Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Born This Way.

As a film student, I’ve always analysed films and music videos for their technical aspects and their aesthetics – the way they were shot and edited and how that affected the over all look of the film and its meaning. Rarely have I ever analysed a film or music video for its content from a sociological perspective – who made the video/film, for whom the video/film was made, and how the content of that video/film affected its audience.

The first music video that came to my mind was Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way.” The more I thought about it, the more I realized that any of Lady Gaga’s music videos could be analysed sociologically, as they have all had a massive impact on their viewers. “Born This Way,” which was released on May 2nd, 2011, became an instant hit among her “Little Monsters.” It has also won major awards for its success.

The song and music video were intended for people who can be considered as being part of a minority group – people who are singled out from what the rest of society deems as “normal.” The message to this audience, then, is very clear: don’t be afraid of who you are – embrace it and don’t let it stop you from living your life to the fullest.  Not only do the lyrics emphasize this, but as does the content in the music video.

Lady Gaga is well known for breaking social norms in her videos – she pushes through all the socially constructed boundaries, not caring about the negative sanctions that may come with it. By doing this so in an excessively extreme manner, she shows her viewers and fans that it’s okay for them to be whoever they want to be – that they don’t have to care about what others say. She redefines the meaning of “beauty” and “normal” in her video, intentionally disfiguring her face to make herself look like a deviant.

Gaga’s success in affecting so many people can be credited to her achieved status – the fact that she was a “nobody” who fought to become somebody.  The fact that she used to be someone who was picked on and bullied in school and is now a “multi-platinum artist.” “Born This Way” and its music video have clearly positively impacted the lives of many. She has even inspired Campbell Kenneford, a transsexual teenage boy, to gather enough courage and live as a girl, disregarding and fighting off all bullying.

Through her actions, Gaga shows her viewers that society and the people in it define norms. She inspires people by letting them know they have the power to change and redefine their society’s norms.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Color Of Films

We can list a number of ways how films affect the socialization process for its audience. For example, films tend to set a trend of the current fashion sense, diet patterns, technological conformity with society, etc. Also, in the 21st century, it is wise to assume that film goers definitely have a greater appeal for color films, in addition to the other incredible effects filmmakers tend to use, like 3D technology, special effects, pyro techniques, other graphic effects, etc. But foremost, color is on top that revolutionized the film viewing experience. And now, viewing and making a color film has become a norm in the world of cinema.

Fairly recently, while watching movies, I felt that the filmmaker’s use of color also has a potential for socialization process. These days, it is not very hard to notice that different genres are color-coded. For example, the horror genre is usually has a blue color gradient; romance tends to lean towards vivid colors like yellow and red; apocalyptic genres tend to be more washed out, or have a more grunge and grainy look to them. So, where is the socialization process in this?

Horror (Blue tone): The Sixth Sense (1999), Underworld (2003)

Romance (red or warm tones): Titanic (1997)

Post/Apocalyptic (Washed out tone): Book of Eli (2010), The Road (2009)

As an audience member, after I watch these films, I tend to view reality in that manner, just like any other socialization process. Whenever I think of romance, I feel the need of red, or vivid warm colors in the scene. Hence, I can understand why a candle light meal, or gift a red rose is more appropriate for a date. Another great example, how do all of you picture a post-apocalyptic world? What color scheme pops up in your imagination? Definitely not a green environment, definitely not a plain desert either; but rather, a barren land, with a washed out texture, just like the ones they depict in the movies. In other words, films are not only influencing the ways we act and behave, but also our thought process and imagination.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Sepration: Hearts and Houses Divided

A Separation is a 2011 Iranian movie drama movie written and directed by Asghar Farhadi. The film received the Golden Bear for Best Film, won the Golden Globe Awards Best Foreign Language Film.

The Iranian movie, “A Separation,” captures the drama and real life suspense of the modern society as it evolves around the changing role of both controlling men and assertive women. The movie questions the great phenomenon and duality of class, religion, culture, modernity and tradition.

A separation evolves around a secular-modern and open-minded couple, Simin: the wife, and Nader: the husband. However, their conflicting differences lead to filing for a divorce. Simin wants to move abroad for a better future for her daughter, whereas, the Nader is unwilling to relocate because of his fathers ill condition.

The movie starts by when Simin is trying to convince the judge to let her divorce her a bank-clerk husband, Nader. However, the judge turns her down when she explains that she wants to leave the country in order to have a better life for their daughter. The judge questions her, “What are the conditions that you don't want to live here and you don't want to raise your children here?” Following this scene, the director hinges on the question and portrays the obstacles they’re faced within the Iranian society.

Simin tends to be an open-minded and independent woman, as she leaves the house, rather than agreeing to her husband’s decision. As a result, Nader is forced to hire a nurse to take care of his ill father. We are then introduced to another side of the Iranian community: the religious, poor and holy. Social inequality and cultural clash becomes evident when Nader hires a nurse for his father, Razieh. For instance, Razieh calls her religious leader and asks permission on whether she could help out the old man, without having her husband informed of her job in first place.

The movie emphasizes on culture, social inequality and religion between the increasing poor and rich citizens. Cultural differences are greatly evident by comparing Simin’s and Razieh’s life. Razieh tends to satisfy her husbands needs and is scared of her husband finding out about her job, whereas Simin is more independent with making her choices. Plus, their non-material culture is evident through their clothing, as it is another symbol to portray women in Iran. The more rich and open-minded women dress more freely, whereas, the poor and oppressed women wear black Chadors. In addition, social inequality is evident as Simin’s husband is a bank clerk, whereas, Razieh’s husband is unemployed.

Qatar Motor Show 2012

This weekend I attended the Annual Motor Show with one of my female friends. Although my friend was taking her brothers and their friends along, the two of us wanted to go see the ‘cool’ collection of cars too. Upon entering the Exhibition Center, which is where the cars were being displayed, my friend and I came to the sudden realization that we were the only two female companions amidst a sea of male bachelors, families and couples.

This observation shed light on the fact that the event is mainly catered for men. It’s not surprising, especially seeing how in our society we tend to associate cars with men rather than women. Even as toddlers, boys are socialized to play with toy cars. It’s a social construct that classifies males as masculine.

At the event a couple of things provided proof that the cars were directed at a male audience. There were women hired to model for the cars. Many of the men at the event asked the models if they could have their picture taken together. If the cars were aimed at women, surely there would have been male models promoting them.

Last year, one of my friends had modeled for Bugatti. She told me that prior to working the job, she was given information about the car itself. So if she was asked about the specifics of the car, she would be able to give the information. But the people who handled the selling of the cars were men, highlighting that women do the marketing while men manage the deal making.

Although the event was for men, it specifically targeted Qatari nationals. The reason for this is obvious: affordability. The majority of men at the Motor Show were expats, so the most they would do is pose for a picture in front of a Ferrari or Lamborghini. But Qatari men were actually buying the cars.

The overall experience was quite memorable. But being a knowledgeable and experienced sociologist I was more aware of the fact that the event was highly gendered. Apart from walking away with more knowledge on gender and society, my friend and I were asked if we wanted to test-drive a BMW, and happily, my friend agreed.


We always hear the word culture, but what does culture really mean? Culture is a term that has many different inter-related meanings. However, the word "culture" is most commonly used in three basic senses:

▪ Excellence of taste in the Fine Arts and humanities, also known as High Culture.
▪ An integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for symbolic thought and social learning.
▪ The set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution, organization, or group.

Sitting in the last sociology class, I have realized that culture can simply be explained, just like sociology, to be a mixture of fun and interesting things. Simply put, culture is determined by many aspects including history, tradition and behaviors.

An example, the “Simpsons.”

The Simpsons has been on television for quite a while, created and broadcasted through Fox Broadcasting Company. The Animated sitcom was created to resemble the American middle class life style and brought with it all the domestic problems.

Due to its popularity, The Simpsons gained many viewers and still remains a favorite among societies consisting of all ages. From the dysfunctional family outlook, to the composed inner harmony of the characters, the Simpsons was seen to have brought with it many aspects of family and societal behaviors demonstrated in real life America.

How does the Simpsons relate to culture? Well, America was founded on the basis of a new world; there was no specific culture that was obtained by the so-called- Americans. However, American culture, or western culture as parts of the world call it, was developed through popular behaviors. From the Simpsons we reveal that even with such a simple television show, people’s ideas shift to the direction intended.

There is no way to say that culture was brought upon by mediums such as films and television shows such as the Simpsons. However, you can be sure that it has enhanced the ideas of culture to compass around it.

Saturday, January 28, 2012


The melting pot, that's a term often used to refer to the culture of the United States. Even if you don't know the history of the US, you still know how diversely multicultural the country is. There is no real understanding to who is considered to be "American." Let's forget about all the wars and past conflicts and take a look at the broad picture in this present day.
You could look Indian, African, European or Arab and still be an American for many different reasons. Now let's go to the opposite side of the world into a very small country that is barely the size of one of the smallest states in the US, Qatar. Much like the US, Qatar has a variety of different cultures and ethnic groups, however, they are very segregated and it’s more obvious which group every individual belongs to. Furthermore, there’s no linkage (aka: a passport) that brings them together. Qatar is populated with Arabs, Indians, Pakistanis, Iranians and other ethnic groups.

With the majority being non-Qataris, which raises the question: who are Qataris? What makes them Qatari? Unlike the US, being born in Qatar does not make you Qatari. Living in Qatar for more than 20 years or so, still doesn't make you Qatari. Some people were born, raised and brought up into the Qatari society, they might look and dress like Qataris, and considered to be socialized into this culture, but are not considered Qatari by any law. Qatar has grown a lot in the past few of years; it welcomed the film, the sport and the education industry. Naturally that brought in a lot of immigrants from all around the world, who till this day are still considered to be guests and residents in Qatar, but not citizens of the country.

Miss Congeniality

Miss Congeniality movie revolves around the FBI agent Gracie Harts who works undercover as Miss New Jersey with her team to protect the Miss United States Beauty Pageant from a possible terrorist attack.

Throughout the movie we can see a huge transformation in Gracie’s identity. At the very beginning Gracie seems to be very masculine in both her looks and her behavior. She doesn’t wear any make-up, doesn’t do her eyebrows, she doesn’t even brush her hair. Moreover, she is aggressive in everything she does, including eating, walking, and laughing. One of the ladies she meets at a bar asks her if the FBI forces all women over there to wear these “really masculine shoes”, and Gracie clarifies that its not the FBI, its her own personal choice. Moreover, her beauty pageant consultant for the mission, Victor Melling, compared her walk to the walk of the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park.

Gracie faces a hard time accepting her new assignment to work undercover as Miss New Jersey in the pageant. She gets a new look that shocks her colleagues, where she starts to look more feminine to others.

We can also see through the film how Gracie starts to socialize and learn the norms of this new culture she has to fit in. She takes the instructions from her adviser and watches video clips of beauty pageants and starts imitating the moves of the contestants.

At this stage Gracie’s front stage behavior is in the pageant trying to act more feminine, and her backstage behavior is with her team where she can act masculine, as she’s used to. However, as the time passes and through her interaction with the other girls in the pageant, Gracie seems to absorb more of these norms and attitudes and become more feminine overall, while maintaining some aspects of her original masculine identity, like power and independence.

Her transformation gets her the guy, her FBI colleague Eric Matthews, after she had really low chances in finding any guy who would be interested in her. This shows us how society as a social force puts a lot of pressure on individuals shaping their identities in order to have some of the things we desire, like a partner, which would be considered as positive sanctions for following the norms of the society for how we look and how we behave.