Monday, April 18, 2011

Possible Solutions for Resolving This Situation

After reading only a little bit into some of the books Amanda Richey suggested to me, I continued to be more and more appalled by popular media, more specifically Disney. Walt Disney himself once said, “I think of a child’s mind as a blank book. During the first years of his life, much will be written on the pages. The quality of that writing will affect his life profoundly.” Even the Disney Corporation is aware of how much of an impact they are making on millions of children every day. I realize that Disney is not the ultimate evil and that they aren’t the only ones playing this dangerous game of conditioning impressionable children, but that does not give them an excuss to get by with it. Personally, my first thoughts were that I never wanted to let my children watch TV or anything related to Disney. However, once I got over the shock of the realization of how prominate Disney and popular media is in our society, I remembered that trying to completely shelter children also comes with its own set of consequences.

When I continued my researching, I was pleasantly surprised to see how many solutions were being proposed by teachers, parents, and others involved in this problem. Well, before I get too far ahead of myself, let’s define the problem in this case. The problem is the popular media is conditioning children with prejudiced ideas. (In my paper I will be focusing specifically on Orientalist ideas.) Clearly, children should not be raised in a society which is crippled by biased, prejudiced, and/or racist ideas. The first and best solution would be to make the media accountable to the public for the culture it is helping to create. However, the media is a pretty big monster to take on, so this prospect is not very feasible right now.

Something that everyone can do right now is become aware of this problem – admitting it is the first step. Once people start to see this problem and how prevalent it is in our society, they can begin to educate others, especially parents and teachers. Once parents and teachers realize the effect that TV and movies and other forms of popular media are having on children, we can begin to undermine its force. If the media and corporate giants are not going to change their ways, the least we can do is prepare children to recognize and move past their pit-falls. This is best done through education. Examples of questions to ask pupils to think about when viewing things in popular media such as commercials include the following: Who is the author? What is his purpose? Who is he targeting? What feelings do you walk away with after viewing this scene? What exactly is the evidence being presented to back up these claims? In the book Rethinking Popular Culture and Media, the editors (Elizabeth Marshall and Ozlem Sensoy) emphasize the idea of critical media literacy. They say that we not only need to critique the ideas that are continually being shoved down our throats by popular media, but we also need to take action and protest against it in order to reconstruct the ideas that are reaching us and our children.

If we successfully teach our youth to think critically for themselves, the media will have much less power, our youth will grow into much more self-aware adults, and our culture will be much less dominated by the popular media. Although this seems very cheery, no generation has had the goal of raising children to turn into mindless adults. This will definitely be a large task for our entire generation once we start having families of our own. The ultimate solution is to step away from the culture that is mindlessly led by the media and into a culture of free thinkers that make their own decisions.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Terms That Apply to This Situation and How They Apply

Many of the terms in this course are interrelated. My main term of Orientalism is related (but not limited) to the following list of terms from class: bias, Diffusionism, Centralism, hegemony, post-colonialism, dehumanization, Inside/Outside, the Other, the Mark of the Plural, and Eurocentrism (which was specifically discussed in the last blog). For now, I will briefly go over half of these terms and how they relate to Orientalism – the other half will probably be added at a later date.

The most basic definition of Orientalism is a biased way of looking at the “Orient.” Clearly, bias is an important definition when considering Orientalism. A bias is a way of looking at something; typically it is from one’s own perspective. The main problem with Orientalism is that it is not only a way of seeing and interpreting the “Orient” but is interpreted as fact. For example, for the average American who may never visit the Middle East, the images displayed in the extremely popular Disney movie Aladdin may be his or her only picture of that entire region. It is partly because of this that Orientalist ideas remain so persistent in our culture today.

Diffusionism is the idea that one place invents and that all other places imitate. Its tennents include thoughts like “Europe is progressive and historical, whereas nonEurope is not progressive and ahistorical.” With thought processes along this line, it is no wonder that colonization grew out of this time period. That is how the topic of diffusionism is related to Orientalism; without wide-spread diffusionism ideas, colonization may not have ever happened. Therefore, without diffusionism, there may not have been a need for the term Orientalism.

Centralism is quite similar to diffusionism. It is the belief that there should be one dominate culture which stems from Europe. This is also directly related to hegemony, or the domination of one group by another. More specifically, cultural hegemony is defined as the imposition of the views/beliefs of the dominate cultural group onto the subordinate one in a multicultural society. Hegemony was used in many ways during the colonial period and is still seen in the ever-present idea that the West is above the East. Hegemony can be thought of as the action that creates Orientalism. Without hegemony, there cannot be the colonial situation or the persistent cultural idea that the East is exotic and completely different from the West.

Post-colonialism is simply the time period in which Orientalism is currently occurring. Some believe that the colonial period will not end until the colonized countries are able to stop looking to the colonizers for answers. However, in the way we discussed the term in class, we are currently in the post-colonial period (since the colonizers are no longer in the colonized country). Therefore, because Orientalism has been brought about in this period, it is highly related to post-colonialism.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Background/History of My Topic

I’m not really sure how deeply I want to go into the “history” of my topic. I mean, propaganda through conditioning has been used for centuries and there are numerous examples of such now and throughout history. After all, it was at least partly through propaganda and conditioning that people in the home countries in Europe slowly became less interested in the “colonial issue” until the colonial relationship finally reached a breaking point during the colonial period. However, I will not get into that quite yet. In my previous blogs I have already gone over Orientalism. Now, I would like to add a bit of background about the second term I plan to discuss, Eurocentrism.

Long before American children were being taught incorrect ideas about Middle Eastern people through the media and forms of childhood entertainment, Europe was having problems with the way it viewed other parts of the world, too. This is why I think Eurocentrism fits well into my topic. False ideas that infiltrate an entire culture have to start somewhere, and I plan to start from Europeans creating a culture of Eurocentrist ideas. In that respect, Orientalism stems from Eurocentrist ideas. The concise definition we used for Eurocentrism in class was the following: “Eurocentrism is the practice of viewing the world from a European perspective and with an implied belief, either consciously or subconsciously, in the preeminence of European culture.” Orientalism by definition is a way of viewing the Orient, and Eurocentrism is a way that Europeans view other places; therefore; both are deeply related (if not the same thing) when one is discussing Europeans viewing the Middle East. Therefore, if I can get the topic of Eurocentrism to fit into my paper cohesively, I would like to also explore this topic as it relates to American children today.