mass index (BMI) of only 13.4, well below the index value of 16 which the World Health Organization considers to be starvation.

By no means can this be considered healthy. I do not even find this attractive. Skeletons are not sexy. I think that The Dove® Campaign for Real Beautyis a perfect example on how to present real women with realistic sizes and still show their beauty without starving themselves.

The Dove® Campaign for Real Beauty

My problem with this is this argument is contradictory to the messages we are getting from our health officials. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) is reporting obesity levels are reaching epidemic proportions. More than one-third (35.7%) of U.S. adults are obese.  In 2010, Dr. Richard Carmona, the 17th U.S. Surgeon General reported U.S. adult obesity levels at 50%.

In my Race & Gender in the Media course, we discussed the Killing Us Softly video. The majority of the discussion was from the female students and the general impression I got was that they equate beauty with weight.

I cannot say that I disagree, but I think that there is some missing data. I think that Americans are consuming their media differently and I don’t think that these advertisements are reaching the younger audiences today the same way they were ten years ago.

Most teens and tweens are getting the majority of their news from Twitter. More Americans get their news from the Internet than from newspapers or radio, and three-fourths say they hear of news via e-mail or updates on social media sites.

I can say that my own personal habits reflect this entirely. I almost refuse to watch broadcast television so I can avoid the bombardment of advertisements. I get my news almost exclusively from the internet. I have iPad apps installed for CNN, AP, NY Times, Huffington Post, BBC, and Al Jazeera. I even have an adblocker app that keeps out the iAds. I can keep my information mostly advertisement free. When I do watch television shows, I prefer to catch them on Netflix or DVD boxsets to avoid the commercials. I stopped buying magazines because I hated buying a 200 page publication with only about 20 pages of copy.

I grew tired of all of the advertisements and decided that it would make more sense to consume information in the way I wanted to. I suggest that everyone do the same and focus on their own media literacy. Know where the messages are coming from and make up your own mind. It also wouldn’t hurt to exercise every once and a while.

-this post was also used as an assignment for JOUR 4250 (Race/Gender and the Media)

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Bechdel test on video games

July 19, 2012

In my Race & Gender in the Media course this week, I was introduced to the Bechdel test.

The Bechdel test is credited to Bechdel’s friend Liz Wallace and appears in a 1985 strip entitled “The Rule”. One of the characters says that she only watches a movie if it satisfies the following requirements:

1. It has to have at least two women in it, who

2. talk to each other, about

3.  something besides a man.

In class, we saw a clip from Feminist Frequency which added one other stipulation to her evaluation of movies: it had to include a full minute of dialogue between the two women.

I am still unclear if this actually means it has to be a continuous minute of dialogue between the two female characters or if the total has to add up to 60 seconds.  I sincerely hope it is the latter because I don’t think I want to watch any film that has huge chunks of dialogue without an action break. (I will be at tonight’s midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises. My opinion on this is rather skewed. I am a blockbuster junkie). But this particular rule shouldn’t be applied to video games since the action breaks are not the same as a motion picture. Most video games have long pauses in dialogue and poor camera angles. Take nearly any video game’s cut scenes and cobble them together into one video and it makes for very boring watching (Xenosaga is the first that comes to mind).

This week, the Gamelogical Society posted a list of 15 video games that pass the Bechdel test. I would like to add my own list of video games that meet this requirement. Please remember that Bechdel herself notes that her test is no indicator of quality, and that plenty of movies that pass it aren’t worth watching. This is also true for the games in my list and in no way are an indicator of quality. Plus, I am only including games I have actually played. Coming up with this list is more difficult than I thought. I had a hard time finding an Xbox360 game that passed the Bechdel test unless the protagonist was female. Most of these games give the player the option to create their character and choose the gender. Some of these franchises include: Fallout, Elder Scrolls, Mass Effect, Saints Row

1. Final Fantasy X-2 (2003, PS2)

Final Fantasy X-2 is the first direct sequel in the renowned RPG series. The story takes place two years after Yuna defeated Sin in Final Fantasy X, and follows Yuna’s journey to find her lost love. X-2 features an all-female led cast. The main characters were fitted with a Charlie’s Angels-like motif (which can be painful to watch at times).

2. Persona 3 Portable (2010, PSP)

This one is a bit of a cheat because Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Portable is an enhanced remake of Persona 3 for the PlayStation Portable.  The most noticeable difference from the original is the player would now have the option to play as a female character (previously male was the only option). This selection alters some aspects of the story: the first Persona gained by the Protagonist, Orpheus, has a different appearance; Igor’s assistant in the Velvet Room, Elizabeth, can be replaced with a male equivalent named Theodore.  The gender choice also alters some aspects of the Social Link stories. Again, this one is a bit of a stretch because all of the dialogues with the Protagonist and the female characters are one sided. The character you play as does not have any speaking lines, but the other characters respond to you as if you have said something. I include this in my list because playing as a female protagonist changes the game play and character reactions to create a different story than the original.

3. Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly (2003, PS2)

Twin sisters Mio and Mayu Amakura are visiting the spot where they used to play as children and follow a mysterious red butterfly deep into the woods. The two girls are led to a village shrouded in fog. While it seems abandoned, the twins soon realize that the tortured souls of the dead roam, forever reliving the day of the failed ceremony that trapped them in this state. For most of the game, the player controls Mio who is searching for her lost twin. Her only weapon is the “Camera Obscura,” an antique camera with the ability to take pictures of the ghosts and exorcise them. Cut scenes show extended scenes with the twins in conversation. *NOTE: This is probably the scariest game I have ever played in my life. It is difficult to doa full review on it because I was hiding under a blanket for most of the game.

I had never considered the topic of female equality in games before the classroom discourse. I am very aware that most video games are geared toward adolescent males. Most depictions of females are highly sexualized and do not fairly depict females by any stretch of the imagination. Gaming trends are changing quickly as more females are becoming visible players.

In a report, entitled 2011 Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry (here) the Entertainment Software Association (ESA)  revealed some new numbers about female gamers, including their growing presence in the gaming audience. As of 2010, 42 percent of the gaming audience is female, up from 40 percent the previous year. And, interestingly enough, turning the whole “video games are for teenage boys” stereotype on its head, women 18 and older make up more of the gaming audience than boys 17 and younger.

-this post was also used as an assignment for JOUR 4250 (Race/Gender and the Media)

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