Posts to look out for!

Hello hello, people on wordpress––

I’ve been working on multiple posts at once and they are all still half-baked (blog-wise). But I hope to get them “off the press” soon, so watch out for them please!

RuPaul and the Male Gayz

  • What is drag?
  • Drag hierarchy
  • Blurring of gendered and racial identities (White female, gay male, African-American voices)

When Best of Asia meets America

  • This was initially a blogpost that grew into my second response paper. I looked at BoA, a successful and powerful K-Pop singer/dancer, and her attempt at entering the “Dreamworld”––the US mainstream media culture.
  • Price of Entry; Male gaze; who’s telling the story? 

Also also, I am considering a video narrative project for my Gender & Media final project to talk more about K-pop and its evolution into (or adoption of) Dreamworld.

  • Transformation of Korean girl-group, Wonder Girls
    • from Hyuna (of Wonder Girls) to HyunA (solo debut)
    • Innocent image of the past vs. Exotic sexuality of the present (ft. Akon)

As much as we hear from speakers, documentaries, and articles on the negative effects of media, the solution suggested for the problems has been a bit passive, if not disappointing––that we should educate each other and the young consumers to be media literate.
But this remote system seems to be a first step from passive outlook on media literacy to a more interactive approach; although the device is made for a classroom setting, I feel that it can be utilized outside the class if guided with an already media literate mentor (parents, older siblings, etc.) to finally start to combat some negative effects, if not habits, emerging from the media. It is as if this series of apps is trying to make a statement that if smartphones, with their unprecedented popularity and their perceived necessity, has been used to infiltrate within the users with bigger and more frequent images, stereotypes, and harmful messages, that it can also be used “against” the media. Check it out.

Renee Hobbs at the Media Education Lab

Media Literacy Remote ControlBy Jonathan Friesem


Ever since the Media Education Lab moved from Temple University to the University of Rhode Island, I was looking for a chance to update the classic media literacy “remote control,” first developed by Renee Hobbs in 1993.

While the remote control presents a metaphor for the active and structured approach to the analysis of media and popular culture, the remote control is gradually being replaced by the smartphone. So when I was preparing to present our work at conferences and meetings in China and Israel, I re-designed the remote control design, changing it to a smartphone look while keeping the key questions and core concepts the same. Now the new media literacy smartphone is available for purchase in inexpensive classroom sets for educators

Jonathan Friesem demonstrates the new MEL app for media literacyIn early January, I was invited to present the core concepts of media literacy in front of a leading group of communication…

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Is it too late?

Yuri’s comment from our previous class really struck me as I was thinking about my own growth from a teenager to a young adult. Sitting in the Gender & Media class, I only now am starting to see the aspect of images and representations in the media that should make me tilt my head, question, and take action (whether it be sharing my thoughts on this blog, or doing my own investigation to find a more helpful context). But outside of class, I get swept up in the everyday cycle and continue to not only evaluate myself, but also let others evaluate me based on these images and (mis)representations of me in the media. By “me”, I mean identities of myself both visible and invisible––male, Asian (South Korea), adult, international student, gay, cisgendered, able. If I have been socialized to evaluate myself against white, male, heterosexual, and attractive ideal within a heteronormative society for the first 18 years of my life, how do I learn to unlearn these “values” and respect myself more? Even looking back at my high school years, I realize how unaware I was of the stereotypes and inaccurate representations of Asians and gay/lesbian people were both in the media and the society (and the lack of representation of gay Asians, transgendered people, asexual people). Not only was the message from the society strong enough to suppress me into denying my own identity, but it was also showing me that my underrepresented or misrepresented identities didn’t really matter––that putting a pink triangle on your backpack, eating cafeteria-versions of “Asian” food during the Chinese New Year, and going to Asian Students Associations (school affinity group) was “enough”. I’m learning to really examine the world around me, but it’s proving to be a difficult process to maintain, and that it seems like the rest of the world hasn’t changed––my friends from high school who share multiple identities as me go on with their “normal”, more familiar ways. So is it too late––for me to completely rewire myself, for my generation to become more aware, and for the world to take action?

[200 Pounds Beauty] Is to be beautiful to be in pain?: Film/Reading Parallel

“Cultural messages on the rewards of thinness and the punishments of obesity are everywhere. … Most women accept society’s standards of beauty as “the way things are,” even though these standards may undermine self-image, self-esteem, or physical well-being” (Hesse-Bieber, 616).

Jung-min: There are 3 types of women for men. Look. Pretty ones. They’re a treasure. The average ones. We’re a present. You? A reject! Get it now?

Jung-min: Remember 3 types of women I told you about?
Hanna: I’m a pretty one now.
Jung-min: No. It doesn’t apply. You know why? Those with plastic surgery aren’t women. But monsters.

Jung-min: All men are the same. They say plastic surgery is okay, but not with their girls. That’s men. And Sang-jun is a typical [South Korean] man. Or he’s gay.

Hanna’s best friend, Jung-min, illustrates the mindset and awareness of the “most women” (context: In the Hesse-Bieber reading, she talks about and defines the average, media savvy––and media-conscious––woman that describes the women of the society) in society that “accept society’s standards of beauty as ‘the way things are[,]’ and clearly defines the hierarchy in these “standards[.]” Not only is Jung-min trying to ‘educate’ Hannah about the social systems––the “standards[,]” but she also embodies all aspects of “most women” in South Korean society. (616)

“A woman’s sense of worth in our culture is still greatly determined by her ability to attract a man. Social status is largely a function of income and occupation. … Even a woman with a successful and lucrative career may fear that her success comes at the expense of her femininity.” (616)

Sang-jun: Hanna is the one to be crying. She’s talented but ugly and fat. You’re untalented but gorgeous and sexy. You got it all going.

Sang-jun outlines the way the industry––and “our culture”––works; Hanna is considered worthless regardless of her voice and talent since her ability to attract a man is insufficient; Ammy, on the other hand, thrives from her attractiveness and her femininity at the expense of her individuality (and the possibility of actually improving her singing).

Hanna, after her transformation, gains a new privilege––her attractiveness––that almost make her feel infinitely powerful. [00:36:35]; [00:39:00]; [00:40:57]; [00:41:10]; [00:42:28].

However, Hanna struggles to keep up with the “ideal” image of attractive women; she is discouraged when she cannot attract the man of her dreams, Sang-jun.

Dr. Lee: Do you know what it is? It’s lack of confidence. Didn’t I tell you? Unless you act confidently, you can’t win his heart. Beauty is attitude.

The plastic surgeon later uses fashion magazines to ensue in Hanna the “attitude” and “self-esteem,” which she mimics in hopes of attracting Sang-jun. What the plot of the film refreshingly takes on to present us with the male character who, in the end, does not  go by the standards of the media and society. (He still gets a “perfectly-thin” girlfriend.) However, how can anyone expect to gain self-confidence and “attitude” from the images in the magazine that uphold unnatural sexuality and put down the “real” self-identity of the reader?

Hanna soon realizes that her sense of worth is not justified by the superficial attention she receives, and that the standard of “attractiveness” may never be satisfied.

Pres. Choi: By the way… Let’s get your face fixed up. Slit your eyes bigger, and get your nose raised.
Hanna: Wait. Are you telling me that I’m not pretty enough?

Hanna: It’s scary. So I’m only a product. Hanna is worthless, but Jenny is a fortune. Is that it? Because of you, [I’ve been thinking] that I’ve been deceiving you. It’s been so hard. Now I see I was a big fool.

Hanna: Do you find me repulsive with plastic surgery? Scared? … Get rid of these. They’re repulsive and scary.
This film, overall, does not necessarily condone plastic surgery; it bluntly shines light on the superficiality of our standards of beauty, the society’s treatment of women, and the different kinds of pain women endure to fit in and survive.
Even as the film ends on a happy-ending with all loose ends tied up, the last message it leaves the audience with is the image of the “average” woman striving to physically mold herself into the society’s standards, turning to plastic surgery and sacrificing her time and money, and enduring pain of a full body surgery. [01:54:09]
 The men in the film do not face any real pain, nor do they go through any change (except for maybe Sang-jun and his growth in perspectives). The rather shady plastic surgeon thrives on his fame and enjoys his position of power as an upper-class and professional male.
I highly recommend this film, for its messages and its well-timed humor to make its more difficult messages heard.

“I look awful.” “No, I look awful!” (“You look perfect to me.”)

I have noticed, but more so after attending this Gender & Popular Media class, that the standard of beauty we each have is causing us to internalize the message (“This is what beautiful / sexy / attractive / (fill in the blank) looks like. This is how beautiful people dress / behave / sound / live. This is what beautiful people buy / eat / believe in / do.”) by recognizing the things we don’t do––and therefore we are not beautiful or sexy or wanted. We are told to feel that we are not what we want to be.

This type of self-criticism based on false evaluations wasn’t anything new or surprising or all that hidden; however, the way these messages can be manipulated to target different groups of people––whether the group identification is based on gender, age, race, sexuality, ability, or class––was rather a shock to me, especially since I had not noticed how much of my own self-identity was shaped and twisted by the media and the (South Korean) social norm, even when their standards really aren’t relevant anymore here in the US.

I kept on finding myself in situations or conversations that seemed to perpetuate the downward spiral of our self-esteem and self-image; my boyfriend and I would see each other, and see a piece of ourselves that didn’t deem “good enough.” (Good enough for what?) Sometimes it’s just a couple of bittersweet admiration of each other, while at other times, it almost becomes a contest of who looks more “awful” based on our different standards of beauty set by our cultural differences.

For me, being thin or skinny has never been a good thing. Being a male in Korea, I was always harassed by older relatives, friends (both guys and girls), and the popular media’s portrayal of men, for being “too skinny,” “too scrawny,” and “looking weak.” Although being skinny wasn’t entirely my fault (I was a preemie baby), by the time I was old enough to do something about “it”, internalization and socialization have already taken their toll and I spent more time worrying about six-pack abs and workout routines than anything else.

For my boyfriend, it was an entirely different story. The issue of obesity in America has been the most influential message for him while growing up, and this has evolved into the general dislike or prejudice against overweight or “fat” people and a constant concern about gaining weight. He firmly believes that he is “fat,” and that my skinny body type was “the ideal.” To me, not only does my boyfriend seem just perfect with his current body, but his juxtaposition of my body-image to lower his own also does not make sense, both because I feel that his perception is skewed and because I myself do not see my own body-image as “the ideal.”

Here are some snippets of the “positive” traits we see in each other:

  • I am skinny.
  • My boyfriend has masculine body.
  • I have the “Asian hair” (apparently it always looks good).
  • My boyfriend has green eyes (and bigger eyes).
  • I have little facial hair.
  • My boyfriend can grow a beard.

Of course none of these “positive” traits are focused on our intellect or personality while we are on the downward-spiral competition. And we would both deny the other’s compliments, out of modesty or denial.

But what these experiences make clear for me is the illogicality and the foolishness of human perceptions forged by the messages we consume from the media (and the society). How can one trait, being “skinny” for example, be both admired and despised at the same time?

It’s almost as if the media and the companies who benefit from the paid messages are trying to minimize the deadweight loss of their target audience. A shampoo company could profit from hair thickening shampoo by idealizing thick, strong, and possibly more masculine hair to my boyfriend, while marketing another, hair softening shampoo product by idealizing a smoother, softer, and silkier hair for people with much coarser hair like me.

The media is tapping into our insecurities, and we are also at fault for perpetuating these negative mindsets about ourselves and each other. The popular media definitely has to step up their game and stop intoxicating the masses’ mind, but we also have to step back, take a deep breath, and shut down our own internalizing machine.

The Power of Swarming (Social Media on Popular Media)

This clip of the TV show Grey’s Anatomy gives a perfect example of the power of Twitter and how the senior leader who wanted to shut it down became a believer of twitter as a teaching medium of international reach. ––shezthatgirl

Twitter (or tweeting) can be considered “micro-blogging”, where users, under anonymous handles, share their thoughts, information, data, news, gossip, etc. using 140 characters or less.

The depiction of Twitter use in this video is, of course, exaggerated––I know that my gut feeling, however outdated or conservative it may seem, would be to feel uncomfortable being operated on while the surgeons tweet on their smartphones. However, this episode illustrates one of the key points set out in today’s reading (Gilmor, Citizen Media):

“Preserving old-fashioned privacy was impossible, [David Brin] said, because modern technology would overwhelm us with its snooping power and the collection of vast amounts of data.” (60)
“And they’re doing it by informing each other, in an open source manner that brings the community’s best minds to bear on common problems.” (53)

Two heads are better than one, and this––now widespread––form of info-sharing and data swarming multiplies the effect (positive or negative) by billions. And not just within the twittersphere but it is happening in the Web and flowing in and out––online and offline––of everyday life.

Riley Rants and She is Right

Why are the big bad companies trying to trick girls into buying princesses?

Cognitive psychology tells us that media acts as socialization agents. And we are (or we should be) all aware of it, and it doesn’t matter how old you are to see that in action. Riley, in the video, is only four years old. The effects of media is clear to her and is a very visible phenomenon for her. She just doesn’t have all the answers and solutions…yet. When will everyone hear it? When will we share the kind of burning passion Riley has and take a stand?

the discrepancy between the “ideal” usage of Facebook and how most users interact with the website always amazes me. but what really resonate with me, however superficially, are the promotional video contents put out by Facebook (and other big companies like myspace). the quality, the optimism, the surreality, the idealism. it’s all in there. but are they really?


Away from the talk of how useful Facebook’s new Graph Search will eventually prove to be, this rather dream-like video promoting the service also caught my eye.

It suggests Facebook is as much afraid of the growing misconception of digital dualism, as it is of being seen to invade privacy.

The advert encourages the idea that people who use Facebook are also more social away from the site.

The fundamentally flawed notion that the ‘real-world’ is different and separate to the ‘virtual’ one overlooks the fact the two have always been integrated.

As this advert sets out to make clear, there’s no such thing as complete disconnection.

Facebook is still driving the behaviour and how we experience the world.

We’re still looking at the outdoors as a potential update to share later.

The idea it’s a zero-sum game and time spent on Facebook detracts from time spent in the…

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