Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Genre Studies: The African - American Situation Comedy, part 2

The Black sitcom 

Blacks have appeared in the situation comedy genre, moreso than any other TV genre. U.S networks & Cable broadcasters have aired approximately 800 sitcoms since 1947 - 184 of them feature African-Americans, either in starring, co-starring, supporting or transient roles (Nelson via Kamalipour, Carilli, 79). 


Angela Mason argues that Black sitcoms are Black, but out of exhibiting a Black philosophy on life. They are called Black sitcoms because a) the actors on it are Black and b), their characters deal with comedy-based situations from a Black perspective (Mason via Kamalipour, Carilli, 80). As well as this, Race-specific issues unique to African-Americans culture, life, history through racism for instance, are also explored.


African- American sitcom's roots trace back to Amos 'N' Andy. However, the negative stereotypes perpetuated were laughed at and thus, the show was cancelled. Premiering in 1968, Julia was the first Black female sitcom & the first Black sitcom star in a show about a professional woman (Fearn-Banks, 401). 

Whilst Huxtable-type families had not reached the TV screen, Sanford and Son, The Jeffersons & Julia, were accepted by the mainstream (Hillard, Keith, 232).

Television executives attempted to explore different aspects of African-American Life. Firstly, with working-class families, such as Good Times, That's My Mama and What's Happening!! (Smith-Shomade, 15). 

From 1972 to 1983, Black sitcoms sought to address the social and political experiences of America, thanks in part to Norman Lear. Lear helped dispel the idea that situation comedy couldn't be anything but superficial and silly. From abortion, drugs, homosexuality, racism to discrimination, shows such as The Jeffersons and Good Times all advertedly pointed towards inequality and Black empowerment. It was from then on, that for the first time, Black situation comedy portrayed Blacks being subjectified, - not objectified. That they were not token characters to Whites & the USA saw on TV characters that were contributing, surviving, succeeding in society, without abandoning their culture (Means Coleman, Mcllwain,130). 

Nonetheless, with Good Times and The Jeffersons, Lear presented 2 contrasting ends of the spectrum with regards to Black representation: at one end was the Evans family in Good Times, who were perceived as being of lower-class, poor, whose kids had ambitions that were far beyond any one's expectations. Michael wanted to be a Lawyer, J.J an artist and Thelma a dancer. Meanwhile, The Jeffersons Black representation came in the form of George Jefferson, who successfully owns a chain of dry cleaning businesses in New York, whereas wife Louise worked at the local help centre in town.

By the late 1970s to 1980s, despite the social issues addressed in shows such as Good Times, The Jeffersons, there was a concern that Blackness and African-Americans were to be nothing more than token victims rescued by White characters. Coleman and Mcllwain argued that in Diff'rent Strokes and Webster, through Black child characters Webster and Arnold, the context of being Black whilst living in a Black environment was seen as a negative, but with Black child characters living in a White environment and raised by a White family, it was seen as being positive (Means Coleman, Mcllwain, 132). 

I disagree with this argument; shows such as Webster and Diff'rent Strokes illustrate and highlight issues surrounding child adoption and that with families, in particular, adopting children outside of their race, many parent/s adopt Black kids, Asian kids, Hispanic kids. Not because so that they feel pity towards them and their unfortunate circumstances that may have resulted in their upbringing and being abandoned by their natural parents. I would argue it is not because that they see the Black kids as being inferior, whilst the white adult is seen as superior. But because in most cases, many White families choose to adapt children outside of their race, because, a) they love them, b) they really want to help and c) they want to give them a better head start in life.

They don't see children for their colour. Their ethnicity, if anything to them is irrelevant. They love them, as much as they do of their own children. Therefore, the assertion by Means and Coleman that White parents who adopt Black kids out of kindness, sincerity & love, are doing a disservice to the Black children's well-being and identity & thus, making them abandon their cultural roots, is for me, disagreeable . 





Critics have pointed out that many African-American sitcoms have continuously portrayed African-Americans and Black culture in a problematic light. Yet for Black sitcoms that have found their own audiences & established their own fan bases, these audiences have identified themselves with those characters & their cultural expressions (Carney Smith, 1377). Sitcoms have provided people hours of entertainment and laughter, but also, more importantly, shared and relevant cultural experiences, which are discussed amongst themselves and with others.



The 80s

From the 1980s to late 1990s, many Black TV shows resisted the traditional sitcom format of having 1 joke, per page by crafting and devising dramatic episodes.

The arrivals of The Cosby Show and A Different World both heralded a new chapter for the African- American sitcom genre during the 1980s. The shows set a standard in eliminating barriers for 'coloured' people, especially actors on screen and negative stereotypes of Blacks on U.S mainstream television. They presented Black people as intellectuals, occupying higher positions of power, of young Black people going to college and doing well in their studies. In spite of these shows set, in what many would perceive to be based in a White context and environment, they were, nonetheless, still Black shows & alas, Black sitcoms.

Resultingly, The Cosby Show's accomplishments helped elevate NBC to first place, ahead of its rivals in the network ratings for 6 straight years (391, Edgerton). TV industry insiders credit the programme for resurrecting the sitcom genre, for which at the time, many people thought was dead. The Cosby Show also topped the ratings charts throughout the world, in places such as Canada, Australia & the UK.

The Cosby Show and A Different World accomplishments in America, set standards for other African-American sitcom predecessors to emulate and follow suit, though with relatively little success.

Smith- Shomade proposes that The Cosby Show is similar to Fox's Living Single (1993), with creator Yvette Lee Bowser's characters having what she calls 'Afrocentric markers' (Smith-Shomade, 57). The female characters Synclaire, Khadijah, Maxine and Regine live in a New York apartment block with Black-specific artwork, whereas the guys, Kyle and Overton share another apartment. More importantly, Shomade also cites that in Living Single, because the idea of seeing successful working-class, mid-early 30s women, had not been fully realised before, especially on television, the audience sees the importance, first-hand, of a good first impression for each of these characters. For Living Single, material success, through earning a good living and working, was central to the plot of, as well as the success of the show.




The 1990s 

For what it's worth, although The Jeffersons and The Cosby Show were 2 of the biggest Black sitcoms of the 1970s and 1980s, African-American sitcoms didn't really hit its peak, until a decade after The Cosby Show had ended. The most successful period and decade for African-American situation comedies (and White sitcoms, not forgetting), as well as the most busiest, was the 1990s. Black sitcoms appeared in great numbers both on Cable and nationally as well, but more-so nationally. The big four of NBC, Fox, CBS, ABC established a foothold in the sitcom market, with shows such as The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, A Different World, Martin and Living Single drawing in millions each week (Poussaint). With the latter 2 shows on Fox, doing incredibly well.

The wave of Black sitcoms during 1990-1999 celebrated post-racial America, defined by personal responsibility, progress and choice (115, J Leonard). J Leonard argues that although many of these other 90s sitcoms were by no means as successful as The Cosby Show, A Different World and The Jeffersons, by taking race and ethnicity out of the equation, these shows would have denied the existence of racism endured by the Black middle-classes.

With A Different World's success, this was unrealised until Debbie Allen got involved and turned around the fortunes of the series by revamping the show's format. By the time it addressed serious social and political issues, the sitcom began to evolve and improve; explosive story lines involving HIV/Aids, racism, inter-racial relationships, prejudice. Subject matters that today's African-American sitcoms and shows seem to ignore, in favour of buffoonery, indecent images of Black cultural appropriation, and sex.




(continued in part 3....)


Sources:

  • The Sitcom Reader: America Viewed and Skewed, Mary M Dalton ed., State University of New York Press, 2005 
  • The A to Z of African-American Television, Kathleen Fearn Banks, Scarecrow Press, 2009
  • The Broadcast Century and Beyond, Robert L Hillard, Michael C. Keith, Focal Press, 2010
  • Cultural Diversity and the U.S Media, ed. Yahya R. Kamalipour, Theresa Carilli ed.,1998
  • Encyclopedia of African American Popular Culture, Jessie Carney Smith, State University of New York Press, 1998
  • Why is TV So Segregated?, Alvin Poussaint, 2010. 
  • The Columbia History of American Television, Gary Edgerton, Columbia University Press, 2009
  • Shaded Lives: African-American Women and Television, Beretta E.Smith- Shomade, Rutgers University Press, 2002
  • African-Americans on Television: Race-ing For Ratings, ed. by David J Leonard, Lisa Guerrero, Praeger, 2013
  • Color by Fox: The Fox Network & The Revolution in Black Television, Kristel Brent Zook, Oxford University Press, 1999 

Monday, 30 December 2013

Genre Studies: The African - American Situation Comedy, part 1

Genre plays a crucial role in examining audience and consumers tastes and interests in a range of media products; thus determining how they behave, as well as the media and entertainment industries recognizing what their needs and wants are & to serve those interests. As consumers ourselves, we can easily search for and establish our favourite genres. Online sites such as Amazon, Play.com have specialist categories where we can find different products and items. 

In a way, having genres makes life easier for us because instead of us physically assigning texts, such as TV shows, movies, music into categories, genres do that for us. And because we recognize and learn about the conventions of that genre, it means that in turn, we appreciate and understand it more (Barker, Wall, 75). 


What is 'Genre?'

A genre simply means 'order', a type, class or category of presentation that shares distinctive and recognizable features. Examples of genres include comedy, drama, cartoons, science fiction and news. 

Genre is a concept used to classify or group media texts into different categories. Media texts belong to a genre, adapting codes and conventions and appealing to a variety of different audiences, hailing from every part of the world & consisting of different nationalities, Black, White, Asian, Latino, young and old, gay and straight. 

Because many media programmes belong to a particular genre, this genre acts as a portal through which the audience receives media messages. Each genre presents a view-world that shapes the ways we think about the world, the characters within that particular world (Silverbatt, 3). The themes and subject matters & issues may remain the same, but it is the way these are told and presented on-screen that makes it a 'genre' or type of programme. 

The concept of function in the study of genres refers to the purpose for creating & receiving media texts, addressing the following issues: 

- Why do media communicators, such as producers, TV networks, writers, directors, create and produce certain genres?

- In watching a reality show or sitcom, what purpose is being served?

- Why are we, as an audience, attracted to various and particular genres? Is it through taste and preference? the iconography such as costumes, props and objects that are used by actors? Or is it because it is the way they tell stories that makes us compelled to become a fan of that genre? 

- And lastly, by identifying its functions, i.e. what is the purpose of this genre and its existence in media and entertainment? Take Science Fiction; one could say the purpose of Science Fiction is to demonstrate what life is like, or could be like 200 years from now in the future. (5, Silverbatt) 


The Impact of Genre in TV

Feuer stated that institutional uses of genre has resulted in the advent of the remote control and multi-channel TV, leading to programmes being 'customized' and designed to attract an increasingly fragmented audience (1992, 57). At the same time, genre, has become important as an institutional indicator of the target audience and demographic.

Channels such as Comedy Central, BET, QVC and TV One showcase particular programming based on TV genres, whilst the proliferation of other Cable & Pay TV networks are structured around branding & marketing to niche audiences interested in genres such as sports, documentaries, home and lifestyle.

Neale says generic forms of the genre must develop and evolve to keep pace with audience interest, citing ER, Chicago Hope as examples (Devereux, 288). And thus, we should add Grey's Anatomy to this list as well.

Genre is important in terms of a) establishing an audience, b) certain people can develop their skills by working within that genre, i.e; choreography for a dance performance on television, c), stars associate themselves with that genre, i.e. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis are known for action movies and c) fans of that genre can easily identify the codes.

In the world of television, film and music, genre characteristics are used to create style and appeal, in order to attract particular audiences. One example of genre characteristic is that by taking a movie and breaking it down according to the genre styles it incorporates. In say Snow White and the 7 Dwarves, you have comedy (the dwarves being funny, silly), musical elements (Hi Ho, Hi Ho it's off to work we go), a bit of a thriller (Snow White eating the poisoned apple) & romance (Snow White and Prince Charming get together and fall in love) (14).






The African-American Sitcom

Robin Means Coleman cites that it remains a weekly series of self-contained episodes with its story-lines revolving around an umbrella plot, and centering upon a cast of characters (Coleman, 6). 

Black situation comedy is programming that employs a core cast of African- American or Black characters & focuses on their socio-cultural, political and economic experiences (Coleman and Mcllwain, 125). Black sitcoms follow the same formula, same construct, same genre conventions as White sitcoms on television; the only differences being the African-American characters and the use of Ebonics. Ebonics is a variety of English spoken by many African- Americans.

African - American situation comedies such as The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Good Times & The Cosby Show, focus upon a main set of Black characters & their artistic, cultural, personal, social & economic experiences (Means Coleman, 8). Many of the earlier African-American sitcoms, as well as some of the 1990s Black sitcoms, were lambasted and criticized for using negative and stereotypical depictions of Blackness to promote humour. 

Cosby's representation of ethnicity and gender in shows A Different World and The Cosby Show, occurs in a challenging context. Black scholars draw on semiotic and mythic analysis to describe and prescribe the Black presence in the industries of White media (Bill Cosby and Recoding Ethnicity, Michael Real, 225 et al Joanne Morreale).

Real says the representation of Black ethnicity in The Cosby Show contrasts with traditional stereotypes; thus highlighting, coding and re-coding the concept of Blackness and what it represents, in a predominately White industry of the media today.

It is argued The Cosby Show's depiction of the Huxtable family is a continuation of the development of Blacks during the 1970s, 80s. However, whereas The Jeffersons, Benson, Diff'rent Strokes were set in a predominantly White world, the Huxtables were Black. The family were of Black, upper-middle class, living in Brooklyn, New York, & the show had no main or supporting White characters (The 80s: Black Like Whom? The Cosby Show and Frank's Place, 228, et al Boyd).

Ironically, the Cosby Show's series finale in 1992 ended at the same time when racial tensions in Los Angeles engulfed the Californian city (229, Boyd). The show presented an idealized notion of the Black upper-class experience of the American dream.

The success of the Cosby Show paved the way for a large number of nationally network & syndicated network- run Black sitcoms during the 1990s, which had more diverse (and positive) depictions of the African- American family. These shows led to more African-American personalities, making a name for themselves within the industry. The likes of Debbie Allen were a catalyst for the successful interpolation of Black programming into mainstream US television (Means Coleman, D. Mcllwan, 126) .

According to Taflinger, there are 3 distinct types of sitcom: actcom, domcom and dramedy: the actcom can be based on numerous themes, family, religion, occupations. The emphasis is on action, verbal and physical. Domcom has a wider variety of themes, events and is serious. It involves more people, such as the family. Examples include Roseanne and The Cosby Show and Good Times; sitcoms that predominately take place at home. Dramedy is not devoted to evoking laughter, emphasis is on presenting themes that are not humourous. Examples of dramedies include Ugly Betty and Everybody Hates Chris (Taflinger, 1996). 

In genre study and theory, the 3 main key concepts are Iconography, Codes and Conventions & audience. 


Iconography

Iconography or reoccurring images, such as props within film, is a key means of giving its genre its identity. Iconography is similar to Mise-en-Scene. Mise-en-Scene is a French film studies term meaning to 'put in the scene'. For example, the Iconography of a Western is cowboys, cowboy hats, saloons, horses, guns, sheriffs. It gives the genre its own identity and flavour. 


Codes and conventions 

When audiences familiarize themselves with the concepts of codes and conventions of that genre, it becomes easier for them to read the text, and seek ideas and points of view that other people unfamiliar with genre study, are unable to detect (Barker, Wall, 75). Like all media theories, at first it's difficult to understand, especially if you haven't studied media or film studies before, but once you read more into it, and think of ideas and examples and link them to that theory, it becomes easier. 

Codes - Signs are people, characters, places, colours, objects, words. A code is a system of signs. There are 2 types of codes: technical & symbolic. Technical refers to the equipment used during production of a show. A camera used during a shooting of a scene in a sitcom is a sign. Camera, director, actors, costumes, props, music. Symbolic codes refers to signs within the narrative or story considered as important or significant. I.e. tears streaming down a person's face may indicate sadness or sorrow. 

Conventions - Conventions are ways of doing something; set of rules that are more genre- specific. The conventions of the traditional sitcom are 30 mins long, it has a studio audience or canned laughter, has main and supporting characters, running jokes, a beginning, middle and end & irony/sarcasm (Codes & Conventions- Teaching Media Studies). 

A running joke or gag is an amusing situation, funny one-liner, character trait that appears throughout the series of the show. One of the best examples of a running joke, is during the Fresh Prince of Bel Air  where Will's friend Jazz, gets thrown out of the house by Uncle Phil. 

Audience - Audiences read and enjoy their media products differently, depending on their lifestyles, preferences, tastes and likes. They are organised into different groups, based on their finances & social circumstances and such by producers, advertisers and broadcasters and TV networks. These people then target their consumers, who have spending power, and bombard them with offers, product placements, TV and print ads (Teaching Media Studies). 


The Aim Of The Essay 

By using a range of examples from classic African-American sitcom shows, I will seek to highlight and address the social, political, cultural and ideological themes and concepts within African-American communities. Thus, probing these meanings associated with African-Americans & their experiences, through the medium of television and the sitcom genre. Additionally, this will prompt numerous questions; such as how they are portrayed in sitcoms, whether or not these character representations reflect or challenge the general consensus of African-Americans & their own cultural & racial identities. Finally, I will explain why nationally networked Black sitcoms are of cultural importance and significance to the Black viewer, in the face of growing reality TV & drama shows on the 4 main US networks, ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox. & why we need them to return to U.S national television. As well as examining what these sitcom representations say, notwithstanding American and Western society's ideas as to what Black and African-American cultures entails and pertains to. 



(to be continued in part 2....)


Sources: 

  • On the Real Side: A History of African American Comedy from Slavery to Chris Rock, Mel Watkins
  • Media Studies: The Essential Resource
  • Media Studies: Key Issues and Debates, Eoin Devereux
  • Critiquing the Sitcom: A Reader, ed. Joanne Morreale
  • African Americans  & Popular Culture, ed. Todd Boyd
  • African American Viewers & The Black Situation Comedy: Situating Racial Humour, Robin R. Means Coleman, 1998
  • The Sitcom Reader: America Viewed and Skewed, Robin R. Means Coleman & Charlton D. Mcllwain, 2012
  • Media Knowall: Genre Explained, Karina Wilson, 2013
  • GCSE Media Studies for AQA, ed. Mandy Essen, Martin Phillips, Anne Riley
  • Transparency Now: Situation Comedies and the Liberating Power of Sadism, Ken Sanes
  • Sitcom: What It Is, How It Works, Richard F. Taflinger, 1996 
  • Genre Studies in Mass Media: A Handbook, Art Silverbatt 
  • Teaching Media studies: Codes and Conventions, TKI Media Studies 
  • Teaching Media studies: Audiences, TKI Media Studies 
  • As Media Studies: The Essential Revision Guide for AQA, Jo Barker, Peter Wall

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Review: Queer as Pop: From The Gay Scene To The Mainstream

Channel 4
UK
December 27, 2013
Director & Producer: Nick Vaughan-Smith 
Duration: 1 hour (with adverts), over 45 mins (without adverts) 
Extra notes: contains profanity 

Synopsis: documentary charting the men, music and moments that have bought pop music out of the closet & changed the world along the way. 'Queer As Pop' details how the gay clubs and scene have inspired & affected the music mainstream over the last 40 years. 

The 1 - hour documentary showed how the gay scene and clubs help shape mainstream popular music and its transition from the underground gay scene to the commercial mainstream market. 

Gay culture has not so much infiltrated the mainstream, but rather it has worked its way into pop culture. It was also mentioned on the programme that music acted as a spokesperson for gay liberation. 

The narrator pointed out that homosexuality was legalised in the United Kingdom in 1967, whilst in the United States it was still classified as a criminal offence, as well as classed as a mental illness. 

Probably one of the interesting key pieces of trivia in the show, was regarding The Village people. Pop producer Ian Levine hinted the hit song YMCA's lyrics, was about a man staying in the YMCA having sex in the showers. 

With the death of disco in the late 70s into the 80s, producer Nile Rodgers, who produced hits for Madonna, David Bowie and Diana Ross, says disco was the music for people, who weren't a) heterosexual and b) White. & in a way, he was right. It was pretty much a genre of music catering towards the non-mainstream communities.  

By the 1980s, the gay sub-culture in music, to a degree, became a phenomenon. The likes of Frankie Goes to Hollywood shocked the pop world with an in-yer-face video for 'Relax'; taking the homoerotic sub-culture and shoving it in people's faces. Pop music was an outlet for homosexual artists to express their feelings, thoughts through music, in the face of public attitudes towards their own pre-conceived ideas and perceptions of what a pop star should be like, what they should look like and catering towards adolescent & pubescent young boys and girls. 

From 70s Disco came Hi- NRG, the successor to disco & an electronic version of disco that uses synthesizers, keyboards to House music, which was born in a Black gay club in Chicago, Illinois during the 1980s . 

The programme then mentioned Madonna's Vogue, Stock Aitken & Waterman and the terrible Reynolds Girls, - whilst virtually ignoring SAW's other back catalogue of stars and records that have impacted gay and lesbian culture- , as well as Lady Gaga. Speaking of Gaga, it appears that almost everyone in that Lady Gaga segment, bar Andy Bell of Erasure, tore her apart, as she was pretty much derided by those that spoke about her on the programme. 

They said her song and video 'Born This Way' was patronising and offensive to gay people. And yet at the same time, they ignored that the message in that song spoke up for a closeted teenage male, who may be feeling confused about his sexuality & is being constantly harassed and bullied in school over it. 

And it wrapped up with gay hip hop rapper, Mykki Blanco. Which was one of the highlights for me. 

The delivery of the information was so fast-paced, it was difficult trying to keep track of what was being said. I'd concur there was some interesting tit-bits of trivia that was good. The researchers did a good job. But it was so tiny that what we got out of it, was minuscule and thus, the show became a frustrating hotpot of ideas, all boiled together that it ended up as an entangled mess. 

With a theme as big as this, so much ground needed to be covered and whilst it is virtually impossible to do all of this in the space of an hour's air time,' Queer as Pop' would have worked so much better, had it been split into 3 weekly parts. One 1 - hour show is not enough. No Boy George, Pete Burns from Dead or Alive, Elton John & Queen on hand to offer their insights either. 

Another thing that surprised me was the sudden lack of women on the programme, particularly lesbian singers mentioned and featured. It seems as though the producers wanted to focus solely on gay men and pop. Which is good, but the absence of KD Lang, Melissa Etheridge, Dusty Springfield and Tracy Chapman was particularly telling and disappointing. Given the title of the programme, one would imply the documentary would shed light on female gay artists as well, and not just female heterosexual artists that cater to the gay community. 

This was an opportunity by Channel 4 to present to viewers a thorough account of pop music and its impact on gay culture, as seen through the eyes of homosexual artists, heterosexual and gay people and by those within the music industry - only for it to be squandered immensely. 

Informative and insightful in parts, yet unfortunately, Queer as Pop fell short of the mark. 


The good


  • The premise was great
  • Channel 4 making this show happen
  • Interview clips were good
  • The Mykki Blanco segment was one of my favourite parts of the programme, in spite of how short it was. 



The bad 


  • The lack of female stars, especially lesbian pop singers interviewed
  • Too short and too rushed - so messy, it felt disjointed throughout and 1 one hour doesn't do the show, nor the subject matter enough justice
  • The idea is so broad, it needn't have warranted one show
  • The PWL, Stock Aitken and Waterman reference and mention was terrible. Why The Reynolds Girls? The PWL brand's impact on gay culture was immense, yet all the producers got to represent it, was an awful pop duo. What were the producers thinking? Just ridiculous and meaningless really. 
  • Would've been better if it had been a 3 - part series - just as described in the Radio Times 


Overall: 

The show's synopsis had good intentions and the idea sounded promising, it is such a shame however that the end product turned out to be a huge disappointment. 


*rating out of 10: 4

Thursday, 26 December 2013

My Favourite Arts #2 : The Art of Stanley Lau

Stanley Lau is one heck of an artist. Originally from Hong Kong but based in Singapore, he is an illustrator, digital artist, designer, concept artist, who has worked with the likes of DC Comics, Capcom, and other video game and comic book companies. He is also the co-founder of website Imaginary Friends studios, who supply artwork for those companies. 

His style successfully blends Western comic book art styles, as used in DC Comics, with an East Asian flavour, whilst emphasizing strong vibrant colours and demonstrating excellent line work. 

Lau's works have garnered so much attention, especially online where he has a DeviantArt account, and uses it to post his works on a regular basis. 





Pepper  Delivery 




Super Girl


Bat Girl



   Captain America 


Wonder Woman


Sue Richards/ The Invisible Woman


The Powerpuff Girls


Sakura of Streetfighter video game series



Cheetara of Thundercats

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Every One Should Celebrate Christmas - Christian Or Otherwise

It's that time once again (my favourite time in the calendar as well) where Christmas is here.

Yes! 

But the traditions of Christmas and arguments over whether it is a religious tradition, over Jesus's birth date -- which according to skeptics does not fall on December 25th-, arise every year when it nears Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. People are saying ''no, if you're not Christian or Catholic, you shouldn't celebrate Christmas''. Hindus have Diwali, Muslims with Eid, us Chinese have Chinese New Year and Christians have Easter and Christmas to contend with. Meanwhile, if you're an atheist, you can still celebrate just by eating, drinking, having fun.

Fact of the matter is: people should celebrate Christmas however, whenever they like and to their own accord. Regardless of your religious affiliation, or lack of one. 

Being Chinese, many of us aren't religious, or those who are, fall into one of the categories: Buddism, Taoism or Roman catholic. There are lots of people of Chinese descent who are Christians; in particular, those born in the United States of America. 


Christmas is a spiritual and religious holiday for many people, but for the rest of us, we use this occasion to meet up with family and friends. December 25th is a special day in our family; whereas everyone else has Christmas dinner and other stuff, this day belongs to my younger sister who was born on Christmas Day back in 1983. So yeah, it's a double celebration for her! Christmas and birthday.


But anyhow, I get it. Christmas is a Christian holiday - or so says Christians themselves. I don't want to take it away from them; but Christmas time for me and my family is special in many ways, and I consider it to be important that every Christmas is as good as last Christmas, every year.  Just because I am not a Christian myself, should I choose to deprive myself the opportunity to spend time with my family during the holidays. I don't celebrate it religiously, but I celebrate it as a family get together.

Whoever says that this is wrong and that being a non-Christian, you shouldn't (be allowed to) celebrate Christmas, are obviously depriving others out of their happiness and freedom of choice.  

Besides, it wouldn't be in the true spirit of Christmas just to tell non-Christians and Catholics to f*** off and stop butting into their traditions. All because their beliefs (and in the case of Atheists, non-beliefs) are not in line with theirs. People are people, no matter their religion, race, age, sexual orientation, nationality, gender but they are also human beings. And as human beings, we should all be respected, as well as be entitled to our own choices, decisions in life.

Christmas is supposed to be a happy time for everyone, and when I mean everyone, that includes every single person.

What Christmas means to them, will be completely different to every other family's idea of Christmas and what it is to them. 

Okay, we can agree that Christmas today has become too commercialized, too money-orientated and more about spending lots and lots of money than as a religious and family gathering. But aside from that, if you try not to get too apprehended by that, it is still a happy time.

Christmas, as I see it personally, is something that should be embraced and celebrated everywhere, around the world, in your own particular style and it doesn't have to be this way, that way. Or as the Christians celebrate it.

Like I said, if you deprive people from doing things and prevent them from taking part, when it's not doing any one any actual harm, then frankly you are doing a disservice to yourself, your traditions and your religion/non- religion & God. 

Christian, Sikh, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, Atheist..... whatever religion you are, or are not, happy holidays. 



Saturday, 14 December 2013

Cultural Appropriation, or Just Showing Their Love For That Culture?


One could say Cultural appropriation is one of the buzz words of 2013. It has appeared on many blogs, articles, websites, & it has been uttered and mentioned a few times by Cultural Studies scolars. Not to mention it was instigated through the infamous Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke MTV Video Music Awards incident that ruffled a few feathers, as well as upset many African-Americans, who took to Twitter and Facebook afterwards to express their disgust at the mocking display. 

So what is Cultural appropriation? One definition is:

Cultural appropriation is when a person or persons from another ethnic or social background takes something from another culture and mocks it. 

Not all of it is race-related; it can even stem from ridiculing gay people and mimicking the way they talk, dress, mannerisms. 

What is not perceived as cultural appropriation are things like dressing up as a Japanese Manga character or video game character. This is not racist or offensive. As well as liking or disliking foreign food, taking a fictional character and making them Black, White or Asian and buying or listening to R&B, country, J-Pop (Japanese pop music). 

Through cultural appropriation, it is insinuated that, as people, no matter what colour our skin is, we can do whatever we want, whatever we like, without thinking about the consequences afterwards. Consequences of which, can have an immediate effect on that particular social or ethnic group. In most cases, it does play on stereotypes of people. A lot of it is done out of ignorance and not with the intent to offend; and yet to that group, they may feel otherwise. 

Negative examples of cultural appropriation is wearing dark face, looking like a minstrel and Asians having eye plastic surgery to look more 'Westernised' or White. 

One of the problems cultural appropriation causes is through the actions of that particular person, to the audience and viewer in general, who see it on TV for example, they will watch it and assume afterwards that Black people, Asian people, the gay community, do behave and act like that in real life when they all do not. 

Another problem is that in today's popular culture and entertainment, what we have seen during the last 3 or 4 years, especially within the United States of America, is a) the dumbing down of Black culture, b) more mainstream television networks shunning Black sitcoms, and cable TV stations creating and televising Black sitcoms and programmes aimed at African -Americans and c) the infiltration of pop and dance music into R&B and Hip Hop; thus, the music industry who have pretty much ruined urban music through money, the overuse of technology and turning commerical R&B into a vapid style of euro- dance pop . 

One may argue that not all cultural appropriation is considered in bad taste (hence the examples stated in one of the paragraphs in this piece); likewise, it is always a good thing to see someone - outside of your culture or race- have an appreciation (if not a full understanding) for your, or a different culture, & embody it in a good way, without taking the mick. I've seen photos of celebrities, watched movies of women wearing traditional Chinese garments, and I think it's really cool. I don't find it offensive, - unless they opened their mouths and imitate Chinese people by mockingly speaking in a Chinese accent & making slitty eyes. That would offend me. 

Still, if Black people can enjoy fine arts and opera, if Whites can listen to reggae and R&B music, wear African garments and Asians are into punk rock, then who's to say they are demeaning their culture through it? They are not. 

Sticking to your own culture, customs and traditions is a good thing, because it keeps you firmly rooted, culturally. But that does not mean you should deny your own freedom, of your own choice to like different things outside of your culture as well. Why choose when you can have both, without the detriment of insulting people? Unlike cultural appropriation, this is what some would perceive as cultural 'appreciation'. 

It is important to know that just because you wear clothing from a different country, you are not ridiculing the people of that country. You're just showing respect and appreciation. 

There is a fine line between staying true to yourself as a person and a human being, either as a Black, White, Asian, Hispanic man/woman, and being appreciative of other cultures you choose to either adapt and take on or showing particular interest in, all because it fascinates you. 

& not out of attention and to upset the very people of that particular social group. 

Saturday, 7 December 2013

15 Ways To Improve Pinterest

As great as Pinterest is already, the site is still far from perfect. Here are my ideas that would make it even more better than it is: 

  • Header banner on the boards - we already have the cover photo for each of the boards. How's about having a header banner -type thing running underneath the board title name and before the description? Having header banners for boards not only makes it more interesting to look at; it gives it a nice visual theme that represents what each board is about to the people viewing it, as well as to your followers. By header banners, I mean something on lines of this:
This is from Fanpop, a website is aimed more at teenagers and younger people, moreso than with Pinterest. As you can see, the banner image header is located underneath the name of the board in bold, followed by tabs 'Home', 'Wall', 'Images', 'Videos', 'Articles' and so on, followed by a Green box telling you how many fans you have following this 'club' as they put it. 



For Pinterest, the layout of the board -if it was up to me designing it- would go like this: 

1. Title/Name of the board in bold
2. Header banner comes after that
3. Description
4. No. of pins, No. of followers on the right hand side
5. Pins 


(above: an example of what current Pinterest boards look like) 


Speaking of which, I'd have a header banner creator on Pinterest, where you can assemble together say up to 4 or 5 photos from your pins on your board to create a header banner, add text, stickers. You would also be able to edit it, as and when you wish. 
  • Personalise or colourise the boards - the grey looks absolutely boring. By incorporating a colour scheme, it would give people more options to personalise it and make it look more attractive and visually appealling. 
  • Add a background image option for boards 
  • Incorporating Google search in the search function box of Pinterest, would help speed up the process in finding results - the vast majority of images are found via Google, particularly in Google images. Therefore, it would be great if Google search was incorporated in the Pinterest search box, instead of us having to open up a new tab, type 'Google Images' and the name of the thing we are looking for. 
  • For each board, there should be a 3rd tab before pins and followers which says 'suggested pins'. By clicking on this, you will see other pins/images related to your board that you may wish to add to it. This doesn't mean the search function needs to go. This idea is not a replacement for the search bar. The search bar functions differently as you type in the name of the thing you are searching for, whilst suggested pins finds those pins automatically for you. You just need to decide which ones to add to your chosen board. 
  • Be able to rearrange, reorder and move your pins around the board, so that they are in a different order or in an order that you wish you want it to be. This is done by utilising the drag -and- drop pins approach. 
  • Have Tweet and Like buttons for all the boards you have 
  • Icons of the last 4 people and showing the images they have pinned onto their boards at the top somewhere of your boards. 
  • Be able to bulk pin more than one image at once - would save you all the time pinning them individually at once. 
  • Offer stats for each board, stating the average number of total image views, the most viewed images, videos, the amount of repins, clicks and likes they each attract. 
  • Make the phone app compatible with all iPhone and Android models, recent and older - I'd really would love a Pinterest app that is compatible with ALL Android phones, so I can pin stuff on my phone. Not just online via the site. 
  • Add Twitter to the send board button- don't just have Google + and Facebook
  • Filter out pornographic images option- more often than not, I tend to see indecent or porn images of pins on Pinterest from people I am following. I would like some type of feature, where by ticking the 'filter out pornographic or mature content', I'd not be exposed to sexually explicit images of photos, fan art on my screen. 
  • Give us the option to disable comments for all our pins - let's face it, very rarely do people comment or reply to the pins I post on  my boards. Those that do, are great and it is nice to see. But those that don't, but just repin or like the pins, they don't comment. Or choose not to comment. But hey, I do that as well myself. I see more people repinning, liking the pins from my boards than from those who comment on them. 
  • Celebrity/star recognition & notification message of Pinterest activity- in many cases, a lot of people create boards based on their likes, interests, hobbies, favourite celebrities. Wouldn't it be cool if, say by having a board dedicated to your favourite actor, singer, band or whatever, the celebrity who has a Twitter or Facebook account gets a notification of this on FB or Twitter, whenever we or you pin an image or video onto our boards. So for instance, one is a fan of One Direction (I'm using them as an example), and she has created a Pinterest board dedicated to them; whenever she pins a photo or video related to them on the board, and in their description, it includes their name, they in turn, get notified and it appears as a update or tweet on their timelines. They can then decide whether or not to like, share it, retweet it or favourite it. 

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