Cultures have unique ideas of beauty, such as long neck length.
Tags: bodies, culture, emotion/desire, gender, multiculturalism, sex/sexuality, social construction, cultural relativity, ideal beauty, 06 to 10 mins
Summary: What is beauty? Is beauty an objective feature or is it in the "eye of the beholder"? According to a 2012 competition hosted by Lorraine Cosmetics, the most "natural" and "objectively" beautiful woman was determined "scientifically" through such measures as facial symmetry. While the incident ignited a public debate about the ability to "scientifically" measure beauty, a review of the research shows that people's sense of beauty varies across time and culture. In this video, famous anthropologist Desmond Morris notes that while there is a "biological language of sex" in which people are attracted to others through physical characteristics, this process is mediated through a "complex cultural adventure." Throughout cultures across the world, people exaggerate the features of beauty that their culture deems attractive. A study looking at beauty across 200 different cultures found hardly any qualities that existed across all cultures. The video documents several of these physical features on women, including neck length, foot size, and lip size. It illustrates the cultural evaluation of beauty and the (often painful) techniques used to achieve the unnaturally extreme forms of beauty. What notions of female beauty in your culture might be similar to or different from conceptions of beauty found in the video? Viewers may also note the heteronormativity of the video, in which beauty is explicitly stated to attract members of the opposite sex.
Submitted By: omowbray
Tags: emotion/desire, foucault, lgbtq, sex/sexuality, theory, abjection, asexuality, heterosexuality, masculinity, 06 to 10 mins
Summary: A common assumption about sexuality is that all humans have sexual desire, which suggests that sexual identity is biological or innate (e.g. see Foucault 1978; Planned Parenthood). However, in this interview with Tucker Carlson, asexual activist David Jay broadens the discourse on sexual orientation by bringing asexuality to the forefront of the discussion. In short, an asexual person is defined as someone who does not experience sexual attraction. Through his interview with Carlson, Jay challenges the commonly held belief that all humans are sexual beings, and effectively creates a dialogue for viewers to rethink taken-for-granted assumptions about male-dominated heterosexuality. Questions to ask while watching this video include: How does Tucker Carlson define sexuality in patriarchal terms? How is his definition of a heterosexual male limited? How does David blur the dichotomous lines of gay and straight? Can we understand sexuality on a spectrum instead of as mutually exclusive? Why is Tucker pressuring David to “try” sex? Is this Tucker’s attempt to make David an intelligible body? Why is it so important to Tucker that David perform his sexuality “properly”? How does Tucker abject David and the concept of asexuality? Why is the concept of asexuality so problematic for Tucker? Julia Kristeva’s (1982) theory of abjection may serve as a useful concept to frame discussions around this video. The abject is defined as “the other” or as “the human reaction […] to a threatened breakdown in meaning caused by the loss of the distinction between the subject and object or between the self and the other.” We fear and loathe the abject because they are threatening to the social order and ultimately to conceptions of our self. Considering this, another question to ask is whether or not asexual relationships threaten heterosexual masculinity. The discussion of asexuality challenges naturalized conceptions about human sexuality and paves the way for the exploration of other forms of intimacy, sexual orientations and partnerships. It is only when we let go of normative prescriptions of sexuality that we can experience and recognize other forms of love and expression.
Submitted By: Pat Louie
Tags: art/music, children/youth, discourse/language, emotion/desire, gender, media, sex/sexuality, feminist criticism, hip hop, male gaze, madonna-whore complex, misogyny, rap, rhetoric, sexism, slut shaming, socialization,
06 to 10 mins
Summary: In this music video, rap artist Lupe Fiasco addresses the issue of images in the media and how they are absorbed by children and incorporated into their lives as adults. He appears to be critical of the hip hop music industry for sending confusing messages when it broadcasts words like "bitch," sometimes as a deprecation, and other times as a compliment (e.g., Kanye West calls Kim Kardashian a "perfect bitch" in a recent song he wrote). Before Fiasco, cultural scholars already contemplated the use of the word "bitch" in hip hop. For instance, in her book Prophets of the Hood, Imani Perry discusses the way women artists deploy the term, and how some have even succeeded in subverting its negative connotations in an effort to create new space for women. It is clear, however, Fiasco is plotting a different course with his criticism. He raps: "You see the fruit of the confusion / He caught in a reality / She caught in an illusion." While it should be said that neither character can see things more realistically than the other, the line suggests that Fiasco is really interested in the term's inherent dualism, and in this way, his criticism maps onto a broader feminist theory that attempts to expose the modern workings of what Freud originally coined as the Madonna-whore complex. This complex refers to a dualism in Western patriarchal discourse, which seeks to circumscribe the behavior of women and the desires of men. On the one hand, women are rewarded for being the sexual play objects of men (i.e., whores), and on the other hand, women are given clear messages that true grace only derives from marital chastity (i.e., Madonna). The video might be useful for triggering a discussion about how this game is clearly rigged for women, but it can also be used to begin a discussion about how the discourse negatively affects men.
Submitted By: Kim Ward
Tags: children/youth, emotion/desire, gender, violence, femininity, masculinity, socialization, subtitles/CC, 21 to 60 mins
Access: Films On Demand
Summary: In this archived episode of ABC News 20/20, John Stossel investigates why girls and boys express their feelings differently. Drawing from an interview with Dr. William Pollack of the Harvard Medical School and author of Real Boys, and researchers from Emory University and the University of Connecticut, Stossel encounters what was still a fairly radical idea in 1998: parents, peers, and "society" encourage girls to express their feelings but stigmatize boys for doing the same. As Pollack explains, the consequence of this is that girls tend to feel more comfortable with their emotions and are able relieve their stress and sadness by talking about their emotions. Boys, in contrast, are unable to express their feelings and often act out with violence against others. Despite the expert testimony and research on the subject, Stossel and his colleagues seem reluctant to give up the idea that boys are biologically determined to hide emotion, and in the clip's conclusion, he expresses the evolutionary fantasy that men are biologically predisposed to hide emotions because they had to "stand in the woods with a spear [and] be quiet." The clip works well as a means of discussing the powerful influence of socialization to a topic rife with biological determinism. Before I show the clip in my class I have students write down the number of times they have cried in the last 6 months, and I ask them to make a note of how many times they cried in front of others. Then, once the clip is finished, I ask them to compare their answers to the ones given by the children in the clip and to reflect on their own socialization.
Submitted By: Nihal Celik
Tags: discourse/language, emotion/desire, lgbtq, marriage/family, sex/sexuality, theory, identity politics, queer theory, 11 to 20 mins
Length: 8:57, 4:58, 5:12
Access: YouTube (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3)
Summary: How do you talk about queer theory outside of the queer studies classroom? This question has challenged scholars in the interdisciplinary field of queer studies since its inception in the late 1980s. Lisa Duggan (1994) provided a classic characterization of the trouble with talking queer theory in the proverbial 'mainstream' in her classic "Queering the State": the highly constructionist language of queer theory and the predominantly essentialist assumptions of public discourse create a kind of "language gap" between the queer studies classroom and, well, everywhere else. This language gap is not a problem, of course, unless you want to actually do something with the radical insights of queer theory in the interest of promoting social justice for gender and sexual minorities. My students tackled the problem of communicating queer theory to "lay" audiences in an applied final project for our queer theory honors seminar this semester at Arizona State University. Jenn Blazer and Jake Adler first imagined their video project as a way to "translate" queer theory to non-experts, but they found that they were unsure how to even begin such an endeavor without turning the project into a pedantic lecture on jargon. So, they interviewed two groups of people (one queer-identified group in "Phase One," and a straight-identified group in "Phase Two") about their ideas on sexuality and sexual identity. After speaking with the straight people and asking them things such as, "Can you define heteronormativity?", they showed the straight folks the responses from their queer interviewees. Then, Jenn and Jake again asked the same set of questions to the straight folks to see how their responses might change. Their results, presented in the video titled "Phase Three," are fascinating. Jenn and Jake aptly titled their project "Queering the Folk." Enjoy.
Note that these videos would pair well with Michael Warner's book, "The Trouble with Normal" and Stein & Plummer's article, "I can't even think straight': Queer Theory and the Missing Sexual Revolution in Sociology."
Submitted By: Patrick R. Grzanka
Tags: children/youth, crime/law/deviance, discourse/language, emotion/desire, lgbtq, sex/sexuality, bi-curiousity, conversion therapy, 21 to 60 mins
Summary: [Trigger warning: Not all instructors will feel comfortable screening an episode of South Park in the classroom, a show that is notorious for its "crude language and dark, surreal humor" on a wide range of often taboo topics. This episode is no exception. Specifically, instructors might be uncomfortable with this episode's treatment of youth suicide, violence, sex, sexual consent, and cultural/ethnic insensitivity.] In this South Park episode (season 11, episode two), South Park Elementary School student Cartman takes a photo of his own penis in his friend Butters's mouth while Butters is sleeping. Afterwards, Cartman tells his friends about what he did in order to ridicule Butters. However, Cartman didn't count one thing: this behavior is interpreted as a homosexual act and his friends start calling him "gay." Hoping to prove that he's not gay, Cartman believes he must convince Butters to reciprocate the act. Just as Cartman is about to carry out his plan in front of a blindfolded and unknowing Butters, Butters's father walks into the bedroom. Concerned that his little boy is bisexual, his father takes Butters to the priest, who diagnoses Butters as "confused" and suggests Butters attend a bi-curious boy's camp to heal Butters from this "disease." This video can be used as an example of how bisexual people are perceived as being confused about their sexual identity. As Ryle (2012) writes in Questioning Gender: A Sociological Exploration: "Bisexuals can receive negative reactions from both homosexuals and heterosexuals." She cites Ault's (1996) work that showed how some lesbian feminists "insist that there is no such thing as bisexuality. Bisexuals are either confused lesbians or heterosexuals who are experimenting" (201). The clip can also be used to initiate a discussion about cultural definitions of sexual orientation: Is it about behavior? Desire? Identity? Finally, the episode offers a framework for talking about sexuality as a choice or innate, and illustrates the ways in which heterosexuality gets defined as "normal" through a discourse of shame, guilt, and "fixing" or "curing" anything that deviates from a cultural heterosexual norm.
Submitted By: Nihal Celik
Tags: aging/life course, art/music, emotion/desire, marriage/family, methodology/statistics, biography, data visualization, divorce, memory, narrative, storytelling, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: In this clip "Polly", a 65 year old woman from the Midlands in the UK, recalls the time as a child when her parents sat her down and asked her which of them she wanted to be with. Her story, re-narrated by three players, represents how this traumatic event became an enduring memory throughout the various stages of her life. This video exhibits how sociologists can draw upon biography and narrative to explore any number of sociological concepts; in this particular clip, Polly's narration of her own biography can be used to explore sociological understandings of memory, emotion, family, and the life course. For example, the clip could be useful in a class on cognitive sociology, highlighting how cognitive processes, such as memory, are shaped by socio-cultural events, such as divorce. In addition to using the clip as a way to interrogate biography and narrative as sociological methods of research, the clip could also be a nice launching pad from which to introduce an assignment where students create their own videos, using their own biographical narratives as a window through which to explore larger sociological phenomena, much in the way C.W. Mills suggested. The clip's Vimeo webpage provides production details about the video, as well as a link to a paper by Kip Jones, the video's writer and producer, "The Art of Collaborative Storytelling: Arts-Based Representations of Narrative Contexts," which tells more about Polly's story and Jones' method. Kip Jones describes the clip as an "experiment in visualisation of research data."
Submitted By: Kip Jones
Tags: commodification, consumption/consumerism, bodies, emotion/desire, food/agriculture, gender, health/medicine, marketing/brands, media, eating disorders, subtitles/CC, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: This commercial for LAY'S® potato chips can be used to illustrate the common practice among advertisers to represent women's consumption of junk food as a (commodified) act of romantic love, intimacy, or sexual pleasure. In this particular spot, shot entirely in slow motion with Al Green crooning his classic "I'm So In Love With You" in the background, anticipation builds as the woman prepares to encounter her salty prince, err...snack. As she opens the bag, a flirtatious smile spreads wide across her face. She performs all the ritualistic feminine acts of falling in love (bites at her lip, bats her lashes, averts her eyes), adhering to a familiar cultural narrative of a school girl falling in love: she's playful, coy, and unmistakably giddy. Across the bottom of the screen the following words appear: "one taste and you're in love." Feminists have well-documented the ways in which women are persistently depicted as being tormented by an obsessive relationship with food (e.g., Bordo 1998). Recently, scholars have pointed to the ways in which chocolate has been marketed to women, equating chocolate to delightful yet sinful indulgence, sex, and a pseudo form of female empowerment. In the article "Women and Food Chains: The Gendered Politics of Food," Allen and Sachs (2007) place this marketing strategy in a socio-health context, stating that "dieting, anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and obesity—all on the rise—mark the confused messages that women should have perfect (thin) bodies at the same time that they are encouraged to over consume and indulge in junk food. Advertising and media play an enormous role in perpetuating women's obsession with thinness" (2). As these commercials about junk food suggest, advertising and the media also play a role in perpetuating the message that, for women, the junk food eating experience is similar to that of sex, love, and intimacy, all of which perpetuate a complex and often unhealthy relationship with food. In another version of this commercial, Queen's "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" plays in the background.
Submitted By: Valerie Chepp
Tags: discourse/language, emotion/desire, politics/election/voting, social mvmts/social change/resistance, framing, political sociology, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: Frank Luntz is a Republican Party strategist, pollster, and frequent commentator on the Fox News Channel. According to Luntz, his specialty is “testing language and finding words that will help his clients sell their product or turn public opinion on an issue or a candidate.” Comedian Stephen Colbert, recently hired Luntz to help him frame the language of his Super PAC, which he formed as a way to satirize the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision. Through humorous exchanges with Luntz, Colbert reveals some of the linguistic and political aspects of framing and attempts to create or engage with memes. The clip provides a light way to introduce work on the importance of framing in social movements, but it could also be useful for political sociology classes. I successfully paired the clip with an overview of Snow and Benford's work on framing, mobilization, and collective identity. The clip is also useful as a precursor to discussing Francessca Polletta's brilliant book, It Was Like A Fever. Note that another clip on The Sociological Cinema that explores framing as it pertains to social movements can be found here.
Submitted By: Kim Simmons
Tags: emotion/desire, knowledge, psychology/social psychology,, theory, cognitive sociology, cultural sociology, eviatar zerubavel, morality, stanley cohen, 06 to 10 mins
Access: New York Times
Summary: "These allegations are false. I… didn't… do those things," says Jerry Sandusky in this interview with New York Times's reporter Jo Becker. Within just the last several weeks, sexual molestation allegations have been issued against former Penn State assistant football coach, Jerry Sandusky, and former Syracuse associate head basketball coach, Bernie Fine. Both men adamantly deny the charges. Former Republican presidential candidate, Herman Cain, has also been entangled in a high profile case of denial, asserting that he never engaged in sexual misconduct with four women (two have come out publicly), or had a 13 year affair with another woman. While all these men are innocent until otherwise proven guilty under the American justice system, the spectacle of it all offers a nice window through which to explore the sociology of denial. While studies of denial have traditionally been housed in the discipline of psychology, some scholars have sought to integrate sociological insights into the study of this enduring human phenomenon. Sociologists such as Stanley Cohen (States of Denial) and Eviatar Zerubavel (The Elephant in the Room: Silence and Denial in Everyday Life) offer an analysis of denial that explores how sociological factors such as human interaction, cultural meaning-making processes, and hierarchical power structures contribute to instances of denial in society. Students can be encouraged to apply these sociological insights to the current spectacles taking place, as well as reflect on the social consequences of denial and silences around wrongdoings. To see another clip from The Sociological Cinema that explores a human phenomenon typically conceived as individualistic and purely psychological from a sociological perspective, click here.
Submitted By: Valerie Chepp
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