Consumer Identity and Stereotypes

Chapter8 in the Media Making book is about market audiences, for consumerism and advertising. It is about ‘identity’ and how people have a sense of who they are. “That sense of individuality, whether grounded in the religious spirit or simply in some personal essence, involves some sense of transcendence, some sense that we are not only the sum of the various social roles that we play, the various social groups to which we belong (pg.219). We are all citizens, families, races, genders, and members of certain selective groups. In our society, we learn how all those roles relate to each other.
Because the chapter focuses on commodities and marketing, it tries to make sense of what society conveys to people that influences to buy certain things. How certain items become desirable to certain social/ethnic groups.

Something I feel strongly about is how my ethnic group is presented in mainstream cinema (or lack thereof). The book mapped out the slow progress of Black actors/film makers (and women) over the last 100 years, but didn’t mention much about Other minority groups. “Stereotyping is the process of distorting the portrayal of some social group in a media image” (pg. 238).
I am of mixed race. I was raised by the foreign half, but in America. Every few years, I have a moment when I realize that there’s a whole country of people who behave like my family, a country I know virtually nothing about. Growing up multicultural was strange because my home values didn’t reflect anything I saw at school or on TV. I went through many little phases where I tried to piece together a little more of my heritage, from bits and pieces of cultural trivia. I pulled information from ethnic characters on TV, foreign movies (mostly martial arts and anime), and historical folk lore [this was way before the internet]. But in doing so, I only brought myself closer to a stereotype (something I thought I ought to be based on my understanding of the media portrayal). I wasn’t aware at that time how limited the American view of my culture was.

Identities are not linear, the code is complex and contradictory, the field is constrained, ideology is a struggle, and the media has created a more fluid construction for people to build their identities (pg.250). It wasn’t until I was an adult and was able to choose my own friends, that I found other multicultural people who knew exactly what it was like to grow up ethnic-American. Also, I learned more. Technology improved so I was able to locate more cultural resources. I talked to more people, tried new things, and read more books written by people with similar experiences as mine.

Identities these days are not unified, and are less committed, thanks to multiculturalism expressed in media (pg.252).  I recently saw this foreign movie, “Sweet 20”. To the most of my knowledge its the only Vietnamese movie to ever be shown at my local AMC theater. According to CJ Entertainment, “Sweet 20” has made millions since its Dec2015 release; it’s a Vietnamese remake of Korean hit “Miss Granny.” The body-swap romantic comedy features a 70yr old woman who magically transforms into the 20yr old version of herself. It’s one of the highest grossing films of-all-time in Vietnam, but is virtually unknown here in America.
I liked it because it showed a real (sitcom style) modern family. Not ninjas, or peasant farmers, or communist soldiers; not geishas, or egg heads, or yakuza. A regular family unit. Everyone wore western style clothing, and had cell phones. They lived in a regular modern city, with cars and restaurants, and I found it comforting to know how wrong the American stereotypes were. It felt really good to see a whole ethnic cast in leading acting roles, and not just as the 1 novelty sidekick.


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