Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Blog Post Number 8

“A thoroughly beautiful woman and a thoroughly homely woman are creations which I love to gaze upon, and which I cannot tire of gazing upon, for each is perfect in her own line”
~Mark Twain

We all have problems being looked at or stared at, but yet it is so easy to point and stare at others. The talk in class about Laura Mulvey’s idea of the gaze intrigued me to find out more about this topic. She argues that the “pleasure in looking has been split between active/male and passive/female.. presenting ‘woman as image’ (or ‘spectacle’) and man as ‘bearer of the look’. Men do the looking; women are there to be looked at.”(Mulvey 1992, 27). Her primary focus is that of the gaze between the sexes; the male is the gazer while the female is the object to be gazed at. She talks about how this gaze objectifies women and I must say I agree on some levels.

Now I’m not here harping as a hardcore feminist, but the idea got me thinking about society today. Take for example the show Deal or No Deal. What better way to demonstrate Mulvey’s theory then through a typical episode of this game show. Here we have twenty six beautiful models holding a briefcase filled with a certain amount of money. All twenty six females are put on display for the contestants. Not to mention they are all dressed identically from head to toe; a tiny dress, push up bras, hair done up and makeup plastered on their faces. These women are seen as objects put on display simply to decorate the briefcases. And for what? To draw in viewers of course. What better way to target the male side of their target audience then draping beautiful women all over the set? These women are further objectified because they hardly talk, and when they do it’s as one voice; “Hi Howie”, with a big grin on their face. They serve no other purpose but to hold the case of money; leaving once their case has been picked. They are simply objects of the male gaze desire.

Because women are aware of this male gaze, it causes them to change their actions and behaviors. These girls would never be seen without their makeup and fancy outfits or hair done. And why? Because they know they are being looked at and so are always trying to present themselves the best they can. It changes the way other women see themselves as well because they desire this male gaze on themselves and so it seems the only way to do so is the pretty outfits and heavy makeup. “The male gaze is 'determining', and female figures appear in accordance with male fantasies -- they 'connote to-be-looked-at-ness’ as in conventional erotic spectacles like strip-tease.” (

We don’t just see this idea of the male gaze and looking on television and in films, what about Playboy? Again girls are posing for the male gaze. They are objects of male desire. They are objectified and only seen for their looks rather then who they are as a person. I mean common now… what guy really looks at playboy bunnies and says “man I bet they have a great personality”. Now like I said before, I’m not harping out feminist views. This could be argued in the reverse way with Playgirl Magazines. But when was the last time we saw twenty six gorgeous men as the center of a game show?

We justify objectifying these women and staring at them because they are a part of television. We’ve seen it before with Bob Barker and his beauties. It has become normal to see women decorating prizes and so we no longer question it when twenty six beautiful women are presented before us as decoration. Because it’s a game show it must be okay. Because everything in television is ‘not real’ and therefore the rules are apparently different.

I just found Mulvey’s point still lies true in today’s society. Although women have a lot more rights now a day then they used to, they are still typically gazed at by men and in turn objectified causing them to change their ways.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Blog Entry Number 7

To me this film did two things. On the one hand I think it was good in depicting the New Guineans, their way of life, and their rituals and traditions. On the other hand, I found it raised a lot of ethical issues. I felt as though these people were being put on display like animals at a zoo.

I’ll begin with my first viewpoint. The film, much like media such as National Geographic, sets out to document the people of New Guinea and their primitive culture. It is trying to represent
the truth about their lifestyles in comparison to the Western culture. “The film is an attempt to demystify the touristic search for authenticity and detached experience of the other.” ( This film shows the gap between two very different groups; the white upper class western and the other. By making this film, the director is taking the viewer to a world many people don’t know a lot about. We are able to see their traditions and way of life. Showing the tourists bargaining the prices down and then hearing the interviews with the New Guineans allows us to see from the New Guineans point of view just how hard their lifestyle is. Hearing how angry the one New Guinean woman was about the tourists not buying her gifts allows the viewer to see how hard it is for these people to make money.

I found it interesting that the New Guineans seemed to know quite a bit about the tourists but yet the tourists seemed to know nothing about the New Guineans. As this weeks article stated, the film is “about rich Western tourists on a cruise along the Sepik River in Papua New Guinea and their interaction, or lack of it, with the local villagers” (Lutkehaus, 423). They seemed almost dumb and treated the New Guineans like they were less of a human than themselves. At one point, there was an encounter between Waukau, one of the New Guineans, and a tourist. The tourist “gently touched the young girl's wrist. ‘Dear, are you a real Indian?' she asked. 'I hope you don't mind my asking. But you look so American'” ( Not only does this seem insulting and make the tourists look stupid, but it also shows how Western Society is moving in on the New Guinean land so much so that the people are starting to look more ‘American’. This weeks article strengthens this point by saying that “Westerners' need to reassure themselves of their superiority over others who are different from themselves and of the dominance of Western culture in the postcolonial world” (Lutkehaus, 425). This leads into my next viewpoint.

My other viewpoint is focused on the ethical side of all of this. Watching this film made me think that the people of New Guinea were being put on display. These tourists traveled all this way to see these people and they sit there taking pictures of them, similar to what you would do with animals at a zoo. Okay, yes I agree it is always interesting to travel to other lands and see the way people live, their rituals, and traditions. However, the way the people of New Guinea were portrayed, even in the title of the film, seemed a little unethical. Cannibal Tours, when I first heard it seemed like people are going to tour a village of cannibals. What really struck me was when one of the New Guineans was being interviewed, you could see in the background a tourist slowly move into the frame and start taking a picture of what was going on. I found it so distracting and almost rude. The camera man told the New Guinean that one tourist is photographing him right now and the New Guinean just froze. The way the people of New Guinea just so easily posed for the pictures and just stood there allowing the camera to stare at them managed to creep me out because it’s like they have become so used to being watched that now they just accept it and pose. There was one scene that the camera just zoomed in real close to a child and for about thirty seconds (though it seemed so much longer) the child just stared into the camera. It’s almost like they are unsure what to do when a camera is shoved in their face, but can you blame them? Technology is unfamiliar to them. The one New Guinean that was interviewed mentions how he did not understand why the tourists were taking pictures. These types of things are foreign to them and for tourists to just come into their land and start taking pictures of them just doesn’t seem right. The New Guineans “complain that tourists have attempted to pat up their hair and arrange their clothing before photographing them” ( What was so sad about it all, however, was that the New Guineans are ALLOWING tourists to take pictures of them and their sacred land (ie the spirit house) in exchange for money. It seemed to me almost like prostitution. It showed how Western society is closing in on the East and trying to assimilate them to the Western society’s ways. These people are in such need for money that they will sell their culture for it.

Another very disturbing part of the film was when the woman tourist wanted to take a picture with all the naked children. Although it is part of the New Guineans traditions to not always wear clothes, I found it a little disturbing when she kept saying she wanted a picture with these naked children and continued to say “oh they are so cute”. She classified them as a whole rather then individuals and she just pointed out to one child and said “here take a picture of me with that one”. But yet when the cameraman asked her to get closer to them to fit in the shot she responded to him “I think they’re close enough”. It really pointed out the “otherness” of the Eastern society. It was like she was afraid to get close to them. I found that a little disturbing.

The end of the film was rather disturbing as well. The fact that the tourists were all on the boat dancing around with their faces painted like native masks seemed to me like they were poking fun of the New Guinean culture. The New Guineans clearly painted these masks onto the tourists to give them a touch of their primitive culture before they left. However, it just seemed as though (stripped down to almost nothing and dancing around the boat laughing) that they were mocking the traditions that they seem to know very little about.

What bothered me too was how the tourists were talking about how the New Guineans need help to become more modernized. It seems as though they are not able to live their lives the way they are used to. Instead of continuing on their traditions from their ancestors, their land
is taken over (i.e. the sacred things destroyed because the commissioners thought it was devilish) and they are forced to become more modernized. It is hard for them to now maintain their primitive cultures because they are forced to let go of the past and assimilate to the west. The primitive “other” no longer exists because of this, yet they are still viewed as “the other” to the Western society. We see this through the fact that they are now seen wearing clothing instead of nothing at all (although some still do), through interaction with the technologies of the west and through the need for money (something that would never have been an issue to their ancestors).

Money is an issue for the people of New Guinea and you can clearly see the Western influences being forced upon them. They are not able to live the way their ancestors did because it is not approved of in society today. One thing I don’t like about the Western society is how we always feel we can bargain down other countries commodities when we go visit on vacation. When I went to Cuba so many white Westerners were trying to bargain down souvenirs from the town’s people. To me this just seems so selfish. Western Society is so much more well off then these Cubans (obviously if they are able to AFFORD a trip) yet we feel the need to not pay them the full price because we know they want to sell these items. This is their only income for many of them. We won’t even pay them the full price they deserve and we wonder why they aren’t as well off. As one of the New Guineans stated, they don’t go to our big shops and try to bargain down our prices. Yet we think we have the right to do it to them. I think this is just wrong. These people have worked so hard on the stuff they have made and we aren’t even willing to pay them entirely. They do not understand how the tourists have so much money and to them it is simply because of the location they live in. “The New Guineans have no money, and this fact is used to frame their articulations of identity in spatial terms: the tourist’s money isn’t earned, it’s simply a fact of the place where the tourist lives, just as a lack of money is a fact of the place of the New Guineans” (

Blog Entry Number 6

“The piece documents a critical time of racial division and civil unrest, not to place blame for what happened, but to help the process of healing through a kaleidoscopic and sympathetic rendering of different viewpoints.” (

Anna Deavere Smith took an interesting approach to documenting the Los Angeles Riots. She took an approach similar to Stud Terkels, but instead of writing down the interviews, she performed them. “Anna Deavere Smith's ground-breaking solo shows blur the lines between theater and journalism, using text from real-life encounters to create gripping portraits.” ( I think this was a better approach because not only was it more interesting but it gave you a clearer picture of what the people were actually like. We are able to see it rather then just try and picture the words we are reading as it adds background to more then just words.

The idea of her portraying interviewees individually rather then showing the actual interviews made the viewer focus more on what she was saying rather than the look, race etc. of each person. Although she took on strong stereotypes when performing the interviews, I found this helped to paint a picture of what the interviewee was like. When I closed my eyes I almost forgot it was her performing, especially with the Korean representations because of the strong accents she applied to her speech.

But was this a real representation of truth? It is someone PERFORMING so how is that truth? I would argue this is a representation of truth because she is simply repeating or reiterating what the interviewees said to her. She is representing the truth of the event from the perspective of the people who were actually there. I think this represents truth more so than the media would because its stories from the people involved not an outside source. Playing devil’s advocate, we must also look at it from the perspective of what did she leave out? Just as the media can alter the news to their liking, so too can she. Anna Deavere Smith edited the interviews and took what would aid her on stage and be a good performance (similar to Terkel editing his paper so that it works the way he wants it to). How then, is it a representation of truth if she is changing it to her liking? I would argue that it is still a representation of truth because she is not changing what was said just simply choosing the best parts of the interview that would best help paint a picture of the riots, and what would best help the interviews to flow together, telling a story about what happened and what people were feeling during the riots.

Similar to Terkel, she interviewed many people about the Los Angeles riots (for Terkel he interviewed about working), interested in what these people had to say. She was interested in the community’s reactions to the riots, rather than just the overall riots themselves. I think that her approach was important in providing the public with the other side of the story. Her approach brought so much more depth and insight about the riots than the media ever could have done. It is so hard to get your voice out in the media because they edit so much; Smith’s approach allowed the community’s voice to be heard. The media is interested in the facts of the riots which tends to be very one sided. They take their information from an outside point of view and don’t necessarily get ALL the facts straight. The media is very selective in what it will show in order to shape its story a certain way. News stations tend to be very politically one way or the other and will shape their story in such a way that it aids to this point of view. What Smith allowed was for the public to see the ‘real’ or ‘other side’ to the story. She was on foot in the neighbourhood interviewing real people that were actually involved in the riots. She gets the perspective of a wide range of people in order to get a better sense of what actually happened and hear everyone’s voice; African Americans, Koreans, Caucasians etc. She brings all these different people involved in the riots together through her performances to create a story about the truth of the event. She talks to people involved in the riots, as well as the Korean store keepers whom were affected by the riots even though they had nothing to do with the issues at hand. The media didn’t necessarily mention much about the Korean store keepers, but Smith goes in and talks to them to find out how they feel about all that happened. As said in class, just by listening to people you can find a great deal about the world. Smith allowed us to learn about how the riots affected the Koreans, something that, had she not listened to what they had to say, the world may never have heard. Smith talks to all these different people to get their opinions and how they feel, showing a side to the story the news does not show. We learn facts and different opinions about an event that took place. Seeing it from so many different viewpoints allows the public to form their own opinion and not be forced to believe what the media wants us to believe.

The story that really got to me was the anonymous juror. She grasped the emotions of the juror so well, the emotion in her voice, even bringing tears to her eyes. It was such a believable performance. I think that she chose the perfect part of the interview to perform. It gave me goose bumps hearing about the hate mail blaming the jurors for the deaths during the riot. But what really disturbed me was hearing about the letters the KKK sent to the jurors supporting them and asking them to join them. It was creepy to think there are people out there like that.

I liked how, similar to Terkel, Smith maintained the dialect of those she interviewed. She took it further though and added costumes, settings, and accents which helped to paint a picture of the type of person she was performing. She takes on their personas, quirks, and mannerisms as she acts them out, emphasising what she calls the extraordinary speaking acts from the interviews. For example, when she is interviewing Elaine Young she mimics her twitch in her eye as she is speaking, as well as her obnoxious nasally voice. With Mrs. June Park she takes on the Korean accent and the anger that was felt towards the loss of a husband. With Charles Lloyd she takes on his fast paced speaking and excitement in his voice. “Smith also portrayed former Los Angeles police chief Daryl Gates, Rodney King's aunt, a Latino artist, and many others; pieces performed in Korean and Spanish--which Smith studied for the play--required super-titles. "As she has narrowed the cast of characters for this show," observed Taper director Gordon Davidson in Performing Arts, "she has come to
embody each of them, recreating the rhythms of their speech; absorbing them into her bones" ( All of these quirks help to paint a picture of who she is performing and make the performance that much more real to the viewer. She weaves together fragments of interviews to create a story about an event – the Los Angeles riots.

Blog Entry Number 5

This movie made me really angry. It was a clear cut case of police brutality and racial prejudice. Just watching the home video made my skin crawl. The cops were brutally beating Rodney King. I may not fully have known what happened prior to the taping, but what I saw was in no way necessary. The movie explained how Rodney King had been speeding but this does not justify such a vicious beating on behalf of the police. They claim that he was on PCP but yet there was no evidence of this in his blood stream. In my opinion after watching that trial, Powell was the one “on drugs”. He seemed so stupid and spaced out when they were questioning him. Right there would be enough for me to realize that what we were looking at was downright police brutality. Throughout the video he gets up many times and the police claim this was a threat to them. Maybe he was just trying to recollect himself after such a beating! But instead the police kept attacking him. I’m sorry but when there are twenty one police men to one person that is in no way a threat to the police men. When we first saw the video I didn’t realize Rodney King was black. The girl sitting beside me turned to me and asked if he was black and right then I knew we were both thinking the same thing. The only way the police could get away with this would be if the person was black. We see this racial injustice throughout the entire movie. Not only do the police get away with the beating of Rodney King, but they are heard on tape saying “it’s like gorillas in the mist” and saying how his appearance made them think he was an ex-con. In addition, the trial was moved out of L.A. and into the suburbs where the majority of the jury would be white. White jurists would find Rodney King guilty because there, innocent white police men would never do such a thing without a justified reason right? Wrong.

What made me so angry was that throughout the case they kept drilling things into the witnesses and making the problems of police brutality so visible yet nothing was done about it. At one point the prosecution questioning Powell kept asking what he meant by gorillas. Powell seemed to “play stupid” throughout the entire encounter and it made it so obvious that he meant it in a racial way. Just by showing the video should have been enough to find the police men guilty. The shear fact that once Rodney King was being beaten even after he was down on the ground and didn’t look like he was moving is clearly police brutality. The two police that were witnesses said there was no reason for the brutality and the top police officer said that there was no reason for the policemen to beat Rodney King so badly. How then, with all this evidence AGAINST the cops were they found innocent? It’s of course because the majority of the jury was white trying to decide if a black man was guilty against a group of white cops.

What makes me so angry is that everyone thinks that police are always good, but there are many corrupt police hiding behind their police badge, police that completely cross the line. A good example of this is in the movie Crash with the corrupt police man who has a problem with black people. This problem does not only exist in movies, for example in Tianimin square when the police go so far as to run over the protestor with a tank because he would not get out of their way. Or take the case that recently happened where the gentleman at the airport, who had been waiting for ten hours for his mother’s luggage, couldn’t speak English and was getting very frustrated, was tasered by the Vancouver Mounties who thought he was acting erratically, and died in the airport. Once I saw this on the news it made me so angry. I don’t believe that police officers should be allowed to use tasers. The news stated that seventeen people have died this year because of tasers. How does this not make them illegal then? There are other ways to control people! Even though the police may have just been doing their job, they still killed someone for basically no reason at all. This happens all over the world every day and we cannot allow police to get away with things simply because they are authority figures.

I found it interesting the way the prosecution decided to present the whole video at once in order to play on the courts’ emotional side, while the defence played it frame by frame using a more technical approach. I found both of these were effective. Every time they showed the full video I was so angry and upset with what I saw. However, the defence would show the video frame by frame, detaching you from the emotional affect of the video. All the facts and evidence shown made me think that maybe Rodney King was in the wrong and the police were simply trying to defend themselves. I started to think that maybe Rodney King was on drugs and was taunting the police (i.e. when he laughs at the helicopter) since they explained that when on PCP you become hulk like and King was able to keep getting up after being tasered and badly beaten. However once the prosecution showed the video in its entirety, again, I was once again emotionally so mad and brought me back by their side. I did find the defence did a good job at trying to discredit the head police officer and make Rodney King look guilty. However, before seeing the video, my mind had already been made up and after seeing that video I don’t know how ANYONE could find the officers innocent. It just made me so angry to see something like that and I am so disappointed in our legal enforcement system that they would allow something like this to go overseen and let those cops free.