Tags: children/youth, gender, lgbtq, social construction, social mvmts/social change/resistance, masculinity, parenting, childhood socialization, 06 to 10 mins
Summary: Dyson is a 5-year-old boy who loves to wear dresses. In this video, Dyson's mother explains Dyson's love for this culturally feminine attire, reactions of friends and teachers to Dyson's wardrobe, and how Dyson's love for dresses led her to write the children's book My Princess Boy and become a spokesperson for transgender tolerance. This video can be used to illustrate various aspects of gender identity development, and it can initiate discussions around "nature versus nurture," specifically whether gender is an innate phenomenon or a social construction. Dyson's mother also runs a blog by the same name as her book, which provides additional resources, including information about Acceptance Play Groups. See also The Sociological Cinema's post, "Policing the Parenting of Boys," which discusses the recent high profile J.Crew advertisement depicting a mother with her young son and his pink toenail polish.
Submitted By: Nihal Celik
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: capitalism, class, inequality, marx/marxism, organizations/occupations/work, political economy, social mvmts/social change/resistance, theory, astroturf organizations, false consciousness, ideology, labor, unions, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: This commercial, which aired during half time of the 2012 Super Bowl, represents a direct attack against unions and is an excellent demonstration of the use of ideology to promote false consciousness. The supposed union workers in the ad complain about unions taking such high union dues and state that they did not vote for the union (suggesting that they don't want the union and that it does not represent their interests). The commercial's narrator explains "only 10% of people in unions today actually voted to join the union" and encourages people to support the Employee Rights Act, a bill that wouldmake it much harder for workers to join unions, and easier to de-certify existing unions. The commercial was created by the anti-union Center for Union Facts, an astroturf organization founded by DC lobbyist Richard Berman and supported by big business interests (astroturf organizations are advocacy groups promoting a political or corporate agenda but designed to make it appear like a grassroots movement). Its statistics may be accurate, but they are misleading in the sense that federal law requires that at least 50% of a company’s workforce vote in favor of the formation of a union, and that most current union members have joined unions formed years before. Furthermore, according to independent analysis by the Economic Policy Institute, laws like the Employee Rights Act hurt workers by leading to lower pensions; workers in unions actually have higher wages and health benefits because they can use their collective bargaining power to improve their working conditions (note that one of the union "actors" in the video is also played by Berman himself). This demonstrates the use of ideology, or the dominant ideas that help to perpetuate the oppressive class system. Marx argued that “The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas … The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production.” In this case, we see that the advertisement (which cost about $3.5 million to air during the Super Bowl) produced by large corporate-funded organizations is meant to shape workers' perception of unions in a negative light. With greater wealth ("the means of production") and access to media ("the means of mental production"), they seek to discourage workers from joining unions in hopes of making them easier to control. When workers accept such ideas as truth, it promotes false consciousness. False consciousness occurs when a class does not have an accurate assessment of capitalism and their role within it, but instead adopts the ideology of the ruling class, and acts against their own class interests.
Submitted By: Paul Dean
Tags: aging/life course, children/youth, consumption/consumerism, social construction, social mvmts/social change/resistance, critical youth studies, youth movements, 00 to 05 mins
Access: New York Times
Summary: This Op-Doc from the New York Times is a video excerpt from Matt Wolf's and Jon Savage's film Teenage. The clip chronicles the development of "teenager" as a new social category, invented in America following World War II, and conceived of as a previously untapped market of new consumers. Yet the current global economic crisis has tested the limits of adolescent consumer power, as youth unemployment is high and many teenagers are no longer able to shop as they did in past decades. The clip is especially relevant in that it provides a brief overview of the history and power of youth social movements, and it connects this to contemporary youth movements happening around the globe. This video would be good to use in a sociology class on the life course or social movements. Click here to watch a "teaser" of the film and read some background on the project, and click here to read a short New York Times article that accompanies the Op-Doc video.
Submitted By: Valerie Chepp
Tags: discourse/language, inequality, knowledge, media, race/ethnicity, social mvmts/social change/resistance, genocide, media literacy, racism, representation, stereotypes, 61+ mins
Access: Netflix; YouTube (trailer; clip 1; clip 2; clip 3)
Summary: Reel Injun explores the role Hollywood cinema has played in shaping the image of First Nations People. Starting with the silent film era, director Neil Diamond argues that "the Indian" first appeared in cinema as noble and dignified, but by the 1930s, classic westerns like, They Died with their Boots on, catalyzed the emergence of negative stereotypes. The Indian was newly imagined as treacherous, and Hollywood narratives began featuring white settler protagonists in their stagecoaches fending off attacks from the Indian hordes. Just as Indian characters in film became increasingly based on this one dimensional stereotype, native people were also losing the ability to play Indian roles. Instead, productions cast white actors, like Burt Lancaster, Charles Bronson, and Elvis Presley in Indian roles and even sprayed them with a toning agent to help them look the part. By the 1960s, films like Little Big Man, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and later, Dances with Wolves, introduced more complicated depictions of native people; however, dominant narratives still tracked the imperiled white heroes in their proverbial stagecoaches (see also our clip "Avatar Remix and Representations of the Other"). Not until the renaissance in native cinema did films like Once we Were Warriors and Smoke Signals portray native people as fully realized human beings and protagonists in their own right. In the documentary's conclusion, Lakota activist and poet, John Trudell, suggests that there has been a sustained effort to vanquish native people through war and violence and to erase or subsume their history. Attention to how native people have been represented in film suggests too that Hollywood has played a vital role in this genocidal project through its representations of the Indian in film. These persistent depictions of the Indian as treacherous, barbaric, and peripheral have worked to strip native people of their humanity. And those who lack humanity are easier to vanquish.
Note that this documentary film would work nicely with another clip on The Sociological Cinema (here) that explores issues surrounding the representation and First Nations People in cinema and takes up the question, "Who has the right to represent whom?"
Submitted By: Lester Andrist
_Tags: globalization, media, nationalism, religion, social mvmts/social change/resistance, violence, war/military, arab spring, bahraini uprising, moral resources, organizational resources, pearls revolution, propaganda, social revolution, 21 to 60 mins
Summary: [Trigger warning: there are graphic scenes of violence throughout this clip. Two scenes are especially noteworthy. At the 7:38 mark, there is footage of protesters being shot by the Bahraini Army, and at the 8:30 mark a man is shown bleeding in a hospital bed after he was reportedly shot in the head.] This documentary from Al Jazeera English recounts the fight for democracy among Shi'a and Sunni Muslims in Bahrain. An island kingdom on the western shore of the Persian Gulf, Bahrain is formally ruled by the Al Khalifa family as a constitutional monarchy. The film chronicles the early moments of the spread of the Arab Spring to Bahrain where protestors converged on Pearl Roundabout, which lies in the financial district at the heart of Manama. Chief among their demands was for the emergence of a secular democratic government, and more pointedly, protesters called for the majority Shi'a Muslims to be included in the formal political system, which was dominated by a Sunni family. The documentary begins on February 16, 2011, the first day protesters occupied the roundabout. It documents the collaboration between the nations of the Arabian Peninsula under the auspices of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to stop the spread of these revolutionary protests, and Al Jazeera offers exclusive footage from inside both the opposition encampment at Pearl Roundabout and Salmaniyya Hospital, which was not only a place to treat the injured but also initially a place of refuge from state violence. The documentary works well as a means of introducing students to the study of social movements. Among other concepts, the film is useful for exploring the evolution and consequences of state tactics aimed at quelling the protests—both violent and non-violent. Analysts of social movements often point to the significance of a nascent movement's moral and organizational resources, and this film illustrates the importance of both. For example, one can easily use the film to engage students in a discussion about the significance of Pearl Roundabout and Salmaniyya Hospital as practical locations for organizing protests and disseminating information (i.e., organizational resources). At the same time, one could also lead a discussion about how these were effective sites for protesters to imbue their struggle with meaning and legitimacy (i.e., moral resources).
Submitted By: Lester Andrist
Disney Movies and the Culture Industry
Tags: art/music, capitalism, commodification, consumption/consumerism, media, social mvmts/social change/resistance, theory, creativity, culture industry, frankfurt school, mass production, max horkheimer, theodor adorno, subtitles/CC, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: In their chapter entitled "The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception" from their book Dialectic of Enlightenment, critical theorists Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer conceptualize power as an absolute, all-encompassing force, driven at unrelenting speed by the engine of capitalism. They argue that culture is an important site where power in contemporary society is demonstrated; here, cultural productions have transformed from pure art forms to gimmicky imitations in which the aesthetic appeal is now simply a response to consumers' "tastes" and the goal is no longer to evoke truth but rather to merely “entertain.” Horkheimer and Adorno refer to this routinized and commodified feature of contemporary culture as the culture industry. This short montage of various scenes from different Disney movies is one illustration of how cultural products can be seen as an imitation of one another, recycled formulas sold to cultural consumers as entertainment. As an assignment or topic for class discussion, students can be encouraged to cite other examples of interchangeable formulas sold in popular culture through the mass media, which might include formulaic narratives, images, and characters sold through hip hop, action movies, soap operas, romance novels, among many others. Yet, students can also be encouraged to critique Horkheimer and Adorno's totalizing take on the culture industry, as they essentially argue that there is no escape; even when we believe we are freely making choices in the cultural marketplace or, worse yet, even if we recognize the culture industry’s suffocating strength and intentionally try to resist it, our actions and cultural creations have already “been noted by the industry” and become part of the system. Since present-day art is only a vehicle for entertainment and amusement, it is stripped of emotion, tragedy, and truth, and merely exists to appease and distract us. In this state, we are defenseless and unable to resist. As such, the cultural actor “creating” under capitalism’s oppressive rules is (often unknowingly) fated for unoriginal imitation. According to this theory, none of us are actually behaving as individuals and our creations, which are in essence predictable simulations of other commodities circulating in the culture industry, ultimately fuel the engine of capitalism’s absolute power and the monopoly of mass culture. Do students agree that they are cultural dupes and incapable of original artistic creation and innovation? And what does cultural creation and consumption have to do with "resistance" and "distraction"? Distraction from what? Finally, can students think of examples of popular cultural creations that serve to challenge capitalistic power and the status quo? How would Horkheimer and Adorno respond to these examples?
Submitted By: Valerie Chepp
Tags: discourse/language, gender, media, social mvmts/social change/resistance, culture, cultural trope, feminism, media literacy, subtitles/CC, 06 to 10 mins
Summary: In this video from Feminist Frequency, the trope of the "Straw Feminist" is discussed and deconstructed using examples from a variety of films and TV shows. The video explains the Straw Feminist by pointing out the recurring introduction of a character who is identified as a "feminist" but which exists primarily to propagate and reinforce broad and frequently offensive stereotypes of feminists/feminism, and thereby to undermine the issues that feminism seeks to address. The video also discusses how the explicit separation of otherwise strong, well-realized female characters from "feminist" characters serves to encourage viewers to identify themselves as supporters of women's rights and equality--while at the same time to insist that they are not feminists. This is a good way to open or augment a classroom discussion of common popular (mis)conceptions of feminism and women's rights activists, including where the conceptions themselves come from, and what the consequences of their spread might be. Click here for additional resources from Feminist Frequency on the Straw Feminist.
Two additional clips from The Sociological Cinema that would pair well with a class discussion on the Straw Feminist include posts on the Powerpuff Girls and Lady Gaga's disavowal of feminism.
Submitted By: Sarah Wanenchak
Tags: government/the state, historical sociology, inequality, knowledge, nationalism, political economy, race/ethnicity, religion, social construction, social mvmts/social change/resistance, theory, war/military, benedict anderson, edward said, 21 to 60 mins
Access: PBS Video
Summary: Part of the PBS series "Black in Latin America," this short film featuring Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. explores issues of race and identity in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, two countries that share the same island of Hispaniola, yet share little else in terms of language, economic opportunities, relations with colonial nations, and identification with African ancestry and heritage. This clip is excellent for illustrating how racial classifications are a social construction, as meanings of blackness shift across the two countries. The island's history of race relations also demonstrate how, as Edward Said shows, race is constructed in reference to a racial (and national) "other," as Dominicans have historically understood themselves as "not Haitian" and therefore "not black." Students can see how knowledge about national racial identity has been deliberately cultivated by national elites in the Dominican Republic through selectively told histories, national memorials, holidays, and monuments. This racially motivated nation-building effort articulates well with Benedict Anderson's work on imagined communities. Finally, the video chronicles how Haiti became the first-ever black republic, and the pivotal role that religion played in the slaves' fight for liberation. However, ever since winning independence, outside nations, including the United States, have imposed policies that have made it near impossible for Haitians to develop a robust economy and political infrastructure, evidenced today by the poverty and political corruption that plague the country, but which is always challenged by Haitians' rich and complex belief system and artistic culture. The video is divided into six chapters, allowing instructors to easily screen shorter segments of the film if they wish.
I would like to thank Jean François Edouard for suggesting this clip.
Submitted By: Valerie Chepp
Tags: class, crime/law/deviance, discourse/language, goffman, government/the state, inequality, knowledge, media, race/ethnicity, social mvmts/social change/resistance, theory, violence, collective action frames, politics of signification, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: What shall we name what is happening in London? While investigating gun crimes, police shot and killed Mark Duggan, a 29 year-old Black man who was carrying a loaded gun (though it should be said, he never fired the weapon on police). Catalyzed by Duggan's death, protests, looting, and destruction of public and private property have rapidly spread across London. Is it a riot, an uprising, a rebellion, a social movement, or is it an insurrection? Whatever frame we choose has important consequences for the shape of things to come. For instance, the word riot suggests disorganized destruction, whereas an insurrection suggests an organized effort against oppression. One frame will likely garner more support for this social upheaval than the other. In this clip, the BBC interviews Darcus Howe, a television journalist and long time grass-roots activist. At the 3:08 mark, Howe keys the current turmoil, which is spread throughout London, to that which took place in 1981 in Brixton. He then insists that what is happening in London is an "insurrection of the people." At 3:40, the BBC reporter appears to challenge Howe's credibility by naming him a rioter. "Mr. Howe," she interrupts, "if I could just ask you, you are not a stranger to riots yourself, I understand, are you?" Howe refuses this frame in his reply: "I have never taken part in a single riot. I've been on demonstrations that ended up in a conflict." The clip would work well with a class grappling with social movements and the importance of collective action frames. To quote Benford and Snow (2000, p. 613), the confrontation between Howe and the reporter is a rather vivid example of two signifying agents "actively engaged in the production and maintenance of meaning for constituents, antagonists, and bystanders or observers. [Signifying agents] are deeply embroiled, along with..local governments, and the state, in what has been referred to as a 'politics of signification' (Hall 1982)."
Submitted By: Lester Andrist
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