The National Film and Sound Archive of Australia hosts a Q&A after Star Stories of the Dreaming, a documentary on Indigenous Australian Astronomy! 

In this video,

the filmmaker Eleanor Gilbert reflects on the journey of making the documentary.

Source: The Other Sociologist.

Untangling Pop Culture’s Obsession with the Milgram Experiment

Photo: Millgram Experiment participant. Via Pacific Standard.
Photo: Milgram Experiment participant. Via Pacific Standard.

The Milgram Experiment, which supposedly shows that all human beings are capable of participating in torture under the watchful eye of an authority figure, has captivated popular culture for half a century. Why is that, given that there are finer social science studies out there? This post describes the experiment as well as another famous psychology experiment, the Stanford Prisoner Experiment. I critique these studies as well as exploring the public’s fascination with them, despite their methodological flaws. I provide a case study of how popular culture reproduces the Milgram Experiment as a universal “truth” about humanity’s innate propensity towards “evil.” The truth is that the Milgram Experiment is highly flawed and it tell us very little about our genetic predisposition for torture. What the Milgram Experiment does show, however, is that storytelling falls back on simplistic narrative about good and evil. Social science, in this case psychology and neuroscience, is just another plot device to reproduce the basic notion that “good people” can be made to do “bad things.” The social reality is much more complex and disturbing because it forces us to re-examine the relationship between obedience, culture and social interaction.

Continue reading Untangling Pop Culture’s Obsession with the Milgram Experiment

Paper People/ Compulsory Heterosexuality

Paper People is a short Australian documentary film by young aspiring film maker Francis Haddid. It centres on teenager Jessica Barlow’s advocacy to change the way magazines portray women. Barlow started The Brainwash Project to provide alternative stories about girlhood that aren’t reflected by mainstream commercial media. Barlow was inspired by American Julia Bluhm, who petitioned Seventeen Magazine to stop photoshopping pictures of women. Consequently, Barlow led a campaign to get Cleo Magazine to stop using digitally altered images of young women. She met with the editor Gemma Crisp in Sydney, showing her the 20,000 signatures she’d collected. Barlow reports that the meeting was strange and she wasn’t sure that Crisp was listening to everything Barlow had to say. Yesterday Barlow reported that Cleo has responded to her campaign by taking the following action, in Barlow’s words:

  • They’ll publish their photoshopping policy within the front pages of every issue
  • This month’s edition includes a six-page spread on the issues of digitally altering images, magazines and body image – including an article from me about the petition!
  • Cleo have confirmed that their policy is to never slim down or alter girls’ physical appearance in the photos they personally shoot for the mag.
  • They’re considering a disclaimer on externally sourced altered cover images, and are asking readers to email if you wish to see them do it.

The outcome of Barlow’s campaign is positive, but the results are mixed. Cleo will still use digitally altered images and they are not committing to portraying a diverse range of femininities in their magazine. As Barlow says in the documentary, a better outcome would include magazines publishing images of women of all body shapes and sizes, from different skin colours as well as women who aren’t able-bodied. (As a sociologist, I would also add the inclusion of women who act out gender in different and non-conformist ways, as well as other non-cis-women, including transsexual and intersex women.)

Bluhm’s campaign had a similar outcome to Barlow’s. Magazine editors want to be seen to be doing something about photoshopping when they are faced with public campaigns, but they refuse to commit to making radical changes. This is because in the current market, they presume advertisers don’t want to portray women outside of the ideal they’ve created (white, thin, able-bodied). The presumption is that readers want whatever images advertising sells them.

Barlow notes that these magazines continue to force particular views of heterosexuality on women that affect their self-esteem as well as their relationship with men. In the documentary, she pulls out some excellent examples of the typical sex and relationship articles and advice columns, which are focused on making men out to be wildly different creatures to women. Magazines are invested in constructing men’s desire and emotional lives as mysteries for women to decipher and tend to. Women are meant to accommodate their bodies, emotions and sexuality to suit this hegemonic ideal of masculinity. Barlow argues this is detrimental to both men and women.

In sociology, we can see Barlow’s argument through a prism of compulsory heterosexuality – the idea that women are routinely conditioned to direct their desire towards heterosexual men in very specific ways. We can also understand Barlow’s point through the concept of heteronormativity – this concept describes the ways in which society presumes that heterosexuality is “natural” and “normal.”

Sociology takes a critical look at all the ways in which we are continually educated about how to enact “proper” heterosexuality since the day we are born. Sociology shows that there is a tremendous amount of work, social sanctions and informal policing that social institutions put into shaping how people achieve heterosexuality. This includes the institution of family, education, religion and the media. Magazines are a good example of this: the amount of money, words and images invested in teaching women and men how to read, consume and act out heterosexuality illuminates the heavy social conditioning that underpins heterosexuality. This is not to say that heterosexuality is any more or less a social construction than any other form of sexuality. What it means is that as a dominant expression of sexual desire, heterosexuality is manufactured to appear as if it is effortless and innate, even though all signs point otherwise.

A fundamental element of this dominant heterosexuality is heavily entwined with commercial advertising. Dominant representations of heterosexuality in the media are focused on making women feel undesirable to men without the help of external agents: beauty products, “expert” advice about “good” sex, dieting, body modification, and so on.  

Barlow argues that men as well as women need to be invested in seeking change in commercial magazines. While she is not a sociologist, and her campaign does not go as far as she or anyone else might want, Barlow’s aims, as discussed in the documentary are an excellent example of grassroots feminism.

Read more about Jessica’s Brainwash Blog.

Here’s a quick look at a new American documentary on Facebook’s privacy and ethics, Terms and Conditions May Apply. The Huffington Post reports that the film makers continued to secretly film Mark Zuckerberg during an encounter even after he’d explicitly asked them to stop filming him. You can’t make an important point about privacy by violating privacy, even if you’re seeking to condemn that same person for breaking privacy. This very huge point aside, check out the promo, it looks like a good one to watch for the sociology of social media. 


…a documentary directed by Katie Dellamaggiore that follows the chess team at…a New York junior high school that has become a superpower at national tournaments. Because the school has, as the principal explains, a poverty rate of about 70 to 75 percent, it would be easy for this film to be a very obvious, very shallow story in which the moral is that even kids from the worst possible circumstances can succeed. That’s not what it’s about. These are kids who are, in many ways, profoundly blessed…


This great clip comes from the PBS documentary, Two Spirits“We’re in a many-gendered world”, explains one of the participants featured.


According to old Navajo traditions, there are 4 basic genders which include the nadleehi and dilbaa — persons born, respectively, as males or females, but who fulfill the roles of their opposites in adulthood. These individuals are described as having two spirits. In this excerpt from the film, a more fluid way of describing gender is considered.


Drag Dad is an independent documentary project about a six year old boy named Jeremiah and his father, the drag queen superstar, Tyra Sanchez.

This documentary will help shed light on gay parenting and break prejudices against LGBT families! But it will not be possible without your help. Please offer you support by sharing this link, reblogging, and donating here

Student Pamela Moore is one of the women interviewed in Dark Girls, a documentary on color discrimination by actor-director Bill Duke and co-director D. Channsin Berry…
Hue-based hierarchy, of course, is ancient — and also very modern. The difference is many non-American societies are matter-of-fact about the preference for lighter skin. Prospects on the Indian online dating and marriage website Shaadi, for instance, often list themselves as “fair” or “wheat-colored” without embarrassment. Women touted as beautiful throughout Latin America and the Caribbean often range from very fair to cafe au lait.

Black Americans are no exception — but they’re also less forthright about the color prejudice that exists within the black community. Duke’s film not only airs dirty laundry no one wants to show the outside world — it also may blow the windows off their hinges.

(via Movie Interview – Bill Duke Talks ‘Dark Girls’ : NPR)


The City Dark (2011) Documentary


Wonderful quotes in this clip about humanity’s disconnect with the cosmos in big cities:

“If our civilisation didn’t see the stars and didn’t see how big the universe was, would they come to believe that they’re more important than this much tinier universe because that’s all they see?”

“I worry that our lack of contact with the sky is doing something to us that’s very subtle. Who knows what the ultimate effect will be?”


Submission by

This inspiring documentary highlights the unified voices of Occupy movement participants. This compelling look into the perspectives of citizens rallying for change sits in stark contrast to the out of context portrayal of the Occupy movement falsely created by media corporations.

Occupy Movie has been released as a social film experience! You can now INTERACT with each of the speakers in the film. 

To learn more about Occupy Movie and social filmmaking, please visit: