Tags: class, consumption/consumerism, culture, marketing/brands, marx/marxism, nationalism, theory, american dream, commercial, ideology, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: This Cadillac commercial starts with actor Neal McDoungh looking over his private, in-ground pool as he poses the question “Why do we work so hard? For this? For stuff?” He talks about why Americans don’t slack off like other countries, which take a whole month of vacation. He spouts a list of famous innovators, and asks if we think they took an entire month off? Nope, because they were busy being innovators, and living the American dream. The ad is exemplary of the hegemonic ideology of the American Dream. Ideology is a collection of shared beliefs and ideas for understanding the social world that explain and justify power or challenge social relations. In this commercial we see that the actor has achieved economic success. As he walks around his expensive house and material possessions, he discusses why it’s great to be a hard working, no vacation-taking American. McDoungh directly calls out our desire for all the “stuff” which aligns with the value our culture places on material things as a value of success. Then at the end of the commercial he directly ties together the concept that taking only two weeks off means we can have more stuff, enforcing the ideology that hard work will get you the things you want: “It’s pretty simple, you work hard, you create your own luck, and you gotta believe anything is possible.” Similar to a second Cadillac ad, the emphasis on "American" suggests that this idea is a uniquely American characteristic, even though upward mobility is more common in other developed countries. It is like other dominant ideologies that are reproduced throughout institutions (i.e. the media), and this particular ideology is hegemonic because for many Americans, this way of understanding our culture is taken-for-granted. It reproduces existing class relations because it suggests that material success is based upon our degree of effort, passion, and hard work (rather than our class background or other environmental factors), and that if we are not successful, then we accept that we only have ourselves to blame. After watching this ad, it is interesting to see this Ford commercial. It emphasizes local efforts, and parallels the format and style of the Cadillac ad (it really makes fun of the smugness of their competitor, Cadillac).
Submitted By: Alexis Blaylock
Tags: abortion/reproduction, biology, bodies, culture, emotion/desire, gender, sex/sexuality, biological determinism, infidelity, sociobiology, 06 to 10 mins
Summary: This segment from the Today Show explores whether humans are “wired”—or, biologically predisposed—to cheat on their mates. The clip can be used to teach biological determinist perspectives of gender, and specifically those rooted in sociobiology. In short, biological determinism argues that the social world is predetermined by biological factors. Sociobiology stems from this tradition of thought, but focuses more specifically on genetic reproduction and evolutionary processes. Often relying on observations of animal behaviors to make claims about human behaviors, sociobiology argues that a fundamental human drive is to ensure genetic reproduction, and many human activities can be reduced to this drive. Using the case of infidelity, this video clip is helpful for shedding light on sociobiological explanations of gender difference. The segment opens with a sociobiological perspective, using Barash and Lipton's (2001) book The Myth of Monogamy as a point of reference. Here, the authors argue that monogamy is not natural; from an evolutionary standpoint, humans have a stake in having multiple sexual partners. Sexual promiscuity is prevalent throughout the animal kingdom, they argue, and humans are not exempt from the same biological urges that drive other animals to be promiscuous. After the opening segment (minute mark 2:17), host Meredith Vieira speaks with Jeffrey Kluger, TIME magazine’s science editor, and psychologist David Buss; the conversation quickly turns to a discussion of gender difference. Kluger represents a fairly classical sociobiological argument when he states: “Nature wants one thing, and what it wants are babies. It also wants lots of them. And it wants variety, because the greater the genetic variety, the greater the likelihood that the babies are going to survive into adulthood and do well.” Kruger goes on to assert that men will look for women who are young and fertile, and women look for men who are good providers, such as those who are rich and powerful. Buss introduces more socio-cultural elements into the discussion, such as strong social norms against cheating, and argues that both men and women feel attraction to others outside of their relationships. He also points to psychological pathologies, namely narcissism, as an explanation for infidelity, and draws attention to infidelity in a cross-cultural context where polygamy is common (that is, cultures where men are legally entitled to have multiple wives). Although Buss mostly draws upon socio-cultural explanations, he also suggests that biological impulses to be non-monogamous are a part of our “human nature.” Asked why men cheat more, Kruger draws upon biological and sociological arguments, arguing that: (1) biologically, men have the ability to breed more, and could conceivably breed offspring everyday; from this he argues that men are “tripwired" for infidelity; and (2) in a patriarchal society such as ours, men are more likely to be in positions of power and feeling entitled to be unfaithful. After screening the video, viewers can be encouraged to identify messages in the clip that cohere with, and deviate from, the sociobiological perspective. Viewers can also be encouraged to explore feminist and/or sociological critiques of biological determinism, such as those outlined in Carmen Schifellite’s (1987) essay, "Beyond Tarzan and Jane Genes: Towards a Critique of Biological Determinism.”
Submitted By: Valerie Chepp
Tags: bodies, culture, disability, emotion/desire, inequality, knowledge, marketing/brands, media, sports, inspiration porn, super bowl, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: Every year the Super Bowl proves to be a rich site for sociological investigation, and we have analyzed many different aspects of this American spectacle, including the commercials. All media, but the commercials of the Super Bowl in particular, can be seen as cultural artifacts. Ads are saturated with resonant images and meanings, and with a little work, one can deduce information about the society that created the ads, how they see themselves and what they believe about the world. The commercials of Super Bowl XLIX featured a surprising number of people with disabilities. Among them, Reebok and Toyota showcased athletes with prosthetic legs engaged in rather punishing exercise regiments. Our video of the week is the Toyota ad, which tracks world-class snowboarder and double amputee, Amy Purdy, on the slopes, in a dance hall, and as the subject of a photo shoot. Microsoft's ad, by contrast, centered on Braylon O'Neil, a toddler learning how to walk and play T-Ball with his prosthetic legs. All of the ads were accompanied by narration that attempted to inspire and somehow leave audiences with the impression that Microsoft, Toyota, or Reebok are central players in helping humanity realize its full potential. • The problem is that the ads reek of what is sometimes referred to as inspiration porn. That is, to the extent that people with disabilities feature in media at all, they are typically portrayed in a very one-dimensional way; as a narrative device that has been fashioned with the sole intent of inspiring the able-bodied majority. For those who think inspiration porn isn't a big deal, consider the awkward similarities it shares with the old practice of featuring people with disabilities as freaks in circus sideshows. Toyota is using Amy Purdy to inspire the able-bodied majority, whereas P. T. Barnum used double amputees to amuse. In both cases, people with disabilities are being objectified to give the majority a big emotional experience. Find more information and resources about disability and media representation on our Pinterest board.
Submitted By: Lester Andrist
Tags: capitalism, class, consumption/consumerism, culture, economic sociology, health/medicine, inequality, marketing/brands, affluenza, american dream, keeping up with the joneses, status treadmill, 06 to 10 mins, 21 to 60 mins
Length: 10:13 (entire documentary is 56:00)
Summary: This clip (start 2:12; end 12:35) from the documentary Affluenza (based on the book), defines the concept and consequences of affluenza. Using the metaphor of disease, affluenza can be defined as a bloated, sluggish and unfulfilled feeling that results from efforts to keep up with the Joneses; an epidemic of stress, overwork, waste and indebtedness caused by dogged pursuit of the American Dream; and an unsustainable addiction to economic growth. This clip notes that "never before has so much meant so little to so many." It can cause headaches and depression amongst other symptoms, and the narrator notes that if it goes untreated, the disease can cause "permanent discontent." In addition to discussions of consumer culture, the clip works particularly well with the book, The Spirit Level. Using a variety of quantitative data, authors Wilkinson and Pickett argue that more unequal societies suffer a variety of social problems. The reason, they propose, is that more unequal societies place more emphasis on material success to prove one's worth in society. This constant drive to display one's material success can never be satisfied and leaves individuals throughout the social hierarchy being unfulfilled. In other words, unequal societies are more likely to suffer from affluenza, and the negative social and health outcomes (e.g. lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality, higher mental illness, higher drug use, etc). The narrators in the video clip further note that while the disease is very contagious (due to extensive marketing and the rise of consumer culture), it is treatable. Viewers might peruse the videos in our social movements category and other web resources for ideas of how to cure affluenza. The documentary website from PBS also offers a teaching guide.
Submitted By: Paul Dean
Tags: culture, religion, cultural appropriation, hinduism, status, yoga, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: This College Humor sketch features a fictitious Mahatma Gandhi taking a yoga class at a trendy studio. Cultural appropriation, or the adoption of specific elements of one culture by another, is its central theme and issues of race, class and privilege run throughout the video. With the exception of Gandhi's character, all of the other students and the instructor in the class are white, and dressed in what is considered appropriate workout attire by dominant western culture. The instructor critiques Gandhi's technique and use of the Hindi names for poses, asserting that the pose he’s working on is actually called “up dog” and, not to worry that “you’ll learn the terminology.” The video draws attention to the impacts of appropriation on the practices adopted. Those in the class are highly concerned with the social prestige that comes with participating in a cultural trend and with “burning carbs” rather than understanding the customs and spiritualism that has informed the practice of yoga. Calling attention to the décor of the studio, which features statues of Hindu gods no one but Gandhi can identify, further illustrates the subjugation of Hindu tradition to a trendy aspect of western culture. When Gandhi finally leaves the class in indignant rage, the class sends him off with Namaste, to which he responds “You don’t know what that means!” The instructor in the video defends herself against Gandhi’s criticisms by stating that she is a certified instructor under the guidance of Carl Smith. The power dynamic present in the video, which leads to Gandhi’s departure is what allows for appropriation to take place. This power dynamic allows the economically elite practitioners of yoga in the United States to not only change and adopt yoga, but also to monopolize, formalize, commercialize, and institutionalize it.
Submitted By: Miranda Ames
Tags: class, culture, inequality, cultural trope, popular culture, prestige, social exclusion, social status, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: The movie Pretty in Pink (1986) centers on a budding romance between Andie and Blane. Andie is from the “wrong side of the tracks,” and lives with her father, a down-and-out kind of guy whom she continually urges to get a decent job. However, she is a refreshing, free-spirit counterpoint to Blane, a “richie” who drives a fancy car, throws cool parties, dates the popular girls, and lives in a big house with a well-manicured lawn. Her social status is obviously inferior to his, making this intimate teen encounter one that is complicated by not only social inequality, but by social exclusion and rejection, as well. At school, Blane takes a shine to Andie. But given that both are expected to hang out with their own kind, they soon encounter resistance from friends and associates. In this scene, Andie confronts Blane on his denying to others that they are a dating couple. Andie knows he is embarrassed to be seen with her, but she nevertheless confronts him openly in the hallway during the school day. Although the scene suggests that all is over for the couple, they soon rekindle their romance when they later cross paths at the prom. Interestingly, the book upon which the movie is based had Andie winding up at the prom with a selfless, working-class boy who had loved Andie all along. However, according to the movie's Wikipedia entry, the ending for the movie was changed to reflect test-audience preference for Andie with Blane, underlining the cultural ideal that "true love conquers all." Love thwarted by prestige differences resonates strongly as a trope in contemporary popular culture as is evident in movies such as Pretty Woman, and in one of my favorites, The Notebook, wherein the rich guy/poor gal is reversed as Noah, a simple country boy, falls hard for heiress, Allie. Showing the above clip from Pretty in Pink, or one from The Notebook (e.g., this scene) would work well as a discussion-starter in any course that addresses the social context of intimate relationships. To read another post on The Sociological Cinema that explores cultural tropes in movies, click here. (Note: A version of this post originally appeared on SoUnequal.)
Submitted By: Jackie Davila
Tags: children/youth, class, culture, discourse/language, education, inequality, marriage/family, annette lareau, child-rearing, 00 to 05 mins, 06 to 10 mins
Year: 2011, 2014
Length: 8:25; 0:57
Access: YouTube (8:25)
New York Times (0:57)
Summary: In her book, Unequal Childhoods, Annette Lareau describes how different child-rearing strategies in upper-middle class and poor/working-class homes reproduces class inequality. The way that parents use language with their children is one of several dimensions of family life that help to reproduce this class inequality (the variety of differences are illustrated in our previous post). Lareau found that in upper-middle class homes (through a process she calls concerted cultivation), children are exposed to wider vocabularies, taught to contest adult statements, use language in extended negotiations with parents, and learn through a combination of reasoning and directives. Comparatively, in working-class and poor homes (through the accomplishment of natural growth), children are exposed to fewer words, rarely question or challenge adults, learn more through directives, and generally accept the directives they are given. The first video supplements these findings in how language use varies across class. Todd Risling provides commentary on his study conducted with Betty Hart and published in their book, Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experiences of Young American Children (1995). They recorded the number of words spoken to young children in welfare-supported homes, working-class homes, and white-collar professional homes. Their findings showed that, on average, children in professional homes were exposed to 1500+ more words per hour than children in welfare-supported homes. So after 1 year, this class difference led to an 8 million word gap, and by age 4, this produced a total gap of 32 million words. In addition to these variations in vocabulary and syntax, when exposed to more words, children were also more likely to hear more positive and affirmative statements, thus promoting better emotional outcomes. Furthermore, these levels of talking are strongly correlated with standard IQ scores. Their study provides quantitative support for class differences in vocabulary and emotional development, while Lareau's qualitative study shows the ways that children learn to use that language (which will later help them in professional contexts) and develop a sense of entitlement through these interactions with adults. Together, these differences help to provide middle-class children with advantages in educational and occupational settings. The second video briefly discusses a technology and strategy that can help address this inequality in language use. The child wears a small digital language processor that records interactions with the child, uploads the data to the cloud, and is then used to give feedback on how to incorporate language in everything the family does during the day. Viewers might be encouraged to consider other programs and strategies for addressing the language gap across social class.
Submitted By: Paul Dean
Tags: crime/law/deviance, culture, theory, labeling theory, social control, social norms, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: In this parody of Pharrell's "Happy," Weird Al Yankovic sings about various tacky and rude behaviors. The lyrics include lines such as "It might seem crazy, wearing stripes and plaid / I instagram every meal I've had ... 43 Bumper Stickers and a YOLO license plate (because I'm tacky)." The video can serve as a fun pop culture introduction to the concepts of social norms and deviance. Social norms are informal rules that guide what people do in a particular culture. As viewers, we can identify a variety of norms implied throughout the video regarding acceptable forms of dress, conversation, decoration, inter-personal behaviors, etc. Social deviance includes any transgression of socially established norms, and Weird Al's entire song is a display of his forms of deviance, which society might label as "tacky." For example, it is considered "tacky" to wear a "belt with suspenders and sandals with my socks," it is unprofessional to print your "new resume ... in Comic Sans," and it is distasteful to take the "whole bowl of restaurant mints" (even though they are free). But viewers might go deeper by thinking more theoretically about these norms and acts of deviance. From a symbolic interactionist perspective, we might conceive of the shared meanings and assumptions of these norms as emerging from everyday interactions. Labeling theory suggests that people subconsciously notice how people react to certain behaviors and form their self-identity through such repeated reactions. There is nothing inherently deviant, or "tacky," about these behaviors, but those labels get developed through these social interactions. From a functionalist perspective, we can theorize how individuals are socialized to acquire these meanings by being integrated within social groups. The deviant acts are discouraged through a system of social control, including formal and informal sanctions (e.g. ridiculing someone for wearing sandals with my socks). These forms of control function as a system of social regulation, thereby guiding daily life and what to reasonably expect in social settings, and encouraging conformity to acceptable norms.
Submitted By: Jenelle Clark
Tags: children/youth, class, culture, inequality, marriage/family, annette lareau, child-rearing, concerted cultivation, free range parenting, slow parenting, 11 to 20 mins
Summary: In her book, Unequal Childhoods, Annette Lareau describes two child-rearing strategies. Concerted cultivation (where parents actively foster and assess the child’s talents, opinions, and skills) is more commonly practiced by middle-class families and the accomplishment of natural growth (where parents care for their children and allow them to grow naturally) is more typical of working class and poor families (the differences are illustrated in our previous post). While concerted cultivation is the child-rearing strategy that is more likely to instil skills and dispositions in children that enable them to succeed in the professional workplace, Lareau argues that both strategies have their advantages and disadvantages. This news clip illustrates the style of concerted cultivation, emphasizes its drawbacks, and describes a movement reacting against it. Concerted cultivation is demonstrated by children in the video who discuss strenuous daily schedules, which is motivated by parents who want their children to compete for their place in the world and excel at everything. It emphasizes the disadvantages of this child-rearing strategy with the children experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety, noting that this form of "parenting becomes a cross between a competitive sport and product development." The majority of the clip discusses Slow Parenting (also called free range parenting), a movement of parenting that reacts against these pressures. It features commentary from Carl Honoré, whose books Under Pressure and In Praise of Slow, encourage parents to slow down. He describes the strategy and its merits this way: "Slow parenting is about bringing the balance back; it's about giving children the time and space to explore the world on their own terms, at their own pace, to make mistakes and learn from them--to get bored even so that they can learn how to create ... and work out who they are rather than who we want them to be." The clip goes on to interview parents who have practiced an extreme form of this (e.g. allowing their 8-year old to travel alone on the subway) and have been criticized by people for being irresponsible. A second function of the clip is to show a cultural practice that could lessen inequality between middle-class and working-class parents. If slow parenting (which more closely resembles the accomplishment of natural growth strategy) were encouraged among middle-class families, it might help to diminish the privileges conferred upon middle-class children while improving their quality of life.
Submitted By: Paul Dean
Tags: children/youth, culture, discourse/language, gender, intersectionality, prejudice/discrimination, race/ethnicity, colorism, racism, self-esteem, 61+ mins
Summary: As stated on the film's website, "Dark Girls is a fascinating and controversial documentary film that goes underneath the surface to explore the prejudices that dark-skinned women face throughout the world. It explores the roots of classism, racism and the lack of self-esteem within a segment of cultures that span from America to the most remote corners of the globe. Women share their personal stories, touching on deeply ingrained beliefs and attitudes of society, while allowing generations to heal as they learn to love themselves for who they are." Filmmakers D. Channsin Berry and Bill Duke spoke about their own motivations for making the film, citing their own experiences with colorism or, discrimination based on skin color. Specifically, Duke cites a famous social psychological study design in which young black children are presented with two dolls--one black and one white--and are asked to point to the doll that is not pretty, not smart, bad, etc (this study is explored in more detail in the short film A Girl Like Me). Repeatedly, the children selected the black doll. Duke points to CNN's reproduction of this test decades later, which had similar results. This film would be useful to screen in any course that examines race, the intersection of race with gender and class, racism, and various dimensions of the self. Similar themes about discrimination and skin color are explored in the short film Shadeism.
Submitted By: Denae Johnson and Valerie Chepp
Got any videos?
Are you finding useful videos for your classes? Do you have good videos you use in your own classes? Please consider submitting your videos here and helping us build our database!