The precarious media: How the LGBTQIA community is misrepresented


A precarious life is what many members of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer Intersex Asexual community lead.

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Tangerine (2015): a real transgender lifestyle

A recent movie that came out called “Tangerine” (2015) became one of the most intriguing films of last year. The independent movie profiles Sin-dee-rella (Kitiana Kiki Rodriguez), a transgender woman fresh out of prison on a quest for vengeance. After finding out from her best friend Alexandra (Mya Taylor), that Sin-Dee’s boyfriend/pimp cheated on her with a “real” woman (“Like real fish girl, like a vagina and everything!), these two working girls set out to confront the cis gender woman all the while promoting Alexandra’s singing career and keeping up with the hustle on the streets.

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Saving the Planet: UMass Divestment Campaign

On a rainy Wednesday night on October 28, 2015, students gather at the Student Union to save the world. The University of Massachusetts Amherst Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign is a student run organization that aims to promote social and climate justice within society. Meeting in the Center of Education Policy and Advocacy room every Wednesday at 7:15 p.m., members of UMass Divest gather to discuss, plan, and engage ways to educate people on acting in climate change divestment.

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How We See Cheerleaders

From a sociological perspective, television shows and films communicate to society how we perceive those around us.

Audiences watch and observe caricatures of people they recognize in their own lives. Whether it is the soccer mom, the jerk boss, or the band geeks, the characters that are displayed within the media is a direct reflection of how society is viewing certain types of people all around. A frequent character portrayed in the media is the figure of the high school cheerleader.

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My Happy Place

The University of Massachusetts Amherst has a huge campus. There are buildings from a hundred years ago, to the most modern and sustainable buildings that can be built today. Between all those buildings, there are little crevices that anyone can discover and adopt as their own. Whether it is the large community that sits on Orchard Hill or the part of the sidewalk that the small group of skateboarders enjoy, there are many special places that UMass provides for its residents. My place? My friends and I call it the Thicket.

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When Entertainment Media Almost Saved the Day

The world will remember the Sony hack throughout history. The company took a risk communicating an important message through the worldwide medium of film. The risk was messing with one the most unpredictable, totalitarian, and dangerous countries in the world. Not only did this risk affect the entire world in one way or another, but the US is dealing with some of the impacts as well.

One of the main ways the public receives information, whether it is the US or somewhere else in the world, is through media. Yes, some people do not watch the news, but what most people forget is the other form of media available. One of these alternative forms of media is film. Even through film, messages of importance can be relayed to the masses; the audience just has to look for them. What started the controversial and unfortunate situation of the Sony Hack was the soon to be released American film The Interview.

The Interview is about two Americans who work in the public eye. In this movie, they visit North Korea to assassinate the leader, Kim Jung Un, to free the world of a totalitarian leader. Disguised as a comedy, the film does relay information discussing the inhumane treatment that Kim Jung Un inflicts on his people. Considering both Americans and the Japanese company Sony produced this film, it gives the perspective of two of the strongest countries in the world against North Korea. After the Sony hack not only several feature films were taken, but personal information of employees as well, including Americans (VanDerWerff).
Already in a state of insecurity with cyber safety, Americans have been feeling violated by this hack of the “Guardians of Peace” (which is what the hackers called themselves). David Auerbach of wrote, “While tabloid rags are salivating over the juicy Hollywood gossip and Aaron Sorkin is writing impassioned polemics against revealing stolen information, these hackers, whoever they are, genuinely do deserve to be termed cyber terrorists,” he continued with, “many attacks are for financial gain or revelation of valuable or salacious information”. Although Auerbach is just one American, he does bring light to the point that all other cyber hacks that were pre-Sony hack were thefts, none of which had written demands like the GOP’s, “The world will be full of fear. Remember the 11th of September 2001. We recommend you to keep yourself distant from the places at that time.” By threatening the safety of the public and issuing demands, these hackers take this event from a cyber-hack to a terrorist issue.

The issue of cybersecurity is a popular topic among Americans ever since the NSA became known. Although no direct ties are made from the “Guardians of Peace” (Zetter) to North Korea, the US has proved that North Korea does have cyber hacking power (Democracy Now!). Globally, the release of The Interview sets the precedent of a line drawn by North Korea. When North Korean terrorists threaten two of the most powerful countries in the world, what is the rest of the world to do? Ironically, this actually gives power to North Korea. The movie The Interview also displays the point of view of Japan and America of the situation in North Korea. By doing this the rest of the world, can take note of these political perspectives.

On top of these complicated political situations, Sony as a company has also taken a great hit to its structure. The Sony hack happened right before the release of The Interview (which is an implication that North Korea was behind the hack). Threatened by the terrorist hackers, Sony did not release the movie in theaters worldwide, which caused them to take a major financial hit. The hackers then released the stolen information over video sharing sites, where the public could view it free. This was rather unfortunate because if Sony had not pulled the movie from theaters, the publicity surrounding this situation would have made them a lot of money. This can also be considered a global impact because by taking it out of theaters, Sony implied that there is something to be afraid of or that North Korea is dangerous.

This was the first of many issues for Sony. Because of the financial hit, they may have to lay off some of their employees (whose personal data has already been compromised) and they may not be able to fund future projects that could have made them money. To add onto this, this is not Sony’s first security breach. Their reputation as a strong technical company is soon to be diminished because of its second security breach. “In terms of security, Sony Pictures wasn’t terrible, but just average. It’s likely that comparable amounts of damage could have been inflicted on many companies via the same vectors of attack” (Auerbach). Sony tried to represent this issue not as that their security was weak, but that anyone was susceptible to this type of hack. Joseph Demarest, assistant director of the FBI’s cyber division, has commented, “the malware that was used would have slipped or probably gotten past 90% of Net defenses that are out there today in private industry and [likely] challenged even state government.” As far as Sony’s defense goes, this was not the strongest (especially coming from one of the biggest technological companies in the world).

This hack created a lot of damage for Sony. For a large entertainment, company to take a stand politically with such a risky topic is respectable. One of the major impacts of the Sony hack is the world being a witness to the negative consequences of sharing a strong opinion, and it is hard to witness the failure of a potentially positive message towards helping the people of North Korea using entertainment media. Maybe one day, instead of history viewing this event as an act of terrorism, history can see it as the day entertainment media almost saved the day.

VanDerrWerff, Todd. “The Sony Pictures Hack Is a Big Deal. Here’s Why.” Vox. N.p., 03 Dec. 2014. Web. 25 Jan. 2015.
“Headlines for January 20, 2015.” Democracy Now! Democracy Now!, 20 Jan. 2015. Web. 25 Jan. 2015.
Zetter, Kim. “Sony Got Hacked Hard: What We Know and Don’t Know So Far | WIRED.” Conde Nast Digital, 03 Dec. 2014. Web. 24 Jan. 2015.
Auerbach, David. “The Guardians of Peace Aren’t Like Hackers We’ve Seen Before. They’re Cyberterrorists.” Slate. 17 Dec. 2014. Web. 8 Mar. 2015. .
Goodin, Dan. “Sony Hackers Could Have Slipped past 90% of Defenses, FBI Director Says.” Ars Technica. 11 Dec. 2014. Web. 8 Mar. 2015. .

The Culture of Poverty Thesis and It’s Presence in High School Films

Sometimes we cannot help the cards we are dealt in this life. Some people will have a great hand and will win the game, and some will have a mediocre hand, and can make use of what they have. Others are dealt with a hand that no matter what moves they make, what strategies they consider, it seems they cannot win. This analogy directly applies to the “Culture of Poverty Theory”. The “Culture of Poverty Theory” places blame on the families in poverty for their unfortunate situation. The theory implies that if these people adopted the suburban-protestant standard, all of their issues would disappear. However, what the theory does not consider is if the individual even knows how to play the game, or if they even know how to read the cards! In this case, an individual’s ambition and racism. Robert C. Bulman, author of Hollywood Goes to High School, presents several counter narratives to this theory.

From a sociological view, the “Culture of Poverty Theory” is a theory that applies to a specific part of the social structure we have in the United States. However, because of how dominant this theory is, it has incorporated itself into the media. The ideology of the suburban lifestyle is showcased in a high school film sub-genre. The thesis has displayed itself most prominently in the urban high school film genre. The movies within this genre highlight the reason individuals are not successful in society is becuase they do not want to be successful. Yet, this is not true. The reason these individuals have problems succeeding in society is more structural rather than individual. Although in films, members of the suburban class would rather cast this issue as an individual problem to lessen their responsibility. Because of this guilt, the middle class places blame on the flawed individual from the inner city, then to admit the flaw that is actually located in the suburban lifestyle. “Explaining poverty as the result of individual failure helps to relieve the suburban middle class (and upper class) of its share of responsibility for having politically and economically neglected the inner city” (pp. 50, Bulman). Some of the urban genre films could be argued as propaganda for the lifestyle the middle class wants, others (very few), counter this view. Production companies, like Worcester based N-CITE media, exist to counter this dominant narrative. Their vision is, “a world in which the media is no longer controlled by corporate elites and where a constellation of narratives can use accessible media outlets to replace the corporate produced ideology.” The suburban creators of these movies want to justify their lifestyle by playing a higher authority in the creation of the urban high school genre.

An excerpt in Bulman’s book that really stood out about what the poverty thesis does not consider, is the part when he was reviewing a character from the 1950’s movie Blackboard Jungle. Through Blackboard Jungle, Bulman explained how environmental factors could affect inner city residential lives. The character Miller had potential to exceed his life expectation as an African American mechanic, and as superiors encouraged him to pursue this challenging path, Miller had a realistic understanding of his situation. Miller dismissed the recommended lifestyle, “not due to an inferior culture of an irrational choice, but to knowledge about the bitter realities to the life chances for most low-income, urban African Americans in 1955” (pp. 57, Bulman). Hollywood implied from their movies, based on the suburban work ethic, that when one works hard, they will always succeed. The perspective that Miller presented disproved the accepted lifestyle that the suburban class gives. According to Bulman, poverty analysis does not include behavior of the inner city children as a result of the culture or their values, “but may be a reflection of the opportunities that await them in the labor market” (pp. 57, Bulman). The individuals act out not because they are flawed as an individual, but because they have a very strong and personal understanding of the society that surrounds them.
There are several reasons why minorities are not successful in society, that are not considered in the “Culture of Poverty Thesis”. One of them is because they have no control over it. Jay Smooth, an activist for racial issues, discussed the fact that society blames the victim for this lack of success in the inner city. In his video, On Don Lemmon, Race and ‘Respectability, he brought up the idea that while some advice is given to help someone; other advice is given to someone to help yourself feel better about not knowing how to solve the other’s problems. This inspired the idea that the whole Poverty Theory is just a huge projection of the insecurities that the middle class face. The “respectability” to give advice or to help these lower class individuals is not for the sake of helping them but to, “mollify the shame that we project onto those young black men when we walk by them on the street” (Smooth). Smooth continued by pointing out that this “comfort” is to help soothe shame of the internal racism that caused lack of success in the inner city situation in the first place. The Poverty Theory does not address the fact that internalized racism, in both upper and middle class directly affect the situation of minorities in society by preventing them from being successful.

A plot line in urban movies that enforce this suburban ideology is the “The Teacher as a Cowboy Vigilante” (pp. 66, Bulman). In general, most of the educational systems in urban settings (who are usually ran by suburban residents), are underfunded. In the movie Freedom Writers, they placed the blame on the interracial students attending. In the movie, the principal refused to pay for new books because of her prejudice (this act implying that that she will not fund them because they are not Caucasian, or from an trusted background). This part hints at the internalized racist perspective. Then, the movie threw in the teacher vigilante (who is middle class), who buys supplies with her own money. The whole plot is suburbia saying, “We won’t fund you because we’re racist, but don’t worry one person will buy you books so it looks like we did something”. Proving Jay Smooth’s point on advice.
Most urban high school film genre movies prove the point of the “Culture of Poverty Theory”. As Freedom Writers displayed hints of suburban internalized racism, other movies like Blackboard Jungle showed what the theory does not address. Structural or individual, enforced through media or not, the situation of the inner city lifestyle needs to be addressed, and it seems that everyone is at fault.

Works Cited

Bulman, Robert C. “Chaper 3: Fighting the Culture of Poverty.” Hollywood Goes to High School: Cinema, Schools, and American Culture. New York: Worth Pub., 2005. 50. Print.
Bulman, Robert C. “Chaper 3: Fighting the Culture of Poverty.” Hollywood Goes to High School: Cinema, Schools, and American Culture. New York: Worth Pub., 2005. 57. Print.
Bulman, Robert C. “Chaper 3: Fighting the Culture of Poverty.” Hollywood Goes to High School: Cinema, Schools, and American Culture. New York: Worth Pub., 2005. 66. Print.
On Don Lemmon, Race and ‘Respectability’. Dir. Jay Smooth. Perf. Jay Smooth. Ill Doctrine. N.p., 1 Aug. 2013. Web.
Freedom Writers. Dir. Richard LaGravenese. Perf. Hilary Swank, Patrick Dempsy. Paramount Home Entertainment, 2007. DVD.
Blackboard Jungle. Dir. Richard Brooks. By Richard Brooks. Perf. Glenn Ford, Anne Francis, and Sidney Poitier. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1955.
“Disrupting the Dominant Narrative.” New Counterstories 4 Ideological Transformation & Eduction (N-CITE): Disrupting the Dominant Narrative. N-CITE, n.d. Web. 12 Nov. 2014.