Research Winners

1st place: Robert Hunt: “No girls allowed:” Women as creators in Hollywood

Abstract

            This paper examines the lack of women existing as authors of film and television: the world’s most prevalent mediums. If women have provided such a key role on screen since the dawn of film, why is it that so few women are recognized as writers, directors, and producers? What societal forces have created this problem? Comprehending this topic is vital to gauging a larger understanding about gender roles. Media both reflects and creates culture. An important question to ask when looking at any piece of media is who is telling this story? And, perhaps more importantly, whose story is NOT being told and why? By applying these questions to film and TV, we learn more about a previously unexamined industry and how their content affects our development as citizens. Using a combination of discourse analysis and ethnography, this paper reveals industry insights into this issue. The paper includes several firsthand testimonies from women working in film and TV, and also analyzes articles which discus the progression of this issue throughout the history of motion pictures. As a result of these findings, it was revealed that a gendered Hollywood system and reinforced misogynistic notions have created this culture of exclusion in Hollywood. Once Hollywood was established in the patriarchal society of the 1910’s, women were immediately and systematically marginalized in the realm of production. Understanding this piece of history is key to gaining a greater understanding of how cultural production and gender roles work. We are given a glance into the struggles of women, both historically and in a modern context, and learn more about the importance of diverse representation in media.

Introduction

When speaking about the creative forces that drive the American entertainment industry, film producer Lucy Fisher once quipped “I used to assume that Hollywood would let anyone who could make them money get behind the wheel… but now I think there is some deep-seated aversion to letting women drive.” In a sense, this statement surmises the prevailing attitude towards women as cultural producers in media since the birth of motion pictures at the turn of the 20th century. Historically women have been and continue to be marginalized in various aspects of American life, and the tragic element of this is that often the conscious public fails to recognize the ways in which this happens. This is due largely in part to the fact that these types of gendered inequalities are both historically and systematically engrained in our minds as humans, and thus we perpetually fail to recognize their impact on daily life. Notably, the struggles of women to achieve equality in the United States primarily throughout the 20th century onward have been well documented; from the strives for voting rights in the suffrage movement of the late 1910’s, to the women’s liberation movement of the 1960’s, to the efforts of women today to protect and sustain reproductive rights on a national scale.

However, while these instances of hard-fought progress have received their just publicity, the labors of females to achieve equality and recognition in other areas of professional life have been severely overlooked. A keen example of this comes when analyzing the history of women as cultural producers (e.g writers, directors, executives) in the two most prevalent visual mediums, television and film. Women have worked for years to gain depth and diversity in their representation on screen, both as performers and in the types of screen roles they portray. In addition to these advancements amidst a lack of equal compensation, women have also historically not been recognized justly for their work behind the scenes. While some female producers have worked tirelessly against the gendered system of Hollywood to break through, countless others have not had such success in defying the structure of Hollywood. In short, for every Penny Marshall, Sophia Coppola, and Kathryn Bigelow there are thousands of women whose names and production work go unnoticed, or who are simply never given the chance to attempt to explore these opportunities. Understanding how this culture of exclusion towards women was formed in Hollywood gives way to a greater comprehension of how gender roles are constructed and reinforced, as well as how the nature of representation in media is carefully controlled. From an authorship perspective, taking a deeper look at how this issue has manifested itself in media and the work place is imperative to shedding light on the situation further and starting a discussion in this country about these types of inequalities. This gap in conversation on our part as citizens has only allowed for the perpetuation of this systematic exclusion, and the only hope we have to resolve this reoccurrence is by recognizing the impact of societal forces in our everyday lives. And by recognizing the coercing influence of these societal forces, we may make more progress in countering their impact and allowing for more equal creative expression in this country.

Methods

Our research takes its form in a combination of ethnography, through firsthand testimonies of women working within the film and TV industries, and discourse analysis, through close examination of language used in texts discussing the issue of female representation in production. To establish an accurate context for this issue, it is crucial to first grasp the historical roots of the topic in general. In doing so, we must trace the arc of female representation in film production back to the silent era of the 1910’s. An excellent source for this information comes from historian Hillary Hallet’s book Go West, Young Women! The Rise of Early Hollywood, a chronicling of female participation, success, and early exclusion in filmmaking during this critical era of the medium’s history. The piece details how by the 1910’s the newly created film industry had attracted flocks of European immigrants seeking economic opportunity and prosperity into California, paralleling the similar human migration to the region that took place in the previous century’s gold rush. Reviewer Peter Catapano summarized the book’s contents and emphasized how in this Cultural Revolution it was not the “grizzled mountain man or the hardscrabble prospector of the 19th century” (Catapano 1, 2013) who sought a claim of this wealth, but the new woman of the 20th century. Hallet’s writing is divided into two sections that trace the rise of female involvement, first focusing on how screen depictions of women helped construct this idealized version of the “new woman”. As theatrical melodramas rose in prominence and popularity during this time, the perceived “feminization of American culture” (Catapano 1, 2013) led to what many historians consider a challenging of male-dominated space in media. Women were framed mainly as on-screen talent, appearing in a limited range of character tropes that included humble wives, saucy mistresses, damsels in distress, and villainess figures. However, the majority of these screen appearances were entirely written, constructed, and directed by men. Hallett highlights perhaps the first woman to break through this glass ceiling as Mary Pickford, the famed actress who took control of her career by acting as her own manager, writer, and producer. She was one the first women to establish herself as an independent creative force in Hollywood, being one of the original four Hollywood to establish the United Artists Studio which remains to this day as one of the industry’s most important bodies. Pickford, along with several of her contemporaries like Lois Weber, Maria P. Williams, Guy Blanche, and Cleo Madison ushered in the first cinematic wave of female cinematic producers and opened the doors for future women to express their own creative control. But their efforts were not without struggle, as dominant patriarchal ideologies of the time were constantly attempting to rebuke the progress being made. It is important to recognize the time frame of these events, which coincided directly with the suffrage movement of the turn of the century up until 1920 when the 19th amendment was passed giving women the right to vote. Corporate powers, unhappy with the strives being made by these women, did little to promote their activities and Catapano even highlights an instance of industry reporters writing scathing articles regarding mothers and daughters entering Hollywood seeking fame. As a result of these actions, the most widely known authors of media from this era into the mid twentieth century remained male. In a sense, the earliest section of film history can also be regarded as the golden era of female participation.

Critic Robin Blaetz continues this recounting of female film history by analyzing the essay Women Filmmakers in Early Hollywood by Karen Mahar, focusing specifically on what she refers to as the “gendering nature of Hollywood” (Blaetz 258 2006) as a response to the changing social roles of women in America. Blaetz details this secret history, again touching upon the parallels between the development of the theater and film industry in structure and content which emphasized female involvement heavily. Blaetz points to one specific instance in the history as significant for giving female directors their first opportunities. Hollywood’s tendency to promote what is described as “salacious material” involving women to attract audiences early on also attracted the threat of government intervention and censorship in the medium. To counteract this, studio executives began employing more women as writers and directors so as to appear not as sexist and crude, and in an attempt to come across as offering equal opportunity. Pioneer Lois Weber is cited as one of the first women given such an opportunity. Weber immediately began writing and producing films that doggedly portrayed relevant feminist social issues of the time. This is a key example of how the authorship of a text impacts its content, showing how one woman was given an opportunity and chose to avoid played-out stereotypical stories and instead project a unique, and specifically feminine portrait of modern life. The image of the socially-aware Weber is contrasted with her more popular male contemporary, Cecil B. Demille. Demille’s image of a commander shouting orders on a film set embodied the hegemonic masculine figure of the time, and gained more notoriety than perhaps any filmmaker of his time. The article concludes by noting the fact that majority of producers from the start of filmmaking until roughly 1922, when American financial prosperity was pouring more investments into the film industry, were actually female. These female producers worked within the constraints of this male-dominated society and created films that “explored the modern lifestyles of interest to just the kind of women who attended movies in this era.” (Blaetz 260, 2006). In a sense, the silent era not only marked the height of female expression in storytelling but also in participation in production, as the subsequent years saw significantly less female inclusion in the realm of writing and directing.

Continuing where the silent film era left off, author Martha M. Lauzen describes the under-representation of women as filmmakers after the 1920’s, which was considered the heyday for female directors and producers, in her article “Where Are the Film Directors (Who Happen to be Women)?”. In similar fashion to Hallett and Mahar, Lauzen the vast number of women working in Hollywood as leaders in the industry from the mid 1910’s to approximately 1927, where Lauzen claims women were “removed from the industry entirely”(Lauzen 1, 2012). Following this claim, Lauzen analyzes the reasons for women’s lack of participation from the late 1920’s onward and points to two key factors as explanations. First the human capital theory: which commodified women and limited the number of women informally allowed by studio executives to be working in the industry at one time. Second, and perhaps more easy to understand, the discrimination theory: the reinforcement of misogynistic, sexist notions that women were not suited to be authors of such a craft and should instead be displaced to fill “traditional feminine roles” of wives, mothers, and caregivers. These insights add more historical context into the framework of why female participation in production dropped off so sharply following the golden age of the 1920’s.

Shifting now to an ethnography, another article published by Lauzen updates the story of female underrepresentation to a modern context, adding a firsthand 21st century perspective of the type of micro-aggressive discrimination that women suffer from in the public eye as media-makers. The article, entitled “Framing Women Film Directors: The Cases of Sam Taylor-Johnson and Lynne Ramsay” follows how two specific female directors, Sam Taylor-Johnson and Lynne Ramsay, view their place as women in Hollywood and describe the type of unequal treatment they receive in their occupations as a result of the industry’s gendered system. The article begins by quoting one studio executive who remarked that the entire system of media in America was “geared for women to fail” (Lauzen 1, 2013), which set the tone for the accounts given by Taylor-Johnson and Ramsay. Both women contend that their careers and public personas have been framed in a more negative and misogynistic manner than that of their male counterparts in the industry. Taylor-Johnson, who was appointed as the director of the high profile erotic thriller Fifty Shades of Grey, was immediately placed under fire by media journalists who questioned her credentials and harshly criticized her early work once she received the job. The article contrasts this media handling to that of Marc Webb, the young filmmaker who after only having one film under his belt was appointed as director of The Amazing Spiderman franchise. Studios justified their hiring of the equally unexperienced Webb by citing his early work in music videos and praising him for getting the job at such a young age. When Lynne Ramsay was contractually unable to participate in a film she previously signed on to direct, media outlets blasted her personal ethics and lack of actual filmmaking talent. This of course contrasts directly with the countless male directors who drop out of film projects every year and receive no such criticism. Lauzen attributes this difference in framing to an effort, whether intentional or subconscious, to attach stereotypically negative “female traits” to female directors, in order to discredit them and stop them from getting future work. The article is insightful in that it echoes the efforts of patriarchal control exhibited in the silent film era, although in this case done more discretely.

In order to conceptualize the full scope of female involvement in this day and age of film, it was vital to analyze some of the stand-out female filmmakers who have enjoyed commercial success in Hollywood over the years. This list includes to name a few Penny Marshall, Penelope Spheeris, Lynne Shelton, Michelle McLaren, and Kathryn Bigelow, who in 2009 became the first woman in the eighty-plus year history of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to receive a Best Director award. Glancing over this list of names, it may be easy for some people at a base level to assess that enough progress has been made and that women do not for the most part continue to suffer from disadvantages placed upon them by creators by the system of the film and TV industry. This would false, as evidenced by the personal accounts of many of the industry’s leading female forces. One may take for example Shonda Rhimes, the award-winning creator of some of television’s biggest dramas including Grey’s Anatomy and How to Get Away with Murder. Rhimes has been celebrated for her individual achievement not only due to the merit of her work but the circumstances of her presence in the industry; as both a minority and a woman. The representation of someone like Rhimes may serve in many people’s minds to essentially serve as proof of a newfound level playing field in media in the 21st century, but Rhimes herself would argue otherwise. In a recent speech, she stated bluntly that she did not feel she had metaphorically “broken a glass ceiling” of representation, and was merely following in the footsteps of thousands of women working in media throughout history who contributed to her receiving this opportunity and platform. In this sense, we can conclude that attributing a large sea change of equality to one person’s accomplishments is not only misleading but degrading to that person’s status as not a member of any certain group, but as a filmmaker. An instance where it does benefit to highlight the individual is when one is gaining firsthand accounts of the industry, so that we may see how each person individually deals with the stigma presented to them.

By focusing on one specific woman working in film, we are able to get a better grasp of how these gendered challenges play a role in the work environment. Belinda Small’s article “Sofia Coppola: Reading the Director” provides an intimate portrayal of the psyche of Coppola, the famed writer/director and daughter of cinematic legend Francis Ford Coppola. The article describes Coppola’s relationship with her father, her role in Hollywood as a young filmmaker, the reception of her two most recent and most controversial films, and finally the challenges she faces as a woman attempting to be treated as an equal in the gendered system of Hollywood. Small cites specific instances of Coppola’s films coming under criticism for being aesthetically pleasing but lacking heft, and all of these criticisms coming back to questioning her status as the most prominent working female director. Coppola is distinguished from previous female filmmakers in her nature of work. For example her lack of overt feminist themes or appeal to feminist studies with her film’s content and her refusal to work within the “paradigm of traditional genre cinema” (Small 153, 2013) which gives her less direct appeal to mainstream audiences. Because of these factors, as well as Coppola’s own perceived image of ineptitude and privilege, Hollywood has largely discredited much of her life’s work despite her commercial success. This, again, is an obvious example of women being repressed as authors of craft. Instead of simply posing Coppola as an independent director with her own individualistic style and voice, she is posed first and foremost as a woman, and this labeling only serves to disparage and distract from her actual craft and ability. Seeing this example, especially in regards to someone considered as powerful a female filmmaker as Coppola, it is understandable to see why less women are acknowledged as filmmakers.

Analysis

After taking a moment to absorb the information put forth in these sources, it is imperative to first remind one’s self of the questions posed at the beginning of this paper. Those questions being: why are so few women recognized as filmmakers? What forces have created this trend? And why have these forces done so?

First of all, it is abundantly clear that the lack of recognition for female filmmakers has absolutely nothing to do with the actual talent of said filmmakers. As documented in sources, women have not only been involved but have played a key role in the progression and development of film since the birth of the medium. Women dominated the industry in the silent film era, and more eager females flocked to Hollywood to try their hand at pursuing the dream of filmmaking. In addition to this, the lack of female representation also is not a result of a lack of opportunity. Film was the dominant American form of mass media from the 1920’s onward, rivaled only by the television industry when it came to prominence in the early 1950’s. These two industries made billions of dollars in revenue, attracted investors, and captivated the attention of a still-developing nation. It is beyond the realm of belief to say that at no point in this avalanche of activity could more women be allowed to direct, write, produce, or merely have a voice to tell their own stories. Knowing this, it is clear that the primary reason for female underrepresentation is and continues to be a calculated effort by men to preserve the patriarchal grip on traditional gendered society.

Men will never openly admit to being directly misogynistic or to wanting to keep women in a specific “place” in society, but analyzing this specific industry indicates that they have intentionally attempted to do just that. The first wave of female exclusion in the late 1920’s was seen as a direct response to the changing role women were playing in society as a result of their participation in industries like filmmaking. A generation of men who were raised with women that were housewives, mothers, teachers, nurses and, above everything else, obedient, were not content with the changing of the guard of the 20th century. As women were gradually entering the work force in greater numbers, there were concerned efforts to keep them down where it was perceived that they naturally belonged. And it is no coincidence that women were specifically excluded from a medium like film, a visual art form. Media both reflects and creates culture. It has the power to change our perception of what is real and what is constructed, and can entirely alter our idea of what is normal in society. In other words, the power to create in this art form is the power to change people’s minds, to not just tell them but show them stories that reflect how life can be. This power, as indicated by the efforts of men time and again, was seen as too dangerous and influential to be put into the hands of women, and thus we see the constant efforts against their progression in the industry. As the 20th century pushed forward and women continued taking further steps towards equality, the efforts of men to preserve control over their hegemonic society still persisted but were conflicted with the changing tide of public opinion. Today, we live in a culture where women are still threatened, objectified, paid less than men, and have to fight for their rights but the progress that has been made is still undeniable. More female executives exist now than ever before, but their names and titles are still largely unknown to the public.

Conclusion

Communication professor Sut Jhally once stressed in a lecture that when examining what he referred to as the “hidden abode of production”, it is vital to understand who is creating any given image, whose story was being told, and whose was not. Authorship over a cultural text reveals more than just what went into making the text, it can expose the political and social climate of a given time period. In regards to underrepresentation of female filmmakers we can see the plight of these women, the lack of opportunity and recognition given to them, as reflective of prevailing traditional gender roles that society is attempting to reinforce. If we do not have women, and many women at that, writing, directing, and producing their own stories we will not only have a lack of diverse perspectives in the realm of storytelling, but we will be contributing to the subjugation of an entire gender. The problem here is that many people, as has been mentioned previously in this paper, are not fully aware that this problem exists. It is seen as the norm that men are the filmmakers and that men continue to tell the stories that make up our understanding of the world. Until we as a society choose to rectify this notion, women will continue to lack access to their voice of expression and young girls will grow up without dreams of telling their own stories. It is vital that a change be made.

Bibliography

Blaetz, Robin, “Women Filmmakers in Early Hollywood”, Historical Journal of Film, Radio &Television. Jun2009, Vol. 29 Issue 2, p258-260. 3p., accessed 10/4/15, doi:

10.1080/01439680902890845

Catapano, Peter. “Go West Young Women Review.” Film & History 45, no. 1 (2015): 60-61.

doi:0360-3695.

Hallett, Hilary A. “Entire Book.” In Go West, Young Women! The Rise of Early Hollywood, 1-

  1. 1st ed. Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 2013

Lauzen, Martha M. “Framing Women Film Directors: The Cases of Sam Taylor-Johnson and

Lynne Ramsay”, Media Report to Women. Summer2013, Vol. 41 Issue 3, p24-23. 3p.

accessed 10/4/15

Lauzen, Martha M. “Where Are the Film Directors (Who Happen to be Women)?” (2012),

Quarterly Review of Film and Video, 29:4, 310-319, doiI:10.1080/10509201003601167

Small, Belinda. “Sofia Coppola: Reading the Director.” Feminist Media Studies 13, no. 1 (2013): 148-62. doi:10.1080/14680777.2011.595425.

 

2nd place: Melissa Bowden: Teenage motherhood, new media, and the self-creator narrative

ABSTRACT

Teenage motherhood is a divisive topic in the United States, with many studies pointing to its negative emotional and socioeconomic repercussions. Recent pop culture trends, however, have spurred a more cinematized series of glimpses into the narratives of teen mothers and their experiences. Shows like 16 and Pregnant, Teen Mom, and others have portrayed the lives of teen mothers in a reality show style, and multiple studies have examined the nature of these portrayals and their affects on teen viewers. With the rise of new media and self created content, however, teen mom narratives that are self created by the teen mothers themselves have appeared on popular new media sites.This project particularly examines blogs and videoblogs created by teen mothers and posted onto the websites Youtube and WordPress in particular. I use previously researched socioeconomic beliefs and expectations about teen mothers to compare the narratives expressed in the blogs and videoblogs toe existing expectations. Through the use of content analysis based on the expected and prevalent themes, I examine the similarities and differences between the self created content of teen mothers and the existing socioeconomic and emotional beliefs about them established by previous research. The study also compares vlogging and blogging to discern whether or not these two different platforms correlate with the expression of differing themes or emotions. My overarching desire is to probe the ways in which stereotyped or marginalized people can use new media to craft their own narratives, reject (or perhaps play into) existing media stereotypes, and find their place in the age of self created media.

OBJECTIVES

This study will investigate the narratives about teen motherhood crafted by teen mothers themselves in user created blogs and videoblogs. While multiple studies have examined the ways in which teen mom narratives on TV influence viewers, this study approaches “teen mom” narratives from a new media, self created content perspective. No known research has investigated the different ways in which people interact with blogs and vlogs, and whether different new media platforms result in vastly (or not) different content creation. Past research has also avoided conducting a content analysis of themes produced in “teen mom”focused media. Of particular importance, no prior research has delved into this hot button issue (teen motherhood in the media) from the approach of new media and self created images/content. This study will focus on the two most popular platforms for free blogging and vlogging: WordPress and YouTube respectively. As defined by the Oxford English Dictionary, a blog is, “(shortened form of “weblog”): A frequently updated web site consisting of personal observations, excerpts from other sources, etc., typically run by a single person, and usually with hyperlinks to other sites; an online journal or diary.” A video blog is the recorded version of a [1] blog, usually with a single “narrator” holding the camera and documenting his or her experiences, and also commenting on them. Vlogs and blogs differ substantially in that blogs do not require the writer to show his/her face, but vlogs depend on audiovisual self representation.

[1 Oxford English Dictionary]

NEW MEDIA

In his book The†Language†of†New†Media†, new media theorist Lev Manovich gives the popular definition of new media as “ the use of a computer for distribution and exhibition, rather than…production.” Manovich also, however, questions the “new” elements of new media; he [2] says that digitally recorded cinema allow for the same sort of immediate access that online content does. Even the new media video platform YouTube compares itself to television in order to get the attention of marketers, saying on its statistics page that “YouTube overall, and even YouTube on mobile alone, reaches more 1834 and 1849 year olds than any cable network in the U.S.” 3

The mere association with “old technology”, however, does not account for the sort of wideopen availability that digital content provides: media uploaded onto popular internet platforms can be viewed, downloaded, and altered by any or all of the internet’s billions of users. This sort of open access, both in terms of magnitude and lack of time restraints, demonstrates new media’s branching off from older, more established media forms. New media is also unique in the sense that it makes content creation and distribution available to anyone and everyone. Not only can any of the internet’s billions of users view created media, they can also easily and quickly create and share their own media. The element of usercreation makes new media a compelling new avenue to examine in looking at the cultural themes being created (or recreated) from actual media consumers themselves. This is especially useful in pursuing the narratives of those who are often underrepresented or poorly represented in popular media.

2 p.433 https://www.youtube.com/yt/press/enGB/ statistics.html

A†note†on†truth†and†data†collection∫†One of the challenges in approaching the study of new media is the issue of authenticity: when analyzing new media content, it is impossible to verify the truth. Therefore, the goal is to analyze the themes of the content itself; “truth” is a creation of the author. (Sarah Benet Weisner, Branding†the†Authentic†) 4

RESEARCH QUESTIONS

This content analysis aims to answer many questions, both about teen motherhood and about new media. First, what are the thematic trends that self created media platforms express on the topic of teen motherhood? While past studies have indeed explored the themes manufactured in cable TV shows like Teen Mom and 16 and Pregnant, actual teen moms create their own narratives on blogging and vlogging sites. Investigating these trends may reveal what uses teen mothers have for self created media, and what messages they themselves want (or do not want) to convey about teenage motherhood.Second, is there a difference between what content producers reveal in the vlog platform vs. the blog platform? (i.e. Do thematic elements discuss differ, or are they similar?) Discovering the ways in which written vs. audiovisual self created media formats express narratives about teen motherhood might demonstrate the different possible ways users may use these media. This also may open the doors to other studies, which can analyze who may choose to blog vs. blog, and why.

4 Branding the Authentic, Sarah Benet Weisner

In a broader sense, I’m also interested in discovering how teen mothers portray themselves in relation to existing “teen mom” narratives, and also in relation to existing statistics about teen motherhood. Across platforms and in each individual one, are the messages expressed consistent with general trends and data on the socioeconomic status of teen mothers on the whole? Do they play into pop culture portrayals of teen mothers? Disparity might reveal the possible artificial nature of the blog or vlog formats.

HYPOTHESIS

While both blogging and vlogging share the same basic concepts and new media influence, the former is a written form of communication, and the latter is an audiovisual one. It seems logical to think that there would be differences in thematic expression between them due to their different communicative properties. Because of this, I expect different platforms to produce different recurring themes about teen motherhood, with blogs being more honest and “diary like” and vlogs being more glamorized, polished, and upbeat. Because writing is a more solitary and anonymous task, it seems that it would be easier for the author to separate herself from the reader, which would lead to a more “confessional” tone about her experience with motherhood. Since audiovisual representation in American culture is unavoidably more focused on appearance, identity, and awareness of one’s audience, I predict that videos will contain a more positive, perhaps crafted, portrayal of teen motherhood.

METHODS

Sample

The sample of my research will consist of 50 blog sites and 50 videoblog posts created and published by self reported teen mothers between the years of 20102015. In order to be included in the study, the vlogs or blogs must be created by mothers who are/were at the time of the creation of the content a teen mother. Content created by mothers who were once teens and recalled their experiences retroactively will not be included in the study.

In order to find blogs and vlogs for study, two websites will be used for the sake of popularity, consistency, and their use of search algorithms. In the case of vlogs, YouTube will be used for content acquisition as it is the most widely used platform for self produced video content. WordPress will be used to search for blogs, as it is the most popular free blogging platform. Both websites allow users to “tag” their content so that it can be searched for key terms, with results organized by “relevancy” to search terms. The YouTube search term “Day in the Life of a Teen Mom” will be used to determine vlog content. I affirmed that minute wording differences like those between “teen and teenage” or “mom and mother” are eliminated by Youtube’s search algorithms. For blogs I will use the search term “my teen mom blog”, as it yields the most results for posts by actual teen mothers. Wordpress’ algorithms do not search for individual blog posts but for bloggers in general. As such, I plan to study the 50 first usable searches that come up for bloggers. Within these bloggers’ posts, I will code their five most recent posts as some posts are short and/or do not directly relate to teen parenting. In this case, a group of five blog posts would be the unit of analysis. As the YouTube search “Day in the Life of a Teen Mom” gleans much more specific, single videos, each video will count as a single unit of analysis. I plan to avoid repeating YouTube vloggers and will instead analyze the content of the first 50 individual videos that come up which follow the criteria of being by a mother who was a teen during the video’s creation without repeating users. Since videos are longer and usually selfcontained,it seems they will contain more content than the brevity of blogs, and as such a single video from each YouTube creator used seems sufficient. (As this study depends upon the search engines of these two self publishing platforms, it is very much at the mercy of their respective search algorithms.)

Bibliography

Chandra, Anita ,DrPH, Steven C. Martino, PhD, Rebecca L. Collins, PhD, Marc N. Elliot, PhD, Sandra H. Berry, MA, David E. Kanouse, PhD, Angela Miu, MS, Does†Watching Sex†on†Television†Predict†Teen†Pregnancyø†Findings†From†a†National†Longitudinal†Survey†of Youth¨†PEDIATRICS, Vol. 122, issue 5, pp. 10471054. 2008. American Academy of Pediatrics. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/122/5/1047.short

Elise F. Jones, Jacqueline Darroch Forrest, Noreen Goldman, Stanley K. Henshaw, Richard Lincoln, Jeannie I. Rosoff, Charles F. Westoff, Deirdre Wulf. Teenage†Pregnancy†in Developed†Countries∫†Determinants†and†Policy†ImplicationsƆFamily Planning Perspectives, Vol. 17, No. 2, pp. 5363. 1985. Guttmacher Institute. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2135261

Hamilton, Brady E., and Stephanie J. Ventura. Birth†rates†for†US†teenagers†reach†historic lows†for†all†age†and†ethnic†groups†. Vol. 89. US Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, 2012. http://www.collaborationcouncil.org/BirthRate.pdf

Hotz, Joseph V., Susan Williams Mcelroy, and Seth G. Sanders. “The Impacts of Teenage Childbearing on the Mothers and the Consequences of Those Impacts for Government.”

Kids†Having†Kids∫†The†Economic†Costs†and†Social†Consequences†of†Teen†Pregnancy†(1997): 5694. Web. http://public.econ.duke.edu/~vjh3/e195S/readings/Hotz_McElroy_Sanders.pdf

J. Biel and D. GaticaPerez, The†Youtube†lens∫†Crowdsourced†personality†impression†and audiovisual†analysis†of†vlogs†. IEEE Trans. Multimedia, vol. 15, no. 1, pp. 41–55, Jan. 2013.  http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/xpls/icp.jsp?arnumber=6331531

Jenkins, Henry. Convergence†culture∫†Where†old†and†new†media†collide†. NYU press, 2006.

John S. Santelli, Joyce Abma, Stephanie Ventura, Laura Lindberg, Brian Morrow, JohnE. Anderson, Sheryl Lyss, Brady E. Hamilton, Can†changes†in†sexual†behaviors†among†high school†students†explain†the†decline†in†teen†pregnancy†rates†in†the†1990sø†, Journal of Adolescent Health, Volume 35, Issue 2, August 2004, Pages 8090 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2004.05.001 .

Kearney, Melissa S., Phillip B. Levine. Media Influences on Social Outcomes: The Impact of MTV’s 16 and Pregnant on Teen Childbearing. 2014. https://moodle.umass.edu/pluginfile.php/971842/mod_label/intro/Kearney%20%20Levine%20%202014%20%2016%20%20Pregnant.pdf

Manovich, Lev. The†language†of†new†media†. MIT press, 2001.

Martins, Nicole, Robin E. Jensen. The Relationship between “Teen Mom” Reality Programming and Teenagers’ Beliefs about Teen Parenthood. Mass Communication and Society, Vol. 17, pp830852. Routledge.

https://moodle.umass.edu/pluginfile.php/971842/mod_label/intro/Martins%20%20Jensen%20%202014%20%20Teen%20Mom.pdf

Molyneaux, Heather, et al. “New visual media and gender: A content, visual and

audience analysis of youtube vlogs.” (2008). (PDF)

Teen†Pregnancy†in†the†United†States†. Division of Reproductive Health, National Center

for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. May 19, 2015.

http://www.cdc.gov/teenpregnancy/about/index.htm

CODING KEY

*”Not mentioned” will always be denoted with a 0

FORMAT:

video=1

blog=2

MONEY:

Lack of=1

Enough=2

More than enough=3

EMPLOYMENT:

Unemployed=1

Employed Part Time=2

Employed Full Time=3

Employed unspecified=4

HIGH SCHOOL

Dropped out=1

Enrolled in=2

Graduated from=3

COLLEGE

Part time=1

Full time=2

Dropped out=3

College Unspecified=4

ROMANTIC

Dating=1

Not Dating=2

Married=3

No time for dating: binary

Dating father: binary

PATERNAL INVOLVEMENT

Uninvolved=1

Involved=2

PATERNAL PERFORMANCE

Bad=1

Neutral=2

Good=3

FAMILY INVOLVEMENT

Family uninvolved=1

Family involved=2

FAMILY MON. SUPPORT

Family does not monetarily support=1

Family monetarily supports=2

LIVING SITUATION

Living alone=1

Living with significant other=2

Living with significant other’s family=3

Living with own family=4

SOCIETAL BELIEFS ABOUT TEEN MOTHERHOOD

Criticizes=1

Defends=2

ENDORSES TEEN MOTHERHOOD

Endorses=1

Does not endorse=2

SOCIAL LIFE

1=Unable to see Friends

2=Sees Friends occasionally

3=Sees friends often

CHILD HEALTH

Unhealthy=1

Healthy=2

CHILD MEDICAL ISSUES

No medical issues=1

Minor medical issues=2

Major medical issues=3

FOOD

Not enough food=1

Enough food=2

MATERNAL MEDICAL ISSUES

No Medical issues=1

Minor Medical issues=2

Major medical issues=3

MATERNAL MENTAL HEALTH

Negative=1

Positive=2

LONELINESS

Not lonely=1

Lonely=2

MATERNAL FATIGUE

1=Fatigued

2=Not fatigued

OVERALL UNIT TONE

Negative=1

Mixed=2

Positive=3

 

3rd place: Meghan Fish: Student identities and their relative power within a student government

[Note: The methods and conclusion were omitted from this submission, as well as two portions of data due to word limitations; minor removals and sentence structure adjustment were also taken due to word count; the abstract and introduction remain largely intact.] 

Abstract:

The overall purpose of the proposed research is to examine how members of a student organization use power to have a successful meeting. A successful meeting is one where the committee is able to complete the agenda as well as have a discussion on the current project/issue that results in a common understanding amongst all participants, so that the committee can then figure out the next goal. Specifically, the research will focus on the use of turn taking amongst members of the group, how their usage in institutional talk reflects the users’ position of power, and how these positions are negotiated by all participants within their respective roles. Turn taking is a conversational tool in which speakers distribute speech amongst participants of said conversation through either self allocation of a turn, or other allocation of a turn—a turn is either taken, or given, which is formally labeled the Turn-Allocation component. Turn taking is marked by several conversational features such as change in speaker, turn-allocation component, continuous or discontinuous speech, and transitions (Sacks 1974). Furthermore, institutional talk, the focus of this research, is characterized by three main elements: 1. the interaction involves the participants in a certain goal orientation that is related to their institutional identity (Senators giving reports), 2. the interaction involves special constraints on what will be treated as allowable contributions to the business at hand and 3. the interaction is associated with inferential frameworks and procedures that are particular to specific institutional contexts (Heritage 1997). The data used was acquired by recording two, approximately 70 minute long, meetings of a Senate committee (the Undergraduate Experience Committee) within the Student Government Association (SGA) at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Here, the research will show how a student within the SGA uses their institutional role, and the power that is allocated to them within that role, to move forward through a set agenda successfully.

Introduction

Identity work is a continuous process that is being done through talk. Tracy and Robles (2009) describe identity work as “the process through which talk makes available to participants and observers who the people doing the talk must be”. They further identify ways in which identities are created by understanding that “through a person’s choices about how to talk, identity-work is accomplished…people’s ways of talking construct pictures of who people must be”. There is also truth in the opposite—identities also shape talk; people are rooted in various factions which influence how they talk (Tracy and Robles 2009). These ways of understanding identities can be appropriated within institutional talk where one can explore an identity/identities that occur within members of an institutional meeting, where institutional talk is abundant. How the members within an institutional organization speak reflect the identity they are enacting, which reflects how they choose to speak.

Institutional and everyday talk are also marked by how the conversation is structured in terms of turn taking allocations. There are two ways in which turn taking is structured; either locally managed, in which the participants of the conversation dictate their own rules of conversational turn taking, versus a preallocated turn structure where a certain format is followed in accordance to the institutional rules. Turn taking in regular conversations is most often dictated by self allocation. Tracy and Robles further blend the two types of talk in stating that “In business meetings, for instance, there is often an agenda that orders topics of talk, and the meeting chair gets to decide when to close down one topic and start the next topic, as well as whether a member’s comment is on or off topic. However…discussion may resemble that of ordinary conversation…” (T&R 2009). Here, institutional settings and encounters can be structured under an institutional hierarchy or agenda, yet still contain characteristics that may be identifiable as everyday or institutional talk. These blended types of talk are recognizable within my data that highlights the identities as well as the power structure of those within an SGA meeting.

I argue that students within the SGA engage in conversation that is a mixed interaction of locally managed and preallocated turns, which reflect the duality of identities that a student in a powerful position can enact within a meeting consisting of other equally powerful students choosing to enact different roles at different points in the meeting. This change of identity, or footing, as researched by Erving Goffman, is defined as a conversational participant’s alignment or stance in a given span of talk. In this institution, how one aligns oneself in a certain span of talk can be highlighted through institutional means or through the turn allocation component. The turn allocation component, in regards to Harvey Sacks, is the way in which a turn is either taken or given. Turn taking also reflects the identities of those within the conversation. I further argue that the identity enacted, reflected in turn taking, positions the speaker within a certain position of power in the meeting and/or span of talk. The amount of power the speaker either is given or takes is negotiated by all members of the meeting through features of the turn taking system, such as interruptions. Interruptions are highlighted as being influential in understanding one’s identity. Here, the identities one can assume differ in terms of the power allocated to them. Furthermore, Tracy and Robles state that “The sheer number of turns one takes and the talk content of the turns also shape identities. By and large, people who take more turns and longer ones will be judged as being more expert, influential, or assertive and, in institutional situations, will be assumed to be higher in status than less frequently speaking parties” and that “introducing a new topic for talk is usually regarded as a more assertive act than responding to an ongoing topic”.

Data

The data below occurs within a specific boundary of talk, operating on multiple levels. The first is that all the participants of the conversation are first and foremost, undergraduate students at the University. Secondly, we all were elected by portions of the student body to be their representatives: we all hold some amount of power that ordinary students do not have. I argue that all members occupy roles in respect to their status as a student senator and our respective roles as normal students of the university. These two identities working with each other are enacted at certain times throughout the meeting. The decision to change footing in a certain span of talk then either establishes or destroys a hierarchy that is built within the institution itself.

Preallocated Turns

This section addresses segments of the meeting where the topics and discussions are highly institutionalized according to the agenda set by the chair. These more structured areas are characterized by other allocation of turns, explicit adherence to the hierarchy, and chair facilitation of the meeting; Tracy and Robles describe the turn taking systems of meetings to be more formalized. Power is more apparent in these spans of talk between chair and senators, and the structure allows for the meeting to push forward through the first two thirds of the agenda.

The following transcript shows seven different turns between the chair of the committee, R, and a Senator, G. After the chair gives her report, the agenda is structured so that the liaisons then give their own updated reports. Here, institutional power is exhibited and negotiated by participants who are operating within their institutional identities during a more formalized segment of the meeting.

1

2

3

R: Who did academic stuff? I think that was me. No it was Alexa so now it’s me, (.) nothing new on academics. Advising (career) and internship was Alexa too <I’m gonna put that for you. That’s your new job!>
4 G: Okay
5 R: Advising, career, and internship services, you can totally skew that to what you wanna do=
6 G: =Oh I know the lady=
7 R: =Oh you do?=
8 G: =I met her before=
9 R: =That’s cool! Okay tell everybody your new idea, yours and Maggie’s, cause I like it.
10

11

G: Oh, we want to work on admissions. Uh::: like when UMass deals with accepted students, we don’t think they do a good job.

First, it is of importance to note that there are no interruptions. In R’s first span of talk, she references ‘academic stuff’ and ‘advising (career) and internships’; she is discussing the liaison reports of Senators, which she refers to as our ‘jobs’ in line 3. The entire conversation transcribed is operating under institutional talk because it can be characterized by Heritage’s definition of institutional talk: it operates under a particular procedure specific to a certain institutional context. Here, the procedure is following the set agenda and discussing liaison reports. G and R engage in an interaction that is constrained under the title of ‘Advising, Career, and Internships’ Liaison, which is shown by R telling G that he can work his Senator project to fit under this specific title in line 5. G accepts this title and adds that he knows the woman who is in charge of Advising, shown in lines 6 and 8 where he says he ‘knows the lady’ and that he has ‘met her before’.

R is enacting her role as a more powerful chair of the meeting in line 9 where she not only self allocates her own turn, and also other allocates G’s turn by initiating him to tell everybody his new idea. Also, R’s power is reflected in the same line where she shifts the topic from the ‘lady’ (discussed in lines 6-8) to G’s own idea. This control of topics in turn taking and it’s relation to power is addressed by Tracy and Robles when they state that “introducing a new topic for talk is usually regarded as a more assertive act than responding to an ongoing topic”. G, by accepting his turn in line 10, recognizes this powerful move by the chair as acceptable, establishing a hierarchy between himself, a senator, and the chair. The identity enacted by G here is one of a senator, not only because he is recognizing and accepting the hierarchy that is inherent in the institution, but also because the conversation is dictated by the institutional format of a liaison report. G in his own identity is also wielding the power he is given as a senator, because no one attempts to interrupt him and he has several turns in one span of talk.

Locally Managed Turns

This next section highlights segments of the institution in which discussion pertaining to committee projects on the whole are addressed. Committee projects entail full-fledged discussions on issues or projects at hand, where the floor is essentially open for any to self allocate themselves to address their own opinions. Following Tracy and Robles understanding that institutional talk can overlap between locally managed versus preallocated turn taking systems, I argue that this period of discussion allows for members of the organization to participate in conversation that is locally managed as opposed to preallocated, as in the previous section above.

The next transcript is a brief conversation mainly between Senator B and a student, N, who has presented a motion to be passed by UEC before it may move to be presented (and voted upon) by the whole of Senate. While student N does not speak, I (also a Senator) interrupt Senator B on two occasions where I (M) agree with her. The majority of Senator B’s span of talk is an agreement with student N—Senator B also believes that the student’s should decide for themselves whether or not to implement a new fee.

1

2

3

4

B: I don’t want to be paying the extra—well making my parents and me work to pay the extra 80 dollars cause you know everyone has different family situations but uhm (.2) my opinion and my situation isn’t the entirety of the student body and that’s not what I stand °for, I’m not here to benefit myself in SGA I’m here to benefit the students (.1) so//=
5 M:                                                                                                                //I think we
6 B: =I almost think we // gotta leave it up to the people. I think that he’s right, yanno
7 M:                              // leave it to themselves

Even though student N does not speak during senator B’s first span on talk, it should be understood that he was present as this time. Because student N is not a Senator, he does not have authority (or the power) to interrupt senator B’s turn based on the institutional hierarchy of the meeting (Student lower than Senator, who is lower than Chair). I, on the other hand, do in fact interrupt her on line 5 and again on line 7. All turns I take are self-allocated, which according to Tracy and Robles is a pattern that is highly common to everyday talk. The turns here are locally managed between B and myself, even though we are operating within institutional talk. In institutional talk, there are certain constraints that dictate what is allowed and what is not. Here, I am allowed to interrupt, while N is not, because I am a senator, and therefore hold more power. Because I interrupt B twice, I am attempting to negotiate power between the two of us. B, though, also holds the same amount of power that I do because she does not give me a full turn, nor does she acknowledge what I say and completes her own train of thought on line 6, a continuation of her speech on line 4. I am neither scolded nor put down after my interruptions, showing that I have the ability (or power) to interject my own opinions at any moment as a senator in this portion of the meeting.

Here, the two of us are both acting as senators, while B enacts her student identity as well. B is explicitly addressing her role as senator in lines 3 and 4 where she separates her student identity from her senator identity by stating that she is a part of this organization to help benefit the students, and not herself. Her footing changes halfway through her first span of talk where she is positioned previously as a student at the university, disapproving of an $80 fee that will make ‘her parents and herself work to pay the extra $80’ but then switches her stance to the situation as a senator, who believes the students should decide for themselves whether this fee should be implemented or not (line 6). I then agree on her stance to this motion as a senator, by interjecting similar opinions as a senator myself (line 7).

Works Cited

Goffman, E. (1979). Footing, Semiotica25 (1-2), 124-159. Retrieved March 25, 2015, fromhttp://www.degruyter.com/view/j/semi.1979.25.issue-1-2/semi.1979.25.1- 2.1/semi.1979.25.1-2.1.xml

Heritage, J. (1997). Conversation Analysis and Institutional Talk. In K. Fitch (Ed.), Handbook of language and social interaction (2005, pp. 103-149). Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates

Tracy, K. & Robles, J. (2009). Interaction Structures, Turn Taking. In Everyday Talk. Building  and Reflecting Identities (2nd ed., pp. 135-138). New York, New York: The Guilford Press.

A Simplest Systematics for the Organization of Turn-Taking for Conversation. Harvey Sacks, Emanuel A. Schegloff and Gail Jefferson. LanguageVol. 50, No. 4, Part 1 (Dec., 1974), pp. 696-735. Linguistic Society of America

 

3rd place: Bala Sivaraman: The changing face of Bollywood: Homosexuality in Indian media

Abstract: This case study examines the portrayal of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals in Indian mainstream media, in an attempt to discover how such representation, or lack thereof, impacts lgbt Indians’ sense of identity, pride, and safety. Analyzing several news articles, referencing scholarly texts, and speaking to lgbt Indian individuals about this subject, the predominant answer is that though there has not been much positive representation of gays in the mainstream media in the past, the 2010’s have seen a steady surge in such portrayals. Western progressive ideologies have served as a model for Indians for many decades, and this has continued in lieu of the advances made by the gay rights movement starting in the late twentieth century.

The Changing Face of Bollywood: Homosexuality in Indian Media

I have chosen to analyze the representation of homosexuality in Indian film, television, news articles and magazines, highlighting the underlying ideologies and indirect messages in these productions that are associated with how homosexuality is regarded. Being of Indian descent while having been born in the United States, I have strong emotional connections with two distinct cultures. The heavy influence of my elder Indian relatives on my upbringing was ever present in shaping my self-perception; I was to not to speak about romantic feelings, sexual urges, or anything of the sort. At the same time, my American peers at school and the barrage of media messages flooded me with relationship drama and owning one’s sexuality. While these cultures share many values, this contrast exemplifies that they differ significantly over sexual freedoms. In India, sexuality is a taboo subject, the hinted at only in the context of marriage and raising children. The concept of dating to find one’s romantic partner is a relatively new, Western-born practice in Indian society, as opposed to arranged marriages coordinated by one’s parents. This repression of heterosexual freedoms further restricts homosexual ones, which, along with going against arranged partnerships, is stigmatized as unnatural and wrong according to Indian legislature. As a result of such a stigma, lgbt Indians are victims of hate crimes, discriminatory policies in professional settings, familial rejection, and self-harm.

The media has an integral role in shaping contemporary ideology, and as a result of increased representation of gay, lesbian and transgender characters in Indian cinema, the negative connotation with this community has diminished. Through my case study, I have examined how lgbt representation in Indian magazines, newspapers, films, and television shows has impacted the way in which gay Indians are regarded in contemporary society. Essential to this discussion are the challenges faced by film producers of all genres who wish to incorporate gay characters, storylines, and relevant issues that affect the lgbt community within their productions. Also central is the role of religion in shaping homophobia, and the significance of media representation of marginalized identities.

Literature Review

The principal sources I have utilized to gain a more in-depth perspective on the state of homosexuality in Indian film have provided me with insight from numerous areas of focus, specifically the intersection of religion and civil liberties in shaping how homosexuality is regarded throughout the country. I have drawn upon secondary source scholarly articles that investigate the changing view of homosexuality in India and how this transition is reflected in Indian cinema.

Film critic Vivek Maheshwary provides a detailed analysis on the subject in his work titled Homosexuality in Popular Hindi Cinema. Maheshwary explains that there has been a tradition in Hindi films to constantly depict controversial topics, such as “child marriage, polygamy, dowry system, casteism and terrorism” (3), yet homosexuality has historically been depicted as a deviant or ridiculed practice. However, as the gay and lesbian movement has gained tremendous support globally since the 1970’s, there has been a significant shift in the way in which gay characters are portrayed in Indian cinema. Referencing examples of highly successful films such as Girlfriend, Fire, and My Brother Nikhil, Maheshwary highlights the emerging kind of romance film that revolves around gay characters and their struggles to maintain healthy relationships, all the while dealing with homophobic opposition from family and society in general.

The Hindu American Foundation has written a policy brief investigating the relationship between Hinduism’s stance on homosexuality. The brief provides insight into the two main ideological branches of Hinduism: Sruti, which means eternal truth, and Smriti, which are socio-religious laws and societal values that are subject to specific times and circumstances. The eternal truths simply revolve around the intrinsic equality of all human beings, with the ultimate goal of life being to reach moshka, or an escape from the cycle of reincarnation. The policy brief states that there is no mention of homosexuality in the Sruti, fostering a vague sense of which stance gays and lesbians are given. However, the Smriti is filled with archaic laws which mandate the criminalization of lgbt people, under a statute which denounces them as “acting against nature”. This article sheds light on the malleability of the Smriti, since societal laws are under constant change and adaptation. Raising the argument about who is allowed to determine what actions are “natural” and what are not, this policy brief challenges the bigoted policy makers for their religiously-based facade of lawmakers.

I have supplemented this research with my own experiences being raised by a Hindu family, who despite living in the United States, remained emotionally connected to the traditional values of Indian culture and thus had preconceived judgements towards homosexuality. My perspective as well as those of the Indian college students that I interview have provided contemporary, first hand experiences about the impact that lgbt representation in Indian media has had on our self perception and acceptance of our queer identity.

Methods

My research approach was primarily through textual analysis, autoethnography, interviews and video testimonials. Identifying as a gay Indian American myself, I incorporated my upbringing and the values and beliefs that were taught to me as a child from my family members. These values are pivotal in shaping my sense of self, as they provided a mental understanding of which attributes were desirable and which ones were not. I spoke with two other college-aged lgbt Indians to gain a better understanding of the societal pressures that they faced growing up and currently still face identifying as gay. Using this as a baseline of understanding, I  asked them how significant of a role that media representation of lgbt people and issues has on their self perception, internalized homophobia, and acceptance. In addition, I planned on speaking with Allison Butler, Professor of Communication and Advisor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Butler’s work revolves around media literacy in public education, as well as the effect of media exposure on the self perceptions of viewers. I was hoping to ask her to provide insight into the impact that representation in media has on shaping societal beliefs, though I was unable to do so.

Carrying out my research unearthed a wide variety of insight that I was previously unaware of. The first step that I took was to talk with two college-aged lgbt Indian Americans to get a sense of the role that lgbt representation (or lack thereof) in Indian media has on how they regard their sexuality. The first subject was a 21 year old female, who was born in the US but is the child of first generation immigrants from Gujarat, India. She identifies as bisexual, having only recently came out. She told me that she didn’t know of any Indian television shows or films which addressed any homosexual narrative or used any characters that were not straight, fostering the notion that there is still much growth needed in this genre. I asked her about how those in her family regarded gays and lesbians, and she explained that though her parents had gay friends, she felt that she would not be accepted if she were to come out to them, due to their attachment to heteronormative societal traditions such as arranged marriages. However, her tune changed when speaking about her family members who lived in India that were of her generation, as they were much more accepting about lgbt identities and wished to learn more. She brought up how in India today, shows such as Modern Family and Glee, which had positive depictions of gay people, were very popular especially among young viewers, emphasizing the effect that representation in the media has on shaping audiences’ open mindedness.

The second subject that I spoke to was a 22 year old male who identifies as gay. His family lives in New Delhi and he is studying at UMass as an international student. He told me that he has not come out to his parents out of fear that they will stop supporting him both emotionally and financially. The reason for this lack of support, he says, stems from the patriarchal government’s influence in dictating how gay people are represented in newspapers, nightly news, network dramas and films. As the gay rights movement has gained tremendous support throughout the past forty years, the way in which gays are portrayed in Indian media has slowly progressed from deviance and shame, to neutral and humanizing.  I looked into several major Indian news outlets’ websites (The Times of India, India West, and NDTV) to see how stories surrounding lgbt people have progressed throughout the past several decades to find an explanation for the generational divide that would explain the growing support of lgbt issues by young people as opposed to the homophobic standpoint of their parents.

Several stories as recent as 2013 on all three news outlets refer to gays only as “homosexuals”, while one story referred to a group marching in an AIDS awareness rally as “those celebrating unnatural behavior” (NDTV). However, the vast majority of stories posted after 2010 have a very supportive subtext, focusing on the love between gay couples that is the very same as those who are straight. One specific story was titled “LGBT Community walk at Connaught Place in Delhi”, where a non-government organization called Harmless Hugs organized a large parade of young gay men and women, who adorned themselves in flowers and rainbow flags and walked the streets of New Delhi while asking strangers for hugs. They carried signs that said, “I’m gay. I don’t bite” and “All love is equal”, and they were met with predominantly supportive passersby. The author provided numerous examples of these supportive people, such as a quote from one woman who said “If we cannot make a straight man have sex with another man, then how can we force homosexuals to behave like straight people?”  This research provided me with a much more in-depth understanding of the media’s role in shaping lgbt people’s’ sense of safety, pride, and understanding.

Results and Analysis

My research elucidated several core themes regarding the role of Indian media in the progression of the lgbt Indian population.  There is much to be drawn from the fact that the relatives of one of the students expressed support for lgbt people by mentioning American television shows and not Indian ones. Such an observation implies that while Indian television networks may air American television content with gay characters, Indian producers still find opposition when attempting to create such programs with Indian actors. There seems to exist a double standard with Indian audiences, where they will tolerate homosexuality and other alternate lifestyles when they are portrayed by White people, yet they consider the same portrayals by Indian actors as deviant and immoral. Fortunately, this has begun to change with the increasing emergence of gay storylines in film.

Film scholar Vivek Maheshwary highlights several high profile, critically acclaimed gay themed films produced by Indian filmmakers in an article posted to his website. One of these films, titled My Brother…Nikhil, follows the trials of a young gay man trying to find acceptance from those around him after he announced that he has HIV. Initially rejected by his parents, Nikhil relies on the support from his sister, boyfriend, and the larger lgbt rights movement to work for their acceptance. This film received tremendous support, despite the Executive Producer having to add a disclaimer prior to the film that it was a work of fiction, in order for the Indian government to allow production to take place. As Rituparna Chatterjee writes in his text 100 Years of Indian Cinema, the sexual liberation movement throughout the 1960’s and 70’s of Western nations such as the US and UK was reflected in the mainstream media such as films like Some Like It Hot, which, thanks to globalization, were shown in India. Government officials were initially apprehensive of such forward and open sexual themes being brought to Indian audiences, however it was allowed because of the conception that western values were simply different and thus did not pose a threat (Chatterjee, 3). This transfer of western media into Indian popular culture continued throughout the next few decades, fostering a significant influence over Indian producers, who began to incorporate the societal conventions of Western content into Indian productions. Though there are still subjects that are considered taboo for Indian producers to incorporate, Western media still serves as a progressive model of which to emulate.

Another principal difference I noticed through my research was the language that people from various backgrounds used to refer to lgbt people. In the articles in the mainstream Indian press that took an anti-gay stance, lgbt individuals were addressed only as “homosexuals” and “eunuchs”  instead of “gays”. Such a use of words serves to create a clear dichotomy between gay people and the rest of the population, dehumanizing them in a way that defines them solely by their difference. However, in other articles that have a pro-gay stance, such as many within The Times of India and NDTV, gays are referred to in a number of positive ways such as simply “men and women”, “young lovers”, and “committed couples”. These words are very important in shaping the public’s perception of the gay population, because straight audiences resonate with themes like love, romance, and monogamy. Fortunately, the overwhelming majority of lgbt-related portrayals within the mainstream Indian media have been from a tolerant, if not entirely accepting, viewpoint.

Conclusion

My case study has incorporated a variety of sources to foster an understanding about how the portrayal of lgbt people in Indian media has affected this population’s sense of identity, pride, and safety. Overall, the findings that I have reached reflect that the media has an integral, vital role in protecting this community and helping it grow, through honest representation of out and proud gay people. Though there is much work to be done in order to advance this representation on Indian television, the film industry, internet, and magazines have made tremendous strides in providing accurate lgbt representation. By producing content that highlights the highs and lows of romantic relationships, strained familial relations, and mundane struggles that gay people experience everyday, the stigmas associated with this population will dissipate and lgbt people in India will feel more comfortable and proud to live openly.

 

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