Extra Credit Hack: Two Talk Show Hosts’ Impact on American Culture

One of the first terms I learned when leasing a room in my first college apartment was cable-TV. And coming from a country, Sweden, where television plays a fairly big part of a culture, I thought, we still just had 5 primary channels. Here, there were apparently hundreds of channels.

Thus, with the hundreds of options within the cable-TV there is billions of implications and influences they can have on culture, from reality TV to talk shows. For this hack, I want to focus on the latter one, and more specifically, the influential female talk show hosts that change how our culture everyday. The two primary hosts that I am talking about are Oprah Winfrey and Ellen DeGeneres. A black woman and a gay woman. Still, despite the obstacles they have met, they are today considered the two greatest tv hosts.


One may ask, is not the ‘late night show’ hosts more famous? Well, perhaps for the viewers that watch them, but not for the greater public. Oprah and Ellen have affected peoples life, yes primarily women, all over the world for decades now. Starting up there tv shows in 1986 and 2003, respectively, the two women changed the opportunities for women in TV.

The importance by this hack is not stating the individual success that these two women had, but by amplifying the very important of aspect that made this happen; the feminist movement’s success throughout the 20th century making it possible for two strong women from minorities (the black community versus the HQBT community!!) to be such front figures.

Cable TV, or not, these two amazing women have changed the lives of so many women’s, and men’s, life, black or white, gay or straight, they face the harsh realities, and change the perceptions and values everyday. They are the people that depict the latter part of the 20th century/beginning of the 21st century’s journey. Even if there is still a lot of inequality and injustice today, women like these two are the ones that will make that change.

Empowered women, empower women.

#talkshows #oprahwinfrey #ellendegeneres #empoweredwomen

Hack #5: “Fuck the Police” – N.W.A

“When the Black Panther Party started ‘policing the police’ and shouting ‘Off the Pigs’ thirty years ago [1974], they set the tone for rappers NWA (Niggas with Attitude) who would rather shout, “Fuck the Police” over microphones that would be heard by millions” (285).

That is what Gwendolyn Pough wrote in her chapter in “Seeds and Legacies: Tapping the Potential in Hip Hop” published in the book “That’s the Joint: The Hip-Hop Studies Reader”, evidencing the political potential and implication from the particular song’s lyrics.

“Fuck the police”, sung by the rap group N.W.A, released in 1988, is one of the most famous rap songs within the hip hop culture. The lyrics depicts a revolution that was more about police brutality than a controversial, violent rap song. Cheo Coker expresses in “Who’s gonna take the weight” that “rap as a direct reflection of society, will change no sooner than the populace that influences it changes its attitudes” (Pough, 283). Thus, the controversial lyrics shouting “fuck the police” is so much more than violence against the police, it is about giving a voice to the people who everyday harassed by the police by simply walking down the street.

The lyrics starts out depicting a trial;

“Right about now, N.W.A. court is in full effect
Judge Dre presiding
In the case of N.W.A. vs. the Police Department
Prosecuting attorneys are: MC Ren, Ice Cube,
And Eazy motherfuckin E

Portraying a trail between the “niggas with attitude” versus the Police Department. In the lyrics following the introductory verse, the lyrics implies and depicts a society in which the innocent African-American men have absolutely no chance against the police department. Thus the song revolve around the fact that some voices are more important than other, in which the African-American are constantly accused guilty, without any evidence. In a society, where innocent until proven guilty is not extended to the black society, in a society where black people are shot by the police even in 2018. N.W.A was influenced by the early revolutionist of the Black Panther, and are now influencing the colored society today with the Black Lives Matter revolution as the front figure.

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#theworldsmostdangerousgroup #niggaswithattitude #fuckthepolice #hiphopculture

Hack #4: John Lennon

This song by John Lennon was a result of an eight day ‘bed-in’ protest against the United States involvement in the Vietnam war. Lennon was a pacifist in every means, and he did not believe that fighting communism in South-Asia was reason enough to fight a war. This song was meant to replace, or remunerate, the protest song “We Shall Overcome” and give the protestors of the Vietnam a new more accurate protest song to sing. Lennon have allegedly expressed that seeing the footage of nearly half a million people anti-Vietnam war demonstrants protesting outside the White House in November 15, 1969 while singing this song was one of his greatest moments in life (songfacts.com).

The lyrics is pretty straight forward with the phrase “All we are saying is give peace a chance” making up the better part of the song. However, there are three important sections were he is singing “Ev’rybody’s talking ’bout”, followed by different persons and aspects in the Vietnam war debate.

However, the lyrics in itself might not be the successful factor. Although, it is written as a protest song to sing demonstrations and hence ought to have a fairly simple lyrics to be successful. The way John and Yoko did it was the more remarkable factor. Being his first big hit after his break up with the Beatles, Lennon could do it in any way he wanted and decided to perform it in the famous room 1472 of Queen Elizabeth’s Hotel in Montreal May 31, 1969. By perform in such a stripped and pure fashion the song truly made an impact and the video above really visualizes the horrible handling from the government and police of the pacifist movement demonstrants.

John Lennon is a true legend and he will forever be remember for his true pacifist art and work, with “Give Peace a Chance” as one of his front songs.

 

Hack #3: Celebrity Fashion & Cultural Appropriation

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Singer and actress Selena Gomez          Southern Indian woman wearing  
at MTV Movie Awards                              a red bindi on 21 July 2005
on April 16 2013                                                       © Steve Evans
Found on ‘Pinterest’                                   Found on ‘Wikimedia’

The bindi has been THE object of cultural appropriation on many, many musical events  in the past decade. The often young female celebrity wearing them explains herself by stating the bindi as a fashion statement. However, the bindi, originating in South Asia’s India, has a long history of various significance and if your name is Selena Gomez, wearing any type of bindi to a music award, you are truly defining the term cultural appropriation.

According to Deborah Root in her book “Cannibal Culture: Art, Appropriation, & the Commodification of Difference” written in 1996, she explains that “the term [cultural appropriation] signifies not only the taking up of something and making it one’s own but also the ability to do so”, connecting cultural appropriation to theft of culture (70). In addition, cultural appropriation is only made possible because, nowadays, cultural differences can be bought and sold at the store. In a way, one can say that capitalism is party responsible for western cultural appropriation.

Focusing on the bindi, that has had various different significances during the year, it is still highly associated with the Indian culture and bear heavy significance to the Indians to this day. Vidya Ramachandran, an Indian young woman living in America, wrote the blogpost “Everything You Should Know Before Sticking A Bindi On Your Head” in 2017 for the online newspaper Junkee, explaining that the commercialization of the bindi and the cultural appropriation that is happening among her friends attending festivals, have made her uncomfortable wearing bindis. She reasons and understands that some may believe that the bindi’s religious significance is lost among South Asians today, however that does it not make it okay to wear it as a person not apart of that culture. Similar to Root, she explains cultural appropriation, when one culture is adopting another, becomes problematic only if there is not an egalitarian relationship between the two. For example, Indian practices, cultural and religious, were prohibited by British colonisation for over two centuries. Now, the fact that these people are now not only accepting of Indian culture but are celebrating it as a fashion statement without any approval from the Indian culture is wrong, and scary.

So, Selena Gomez it is not ‘cool’ or ‘fashionable’ to dress like a traditional, cultural, respected Indian women. It is not okay to steal cultures just because you can do so. It is not okay to the Indians, not okay to the Native Americans, nor the Latin Americans or the African American. Celebrities should have public relations managers doing this for them, but common people heading to music festivals copying the style of her favorite idol need to think just one extra time before deciding what clothes to wear. Honestly, it is not that hard. Below is some guidelines.

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#celebrityfashion #coachellafashion #culturalappropriation #bindifashionstatement

Work Cited

Root, Deborah. Cannibal Culture: Art, Appropriation, & the Commodification of Difference. 1996.

Early American Cinema Project: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

One of the most famous silent movies during the 1920s was John S. Robertson’s v1.bTsxMTYxOTE5MTtqOzE3ODY0OzEyMDA7Njg3OzkxNgadaptation of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. No theatre show or film, not even the novel, ever became as popular as this film adaptation. Ever since the book was released in 1886, hundreds of adaptations had been made up until this day, yet Robertson’s silent adaption, with the famous acting of John Barrymore, is still considered to be ‘the film’ about Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Accordingly, the success of the film adaptation bases on the opportunities enabled by the roaring twenties feminist movement and the post-world area, as well as Barrymore’s perfect depiction of identity in the form of a monster. All this together, the work is both benefiting from the changes in American culture of the time, as well as shaping itself with its successful work.

First and foremost, the addition of two leading female star roles with Martha Mansfield as the innocent Millicent Carewe and Nita Naldi as the dancing, forbidden Ms. Gina, enabled a new great aspect to the storyline. By matching the ‘good’ lead girl to Dr. Jekyll it amplifies his innocent nature and identity, in the same manner as Ms. Gina enhances the bad aspect of Mr. Hyde. Hence, this successful directing move was only possible because of the changing times in the roaring twenties. In 1920, the same year as the film’s release date, women were given the right to vote through the 19th amendment, stating a great win for the feminist movement as it enhanced empowerment among women as they felt more in control of their own lives. This widespread sexual liberation movement was known as the age of the flapper. Nita Naldi, Mr. Hyde’s girl, depicts precisely the type of liberal movement that was happening during this decade among young women. Jordan Rosenberg describes the flapper (picture to the left) in his HIST 110 hack as “a new, innovative young woman who wore short skirts, […] and flaunted her disdain for socially acceptable behavior”, establishing this bad, yet desirable doppelganger aspect of a lead lady. Rosenberg continues, “[the flapper] rejected strict Victorian gender roles […] and flouting sexual norms by dancing provocatively with men in underground alcohol clubs”, describes exactly the way setting as the film first introduces Ms. Gina (picture to the right) to the viewers. Thus, by adding the two female leads, the film benefits and rides on the feminist liberation wave, as well as accepting the changes in culture and normalizing the movement and the flapper age through its work.

9384fe7f582b0c991ec6b97eacd932b3Nita Naldi - Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1920) 3

Moreover, the film is released less than two years after the end of WWI. It was a time when the economy was booming and the middle class was rising. Because of that, you could perceive this film as part of the changing industry movement. From making movies, watched by the few in the urban storefront Nickelodeons, to movies about the American Dream, about upward mobility, depicting a narrative of quality, greater than those simply aimed for the lower-class audience (Sternheimer). The movement is the most evident in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’s meticulous crediting of every character throughout the film, as well as in the beginning and end of the film. According to Sternheimer in her book Celebrity Culture and the American Dream, the very first movies of the 1900s were considered of such low standards that the actors, called players, were not even credited in the movie (Sternheimer). Instead, they were treated in the same manner as prompt, while the movie and technology behind filming was the phenomenon. However, Sternheimer also stated “the proliferation of movies during the first decades of the twentieth century bore a special bond with the American Dream and upward mobility” and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as a consequence of riding that industry revolution, the movie had just the right timing and were seen by many, distributed widely around the world and won many, many prices as a result of excellent acting and stunning directing (33). The aspect that the movie functioned as one of the first filmings of a horror movie, an excellent one as well, evidently enhanced and increased the spread of the movie, the prices won and the positive public response greatly.

Now, after expressing how the feminist liberation movement perfected the cast of the film, and the post world war area enabled the ultimate timing of the film, the final element of the film’s success is, simply enough, the film’s very own content. Fundamentally, the story examines the aspect of identity through the battle between the good and evil depicted in the creation of a monster. Regardless if its 1886, 1920 och 2018, the battle between good and evil within our identity will always continue to amaze us in our cultural. Consider the greatest famous books and movies of our times, they all depict a fight between good and evil in some manner. What is so cleverly done in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, however, is the depiction of good and evil within oneself. Sir. George Carewe, played by Brandon Hurst, expressed in the movie, “Which self? A man has two – as he has two hands. Because I use my right hand, Should I never use my left?”,

Skärmavbild 2018-07-20 kl. 02.29.56 enhancing the theory of two selves (0:14:46). Shortly after, as Dr. Jekyll is contemplating Sir Carewe’s two very different natures, he decides to come up with a way to separate the good and evil nature within the self through science. Nonetheless, by doing so, by taking the potion and enabling his dark side Mr. Hyde to come out, he creates a monster. What is so fascinating about this monster is that he created it himself, through him
self. Thus, rising the question whether we all have a monster within us. According to Jeffrey Cohen’s sixth thesis of monsters, “fear of the monster is really a kind of desire”, where the monster attracts forbidden practices through its freedom, that we end up envying (16). He explains that the popularity of the monster roots in its function as safe expression of aggression and inversion for us. Dr. Hyde became such an infamous monster, because we all fear that we have such a monster within, a monster we unknowingly envy or desire because of its freedom to do forbidden practices. Further, Cohen presents the seventh thesis that express “the monster stands at the threshold… of becoming” which concludes the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as it highlights the amazement of the monster that begin with us as the creator of the monster (20). Bringing us back to the very first scene of the 1920s movie, to tie the bag up all together.

“In each of us, two natures are at war– the good and the evil.
All our lives the fight goes on between them, and one of them must conquer.
But in our own hands lies the power to choose —
what we want most to be, we are.”
(00:00:35)

Consequently, considering the monster theory together with the aspect of identity in a form of a battle between the good and the evil is imperial to reach the greatest understanding of this film. Accordingly, the film tells us about American cultural socially, economically and philosophically. By adding two female leading roles as two good/evil doppelganger to the already complex story the film tells us about the social reforms that was happening within our culture to enabling such a thing. By becoming one of the most profitable silent films of all times, the film tells us about the economic conditions during the post-WWI area that enabled just that. Lastly, by so geniusly depicting the aspect of identity, the good and the evil and shaping the monster and horror genre at the same time, it not only tells us about American culture but it shaped it and our way of perceiving early American film by adding quality content to a genre that was not even defined yet, in a movie industry that was just making its way from the lower-status Nickelodeons to the middle class theatres.

Bibliography

Sternheimer, Karen. Celebrity Culture and the American Dream: Stardom and Mobility.

Routledge, 2015.

Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome. Monster Theory: Reading Culture. University of Minnesota Press,

1996.

Robertson, John S., director. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Paramount Pictures, 1920.

Hack #2: Carrie (1976)

Carrie” directed Brian De Palma and released in 1976, the classical horror movie with several remakes and rewatches, is according to my opinion one of the most gendered horror movies made of all times. The entirety of the story is based on a young adolescent in high school portrayed as an unstable, hormonal, young girl that as a result of her menstruation gets heavy mood swings and literally (spoiler) explodes out of rage, and becomes the devil, at her prom. At the same time, the film is constantly portraying nudity among the girl locker rooms, and constantly adds sexuality as an element. On top of that, we follow her religious, unsane mother trying to pure her from her sins through physical and mental abuse. All the blame is put on the women, that is constantly being portrayed as crazy, unstable and hormonal. Linda Williams writes in her article “Film Bodies: Gender, Genre and Excess” that body genres such as horror movies and pornography “may seem so violent and inimical to women cannot be dismissed as evidence of monolithic and unchanging misogyny”, evidencing that movies like Carrie enhances to the thought women being unfit to lead or be the superior counterpart because of their gender differences, such as in this case plays on biological differences in the forms of mood swings as a result of menstruation (12). She continues to address, “their very existence and popularity hinges upon rapid changes taking place in relations between the sexes and by rapidly changing notions of gender – what it is to be a man or a woman”, which is why we cannot simply dismiss stories like this as excessive and/or perverse, but rather understand their function as a cultural problem (12). Ultimately, this movie was made in 1976 and in many cases the gendered horror movies have not become better. Regardless, if the woman is the victim protagonist or the protagonist, we unfortunately continue to find the protagonist in horror movies to be dumb and/or crazy, and often a woman.

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#carrie #genderedhorror #femaleprotagonist #genderrepresentation

Hack #1: The most powerful MAN at the Circus

The Circus have always been considered a place of diversity and cultural representation, a place where everyone is accepted and appreciated of their talents regardless of gender, class or race. Unfortunately, the vibrant and diverse Circus did not escape being victimized of white patriarchal superiority, instead time and time again, the Circus offer the most powerful position at the Circus, the circus master or ringmaster, to the white man every time. Thus, by making the diverse group of artists subordinate to the white male circus master, an “us and them” system is created and every person except for the white male is “Othered”. Profoundly, by making the circus master white and male, we once again determine the white male as the dominant social group, as in so many other aspects of our culture and society. The chapter “Encountering the Other” argues that the strength of “the cultural categories lend stability and justification to profoundly unstable and contestable identities and relationships of power”, essentially stating how the creation of cultural categories enhances the hierarchy of gender, class and race (66).

Today, centuries later, with the sense of cultural inclusiveness and equality in our society, we still see these “others” being created all the time within our popular culture. In “Water for Elephants” (2011) we have Christoph Waltz as the white, male and superior circus master. Similarly, in the recent film “The Greatest Showman” (2017) we have the one and only Hugh Jackman as the circus master. At the same time, the only female circus masters we see are the sexualized ones in the Halloween pop up store. Consequently, the Circus only offers a place of inclusiveness and diversity as long as it is controlled and inferiorized to a white, male power.

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#circusidentity #circusdiversity #circuspatriarchy #circusempowerment