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Posts tagged ‘Violence’

From NWA to Trayvon Martin: How Assumptions Can Kill

In class, we discussed the moral panic surrounding rap groups such as NWA in the 80′s and early 90′s. Older black and white people, and many middle class moms were disgusted by what they assumed was violent, vitriolic, gang-related, and purposeless music. They assumed the message was “kill the pigs”, and that it had no purpose beyond inciting violence in young black youth. Of course, as anyone who has listened to the classic, “Fuck the Police”, knows, these songs were political statements and testaments of the conditions these young man had been forced into. However, many people in the US looked at the music through a racially charged lens. Black men are scary. Black men yelling “Fuck the Police” are terrifying. It makes no difference whether or not their families are being torn apart by police violence; they are scary and dangerous, and they are the enemy. This belief, held by a large segment of the population, led to the message of the song being lost in the shuffle for a lot of people.

Unfortunately, here we are 20 years later, and these types of stereotypical beliefs are still causing problems. They aren’t leading to the banning of rap songs anymore, they are leading to the deaths of young black males. Some people in this country still fear the black male, regardless of where they are or what they’re doing. That fear led George Zimmerman to shoot Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager walking back to his dad’s house. Zimmerman has not been arrested, and this has led to protests around the country, especially since the release of the 911 tapes show that Zimmerman may have had a racial bias when it came to his suspicion of Trayvon. Stereotypes and assumptions are bad enough when they lead to moral panics over rap music, but when they lead to the death of a teenager, they’re inexcusable.

 

NWA’s classic “Fuck The Police”

It’s all fun and games….

Video taken from a Chuck E. Cheese in Beaumont, TX

As a child I loved to go to birthday parties at the famous Chuck E. Cheese restaurant and arcade. It reminds most people of a place of fun, pizza, and games, but in a recent article ABC news explores the abnormal amounts of fighting that goes on in Chuck E. Cheese restaurants throughout the nation. Chuck E. Cheese over the years has become a place of feuding between upset parents. Whether its parents getting mad at kids or parents fighting with each other, many videos have shown up on YouTube that show the fights that go on in Chuck E. Cheese. The article claims that the fights occur due to alcohol and the fact that it is a stressful environment sometimes for parents. As a parent you want your child’s birthday party to be perfect and problems such as another kid taking to long can cause stress and in extreme cases can invoke anger. I honestly think it is the mix of alcohol and stress that is causing these outrageous encounters. For a grown up to yell at a child because they are taking to long playing pac man is completely insane. I can’t even fathom the idea of my mom pulling out someone’s hair because I had to wait 5 extra seconds before I got to take my picture in a photo booth. In class we have talked about the idea of parents wanting to protect their children and the incidents at Chuck E. Cheese take this to an extreme. It is amazing to me that there are so many fights that this has brought attention to the media but I guess you can never underestimate the importance of your child’s birthday.

Fight Like a Girl!

When I was younger my house was always chaos, mostly because I had six other siblings. Of the five girls in my family (fours sisters, two brothers, plus me equals seven), I was always labeled the tom boy and playing rough came with the title. Because of my love for rowdy play and wrestling, I remember receiving one of my favorite Christmas gifts of all time, the Sock’em Boppers!

Sock’em Boppers were inflatable boxing gloves that children would blow up and place over their fist then proceed to punch each other. They were very popular among kids of the 90’s but were produced in the 70’s. They resurged in the late  90’s with a slightly different name, “Socker Boppers.” They can still be purchased at any major toy store and can even be bought on amazon.com for around thirteen dollars.

Despite the unavoidable fight that came with every purchase of this toy, the commercial ads depicted Sock’em Boppers as nonviolent play and even used the slogan “more fun than a pillow fight.” Honestly, I can remember on numerous occasions being “socked “in the faced with in one of these and it was not always pretty. Of course this toy was supposed to be played in the presence of adult supervision who could advise the “not in the face” rule but let’s get real; when two kids are alone playing with these oversized fists of fury it can get pretty brutal.

So who was it that said television, games are what make/made children wiolent?

Lynn Spigel, author of “Welcome to the Dreamhouse: Popular Media and Postwar Suburbs” argued that “so long as the young are protected from certain types of knowledge” they will stay an “innocent and pure” youth (146).  By “certain types of knowledge,” Spigel meant television. But while television may have been the source of commercialization of toys such as Sock’em boppers, the act of playing with this toy was the form of violence that altered the “innocence of youth”. This leads me to another reading that blamed the rotting of children on Television and technology, Ray Bradbury’s “The Veldt.” Bradbury’s story also creates the technology in George Bradley’s house as the antagonist. The conclusion of the story outlines the children’s vicious act in forcing their playroom to eat their parents.

In the end, I am simply arguing that while television, video games, and other technology may have some violent affect on the nature of children; let’s not forget that playing outside with a pair of Sock’em Boppers can force children to think and act just as violent. Rowdiness and aggression is many times an inherent nature of some children, and ultimately as a child, how they release that inherent nature of rowdiness lies in their own hands, with slight parental supervision of course.

Here’s is a commercial ad from 1997 of the Sock’em Boppers.


Just a quick side note, I find it funny that there is not one single girl in this commercial.

No more victim-blaming!

According to a news report from The Guardian, more than a month has passed since the killing of 17 year old Trayvon Martin occurred in a gated, middle-class community near Miami, Florida.

Trayvon Martin was walking back to his father’s girlfriend’s house, when he was shot and killed by volunteer neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman. Under the claim of self-defense, Zimmerman was released from questioning and has yet to be arrested. This is where the issue becomes problematic. Sanford Police argue to have released Zimmerman based on the Florida ”stand your ground” law, which allows Florida residents to employ deadly force against another person if they fear for their safety, and because of his supposedly “squeaky clean” record. However, Zimmerman had both a restraining order alleging domestic violence and a charge of assaulting a police officer, both in 2005. Furthermore, the 911 tapes show that Zimmerman followed Treyvon, despite being told not to by the Operator. This instance contradicts his claim of self-defense, for it puts Zimmerman in the position of the aggressor, not that of the victim. His claim is even further discredited when you consider that Trayvon was unarmed, was half the weight of Zimmerman, and was carrying nothing but a bag of Skittles and an Arizona Iced Tea. How Zimmerman could have felt his life threatened by this young boy is beyond me.

Even more problematic, is how the media has handled this case. Fox News reporter, Geraldo Rivera said on “Fox and Friends”  that the hoodie is as much to blame for Trayvon Martin’s death as George Zimmerman was. He went on to urge black and Latino parents to not let their children go out wearing hoodies if they want to avoid racial profiling. Rivera argued that by wearing the hoodie, Trayvon was making himself look as a gangster, who are frequently perceived as criminals.

Much like the congressmen and individuals who spoke  at the 1994 Hip Hop Hearings, Rivera’s remarks seem to stem from a intergenerational divide. Both the speakers at the Hip Hop Hearings and Geraldo Rivera lived during the civil rights movement, a time when a lot of minorities practiced the “regulation of intra-community behaviors via the promotion of temperance, cleanliness of person and property, polite manners, and sexual purity” (AMS 310 Lecture, 2011). Minority communities used the politics of respectability in order to deter the stereotype that minorities are unruly and uncivilized people, and thus have their social reform movement taken more seriously. This might explain why Rivera, as well as the speakers at the Hip Hop Hearings, blamed the visible aspects of youth culture (style of clothing, music, etc.) for the problems that are currently affecting African and Latino Americans.

However, George Lipsitz argues that by blaming the hoodie or “gansta rap”, they are detaching the issues afflicting minority communities from their true socio-economic and political causes such as lack of jobs, lack of proper health-care, not enough funding for public education and social programs, etc (Course Packet, 395).  In a true democracy, people of every sex, ethnicity, and sexuality should have the freedom to wear whatever clothes they want and listen to whatever music they prefer, without having to fear for their lives or overall safety.

50 Cent: A Parent’s Worst Nightmare

Throughout my teenage years, one music artist in particular that I enjoyed listening to disturbed my parents the most. This artist was Curtis Jackson, better known to the American public as the rapper 50 Cent. Jackson grew up on the rough streets of Queens, New York with no father to speak of and a cocaine dealer for a mother. After her death, Jackson began to get involved in the narcotics industry that thrived in that area. This troubled upbringing is reflected in the lyrics of his songs, and he rarely pulls punches in his descriptions of life on the streets of urban areas. His popularity began to increase in the early 2000′s with the release of his hit albums Get Rich or Die Tryin’ and The Massacre. Known for his particularly offensive lyrics, 50 Cent songs regularly dealt with things like drug dealing, gang violence, and misogynous themes. One song in particular, “Candy Shop,” off the album The Massacre, shocked my parents the most. Jackson describes in graphic detail a strip club and the activities he engages in while inside. The song received major radio play when it was released, and any time it was played my mother and father insisted on changing the radio station. This idea of fear over children’s exposure to hip-hop music relates to the George Lipsitz article on the Hip-Hop Hearings of the early 1990′s. In testimony from the hearings, prominent members of the black community discussed the negative effects of hip-hop music on youth, saying that the music,” provoked our youth to violence, drug use, and mistreatment of women. This explains why so many of our children are out of control and why we have more black males in jail than we have in college” (Lipsitz, 390). My parents worried that if I was consistently exposed to the sort of obscenity present in hip-hop music by artists like 50 Cent I would be corrupted. This idea was prevalent in many white households as hip-hop music spread to suburban areas, and parents experienced a sort of moral panic over the strange, new form of entertainment.

The music video for the song”Candy Shop” by 50 Cent, off his album The Massacre, released in 2005

G.I. Faux

In the 1986 G.I. Joe cartoon episode, “Computer Complications”, the Joes and Cobras are at their ‘good vs. evil’ antics again. In this particular program-length commercial, both regimes are after a radioactive stash of antimatter located at the bottom of the ocean. The antimatter is so dangerous that the Joes have to send in robot submarines to recover the radioactive substance but not before Cobra orders a strike to dismantle the operation and intercept the antimatter for himself. While many battles ensue at the Joe’s ocean platform base, Cobra and his entourage of baddies try to invade the Joe’s home base to reprogram the submarines. Zarana, Cobra’s stealth and tech specialist, goes undercover as a sexy cadet who seduces and subdues the head of top secret operations for the Joes, Mainframe.

 

The creation and success of the G.I. Joe PLC through the 1980’s was in great part due to the success of the futuristic Star Wars trilogy from which G.I. borrowed ideas of weapons, space-tech, and most importantly the transcendence of the good vs. evil genre condensing it into a 30 minute cartoon. Drawing upon Gary Cross’s concerns with children and their fantasy play worlds, G.I. Joe: Great American Hero offered very little other than the notion of “good vs. evil”. In fact, the show ended up in stalemates so often that it was hard to tell the difference between the two Cobras and the Joes. Cross adds that “because it was so unrealistic, it was not to take seriously” (298). The narrative of this PLC coincides with Cross’s idea that when kids take home these action figures and their miniature laser canons instead of toy guns modeled after government issued military equipment, they are disconnecting the “national narrative” of war play. The result: parents ended up ignoring their children’s war play and because it was so appealing, the parents of two thirds of American children between the ages of five and eleven ended up ignoring their children’s play in general.

 

T.V. is Wack, T. V. is Cheap

Young children today are impressionable. They form habits based on what they see and hear others around them do or say. As Television and other media devices become more available to children, this means that they gather information from a wider variety of sources. Though, the information they gather from these sources may not be in the best interests of young children.

 

In my classmate’s post regarding the reading journal prompt “Kids and T.V.”, Morgan Manuel has found an article that expresses some of her mutual concerns about the negative effects television has on young children as they form habits in the early stages of their lives. Her main worries she shares with the author of the article are (1) that television conveys a message of violence toward young minds and can potentially be imitated, (2) the presence of sexual content exposed in certain television programs and (3) that children form unhealthy habits or become lazy as a direct result of watching too much television.

 

Morgan has connected her points to examples present in Ray Bradburry’s The Veldt in the course reading packet. She makes valid points about how the violence present in television today is related to the violent acts experienced in the futuristic house, the setting of Bradburry’s short story. Also, Morgan also points out the effects of laziness that television has on children when she connects the laziness and dependence on the nursery that has driven the children in the story to murder their parents to ensure the safety of their lazy ways. The children are disrespectful, defiant, and even harmful to their parents.  Although I could not find instances of sexual behavior blatantly expressed in the text, Bradburry explains that the electronic room in the story became a channel towards destructive thoughts for the children (167).

 

Here is a little anecdotal aside about Kids and T.V. courtesy of Willy Wonka and the Oompa Loompas.