Considering Girls and Captain America

Sorry about the hiatus everybody. Life just got crazy and I’ve been dealing with some stuff that didn’t really leave me a lot of time to write. BUT…. I’m back! And you may have noticed I’m trying out a new look. Other than that, everything’s the same. So let’s just jump right in.

This last weekend I went and saw Captain America:. I LOVED it, but not just because it is a great movie (even though it is). Before I tell you why I loved it, let me kind of explain my thought process a little bit.

My freshman year at Utah State I took a class called Media Smarts from Prof. Brenda Cooper. This class taught me to critically analyze media for cultural assumptions. This class was simultaneously the best and worst class I took in college. It was the best because I loved every second of it.  It was the worst because it turned me into THAT person. The person who can’t just enjoy a movie, but critically analyzes every part of it.

I’ve learned to not talk about any of this out loud or else people stop wanting to see movies with me.

What I learned in that class is that you could say movies like Captain America are JUST a movie, but millions of people see blockbusters, in the opening weekend alone. They have an impact on our culture and our behavior and our assumptions about the world. They may not be real, but it’s a glimpse into the collective consciousness of our society. We can see, in our movies, our assumptions about how the world works.

For example, have you ever noticed that men are always the Superheroes and women are the damsels in distress? Most of the female leads in Superman, Spiderman, Batman, Ironman etc. are the love interest who gets kidnapped and then rescued.

And then gives weird upside-down kisses.

This brings me to Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I won’t give away spoilers, but if you don’t like knowing anything about a movie before you see it, you should probably just stop reading now.

While watching Winter Soldier, I realized that of the five main heroic characters in the movie two are women, two are black men, and only one is a white guy.

Just take a second to think other action movies you’ve seen recently, and you’ll realize that this is kind of a big deal. There was no damsel in distress. Black Widow (Scarlett Johanson) beat up plenty of guys. No woman was just there to be the thing the hero is trying to save.

I think it’s important to point this out about Captain America because it shows how we are changing our assumptions about movie heroes.

Since this is Considering the Middle and I have to give at least two sides, so let me just say this: Not every movie/television show/book has to have strong female leads. Some things are just about boys. I heard some pretty compelling arguments to this point concerning the HBO Series, True Detective. 

I would also love to see a stand-alone Black Widow movie, which doesn’t seem completely out of the realm of possibility, but hasn’t been announced yet.

But girls can save the world too. And I’m just really excited at the prospect that girls can fight alongside boys equally, without romantic undertones, and fully clothed.

marvel animated GIF

And when you spend as much time thinking about the cultural undertones of movies as I do, this made Winter Soldier a pretty awesome movie to watch.

Considering KSL News Coverage

Last night I was shocked – shocked! – to hear that Utah was “almost legalizing medical marijuana,” or something like that, in KSL’s teaser for the 10:00 news.

Except they’re not.

Utah passed HB0105 that would allow families whose child has epilepsy to buy cannabis oil, or hemp oil. Hemp oil significantly decreases the amount of seizures a child has in a day. You cannot get high off of it, and  it doesn’t seem to have negative side effects. And families don’t grow weed, regardless of what all the pictures of pot planters implied.

KSL talked about how great the bill was in front of this set:


Seriously? Seriously?! Come on now. That’s just silly, KSL.

All I can figure is that they were trying to show more than one opinion. Everyone seemed to think the bill was great and not controversial, and they couldn’t find anyone who had any problems with the bill to interview. So instead, they threw marijuana leaves on the wall, showed a lot of pot plants, and compared it to legalizing marijuana. Therefore, creating controversy where there was none.

Well played, KSL, well played.

The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon: It’s All Just High School

Sorry for the lack of posts lately. I started a new job last week and have been settling into that. Then, I got sick and spent all weekend in bed and got really behind in life.

That being said, I’m ready to ease back into the blog thing with a less serious post. I have a few intense topics stalked up, but I’m not ready with them yet. So, for now, let’s talk: the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.

I can’t pretend to be a longtime Fallon Fan. I never really watched him besides the few viral videos that circled the internet, which I always enjoyed. Last week, I watched some of his debut week on the Tonight Show and really enjoyed it. He’s a really excited guy who just seems amazed by life all the time, and I find that amusing.

I made sure to watch the Justin Timberlake episode with History of Rap 5

While laughing at the rap and subsequent interview I admitted, “I would really actually hate these guys in real life.”

As they sat there laughing at their own jokes, they reminded me of those guys in the back of the class in high school. They found themselves extremely funny, but were really just kind of annoying. Those guys gathered enough people around them that thought themselves  hilarious and, together, formed some sort of “in-crowd.”

Way outside the in-crowd sat nerdy girls like me. Guys like Fallon and Timberlake made me feel, well, nerdy, uncomfortable, and incredibly out of place in high school. These were the people I avoided as much as possible.

But now, when I watch the Tonight Show, I find it entertaining. These guys, who would be obnoxious in real life, are funny on TV. Yes, they are good performers, but I think we like it more because, while watching them, we feel part of the “in-crowd.” They are the cool guys. And liking them makes us feel cool and in the know.

In the end, it’s all really just high school.


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Considering Media Alternatives

After reading yesterday’s post, several readers expressed frustration at the current media situation. My parents and grandparents tell me of a time when you used to turn on the evening news and feel sure you knew what was going on. Not only that, but it seems your neighbors all watched the same news so no one argued about facts, because everyone had the same facts. What could that have been like?

There is an argument to be made that the diverse media landscape is better than the “one-size-fits-all” news hour. Bias media isn’t evil. As  a liberal-minded 17-year-old going to Orem High School in Utah County, Jon Stewart was kind of a daily haven for me. But maybe we should have some unbiased alternatives as well.

I want to compile a list – a list of Objective Media Alternatives. From what I can tell, I have readers from all corners of the political spectrum. Together, we could probably come up with quite a few options. So where do you go for unbiased news?

I will start. My favorite is AP 10 Things to Know for Today. Each morning, AP publishes a new list. If I have time for nothing else, I can at least know 10 things each day, ranging from politics to entertainment to sports.

If I do have time I like to listen to the Diane Rehm Show: Friday News Roundup. She discusses each week’s news with a panel of journalist that try to represent all facets of the political spectrum. There’s two hours: national and international. This can be downloaded online or on iTunes.

So now it’s your turn! What news source do you watch/listen to/read? Is there one you wish everyone would know about? Vote for all your favorites or add your own! Share with friends and family to get a wide range of options. I’m excited to get our list together!

PS – I may do this kind of thing later on, but not directly on the blog. To keep updated, please like on Facebook or Twitter.

Considering Bill O’Reilly’s Superbowl Interview

Each year, on Super Bowl Sunday, the President grants an interview to the network airing the big game. Since that channel was Fox this year, Bill O’Reilly conducted a 10 minute pre-game interview with the President.

Much like Mitt Romney and Glenn Beck, I’ve never dedicated a lot of time to understanding Bill O’Reilly. He is objectively combative, often arguing with his guests. Those who watch him love this about him, and his critics (me) detest it.

For those who haven’t seen the interview, let me try and summarize it.

O’Reilly begins by saying he wants to get the President “on the record” about a few things. He then asks about the botched healthcare roll out, Benghazi, and an IRS scandal. The President replied by saying they tried to fix the website as fast as possible, called Benghazi an act of terror the day after the attack, and there is no IRS scandal.

Many commented  on O’Reilly’s interrupting, with one newspaper reporting it happening 42 times in 10  minutes. Many headlines included  President Obama’s criticism that scandals keep arising because Fox keeps bringing them up.

With that summary, I will try to consider the whole interview from the middle.

In days leading up to the interview, O’Reilly said he wanted to be “precise” and ask poignant questions that wouldn’t let the President speak too long. Pundits, especially O’Reilly, do not usually have one-on-one  interviews with the President, so he wanted to keep control of the 10 minutes he had. And yes, our President has been known to struggle with short answers (see the first debate with Mitt Romney). So from O’Reilly’s view, he wanted to keep the President on point. I can sympathize with that.

Now on to the point that O’Reilly was trying to stick to. Not being a regular O’Reilly viewer myself, the questions kind of confused me. rolled out 4 months ago, the IRS story broke about 9 months ago, and the embassy in Libya was attacked 17 months ago. Each of these subjects have had their own separate hearings. Why bother talking about them?

First of all, further research proved I was wrong. It seems congress, and particularly House Republicans, are reintroducing the IRS scandal. So that question makes more sense.

As to the other questions, Fox News analyst, Howard Kurtz, hypothesized as to why O’Reilly asked what he did. CNN aired an exclusive interview with President Obama the Thursday and Friday before. This interview was longer, and more in depth. As Kurtz points out, “CNN’s Jake Tapper…asked solid questions but made little news.”

Sensational questions sell. Long interviews do not.

There may be another reason besides ratings why O’Reilly legitimately thinks the President hasn’t discussed the other “scandals” before: O’Reilly might watch Fox News and/or MSNBC.

A new study shows that those who watch Fox News as their primary news source actually know less about national and international events than those who watch no news. MSNBC viewers also knew less than the news-less about international events, although do a little better on national events.

These news stations are fun to watch for us political nerds. However, they not only polarize us, they don’t seem to keep us informed very well, liberal or conservative.

I will say this post was kind of hard. I had to work not to jump down O’Reilly’s throat as he kept interrupting the President. Looking for his point of view took more time than anything else so far. This project of impartiality is way more time consuming than I thought! It began with attempting to watch the interview without bias, and then hours looking for answers to the question “Why did he do that?”

What did you think of the interview? Do you think there is a place for biased news channels in our media?

Considering Coca-Cola

When first watching Coca-Cola’s “America the Beautiful” ad, I didn’t think much of it.  It was a lot more interesting than most of the Super Bowl commercials, although the people around me still barely noticed it.  I thought maybe Coke purposefully didn’t use the National Anthem because of the politics surrounding the Star-Spangled Banner in another language. So, I hoped “America the Beautiful” was a compromise. But, others did not agree.

Immediately Social Media split into two camps: those who hated the ad and those who were appalled by those who hated the ad. Monday morning, an outspoken ad-hater was Glenn Beck.

“Why did you need that to divide us politically? Because that’s all this ad is… That’s all this is: to divide people,” Beck said on his  Right Wing Watch radio show.

Let me start by saying that, before this experiment, I would not have listened to Glenn Beck’s radio clip. I would not have considered his points, and I would not have bothered to research his position. And with that, let me begin.

The goal of this exercise is to consider positions I would not typically agree with and look for what may be right with them. And I have to say (ouch, this hurts), I kind of get Beck’s point. This ad is political. This isn’t a comment on whether it should or should not be political, but at a time when immigration and same-sex marriage are at the forefront of political debates, this ad is political.

Further on in his radio show, Beck claimed that all of the leaders of European nations have denounced multiculturalism and said it is harmful to their societies. I looked it up and he is at least partially right (wince, I think I’m developing a twitch). Political leaders in the UK, Germany, and France have denounced multiculturalism as harmful  and divisive to their countries.

So there may be a good conversation about the merits of multiculturalism here, but does that warrant the “Speak English” hashtag and a boycott of Coke products?

Jose Antonio Vargas surely doesn’t think so. He wrote an article on Buzzfeed titled, “Why Coke’s Super Bowl Ad Matters So Much.”  In it, he explains that this was the first time he, a gay, undocumented, Filipino immigrant, could identify with a Super Bowl ad. “In all the years I’ve been watching Super Bowl commercials, I cannot recall seeing a minute-long, multicultural, multilingual ad as expansive and sweeping a statement about diversity and inclusiveness in our demographically-changing country .”

And he would be right. This was the first Super Bowl ad to feature a gay couple.

The fact of the matter is the Coca-Cola commercial showed America as we are right now. We are diverse, we speak different languages and we recognize different sexual orientations. Creating outrage based on a current portrait of America offended those who make up that portrait.

So Glenn Beck thinks we should follow the advice of the Europeans and fight multiculturalism. Vargas believes we should fully embrace diversity. The middle would probably merge those ideas: diversity is good, but a national identity should be preserved.

Writing this first heated post was difficult. I am typically very pro-diversity and find such outrage about a soda commercial appalling. After this exercise, I at least understand the other side of the argument. I don’t feel as if I lost who I am, but my blood pressure didn’t rise at all the insanity yesterday. I just tried to understand it and I would love to actually talk about multiculturalism in the country outside of Twitter hashtags and 4 million dollar commercials. Maybe we could talk about it over a nice Coke (or Pepsi, if that’s your thing).

Did you see the commercial? How did you feel about it? Were you offended or did you love the representation of diversity? Let me know!