Sunday, August 17, 2008

Reality tv (and other media)

Lately I've been watching episodes of America's Best Dance Crew, and while the performances are fantastic, I really started watching them because so many of the crews have Asian Americans on them (actually this season, #2, every crew had at least one Asian American member).

Because sometimes it's nice for me to see visible evidence of Asian American life reflected in our culture and society. And oddly enough (or maybe it's not odd) reality tv has actually been the one place where you can see some diversity (and I'm not just talking about Survivor's botched attempt to divide tribes along racial lines (although the ironies of all ironies about Survivor's four tribes is that it all takes place on an island somewhere in the South Pacific and, of course, there is no discussion of the indigenous populations and people of these islands--except in one reward where they meet the tribal leader and get hosted by all the tribe members. Because we SO OFTEN forget about the indigenous populations of the world).

So here's a Sunday afternoon question for everyone: how accurately does tv, film, reality shows, commercials, or any other form of media reflect reality? I'm sure it must reflect someone's reality, but it just doesn't resemble mine.


uglyblackjohn said...

Asians are usualy doctors on television.
I thought that it was great to see Jaba-Wakees and Kava-Modern last season on ABDC. My (black) cousins here in the south were amazed that Asians could dance.
I had to teach them about the Rock Steady Crew (Hispanic/Latino) and their contribution to Hip-Hop. They had assumed that only Blacks were responsible for the advancment of the genre.
I grew up in Southern California so I was a little more accustomed to the many Asian, Hispanic and (sometimes) white dance crews. In So.Cal., these groups grow up around and influence each other more than it's seen in the South.
I thought it was nice to see a more accurate representation of the true demographics of Hip-Hop.

CVT said...

Ha - "amazed that Asians could dance." Currently, Asian b-boys completely dominate the movement side of the hip hop world. COMPLETELY. An Asian crew has won the b-boy world championships the last five years (plus, I think). And yet, so few people would ever consider Asian folks as any part of the hip-hop world. Of course, those would be folks that don't actually know about hip-hop culture, and think that "rap" and hip-hop are the same thing . . .

So - if there wasn't a heavy Asian presence on that show, it would be a travesty.

That said, I'll keep it simple - the media doesn't even slightly represent my world. None of it. And that includes the other people of color I spend time with - the caricature/stereotypes in the media don't really cut it. I've had to teach myself to just let a part of my mind go when I watch movies and tv, so I don't get depressed or angry all the time.

Of course, that doesn't always work.

The real question is: do white folks think that media portrays the "real" world for them?

Jennifer said...

uglyblackjohn & CVT,
Thanks for sharing your observations and opinions. My own knowledge of hip hop is fairly limited (to what I remember growing up in CA/influences of my friends) but perhaps because I had grown up in CA with a fairly large AsAm pop, like both of you, I was not surprised to see Asian Americans on dance crews--although, agian, I find it interesting that you see more Asian Americans on reality tv or documentaries (there is an excellent one right now called Planet B-Boy) and not as back-up dancers for the likes of Miley Cyrus et al (of course, I'm sure one has several strong opinions about Cyrus & the Disney Corp., but my own are limited to a vague awareness that she exists and seems to be a big deal among a certain segment of society).

I do think that CVT raises a good point. I would guess that many non-white or non-mainstream (however you want to define that--by religion, ability, weight, height, sexuality, etc...) people don't feel they are either accurately represented or represented at all on tv and in films.

So if you are someone who is part of the "majority"--do you feel like tv/film accurately reflects you?

uglyblackjohn said...

I think that most white people are conditioned to see the best in themselves by the media and our current social contructs.
Minorities are often portrayed (as cvt states) as caricatures of the whole.

Genepool said...

"The real question is: do white folks think that media portrays the "real" world for them?"

Yes! In fact I was chatting with a co-worker not a week ago and we were discussing how we were pretty sure that "Family Matters" was probably the best representation of how black people live and interact with each other. Being white, we decided this was how other races must view blacks as well.

We also decided that yes, "7th Heaven" was a perfect representation for how us white folk live and identify ourselves. All of us, since we are so easily mashed into a single category and assumed to think a certain way, we decided it best to maintain that image.

"I think that most white people are conditioned to see the best in themselves by the media and our current social constructs."

Why shouldn't we?! Life is wonderful! Although I see a lot of shows that make White males, and men in general look like doddering idiots in the shadows of strong female leads. But I'm WAAAY too white to bothered by that.

Is that a rerun of Friends!?

uglyblackjohn said...

genepool - You should see the best of yourselves.
IMO - minorities are often too pristine or too stereotypical. There is rarely a balance. (i.e. The cosby Show as opposed to anything with a Wayans).