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Week Eight: Music & Taste

Bourdieu believes taste is something that is acquired through habitus.  Habitus is our taste or liking of music, food, art, fashion, etc. based on our class, education or profession. He feels that lower and upper class people both use their cultural capital (knowledge of the culture or references) or social capital (personal connections and influence) to discriminate against other classes. Some examples that are relavent today would include hip hop and fine art for lower class and upper class, respectively.

Carl Wilson agrees but to an extent. He brings up the example that if one becomes a bank manager, it doesn’t mean that they’re going to like all that “high-brow” type of taste. Wilson also brings up distinction, in which people try to separate themselves from certain cliques. For example, if a nerd wanted to become cool, he might want to start listening to music cool people listen to while hating music nerds like. I tend to agree with Wilson more because I don’t think habitus has as much control as Bourdieu theorized it does.

Most of Celine Dion’s fans are older, middle-aged women that are typically classified as “soccer moms”. This has a huge effect on Dion’s perceived coolness. Coolness is usually defined by the younger generation and almost nobody wants to have the same taste as their mother. That is the biggest reason Dion’s coolness takes a monumental hit.


Major Post #1

In the “Average Asian” skit, MADtv is poking fun at all the stereotypes that the “average Asian” person goes through. When white people are in the majority, they tend to be more racist, albeit subconsciously. I’m not saying that white people aren’t racist when they’re alone with a majority, but it’s easier to be brave/racist when you have a crowd backing you. The first joke in the skit is when the Asian actor Bobby Lee, who plays Haidiki, walks into the house. The predominantly white guests begin to bow as soon as he walks into the door. The host, played by Stephnie Weir, accepts some wine as a gift from Lee and calls it “orijami”. Instead of handshakes or waving, MADtv pokes fun at the fact that Asians have a “monk” or “Zen-like” state of mind. People laugh because this isn’t how Asian Americans greet each other.  The denotative meaning in this case is just people greeting an arriving guest by bowing. But the connotative meaning tells us that the guests are being racist by assuming that Lee is a person that greets others by bowing.

The second joke that stuck out at me was when the couple tells Lee that they were considering adopting an “Oriental” baby because they were so cute when they are little, but were also against it because they get uglier as they grow older. The man in the couple then has the nerve to say “no offense” to Lee. On the surface, you don’t notice the part where the man says, “no offense”. It just seems as though they’re trying hard to get a laugh, but again, they are just pointing out things that actually happen to the average Asian person. MADtv is pointing out that people tend to say some deeply offensive things about someone and then cover it up by saying “no offense” especially to minorities, such as Asians. Oriental is also a term used that is out of date and used by people are ignorant and/or racist. The joke also takes a really dark turn when the man makes a face of utter disgust when referring to the appearance of a matured Asian person. So far the jokes in the skit had been poking fun at less harmful stereotypes, like origami and bowing, but this one outright calls grown Asian people, ugly. MADtv seems to be pointing out that the media feels fine not putting any Asians on television shows, movies, or advertisements because they don’t compare to the “white standard”. This forces people to think of Asians as ugly people, because they seem to be the most underrepresented race on television and movies. This seems to be the most telling joke of all. White people seem to find it all right to make fun of Asian appearances because they have the “nerd, smart” stereotype and assume they won’t fight back against the injustice.

The third joke is when the overzealous, patriot, played by Ike Barinholtz, challenges Lee to a ping pong match and wages $1,000 on the “red, white, and blue”. This is again poking fun at Asians and their prominence in the game of ping pong. The man takes it upon himself to challenge an Asian on behalf of all “red-blooded” Americans. Up to this point, the transitions for the show was a hook for a song “he’s an average Asian”, meaning he couldn’t do origami or help people with back problems because not all Asians can do that. At first, it seems like Lee was going to be an average Asian when it came to ping pong as well. But after he changes the paddle to his good hand, Lee dominates Barinholtz. The transition then changes to “he’s an expert Asian when it comes to ping pong”. MADtv allows one stereotype to be true because it shows that everyone is different. He might be good at ping pong but it’s not because he’s Asian, he’s just good at ping pong. The other stereotypes were not true and this one was, showing that yes someone could be upholding certain stereotypes, while not proving others right. The last joke was as simple as that. The skit pokes fun at Asian stereotypes but it also makes the white audience take a long look in the mirror by putting their racism on a mainstream stage.

Week Five: Race, Gender and Class Politics in Comedy

In Christopher Hitchens’ ‘Why Women Aren’t Funny‘, Hitchens takes a very close look at humor. He notes that humor is very stupid and men laugh at it because they are extremely stupid. Hitchens argues that men started being funny because they wanted to take shots at authoritative figures, in this case women. Women don’t care about being funny because they know it’s not a primary thing they should be concerned with.  They’re vessels of life and they don’t consider being funny more important than other things. Hitchens’ contribution was that women aren’t funny because of their innate choosing. Men need humor so they get validate themselves to women and they view funniness as a top priority for courting mates.

Alessandra Stanley’s views on women and humor can be seen in her article for Vanity Fair, ‘Who Says Women Aren’t Funny?‘. Stanley states women got their huge chance from cable. Chances began sprouting up because “there were too many hours to fill up and not enough men”. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler were absolute pioneers for female comedians. To be on television/cable, women had to be funny and attractive. She added a gem to my knowledge: funny women writers, such as Fey, have to tone down their sexist writers to make shows appeal to a broader audience.

In the blog post ‘Genderlicious: Dear Olivia Munn‘ by Thea Lim, Lim takes an angry stance against Munn and her ability to sell out her own race (and gender) so easily. Lim feels Munn doesn’t use the stage she was given as a Southeastern Asian woman to set a good example but instead uses it to give white people the ‘A-OK’ to laugh at (instead of with) Asians and women. On a segment on The Daily Show, Munn uses her stage to make fun of Vietnamese people and say Indians are “Asian-ish”, implying only Chinese and Japanse are true Asians. Lim taught me that audiences find it hard to take female comedians sorry because a select few would rather sell out to misogyny and racism than use their stage to show women of color can be funny and be laughed with.

Roseanne Barr’s ‘And I Should Know’ definitely exposes the sexism and classism in the television industry. Roseanne was told how to dress and was made to say sexist lines that she didn’t agree with. Roseanne received no credit from the beginning on a show that she created and when she got the number one television show, she was rewarded with chocolate ignoring the Porsches and Bentleys that were given to men previously. The worst thing was that she couldn’t quit because she knew there would be no other chance for her to create a feminist, working-class show in a male dominated world. Roseanne opened up my eyes to how incredibly sexist television actually is. She would just have to take the abuse and cry in her dressing room while men got all the credit. 

Rojas Questions

1. Lela Lee created Angry Asian Girl because she went to Spike and Mike’s Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation and felt like other “ethnic people” were being laughed at and mocked. Instead of laughing with her, Lee felt like they were laughing at her. This is similar to Dave Chappelle, who quit making Chappelle’s Show because he felt people were laughing at him instead of with him. Lee came up with a way to “speak out against injustice”.

2. Rojas means that people of color have the power to create anything they’d like but they could be providing the majority with a “conceptual blueprint” on which to establish stereotypes. One example is the Madea series. It was a way for people to show black women can stand up for themselves but instead the majority sees Madea as a loud, angry, and obnoxious woman and it pins all black women with this label. Another example of this is some Asians being proud of their studious nature, and their hard work paying of in high grades. The majority twisted this into a “Chinese kids are robots who do nothing but study while their parents are unrealistic and strict. The High Expectations Asian Father meme and Glee’s “Asian F” episode in which Mike Chang gets an A- while everyone goes ballistic are further proof of this.

3. Alicia Gaspar de Alba dislikes the use of the word “subculture” because she feels it carries an incredibly negative connotation with it. She prefers “alter-Native” because it reinforces the fact that Chicano culture, although in the minority to white America, is not considered inferior.

4. Rasquache is a type of art that uses the cheapest, easy to find materials and making into something to be prideful about. It’s akin to making the most out of a bad situation. One example is the transforming of a cheap car into a canvas of culture with hydraulics that becomes the red dye that mixes into society’s melting pot. Another example that could be considered rasquache is the use of plastic ziplock bags as beverage holders. On a trip to Guatemala, I ordered an horchata and found the vendor used ziplock bags instead of cups. This is making the most out of the cheapest materials you have.

5. Anger plays such a huge role in the productions of women of color, especially black women. There is always an angry black woman in a predominantly black film. It’s the staple, cliche, etc. that black films carry around with them. This is exactly how pop culture has trivialized it. They just add it to every film. You can’t take people with angry dispositions seriously. It’s unrealistic for anyone to be that angry all the time, so people just dismiss it as “Oh Madea, she is so sassy (another word associated with black women) and angry at everything all the time”. Madea might have valid points at times, but it gets easier to dismiss these points when the character has become a cliche.

Week Four: Critical Frameworks Bechdel Test for Race Part II

This was an interesting experience becase my friends and I had tried to figure out how many predominantly white tv shows had more than two people of color in them. We came up with Grey’s Anatomy, The Office, Community, and Scrubs. We had no idea that this was being looked at in a scholarly manner.

For films, it’s definitely harder. I tried to think of any for five minutes without any help and was shooting blanks. The film industry could be (and is) racist. There’s no other way of putting. Whether saying audiences wouldn’t want to watch black people do things on the big screen or not being able to relate, it’s all veiled racism.

Week Four: Critical Frameworks The Bechdel Test Part I

Black Swan – Passes the test because the two main people are Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis and they talk about ballet.

Drive – Does not pass the test because it does not have more than 2 women.

Ides of March – Does not pass the test because the women don’t talk to each other.

The Help – It passes the test because it’s a mainly women cast who talk of things not having to do with men.

Crazy, Stupid, Love – Does not pass the test. The women in the movie don’t speak to each other about anything other than men.

Sherlock Holmes II – Does not pass the test.

Kung-Fu Panda II – The women characters don’t talk to each other.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II – Though the film has multiple strong women, they rarely talk and if they do it’s about the men in the movie.

50/50 – It has multiple women characters but they do not converse.

Puss in Boots – It had some women but they did not talk to each other.


The Bechdel Test was a really interesting way of looking at something that most people overlook.  Filmmakers are not degrading women explicitly, but instead are limiting their roles and typecasting them into roles that enforce stereotypes. If they do put multiple female roles into a movie, they usually are there to talk about the male protagonist. It’s a shame that there aren’t many roles women can play without having to lean on a man.

 Week Two: Ima…

 Week Two: Images, Power & Politics Reading Questions/Activities  
Signifier – It’s straightforward. You’re slapped across the face with “It’s not for women” right next to some Diet Dr Pepper.
Signified – It projects sexism. It aims for the male demographic by completely alienating the women demographic.
Sign – By saying “It’s not for women”, Dr Pepper is somewhat challenging men to buy the drink to prove how much of a man you really are. It even could be aiming slightly at women with the reverse psychology angle. Women might want to prove the ad wrong and play right into the hands of the marketing team at Dr Pepper.
Denotative meaning – The advertisement is stating the drink is not made for women.
Connotative meaning – It’s playing to the stereotype that society has that men are stronger, more powerful and tougher than women.
Michael Jordan is an icon. He started as a third overall pick going to the Chicago Bulls and now he’s a household name around the world. When he went to Barcelona for the 1992 Summer Olympics, he was by far the most popular player there. If you ask anyone to name a basketball player, they will say Michael Jordan. His influence hasn’t stopped there. Current greats like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and Dwyane Wade are judged by the standards he created. He has people killing others for shoes he wears.
Representation – This refers to the use of language and images to create meaning about the world. There are many systems of representations (film, paintings, fashion, etc.). ‘Modern Family’ is a show on ABC that (somewhat) breaks away from the ‘one mom, one dad, couple children’ mold that’s been on television since ‘Leave It to Beaver’.  Sure there’s a family that represents the traditional family but there’s also a gay couple with a child and an older man with a woman half his age. It’s showing that not everyone has a traditional family and that’s just fine.
Myth – A myth is a story passed down from many generations that usually explained something that wasn’t easily explainable by humans without science long ago (such as how the world began, rain, death, etc.). Christianity and all other religions are myths because they cannot be proven true (with facts) but they also can’t be proven false. Christianity, like most myths, tell a story of how the world supposedly started and also tells exaggerated stories in order to teach people morals the creators of the myth thought were important.

Week One: What is popular culture? And, why does it matter?
  • Where has Freccero taught courses on popular culture?  How did these different experiences influence Freccero’s style of teaching or pedagogy?
Freccero has taught courses on popular culture at Dartmouth College and the University of California at Santa Cruz. Dartmouth, as expected, was a strongly conservative college. Her students didn’t really feel like pop culture was important and she had to find ways to convince them it was important. Santa Cruz is the exact opposite. It is as liberal as a school can be, so teaching popular culture would be more accepted than a conservative school.
  • What are the primary reasons Freccero gives for teaching popular culture?  What do you think of her reasons?  What reasons would you give for studying popular culture?
Freccero says that “public culture” already studies pop culture. It already argues, praises, or condemns pop culture so it’s not like studying popular culture in a classroom is a radical idea.  She also mentions “Cultural Literacy”. Her reasons are valid enough, her first one especially. Pop culture dominates our daily lives and to not study it would be foolish. A reason I would give for studying pop culture is to get an upperhand in business. If you know what’s popular (especially amongst 18-24 year olds), then it should be easier to market to them.
  • Freccero’s piece is from the introduction to her book Popular Culture: An Introduction, which was published in 1999.  How has the popular culture landscape changed since the time that Freccero initially wrote and published her book?  What examples would you suggest to make the chapter more relevant to audiences and readers of 2011/12?
In 1999, the biggest medium for pop culture was television. In 2012, it is without a doubt the internet. Now people can get their fifteen minutes of fame by making a subpar music video with horrible singing (ala Rebecca Black). Memes and their continuing popularity would get a huge spot in today’s version of this chapter. Sites like 4chan, Reddit, and Tumblr would have their own chapter as the genesis of many pop culture waves and memes.
  • What specific advice does the author of “How to be a fan of problematic things” give to her readers?  What problematic things are you a fan of?
You must acknowledge the thing that is problematic and refuse to make excuses for why it is problematic. You must take a step back and learn how to argue and criticize something you like without taking those arguments personally. You have to take other people’s views and criticism of your problematic thing and respect that opinion. I am a fan of Big L, the Wu Tang Clan, and Kanye West who have been accused of misogyny and homophobia.
  • According to s.e. smith, what is wrong with the idea that pop culture is ‘just’ entertainment?  Identify times and places when you have heard people make this argument.

Smith argues that you can’t dismiss a show, movie, commercial or video game as “just” a show, movie, commercial or video game because it represents, subconsciously, how certain people perceive themselves and others in a certain culture. My friends argue that Go Daddy commercials are funny and “just” commercials. But it shows the people that created it think women and their bodies are just objects to control or manipulate men into buying a product/service while simultaneous hurting the feminist movement.

What I think pop culture is:

The Simpsons have been synonymous with pop culture for over a decade.

What I don’t think pop culture is:

Boxers are just undergarments.

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