Representing Gender Diversity – The New Netflix Norm…?

Small confession…. I’ve had way too many Netflix binge sessions over the last year, and one thing I’ve noticed is that most of the Netflix shows have a wider range of representations of gender than I’m used to seeing on the BBC.

In fact practically every series features pretty major characters who are gay, bisexual or (more recently) transgender and as a general rule these sexuality-identities are incidental to the plots – that is to say that for the most part characters are just gay (for example) and that’s that, rather than their ‘gayness’ being part of the plot itself.

In other words Netflix seems to be doing a great of job of normalising gender diversity.

I imagine most students are familiar with Netflix and this should offer some accessible evidence to update the topic of the representation of gender in the media.

A few examples…

The Hundred

FINALLY, A T.V. series which features a bisexual woman as the MAIN CHARACTER – she starts off with a boyfriend, he dies, and then she seems to develop a preference for always women as the series progresses – but no big deal, that’s just how it is!

The 3%

Most characters are heterosexual but the ‘Utopia’ in the series is founded by a ‘founding trio’ who are in a three-way relationship, and later on in the series it turns out one of the main characters is a Lesbian, but actually very reticent about sex (not that interested in emotional closeness for various reasons) and there is also one transgender character, B list rather than A-list though.

Ozark

One of the best pieces of T.V. I have ever seen – featuring a bad gay FBI agent and a closet gay Hillbilly – they are not the most savoury of characters, but then again neither are most of the characters in this series which also features possibly the most dysfunctional yet functioning ‘cereal packet nuclear family’ ever.

Star Trek Discovery

The only show I’ve ever seen which features a non-binary character – the show does make a bit of a thing out of this as at one point they explain their sexuality to someone else (not identifying with any gender in particular.

Incidentally the main character ‘ is a woman, but with a traditionally male name – Michael – NEVER questioned which I kind of like. Almost like a subtle challenge to one of the most obvious gender markers.

There are MORE examples…

I kept this to just FOUR examples, but there are many many more – drop your suggestions in the comments.

Or it might be more useful/ difficult to drop new shows which DON’T have a gender diversity theme going on – it seems to be the new norm on Netflix..

For more posts on related topics please see my page on Media Studies

Facebook: putting profit over safety

According to ex Facebook employee Frances Haugen Facebook’s puts its profits over protecting users from harm – over the last several years it has consciously chosen to recommend posts which spread online hate and encourage addictive behaviour rather than protect users.

Haugen has gone on record stating that Facebook’s own research shows that many children show addictive patterns of behaviour when using Instagram – it doesn’t make them happy, but they can’t stop using the app.

She also says that Facebook recommends extremist and radical material to people, creating divisions, because such material holds people’s attention for longer and this increases their advertising revenue. This may well include content that is hateful towards to women and is very much in line with findings from this documentary.

Finally she says that Facebook’s safety department is relatively understaffed compared to other departments – more people are employed in tweaking its algorithm for profit compared to keeping people safe.

And funnily enough Facebook recently announced it would be rebranding to ‘Meta’ – this is typically what companies do when the criticisms mount up – so as deflect negative attention away.

Relevance to A-level Sociology

This is of relevance to the Media Option, and is also supporting evidence of how TNCs spread harms, supporting the Marxist Theory of crime (possibly!)

Sources

BBC News article on Facebook’s putting profit over user safety.

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Why has Twitter Suspended @Splinterlands?

Splinterlands is a card battling game, similar to Magic the Gathering, built on the Hive Blockchain.

The general idea is you buy cards (summoners and monsters) and then select a team (one summoner, up to six monsters depending on ‘mana’ and then you battle an opponent.

The Splinterlands Market Place looks like this….

If you win the battle, you get points and prizes, and rise up the leaderboard, and the higher up you finish, the more prizes you get at the end of every season (which lasts 16 days).

And you can see an example of a battle here:

The company was founded about four years ago by two independent individuals who go by the names of @aggroed and @yapabmatt on Hive.

Their account on Hive is here – @splinterlands.

It is one of the biggest business success stories in the crypto industry and also very successful by the standards of the online gaming industry as a whole.

NB – this is THE MOST POPULAR crypto game by a long way, with an active user base of over 7000 and market valuation in the several millions of dollars.

All of this has been done from the ground up, with the two founders employing dozens of people to code and market the game, and setting up a clever rewards system in-game to encourage people to invest in cards to play the game. The top players make a living out of playing!

AND UNLIKE WITH MAINSTREAM GAMING – IF YOU BUY CARDS TO PLAY THE GAME, YOU OWN THE ASSETS, YOU CAN SELL THEM TO OTHER PLAYERS.

This is one of the most empowering initiatives in the history of gaming and blockchain, truly decentralised, truly inspiring, truly innovative – there are several developments ongoing… the game is EVOLVING.

The Splinterlands team have made active use of Twitter, being careful NOT to break any of its rules, but recently this: they have had their account suspended..

.

Why is Twitter censoring this small business from advertising?

It can’t be an anti-crypto thing because it allows all sorts of crypt content.

From a broadly Marxist perspective on the Media, this is a case of Twitter gatekeeping out, or censoring alternatives to the mainstream gaming sector – in mainstream gaming you have to pay to play and you don’t OWN anything, you the little guy cannot profit from gaming (expect for the very elite few who becoming pro-gamers).

But Splinterlands shows us a different model – it is based around individuals OWNING AND CONTROLLING the direction the game takes – in a few days time, Splinterlands is going to start airdropping governance tokens based on how much you’ve already Vested into the game, and these tokens will allow players to have a say in future developments.

Just think about HOW DIFFERENT that is from mainstream gaming or mainstream media.

Could it be that Twitter just can’t handle genuine individual autonomy and decentralisation?

A very Sociological Analysis of the Royal Family…

I quite like Russel Brand, as a lot of his content is very sociological and critical and the video below in which he analyses aspects of the recent ‘Royal Rebrand’ of Will and Kate is fit to appear in a sociology text book IMO!

This content is, of course, most relevant to anyone studying the sociology of the media!

The Royal Rebrand

This is Russel Brand’s take on the recent release of Will and Kate’s 10 year wedding anniversary video – in which, according to uncritical mainstream news media, they share aspects of their private lives with the public.

The short video is basically them and their two children spending some time on the beach and in the countryside, and roasting marshmellows on an open fire under and oak tree.

Brand correctly points out that this isn’t in fact Will and Kate sharing aspects of their private lives, there is nothing private about this video. It is an engineered publicity stunt in which ‘every sweater choice and every marshmellow has been carefully agonised over and deliberately selected’ in order to convey a warm and comfortable family image.

He also points out how symbolic the oak tree is – English and long live, just like the royal family.

The Royal Paradox

Brand deepens his analysis by talking of the ‘royal paradox’ – the Royal Family have to walk this bizarre line between being rarified enough to be different from the rest of us and yet similar enough to us so that we can identify them – they need both for us to carry on agreeing to pay them out of the UK tax pot, but the two kind of undermine each other.

This Video = A Royal Rebrand now the Queen’s Days are Numbered

As Brand says, The Queen simply can’t go on forever, and Charles has been ‘tainted by Diana’ (and best not mention Andrew) and so the Royal Institution has to rely on Kate on Wills, especially since Harry and Megan have defected!

Hence this video – it’s an attempt to walk that line, symbolically, between ‘relevant to us’ – it’s a quick social media life update shared widely on social media of the ‘new’ royal family being ‘just like us’, and yet different and rarified, as symbolised by the oak tree – maybe this is an attempt to cast Kate and Wills as the ‘perfect modern-traditional’ family – stable, reliable, dependable, with roots stretching back into tradition.

Will this work?

I agree with Russel that the Royal Institution has no place in a modern (or postmodern) society, the more you think about it, the more it needs to fade away, but there are so many people with a vested interest in keeping it alive into the next generation and this is part of that rebrand it seems.

So far the media are buying it, and I see no evidence of the masses suddenly developing enough intelligence to see through this nonsense, so very possibly we’re about to enter into a new era of pro-royalism, bolstered via social media as desperate and uncertain people cast about for something stable and ‘real’ to identify with in our uncertain times?!?

The Incredible Sexism of James Bond

I’ve been watching a few of the old James Bond movies since they’ve been on ITV recently. A few weeks ago I watched ‘Live and Let Die’ which was the first outing for Roger Moore, and originally aired in 1973, my birth year!

Besides being surprised that I didn’t remember most of it (I thought I’d seen enough Bond in my childhood to have these committed to memory!) I was pretty shocked at the incredible sexism of the movie.

This movie is a further example of just how sexist representations of women in the media were 50 years ago, there are other examples outline here.

I know that ‘classic Bond’ is well known for its dismal portrayal of women as nothing more than one dimensional sex-objects, but Live and Let Die must be a low-point for female representation.

Besides Miss Money-Penny there are only two other ‘significant’ female characters in the movie – both of whom James has sex with, and both of whom are rescued by James, although one of them dies.

Rosie Carver – a hapless double agent who Bond beds just before she dies

We’re introduced to Rosie Carver when Bond arrives in The Caribbean. She’s been assigned to help him, but she’s useless, being scared of snakes and not really having a clue what’s going on.

She resists his advances on their first night, but later on, when they’re approaching Tenanga’s Caribbean island hideaway, they pause for lunch and have sex (I know, it doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.)

Afterwards, Bond reveals that he knows she’s working for Tenanga and has been tasked with drawing him into a trap – she looks shocked and says ‘why tell me now after what we’ve just done’ – to which James replies something like ‘well I certainly wouldn’t have told you before’, or something like that.

She runs away and dies shortly afterwards – I guess now James has ‘had a go’ she’s not much use anymore anyway.

Solitaire – a virgin victim of slavery who Bond rapes

Solitaire (Jane Seymour) is a psychic medium being held captive by the main villain of the film – Tenaka, an opium dealer. Tenaka uses here psychic powers to help him make decisions about how to run his criminal empire – she’s a virgin, crucial to her having her psychic powers.

The first contact James has with her, when he falls into Tenaka’s Lair in the basement of a restaurant in New Orleans, he gets her to to do him a Tarot card reading, and the ‘lovers card’ is revealed, ‘that’s us’ he quips.

Fast Forward to later in the movie, when Solitaire is back on the isolated Caribbean Island which is Tenaka’s main base, James hanglides onto the island and sneaks into her chambers to enact a rescue, but not before manipulating her into having sex with him.

He gets her to choose a Tarot card, she picks ‘the lovers’ (note the paper-thin sub-plot) and they go and have sex – but a ‘cheeky’ camera shot reveals that James had stacked the entire Tarot deck with nothing but that one card.

So what we have here is James manipulating a virgin victim of modern slavery into having sex with him, I think that’s technically rape of a vulnerable adult, given that Bond deliberately used her beliefs against her to manipulate her into having sex with him, I don’t think we can call this informed consent.

Of course she wakes up wanting more, now sexually addicted to James. And of course all the while they’re in bed, they could have been escaping!

NB – Jane Seymour was 21-22 when the film was shot, Roger Moore was in his late 30s.

Relevance to A-level sociology

I know this example is almost 50 years old now, but it’s a particularly pertinent one to show just how bad sexual-stereotyping was in the early 1970s – Live or Let Die actually made a joke out Bond raping a vulnerable teenager held in slavery, as well as turning into part of his ‘masculine identity’.

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Left and Right Wing Media Bias – Coverage of Dominic Cummings

Same news event, two very different ways of covering it!

The way the Sun and the Mirror covered yesterday’s news about Dominic Cummings’ trip to Durham during Lockdown when he and his wife had Coronavirus symptoms demonstrates the clear biases of the two newspapers.

These are great examples of media bias for the media topic within A-level sociology .

The Right Wing Sun

Donald Cummings has strongly neoliberal views and was very pro-brexit (hence why he’s been working with Boris), as is The Sun.

So what how does the Sun ‘set the agenda’: It goes with another headline and gives us a small headline on Cummings – and notice the quote – from Cummings, and a defiant sub title from The Sun.

The Left Wing Mirror

The Mirror, in stark contrast to The Sun devotes the whole page the Cummings story, and note the main text – ‘No Regrets’, ‘No Apology’ – implying that’s what we were expecting, given that he’s clearly broken the law, as we’re reminded top right.

Note that The Sun doesn’t even mention this – it’s just Cummings ‘doing what is right’ – already taking us away from what he did.

And there’s similar examples of bias in the full storys on pages 4-5 of both newspapers

The Sun…

The Sun reminds us that Cummings ‘did not break the law’ and then focuses on just copying word for word what Cummings said, reiterating and thus justifying his point of view.

The Mirror

Starts off with a quote from an expert and the article here is more on other people’s comments and the negative affects (masses of people on the beach)

So, same event, two very different versions which clearly show how biased the media is, and how they clearly use agenda setting to try and sway the public’s opinion.

Seems to be Capitalism as Usual for Corporations during Coronavirus…

Several large Corporations have created adverts tapping into our new ‘Coronavirus’ norms.

There seems to be a pretty formulaic structure involving images of key workers with thankful messages, images of people in their homes communicating via Zoom or some other video conferencing app, and finally a reference (the point of the ad) to how the Corporation is ‘here to help’.

Just a couple of examples….

Tesco – Food Love Stories

No surprise that Britain’s largest Supermarket Chain has got in there with a very aggressive ad campaign showing how (Tesco’s) Food brings people together either in times of crises – real colonisation of the lifeworld going on here – ‘new intimate’ moments brought to your courtesy of Tesco.

And of course the # to try and get the super-mugs to advertise for free for them.

Virgin Media – Stay Home Stay Safe, Stay Connected

This one is particularly grating because Virgin Atlantic has just announced a mass lay-off of a third of its staff, while our taxes are currently paying for most of them to be furloughed.

Meanwhile Branson keeps his $$$ millions.

A Marxist analysis seems most appropriate here?

What these ads are doing is attempting to ‘colonise our lifeworlds’ – they are either taking footage of ordinary people connecting online in these social distancing times, or using actors to create such footage (I don’t know which) and then ’embedding’ themselves right in the middle of these interactions.

And then they are further suggesting that what binds us all together in our isolation are these Corporations – they are ‘here for us all’ here to ‘help us all through’ as if they’re some kind of benevelant parental figure.

This is false consciousnesses and the creation of false needs on steroids – trying to convince us that these Corporations are here for the social good?

Let’s remember that behind the scenes these Corporations are interested in one thing only, and that is profit. In fact I imagine both of the above Corporations are going to do very nicely out of Coronavirus – especially Tesco.

Virgin as a whole may suffer because of its transport holdings, but I imagine Virgin Media will see a boost.

What’s really going on here are these Corporations embedding, or at least attempting to embed, themselves into our psyches, so that we become more committed to them in the future as we get through Coronavirus and come out the other side.

Stay informed and don’t be fooled!

A Very Paternal Sun

I’ve been adding a copy of The Sun newspaper to my basket every time I do my lock down shop, primarily because it at around 50 pence it’s pretty cheap!

The Sun is also Britain’s most widely circulated newspaper, so it’s worth doing a bit of casual content analysis on it during these unusual coronavirus times – this is the paper most people are reading, after all!

One of the main themes I’ve noticed is moralising through shaming, and today’s paper (Friday 8th May) is a great example of this…..

On the front page we have the paper moralising against ‘Just Giving’ taking a £300K fee from Captain Tom’s fundraising efforts.

On pages 5-6 we have public shaming of businesses and shops for ‘flouting’ lock down rules on a sunny day yesterday

Later on pages 8-9 we have a detailed map of England footballer Kyle Walker’s lock down violations as he visits his sister, mother and father and friend for a cycle ride.

All of these events are newsworthy based on their news values, but The Sun goes beyond objective reporting and adds a shaming element through the use of language: ‘Walker the Plank’ as a title, for example.

And it’s not just The Sun being Paternal… apparently Dominic Raab has said that if people take advantage of the lockdown gradually being relaxed, they’ll restrict the rules again, as if we’re all like a bunch of school children?!?

Captain Tom’s 100th Birthday: A Quintessentially British Occasion?

Today is Captain Tom’s 100th Birthday, an event broadcast live to the nation by BBC Breakfast between 8.00 a.m. to 8.30 a.m.

Captain Tom really is the perfect media hero for our times, and the construction of ‘our national hero’ was levelled up this morning as it turns out Captain Tom seems to be a huge fan of many of the symbols which signify classic conservative ideas about ‘Britishness’.

Honestly, it was all there, crammed into a 30 minute slot on BBC breakfast this morning….

The Armed Forces and the Fly By…

We know him as Captain Tom, but he’s now been given the honorary title of ‘Colonel’, so take your pick (he doesn’t mind). He got a special fly by this morning, and really seemed to love it!

You can check out the fly-by and most of the rest of the BBC ”Tom show’ below…

The historical Link to World War II

There aren’t many WWII veterans alive, but Captain Tom is one of them, and WWII – that’s deep in the conservative idea of the nation!

I guess this link is even more popular because of the fake similarities with ‘fighting’ Coronavirus.

His love of the Royal Family

Captain Tom thanked the Royal Family (who he thinks are wonderful) for their letters of support.

This ‘deferral to authority’ goes along with being in the armed forces I guess. Very much part of Conservative Britishness.

The countryside village in which he lives

Ironically the only thing not British about the village is the name – Marston Moretaine, maybe that’s the result of a French twinning project?

But everything else about it seems quintissentially British – it’s bang in the middle of Oxford and Cambridge, so proper ‘home counties’, lovely fields and a church.

It’s basically a cross between ‘Midsommer Murders’ but without the murders, the Vicar of Dibley and Last of the Summer Wine, with the poor people hidden from site.

His Love of Cricket

Tom is a lifelong cricket fan, and he was today presented with an honorary membership of the England Cricket Club, and gifted a hat by Michael Vaughn, once captain of England.

Is there a sport that says ‘conservative England’ more than cricket?

You’ll Never Walk Alone

A number one in 1963, and Liverpool Football Club’s Anthem – you don’t get much more British than early 1960s pop music and one of our longstanding Premier League clubs!

The Grandchildren

Honestly, they seem to come across as perfect. His grandson’s got that ‘healthy rugby build’ about him, and his granddaughter just seems so perfectly sweet. Framed with Captain Tom’s daughter (presumably their mother) you get the impression of the perfect British nuclear family, albeit stretch out by one generation.

And let’s not forget the NHS

It was Captain Tom’s efforts to raise money for NHS that propelled him to media stardom, and the NHS is part of our ‘national identity’ too, especially recently!

What are we celebrating exactly?

This morning was a ‘pause for celebration’, and fair enough in some respects, but what are we celebrating?

I personally think I witnessed something extremely hyperreal on BBC Breakfast today. The media seems to have used Captain Tom’s 100th birthday as a chance to reinforce conservative ideals about Britishness, ideals that don’t really exist outside of the upper middle class echelons of society.

Maybe this is because Captain Tom (he went to a grammar school in the 1920s!) and media professionals are both of the upper middle class, that this kind of celebration of traditional British identity comes so naturally to them.

I also thought Captain Tom’s efforts were about raising money for the NHS and helping to tackle Coronavirus, but this seems to have just got lost somewhere along the way?

And let’s not forget that 1/7 NHS workers aren’t even British, but they’re risking their lives for us.

Celebs like us?

Lockdown media has been full of celebrities speaking to us from wherever they may be isolated, and one might think that because we’ve all got ‘lockdown’ in common, that we might somehow feel closer to the celebrities who are also going through the same challenges as the rest of us ordinary folk… as if they are celebs, just like us!

Channel Four’s ‘Stef Show’ is the most obvious example I can think of that spins this narrative – not only is ‘Stef’ presenting the show from home, not only is she herself a pretty ‘ordinary’ presenter (one of very few non middle class presenters on T.V.), the show intersperses video feeds of ‘ordinary families’ with celebs.

However, rather than feeling solidarity with these celebs, I think the glimpses we are getting into their homes serves as a reminder of the class divide.

Many of them have been broadcasting from huge open plan kitchen-diners, often in the South East of the country. It’s as if lockdown has become an opportunity for them to show off their wonderful homes.

A prime example of this is Gloria Hunniford, speaking here: her pristine, ornamented house signifying that upper middle class identity….

And when Griff Reese Jones was interviewed, he was sitting underneath a picture of his great great uncle (or something like that) who was a past mayor of Cardiff. That was after us seeing some footage of him collecting eggs from his chickens from his large garden in the countryside.

This got me to wondering…. what proportion of celebrities have chickens? Probably at least thrice the national average.

However, there are counter-cases

I was particularly impressed when Jack Monroe, whose been given a slot on ‘Daily Kitchen Live‘ told Matt whatever his name is (the main presenter) that arborio rice isn’t a necessity, while he was making a recipe with it because ‘that’s what he had lying at the back of his cupboard.

Jack Monroe really did come across as ‘like us’, I mean who else has Arborio Rice kicking about at the back of the cupboard?

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