Month: May 2014

Boats! Boats! Boats!

If you have seen any media coverage of the so-called “refugee crisis” that is supposedly happening in Australia, you no-doubtedly would have seen an image like this:

Photo credit: http://www.crikey.com.au/2010/03/29/theyre-heeeeeeeere/?wpmp_switcher=mobile
Photo credit: http://www.crikey.com.au/2010/03/29/theyre-heeeeeeeere/?wpmp_switcher=mobile

 

Oh, the image of a rickety boat holding hoards of unfamiliar foreign faces ready to take our jobs and resources, that is ever so favoured by today’s media. It’s no wonder why 60% of Australians want the government to increase the severity of treatment of asylum seekers who arrive by boat, when images like this one circulate through the media. Fear-mongering front page articles and news reports like this start to affect how we think about migration. They hide away individual’s stories that help us empathise and instead create panic with images of invading boats.

Don’t worry, there is hope for us. While the front pages and current affair programs battle it out to see who has the best boat picture, other forms of media are telling a whole different story. According the the 2001 and 2006 censuses,

“more than 200 nationalities were recorded as living in Sydney. In Fairfield…55 percent of the total population is overseas born, 37 percent are under 25 years of age, and 71 percent of people speak a language other than English at home.”

So it only seems fitting that we start to hear the stories of those who actually have experiences of migration or diaspora. Shopfront Theatre, a youth theatre that I spoke about a few weeks ago, has created many projects with this aim. One of the most recent is Travel Songs of Land and Sea, which was created by 100 young people aged 12-25 from Menai High School, Fairfield High School, Fairfield Intensive English Centre and St George Community Mental Health Service. The theatre describes it as:

“A diverse mix of young people – refugees and new migrants, young people with and without disability, and those who have grown up in suburban Sydney – have created music and visuals for this cinematic series that come together in 30 minute film. Beautiful cinema-songs reflect recent personal, physical and emotional journeys.”

You can watch the trailer here if you like

Although a large number of mainstream media may have a close-minded view of migration, it’s fantastic to see that local media such as youth theatres are attempting to change this through digital storytelling of individuals who have experienced being connected to multiple nations and cultures due to migration. Salazar states that:

Digital stories allow people to make their own stories (and histories) important.”

These stories are important and hopefully one day we will see them on the front page.

References:

Salazar, Juan Francisco. (2012). ‘Digital Stories and emerging citizens’ media practices by migrant youth in Western Sydney’. 3CMedia: Journal of Community, Citizen’s and Third Sector Media and Communication, Issue 7.

I’ve Got the Eurovision

Let’s talk about Eurovision. Oh yes, you heard me. Eurovision.

Eurovision Song Contest
Eurovision Song Contest

For those who’ve been living under a rock, let me explain to you the magical phenomenon that is the Eurovision Song Contest. Eurovision is an annual live television contest in which the members of the European Broadcasting Union each write and perform a song. It all began way back in 1959; Europe was looking for ways to bring countries together after a devastating war and Marcel Bezençon decided that an international song contest was the way to go. Thus Eurovision was born! Even at it’s conception, the show was intended for a wide audience of numerous nations.

Fast forward to this year, where Eurovision is celebrating it’s 55th year and is still going strong. It is estimated that 125 million viewers from around the globe tune in each year. Not only this but almost 5.5 million tweets were sent around the contest. This broadcast has clearly spread from Europe to the entire globe; worldwide people are watching and talking about Eurovision at the same time. Still don’t believe me? Check out this map of how these tweets played out during the contest.

Let’s cut to the chase. Why is this relevant? Well this is all representative of how technology has sped up globalisation. (Ah globalisation, we meet again.) Eurovision was always intended for a larger audience outside of one room, but with the help of technology and media, it has spread globally. Initially, the song contest was broadcasted on the radio, with some lucky people watching it on the tele. Now, it is accessible to almost anyone and is creating international conversations.

Eurovision
Eurovision

Eurovision may seem like a tacky, hilarious spectacle of strangely dressed singing Europeans (which it is), but it is also is a vessel to bring people together and to create a truly global event. And that, my friends, is why Eurovision is pretty awesome.

http://www.villagevoice.com/2000-05-09/music/the-olympics-of-cheese/

https://blog.twitter.com/en-gb/2014/five-million-tweets-for-eurovision-2014

http://www.eurovision.tv/page/history/facts-figures%20

 

Hey Hey It’s Not Okay

In 2009 Channel Nine’s show Hey Hey It’s Saturday televised a skit that involved 4 men in blackface and 1 man in whiteface portraying a goofy version of the Jackson 5. Some didn’t understand the controversy; the Herald Sun writing,

What’s racist about it?… We got men who dress as women. Women who dress as men… What’s wrong with white people made up as black people?… I don’t see the problem?

Hey Hey It’s Saturday’s Jackson Jive

Here’s the problem: blackface throughout history has been used to depict people of colour in a comic and demeaning stereotype. America, in particular, has a dark history of this tradition. Going back to when Africans were enslaved by white Americans in the 19th Century, blackface was a form of entertainment in theatres. White men would blacken their face with shoe polish and then perform grotesque portrayals of (apparently hilarious) stereotypes of African people. John Strausbaugh describes it as the portrayal of

Blackness for the enjoyment and edification of white viewers

So you can imagine why blackface might be a little offensive, especially in the U.S. What surprises me is the Australian reaction to this skit. While they were understanding of America’s Harry Connick Jr.’s outrage, they were apathetic to the skit itself. People dismissed it as being just a bit of fun, and that it wasn’t as offensive here as it is in the U.S., where blackface is taboo.

To me, this seems highly ignorant, especially when we live in a country that also has a history of blackface in theatre, television and movies to depict poor portrayals of Indigenous Australians. It seems that the reaction was, “Yea that’s offensive in the American context, but that’s their problem because we don’t live there.” The reality is that whether in the U.S or Australia, blackface is still highly offensive because racism is not nation specific. If we tolerate these kinds of dated racial stereotypes in a simple comedy skit, when do we draw the line?  Australia is already guilty of having “white-washed” casting in television, with little to no diversity in key characters. So when incidents like this happen, I often ask myself, “Are we moving forward, or backward?”

To sum this all up (if you hadn’t got the gist already), blackface is not acceptable in any form, in any country. It’s not funny, even if it is “well intended”. It is our responsibility to stand up against these offensive portrayals of stereotypes which were created during times of slavery and oppression, and say that it is not okay.

References

http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/tv-and-radio/diversity-still-out-of-the-picture-20120229-1u1jg.html

http://www.crikey.com.au/2009/10/08/crikey-clarifier-whats-all-the-fuss-about-blackface/

http://overland.org.au/previous-issues/issue-199/feature-maxine-clarke/

Where All My Ladies At?

There’s no avoiding it; the gender equality in media is abysmal. We’re talking in film, television, print and online media. We’re talking on-screen portrayals and careers in the media. Essentially, women aren’t being given a fair go. Okay, here’s the part where I would rattle off a whole list of numbers and statistics about women in the media. However the New York Film Academy has just done such a grand job at it already, any attempts by me would just be inadequate.

Photo credit: http://www.nyfa.edu/film-school-blog/gender-inequality-in-film/
Photo credit: http://www.nyfa.edu/film-school-blog/gender-inequality-in-film/

I don’t know about you but numbers just seem to have a better impact on me when displayed in a visual format. And NYFA have done just that. If you want to see the entire post about women in the media you can see it here. Overall it’s staggering how much women are not being represented in film, and even when they are it’s usually playing a role of a mother or lover. So why is this inequality occurring? (Apart from the centuries of gender inequality being the social norm)

Perhaps it’s due to the lack of gender balance in the media industry. Again, I look to NYFA’s post for an illustration of this.

Photo credit: http://www.nyfa.edu/film-school-blog/gender-inequality-in-film/
Photo credit: http://www.nyfa.edu/film-school-blog/gender-inequality-in-film/

And this unbalance is occurring in newsrooms, television and newspapers, as well as film. How do we expect women to be properly represented when the people who are presenting them are predominantly male? Maybe that’s something to consider.

It’s not all bad news though, there are shows that are challenging this deep-rooted sexism. Some of my favourites include New Girl, 30 Rock and Orange is the New Black. The latter is one that is really rich in ways that it challenges stereotypes. First of all, the majority of the cast is female which is a win for us ladies. But what interests me the most is not the white upper-middle-class female main character, but the rich diversity of women who are portrayed in the show. Homosexual and bisexual women, older women, women of colour and transgender women all play a central part in this show, which is another win for us ladies considering most women in the media are ones who are young and caucasian.

Photo credit: http://thefeministpremise.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/o-orange-is-the-new-black-facebook.jpg
Photo credit: http://thefeministpremise.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/o-orange-is-the-new-black-facebook.jpg

We’ve got a long way to go, but at least we’re starting to see some change.

References: http://www.nyfa.edu/film-school-blog/gender-inequality-in-film/

http://annenberg.usc.edu/News%20and%20Events/News/~/media/PDFs/Smith_GenderInequality500Films.ashx