Tag Archives: media

A Need for More Diversity in Entertainment Media

Almost everyone watches TV, plays video games, reads books or does some combination thereof. All these options are great forms of entertainment and a great way to relax. Everyone loves them, but not everyone is represented in them, at least not fairly.

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“In today’s media, there is not much variety. There are very few characters that are African American, Latino, Asian, homosexual, bisexual, transgender, disabled, female, Muslim, Jewish or any combination thereof.” Photo from: https://makeitgentle.files.wordpress.com

Most of the characters in any form of entertainment media fit into a well-defined set of basic characteristics. That is to say, the vast majority of them are white, straight, cisgender, able-bodied, and male. This is not to say there is anything wrong with having characters like this. It’s perfectly fine, but the issue is that in today’s media, there is not much variety. There are very few characters that are African American, Latino, Asian, homosexual, bisexual, transgender, disabled, female, Muslim, Jewish or any combination thereof. There are very few characters with these traits, especially compared to the number of them that are white, straight, cisgender, able-bodied, and male. And when there are minorities present, it is usually only one token minority character, such as an African American in a group with five white people, for example.

This is not to say there should be less white characters or straight characters and so on, just that there should be more characters that are minorities. There should be more African-American female characters, more transgender characters who are gay, more bisexual and disabled Latinos characters, more asexual Muslim characters, more of any and all of them because these types of people exist and they deserve to be seen and heard. People want to see characters that they can connect with and feel good about. They want to see that an African-American woman can be a superhero so they can believe they can be a superhero, just like a white man can with Captain America. (Or almost any other superhero. Think about it, how many of them are white and male?) People want to watch sitcoms and dramas with diverse casts because the audiences are diverse. The simple fact of the matter is that representation matters.

The fashion industry is killing childhood

The fashion industry hasn’t been hailed as the most ethical of industries. Between promoting unattainable body types, contributing to the eating disorder epidemic, and of course keeping the fur industry afloat, the fashion industry has been widely criticized. However, the fashion industry’s contribution to pedophilia is rarely discussed.

I believe that as the fashion industry promotes thin, shapeless bodies, it’s over-sexualizing the bodies of prepubescent children. Although many fashion models are over the age of 18, there are many who are way too young. In the documentary “Girl Model,” many of the young models are 12 or 13 years old and encouraged to lie about their age. The documentary addressed the fact that many girls from Russia who participate in recruitment for modeling agencies are also likely to become prostitutes. Many times, photos taken from their short modeling careers are used to advertise them for sex.

This girl may never have a normal childhood, being in the fashion industry. Graphic from Global Fashion Report
This girl may never have a normal childhood, being in the fashion industry. Graphic from Global Fashion Report

Even in the U.S., many underage models are overly sexualized in their photos. Kristina Pimenova is only 9 years old and has over 300,000 followers on Instagram. Her mother, a former model herself, posts photos of her daughter — who has become a sensation in the modeling industry. What’s so disturbing about this young model is the way she’s posed in many of her photos. In one photo, she’s wearing very small shorts and has her legs propped up as she sits on her phone. In other photos, she sports pouty lips or is turned away from the camera in a way that shows off her body. At 9 years old, she should be playing and enjoying her childhood, but instead she has been pushed into a controversial industry by her own mother.

Youth is obviously very valuable to the fashion industry. Even models in their late teens or early twenties look incredibly young and even child-like, yet are posed in underwear or in sexual poses. I believe that posing young-looking models, even if they are of age, encourages the sexualization of those who aren’t of age.

We live in an incredibly sex-crazed world. No matter where you go, we’re surrounded by it. Young girls shouldn’t be worried about being “sexy.” In another intriguing documentary,“Sexy Baby,” the constant over-sexualization of essentially everything is explored. The cameras follow a 12-year-old girl as she has many of her first experiences with sexualized media. As the documentary goes on, the viewer sees the changes in the girl as she tries to fit into the ideals which she absorbs from these different media.

The cameras also follow an ex-porn star who explains her first experiences with sex and how they shaped her as a sexual being. The woman explains that sexualized media and the porn industry affect the way we think of sex in a lot of negative and unrealistic ways. In my own observations, I’ve noticed that as media has become more and more sexualized, younger girls are beginning to dress in provocative ways at younger ages.

Children need to be taught that looks aren’t everything, or else they may grow up too fast. The fashion industry, along with media in general need to promote a healthy and realistic idea of sex. It’s our job as adults to not turn a blind eye to the misinformation being handed to kids about what healthy sex is. Being a sexual being is one thing, but presenting ourselves that way isn’t always appropriate, especially at such young ages.



Law, order, and video game ISIS

Gaming has always been that one habit that people are hesitant to tell others about. It’s mostly because the default image that pops in a non-gamer’s head is that of a fat kid with an overabundance of Doritos and Mountain Dew raging at his TV screen. Whether they’re bragging about the things they’ve done with your mom, or tripping over themselves at the first girl who hops in a game lobby, gamers aren’t well liked by a great number of demographics.

It doesn’t help that every time a shooting happens, the news media tries to find which violent video game to point to as a possible motivator for such an act. In fact, the media as a whole doesn’t seem to understand gaming at all–and when it tries, it seems to miss the mark every single time.

A recent “Law & Order” episode aired, loosely based on the events of what has been dubbed Gamergate. It’s a scandal that involves accusations of both misogyny and journalistic ethics. It’s a topic that deserves further explanation, but I’ll do so after you watch the episode.



Putting aside the fact that they felt the need to use and explain just about every outdated and unused piece of gamer lingo, this episode tried to take on way too much. Granted,  Gamergate is a monster of an issue to tackle with multiple facets that someone from the outside would never understand.

To grossly oversimplify, the actual Gamergate started after evidence came out that a Kotaku reviewer had given a game good review because of an intimate relationship he had with the developer. It raised questions about corruption in gaming journalism, due to the fact that many large game developers have been known to give sponsorships and other gifts to entice positive reviews.

It then devolved into an issue of trading sex for coverage, after a writer put out a prolonged blog post about how his ex-girlfriend Zoe Quinn had cheated on him with another writer. As a natural internet reaction to this blog post, people began to question if this is true for all female game developers.It further descended into madness from there.

New characters started to spawn into the Gamergate battlefield after feminist blogger Anita Sarkeesian took this opportunity to criticize the gaming community and the culture that surrounds it. She made the points that games often portray women in scantily-clad clothing or as supporting roles for the male protagonists. In doing so, she inadvertently generalized gamers as sexists, largely due to what they are exposed to in games.

As one could imagine, gamers didn’t like being labeled, and she became a vilified character among the community–but championed by many feminists who have long held the idea that video games aren’t a safe place for women. It got worse, however, when Sarkeesian began receiving death threats that prevented her from speaking at several events. This helped to serve her point that gamers are these monsters that want to silence women.

There’s plenty more that I’ve unfortunately had to leave out, but there’s a lot of bias and contradictory information that tends to muddy the water. The point is that it’s a big deal due to the fact that it hits on about four different issues at once. The media completely dropped the ball on the issue by siding against the gaming community, because it’s a community that’s already so misunderstood by the general public.

It’s almost too easy to get it wrong, because it won’t matter to the general public (who don’t care enough to make the effort to understand). It’s so much easier to write gamers off as sexist nerds than it is to understand that this is an issue of journalistic ethics. Yes, it’s wrong that a select few took it upon themselves to send death threats to any female who covered the issue from a feminist standpoint. Yes, it’s wrong that there aren’t more realistic female protagonists in games. However, it’s also wrong to use an entire demographic of gamers as the scapegoat any time anything goes wrong in society.

The reason gamers appear so defensive about what they do is because of negative media portrayals. After making the point that a shooter enjoyed playing violent video games , news anchors always seem to encourage family to talk to their loved ones. This often results in the taking-away of said violent video games. There’s an inherent distrust of the media every time they decide to cover gaming, because they always get it wrong.

What “Law & Order” did here was a prime example of why there was a need for gamers to speak out against the media in the first place. This hypothetical video game equivalent of ISIS will only further make the non-gaming community wary of gamers and what twisted ideas they have in their heads.

Maybe we need more gamers in the media, or maybe the media just needs to do more research before they try to cover topics like this. Gaming impacts such a large demographic that it’s impossible to generalize everyone to one collective hive-mind. We’re not all sexists, and we’re not a mean joke away from shooting up a school. We’re everyday people who happen to enjoy escaping this reality to one with less rules.

Fifty Shades of Grey – condoning abuse?

After serious thought, reading the books, and hearing everybody’s uber-enthusiasm about “Fifty Shades of Grey,” I can’t help but think: that this story is seriously messed up.

The trilogy is titled Fifty Shades of Grey because the main man is named Christian Grey. He’s definitely a complex, rounded character (“rounded” because his personality changes quite a lot during the story). However, I think the “grey” should also be applied to the gray area that is the type of BDSM relationship between him and the female protagonist Anastasia Steele. While many girls and women have read this story and been intrigued, entranced, and in all forms interested in the Grey-Steele encounters, it seems that the more serious, eerie aspects of the two have gone either unnoticed or ignored. . But here’s the reality: Christian Grey and Ana Steele are in an extremely unhealthy relationship that should not be coveted by anyone.

For example, Christian Grey is incredibly jealous. He loses his mind when Ana gets stared at, hit on, or if other men are friendly to her. During Ana’s friend Kate’s photo gallery exhibit, Christian buys all the pictures of Ana because he “does not want anyone else to see [her].”

Christian also compares Ana to his mother. If you don’t know the story, sorry to ruin it, but Christian’s mother was a reported “crackwhore.”He’s not a fan of women at the beginning of the story.Grey was sexually abused by an older woman for the majority of his adolescence, leading him to see women as objects and luring him into the BDSM fantasy lifestyle.

Christian stalks Ana on more than one occasion. When she goes out with a friend to a bar against Grey’s wishes, for example, he flies out to confront her about it.

There are a few moments in the books where Mr. Grey is so rough with Ana that she cries and screams and leaves him until he comes begging her back.

Grey does not let Ana consult a lawyer about her BDSM contract before signing it.

Christian is possessive. When Ana asks him why it’s so important to him for her to change her name, he says it’s so everyone will know she is his. Ana has incredibly low self esteem. It seems she only stays with Christian because she feels sexy with him.

Everyone has been raving about this movie and I’ll  probably go see it too — mostly because I want to know how this erotic trilogy could possibly be shown on the big screen.Christian Grey’s control over Ana does NOT show love, but something else entirely. This isn’t a relationship that should be hashtagged “relationship goals” or coveted in any shape or form.

Leave Renee Zellweger alone!

Renee Zellweger recently appeared at the Elle Awards looking a bit different. Many have speculated that she may have had some extreme plastic surgery. Whether or not Zellweger did have surgery, one thing’s for sure: the media lost it’s mind over her new appearance. Fox 411 compared a photo of Zellweger at the Elle Awards to a photo of her from the early 2000’s. Wherever you look, many are criticizing Zellweger for changing her “signature” look.

Any time a celebrity undergoes plastic surgery, there are bound to be criticisms. When Heidi Montag from “The Hills” got plastic surgery, there was a media firestorm. She looked drastically different and many were worried she went too far. Although I can honestly say I haven’t seen a single one of Zellweger’s movies, I feel the need to defend her.

Renee Zellweger looking different at the Elle Awards. Graphic from ABC News
Renee Zellweger looking different at the Elle Awards. Graphic from ABC News

Being a woman is exhausting. We’re expected to look nice all the time and we’re constantly finding things about ourselves that we don’t like. It’s frustrating to see women getting criticized for something that’s only skin-deep. It seems like it doesn’t matter how talented someone is, because their appearance comes first. Of course appearances are important, but they should never trump the person living inside the body. We’ve all gotten into the terrible habit of writing off parts of someone’s personality because of their looks.

I know it won’t happen over night or even in my lifetime, but I think it’s time we train ourselves out of that habit. We all need to look past what’s in front of our eyes and embrace the person underneath. Life is so temporary and so are looks, but what a person achieves in their lifetime can never be reversed. As time passes, our skin wrinkles and our hair grays but the things you’ve accomplished don’t just disappear. If you make a big enough footprint on this world, it will be remembered forever.

Although Zellweger may look different, she’s the same person. She’s gotten older and decided to get surgery to make herself feel better, so what? She’s still a talented actress and the same person. If she’s happy, that’s great. There’s too much distress and unhappiness in this world to put down someone for doing what they believed would make them happy. Instead of discouraging each other, we should all lift each other up and make happiness our goal. We need to make it our mission in life to spread as much happiness as possible within the small window of time we are here.

Marijuana and the media

Over the past few weeks, I’ve seen several articles appearing on my Facebook news feed from my home town and its surrounding areas about marijuana growers being caught. But living near West Virginia, there are a lot of bigger issues than pot. Meth and prescription drugs are very often the reason crimes are committed.

As many of us young adults can agree, marijuana is pretty much harmless. Meth on the other hand, not so much. I can recall several stories where a meth user completely demolished their life while high. One story in particular, a mother in Texas got so high on meth she put her baby in a clothes washer. The worst thing a pot smoker has ever done is clean out his entire pantry in one sitting.

The comment sections on these articles prove that locals also believe these growers are completely harmless. Many comments are filled with sarcasm, with people “thanking” officers for taking these “dangerous” criminals off the streets.

“As many of us young adults can agree, marijuana is pretty much harmless. Meth on the other hand, not so much…The worst thing a pot smoker has ever done is clean out his entire pantry in one sitting.”

The worst part of these articles are the photos that come with them. One photo shows an officer knelt down next to several very small marijuana plants, smiling proudly. Although by his precincts standards this may have been a very big bust, I can’t help but wonder if they’ve forgotten our area’s history. Several years ago, Richlands, Virginia (about 45 minutes from my home town) was the Oxycontin capital of the world. Although the situation isn’t nearly as bad as it used to be, there are still a lot of other drugs that are being overlooked.

Not only do the officers look silly in this situation, but the reporters are making me question my choice of major. One reported stated that officers had found $15 million worth of marijuana. The officers were praised for collecting some plants up to 15 feet in height. As anyone who has done very basic research on marijuana would know, any marijuana plant that is growing that tall is going to be a male sativa plant. Male plants are useful for fertilizing the females, but that’s it. They have little street value because they’re hemp. They’re used to make rope and comfy fabric.

Also, how did these officers calculate the worth of these plants?  I noticed there is another number–$4 million in street value. So where did the first number come from? Media personnel need to take the time to do the extra research and inform the public of the technicalities before reporting these things.

I may be beating a dead horse here, but I will go ahead and say this: it’s time we legalize marijuana. With so many hardcore drugs out there that are actually taking lives, why are we wasting so much time and money on drug that is virtually non-addictive and as far as research can tell, causes little to no bodily harm? I’m much more worried about drugs like ecstasy, heroin, cocaine and even alcohol which is more addictive and harmful. Alcohol inhibits decision making and even impulse control, while THC simply blocks an inhibitory neurotransmitter so that dopamine is released into the brain.

Although marijuana can affect decision making and awareness, how often do we hear about people getting in severe enough accidents  to kill someone while stoned? Now compare that to the amount of drunk driving accidents that take lives every day. It’s time we use our common sense. If alcohol is legal, why isn’t marijuana?


Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: Tragic reactions

Last week we saw a horrible tragedy unfold over the course of four days, which resulted in a total of four dead and one terrified city. Boston has arguably gone through more last week than any city in America has since New York City during 9/11. Take a moment to be thankful that it’s finally over.

Every time there’s a tragedy, we see people react in many different ways on Facebook and Twitter. It’s a nice thing when we see millions of people come together to show their support for the victims. However, if you’ve been following the pattern of my articles, you’d know that nothing is ever that simple. Continue reading Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: Tragic reactions

God forbid you say God

Remember when we were kids and if someone said something that hurt your feelings, all it took was a few tears and you could have that person sent to the principal’s office? Then somewhere along the way, someone tells you that you can’t let these things get to you and that you need to build a thick shell if you’re going to make it in the real world? Here we are, in the real world now, seeing that the lines between what is politically correct and what is a violation of free speech have become so blurry. People with any influence have to be exceptionally careful as to what they say for fear of committing the worst of media crimes: political incorrectness. Continue reading God forbid you say God

Journalism’s Justification

Journalism is defined as, “Writing characterized by a direct presentation of facts or description of events without an attempt at interpretation.”

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, journalism is a collection of facts, “without an attempt at interpretation.” This means that a reporter should simply state the facts of a given situation or circumstance without assumption, opinion or any form of prejudice or partiality. Said reporter would merely read into a camera what news was written on the teleprompter, and the information written on the teleprompter would be utterly transparent.

USA Today is one of the more reliable news sources. Photo from Creative Commons.

For those of you thinking, “Well, duh, that’s how it’s always been,” I’m going to have to stop you right there. Journalism has traveled far from its initial presentation. It’s fallen into every hole, stumbled over every rock and tumbled down countless cliffs of ethical systems and professional dignity along the way. What was once considered a noble career has turned into a 24-hour gossip engine. Continue reading Journalism’s Justification

The dangers of anonymity in a small community

Radford isn’t the first university to incorporate a “crushes” page onto their online community. Much like the meme page and confessions page, universities seem to have their own special brand of Facebook fads that sweep through and keep people entertained for a few weeks before they lose interest and move on to the next fad. However, RU Crushes seems to have hit RU particularly hard, pulling in well over 2,200 fans in its first week. Continue reading The dangers of anonymity in a small community

News(papers) for all

Do you spend any time in the Bonnie? Do you ever grab lunch at Dalton Dining Hall? Do you have an 8 a.m. in Russell or friends in Muse Hall? If you spend any significant amount of time on campus, you may have noticed the racks full of Tartans that seem to pop up everywhere. It’s a great way to read your student-run newspaper, as often as it comes out — but what if you’re looking for something that satisfies an everyday craving for world news?

For a couple of weeks now, you’ve been in luck. RU has started stocking those wire distribution racks with copies of USA Today. Every day, for free, students can get their very own newspaper to read on a bench in the quad or over a cup of coffee in Starbucks. Continue reading News(papers) for all

Crime shares a story: Jorge Valencia

From the 4-foot cubical to a crime scene, it’s not a typical 9-to-5 career.

For Jorge Valencia, 27, it’s another day of exciting reporting. As The Roanoke Times’ primary dayside police reporter, he has covered many crimes that occur in or around Roanoke, including stories that range from the murder of a former Roanoke police officer to a pet ferret lost in the mail.

He said he got into a lot of music, like rock and roll around age 13, so with a new interest in music, he knew a career in media was a must.

Growing up in Maryland, he always knew he wanted to go other places, meet new people and explore, so he sought out journalism. Valencia said that his job gives him a license to talk to people about what they do and share it with others. He gets to see firsthand what people want to share.

Jorge Valencia. Photo by Creative Commons.

After being accepted to the University of Maryland, Valencia joined the entertainment section of the school newspaper, The Diamondback.

“I initially wanted to do media, so I did entertainment,” he said.

Before landing a spot at The Roanoke Times, Valencia interned with many newspapers: The Wall Street Journal, The Baltimore Sun, The Miami Herald and The Akron Beacon Journal.

While he originally set out to write about media and entertainment, Valencia fell into crime reporting. He has been at The Roanoke Times for three years and has spent the last three months in the position.

From his third-floor cubical equipped with a pocket law dictionary, domestic violence handbooks, crime statistics books and Roy Peter Clark books, Valencia dedicates 40-50 hours to research, reporting, writing and exploring new ideas out in the field. Once a week, he contributes about five hours to working with local high school teens to coordinate a page called The Edge.

Reporting crime can be an emotional and challenging experience.

“There are a few challenges that I’m constantly working to overcome,” he said.

These particular obstacles are not to vilify certain areas as stereotypical and to not let the crisis of others affect him deeply.

Valencia uses music and running as a coping mechanism to deal with crisis.

“If one doesn’t have a way to deal with these emotions, it can affect the report directly because you’re regularly talking to people in crisis,” he said.

Keeping up with current music, meeting new people and hanging out with friends are a few interests he has outside of reporting.

Crime reporting is a process that can last a great deal of time, with cases lasting from anywhere between several days to several years. Valencia’s advice to aspiring journalists is to establish connections and relationships, such as joining a journalism conference or network in which you will come in contact with potential employers. This will give them a chance to gain knowledge from these employers in order to hone their technique for future employment opportunities.

When preparing for a story, Valencia said journalists should go in with an idea of a story on the particular subject at hand. When he prepares for a story, he goes in with open expectations doesn’t set a guideline on what the story will be about. He takes along his notebook and phone for pictures.

The most important thing for journalism students to look out for is that “people aren’t always going to like you; if you’re good at what you do, you’re not going to be very popular. Sometimes the hours will be long and news might happen when you’re not planning to be at work. The pay’s not amazing, but it’s a fun and gratifying job,” he said.