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Natalie Cupac

The Power of Pop Culture

Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Akai Gurley, Tamir Rice and Freddie Gray. These are only a few of the hundreds of people – people of colour – who have been killed in recent years at the hands of police officers, sparking the global social movement ‘Black Lives Matter’.

Originally stemming from incidents occurring in the United States in 2013, the movement received global attention the following year after the death toll of men and women of colour continued to grow. The problem has become a significant issue and talking point in many political and social debates in the U.S. and has become somewhat of a source of inspiration for storytelling for many films, television shows and even music videos.

For instance, global music icon Beyoncé, released a music video promoting equality and the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement in 2016, which featured the mothers of two black men who were fatally wounded by law enforcement. Their appearance in the music video was discussed by many and highlighted how prominent an issue it has become, garnering the attention of some of the world’s biggest stars who have now decided to lend their hand in raising awareness regarding the issue.

This is not the only time however the movement has been featured in pop culture, with popular Netflix television show ‘Orange is the new black’ using their status as one of the most well-known shows to bring awareness to the issue, by killing of one of their most beloved characters – Poussey Washington. This character was a woman of colour who was accidentally killed by a police officer who used too much force, and as a result choked her to death, in a similar fashion to that of Eric Gardner, whose death played a key role in igniting the Black Lives Matter movement.

This isn’t the only example of how recent pop culture products are tackling the issue of racism head-on. An upcoming horror/thriller film has decided to further examine the issue of the treatment of people of colour, with its premise focusing on an African-American male who travels to a strange town to meet his girlfriend’s parents (who are white by the way). He soon finds that this town is devoid of any men of colour, except for one who appears to be incredibly distressed, and urges the protagonist to leave while he still can. What happens from there is still a mystery, but the trailer offers a brief insight into the film, which is set to tackle one of the biggest (if not THE biggest) social issues today: racism.

The film’s director Jordan Peele discussed the films refreshing premise, highlighting that even the choice in have a black protagonist in a horror movie is somewhat unheard of in pop culture, stating, “It is one of the very, very few horror movies that does jump off of racial fears. That to me is a world that hasn’t been explored. Specifically, the fears of being a black man today. The fears of being any person who feels like they’re a stranger in any environment that is foreign to them. It deals with a protagonist that I don’t see in horror movies.”

The release of the film’s trailer, which can be seen below, received a fair bit of attention, with many commending it for willing to explore an issue that is rarely examined in the horror movie genre. That right there, is a problem in itself. The fact this issue is rarely explore in the horror movie genre, and that the appearance of black characters in this genre are often relegated to secondary characters who rarely make it to the end alive highlights the subtle racism still alive in pop culture, in that people find it shocking that a horror movie is willing to not only make its protagonist a black male, but its villains a town full of white men and women.

 

These examples of how pop culture mediums such as TV and film, as well as social media platforms such as Twitter have the ability to resonate with audiences and viewers, and create a lasting impact instead of dissipating once an episode is over. They highlight how pop culture, something that many tend to trivialize, has the ability to ignite social change and shine some light on incredibly important, and sometimes underrepresented issues, which in this case is the issue of police brutality against people of colour, particularly in the U.S.

But this isn’t the only social issue pop culture has a say in, there’s another issue which perhaps is even more greatly affected by pop culture, and that is the issue of feminism and the portrayal of women in the media.

It’s no secret that in the world of pop culture, a certain stereotype or stigma has been attached to female figures, creating unrealistic expectations for what it means to be a woman. Generally, in order to be considered appealing as a woman, you need to be beautiful, thin, smart but not too smart, and often times, you’re the damsel in distress. You’re never the heroine.

This issue was addressed by businesswoman Amanda Rose, the CEO and founder of global website The Business Woman Media, who believes the media tends to portray women as,

As either victims or lip pouting posers. That’s how women are portrayed mainly in the media and also how the younger generation relate to being a woman as.

A staunch feminist, Rose is passionate about the role women play in the career sector, and has discussed on more than one occasion how the above portrayal of women in the media has a negative affect on women across all industries, believe women are often continuously put in the shadow of men, and aren’t shown to shine on their own.

In 2014, Rose wrote an article discussing the coverage of the wedding of high-profile celebrity couple Amal Alamuddin and George Clooney, but her article deterred from the standard reporting of the marriage, and provided a fresh take which saw The Business Woman receive global attention, and acclaim. Why was her article so well received do you ask?

Well, instead of focusing on the achievements of long-time bachelor and acclaimed bachelor George Clooney, Rose’s article focused on the achievements of Alamuddin, something most articles covering the wedding had failed to do. Her satirical tone and refusal to focus too much (or at all) on Clooney’s achievements, and instead claim he was ‘marrying up’, put her relatively new website on the map, and the article was covered by several high-profile publications such as The Huffington Post, New York Times and The Telegraph, among others.

When asked how this article came about, Rose explained it was simply due to a desire to ensure people saw Alamuddin for what she was – a high-profile, successful lawyer who was incredibly talented in her own right, and not due to who she was romantically tied to. Rose explains that:

Everyone was obsessed in the fact that long time bachelor George Clooney was getting married but they didn’t care to whom. Amal is an amazingly talented and qualified woman. I wanted people to see that he was in fact marrying UP.

Rose further addressed the issue in the way the media portrays women, stating it often tends to over-sexualize them and treat them as mere objects. But she also argues that for every negative portrayal, there is the opportunity for change, an opportunity to “stand out in a morally bankrupt society”.

It’s in this statement that the positive aspects of the power of pop culture are evident, because no matter the issue: feminism, racism, gender, sexual orientation etc. pop culture has the ability to portray a wide range of individuals, stories and experiences. It doesn’t matter if they’re fact or fiction, because if they have the ability to resonate in some way with its audience, and challenge them to rethink certain societal issues, it’s done its job.

Because no matter how trivial people may perceive pop culture to be at times, when it causes them to debate and evaluate, and sometimes even change their stance on issues, it is somewhat undeniable that the power of pop culture is very real, and anything but trivial.

 

 

Adler A110 Ban to be reviewed

For almost 20 years, since the Port Arthur Massacre, Australia has maintained strict gun laws, however, following the deadly Martin Place Siege, of December 2014, a ban on the controversial Turkish Adler shotgun was made.

The review will take place at the Council of the Australian Governments meeting on the 8th of April where the temporary ban will either be extended, or lifted altogether.

Greens MP and Firearms Spokesperson David Shoebridge, commented on the ban and the repercussions that could occur if it were to be lifted.

Interview conducted with David Shoebridge.

Sources:

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-10-06/rapid-fire-shotgun-heading-to-australia-after-sidestepping-ban/6831360

http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/nsw/adler-110-leveraction-shotgun-designed-to-circumvent-tough-gun-laws-says-antigun-lobby/news-story/9dcfccf4831f2fff5a38978a606de600

http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2015/oct/06/import-of-new-fast-and-furious-shotgun-sidesteps-year-long-federal-ban

http://thenewdaily.com.au/news/2016/03/04/imports-adlershotgun-pouring-aust/

http://www.news.com.au/national/breaking-news/ban-on-adler-shotgun-expected-to-be-lifted/news-story/e501b3103038beed2dad31336fe6553c

 

Dominique Gaitt – Changing the world one step at a time

How often is it that you turn on the news and are faced with a terrifying report on children being entered into the sex trade in Australia? Chances are its highly unlikely you will hear about this being a common occurrence in Australia due to it being a more developed country than most, definitely more so than Cambodia where children being entered into sex trafficking is a common occurrence. It is this reason, which compelled 19-year-old Dominique Gaitt to travel to Cambodia and volunteer for My Gap Year’s Heart and Love Centre.

Cambodia is considered to be a major destination for child sex trafficking offenders due to the destruction of Cambodia’s religious, educational and social structures, which came as a result of the Khmer Rouge.[1] The issue has gotten so out of hand that according to ECPAT Cambodia’s 2011 study, roughly 75% of sex trafficking victims within Cambodia are actually children. The issue doesn’t stop there; the study also indicates that the age of the victims has actually decreased over time, with victims getting younger each year.[2] Cases of mothers selling their own children to sex traffickers in Cambodia are incredibly common, with one mother stating that she was forced to do so because of the debt she was in.[3]

During her time in Cambodia Dominique actually met a young girl who was almost another victim of sex trafficking due to the harsh poverty rates prevalent in Cambodia. She shares the story of a young girl named Srey Rua whose parents passed away at the age of two, and as a result her grandmother had to take her in. Unfortunately however, the young girls grandmother was incredibly poor, and had barely enough money to provide for herself let alone her granddaughter as well. Feeling as though she had no other option she tried to convince the orphanage to take Srey Rua in, and initially they said no as they had no room for her. It was only until her grandmother threatened and went through with her threat to sell her granddaughter to a brothel that the orphanage stepped in. Now while moments like these rarely, if ever, happen in Australia, they are common occurrences in Cambodia, especially with young girls and it’s moments like these that motivate Dominique to do everything she can to stop them from happening again.

Dominique playing with orphan Srey Rua, who was almost another victim of child sex trafficking.
Dominique playing with orphan Srey Rua, who was almost another victim of child sex trafficking.

For many teenagers, travelling and volunteering abroad is an idea that rarely becomes reality for one reason or another. Whether it’s a lack of funds, time, fear, willingness or a completely different reason, many young adults rarely consider volunteering overseas, and if they do, it’s common for them to ultimately back out of their plans.

Nineteen-year-old Dominique Gaitt however, is the exception. ‘I’ve never, ever sort of assumed that I would stay in the same place for all that long’, Dominique considers herself to be a traveller, someone who doesn’t belong to one particular place but is instead meant to float around and experience all that life has to offer. She attributes her parents moving her around from country to country from a young age as the reason behind her love for travelling. Despite being born in London, her and her parents moved over to New Zealand when she was an infant, where she grew up before moving to Australia at the age of seven, and she’s been there ever since, something that doesn’t sit all that well with her, ‘When we moved over to Australia, the deal my parents told me so that I would agree to go over in the first place was that we’d only be there 1-2 years, I’ve now been here 12 and getting out as much as possible is what I really like to do.’

It should come as no surprise then that when the opportunity arose for Dominique to travel to Cambodia and volunteer at The Heart and Love Centre through My Gap Year with her friends from high school, she wasted no time in saying yes, especially since she was originally told she couldn’t come because it had already been booked. A few months down the track fate stepped in, when one of the girls decided she didn’t want to go and a spot opened up and the first person called was Dominique, as it was no secret just how passionate she was about the cause, even choosing a degree she felt would help her make a real change in the world. ‘The reason I started studying International Studies was because I wanted to sort of help in some way I can because when you get older you start hearing about all the crap that’s happening in the world and it’s just like: ‘WHY?!’’

Breaking the news to her family that she’d be travelling to Cambodia for two weeks was no easy feat. Dominique shares her father was initially skeptical, but ultimately was incredibly supportive because he and her mother had done a similar trip when they were young travelling through Asia. This is yet another reason Dominique provides for her love of travelling, because all she ever heard as a child were the fantastic memories her parents now held because of their own adventures all around the world, and she dreamed that one day she would have some memories to rival theirs. Dominique’s mother on the other hand was a bit more unwilling to accept the idea at first, citing the poverty and violence rates in Cambodia as simply too high for her daughter to travel to and was worried about how she would cope being in a completely new environment without any family. Dominique states though that once she wants something there is no stopping her, a sentiment her mother agreed with wholeheartedly, ultimately giving in to her daughter’s request to volunteer in a foreign country. Thankfully her mother’s concerns didn’t become a reality, and Dominique actually adjusted incredibly well to the new place she found herself in, becoming the voice of reason to her friends who were beginning to feel the nerves of travelling to a foreign place.

The minute Dominique finally arrived in Cambodia her and her friends were sent straight to the orphanage they’d be volunteering at to meet the kids, and it’s a memory that is still fresh in her mind and continues to bring a smile to her face as she recounts it out loud. She explains how the orphanage splits the children into groups depending on their age and she was sent to work with the kids aged from two to six, who she laughingly recalls would never listen to anything anyone would say. She reminisces about the first time they played duck-duck-goose, and the chaos that ensued because of the children’s excitement of new people to play with. ‘Somehow, when we were playing they found these big blankets which they were running around in circles with the blankets over their face screaming at the top of their lungs and we were trying to control these kids we’d just met, didn’t even know half their names yet and that was fun…that was an experience.’

While this wasn’t initially the way she thought she’d spend her time doing volunteer work in another country, originally envisioning herself working with people of all ages rather than just children, once she arrived in Cambodia and met the orphans there everything changed. The stories she heard regarding how they came to be at the orphanage made her realize how lucky she truly was, and made her realize she had much more to be grateful for than these kids, yet they still always managed to have a smile throughout the day and have fun with the volunteers and each other despite their already difficult lives. Dominique realized helping these kids and others like them who had already experienced so much pain was what she needed to do, and her desire to help those in need all around the world only grew stronger as the trip continued.

By the end of the trip no one was happy to see Dominique and her friends leave, and the kids had as much of an impact on her as she had on them and you can see as much in the photo below. The wide grin on Dominique’s face perfectly encapsulates how her trip was as a whole, full of fun and children. If her smile doesn’t give away how much she enjoyed the trip, the child firmly wrapping their arms around her neck and resting their head on her shoulder should. Clearly, the bond she formed with those kids is something that will stay with her and them long after her return home to Australia.

Photo provided by Dominique
Dominique and a young orphan from the Heart and Love Centre

Once she arrived back home, Dominique decided it was time for her to make some real changes, starting with her University degree. She decided to change her double degree of Journalism and International Studies to a double degree of Media and Communications and International Studies, a decision she was already considering before her trip, but was solidified once she returned. Her trip and volunteer work in Cambodia allowed her to realize exactly what it was she wanted to do, which is travel and see the world, and help change it for the better as much as she can. Ultimately, she felt that in order to do that she needed to change her degree, a decision she’s found was the right one, ‘The subject I’m doing at the moment is called ‘Social Justice and Global Media’ so it’s all about how the West sort of affects little countries and things like that so it’s more like International Studies plus extra International Studies and I still get to do Journalism. So it’s all more up my alley, so yeah after coming back it helped me make the choice to change degrees.’

This wasn’t the biggest way her time in Cambodia changed Dominique however, instead the biggest difference she’s found in herself is how she looks at things in her everyday life now as opposed to how she did before she left. One of the biggest issues in Cambodia is it’s poverty rate, with many living off of less than $1 a day, it’s not uncommon to find people doing odd jobs, or having no jobs at all. The fact this was such a common thing in Cambodia jarred Dominique, making her realize that even though she hated her job back home it could be much worse considering there were people with Engineering degrees working as Tuk-Tuk drivers in Cambodia and if you are a Cambodian girl, there are even less chances for you to succeed. Dominique states, ‘It just really made me look at my life and I complain about my job and Uni but at the end of the day I’ve got so much more. Seriously, everyone says it and it’s such a cliché but you do not realize how we actually have it over here until you have a direct comparison of just something as bad as that.’

Even though she’s only just returned from her trip, Dominique cannot wait to return and visit all the children she connected with and is even hoping a career in volunteering is in her future once she graduates. In fact, she’s already committed to help My Gap Year with fundraising for Colour Run in July and is hoping to continue to provide more help even after, and is particularly hoping to raise awareness to people about the importance of volunteer work as she feels there’s much more we could and should be doing. She discussed how there are a lot of negative perceptions being put on volunteers, with many arguing that volunteers are only creating more work instead of doing work, but Dominique strongly disagrees, saying people are simply ‘spewing’ their own negativity instead of doing something to help. Her message to anyone considering volunteer work in another country, regardless of whether it is in Cambodia or somewhere completely different, you need to, ‘Definitely do it…it’s just…there is so much crap in the world and you can’t add to it. And volunteering definitely doesn’t add to it.’

All photos provided by Dominique Gaitt!

Footnotes:

[1] http://edition.cnn.com/2013/12/09/world/asia/cambodia-cfr-why-history-child-sex-trafficking/

[2] http://thediplomat.com/2014/07/cambodias-ongoing-human-trafficking-problem/

[3] http://edition.cnn.com/interactive/2013/12/world/cambodia-child-sex-trade/

What is hidden in separation and divorce?

While divorce and separation are stated to be very common in statistics and are often portrayed on TV, the only people who truly know how difficult it is are those who have experienced it in their own homes, and they don’t always get to share their feelings about it.

For Amy, being the child of a divorce caused her to become extremely closed off. Having been her best friend for almost six years, I thought I truly understood the struggle Amy endured. After our interview however, I realized I couldn’t have been more wrong. While her parent’s divorce opened up several wounds for her, it also forced her to hide them all because she didn’t know how to deal with them.

After an emotionally abusive relationship of 13 years, Christian felt it was time to leave his partner and as a result, his two children. While it has been easier for him to open up to friends and family than Amy, he doesn’t get to see his children at all and has missed out on much of their childhood. For him, the thing that has been hidden most is not just his side of the story, but his own children.

I conducted two more interviews with Katarina Pirie and Christina Watson who shared similar views in that children are not fully equipped to handle the divorce of their parents. Pirie even told me that despite her parents divorcing when she was in her early 20s, she never understood how difficult their relationship must have been until she was married herself.

Watson, a mother currently going through separation told me she constantly has to hide her emotions from her children, to shield them. ‘I try to not cry in front of them when I’m upset. I don’t feel like I can give them the whole truth yet so I hide some feelings from them.’

Something Christian and Amy also shared with me was the effect the absence of a parent or child has on their everyday life. Their homes are much quieter now, something you can see in the video, when they aren’t speaking, there is almost no other noise.

Now I know there are still a number of people who have experienced separation and divorce like Amy, Christian, Katarina and Christina have. But at least this piece can shed some light on the common issues divorce and separation creates across all families.

Because many things are hidden in separation and divorce, starting with emotions, perspectives and even children.

References:

  1. Sound of a man drinking (around 18 second mark) can be found at:

https://www.freesound.org/people/ultradust/sounds/167513/

  1. Sound of a chair being thrown (around 34 second mark) can be found at:

https://www.freesound.org/people/issalcake/sounds/115924/

  1. Sound of high school canteen (around 40 second mark) can be found at:

https://www.freesound.org/people/klankbeeld/sounds/192930/

  1. Sound of girl saying ‘I love you daddy’ (around 1:52 mark) can be found at:

http://soundbible.com/1292-I-Love-You-Daddy.html

  1. Sound of girl saying ‘Good night’ (around 1:58 mark) can be found at:

http://soundbible.com/620-Good-Nite.html

  1. Sound of TV and switching channels (around 2:04 mark) can be found at:

https://www.freesound.org/people/SteveMannella/sounds/86202/  

Photos: I took all photos appearing in the video, except for the two, which are shown around the 42-second mark and 53-second mark of Amy at school. She provided these.

Weeks 10/11 Web Module – The twitters of 3 Journalists

I follow a fair amount of journalists on Twitter, each of them constantly writing articles which capture my attention. However, three journalists I follow whose work particularly inspires and interests me are:

I’ve found that with each of these journalists, Twitter has become a fairly large part of their professional practice. It is where they share their work, respond to readers and even collect information for possible stories. I’ve noticed a trend in how they promote their work as well as the work of their colleagues. Before they provide the link to the article, they often either include a quote or say a brief comment regarding the story. This prompts the reader to click on the link as they want to know what exactly is being discussed and why, it intrigues them. Of course they also include hashtags relevant to the story and retweet those who mention it. Of the three journalists I mentioned, Ford is the only one who has a professional FaceBook page. However, I noticed here she tends to interact with her readers more than actually sharing her stories, seemingly preferring to use Twitter for that. Perhaps that is why Swoyer and Herrick don’t have professional FaceBook pages.

Midsession Break Web Module Task 2 – Assignment Proposal

My idea for the final JRNL102 assignment is to focus on those who have been affected by divorce or separation if they were not married when children are involved.

What the story is about: I will be focusing on the emotions and perspectives regarding divorce or separation from those who have actually experienced it.

What is ‘hidden’ in this topic?

I think for the most part, the perspectives regarding divorce or separation that are most often heard are not from those who have lived it. We always hear others commenting on peoples divorce but not as much from those who actually lived it. Sure in TV shows its quite common for divorce to be depicted but this isn’t a TV show, and I’ve only ever heard about divorce from those who have experienced it first hand a handful of times.

So, in that light I want to focus on the feelings that are somewhat ‘hidden’ in regards to divorce and/or separation. I want to bring to light the issues that can come from a separation from two parents that people who haven’t had to deal with wouldn’t understand or aren’t really aware of.

I want to show how the absence of a parent living with a child can affect both the child and parent. I am also planning to of course ask my interviewees what they feel is a misconception regarding divorce and/or separation and something they feel is ‘hidden’ such as what their actual feelings are regarding the situation.

What it will sound like:
  • Ambient sounds from the interview
  • I will also focus on what life was like for the interviewees before the divorce, if it were a louder household, kids running around and playing etc.
  • If they were to say it was quieter now I would also focus on the transition from a loud environment to a more silent one
  • I think the main sounds that would be used would be in relation to children

What it will look like:

  • I’m hoping to be able to capture images of both my interviewees at home, and maybe somewhere they would visit regularly with their parent or child and the emotions such places bring out in them

Who the key characters will be:

  • A father who is currently going through mediation in order to gain shared custody of his children. His children are quite young and he wants to be able to see them more and I am hoping to capture how the situation has affected him, as I feel the mothers story in similar situations is shown much more than the fathers. You often hear how mothers are more likely to gain full custody of their children and so you hear their story more than the fathers.
  • A young teenage girl who lives with her mother, having not spoken to her father in years after her parents divorced. I’m hoping to show how that affected her as a person and how different it was for her growing up.

Midsession Break Web Module Task 1 – Projects

The projects Nuclear Nightmares: Twenty Years since Chernobyl and Marlboro Marine were two which had a hand in revolutionising the way stories were told. They challenged the social norms, where people believed it was best to be short and sweet when reporting a story and introduced new ways in which you could interact with the audience.

The Marlboro Marine project depicts the story of Marine Blake Miller and his journey from joining the Marine Corps and returning, and the effect the entire experience had on him. His story coincided with photojournalist Luis Sinco and their connection was told in a 16 minute video, however the video consisted of pictures and voice over, rather than actual footage.

I suggest if you haven’t seen this project yet, you definitely should. It is incredibly moving, perfectly encapsulating the consequences of war but not in terms of its effects on a country, but rather one single person. Personally, I don’t think that is shown quite as much as it should be. Understandably the focus is generally always on a country, and we never really hear much regarding those who actually go to fight for their country. When we do it always them being branded as a ‘hero’, rarely do we see the true trauma they have to live with.

The Marlboro Marine focuses on this aspect. It shows the life of Blake Miller before he became a Marine and how different it was after he become one. The still images combined with the voice over provide us with a confronting image. As the video goes on you can hear the change in his voice regarding what his life is now and what it used to be. Something that I don’t think could have been shown in a normal video or just images without a voice over.

The second project, Nuclear Nightmares, is arguably more interactive than Marlboro Marine. This is simply because while the latter is simply a video audiences can watch, Nuclear Nightmares requires the reader to scroll over images to find more information, and even on particular words.

The images found in Nuclear Nightmares are also quite captivating, possibly because they are in black and white and thus imply a somewhat negative ending for those in the photograph, especially when you look at the title of the project. Nuclear Nightmares was also one of the first projects to go viral through email.

My personal favourite of the two projects would have to be the Marlboro Marine. There was never a moment where I wasn’t captivated by the story being told and I believe that was because of the WAY it was told. However, in terms of which project I feel was more interactive, I would have to say it was Nuclear Nightmares. This is due to the fact that it constantly prompted the readers to scroll over the pictures to find more information, it wasn’t just handed to them.

Ultimately both projects have played a huge part in the methods of multimedia storytelling and the case for either being the better one can be made.

Week 7 Online Module – Storify report on three photographers

My storify focused on the works of Micha Bar Am, Ian Berry and Alessandra Sanguinetti. If you haven’t heard of them then you should definitely check this report out, and even if you have check it out.

Their work is definitely good enough to look at more than once!

https://storify.com/nataliecupac/the-works-of-micha-bar-am-ian-berry-and-alessandra

Week 5 Module – Storify report on audio recording devices

Here is the link to my storify report which focuses on how you can use your iPhone to take a great audio recording.

https://storify.com/nataliecupac/your-iphone-isn-t-just-for-taking-selfies

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