Diasporic Media

Bend it Like Beckham engages with the British national passion of football and the British popular cultural icon of David Beckham in order to subvert the expectations of the South Asian diaspora in Britain. The second-generation British Asian nucleus within the film epitomizes the hybrid nature of contemporary British national identity and complexities of multiculturalism. The concept of convivial multi-culture concerns multiculturalism within urban youth culture and an understanding and accepting of difference. It pertains to an embracing of the potential and the possibility of a British identity, which emerges from everyday contact. The concepts of plurality, diversity and difference are included within the framework of British identity, but there is also the recognition of the possibility of the conflicts and tensions that arise between the clash of cultures.

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The complexities of life lived with the dual cultural influences are embodied within the character of Jess. Her name functions as a semiotic signifier of her self, since she condenses her name from the traditional Indian name of Jesminder to the more British abbreviation of Jess. Her name thus reflects her hybridized nationality.

In terms of the Asian family unit, her mother remains the oppositional power to her demands, refusing to accept her passion for the British sporting tradition of football. Her desire to become a footballer is posited as a threat to femininity and a resisting of the traditional roles afforded to women within the oppressive patriarchal community, and marks the cultural difference between the two generations. She does not conform to the patriarchal societal demands of the diasporic South Asian culture. Jess utilizes the line, which has become the tag line of the film for marketing purposes, ‘Who wants to cook Aloo Gobi, when you can bend a ball like Beckham?’. This line expresses her desire to embrace the British culture, but it also highlights at the same time the difficulties of embodying a hybrid identity and belonging to two cultures. These are the two polarities that the hyphenated British Asian must negotiate in order to satisfy her hybrid cultural identity.

Globalization and Mass Media

The mass media play a major role in enhancing globalization, facilitating culture exchange and multiple flows of information and image between countries through international news broadcasts, television programming, new technologies, film and music. International flows of information have been largely assisted by the development of global capitalism, new technologies and the increasing commercialisation of global television, which has occurred as a consequence of the deregulation policies adopted by various countries in Europe and the US in order to permit the proliferation of cable and satellite channels.

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Computerized technology, satellite TV and the Internet have also contributed to the reduction of the cost of communications, stimulating home-made productions and gradually widening the access of many to these technologies. The impact of technologies on everyday life has shown how the Internet has revolutionized international information exchange due to its ability in moving data across borders. The Internet has become well suited for the expanding individualism of contemporary reality, with consumers using the web to create their own content and distribute it to global audiences. The Internet is also seen as strengthening the cultural identities of diasporic peoples, as well as assisting in social networking and in forging ties with like-minded individuals, social groups and various communities across the globe.

In contrast to other communication media, the Internet has been the fastest-growing sector of the media. The expansion of the Internet has been enormous: there were 20 million users in 1995 and 400 million by the year 2000. By 2006, the Internet was considered a global medium, jumping from reaching 3% of the world’s population to more than 15%, mostly in the developed countries, with North America having a penetration rate of 30% and Europe and the Asia-Pacific with 30% as well.

Media corporations have been heavily investing in the convergence between the Internet and television and in communication strategies that operate across platforms. American Online and Time Warner for instance merged in 2000 to create an Internet-based media giant which brought together both the old and new media, including film, television, radio, publishing and computing. Giant web portals have also emerged and are contributing to concentrate information, access and profits, with Google “revolutionizing” the way information is processed and used across the world.

Orientalism in Film

Hollywood is nothing if not reactionary. Of course, all storytelling, no matter the medium, tends to be a reaction to experiences, a way of transforming the personal into the broadly intelligible. Yet Hollywood stands out from literature, music, and most television for its insistence on reacting to the same political and social stimuli for decades. However, no group provides more fodder for Hollywood’s regressive stereotyping machine than Muslims, and recent media representations has shown that this is unlikely to change any time soon.

It has been nearly thirteen years since 9/11 and more than thirty years since the Iranian hostage crisis, but two of the most lauded films from 2012, Zero Dark Thirty and Argo displayed little, if any, new perspective on either event. Rather, both films explain the antagonism between the Western and Muslim world with the same ignorant mentality; “they hate our freedoms.”

While it may make for an easy catchphrase, it obviates the West’s history of imperialism, political subversion, and exploitation throughout the Middle East. In Zero Dark Thirty, for example, Muslim characters are presented as an undifferentiated mass of enemies, bearded or burqa’d objects to be mined — through torture — for information about Osama Bin Laden. Their reasons for fighting are unimportant; they have no agency.

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Even the highly esteemed children’s media conglomerate Disney is guilty of employing lazy Arab and Muslim stereotypes. In the first minute of the 1992 film Aladdin, the theme song declared that Aladdin hailed “from a faraway place, where the caravan camels roam, where they cut off your ear if they don’t like your face. It’s barbaric, but hey, it’s home.” Disney changed the lyrics to the opening song of “Aladdin” in the home video release of the film after Arab-American groups blasted the original version as stereotypical. But the theme song wasn’t the only problem Arab advocacy groups had with the film. There was also the scene in which an Arab merchant intended to hack off the hand of a woman for stealing food for her starving child. To boot, Arab-American groups took issue with the rendering of Middle Easterners in the film, as many were drawn grotesquely, “with huge noses and sinister eyes,” the Seattle Times noted in 1993.

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Through all forms of media Westerners have stereotyped Arabs as barbaric since the days of the Crusades. “These are the terrible people who captured Jerusalem and who had to be thrown out of the Holy City.” The stereotype of the barbaric Arab has seeped into Western culture over hundreds of years and can even be found in the works of Shakespeare. This creates the impression that the entire Muslim world is barbaric, and is barbaric because of Islam.

In general, Muslims in Hollywood cinema exist as one-dimensional characters: ignorant menaces hell-bent on kidnapping or killing as many Westerners in service of their exotic, violent god. Edward Said famously coined the term “Orientalism” to describe the cultural practice of transforming those from eastern cultures — both Asian and Middle Eastern — into the “Other”. Orientalism in film presents exotic characters created from a Western political and social bias to simultaneously elicit a strong reaction against Eastern culture while reaffirming American and European values. Simply put: white hero defeats a nameless horde of copper-skinned bad guys, and white audience feels better about themselves.

Movies have always been, and will always be, about wish fulfillment. The most successful movies transform our fears into fantasies, and remind us that at our best the human experience can be a collective one, unencumbered by nationality, ethnicity, politics or religion. But before a film can deliver that wish, it must be unencumbered by stereotype, Muslim or otherwise. Such a film must not react, but instead predict.

Sexualization of Women

The Geena Davis Institute on Gender and Media’s latest findings highlight over sexualized, under-representation of women in the media. The institute analyzed media by breaking the numbers down into three categories: films rated G, PG, and PG-13, prime-time programming, and children’s shows. The overall finding is that women are still underrepresented in American media and therefore a large portion of Australian media. When they are represented, they are still stereotyped and sexualized, more often depicted as unemployed in comparison to men, and rarely portrayed in STEM careers or in high-ranking positions like CEO or President.

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In films, prime time programming, and children’s shows, fewer than 50% of speaking characters are women. Men outnumber women more than 2 to 1 in family films and children’s shows. A breakdown of characters by race indicates that characters are predominantly male, with the exception of Hispanic and Asian female characters in children’s shows. Women are also more likely to be found speaking in reality shows (48.1%) and news magazines (46.6%) rather than in comedies (31.5%) or children’s shows (30.5%).

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Female characters in television are still subjected to gender roles and sexualization. In terms of domesticity, women are more likely than men to be depicted as parents or in stable relationships in children’s shows and family films. In terms of sexualization, women and girls are more likely to be wearing revealing outfits or anything considered sexy in all three categories of media. A female characters’ sexiness is often verbally commented upon, outwardly acknowledging her status as “eye candy.” The Institute broke down sexy female characters by age group, examining the extent to which the emphasis on being sexy is placed on the characters at each age.

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Women may be 47% of US employees, but number only 20.3% of employees in family films, 34% in prime time, 25.3% in children’s shows. And of course, when there are working women in media, stereotypes abound. Women scientists in the media are most often seen working in the life and physical sciences rather than in math or computer science–male computer scientists and engineers outnumber women 14.25 to 1 in family films and 5.1 to 1 in prime time TV. Working women in films often hit the glass ceiling–only two of the characters in the Institute’s sample were in high paying positions with major clout. In both family films and primetime programs, 100% of DAs and Chief Justices were men. In family films, 95% of politicians were men (in primetime programming, 72% were men). This kind of under-representation undermines the ambitions of girls by intimating what specific careers are not “for us.”

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The latest findings once again show how misrepresented and underrepresented women are in the media. Mass media is a powerful tool because it has the power to spread stereotypes and sexualization giving it the potential to influence not only how men see women but how women see themselves.

The Future of Journalism

Leading media critics, David Carr and Tom Rosenstiel have both commented on their views of the future of journalism, stating that although emerging digital technologies are certainly changing the landscape of traditional media channels, they will adapt and continue to find ways of remaining profitable. Carr says that new “excellent and growing” sites such as Gawker, BuzzFeed and Business Insider are taking from the “great, vast sea of information and editing, selecting it, surfacing it” in ways that are visually appealing to consumers. They are putting “new skin on a constantly changing world of news,” he says. While “some call it aggregation [and] others call it stealing,” these sites are hiring more reporters and producing serious content.

In a recent lecture, Carr suggested the newspaper, as his generation has known it, is already obsolete. “We’re built on scarcity in print,” Carr said. “You lose compression on pricing when you have no scarcity.” Carr still believes journalism will eventually find its way to remain profitable in changing times and his publication has already taken steps to that end, including putting up a pay wall for frequent readers. Carr said he believes young people are willing to pay the convenience charge for coverage that sorts through the digital flurry of news. In a 2011 Growth From Knowledge Mediamark Research and Intelligence poll, 22 percent of people aged 18 to 24 read newspapers at least every other day compared to 40 percent of adults overall.

Rosenstiel recently gave a compact TEDx talk that carefully laid out problems and opportunities for journalism resulting from digital technology disruption. Disruption, refers to shrinking newsrooms and weak advertising revenues. He states, “New technology has fundamentally dissolved the old system for financing news. Seventy percent of the classified advertising in newspapers 10 years ago is gone, vanished.” He mentions that newspapers have 40 percent less revenue than they had in 2000. Most of which has happened since 2008. The number of reporters in newspaper newsrooms in the United States is 30 percent less than it was 10 years ago. However, Rosenstiel does not believe that this means consumers are turning away from news altogether. And in this revelation lies the secret to future success. According to Rosenstiel, people of all a
ges yearn for news, “Today 25 percent of American adults say they get more news than they used to. Ten percent say they get less.  And on Mobile devices, where the news is more convenient, 32 percent say they get more news than ever before… Those who understand the audience will thrive; and you will save the next journalism.”

 

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Mass Media Vs. New Media

There has been much debate about the unique advantages to different forms of media, most notably the argument of traditional media versus new media. Mass media plays a crucial role in connecting the world of individuals. It has the ability to reach wide audiences with strong and influential messages that have the potential to impact the very foundations of society. Television and Radio have had influence over people’s daily lives and routines for decades, affecting the content and times that audiences watch and listen. The mass media has at least three important roles to play: to inform, to educate and to influence opinion. These distinctive features of traditional media have been challenged by new media, which is changing the participation habits of the audiences.

New media is essentially a cyber culture with modern computer technology, digital data controlled by software and the latest fast developing communication technology. The modern revolution enables everybody to become a journalist at little cost and with global reach. Nothing like this has ever been possible before. What we are witnessing today is the emergence of a global culture in which information and access to information will be the factor that determines which way power and prosperity will go. It is a global system that transcends national borders and institutions and allows people to gain knowledge almost instantaneously. The emergence of blog streams is a reflection on society’s awareness of the importance of information dissemination. New media wields great influence over the younger generation as they are IT-savvy and have an ‘urge to know’. There are concerns among the authorities that parties with vested interests would manipulate this new media to further their purportedly “subversive” objectives.

Traditional journalists often question social media’s validity and credibility, however, I believe that social media provides a number of unique advantages over conventional, widely accepted media channels. First, social media aggregates a diverse pool of sources. Even if one or two miss the mark, statistically most will be factual. Second, social media is immediately correctable and corrected. It is self-regulated, and when an error is found, the community immediately makes the necessary corrections. And finally, much of the news content on social media comes from traditional media in the first place. Social networking sites become another channel through which mass media extends.

Citizen Journalism

Journalism is constantly struggling to retain the confidence of audiences and a positive reputation. To do this requires adaptation to contemporary needs and demands of media consumers. These changes are a natural progression brought about by our multi-media age where people are heavily involved in the media world with their comments, uploading photos and video clips. They are no longer just passive observers, but have the opportunity to be active creators and critics.

Citizen journalism is the dissemination of information by people who are not professional journalists. Citizen reporters do not do this kind of journalism because it is their job, but rather because they believe it is their civil duty. Citizen journalism is the basis of democracy that encourages citizens to actively participate in social processes.

The development of information and communication technologies, especially the Internet, has led to the emergence of citizen journalism, which means the active role of citizens in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing and disseminating news and information. All citizens create and distribute them with the help of smart phones, the Internet, computer, etc. Digital technology has made citizen journalism universally accessible and globally relevant, while making it an important part of the content within the traditional media – both public and commercial that has helped to create a more real and objective view of the world.

But what does this mean for traditional channels of media. When we look at the mass media, they are now mostly privately owned, and their main guide is profit. On the one hand, the media is financed by advertising and, therefore, advertisers and other factors often end up influencing the editorial policy. The development of technology has in many ways changed how mass media is consumed by society. The emergence of the Internet and social networking sites have allowed media conglomerates to expand their exposure and immediately receive feedback from readers, while also being challenged and fuelled by citizen journalists. Although citizen journalism in some cases is dismissed as unnecessary and amateur, big media companies have no choice but to respect and in most cases, incorporate it.