Latinas on Screen

Latina actress Gina Rodriguez, star of Jane the Virgin, has won a Golden Globe for Best TV Series Actress – Comedy or Musical! She said in her speech:

“This award is so much more than myself. It represents a culture that wants to see themselves as heroes.”

This win is especially important given the research on Latin people on screen which shows that Latins are relegated to unnamed roles, and playing to the stereotypes of criminals, blue collar workers and sex objects.

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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.

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Bottle Episode

I learned the phrase ‘bottle episode’ from Abed in Community, the episode Cooperative Calligraphy. He says: ‘I hate bottle episodes. They’re wall-to-wall facial expressions and emotional nuance. I might as well sit in the corner with a bucket on my head’. TV Tropes explains that when tv shows have used up all their budget on other major episodes, they contrive a situation where the main characters are kept in a single location to keep costs down.

In the case of this community episode, Annie believes someone stole her pen and she keeps the study group locked together while she questions everyone incessantly, as tensions and hilarity rise. Abed delivers this sweet reprieve:

If I could just take this time to share a few words of sarcasm with whoever took this pen. I want to say thank you for doing this to me. For awhile I thought I would have to suffer through a puppy parade but I much prefer being entombed alive in a mausoleum of feelings that I can neither understand nor reciprocate.

Noble Savages and Magical Pixie Conquests: Colonial Fantasies in Film

Via Wiki: Detail from Benjamin West’s The Death of General Wolfe (1771). This painting is an example of an idealised vision of the “noble savage” in North American art.

By Zuleyka Zevallos

I wanted to do a follow up on my post from a couple of months a go, on Hollywood racism. I analysed George Lucas’ claim that big Hollywood studios were reticent to back his film Red Tails because there were no white leading actors in the script. I used the idea of the Magical Negro Trope to explain how mainstream Hollywood films stereotype African-Americans as either thugs or benevolent, self-sacrificing figures who exist only to teach the white character a life-affirming lesson. I showed that this trope extends to other minorities who are people of colour, through the Noble Savage Trope. Today I want to focus on the sexualisation of Noble Savage trope. The Noble Savage is a term describing the over-simplified stereotype of Indigenous people on film. I will focus on gender and sexuality issues in big-budget Hollywood films depicting Indigenous and minority cultures during early colonial and “frontier” times.

Today I will draw a comparison between Avatar and other Hollywood films that depict Indigenous and minority women as savage conquests. Women in general are rarely cast in complex roles in big-budget Hollywood releases. They are usually romantic or sexual diversions to help portray the male lead in a sympathetic light. Minority women are even more simplified, especially in stories involving Indigenous cultures. Indigenous and women of colour exist largely as Magical Pixie Conquests:  they are painted as feisty, though ultimately submissive, pawns that help white male characters to dominate the “native tribe”. The fictionalised version of the “Pocahontas” story epitomises how Hollywood both fetishes Indigenous cultures and perpetuates patronising postcolonial fantasies.

Noble savages and magical pixie conquests

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