Thursday, 18 August 2011

Color and Products

Today I went to eat lunch at Subway, and began to notice several things from the perspective of a student studying pop culture. Like several other popular chain stores/restaurants such as Panda Express, Starbucks, Target, Coffee bean, etc., Subway has its own specific color patterns, schemes, font types, and logos specific to its own company. This goes along with this idea of consumerism in America, how companies want you to be accustomed to a specific pattern associated with a business brand to alert your brain when you see it. A theme of Subway is that they are wanting you to “eat fresh”, and the colors they use to decorate their bags, cups, walls, etc., are all very clean and fresh colors, i.e. white, yellow, green, as opposed to heavily greasy foods that use obnoxious and nauseating colors (McDonalds, Burger King, Sizzler/very dark reds, browns, yellows, blacks, greens.) This usage of colors and patterns is not random. There is a psychology behind how the human mind reacts to certain colors, and then thus creates different reactions and moods such as hunger or thirst, specifically for restaurants and drink places. Colors such as red or yellow tend to make us hungrier (McDonalds), whereas colors like green tend to make us feel thirsty (Starbucks). As a result, the companies are luring us in by directly attacking our subconscious brains and triggering feelings that they want us to feel. Then, they give in to our wants with their products.

Thursday, 11 August 2011


Regarding how I contributed to our group presentation of James Bond: Goldfinger, I discussed how the film creates a need for material goods in society, as well as influencing commercialism and our resulting warped points of views regarding what is wealthy and the value of money. I first noted how the entire plot revolves around this obsession with gold and wealth. I pointed out how, in summary, the film’s villain Auric Goldfinger wants to devalue Fort Knox’s gold in order to raise the worth of his own wealth. It shows how in our own society, people will go so far to accumulate wealth and become richer, simply for their own benefit. In terms of how our regular society/culture derives from this, Goldfinger wants to devalue the other people’s gold with radioactive energy to raise his own value—he is not merely satisfied with amassing huge sums of money, but rather he wants to harm other people with a lot of money. This is like how in our society of business today, it is all very competitive and companies easily become jealous of other competition and try to get higher than them.
I thought it was an interesting side note how the title of the film is simply “Goldfinger”. In this way, it directly focuses on the theme of gold and wealth. The movie could have been called a number of any other titles that do not refer to money or wealth, yet with a name like “Goldfinger”, we are already focusing in on the theme of gold, money, and wealth. Other James Bond titles such as “Die Another Day”, etc. not have any mention of wealth or the obsession with material goods in society.
In observing the film, I saw how much of the modes of transportation in the film are all very rich and extravagant. James Bond’s new car is explained to him as to having all sorts of gadgets and special effects. Also when Goldfinger transports people, it is with a private jet—again very fancy and large. It is not a small car, or small airplane.
The talk and discussion of money in this movie is very casual, alluring to how we spend money so frequently and never really think about it. Goldfinger, when explaining his Grand Slam operation, says “you can have the million today, or ten million tomorrow”. He says this so casually, yet it is such a huge sum of money.
In addition to the use and obsession of gold, there is this ongoing theme in much of Bond’s films, really in a majority of popular main stream spy/action movies, of having the best gadgets, tools, clothes, drinks, and so forth. This has influenced our society today in that we always want an upgrade on our products and are willing to spend the large amounts of money to acquire such devices. Not only does this influence our material mentality, but our physical/gender mentality as well. I said how the character of James Bond fits this ideal male figure, and all men/boys are expected to fit this type of image if they are too adhere to society’s expectations of the ideal masculine man. Just as Bond is seen as cool with all his gadgets, I noted how today we judge people by the type of car they drive and what type of cell phone they have.
To close my section of the presentation, I asked the class a discussion question of how they think the media influences pop culture in terms of expectations and wants for material goods and wealth, and how it changes the way we perceive the meaning of success and being rich.
(REGULAR ENTRY) - chapter 10. Page 315.
I have noticed how much we are influenced by the media and what we view from the television and news. All of this put together creates what we as a society feel is reality. However, it is only based on what we see in the news, and the “news is not an unmediated ‘window on the world’, but a selected and construction representation of reality” (Barker 316). The news is only a sliver of what is truly happening in the world, and we thus need to broaden our views of what we perceive to be reality. It seems that people have narrowed their visions so much that it is restricted only to what other people are telling them and mainly the people on TV and on the news. It is not enough. If we just pay attention to the TV and media news, “we may note a significant omission” (317). This omission is largely due because the media is so controlled that it is revealing only certain sides and parts of stories that are, in turn, only smaller parts of what the world truly represents.
In terms of news, it seems that we largely consider “the unexpected [as] a significant news value” (317). We only become interested once something becomes the unexplainable or the unnerving. If something is too ordinary, it is passed as boring. We need to learn to value everything and truly see how everyone and thing has something to offer the world.
It is true how “the media are seen as a reflection of a class-dominated society” (318). The media is controlled by the upper class of rich people that have control of television stations and producers. Thus we are controlled only by what they present and therefore their point of view. This is wrong. As individual people, we have withered away to followers, and need to again take a stand. We cannot be brainwashed by others. The human mind is a great thing with great gifts and outstanding potential abilities, yet largely it is thrown away due to distractions and a pressure of society to conform.
Works Cited:
Barker, Chris. Cultural Studies: Theory and Practice. Sage Publications 2008. Print.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

A changing world

(Blog 3): A Changing World
Although we may not realize it, the world that we live in is constantly changing from one year to the next, and from one generation to the next. In today’s post, I will be noting changes and differences in pop culture from the past, to the presence, and make some predictions about the future. Although we mostly think small in terms of changes, “changes are not confined to specific nation-states. Rather, they are implicated in processes of globalization” (Barker 141). Our single nation is not the only thing undergoing change as the years pass by. Instead, it is how different countries affect one another that truly create change, whether it is for better or for worse. Things are not changing in a simple manner. Instead of simplicity, change is “multidirectional and chaotic rather than singular and linear” (Barker 141).
One major issue that continues to rise in popular culture is the changing economy. This has been seen by the “concentration and centralization of industrial, banking, and commercial capital in the context of increasingly regulated markets” (Barker 151). Many years ago we did not think so much about money, jobs, and such—but now in our current economic status, they seem more vital than ever. In terms of a changing and challenging economy, states have altered they way they see their relationships with other states. As a result of our economic situation, the “global recession hastened a renewed globalization of world economic activity” (157).
For example, China is trying to rise in power and eventually overtake the USA. Additionally, the place where we get most of our oil from, Iraq, has gotten much negative light regarding the September 11th attacks and remains as controversial as ever. This all results in a highly competitive world where “the development of the extractive/manufacturing industry” (Barker 151) works “as the dominant sector, together with the growth of very large industrial cities” (151). Because China manufactures much of our goods and at the same time is rising in global power, our state and government must be careful to remain both in good relationship with them and be able to stand its own ground.
Globalization is referred to as an “increasing consciousness of the world” (155), and today we are becoming much more aware of our planet than before due to several things, in addition to the aforementioned items. The craze of global warming has been brought to much of our attention, and other global/natural disasters affect our thinking of the environment including Hurricane Katrina, the Japanese disaster, tornadoes, and so many others.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

(Blog 2): Regular entry / Ethnography /Jerry Maguire

(Blog 2): Regular entry / Ethnography /Jerry Maguire
(Regular Entry):
In today’s society, it seems accurate to say that most define men and women in a very structured way. If you go into a clothing store, you will see that the men’s clothing section is totally separate from the women’s section, in opposite areas of the store. It is also labeled as for “men” or “women”. Although this is the norm, I can’t help but feel that it truly is very labeling. As I am fascinated and interested by people who are involved with the LGBTQ community, I come across a lot of people who are cross dressers, transsexuals, transvestites, gender queer, etc. etc. and what they where and the gender they identify with completely ignores the regular, conventional society norms of what is male/female, what is a man/woman, and what type of clothing they should wear. According to Barker’s chapter on Sex, Subjectivity, and Representation (chapter 9), “at stake are the cultural questions what is woman? And what is a man?” (Barker 287). It seems that we are obsessed with these questions and want them defined perfectly and clearly—as a result the LGBTQ community suffers a lot of insults and attacks from society for their out of norm styles. Perhaps that something as society we should consider is that these labels of man/woman should just be ignored. They are labels, after all. People should be able to wear whatever they want to. The differences between clothes as for men or for women are simply labels, anyways, and labels are created by society, which in fact is simply made up by humans. That is the big thing: everything that we take so seriously is just made up. Rights, labels, etc. for so many things are just made up and invented by founders of society. Society also has such a high power and pressure that members of it feel that need to fit into society in order to live a comfortable lifestyle. There is then more distinction between what is masculine and feminine. These can be bounced around, as there are men who act feminine, and women/girls that act masculine. It seems that they form the bulk of our identity, and “sexual identity is formed through a developmental process” (Barker 294) of being born and then reacting--either going with or rebelling against--into a society with specific gender norms and expectations.
In relationship to the aforementioned argument regarding sex/gender, females seem to suffer an equal amount of pressure from society, specifically when in relationship to males and when being compared to them. It seems that women are downplayed in society, and are “not an essence per se, but rather that which is excluded” (Barker 289). Men are seen as superior to women, and were given more rights in the past and taken more seriously. Men are expected to work outside and climb social ladders of business, whereas females are to be kept hidden in the home and do housework, take care of the kids, and cook. In essence, females are more “centered on an ethics of care” (Barker 288). They are seen as caretakers and as a result seen as weaker and inferior as opposed to their male counterparts.

(Ethnography): Over the past weekend, I sat for approximately one and a half hours in a Coffee Bean located in my home area of Torrance, California। When I walked in, I noticed several large posters hanging in front of the windows depicting customers smiling and drinking from various types of drinks, all served within a cup clearly labeled with the “Coffee Bean” logo. As I sat down, I noticed the fragrance of cream and beans heavily in the air. The sounds of machines grinding also were noted, as the workers were busy making the drinks constantly. All of this background noise also consisted of mingling chatter from the customers. During our class we had a discussion on food logos and media usage of it, and the power of the logos with McDonalds, Target, Starbucks, Coffee Bean, and so forth. We mentioned how many of these consumerist companies have removed their word names and just have the picture logo, and I observe this to be two things: it is seen as socially cool to have these logos on you (ex: holding/drinking a Starbucks coffee cup), and #2: Mind control. The world of consumer culture, and selling products is competative. In our fast-paced society, we are moving quicker and so are our minds and reactions to intake products. It is easier for someone to see a picture and instantly make the connection of the product (Starbuck's Mermaid character), rather than take in letters and read the actual word and then make the connection for the product (s-t-a-r-b-u-c-k-s = coffe).
In terms of specific people observations, I saw a young white woman, presumably a student, sitting at a table with a laptop, typing away and every so often looking in books. She had wavy brown hair and a rather round, plump body shape. Her eyes were dark green and she seemed to have a somewhat odd habit of biting her lips every few minutes. She was drinking a large cold drink with brown crème on the top (I was not sure specifically what drink it was). It is also notable that there were several other people with laptops, mostly younger people. A few older folks used electronics, but mostly E-book readers such as Kindles or Nooks (not laptops.)
In the right hand corner of the room was a young man in a wheelchair. He was Latino and had short spiked hair with brown eyes. His head was titled at an odd angle and by the look of his body, his lower body portion was mostly crippled. The boy had the appearance of some form of mental retardation or semi-paralysis. Seated across from him was a woman, perhaps his mother or sister, with long dark brown hair (almost black), tied back in a pony tail. She wore a red dress with yellow flowers on it. This woman was feeding the boy with a spoon because he could not lift/move his head, arms, etc.
Another interesting person was an older man who walked in around twenty-five minutes after I arrived. He seemed to be in huge rush and was possibly going on a trip, or was just arriving here from a trip. The man walked in with a large suitcase and walked swiftly and breathed heavily. I couldn’t see his eyes, as he was wearing dark sunglasses, but his face was heavily tanned and his ethnicity was Asian-American (he seemed half Asian, and half white). When he ordered coffee, he was talking extremely fast and was handling the money quickly. Later after he ordered, the man was tapping his foot and looking around, evidently nervous about time and in a rush.
In terms of analysis, I thought it interesting that I automatically assumed the girl with the laptop to be a student. In addition, I also noted many other young people with laptops; all assuming they were students from a school. Perhaps they were not students. Based on the work of Elias during the years of 1978-1982, it seems that “identity is recognizable by ourselves and by others” (Barker 216). The qualities and characteristics of the people observed fueled by putting a label on them; the combination of a young person with laptops and books created the identification in my mind of a student. Perhaps if it were older people, I might see them as business men. Because there were more than one customers using laptops, there was also the assumption made that there was a school nearby. Stemming from the Cartesian subject and Descorte's theories, society has a way of forcing people to become “capable of organizing themselves” (Barker 219), and therefore make it easier to identify people, both in groups and individuals, by their characteristics.
I have always been fascinated with people who possess disabilities, because the person themselves have been changed internally, and yet external people cannot fully understand their way of life because they are not inside that person. I assumed the boy in the wheelchair was paralyzed or had a form of mental retardation, but the truth is that “identities are not self-generating or internal to the self but are […] constituted through the process of acculturation” (Barker 219). Coming from Stuart Hall, this idea/theory showed how I personally did not know what was going on through that boy’s mind, nor did I know what his affliction really was. But in culture and society, we have a way of labeling the way people are simply by looking at them. A person crippled in a wheelchair is often seen as dumb or useless, but outside people cannot really go into the victim’s mind to see the true emotions and feelings. People are so accustomed to taking things on the surface and at face value. Perhaps if we took the time to dig deeper beneath that “surface” and see from another’s perspectives, we could see their true selves.
My observation of the woman feeding the wheelchair boy was fueled by female assumptions, I realized later on in the analysis. Because the woman was helping and feeding the boy, I took it as motherly instincts and labeled her as a mother or sister. Why couldn’t she be a friend or a cousin? When looking at genders, there is a tendency to see females and males as “an organizing principle of social life” (Barker 223). According to Stuart Hall's and Nicholson's 1997-1999 ideas, we expect males and females to act a certain way, and there are further expectations as too what is masculine or feminine. Society places woman in the motherly roles and “asserts that sexual difference” (Barker 223) from males. As a result, males are generally not seen as caretakers, where as females are placed in the typically nurturing roles of the mother, the babysitter, etc.
There is a lot to be said regarding language and how it affects our study of society, people, and the popular culture that governs it all. When I assumed that the traveling man was in a hurry, I was using “language in relation [to] character” (Barker 225). Because of his hurried personality, his sunglasses and suitcase, he seemed to be embarking on a trip. Oftentimes we label people based on how they move and what they dress like, so I had assumed he was preparing for a trip.
People are constantly on the move and it seems that we have little time to sit still and keep our minds silent to observe all that is around us. If we sit just for a few minutes, we can observe how intricate and interesting the way society works, and the people that make up this society.

(Jerry Maguire): Question of what is Love from the film? In this film, the idea of what love is comes up between the various characters of the story. It sets up the idea that love must be a commitment between two people. If one of the persons does not like the other one, then that love will not fully work. There is also the fear of being vulnerable. Jerry can’t be alone, and he has intimate issues. At one point of the movie he even says “you complete me”. In this way, a working love relationship between two people must indicate that they are halves of one piece—in essence, they “complete” one another. Going with the idea of fear of being vulnerable, Jerry self-publishes a small manifesto book that thus opens himself up, and results in him being uncomfortable. For a love relationship to work, both partners must be totally comfortable with the other and be honest. The entire movie seems to hinge on the struggle of being honest. The two main roles seem to need each other in their business work, and through this their love and respect for one another grow.

Monday, 18 July 2011


Hello all, and welcome to this blog series on observing and investigating elements of popular culture and how they affect society and individual people. This introduction will briefly go over a few points this blog will make over the course of its entries, as well as a few depth topic discussions.

An important element of popular culture that affects society is products and marketing. Our society has become increasingly materialistic and seems to depend largely on skin, hair, weight, etc., type products to define what the ideal example of the “attractive” human figure is. If you look up a clip on youtube from the film “American Psycho” , (clip entitled "American psycho shower scene"), you will see how in this clip the main character is taking a shower and explains to us how he uses a plethora of skin/hair products to make himself look good, but reveals that underneath his mask there is little of interest. In regards to our popular culture, society has such a high value on physical beauty and looks that intelligence seems undervalued. I will be trying to see how society values the media and how the media itself influences the way we view pop culture and how it shapes our lives.

I am also interested in seeing how society works and how do individuals make up, define, and break down society. Oftentimes we try to place “labels” on things that have such a high value in the society setting, and yet if we take a step back and view things from an isolated perspective, we will realize that these labels are simply ways for humans to attempt at controlling society and people, as well as trying to understand how the universe operates. Such labels include marriage, religion (types), social and class rankings, and human rights. All of these things really don’t exist. They are labels created by society, and are used in defining popular culture and controlling society as a whole, and therefore controlling and labeling people. Marriage, for instance, has taken such a high place in society. You are seen as odd if you are not married, and it has become an expectation of young people to know who they are going to marry and announce it to a meddling group of nosy family members. There is the mistake that marriage equals love, and yet this is not the case. More and more people are getting a divorce, showing how people are being pressured to marry even if they do not love the other person. People should be able to love whoever they want without the need for this label. Society and popular culture puts such high expectations on marriage that it becomes a defining marker for people’s lives and worth. Religious conservatives also believe they can control the gay community by denying them the rights of marriage, but gay people can still love one another and have healthy relationships without the need for marriage. People should put more emphasis on the real relationships with one another and less on pleasing society’s expectations on getting married.

Religion is also largely a plethora of “nonsense labels” that popular culture concocts to understand the cosmic complexities of the universe and perpetuate pointless guilt and concepts into people. There are over one hundred different kinds of religions in the world, and each one considers only themselves the right ones, and all other ones are sinners, are wrong, going to hell, are outcastes, etc. How can this be the case? How can any of them be right or wrong then? This shows us exactly how controlling society is; how there is no such thing as religion, and how it is mainly labels of vague, fabricated concepts and make believe ideas to instill fear and guilt in society’s people. It is a powerful tool in controlling others and used as an excuse to hate and hurt as well.