Month: November 2013

Black People Vs Niggas

The stand up comedian, Chris Rock, has a routine called “Black people Versus Nigga.” He makes fun of the stereotypical uneducated lower class black man, “niggas”, from the educated middle class black man perspective. Chris Rock, being a comedian, intended for the routine to funny. Most audience members found it funny, while some find it offensive.

The majority of the audience had a dominant reading because they thought it was funny. Most of the people I interviewed thought the routine was funny because they believe that the comments are true. The main points of Chris Rock’s jokes were that “niggas” are criminals, dependent on welfare, and value being ignorant. All of the people I interviewed live in Brooklyn and Bronx, and between the ages 19 to 37. I interviewed white, black, and bi-racial people to see how race effects interpretation. The majority that liked this clip liked it because they can relate to it. People said that they have people that are like subject of the jokes in their apartment buildings and neighborhoods. One white male interviewee said, “ its funny because I know these guys. They hang out on the corner all day. They are lazy. I don’t understand why they don’t get a job?” In Chris Rock’s routine, he makes a distinction between black people and “niggas” based on education and class. Many white interviewees defended their comments, such as “they are all lazy” and “they are all drug dealers”, by saying that they have black friends that don’t act like that and they were referring to the bad blacks. Most black interviewees that liked the routine agreed that there is a division in the black community between good black people and bad black people, referred to as “niggas”. All black people interviewed that enjoyed the jokes identified with Chris Rock and separated themselves completely from the identity as a “nigga”. One black male interviewee said, “I like it because I’m sick of other people making look bad.” Another black male interviewee said, “I hate niggas. If I can get a job and go to school, so can they. They are just lazy.” The majority of the comments coming from interviewees that had a dominant readings stem from the idea of personal responsibility and the Protestant work ethic. The Protestant work ethic promotes the idea that an individual’s success is determined by how hard they work and if they fail it’s their own fault. Personal responsibility arguments allow contempt for “niggas”, without addressing the class coding of that racial identity and the inequality facing the entire black community.

Only two interviewees found the comedy routine offensive and had oppositional readings. Both interviewees were black and in their 30s. Both were offended that a black man would make comments that they would hear coming from a racist white person. The black female interviewee stated, “This is the kind of rhetoric you would hear on fox. It’s disappointing when people forget where they came from and demonize their own community.” She responded on the fact that she believes that there isn’t solidarity within the black community because of the division of class. In her experience, educated middle class blacks resent lower income blacks for feeding into stereotypes and lower income blacks look at educated middle class as sell outs that gave up their ethnicity. She believes that those conflicts in the black community prevent people from organizing and fighting for social and economic equality. The black male that had an oppositional reading was offended by the comedy routine because he believes that most white people don’t make a difference between black people and niggas and will take this routine as more support for their racist ideas. He used racial profiling and Stop and Frisk, as an example of how race issues doesn’t account for class and personal accomplishments. He said, “When cops stop a man on the street, they don’t care if you have a job and take care of your kids. All they see is a black man walking in the Bronx, so he must be selling drugs.” He continued to talk about how the high-end retail store Barneys uses racial profiling in their stores to prevent shoplifting. It shows that even after you become an economic success society will still see as a criminal because you are black. He said, “The kid had paid for the belt and the cops still questioned him because he was black. He didn’t even commit a crime and he was harassed. How is that not racist?”

The ideas presented in Chris Rock’s routine of Black People Versus Niggas reflect racial issues in our modern multicultural society. Currently, American culture implies that we live in a multicultural society, where people of all races, religions, gender and ethnicities live together without conflict. This ideology promotes the myth of color blindness, or the idea that race is irrelevant in our equal society. The belief that we live in a post-racial world comes from the success of the civil rights movements of the 1960’s and the election of the U.S.’s first black president in 2008. This ideology ignores the current racial inequalities in our society and the systemic racism in the institutions that people are supposed to rely on for socioeconomic mobility. In the comedy routine and the culture at large, dividing the black community into good and bad blacks, and coding goodness and badness with work ethnic and personal responsibility ignores the impact of privilege and opportunity associated with class standing. America has historically always believed in personal responsibility and the American Dream of being a self-made success. The American Dream is an ideology that is built off of the Protestant work ethic that if you work hard you will be a success because God will reward you for your work and if you fail or struggle, you are not working hard enough. These ideas, which are still prominent in our modern society, exploded through out American culture in a time period when blacks were considered property and not equal citizens. Our institutions that call for personal responsibility were not structured nor radically restructured to promote equality, which in return makes socioeconomic mobility difficulty for minorities in contemporary America.

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fiat 500 abarth commercial

Semiology is the study of signs and sign processes. Semiotics is made up of signifiers and meanings that are signified. Meaning is socially produced and understood in terms of oppositional relationships. A sign stands for ideas and concepts. A code is a collection of rules that tells people what something is or isn’t. Denotation refers to literal explicit meanings of words, sounds, and images. Connotation refers to cultural meaning that is marked onto words, sounds, and images. The commercial for the Fiat 500 Abarth in, which an Italian woman seduces a man and then turns into an Italian car, signifies concepts about gender and sexuality.

In the Fiat 500 Abarth commercial, a man stares at a woman longingly. He looks at her butt and legs first and then her face. The man looking at a woman signifies that men have the active gaze and women are the passive object of the gaze. The sexual gaze between a man and a woman signifies the man and woman as heterosexuals. The fact that he looks at parts of her body before he sees her face symbolizes he values her body over her identity. A person’s face symbolizes identity. It is how we recognize people we know in a crowd. The man is dressed in a dress shirt, a tie and dress pants, which signifies that he is middle class and has white collar job. The woman is wearing heals and a dress that is short and the front has a deep v cut. The dress shows off her legs and breast. Her outfit signifies that she is a desirable middle class woman. Her reaction to catching him objectify her is a series of actions with sexual connotations that make up a code of how to be a sexy woman. First, she reacts by being upset that he is looking at her in a sexual way and she yells at him in Italian and then slaps him. She reacts this way because of the myth about women’s sexuality. The myth is that women are sexual objects to be desired and do not have their own sexual desires or enjoy sex. After the initial response, the woman begins to seduce the man. Her actions of whispering in his ear, and touching his chest and face signifies that she wants him sexually. She speaks to him in Italian, while being a few inches away from his face. The physical closeness of their bodies signifies their sexual desire for each other. The man pretends to understand what she is saying when she doesn’t by nodding his head. His reaction is marked with the idea that a man doesn’t need to have verbal communication to have sexual relations with a woman. The woman’s body language is enough of a signifier of consent for sexual activity. The woman dips her finger in the man’s coffee and drips cream off her finger onto her breasts. The cream has a metaphoric relationship with ejaculation, which signifies the climax of ecstasy during sexual intercourse. The woman is doing this action to show the man that she can please him. The creaming falling on her breasts happens to cause more attention to her breasts. The cream is a form of intertextuality because cream is used in pornographic films and photography. Her larger breasts signify that she is desirable. Then, she touches his lips and he closes his eyes and tries to kiss her. He opens his eyes after failing to kiss her and realizes that she turned into a car. The woman touching his lips and getting closer to his face signifies that she was going to kiss him. All of the actions performed by the woman create a code on how to be a sexy woman and make men desire you. The code for being a sexy woman is to be thin with a large butt and breasts, wear clothing that shows off your body, be very physical with men, and be available to satisfy men’s sexual desires. The syntagm chain in the commercial, events that form a narrative, are all the ways she is touching him. The entire interaction between the man and woman was a narrative about giving the man what he wants, which is to be seduced by a beautiful woman. The commercial ends with the woman being a car that the man desires. The commercial is transferring the sexual desire for the woman to the car in the hopes that it will make you want to buy the car. The tagline for the car is “You’ll never forget the first time you see one.” This tagline is sexual as well because it is trying to associate the feeling of being sexually aroused for the first time with seeing the car for the first time. The car is Italian and the woman is speaking Italian and the music foreign too. The idea that it is foreign or exotic makes it more exciting and sexy.

The messages communicated in this commercial can be criticizes from the feminist perspective. The commercial defines being a woman as being a sexual object available for men’s pleasure. It defines men as sexual people that have their own desires and women as people who only desire to please men. The woman is only active when her action is approved by a man; otherwise she needs to be passive. It teaches women and young girls that their value comes from bodies and physical appearance. It teaches men and young boys to desires sex and only value woman for their bodies. The language barer between the man and the woman paired with the body language of the woman may bring up the issue of sexual consent and grey rape. Grey rape refers to acquaintance assaults, which occurring on dates, when alcohol is involved, or when someone has consented to some sexual acts, but not others. The man does not understand Italian and, as an American audience, most viewers don’t know what she is saying either. Her body language is implies that she would consent to a sexual act because she is very physical with him. But, feminist argue that sexual consent is giving is a combination of verbal cues and body language. A woman saying she wants to have sex, verbally flirting, or being physical to any degree isn’t enough on its own to prove consent. The lack of verbally communication between prospective sexual partners are often arguments that support innocence of the victimizers in cases of grey rape because the most common defense for rape is that it wasn’t rape, it was a miscommunication.

Road Trip (comic book script)

Road Trip

 

Page 1

Panel 1

Overhead shot:  Todd is lying on his bed looking up at the ceiling.

TODD – thought bubble

I miss Sarah so much.  I can’t believe we broke up just because we went to colleges on different coasts.

Panel 2

 Medium shot: Todd is siting up on his bed staring out the window of the NYC skyline.

TODD – thought bubble

I wonder what Sarah is doing?

Panel 3

Medium shot:  Sarah on the beach drinking beer by a fire.  She is surrounded by 3 surfer guys.

No text

Panel 4

  Medium shot:  Todd packs his backpack and grabs his key.

TODD

I got to go to LA and get her back.

Panel 5

Medium shot:  He drives out of the city with the skyline behind him.

No Text

 

Page Two

Panel 1

Top of Panel in bold it says “Day 1”. 

Medium shot: Todd is sitting at a picnic table drinking a cup of coffee outside a truck stop McDonalds. He looks sad.

TODD – thought bubble

What can I say to get her back?  I love her. I need to get her back.

            Panel 2

 Medium shot:  Still sitting at the picnic table drinking coffee with napkins and 3 empty coffee cups on the table. He looks really anxious and confused.

TODD – thought bubble

Why can’t I think of anything?

Panel 3

Spilt panel in half down the middle. Left side is close up: big smile on his face. Right side medium shot:   he starts writing on a napkin.

No text

Panel 4

Medium shot:  He is running in the parking with napkin in his hand.

No text

Panel 5

Medium shot: He sits in his car and puts the napkin on the dashboard.

TODD – thought bubble

I can’t wait to see her.

Panel 6

Medium shot: The car is back on the high way with other cars.

No text

 

Page three:

Panel 1

Top of panel in bold it says “Day 2”

Long shot:  The car parked on the side of the road.

No text

 

Panel 2

Close up of Todd asleep.

Panel 3

Long shot: The back of the car in the back ground and the back of a girl in the foreground.

No text

Panel 4

Spilt panel left side fist knocks on window with Text boom next to the fist. Right side close up: Todd’s startled face.

Panel 5

Close up of Todd’s nervous and tired face with window rolled down.

TODD

Ummm…. What do you want?

Panel 6

Medium shot: girl standing on the side of the road.

GIRL/ EMILY

Hi, I’m Emily.  Can I please please have a ride? I’m going to San Diego, but I will go any way west. I can give you gas money.

Panel 7

Medium shot: Todd opening the door.

TODD

Sure, but you got to drive.  I need to get some sleep. Go towards LA. Oh, and pay me now.

Panel 8

Medium shot:  Emily hand Todd a 50 dollar bill and Todd hands Emily the keys.

No text

Page four:

Panel 1

Top of panel in bold it says “Day 3”

Medium shot of Emily driving and Todd asleep.

No text besides day 3

Panel 2

Medium shot: Todd is awake and Emily is still driving.

EMILY

Good morning. So I’m going to Cali because I like to travel. I wanna hit every state before I die. What’s your name? Why LA?

Todd

I’m Todd. I’m going to visit my girlfriend. 

Panel 3

Close up: Emily’s face.  She looks really excited. Wide eyed and big smile.

EMILY

OMG.  That’s so cute. I’m a hopeless romantic. I love love like so much. It’s so cute. Tell me, how did you meet?  How did you know that you were in love with her?  How long have you been together? What is she like? I bet she is amazing and really pretty. Come on, tell me, please?

Panel 4

Close up: Todd’s blushing face.

No text.

 

Panel 5

Medium shot: Emily driving and Todd looking out the window.

EMILY

She is your girlfriend. You should be able to talk about why you like her?

Panel 6

Medium shot: Todd looking confused.

TODD

She is a cool girl.  I love her a lot.  I don’t know why. I just do. Okay.

 

Panel 7

Medium shot: Emily driving and Todd sitting next to her.

EMILY

Do you want to marry her?

TODD

Jezzus… I don’t know. I’ve never thought about it. We have been together for only 5 months. 

 

Page five:

Panel 1

Top of panel in bold it says “Day 4”.

The car parked on the side of the road. Road sign says 30 miles to Los Angeles.  Emily on one side of the car and Todd on the other.

No text besides day 4

Panel 2

Medium shot: Todd in the drivers seats driving and Emily in the passenger’s seat. Todd looks very nervous and his face is flushed.

EMILY

Are you okay?

Panel 3

Close up: Todd’s panicked face.

TODD

I don’t know if I can do this. Sarah isn’t my girlfriend any more.  She broke up with me when she got into USC. I’m trying to get her back.

Panel 4

Close up: Emily’s very excited and happy face.

EMILY

That’s the  most  romantic thing I’ve ever heard… but  what  if she  does not want  to  see you?

Panel 5

Close up: Todd looks even more horrified.

No text.

Panel 6

Close up: Emily sneezes.

No text.

Panel 7

Medium shot:  Todd driving and having a panic attack. Emily wiping her nose into Todd’s Napkin.

No text.

Panel 8

Medium shot:  Emily dropping the napkin out the window.

EMILY

Calm down.  It will be okay.  You just need to know what you want to say and it will be fine. I promise. 

 

Page six:

Panel 1

Close up: Todd looks shocked.

TODD – thought Bubble

SHIT. That was my love note to Sarah!

Panel 2

Close up:  Todd looking very angry at Emily

TODD

WHAT THE FUCK?!?  I needed that!! And you just threw it away!!

Panel 3

Medium shot: Todd driving and looking very upset. Emily crying and looking confused.

EMILY

What are you talking about?  What did I do? Slow down. You are going to get us killed!

TODD

The napkin, you idiot.  Didn’t you see the writing on it? That was my pan to get Sarah back and now it’s gone!

Panel 4

Medium shot: Todd still upset but calming down. Emily crying harder. 

EMILY

I’m sorry. I’m sorry. What did it say?

TODD

I don’t remember. I knew I should have never let you in the car. 

Panel 5

Close up: Emily crying.

EMILY

I’m sorry.  I really am. But, I’m sure if you just tell her how you feel. It will work out.

Panel 6

Medium shot: The car pulls into a dorm parking lot.

No text.

Panel 7

Medium shot: Todd and Emily just sit in the parked car. Emily looks sad and Todd is anxious but not angry any more.

TODD

Um. I’m sorry too. I shouldn’t have freaked out on you. Wait here. 

EMILY

It’s fine. I got a good feeling. I know you will get her back.  I can’t wait to meet her.

 

 

Page seven:

Panel 1

Medium shot:  Todd standing outside the dorm building.

TODD –thought bubble

Here goes nothing. 

Panel 2

Medium shot:  Todd knocks on Sarah’s door.

Sound effect:  Knock

Panel 3

Close up: Todd’s anxious face.

No text

Panel 4

Medium shot:  The door opening with Sarah’s shocked and unhappy face peeking out the door way.

No text.

Panel 5

Medium shot:  Todd pushing open the door with his arm and Sarah looking very uncomfortable.

TODD

I love you and I don’t want anyone else. Long distance can work if we want it too.

Panel 6

Medium shot:  Todd and Sarah standing in the living room. There is a guy on a couch watching TV in the background.  Sarah is looking at her feet and Todd at looking at Sarah.

SARAH

It’s time to move on. Don’t make this harder than it has to. I told you when we broke up, I don’t love you. 

Panel 7

Medium shot:  Todd looks behind him and sees the guy on the couch. Sarah stands there with her arms folded looking at her feet. 

TODD – thought bubble

Really? She wants that guy???

Panel 8

Long shot: Todd running down the hall way blushing. Sarah standing in the back of the hall way yelling to him.

SARAH

You are still my best friend, Todd. We can still be friends right?

 

Page eight:

Panel 1

Medium shot: Todd is walking outside the dorm building crying.

No Text.

Panel 2

Medium shot:  Emily is leaning up against the car and Todd is standing near the front of the car.

No text.

Panel 3

Close up: Emily looks nervous and excited to see Todd.

EMILY

Where is she? What happened?

Panel 4

Medium shot: Todd looking at his feet. Emily looking sad.

EMILY

Oh. Too bad. It’s her loss. Get in the car. I’ll buy you dinner. I’m starving.

 

 

Panel 5

Medium shot: They are hugging. Emily’s back is towards the reader. Todd is crying a little.

No text.

Panel 6

Close up: Todd is sitting in the car. He has a half fake smile.

 

TODD

I could really use a burger and a milk shake right now.