Sunday, April 3, 2011

Response to Riley's "What's the deal with Abortion"

Response to Riley's post found here

Hi Riley!

            Your post on abortion and Seinfeld got me thinking of the discussion we had in class on Tuesday regarding the amount of times abortion has been shown on primetime. Professor Harris mentioned that although over 40 million abortions have occurred in the United States over the past 40 years, only 9 have been broadcasted. Harris mentioned abortions taking place on Maud, All My Children, Degrassi High, Six Feet Under, Weeds, Degrassi the Next Generation, Private Practice and Friday Night Lights. However, I believe that in discussing abortion, one should rather look at the times abortion has been referenced within television and film. As mentioned in one of my previous posts (found here), the popular television series Sex & the City has an entire episode, entitled Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda devoted to abortion. Miranda, one of the four star characters, finds herself pregnant after a one night stand with her ex boyfriend Steve. When the girls meet for their weekly breakfast, Miranda tells them that she is pregnant and is definitely going to have an abortion. Miranda’s announcement opens discussion to how many abortions each woman has had. Charlotte, disgusted at Miranda that she even considering an abortion gets up and storms out.  Sounding like they are talking of shoes, Carrie responds that she’s had one and Samantha has had two. The remainder of the episode is Miranda debating as to if she will have the baby. In the end, Miranda has a beautiful baby boy named Brady. The actors of Sex & the City have also been criticized for supporting Planned Parenthood and giving the proceeds of an auction to the organization.
            A film that I immediately thought of when on the topic of abortion is Dirty Dancing. In the film, one of the lead dancers has an abortion in a back alley with what is described as ‘an old coat hanger’. This was my first interaction with abortion in my early teens. I didn’t really understand what was going on and until I was 15 and watched an abortion video in my grade 10 religion and morality class, I thought that the only place you could get an abortion was in a back alley with a dirty hanger. Seeing the abortion video and pictures of the process of abortion brought the entire class to tears. After this experience, it wasn’t the back alley and coat hanger that disgusted me, but rather that a little human being could be sucked through a vacuum and then disposed into a garbage bin out back. Over the past six years I have become more informed of abortions, including laws and procedures and the platforms for both pro-life and pro-choice organizations. However, that video from grade 10 has stayed engrained in my mind. I am not sure if I disagree with the tactic that my high school used or if in a way it benefited the class to see the reality of what is happening. I just know what I would do if I fell into a situation such as this one, and I believe that it is not up to any other individual to criticize a woman for the choice that she may decide.

- Kathleen :)  

Teen Pregnancy: Media Influence or Bad Parenting?



     Last weeks lecture on sexuality in media reminded me of one of my pervious posts that can be found here  on the pop culture phenomenon Sex & the City. As found in that post, popularized television series are being blamed for teen pregnancies, abortions and teens having sex at a young age. As mentioned by Professor Harris, 13 of every 1000 pregnancies in Canada involve a teenager, whereas in the United States, 41-42 pregnancies of 1000 are teen (820, 000 in 2010 alone), with the US having the highest teen pregnancy rate in the world. With television programs such as MTV’s Teen Mom and 16 & Pregnant, the hardships of teen pregnancy are being undermined by the glory of actually being on television. Something to keep in mind is that the teen stars of the series will eventually have their babies and turn 20. This means that eventually MTV will need a new crop of teen moms auditioning for the show. 
         In June 2008, seventeen girls at Gloucester High School north of Boston intentionally got pregnant after agreeing to a pregnancy pact with none of the girls being over the age of sixteen (in Grade 10). Even more scary, MSNBC reports that the reason for they becoming pregnant is that it was ‘the glamourous thing to do’ due to movies such as Juno and Knocked Up. Additionally, MSNBC reports that usually a quarter of that number (17) is the number of average teen pregnancies at the school. To add to the glamorization of teen pregnancy, Lifetime, has created a made-for-TV movie entitled Pregnancy Pact that is inspired by this story. On primetime, Law & Order: SVU had an episode in season 10 called Babes that followed an investigation of a group of girls who made a pregnancy pact. Liz Goodwin, the assistant editor of The Daily Beast, reports that in 2010, the teen pregnancy rate has actually risen by 3% and is on the rise for the first time in fifteen years. Goodwin mentions the influence of Jamie Lynn Spears, Glee and Bristol Palin, but the lack of television speaking of abstinence, birth control and abortions.
            Last year, my aunt who is an elementary school guidance counselor in Torontp, asked her grade eight girls where they see themselves in five years. Four of the twenty five students answered with a baby. After getting over her initial shock, she then asked why they would want to have a baby in high school and they answered because they would receive ‘free money’ (i.e. welfare) from the government just like their moms did when they had them.

            This begs the question, is it the media that is influencing these girls to get pregnant or rather a lack of guidance from parents, school guidance counselors or is teen pregnancy a vicious cycle with teens being influenced by their mother and grandmothers? 

                              How to tell your parents you are pregnant - a HowTo YouTube video

Monday, March 28, 2011

Response to Diana's "Commit the Crime, Do the Time!"

Hi Diana!

Great post. I like that you also thought of Akon. When we were sitting in class discussing music and the influence lyrics and performers have on society, my mind was drawn to Lil Wayne, 50 Cent, groups of rappers such as D12, G Unit and Murder, Inc. and then on the other side of the spectrum – Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift and Rihanna. As I write this piece, I am currently listening to the Lil Wayne recording ‘3 Peat’. I am not sure if you are familiar with this song, but every second word for the first 40 seconds or so is ‘motherfuck’ and ‘nigga’. He then goes on to say that ‘suck my d%$k b$tch, swallow my thoughts, if its too nasty then spit it back at me’. To be honest, I am incredibly embarrassed to be even listening to this. The song goes on to speak of hurting his girlfriend if she doesn’t give him what he wants. Although this song does not bring up the idea of not ‘snitching’ as Akon’s does, it instead is absolutely disgusting and offensive to not only women, but also African Americans. Other ‘crew’s’ (I really don’t know what to call them, sorry I’m not up with the rap lingo) such as G Unit and Murder, Inc. create not only violent music about gangs, guns, murder, drugs and women, but even in their group names they portray violent connotations (G Unit = gun it). In 2003, one man was killed in Toronto following a 50 Cent concert, and another shot  following a 50 Cent concert in Montreal. In fact, a Canadian MP attempted to ban 50 Cent from performing in Canada and the only way that he could go through with his tour was to obtain a temporary resident's permit. Other countries have also banned 50 Cent including the UK banning his Bulletproof video game and Reebok ad of him counting to 9 (the number of times he was shot). 
         Differing, Biebs, Swift and Rhianna’s music is not violent in the least and is at the top of the pops. This causes me to wonder, does violence really sell? Although Lil Wayne and 50 Cent are successful rappers, it was their less explicit songs that were ranked in the charts. Although some still have explicit sexual undertones (as found in Lollipop and Candy Shop ... funny they both are about sweets haha), violence is not at the core of the songs. Now as I sit finishing up this post, my iTunes has shuffled to the Spice Girls – hmmm... that’s much better.

Rap, Music, Violence and G-Unit Rapper 50 Cent

Ban for Ad in UK

3 Peat - Lil Wayne (please note there is explicit content)

Lollipop - Lil Wayne

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Personal Paranoia: Fuelled by Law & Order or the media?

            During class yesterday when Professor Harris asked who watches shows such as the CSIs, Law & Order (Special Victims Unit, Los Angeles, United Kingdom, Criminal Intent and plain ol’ Law& Order), Criminal Minds, etc, etc. I really should have raised both hands. Yes, I am a HUGE crime show nerd. Every night before bed I watch at least one episode of  the above listed and keep up to date on the regular L&O: SVU and Criminal Minds. To be honest, the creator of Law and Order Dick Wolf is always on my list to be one of the people invited to my fictional ‘if you could have ten people over for dinner dead or alive …’ However, my somewhat obsession has its negative effects. My friends joke that I am paranoid about walking outside alone after dark, I don’t like staying over night in my house alone and am nervous about my big move to London this fall alone (because on so many episodes the victim is always the girl living alone who has no one to check up on her). When Professor Harris mentioned the substantial difference between the homicides in Manhattan on prime time (108 over four shows in one season) versus the actual amount (59 in one year), it actually was kind of reassuring for me. I know that I must sound like a nut bar who should just stop watching crime shows and separate what is fiction and what is real. However, whenever I do put on the news, the headlines are always speaking of shootings, car accidents, break ins, trials, child pornography, and wars. In my neighbourhood newspaper The Village Post, there is a page devoted to the burglaries and violence in my area since the last issue. After reading these excerpts in each issue, I become frightened that my house will be next. This causes me to wonder, is my irrational fear of something happening to me rooted in my love for crime shows and overactive imagination? Or is it driven by the medias constant reporting on violent crimes?  

Response to Marica's "Can we REALLY say sports are religious?"

Hi Marica!

I really like your post, however I think that in your discussion of sports and religion, it would help to add a personal experience of determination, passion and endurance found in sport that led the athlete to treat it like religion.
            Coming from a competitive athletic background, I understand the pain, pressure, endurance, passion and commitment one has to undergo in order to succeed at their given athletic activity. I remember missing countless birthday parties, semi-formals and family events, as well as seeing my friends go off to camp during the summer and family holidays because I was always in the dance studio practicing or traveling to competitions. Although I maintained to be a strong Catholic and went to mass every Sunday at 8 am (I had to be in Mississauga by 11 for a 4 hour class), Irish dancing for me was my religion. I lived, breathed, ate, thought, and dreamt about dance. For fifteen years, the only music I would listen to in the car, on my iPod or in my room was dancing music thinking up new steps and practicing a new move that I learnt the night before. I spent over 25 hours a week in the studio, and sometimes had two practices a day.. one before school at home with my mom and then another after out at the studio when a big competition was coming up. However, all of the work paid off as for ten consecutive years I held the Canadian title for team dancing and in 2005 was chosen to represent Canada at the World Championships in Ireland. After representing Canada for a few more years, my Irish dancing career came to an abrupt halt when I was placed in hospital with severe kidney disease. To be honest, having kidney disease really does put a big damper on my life, but the real thing that I was most disappointed with was that I was left so weak from being so sick that I could never train the way that I did ever again. Within a month I went from getting ready to compete in England to being never able to competitively dance again. I remember laying in the hospital bed after being told that my body could never handle the vigorous schedule that I was used to and thinking “God, why did you do this to me?” I felt betrayed and left with nothing. Because really, my passion and my personal religion, was taken away from me. The studio was my church, my coach was my preacher, my jigs and reels were my hymns and my satisfaction lay in doing a really good performance. It took me a long time to come to terms with this change in my life, but finally after three years of not competing competitively I have been able to look back on my time with fond memories and realize that I just had to make room for the other passionate young dancers to take my place. Now, I share my love of Irish dancing with little 3 to 7 year olds and instead get great satisfaction in seeing their little faces light up when they master a step.
            Phew! What a long post haha. All that I wanted to do is share my experience as someone who has experienced their sport being their religion. I also know that I am not the only one with a story like this. Any high level or professional athlete has the exact same story as me. I remember seeing a Sidney Crosby commercial a few years ago (see below) with him talking about all the events that he missed. I couldn’t help but think that he was really talking about me. To finish I will recite a line that is on one of my favourite t shirts: Eat, Breath, Irish Dance.

Sidney Crosby
"Time Well Spent"

 World Championships 2005

On stage at the World Championships 2005

Winning our tenth consecutive team Canadian championship

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Response to Josh's Confessions of a Cult Member

Hi Josh!

Yet again I absolutely love your blog post (as I gushed in my post that has already commented on your article). I definitely agree that the series LOST has attracted a cult following, with viewers scheduling time to watch the show around the rest of their lives, generating debates between friends on aspects of the show, and of course, becoming attached to the characters.
            To be honest, I am one of the people who scheduled by week around LOST. For the first few years of my university career I made sure that NOTHING came between me and the TV on LOST nights. Similar to me, my cousin also was an avid viewer and watched every single Wednesday (except with her, no one else was allowed to watch with her in case they talked, commented, sneezed or breathed haha). During each episode we would wait anticipating the commercial breaks to call each other and “OH MY GOD” for four minutes until the next segment came on. After the show, we would then call each other back and have a full (almost) hour (the length of an episode) dissecting every tiny detail. Upon the series finale, she actually went through each of her favourite moments on LOST and took screen shots then commented on them and posted it to Faecbook. Some people may call us crazy or obsessed, but we were sucked into this life on The Island and fell for all of the characters (she had a thing for Sawyer, me for Jack). In fact, to this day, every time we see one of the characters on another television series or movies, we either watch that series or episode (lots of TV watching, I know) and still refer to them as Jack (Matthew Fox in Vantage Point), Sayid (in Law & Order) and Jin (in Hawaii Five O… however, I have yet to see an episode of that as I really don’t like the show in general … my cousin instead is a fan).
            I am just waiting for school to be over to book off a few weeks and watch the complete series over again. My cousin (as she was making the stills) re-watched it and actually created a chart of when characters first came up, how they know each other, what episode it was in, etc., etc. It actually is astonishing the connections between them and how different themes are evident throughout the entire series (not just the general themes, but for example shoes. Shoes become a symbol throughout the series either right after the plane crash when they are found in a tree, Kate stealing shoes from another passenger, etc etc).

Anyways, I am very happy to have found another LOSTie! Great Post,


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Finding Positive Pop Icon Role Models (Like Finding a Needle in a Haystack)






Today we focused a lot of our time on the great pop phenom Justin Bieber. Within our discussion my colleagues had a myriad of opinions on not only Bieber himself, but also the music video for his hit single Pray. In Pray, Bieber sings of hope, change and striving for a better tomorrow. Imagery in the video include Bieber visiting patients in a local hospital, the people of Haiti both in field hospitals and on the streets, Bieber meeting with Make a Wish children, soldiers going to Afghanistan and praying behind the scenes at his show. The first feeling that I felt from the video was that it is incredibly refreshing. Although Bieber functions as a money making entity (with t-shirts, dolls, pencil cases and hair clips (to name a few) made in his image), he also stands as an inspirational figure for the younger generation. Think about it, who are the other icons found in the top 10s of the pop world? Katy Perry? Lady Gaga? Lil Wayne? K$sha?!?! Can they function as good, wholesome role models? I believe this to be untrue. Some of these pop icons have prison records, sex scandals, music videos that border on being pornographic and lyrics that truly disgust. However, Justin Bieber, as found in his lyrics and the video Pray, stands as a positive role model and inspirational figure for teens all over the world.
     It is here that I would like to prove my point: Justin Bieber (and his entire media campaign) is not meant for twenty somethings or people within our age bracket, rather his target audience is 14, 15, 16 year olds and even younger. After hearing the negative feedback from our classmates regarding the Bieber video, I first considered their comments and thought that “yes, he is being marketed in a certain way to make money”, however, I think that we need to get over this and recognize that really, his entire career and mantra is really a positive. He stands as a figure young people can recognize and look up to. To add, a fellow classmate mentioned that what Bieber was doing in the video (visiting hospitals) is nothing new. She spoke of Avril Lavigne in her hayday visiting a hospital under the watchful eye of the Much Music cameras. I think that it is here that really my point is proven, Bieber does not stand for someone who we (University students) watch. As we watched programs of Avril Lavigne and other celebrities taking part in philanthropic activities in grades 7 and 8, Bieber is now their Lavigne, Backstreet Boy or Spice Girl.
      Another point of interest that a classmate brought up is that really, Bieber does not have to make a video like this. He is a teenage pop idol who could really do ANYTHING in the world and still people would watch. However, in Pray he chose to raise awareness of world issues such as homelessness, health care, economics, disease, hunger and natural disasters. With this, Bieber is acting as a medium between what is going on in the world and younger citizens of humanity who may not necessarily be aware of the world around them.
      All in all, I believe that Justin Bieber is not only a positive role model for young teens, but also a role model for the rest of us to be an agent of change and live out our lives full of compassion, love and understanding for others.

PS. Justin Bieber reportedly promised to donate a portion of sales from his last album to Childrens hospitals throughout the US. He tweeted “"I am in the position to give back thanks to my fans and God. I wrote Pray thinking I wanted to help others and I feel like I have a responsibility to do so. "What is the point of doing all this if you can't make a difference in others' lives? This album is a gift to my fans and the money raised from it allows us all to help out."...
found here:

Katy Perry's video for California Girls

Ke$ha's video for Take it Off (make note of the lyrics... really great for 14 year olds)

Ke$ha's video for We R Who We R (note her lyrics.. 'getting sexified')

Lil Wayne's video for Gonorrhea 

Lil Wayne Trial Date Set in Yuma