I have always wondered why middle schoolers, or teenagers in the U.S. are always thought to be rebels and little devils. Many parents dread the day when their children enter teenage years. And my friends told me how lucky I am to have never gone to middle school in the U.S, because everyone in middle school is so miserable and they take their misery out on everyone else.
Duane from the Little Miss Sunshine
I understand that there are psychological reasons for teenager’s rebellion. But I also think that how teenagers are depicted in the movies play a significant role. Movies reflect the values, beliefs of a society. It is a mirror of its culture. But at the same time, we should not ignore their reinforcing effect on the values and phenomena of a society. It has priming effect. If one watch a violent movie, he/she will behave more aggressively afterwards. If we take a look at the majority of teenagers depicted in the American movies, we can’t fail to notice their anger, insecurity and hostile attitude towards the world around them. Such depictions could be an accurate reflection of reality, yet they also reinforce the behavior, and to some extent trigger it. Continue reading
In the past weeks, the Law and Mind Sciences blogposts have included observations about media influences and gender, including Misogyny in Music, Mindfulness and Identity in the context of yogurt advertisements, and the conformity in appearances at HLS job interviews. As these posts described, pop culture, advertisements, and cultural norms all have the power to influence perceptions of gender. No where does this media influence appear to have a wider or longer lasting impact than Barbie. From the first Barbie television advertisement ever (portrayed in the above video) to the introduction of Ken, to current television advertising, Barbie has maintained a prominent presence as a commercial phenomenon, a fashion icon, and source of gender socialization.
The focus of investigations and attitudes towards Barbie differ, but all seem to recognize that the Barbie is not just a doll, but a cultural phenomenon. Since Barbie first arrived at the World Toy Fair in 1959, wearing a Zebra bikini and stilettos, over a billion Barbies have been produced in 150 countries. According to Mattel on Barbie’s 50th Anniversary in 2009, 90% of U.S. girls ages 3-10 own at least one Barbie doll. In a Newsweek article commenting on this anniversary, Eliza Grey described Barbie as “the original bimbo, a relic of postwar paternalism that teaches its young to worship at the altar of blond hair, peach skin and formidable cleavage atop a waistline the size of a pinkie ring.”
Everybody's Got to Do Their Part
Marbury v. Madison, Miranda, and Brown v. Board of Education are hallmarks of a judicial canon that preaches a heroic vision of Constitutional Law arbitrated in our highest tribunal. These cases tell a story of the judicial process that reflects a flattering normative vision of the American government. These are the cases that may be most likely to be emphasized when a middle or high school student is first introduced to judicial review. Running concurrently alongside this set of cases is an antinomian canon, constituted of cases such as Dred Scott, Plessy v. Ferguson, and Bush v. Gore, that tells a story of the court as a political institution, embedded in the culture of its time. A particularly notable subset of these decisions occur during wartime. In cases such as Korematsu, the Supreme Court upholds dramatic, discriminatory suspensions of civil liberties that are justified on the basis of necessity, created by a perceived existential threat. Then, inevitably, the existential threat disappears, the threat that the case generated begins to seem overblown and ridiculous, the decision is dismissed as an unfortunate mistake, there’s a general sense that we’ll ‘do better next time’, and then next time comes, and the whole cycle inevitably repeats itself. Particularly notable, in cases such as Korematsu, is our general view of WWII – a heroic time for the ‘Greatest Generation’, and our relative shame about the Korematsu decision. This bifurcation is a more complicated stance than the universal scorn that we now hold for slavery, and a representative decision of that stance, such as Dred Scott. But is there more to these judicial opinions than mere hypocricy? Continue reading
Sarah Haskins showing us that a proper woman always has the correct baking utensil handy.
Persons invest self feelings in their possessions.
In his piece, “Essays on the Social Situation of Mental Patients and Other Inmates,” author Erving Goffman makes this basic observations that property means something to people, and the choices we make about what to own and what to buy define us to a large extent. This is true even when one considers the humble container of yogurt.
Yogurt does not seem like something about which people should have strong associations. It’s one of those things that you buy in the grocery store every once in a while when you have vague feelings of guilt about the Cheetos you’ve been eating recently and want to make a gesture towards positive dietary decision-making (the argument could be made that this particular experience cannot be generalized… I leave the ultimate verdict to the reader). However, a series of television ads illustrates the principle that food choice – even yogurt- can hold a lot of meaning. Yogurt consumption is clearly associated here with being a woman, and particularly with a certain class of women. In an excellent video, comedian Sarah Haskins pokes fun at this connection and its frequent use in the media. I’m not sure that WordPress.com allows for embedding video from this platform, so I give it to you here. I submit that the extra click is worth it entirely.
Haskins recognizes that these commercials generalize from some sort of shared ‘women’s experience’ to boost their products’ appeal. This use of a generic “everyperson” to tie a product with a particular emotion is quite common – witness the phenomenon of women eating salad or go to the numerous other Target Women parodies about cleaning, cougars, shoes and more to see how companies consciously use (or reinforce? or create?) certain stereotypes about (upper-middle class) women to create successful reality TV shows or reinforce brand loyalty. Women eat salad, they like shoes, and they frequently complain about bridesmaids’ dresses and short men… the list could go on. Car commercials, which cater to men, have a certain stereotype as well. The best commercials slyly acknowledge certain cultural norms that they are playing upon, and also use them to their advantage. Continue reading
A recent worldwide study recently showed the dramatic effect of social situational factors on what we would generally view as dispositionist character traits. The study, entitled Markets, Religion, Community Size, and the Evolution of Fairness and Punishment, tested, through games, the fairness and punishment instincts in 15 diverse world populations. The authors found that market integration positively correlated with measures of fairness, while community size correlated positively with punishment instincts. The authors believe the study emphasizes that ‘prosociality is not solely the product of an innate psychology, but also reflects norms and institutions that have emerged over the course of human history.’ In large, market based societies, norms of fairness and punishment developed, evolutionarily, in order to help ensure the continued successful completion of mutually beneficial market transactions.
Get yer Ideologies here.
The institution of democracy strongly lurks in the background of John Jost’s paper on the elective affinities of political ideology. Jost, primarily through surveys of the populations of Western democracies, writes of how political ideologies are correlated, to a very high degree, with a person’s internal psychological traits. Jost emphasizes both top down processes, such as ideological dissemination by elites, and bottom up processes, cognitive internal functions that lead an individual to adopt overall ideologies in accordance with their psychological needs. Jost These two processes divide into a superstructure, a socially constructed public discourse, and a substructure, the functional and motivational attributes of individuals. Jost leaves relatively vague, in the paper, the methods of interaction between the superstructure and the substructure. I believe that lurking in Jost’s paper is the role of democracy in driving the process of elective affiliation which Jost describes. Continue reading