Thursday, June 01, 2006

As an orientation leader, I go through several training topics and last night, we had a panel of GLBT (gay , lesbian, bisexual, and transgender) people come and speak with us on issues and presentation styles. I thought that I was knowledgable and accepting of these lifestyles, but the panel made me question that previous thought. I was especially shocked to hear about the transgender panelist and his experiences. He was born a female and has now fully transformed into a male..facial hair and all. Frankly, I was more impressed than anything. It was so useful to hear what questions are inappropriate (anything having to do with surgery when you first meet and what their former name was). That small bit of training I received, I feel as though I will use the rest of my life. The panel introduced me to the ALLY program at UNT, which does more indepth training with this subject matter, and I am very interested in becoming and ALLY for my own knowledge.

In class today, we ran across the subject of quality vs quantity in terms of Gay characters. Even though characters in tv shows and movies usually backup stereotypes of gays...should we just be happy that they are represented at all? Dr. Lambiase also mentioned that a similar question was brought up when women began assimilating into the newsroom. Should I just be appeased because a lady is anchoring the news..or should I be concerned about if she is good at anchoring the news. This is a difficult question. I am still uncertain as to how I feel when it comes to this quality vs quantity thing. I seem to wavier from situation to situation; perhaps we must be happy for quantity and slowly move into highter quality as the area becomes more accepting. I think that we have moved into quality vs quanity in terms of gender in some newsrooms, and I think the gay arena will soon make the move in that direction as well.

Final Project!!

In my research project, I chose to examine the original reality television show, MTV’s “The Real World”. A teenage favorite for over a decade, the Real World pumps out numerous stereotypes and population representation for millions of impressionable viewers; but how much of it is true? I ventured out to look into how the demographics of the 17 seasons of The Real World compare to the demographics of the United States.

Though I was not able to find any studies relating to my topic, I was able to find a little bit of literature and research on the topic. Mostly, the literature claimed that most all of the Real World content is contrived and edited to fit the producers’ intentions, which is common knowledge! Many reunion episodes show former cast members complaining about how they were falsely portrayed on the show and how they were misrepresented.

I began my study with a few questions:

1. What is the male to female ratio and is it realistic?

2. Are races depicted accurately in terms of percentages?

3. Is there an over-representation of GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender) in the cast?

4. Are Americans with disabilities represented in the cast accurately in numbers?

I looked on The Real World’s website to get season by season biographies and picture of each cast member. Using those, I then coded all 123 cast members in terms of gender, race, sexual orientation, and disability. The genders were coded as male and female. Race was divided into white, black, Hispanic, and Asian; in two cases, where a cast member was of mixed race, I went with the race that they most identified with. Sexual Orientation was divided by either being straight or GLBT. In terms of disabilities, I looked for cast members with obvious or known physical disabilities. Although a few cast members had odd circumstances such as cancer, HIV, Lyme’s Disease, and Cystic Fibrosis, I did not include them in the disabilities category. I calculated the percentages of each section of the study: gender, race, sexual orientation, and disability in terms of the 123 total cast members.

I then went to the 2000 US Census to find the percentages of gender, race and disability in terms of the total US population. I had to look elsewhere to find the percentage of GLBT Americans in terms of the total population, but I did find it through the Family Research Institute.

My findings were interesting in several different ways. The 2000 US Census found that there were more males than females in persons under the age of 18. The target age group is around that area, although the cast members’ ages ranged anywhere from 18 at the time of participation. The margin of difference was slim however, with only about 2 million more males than females. With cast members from The Real World, the genders were almost equal, with 61 males and 62 females. The 2000 US Census found that around 75% of Americans considered themselves white; about 67% of Real World cast members were white. The census showed only 12% of America considered themselves black; the percentage of black cast members was 22%. Hispanic Americans make up 12% of the population; on The Real World, Hispanics made up only 6.5% of cast members. Lastly, the census reported that Asians made up 4% of the American population; on The Real World, Asians maintained 4.9% of the cast make up. In the category of sexual orientation, the Family Research Institute found that less than 5% of the American population consists of GLBT persons; on The Real World, over 11% of cast members considered themselves to be GLBT. Finally, the 2000 US Census claims that as many as 1 in 5 Americans live with disabilities, yet not one Real World cast member was shown to have a disability.

To conclude, I was very surprised with my findings. When going through and coding in terms of gender, I seemed to notice marking male after male, yet the outcome did not show that. I also had previously thought that was the token black person thrown into ever cast for diversity, but I am happy to report that that isn’t always the case. I must admit, though, that season 10 and 12 had a lot to do with the numbers of black representation, with each season having 3. I had predicted also, that the Hispanic population would be severely lacking in the early years, but change as the US population changed. My findings suggest that the representation remained steady throughout the 17 seasons and MTV did not load Hispanics into the last few seasons. Another detail that I would not expect is the accurate representation of Asian cast members. Recalling off hand, I could only think of 2 cast members that were of Asian decent, but history corrected my view. I did predict the over representation of the GLBT population, thinking back to almost every season having at least one GLBT cast member. The research proved my thinking wrong, showing that 6 seasons had not GLBT cast members, while 3 seasons had two each. I link the over representation of the GLBT population with the fact that one of its creators is gay. I do have to credit The Real World with helping bring GLBT issues and people into the mainstream, helping them gain acceptance and attention. In the end, I must admit that The Real World does a better job of realistically representing the US population that I expected, although there is much room for improvement. Also, people may attack The Real World for dealing in stereotypes and generalizations, but it doesn’t seem to completely deny those claims. On the MTV website, you can actually take a quiz to see what personality type you may be in the house: are you the slut? The wild one? I thought the quiz was a nice touch to fend off too much criticism and confess a little bit of tongue-in-cheekiness to the series.

Sources:

MTV. The Real World. 2006. http://www.mtv.com/onair/realworld/

Wikipedia. US Census 2000. 2006.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_2000_Census#Population_profile

Family Research Institute. “The Numbers Game: What Percentage of the Population is Gay?”

1999. http://www.familyresearchinst.org/FRI_AIM_Talk.html

United States Department of Commerce News. Baby Boom Brought Biggest Increases
            Among People 45-to-54 Years Old. 2001.

http://www.census.gov/Press-Release/www/2001/cb01cn184.html

MTV. “The Real World Personality Generator”. 2006.

http://www.mtv.com/onair/realworld/season13/assets/quiz.jhtml

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

I am an orientation leader at UNT and I am required to do hours and hours of training with about 25 other people. Today in training, we were talking about sexual harrassment and abuse. The question arose about what was considered rape and someone made a comment jokingly (I don't remember the comment, but that is not important) and then declared "man law". I laughed - but not because this was in anyway funny. I laughed because I was thinking about our class discussion on those commercials and how grossly inappropriate what comment was. Also, as orientation leaders, we are suppose to be sensitive and well rounded...that showed that we were anything but.

One day of class, someone mentioned that children are being sexualized at a very young age and she knows of small children saying things about giving head or prositution. This may be shocking, but it is true. My mother is a kindergarten teacher in Mesquite and comes home with similar stories all the time. A little girl in her class once asked a boy if he would have sex with her. Another time, a little girl showed other classmates her "boobs". My mother speaks in disbelief and amazement that these 5 and 6 year olds know these terms and talk about them. She says that it is getting worse every year and that parents are getting younger and younger. Although I was shocked at the time I heard these stories, it didn't truly hit me until it was mentioned in class. Not only is it shocking, but it is disturbing and something needs to be done...but what?

Although this course is fundamentally about race and gender...it has made me think about many other things in the media. One thing that is hardly seen or mentioned in the media are those people with handicaps. In magazines, ads, and television, it is rare to see people in a wheelchair or with crutches or down's syndrome. Every once and a while, I do come across a person in a wheelchair in a JC Penny catalog, but that is about it. This spawned my thoughts in to television; I began to think about shows with handicapped characters. Very few shows have regular, main characters with dissabilities; the only ones that I could think of were Malcom in the Middle (Stevie) and ER (Dr. Weaver). I also thought about that 80s or early 90s show with Corky, who had down's syndrome.I wonder if this is a true representation of the population or how many characters there have been with dissabilities in television.

One thing that this class has made me think a lot about is parenting. Dr. Lambiase is always talking about her dialogue between her and her daughters...and I think that is important. I think a lot of problems in society today could be prevented if parents would talk more openly with their children. This course made me understand that and how important it really is. People always talk about having to have "the talk" about sex or hormonal changes, but it should go beyond that. I will certainly talk with my children about television. I also would have put a television in my child's room without a thought...but the more I have thought about it recently, the more certain I am that I will not put a television in their room. Parents do not necessarily need to censor tv for their children, but they do need to make sure the children understand the context of the situation and be able to answer questions.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

“Perhaps Sex (and Violence) Doesn’t Sell”

Commercials aired during violent or sexual television shows are not as effective in being stored in the immediate memory as opposed to those commercials airing during neutral television shows. These same findings also held true in terms of long term memory.

In the previous study done by Bonacci and Bushman (“Violence and Sex Impair Memory for Television Ads,” Journal of Applied Psychology, 00219010, Jun2002, Vol. 87, Issue 3) reveals that when people watch television shows containing sexual or violent content, their memory does not absorb the information contained in commercial breaks as well as it would if the television show there were watching has no sex or violence. 324 adults took part in the study and were divided and assigned to watch either a violent, sexual, or neutral television show. They were all shown the same commercials during their given show and then asked to recall the brands being advertised after their show. The participants were then called 24 hours later and asked to do the same.

The most relevant study that was referenced in this particular study was Bushman, B. J. (1998). Effects of television violence on memory for commercial messages. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 4, 291-307. It seems as though Bushman has been researching on this topic for quite a while. This study focused on the violence aspect and not the sexual aspect. I see this study as an expansion of the previous studies done by Bushman. The previous study also had similar findings in that violent programming resulted in less commercial attention.

My corpus and method was similar to what Bonacci and Bushman did, though on a much smaller scale with my TiVo. I took three males of similar age, and had them each individually watch a violent television show (WWF wrestling). I then asked them to recall what products had been advertised during the show. Later, I had the same guys watch a sexually oriented show (The Howard Stern Show) and asked them to recall what products had been advertised during the show. Lastly, I had the same guys watch a neutral television show (American’s Funniest Home Videos) and had them recall the products advertised.

My findings showed that all three guys did better in recalling the products advertised during the neutral show. The guy #1 recalled 4 products during the neutral show, while only recalling 2-3 products in the sexual and violent shows. Guy #2 recalled 5 products during the neutral show, while recalling 2-3 products during the sexual and violent shows. Guy #3 was only able to recall 3 product during the neutral show, 1 during the violent show, and 0 during the sexual show.

After viewing the studies done by Bushman and Bonacci and doing my own mini study, I must conclude that the mind absorbs more from advertising while viewing a show without strong sexual or violent content. It is suggested that sexual and violent shows attract more attention and focus, not allowing the viewer to used that attention and focus on advertising.

We were talking today about Jennifer Aniston and Britney Spears and how they were a product and always had an image to uphold. I would same that perhaps the best available example of someone being a product is Jessica Simpson. As a singer, she was not very successful, only after marrying Nick Lachey and having their television show, the Newlyweds, did Jessica Simpson reach true fame. This was because America, for some reason, liked her personality. Jessica Simpon's product is herself and she was expanded by creating her own cosmetic line, hair extension line, and jean line. She has also endorsed everything from pizza, to mints, to face wash. Every star has an off day, and the tabloids get the opportunity to expose them without any make up or in sweats. Jessica Simpson is so keenly aware that she is a product that I have never seen a picture of her in which she wasn't made up and prepared to be photographed.
Not to seem like a Jessica Simpson fan (because I am not), but she also plays into stereotypes of blonde women. She plays the role of the dumb blonde that cannot think or take care of herself. Her husband or friend or parents are constantly around her and she is always spewing out thoughtless comments that have made her so "endearing". I suspect that she is not as dumb as she lets on and that she is using the stereotype to make money.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The video we watched in class today was very though provoking and interesting. I never really realized just how sexualized advertising was. After watching the video, I cannot watch television commercials without analyzing them to an extent. We saw one sexual ad for fishing line and when I went home, I saw an extremely sexual ad for tires. The commercial is a couple dancing in the rain, dressed in all white; a couple dressed in black begins dancing in the rain in a split screen. Then, a set of tires appears in the middle of the screen in the rain that is really all there is to the commercial. I found it rather ridiculous and not helpful to the product.

One of the most eye opening points was that part that talked about children in advertising and how little boys were always shown as active and that little girls are usually shown passively. After seeing this in class, I went home and looked over a magazine that I had. I did notice that girls were playing second fiddle to boys and that the “boys will be boys” attitude was really being pushed in these advertisements.

At the same time, I can’t help but think that the lady in the video was a little over the top. Although her points are valid, I do not think that everything is done so intentionally. Perhaps I am naïve, but I do not believe that everything means something. I don’t really have anything to back my opinion up, but that is how I feel.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Looking over the newspaper today was really interesting and made me think about and realize just how unbalanced it was. I was not surprised to see the unbalanced sex lines in the sports pages, but I actually was surprised to see how unbalanced the race lines were. African Americans were overwhelmingly more represented than whites, which add to the stereotype of African Americans being good at sports. I was also not surprised to find that in the family section, women far outweighed men in coverage.

My section to look at was the Guide Live section of the Dallas Morning News. The ratios of men to women are pretty much equal in sources and focus. The ratio that was severely lacking is that between races. Throughout the entire section, every single photo or story was focused on a white person, except one. I do want to point out that there were several ethnicities represented. Nonetheless, this was disappointing and something that the Guide should look at.

The topic today of the press coverage between Jessica Lynch and Shoshanna Johnson was very interesting. I only backed up the theory that Johnson’s media coverage was lacking, seeing as how I had never heard of her before. After looking over the women’s coverage, I really don’t think that race has such a factor in the media coverage (although I don’t deny that it probably did play some part). I think the major factor is that Jessica Lynch’s story was first. American media loves new things and firsts; whatever is second is almost old news. I really believe that Lynch coming out first played a major role in her press coverage. However, Johnson was rescued within a very short period, while Lynch was still in the news. I would think that the news programs would pick her story up to join in on the cause.

Perhaps some reasoning behind the difference in coverage is the difference in women. Shoshanna Johnson seemed to fit the role of a military woman better than Lynch. Johnson was always pictured in fatigues and came from a military family. When looking at photographs and reading further about her, I got the impression that she was strong and perhaps well prepared for whatever may happen in the military. Photographs of Lynch portray her as the average girl, and the average girl is not prepared to be a POW! I realize that I am playing into the media portrayal and stereotypes, but those stereotypes have some ground.

There is no doubt that the media did not give the press coverage that Shoshanna Johnson deserved, there is also no doubt that Jessica Lynch got way more then her fair share. There is definitely a hint of agenda setting with this situation. I believe that each soldier, especially injured soldiers, deserve recognition, and the media needs to set guidelines for how to cover these soldiers.

I have never considered the different types of research that journalists use to compile information. Furthermore, I have never considered the different categories that such research is placed. In my experience, broadcast journalists rely heavily on qualitative research by interviewing various sources. Setting up interviews, composing thought and sound-bite provoking questions, and following through with it all is hard work and very effective. I find it almost insulting that it is referred to as “soft” research, though I understand.

When we talked about analyzing categories and how the media tends to be both sexist and racist in their sources and subjects, I thought about my own work. I have never concerned myself with balancing my stories in such a way. In the past, I have only thought about what sources are available to me and their credibility. In the future, I will most certainly give thought about maintaining a balance of race, gender, age, class, and levels of efficiency.

I learned a lot from the first day of class, especially that I can pay attention for four hours straight! One of the more interesting things that I came across during class is the idea of media literacy. At first, I did not quite understand media literacy, but as the description continued, I began to not only understand, but agree with the idea. It is important that people do not take everything they hear from the media as straight truth, without thinking in their own minds about what is being said. I do find myself questioning reporters and networks from time to time and I occasionally look further into an issue, but I though that is because I am a journalism major. Another aspect of media literacy that I notice myself picking up on is how things are presented visually on news programs and on printed pages. I am able to point out angles, shots, graphics, and other techniques used to enhance or place emphasis on certain things in the media to my friends. I realize that a lot of this is due to me being a journalism major, but I am glad that I am able to do so and not just take everything at face value.

I also enjoyed learning about Schaden Freude in class. I know the feeling of smugly smiling when someone you dislike fails (is that evil?); I just never knew that they had a name for it!

Lastly, Zingrone’s idea of simplex is something that I am really drawn to. It is a fact that news anchors must resort to a form of simplex when presenting difficult issues to a broad audience of varying education and understanding. The news cannot help but use simplex, can they? I have put a lot of thought into that question, and have come up with little. With just a limit on space and time, reporters cannot fully delve into a subject. The best way that the media can deal with complicated issues is by referring people to websites or other places where they might be able to find other information. This way, people that do not understand or would like more information can do so.