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Representation of Whiteness in Media

A comparative analysis of portrayal of race and privilege in popular culture.
by

Danielle Delbert

on 10 December 2012

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Transcript of Representation of Whiteness in Media

Representation of Whiteness
In Media

By: Danielle Delbert Our Central Texts This problem is important because media shapes our perceptions through the representations of society that are shown. Popular culture is especially important because audiences may not realize that the portrayed stereotypes are shaping their ideas about certain cultural groups. Asking audiences to think outside of stereotypes presented in popular culture can lead to a more open-minded society as a whole. Defining Whiteness "I was taught to see racism only in individual acts of meanness, not in invisible systems conferring dominance on my group."
-Peggy McIntosh, Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack Whiteness is a socially constructed concept that describes not the biological differences between people, but the privileges that are ascribed to certain groups. Whiteness is not treated as a race, though blackness and brownness are, marking departures from the racial norm. These social borders simultaneously created uncrossable social orders – as blacks were branded as “different” and usually as more primitive, whites treated them differently and more negatively. How does popular media, such as the HBO television series The Wire and the comedic film The Hangover, represent whiteness, and how does that affect audiences? Hip hop started off in a block that I’ve never been to /
to counteract a struggle that I’ve never even been through Macklemore's "White Privilege" Tim Wise lectures on White Privilege
The history of whiteness: The elite tricked laborers into thinking they have more in common with the elite than the working class of a different race Naming Whiteness Perpetuation of stereotypes What does it mean to be white? “While there is, of course, no necessary corollary between the study of whiteness and the rise of one film director, there is a definitive need to study contemporary cultural artifacts that propagate problematic ideological structures in American culture." Concluding thoughts Do media representations affect our understanding of other people? How can denaturalizing media representation affect perceptions? How is the socio-spatial dialectic affected by media-perpetuated stereotypes? References
Abagond, Julian. (2009, May 29). The Clark Doll Experiment. Retrieved from http://abagond.wordpress.com/2009/05/29/the-clark-doll-experiment/.
Dean-Ruzicka, R. (2013). Themes of Privilege and Whiteness in the Films of Wes Anderson.Quarterly Review of Film & Video. 30(1). 25-40.
Lewis, Ryan and Macklemore. (2009). White Privilege. The Vs. EP.
Marston, Sallie. (2012). Whiteness. [Powerpoint Slides] Retrieved from University of Arizona D2L site.
McIntosh, Peggy. (1988). White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack. Independent School (Winter 1990).
Phillips, Todd. (June 5, 2009). The Hangover [Motion Picture]. United States: Warner Bros.
Simon, David. (2002-2008). The Wire [Television Series]. United States: HBO.
Tilikum24. (2012, February 3). Naming Whiteness [Video file]. Retrieved fromhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xUUlKbD9Lz8.
Wise, Tim. (2008, February 19). Tim Wise: On White Privilege (Clip) [Video file]. Retrievedfrom http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J3Xe1kX7Wsc.
Kenneth Clark Doll Study (1939) “Show me the doll that you like best or that you’d like to play with,”
“Show me the doll that is the ‘nice’ doll,”
“Show me the doll that looks ‘bad’,”
“Give me the doll that looks like a white child,”
“Give me the doll that looks like a coloured child,”
“Give me the doll that looks like a Negro child,”
“Give me the doll that looks like you.” The lack of strong role models for minorities can be seen in sitcoms and feature length films. The absence of questioning whiteness in popular culture can lead to an acceptance of the theme in society as well as media. These representations also perpetuate ideologies of low income families being unable to break the cycle and be successful. “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” by Peggy McIntosh is the perfect descriptor for the way whiteness has become the invisible norm of society, while everything else is portrayed as incorrect and wrong. Though invisible, it is the preferred status and set of behaviors for society. She presents white privilege as an unearned advantage. She also discusses the reinforcement of these present hierarchies that reproduce unearned strength and power over those who are labeled as “others”. Whiteness provides symbolic and material privilege to whites, including honorary whites like Tiger Woods and President Obama, as well as an example that we’ll pinpoint later, Mike Tyson. Cinematography is used as a strategy to represent the disparities of race within society, sometimes using it as a comedic tool, but also incorporating a commentary on the construction of dialectics. White privilege depends on the devaluation of nonwhites because of the implicit dialectic of white purity and black primitivism. Whiteness is normalized and treated as preferable. The naturalization of whiteness creates a hierarchy that the incorporation of cultural pluralism cannot surpass. Scene one: Black DougPortrayed as incompetent drug dealer that started their entire problem, and therefore identified by race.
Scene two: Mike TysonShown as a role model for the coolest character Phil. He is portrayed as aggressive but he's a successful celebrity.Scene three: BubblesHe is confused about the soccer game because suburban life seems so foreign and unattainable to him. "Thin line tween heaven and here" – has nothing, and is okay with always having nothing.Scene four: D’Angelo and DonetteAt a fancy restaurant, other blacks in the restaurant represented as white. D'Angelo feels they are playing a role and don't actually fit in, though they have the money to be there. Presentation of whiteness in Wes Anderson films The difficulties with these films is that they do not challenge conventions. The functions of whiteness are to create a structural advantage that stems from the way privileged people view themselves, others, and societal hierarchies. This heuristic way of thinking is often unmarked and accepted as the norm. Media plays a large role in making these ideas commonplace. This study represented a manifestation of whiteness.
44% of the black children, ages six to nine, said the white doll looked like them. Those who went to segregated schools were more likely to say the white doll looked like them. Clark also had them color a picture of themselves, and most children chose a shade of brown lighter than themselves. In 2009 after Obama became president, “Good Morning America” on ABC did the test. They asked 19 black children from Norfolk, Virginia. It is hard to compare their numbers because they allowed “both” and “neither” as an answer. They also asked the last question first, making it far easier to answer: 88% said the black doll looked most like them. ABC added a question too: “Which doll is pretty?” The boys said both, but 47% of the black girls said the white doll was the pretty one. In an example of the inverse effects of whiteness, white rappers attempt to integrate into a predominantly black subculture. Rappers like Eminem and Macklemore demonstrate this aspect of whiteness, in which they don't really fit into one category. “Where’s my place in a music that’s been taken by my race / cultural appropriated by the white face / and we don’t want to admit that this is existing / so scared to acknowledge the benefits of our white privilege” Media has a strong effect on perceptions and stereotypes that maintain an oppressive hierarchy that subdues the proletariat class, no matter what race. Whiteness is a despotic theory of thought, and, based on examples from popular culture, it still exists within societal bounds. Despite the encouraging results of the reproduction of Kenneth Clark's doll study, producers of media have to be especially aware of the ways their commodities alter the socio-spatial dialectic to repress certain classes and keep them there.
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