Thursday, September 17, 2009

Actually Jackass, It's Important BECAUSE it's Fiction

This entry is for me, for my realizations. It started out as a letter to a friend but then I realized that I wanted to note it as part of: The Conversation I Want To Have. Or rather I wanted to note it as part of why PoC/Non Whites need to have that particular conversation.

I've spent the past two days or so reading transcripts/watching & listening to recordings on Media Studies. One click from Sociological Images led me to the Media Education Foundation, Jean Kilbourne and George Gerbner.

Now I've known that media fans, especially PoC media fans are savvy. And spending time at this website brought the point home to me. It also brought up Racefail 09 and several arguments about just who is qualified to analyze popular culture and media.

Back then I found myself thinking a lot that there's a difference between book learning and intelligence, but not having a word for it. Today I know the difference is simply vocabulary. When one enters 'the hallowed halls of higher education' one becomes part of a clique. That clique has specific slang, predecessors, mentors, mores, systems and norms.

In Racefail 09, as in many past conversations among media fans about racism, sexism, disablism, cissexism, heteronormatism and the need for intersectionality, the vocabulary word that might have been missing was Cultivation; or rather Cultivation of Culture.

Which is that media/the stories we are told, represent a type of life stability and the more people partake of these particular stories the more they're 'cultivated' to see those stories as being true reflections of life. There is no before and after, there is no particular way to prove affect, because from the time we are born (or introduced to it) electronic media tells society that THIS is the way the world is; THIS being however the medium chooses to describe the world. And then it reinforces that view by showing more examples. And these examples are the same for everyone; society is shown the same images juxtaposed against the same narratives, as something to share; as something everyone knows.

In other words "It's just fiction. It's just entertainment. It's just for fun." is the battle-cry of the stupid, unaware, deluded and willfully malicious. No matter what vocabulary is or isn't used, the argument consistently being made by minorities of the mainstream is that the stories we tell ourselves matter.

And the reason they matter is that they are the not so invisible threads that hold a culture/society together. Stories are the glue that binds us; they are the windows to the soul of society itself. And if those stories erase and minimize various peoples, then the culture erases and minimizes them.

In fact among varied non white indigenous groups, wherein storytelling has always played a major part of their identity, the awareness of being minimized and erased, even if they don't have the vocabulary to describe it as such, is likely FELT and simply known. It is visceral.

      Example: History is a story. And the concept of the victors writing history is the concept of the victors telling the story of the past from their point of view, minimizing and/or erasing contributions made by those they deemed enemy.

Television as the central mode of electronic media combines picture tales with story-telling narrative. It is powerful. It is important. Television and movies say: THIS IS HOW THE WORLD IS. And for far too long that world has been solely or majority white.

  • It has also said: all indians wear buckskin, feathers, live in teepees, say how and dance around campfires.

  • It has also said: everyone is heterosexual and those who aren't are deviants.

  • It has also said: black people are ignorant savages who were saved by civilization despite being lazy, prone to chemical abuse and sex focused.

  • It has also said: real women are < insert various and often contradictory messages here > and that 'women' are white.

  • etc...

So the next time someone talks about Rape Culture or Racist Culture or Homophobic Culture or Heterocentrist Culture or Transphobic Culture or Cissexist Culture and of course of Misogynistic Culture - remember that they are discussing the stories society has told itself and is still telling itself. They are discussing the images and narrative that are repeated over and over again to create a sense of collective knowledge that those representations are true to life.