Sunday, November 9, 2008

Race/Ethnicity in Media

In this article written by Minu Lee and Chong Heup Cho, entitled, Women Watching Together, An Ethnographic Study of Korean Soap Opera Fans in the United States, the authors interviewed and analyzed a few Korean females regarding their soap opera watching habits.

The authors state that this particular chapter “…concerns a question of “why is it that some Korean housewives in America prefer Korean soap operas to American ones?”” (482). However, the part of this chapter that was put into the second edition of Gender, Race, and Class in Media, a Text-Reader written by Gail Dines and Jean M. Humez, I felt addressed more specifically cultural norms within Korean families, especially Korean husbands and wives, and how they are different from traditional American values. Korean soap operas were only used to show an example of Korean marriages and how they may differ from American marriages.

The authors interviewed a few women regarding soap operas and why and how they view Korean soap operas. Most of the women expressed that they had to either watch soap operas alone, with female friends, or not at all because their husbands thought the soap operas to be so silly and trivial. Many of the interviewees said that they had to continue to watch the soap operas even if it meant being sneaky about it because it was their only way to relieve stress. Korean husbands, however, thought that the viewing of these soap operas was stupid because the operas were trashy. The authors write on page 483,

“The common strategy for the husband to discourage his wife from watching soap operas is to compare her viewing choice to that of a housemaid. The usual comment…makes the women feel shame as they violate the natural law of the Confucian notion of family which specifies the role and the status of each family member based on gender and age…the woman must not only respect her husband and elders but also must not damage the family image and honor”.

In this, the book addresses the difficulties that Korean women have with watching something that may distort their image in the household according to their husbands. This really has nothing to do with whether or not they prefer American or Korean soap operas. The chapter continues to discuss how Korean women form a “video club”, which consists of female friends to watch soap operas with. The women interviewed express that this “club” not only allows for an appropriate “private” time to watch soap operas, but more importantly, the club also gives the women a chance to gossip and talk about their issues and problems with their husbands. It gives the women a bit of ‘control’ over their own lives of which are often times controlled by the higher ‘social power’, the husband. So, as the book notes on page 485, “…this politics of family between husband’s power and wife’s resistance has little to do with the program itself. This struggle for meanings and pleasures already exists even before women watch the program”.

It is not until the very end of this section that the author finally addresses Korean versus American soap operas. When Korean women were interviewed regarding whether they preferred American soap operas over Korean soap operas or Korean over American, they said that they enjoyed American soap operas, but preferred Korean soap operas. The interviewees said that the ideas in American soap operas are ‘American,’ not Korean, and they would rather watch a program that addresses their own cultural values, norms and ideas.

Media Representations of Race/Ethnicity

I chose these two media representations of ethnicity/race because they're so blatant. Both of these representations are from a comedy show on FX called, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. This television show is extremely bizarre and takes stereotypes to the limit. In the first clip, a part of the show is displayed in which the main characters are doing ‘community service’ by helping to coach a youth basketball team. One of the characters “chooses” his team and picks all of the African American kids to be on his team. When the other main characters enter, they are upset and tell him that he can’t choose all of the African American kids. The rest of the scene ends by being extremely uncomfortable and the characters can’t say exactly what they want to say for fear of sounding racist. The second clip is another clip supporting racial stereotypes from an episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Both of these representations are extremely harsh and for some reason, many of us find laughter and comedy in these representations of different races. Does comedy legitimize or give the “okay” to supporting stereotypes?

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