Category Archives: Media

#gendercard

According to a March 6th article/blog stream, during a recent interview, the Texas Tribune Editor-in-Chief asked Wendy Davis, a candidate running for Governor of Texas, if she would be playing the “gender card” in the race. This sparked a Twitter conversation among men and women about playing their “gender cards” (from double standards and the pressure of gender roles to sexual violence and maintenance of the ‘white male’ status quo; I would add to those – the validity of knowledge base dependent on gender, affecting the receptivity of a woman’s perspective).

During the streaming interview, Davis took questions from the audience and spoke  about a myriad of items including finance, education and women’s reproductive rights.  At one point in the interview, Davis emphasized the importance of education in Texas and the responsibility she has as a public servant to assure the availability of the best education options.  That was the moment the Editor-in-Chief decided to ask if Davis would be playing the “gender card” broadly over her campaign, because of her portfolio.  I’m assuming by “portfolio” the Editor-in-Chief was not just referring to the issue of women’s reproductive rights, but also to finance issues, the responsibility of elected officials and education (which Davis was speaking about only moments before) .  Or has education become a gender-biased issue with the social stigma that only women can be advocates and champions for the cause?

The format of this journalist’s question is a reflection of media’s manipulation of viewers or readers.  Why even use the phrase “gender card?”  The exact meaning of this term is not clear, leaving it up to the interviewee and viewer to figure out what should be inferred – what specifically is being asked.  This is a passive aggressive interviewing technique, that bloats of bravado and tries to convince itself that it’s asking the tough questions.  Unless of course, this question is asked not for the actual answer (because the question is vague and airy), but instead to evoke some controversy, maybe some turmoil to see if the answering person can be ruffled.  The question about playing the “gender card” is asking something without really asking anything to create drama, skirt the important/clarifying questions, and to minimize the validity or significance of the issues discussed.  I wonder if this was a conscious choice by the Editor-in-Chief or if this is the standard methodology, so rampant in media today that no one is actually aware of its abnormality.

© M.R.Collier, A Way of Your Own, 2014

Detachment: emotional education and a writer’s vision

I watch a handful of television shows, mostly the addictive ones that suck you in, leaving you to hang from perilous cliffs between episodes.  For example, I have sporadically watched “The Walking Dead” series and finally caught up to the mid-season finale show that aired in early December 2013.  About half-way through this particular episode, perhaps from the shock of storyline events, I abruptly decided to stop watching.  Some boundary had been crossed and the reaction was immediate. “Nope, I don’t buy it,” I said to myself and clicked the screen off, a $1.99 wasted.  An investment had hit rock bottom, depleted, zeroed out. With that last severed head, I had severed my emotional connection to the characters; their past, present and future.

This reaction was extremely interesting to me; especially, the emotional investment aspect.  The script writers had created their vision of the zombie apocalypse world and I could believe it for a couple of seasons. Then, certain elements began to crumble until the whole thing exploded into tiny pieces in that episode.  I could no longer believe that in a system failure, only a few humans maintained their moral integrity, and that those who did were somehow weakened and now victims who would be ultimately murdered.

Even though the writers may have needed to continue the fabrication in that direction to progress the story, why would I invest my time, attention, and emotional energy in perpetuating a point of view when I do not believe in its underlying messages?  If I do not believe in a vision that someone else is providing, why not just stop watching, listening, or investing?

While this perspective can be applied to every energetic decision made, to stay on “television” topic, the questions made me think of emotional education obtained (with one’s knowledge or not) through watching shows and movies.  It’s common place to discuss stereotypes and “normalized” opinions perpetuated through Hollywood-generated plots, but what about learned emotive responses based on the manipulation of viewer’s emotions through the presentation of the writer’s vision of the world, expressed through a character’s actions and reactions, or fate.

Is emotional manipulation an intention so entrenched and normalized in our relationships off-screen that they are inevitable and the norm on-screen?  Does this create an unhealthy relationship between a viewer and the television show?  From experience (ie I have watched “The Walking Dead” for four seasons), compromises and excuses may be made by a viewer internally to maintain those unhealthy relationships with damage or “energy suck” occurring sometimes without realization.  Specifically to “The Walking Dead” series, this type of unhealthy relationship, could lead perhaps to a detachment from emotion or caring altogether, after repeated emotional burns.  (Example:  the graphic murders of well-liked characters who appear to represent wisdom, compassion, innocence and future in a brutal manner and then tugging at the viewer to forget about it, move along, disconnect.  Maybe after a few repetitions of this action, the viewer will remember not to get attached and to expect violence and murder. In that presented environment, why would it be “safe” to connect on any level to any other characters again?).

So, does the repetitive intake of a world vision, through one or multiple television shows become a type of emotional education for the viewer?  And does that emotional education influence the viewer’s off-screen interactions and personal visions and perspectives?  Of course, this brings up the discussion whether the art is a reflection of society, or if the society is a reflection of the art.  Why would it need to be one or the other?  Perhaps, they help each other along.

As a seasoned audience member, I realize that in most cases, the world presented on-screen is make-believe, not necessarily a representation of the world we live in; however, since humans are depicted in most storylines, there is an inevitable and undeniable connection and therefore, a likelihood of miniscule to maximum influence experienced with viewer awareness or not.

© M.R.Collier, A Way of Your Own, 2014

Bullies and Blame

I’ve been struggling with composing a post about human expression and fragility, but it’s as though my brain synapses are clogged with chunky cement soup, hardening slowly, threatening to mold into a frozen stillness forever.  Maybe that is a little melodramatic…  Actually, the thoughts and connections just aren’t quite firing as expected and the concepts have not come fully together.  Amazing how fragile even communication methods seem to be.

While that “fragility post” conflict has not been conquered as of yet, during the thought process, a related topic snagged my attention – bullies and bully behaviors blamed so often that “bully”  appears to have become the news headline of the season.  Coincidence or not, the multiple events that recently flooded the front pages were reported by media to have been motivated by bullying, or carried out by those who may have been bullied.  There were the violent tragedies involving teenagers committing suicide, and involving a kid bringing a gun to school to kill others.  And there was the parent accusing a winning high school football team of bullying with their high score. And most recently, a NFL player’s behavior towards a teammate was described as bullying.

Whether “bully” is appropriate or not in each instance, through the media presentation, “bully” has become the scapegoat, the focus, the blame.  Perhaps it is the victim mentality perpetuated by mainstream media.  Perhaps it is the same old broken record of needing to find something or someone to blame in order to identify a problem to fix.  Maybe the concept of blame is getting some plastic surgery, a new face. The face of a bully – and no one likes a bully.

I remember a particular bully at my junior high school who for some reason simply hated my best friend.  No particular reason for the hate, and the bully intimidated my friend with biting words and dagger stares in the hallway, which were reinforced and enhanced when the bully walked by with several of her friends.  The bully sessions never progressed to punches or physical contact, but most of the time that is not needed to fully get the bully intention across.   Of course, today, add technology and social media and bullying becomes much easier to accomplish and more widespread.  From personal experience and just living through the public school system (okay, just living within our society), bullying behavior exists and can have severe consequences. But, does it deserve all the blame? Or is this only a method of thinking and does “blame” even need to be established?

Of course, this line of questioning leads to additional questions.   But maybe it’s worth wading through the question marks.

If not bullies, what should the focus be?  I definitely do not have a definitive answer, but do bullies cause suicide?  I don’t ask that out of insensitivity, but I’m just trying to see another perspective, another “how” of thinking.  Because the one that is offered to me through media just isn’t working out.  What about focusing on elements within an individual and an environment that directly impact methods of thought such as self esteem, self confidence, peer pressure vs thinking for yourself, communication, creative expression, stress/anger management, self defense tactics (physical and emotional) and creating personal boundaries?  – a discussion applicable and relevant on a society level, for everyone, not just the “bully” and the “receiver.”

Changing the focus, not to change the “blame”, but to change how one even thinks about the issue.  At this point, I have an engrained expectation to hear about violent bully tragedies on a daily basis. I expect news stories about the next school shooting to be caused by bully behavior.  How am I thinking? Do I want to continue with a reaction-based frame of mind, or does that strengthen victim behavior? Instead of reactive and waiting for the next incident, what if I change the perspective to pro active, aware of the behaviors, motivations and intentions surfacing to the extent that the actions are not simply thrown to the scapegoat of “bully?” Perhaps the whole concept of “blame” should disintegrate from our vocabulary and method of thinking.

© M.R.Collier, A Way of Your Own, 2013

Current Events

I really thought that focusing on the latest “current events” in my blog would be a pretty straight forward process.  You know, look at the newspaper, get online and see the latest headlines streaming in front of my face.  Turn on the radio or news channel and hear the most important stories.  Right?  I had assumed that’s how it would be.

But maybe this is why I struggled with true and false type of tests in school.  Sometimes there isn’t a concrete delineation of what a certain thing is and what it is not, because I guess, it’s really all about the definition we use to describe that thing and where or who that definition came from in the first place.

So, what determines a “current event” or a story that makes the headlines in such a way that it impacts people’s conversations, sways people’s emotions, influences what people (such as myself) talk about on their blogs?  And are these “current events” the only ones that are worthy of our time, energy and attention?  (*Sigh) Can’t I just say “yes” and move on?  No. What fun would that be?!

I realize that an automatic response could be that a “current event” is what makes the front page around the globe.  Or there is the meaning-of-the-word route which would consist of an event that is currently happening.  Or “current events” in essence could be just completely subjective depending on the point of view.

Lately, I’ve noticed myself float along, allowing the flashy, violent, dramatic, soap opera media headlines to decide for me what “current events” I should be focusing on.  Of course, the outlets present their news suggestions; that’s their job.  Suggestions and reports of what happened in the world today create global access in a sense… but we all know those reports are not all that happened in the world today. Headlines presented with fireworks and ‘disturbing footage meant for mature audiences only’ almost convince me daily that nothing else could possibly be judged as equally or more important.

But, on this particular day, the “current event” that has snagged my attention is the actual process of determining the “current events” of my own life, whether they mesh with the media front page or not.  Exposed to the headlines of the day, while listening to those important events directly around me, popping up in my life; then, taking a moment to choose the direction of my focus, energy and time.  Okay, sounds like an interesting “current event” and perhaps a perspective worth sharing.