Gender Dynamics in Sportscasting

This podcast analyses whether increasing numbers of female sports journalists correlate with improved treatment of said sportscasters. Much of the empirical research focuses on data from the United States, but I gave the project an Australian focus by using case studies from the Australian media. I modelled this podcast after ABC Triple J radio program, Hack.

The use of material from YouTube is legal under Section 40 of the 1968 Copyright Act.

Image: Sportscaster Erin Molan on the set of the NRL Footy Show. Credit: Woman’s Day

 

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Animals in Children’s Television and Film

Animals are extremely prevalent in society today. They are in our houses as pets, representatives of our states, countries and holidays, and, finally, plastered all over the media in advertisements, television programs and films.

As our population has grown, and our technology becomes increasingly sophisticated, we have covered more land with houses, towns and cities, and consequently, have lost huge amounts of natural land. This means that spontaneous animal sightings have disappeared from our lives and been replaced by our constructed view of them (Evans 2016).

An important stage of human development and growth is childhood. It is the period in which we learn the basic behaviours, values and attitudes of our society (Piaget, 1977). An instrumental part of this development comes from the media, and consequently, animals. For children, this exposure is primarily through children’s programs and films, and many feature animals prominently.

While a seemingly pure concept, representations of animals in children’s film and television can be harmful to the way children perceive animals and their place in the world (Carr, 2015, pp.17-18). According to Armstrong, “humans can only represent animals’ experience through the mediation of cultural encoding, which inevitably involves a reshaping according to our own intentions, attitudes and preconceptions” (Armstrong, 2008, pp.2-3). Effectively, the producer of a film or television program starring an animal cannot help but instil the animal with human characteristics, typically those of the author’s own culture, which reduces the animal to a mere shell through which the author’s values can be communicated (Carr, 2015, p.19).

Two examples of children’s film and television that communicate human values through animals are popular children’s program “Peppa Pig,” and movie “Napoleon.”

peppa pig

Peppa Pig (bottom left) with her nuclear family. Photo Credit: Daily Mail

“Peppa Pig” is a very successful children’s program that depicts pigs and other animals interacting in a humanised society. Pepper Pig is the daughter in a nuclear family, attends school with other animals, does dance lessons and speaks English. All animals are fully dressed, live in houses, and experience the same familial and social issues as human children.

napoleon

1997 film Napoleon

“Napoleon” is a children’s film starring a pet puppy that becomes lost at the beginning of the movie and goes on an adventure, meeting many other animals and conquering all challenges thrown at him, including a villainous cat, to reach his goal of finding his way home. It is a classic “underdog” movie (pun intended) with a seemingly helpless but ultimately triumphant protagonist and a sassy sidekick in the form of a talkative galah.

When we consider why these shows were popular with children, we can reference a study by Stephen Kellert of Yale University of children’s perceptions of animals (1984). Two hundred and sixty-seven children were shown a thirty-minute film depicting animals. Seventy different films were shown to ensure consistency across a range of animal-starring films, and participants answered a series of questions to determine which type of animal portrayal they preferred. Various types included “naturalistic,” meaning the subject’s interest was in nature and wildlife, “scientistic,” meaning they were most concerned with the biological function of animals, and “moralistic,” meaning they focused on the treatment of animals and an intense dislike for the exploitation and abuse of animals (Kellert, 1984, pp.46-49). Above all of these, however, was the response to the “humanistic” attitude towards animals, meaning that most participants in the study felt stronger affection for primary or individual animals, and especially pets (Kellert, pp.46-49). The concept of focusing on an individual animal as the protagonist of a film is parallel to the way a film comprised of a human cast is written – with a key protagonist and a surrounding, supporting cast. In other words, children most enjoyed animals that followed the same cinematic techniques as a human-based film. “Peppa Pig,” who is basically a human child in the guise of a pig, and “Napoleon,” a pet puppy desirous of returning to his family, are therefore animal characters to which children are instinctively drawn. It also does not hurt that the depictions of both the animals emphasise cuteness.

These results prove that, even from an early age, people are conditioned to see animals in a humanised light, instead of as the animals that they are. It is concerning that we see animals through such a contrived lens, and begs the question, when will we start seeing animals as solely the empty vessels they are portrayed as in the media.

References

Armstrong, p., 2008, What animals mean in the fiction of modernity, Routledge, London

Carr, N., 2015, Domestic Animals and Leisure, Leisure Studies in a Global Era, edited by Neil Carr, Palgrave Macmillan, London, pp.17-175)

Evans, N., 2016, “Looking at Animals 1,” Lecture notes, BCM310, University of Wollongong, March 23

Kellert, S., 1984, Attitudes toward animals: Age-related development among children, Advances in animal welfare science 1984/85 (pp. 43-60). Washington, DC: The Humane Society of the United States.

Napoleon, 10 October 1997, Video, MGM Home Entertainment, directed by Mario Andreacchio

Peppa Pig, 2003, DVD, Astley Baker Davies Ltd / Entertainment One UK

Piaget, J., 1977, The Development of thought: Equilibration of cognitive structures, edited by Trans A. Rosin, Oxford, England, vol.8

Why did SBS give up its integrity to create “Struggle Street”?

Reality TV programs have been a popular form of entertainment since the beginning of television. There was “Sylvania Waters,” which followed the lives of an Australian family during the 1990s, and today we are regaled by reality programmes like “Big Brother” and “Masterchef.” These programs have one thing in common – they are not as ‘realistic’ as we would like them to be. People are cast in certain lights, designed to created tension and emotive viewing in order to transform participants’ mundane lives into something entertaining to viewers.

Perhaps the most questionable form of reality television is that which depicts people living in some sort of hardship. These shows have come to be known as ‘poverty porn.’ ‘Poverty Porn’ is defined as “Westerners’ portrayal of global inequality, disease and hunger and also to the distorted presentation of disadvantage by the advantaged” (Threadgold, 2015). These shows serve to preserve the stereotypes of “dysfunctionality,” and the fears of the middle and upper-class audiences on their mistrust of people living in low socio-economic communities (Mooney, 2011, p.6). Poverty porn has a tendency “to make those in poverty feel victimized, stigmatized and objectified” (Brooker, P. et. al., 2015, p.3). According to Jensen, “documentaries” like “Struggle Street” present such a convincing critique of a society that it does not leave the audience with any room with which to form their own perspectives on a topic (2014).

SBS has played jump rope with the line between documentary and poverty porn for years. Their documentary “Go Back to Where You Came From,” while strategically cast and dramatized, had a clear goal to increase Australia’s empathy with and compassion for asylum seekers. Other times, these ‘documentaries’ do more harm than good.

This harm was emphasised in the SBS “documentary” ”Struggle Street,” which claimed to expose the difficulties of people living “on the fringe” of Western Sydney suburb Mount Druitt. In actuality, it was a condescending portrayal of the most disadvantaged people in a low socioeconomic area, which pigeonholed an entire community into a stereotype comprised of the community’s extreme. It is so obviously exaggerated that it must be questioned how much the producers cared about accuracy, compared to entertainment value and ratings (Threadgold, 2015).

struggle street

The Kennedy Family. Photo Credit: SBS

The show primarily follows the family of Ashley and Peta Kennedy and their children. Ashley has several existing medical issues and there are fears that he is in the early stages of early-onset dementia. Due to having several children that still live at home, Ashley’s disability pension does not go far, and consequently, the family struggles to stay afloat.

The way the show presents this story while covering all previous points does so in such a way as to portray all their children as dole-bludgers with foul mouths and no motivation. It does nothing to explain the almost inescapable poverty cycle trapping these people in their situation.

In order for the predominantly middle to upper-class audience to relate to the situations on screen, we are given an omniscient narrator to explain them. This element of the show is the most derogatory, as he uses clichéd language like “when you’re dealt a lousy hand, who says you can’t win,” and “when life sticks the boot in, it’s about how you fight back,” (The Guardian, 2015).

There are certain positive points during the first episode, including homeless man “William’s,” kindness to his dogs, as he says that he does not care if he starves as long as his pets eat. These sparse points of light in an otherwise dreary portrayal of life under the poverty line, however, seem only to be included in order to give the programme just enough balance between light and dark to be watchable.

struggle street 1

William and his dog. Photo Credit: newmatilda.com

Peta Kennedy, along with others featured in the series, accused the show of selectively editing it’s the show to exploit the featured people and use them to emphasise their faults, (Koziol, 2015). Of the show, Kennedy said “When we signed up for it we thought it was supposed to be about people’s struggles and going through their problems and getting back on their feet, but this is awful… If I knew I was going to be portrayed like this, I wouldn’t have agreed” (Fife-Yeomans, 2015).

“Struggle Street’s” debut episode smashed all past ratings for SBS documentaries and even beat two prime-time reality shows, with 1.31 million viewers (Lallo, 2015).

It is deeply regretful that “Struggle Street” was edited in such a way as to cause so much harm, when in the past their documentary/reality shows like “Go Back to Where You Came From” have provided such a scintillating analysis of suffering people, and made a clear attempt to educate people for the better. By crossing the line to producing “poverty porn” like “Struggle Street,” SBS has proven that it is no longer concerned with creating accurate and beneficial documentaries but instead is more concerned with ratings.

References

Brooker, P., Vines, J., Sutton, S., Barnett, J., Feltwell, T. and Lawson, S. 2015, Debating poverty porn on Twitter: social media as a place for everyday socio-political talk, University of Bath

Fife-Yeomans, Janet, 2015, We’re not bogans! Mt Druitt fury at SBS Struggle Street series described as ‘publicly funded poverty porn,’ The Daily Telegraph, May 2, viewed March 26, http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/nsw/were-not-bogans-mt-druitt-fury-at-sbs-struggle-street-series-described-as-publicly-funded-poverty-porn/news-story/aced8475335c73fbc7d64dc69227810c

Jensen, T, 2014, Welfare Commonsense, Poverty Porn and Doxosophy. Sociological Research Online, vol.19, ed.3

Koziol, M., 2015, Struggle Street: What happened to ice addict Corey?, Sydney Morning Herald, May 14, viewed March 26 2016, http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/tv-and-radio/struggle-street-what-happened-to-ice-addict-corey-20150514-gh1964.html

Lallo, Michael, 2015, Struggle Street sets ratings record for an SBS documentary, with 1.31 million viewers, Sydney Morning Herald, May 7, viewed March 26 2016, http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/tv-and-radio/struggle-street-sets-ratings-record-for-an-sbs-documentary-with-131-million-viewers-20150507-ggw15r.html

SBS, 2015, Struggle Street: Ep 1 of 3, (online video), Kanopy, viewed March 10 2016, http://uow.kanopystreaming.com.ezproxy.uow.edu.au/video/struggle-street-ep-1-3

Threadgold, Steven, 2015, Struggle Street is poverty porn with an extra dose of class racism, The Conversation, May 6 2015, viewed March 26 2016, https://moodle.uowplatform.edu.au/pluginfile.php/598885/mod_resource/content/1/Struggle%20Street%20is%20poverty%20porn%20with%20an%20extra%20dose%20of%20class%20racism.pdf

Mooney, Gerry, 2011, Stigmatising poverty? The ‘Broken Society’ and reflections on anti-welfarism in the UK today. Oxfam, Oxford.

The Guardian, 2015, Struggle Street reality TV series promo lands SBS in hot water – video, (online video), May 5, The Guardian Australian Television, viewed March 26 2016, http://www.theguardian.com/media/video/2015/may/05/sbs-mount-druitt-struggle-street-promo-video-doco

The Korean Wave

Globalisation, defined by O’Shaughnessy and Stadler, “refers to an international community influenced by technological development and economic, political, and military interests. It is characterised by a worldwide increase in interdependence, interactivity, interconnectedness, and the virtually instantaneous exchange of information” (2008, pp.462). They discuss how globalisation “offers a sense of interconnectedness by facilitating interpersonal communication and he formation of communities and relationships across geographic, racial, religious, and cultural barriers,” (O’Shaughnessy, M and Stadler, J, 2008, pp.462) and describes is as a way for people to feel connected with other around the world, even if they do not actually meet. However, they raise the threat that globalisation poses to the world – on one hand, it could lead to global hybridisation of cultures and an increase in multiculturalism, or it could result in cultural homogenization, and the loss of valuable cultural diversity (O’Shaughnessy, M and Stadler, J, 2008, pp.462-464).
The Asia Pacific is rapidly globalising, and its cultural influence on the world, particularly through mediascapes, is becoming ever more prominent. Appadurai proposes that this is because as the world continues to globalise, America cannot remain the only dominant cultural issue, and therefore more influences, such as that of South Korea, is able to enter the mix (1996).
“The Korean Wave” refers the way in which South Korean popular culture has become prominent in other Asian countries (Ryoo, 2009, pp.139). It began in 1997, when a South Korean television show, “What is Love all About?” was aired in China and was very well received (Shim, 2005, pp.27). Its media influence is huge, and in recent years, its film industry has become “the seventh-largest film market in the world, with national film attendance totals by 2000 exceeding 70 million” (Ryoo, 2009, pp.139). South Korea is a major exporter of various media types, including music, television programs, and films, to all over the Asia-Pacific, to the extent that it is overtaking American and Japanese markets in dominance.
A variety of reasons are attributed to South Korea’s success in the Asian media industry. The cultural relevance of the programs and films to adjacent Asian countries, as well as the high quality to which South Korean films are produced each contribute (Ryoo, 2008, pp.140). They are much more relatable to the audience than more westernised media, which promotes vastly different cultural values (Ryoo, 2008, pp.140).
This emergence of popular South Korean media in the Asia-Pacific demonstrates the concept of cultural hybridity. Bhabha and Young refer to hybridity as when “locals appropriate global goods, conventions and styles, including music, cuisine, cinema, fashion and so on, and inscribe their everyday meaning into them,” without those cultural influences necessitating the sacrifice of one’s native culture (1994; 2003). South Korean music, in particular, utilised various types of music from around the world to become popular, and at the same time created a distinct style of music that emulated the Korean culture (Shim, 2005, pp.36). Cultural hybridity in the Asia-Pacific is only growing as different countries share their cultures through transnational media.
References
Appadurai, A. (1996). Modernity at large: Cultural dimensions of globalization. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
Bhabha, H. (1994) The Location of Culture. New York: Routledge.
O’Shaughnessy, M and Stadler, J (2008) ‘Globalisation’, Media and Society (fifth edition) Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 460-471.
Ryoo, W. (2009). Globalization, or the logic of cultural hybridization: the case of the Korean wave. Asian Journal of Communication, 19(2), 137-151.
Shim, D, 2005, Hybridity and the rise of Korean popular culture in Asia, Media, Culture & Society, 28:25, pp.25-44
Young, R. (2003) Postcolonialism: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

How Remakes Affect Transnational Media

When we think of the film industry, we picture the giant Hollywood sign, the faces of our favourite celebrities, and American accents. We see people of different race, religion, and culture throughout, but in reality, the values that the films uphold and promote are American. Through increasing globalisation during the last century, and primarily in the past forty years, the concept of ‘transnational film’ has emerged to describe film as an international commodity, both through the global distribution of film, and the adaptations of films in different countries. Schafer and Karan discuss Appadurai’s view that global mediascapes are a primary cause of cultural mixing, causing a blurring of the lines between cultures and increasing cultural hybridisation (2010, pp.309).

In this time, two of the most prominent film industries are America and France. From the end of the 1800s to the early 1900s, France had the biggest global film industry. This period ended during World War 1, when a shortage of funding and materials saw the decline of the French film industry (History of French Cinema, 2012). It revived during the 1920s, but by this time, America’s film industry had surpassed it (History of French Cinema, 2012).

America is notorious for remaking popular French films, and there is growing criticism of Hollywood for its lack of originality and growing number of films that are portrayed as original, but which actually derive from French films (Durham, pp.8). Hollywood film producers have an array of reasons as to why French films are adapted for the American silver screen instead of simply playing the original, generally revolving around the American audience’s dislike of subtitles and the effect that dubbing has on films (Durham, pp.8). Disney Studio’s Phil Barlow claims “There has never been a really successful foreign film that wasn’t a fluke” (Durham, pp.9). This comparative perspective between native films and foreign films highlights the biggest issue in the transnational film industry, as each type of movie will have success within different audiences, and there we cannot compare them with each other.

Though the American film industry is not willing to release French films in the United States, they seem to be very willing to remake French films.

“The Birdcage” is an American comedy film released in 1996 that is based on the 1978 French film “La Cage aux Folles”. “The Birdcage” was very well received, with a 77% ‘fresh’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and as described as a “fun, if not quite essential, remake” (Rotten Tomatoes).

the birdcage

Meanwhile, “La Cage aux Folles” was the number one foreign film to be released in America from 1978 to 2014, holds a 100% ‘Fresh’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and was nominated for three Academy Awards (Box Office Mojo).

la cage aux folles

French film makers are, therefore, becoming increasingly frustrated at what they term the “theft of ideas”, as they believe that America’s isolation from foreign films is parochial and insulting to the French film making industry. The French film making industry is insulted as the American film industry refuses to release even dubbed foreign films, instead preferring to remake the movie and instill American values in the film, instead of those of the original (Durham, 1998, pp.10).

References

Box Office Mojo, La Cage aux Folles, viewed September 1 2015, http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=lacageauxfolles.htm

Durham, C., 1998, Double Takes: Culture and Gender in French Films and Their American Remakes, University Press of New England, United States

Karan & Schaefer, 2010, Problematizing Chindia: Hybridity and Bollywoodization of popular Indian Cinema in global film flows, Global Media and Communication, vol.6 ed.3, pp.309-316, http://gmc.sagepub.com/content/6/3/309

Rotten Tomatoes, http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/birdcage/

Travers, 2012, History of French Cinema, Films de France, viewed September 1 2015, http://www.filmsdefrance.com/French_Cinema_History.html

Mediascapes and American Television

globe

Globalisation is everywhere: economics, trade, politics, defence, and even basic travel possibilities are a testament to this. We saw globalisation hundreds of years ago, when trade began to cross national borders in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries (O’Shaugnessy & Stadler, pp.458). We saw it in the emergence of print capitalism in the nineteenth century, and were able to share information globally (O’Shaugnessy & Stadler, pp.458). From there, the communications industry only grew, sharing media all over the world with the commercialisation of the internet.

Regardless of whether one has travelled, or remained in one country for their entire life, they are living in a globalised world. Through their exposure to the media, to film and television from around the globe, they form what they believe to be an ‘understanding’ if other cultures that they have never experienced. Appadurai calls this consequence of globalisation ‘the imagination as a social practice’ (1996, pp.31). He uses the example that some American songs are more widespread in the Philippines, than in the United States themselves (1996, pp.29).

One of the more pervasive areas of globalisation which causes the imagination to be used as a social practice, is the media. Appadurai defines ‘mediascapes’ as “the distribution of the electronic capabilities to produce and disseminate information, which are now available to a growing number of private and public interests throughout the world, and to the images of the world created by these media” (1996, pp.35.).

In his text The International Flow of Television Programs, Varis discusses how, UNESCO statistics showed that since as early as the 1970s, television has been dominated by media from ‘big exporting countries (Varis, pp.72), and that this was a one-way exchange. American television, for example, airs in many other countries, whereas smaller countries cannot share their media as effectively (Varis, pp.72). These television shows offer a glimpse into American culture – or at least, a constructed reality of certain parts of American culture. Appadurai draws direct links between television and ‘imagination’, as the creators of programs use a combination of ‘characters, plots, and textual forms’ (Appaduari, 1996 pp.35) to communicate the overall culture of a place, as well as more subtle, complex metaphors and symbols of a culture (Appadurai, 1996, pp.35).

According to the New York Times, American crime show CSI is more popular in France, and Hollywood movies are more successful overseas, than in America. In 2003, foreign box office sales of American films was $10.9 billion, $1.7 billion more than the domestic box office. Appropriations of popular American shows, like the Russian version of “Married With Children”, have also become widespread (Arang, 2008).

Russian version of “Married with Children”

This is why some countries, such as Australia, implement laws that require a certain amount of domestically produced media to be broadcast on domestic networks. This avoids saturation of the media by one dominant country over another. Mediascapes will only increase in commonality as globalisation grows, and therefore the blurred lines between real and fictional representations of culture, described by Appadurai, will only become blurrier, which is why maintaining this balance is important as the world continues to globalise (1996, pp.35).

References

Appadurai, A (1996) ‘Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy’, Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization, Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, pp. 27-47.

Arang, Tim, 2008, World Falls for American Media, Even as It Sours on America, November 30, New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/01/business/media/01soft.html?_r=0

O’Shaughnessy, M and Stadler, J (2008) ‘Globalisation’, Media and Society (fifth edition) Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 458-471.

Varis, 1984, The International Flow of Television Programs, Journal of Communication, vol.34 ed.1, pp.143-152, https://books.google.com.au/books?hl=en&lr=&id=F_7QgEFjRjsC&oi=fnd&pg=PA72&dq=America+television+international&ots=z919dtNQyo&sig=IV-dHAvC51cgYGcIhZafpDg1byQ#v=onepage&q&f=false

Stuff that Tweets – Constructing a Social Media Persona

This is a Podcast about how normal people become social media celebrities, the art of creating an online persona, and the terrifying concept of the Twitter Bot.

References

Boyd, D. & Marwick, A., 2011, To See and Be Seen: Celebrity Practice on Twitter, Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, vol.17 ed.2, https://moodle.uowplatform.edu.au/pluginfile.php/370596/mod_resource/content/1/Celebrity%20Practice%20on%20twitter.pdf

Image source: Digibuzz, Funny Twitter Bots You May Not Have to Block, August 8 2012, viewed May 12 2015, http://www.digibuzzme.com/funny-twitter-bots-you-may-not-have-to-block/