media darling

a personal record of how different forms of media and their content affect me (a college student)

girls as gamers December 9, 2008

Filed under: video games — katie @ 4:27 pm
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Not to append to stereotypes, or state the obvious, but mostly guys are gamers. Many girls enjoy playing some games now and then, but serious female video gamers are often few and far between, and are hardly represented accurately in the games themselves, as they are are ripped and incredibly busty.

“I like playing video games because it is the same effect as reading a book or watching a movie — except in this case you get to choose what happens to the story,” said Liz Hocking, a 5th-semester allied health major and big fan of video games. “It is both a way for me to unwind and a form of entertainment.”

Hocking explained that she usually prefers well-written RPG‘s (role-playing games) over FPS‘s (first-person shooter), because she enjoys good storylines and solid character development. “Without them, a game can still be fun to play (look at Gears of War), but for lasting value, a game has to have some sort of pull other than flashy graphics and big guns,” she said.

Girls have been trained to deal with their hostility by talking and venting with each other about issues. But ladies – why we do dismiss video games as a release of aggression for ourselves when we’re feeling a little pissed off just because it has become known as a “guy’s pastime”? It might be nice to sit down and enter a virtual reality for a while and shoot a few things to let out some anger. Try playing Halo when you’re in a fury and you’ll probably be surprised at how much you get into it (and hopefully it will help the rage subside). That sounds like more fun than talking about our problems all the time, don’t you think? Also, everyone gets competitive about something now and then, and video games are great for fueling friendly competition.

“Girls probably think games are too violent or unproductive or something, but I think it’s cool when they’re into them,” said Mark Westlake, a 5th-semester biology major and self-defined “gamer.”

There has even been research done about videogaming improving girls’ spatial skills.

Game on, girls!


I Kissed a Girl – annoying and over-played yet thought-provoking November 13, 2008

Filed under: sex on tv — katie @ 1:30 am
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I heard Katy Perry‘s “I Kissed a Girl” on the radio for the thousandth time today and began thinking about the portrayal of girl+girl experiences in the media. I don’t classify these interactions with girls as lesbian interactions because the few examples I can think of are with girls who are confirmed heterosexuals. So, my question is why there is such a double-standard for hetero-girl-on-hetero-girl action in the media, that definitely influences girls’ behaviors in real life.

“I Kissed a Girl” is about a girl who has a boyfriend but decides to kiss a girl for a new and foreign experience, and proceeds to explain how much she likes it and how fun it is. It also states that she is drunk and has “lost all discretion.” Not to say there is anything wrong with anyone experimenting with their sexuality, but she is blaming the incident on alcohol, basically saying that the kiss wouldn’t have happened otherwise. This sends a confusing and pressuring message to girls absorbing her song and music video trying to get something out of it.

Some other examples I could think of was the unexplainable make-out session between Madonna, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera (three definite heterosexuals) and the pseudo-lesbian couple that “teases” the boys in the movie “American Pie.” The Madonna/Britney/Christina episode got huge coverage when it happened at the 2003 VMAs and yet there was little explanation of what the kisses meant or were intended for. It definitely got the reaction they were probably looking for, though.

I have to wonder what sort of effect seeing these shock-factor images has on young girls who are just hitting puberty, experiencing sexuality for the first time, and exposed to “fake lesbianism.” It must be confusing to first figure out sexuality in general and then feel the pressures of the media to engage in sexual activities with someone they might not be sexually attracted to, to fulfill the pleasures of other people – namely guys.

Are girls who feel the need to make out with other girls doing it as a sexual experimentation or liberation? Or just to entertain guys because the media tells them it would be cool, shocking and sexy?


the glorified gangster November 11, 2008

Filed under: violence in the media — katie @ 12:07 pm
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Al Capone, Bugsy Siegel, Bonnie & Clyde, Jules and Costello are all great American gangsters portrayed in movies. Gangster movies have been always been popular and will most likely remain a favorite genre for many years to come. Their worlds of violence, organized crime, and illegal activities are often glamorized in the media because they are so exciting to watch, but are people essentially supporting gangsters’ causes by supporting their stories so much?

An interesting aspect of the gangster life is that many mobsters and gangsters are portrayed as being very religious, and yet they kill and torture people without blinking. Good thing they pray a lot

Even music has developed a very gangster theme – especially in the rap industry. Every new rapper thrives to be the next biggest “G,” and their songs about the thug life often hit the Billboard Charts because people love hearing about the gangster life. Gangsta rap has been a legitimate genre of music since the 1980’s and remained popular since it’s arrival. Also, there are tons of new video games about the mafia and gangsters that are extremely popular with the youth today. Perhaps the appeal of gangsters is that their lifestyles give people their five minutes of feeling like a bad-ass.

Between movies and music about gangsters, there is so much that portrays them in an almost likeable, poignant way – which is kind of crazy when you think about it. The media portrays gangsters who are actually murderers, thieves, criminals, etc. as cool guys with awesome lives that are actually good at heart and just taking care of their families (in a nutshell…).


advertising alcohol November 6, 2008

Filed under: advertisements — katie @ 11:41 am
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What does the media tell us about alcohol? That it’s sexy and glamorous. That hot people drink it or drinking it makes one more attractive. That good things only come from drinking it. That there isn’t much responsibility that goes along with drinking it…etc.

I raise the question of whether it is ethically responsible to show alcohol ads on TV when people under 21 are obviously viewing them, and the ads are definitely having an influence on their attitudes about alcohol.

Many would argue that publishing racist, sexist or anti-Semitic ads would inflict harm on the public because of the hurt and influence they can have on people. Not publishing these ads is the ethical thing to do, but these ads with their potential harm are no different than many other ads that in circulation today. The alcohol and tobacco industries are incredibly lucrative businesses – definitely credited to the amount of advertising they do in print media and broadcast outlets, and I don’t anyone would argue that these products are not harmful.

Alcohol ads are constantly broadcast on television networks, and people under 21 are often exposed to behavior-influencing content through a countless number of ads. There have been many studies and content analyses examining whether exposure to alcohol ads increases young people’s tendencies to drink alcohol. In a study from 2004 titled Alcohol Advertising Exposure and Perceptions: Links with Alcohol Expectancies and Intentions to Drink or Drinking in Underaged Youth and Young Adults, researchers Kenneth Fleming, Esther Thorson, and Charles Atkin found the following results.

Alcohol advertising is influential in shaping young people’s attitudes and perceptions about alcohol advertising messages. The attitudes and perceptions predicted both positive expectancies and intentions to drink of those under the legal drinking age…Positive expectancies are powerful predictors of intentions to drink and consumption for both groups. The effects of alcohol advertising on intentions to drink of those aged 15 to 20 years are mediated by cognitive responses to advertising messages and positive expectancies. (Fleming, Thorson, Atkin)

Alcohol advertisements do not only influence young people to drink, but also have an effect on legal-drinking-aged people to want to drink (Fleming, Thorson, Atkin). Alcohol is abused in the United States far too much, and all the advertising supporting its consumption makes people drink, often without considering the dangerous side effects.

Drunk driving is still a prevalent issue, regardless of laws and the dangers, and alcohol-related deaths are high in numbers. With these facts in mind, should it be argued that all alcohol-related advertisements be pulled from the media? It is not plausible to prevent the publishing of alcohol advertisements, because although they debatably inflict harm on viewers, alcohol companies are protected by the First Amendment to advertise their product.

It should be kept in mind how much advertising can influence people’s behaviors and attitudes, and that sometimes they are nearly irresponsible.

Look how fun drinking is!

Look how fun drinking is!


How Halloween Has Hauntingly Changed October 30, 2008

Filed under: holidays and the media — katie @ 11:13 am
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In the spirit of Halloween, I started thinking about what the holiday originated from and how time and media have changed what it once was. When we think of Halloween, we think of trick-or-treating, candy, costumes, jack-o-laterns, ghosts, witches etc. Movies, TV, books and other forms of media have given us a much different idea of Halloween than the Old Irish Celtic festival it started as known as Samhain. According to Wikipedia, Samhain is a celebration of the end of the harvest season in Gaelic culture and the Gaelic people believed Oct. 31 was a night when the boundary between dead and alive vanished, and the dead haunted the living by causing sickness or damaging the crops they had stocked for the festival and winter. Costumes and masks were worn at the festival to mimic the evil spirits or pacify them.

So, obviously, we can gather where some of our current-day Halloween traditions have come from – like dressing up and celebrating on Oct. 31, but why are they so different and where did the new ones come from? More than likely, big corporations saw how popular Halloween was and began marketing it in a way that made the holiday accepted and loved by everyone. Today’s marketing creates more of a superficial scariness, because they want people to buy their products and buy into the Halloween silliness, instead of actually being scared that evil spirits are going to haunt them and destroy their winter crops.

I found a very applicable blog that enumerates exactly what it is I started thinking about in terms of Halloween and the media. Halloween as a Media Creation has several entries about many different aspects and themes of Halloween, and most of them have brief histories of the tradition and why it is different today.

I found some of them to be particularly interesting. One entry about “Halloween Candy” argues that the tradition of Halloween has been greatly influenced by media over the years and due to the high influence of the media, the handing out and consuming of candy on Halloween is practically the purpose of the holiday instead of the religious purpose it originally had. Because candy manufacturers change their marketing during Halloween season, people are influenced and buy more of it in the spirit of the holiday and change what Halloween used to be about.

Another funny blog I thought was intriguing is the one about “Slutty Costumes.” As a female college student, there is a lot of pressure to look sexy, and feel comfortable with looking “slutty” on Halloween – and it’s actually difficult to find a good costume that isn’t revealing or sexy. This blog talks about why women can only find “The Sexy Nurse,” “The Sexy Maid,” or “The Sexy Cop” and says that the media has influence on costumes because of the amount of sex in TV, movies, magazines, etc.

Don’t be scared away from Halloween this year, just be aware of what it once was and how we give into marketing, and that media influences us so easily that we transform religious holidays.


A New Little Nugget in the Blogging World October 28, 2008

Filed under: blogging — katie @ 9:16 am
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Have you ever heard of Well, it has the potential to ruin your life. Juicy Campus is a new blog, and a place for students at many colleges and universities to write anything they want about their school, anonymously. There are seriously degrading things written about people, that are often untrue, and sadly I actually personally know many people who have been “blogged” about on the site. Of course, people say they could care less and wouldn’t give Juicy Campus two seconds of their time, but once you go onto the Web site, it’s nearly impossible not to click on the thread titled, “Who Gives the Best Dome on Campus?” It’s terrible, but people are going to believe the defamatory things written, simply because it’s on the Internet. Most of the stuff on the site is about the “Greek life” on campus, but it is open for literally any subject, place, class or person to be discussed, and has gotten completely out-of-control.

This is upsetting to me because I feel that this site goes against everything blogging is intended for. It’s sad that a seemingly mature community, who is here to get a good education, would take the time to use this site to intentionally hurt others. We might as well go back to 7th grade.

The creators of Juicy Campus have thought this through, and cannot be sued for their host of information, because everything is 100 percent anonymous. You also have to agree to terms and conditions before entering, so it would be impossible to sue anyone who posted something unless someone knew who they were.

There have been recent news articles and many blogs written in response to Juicy Campus, and the upset it’s causing. CNN’s Web site’s article about Juicy Campus said, “It was founded by a Duke alum, a former frat house president who has gone to lengths to keep his identity secret.”

The article says, “Juicy Campus and similar Web sites are protected under the Communications Decency Act of 1996. The Act aims to shield Web publishers from liability for libelous comments posted by third parties. The section states ‘no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.'”

So, basically any coward who has something mean to say about someone they don’t like, is able to get out their steam in a completely public way and use the Communication Decency Act of 1996 to hide behind and make them feel like less of a scum bag.

Hopefully either this site will be shut down for taking gossip and rumors way too far, or people will soon realize the damage they are doing to others, and even to themselves. This is an extremely immature and unfortunate forum that intelligent people are taking advantage of and hurting others with.


those treacherous textbooks October 23, 2008

Filed under: books — katie @ 10:49 am
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In addition to the rising costs of college tuitions at public and private colleges, the cost of textbooks is now beginning to become a critical concern for students and a primary topic for financial studies.

According to a study done by the Department of Education, full-time students at four-year colleges, such as myself, spend an average of $893 per year on textbooks. One unfortunate but very interesting figure from the study is that since 1986, textbook prices have risen almost 186 percent, or 6 percent a year. This is not good news to a student who has to buy her own books each semester.

“We thought the $100 book was going to be the ceiling,” said Madeline Spata, Educational Resource Division Manager for the University of Connecticut’s Co-Op bookstore, where she has worked for 32 years. Spata noticed an increase in the range of 10 percent this year for certain publishers at the UConn bookstore. Now, the most expensive book-package the Co-Op has in stock is a $360 music book that is required for a class. “There has to be an end to this somewhere in sight,” she said about the steady increases in textbook prices. There isn’t a precise figure Spata could give as an average amount UConn students spend on textbooks per semester, but she said the Co-Op usually tells parents the cost will be between $500 – $700.

UConn Co-Op

UConn Co-Op

For students whose parents are paying hefty tuitions as well as room and board, a few books may not seem like a big deal. However for students who are paying their own way through college or for parents who fear every price increase – an extra $700 a semester can classify as one more thing putting college educations out of reach.

Buy-back” is a system that encourages students to purchase their books from the Co-Op, however many students don’t get a noteworthy amount back at the end of the semester.

Many students look to online sources to find books at lower costs. Web sites such as and The Marketplace on Facebook sell many used and new books where there is a wide range of prices, but “there are things we carry [in the Co-Op] that students cannot get online,” said Spata. Books online are not always cheaper, but there is a good selection. The problem with online book shopping is the hassle of finding the right books, and the 2+-week wait-time it takes for students to receive their orders. The convenience factor of bookstores often snags customers regardless of prices.

The high cost of textbooks is now having a direct impact on student’s education. The high cost has now forced many students, including myself, to make the choice to not purchase some textbooks, if they think they can get by without it.  It has been my observation that many students don’t purchase most intro level or “gen. ed.” books because they are so much money, and often aren’t worth the expense.

While some professors are sticklers on what materials are necessary for their courses, many others are sympathetic to the high costs of books and have adjusted their requirements. One of my professors, Professor Kirstie Farrar of the communications department compiled a “reader” for her COMM4035 course, which is a stack of unbound paper containing all of the readings needed for class. “I know what a pain it is to spend nearly $100 on a textbook, especially when you don’t end up needing most of the material,” she said. “So I chose to put together a specific package of material that I knew would be useful for the class.” Farrar’s “reader” is sold in the Co-Op for $60 – still a ridiculous price for a chunk of papers.

Bookstores, including the UConn Co-Op, are currently looking into the possibility of renting textbooks, according to Spata. The issue with this idea is that faculty members would have to commit to a book for a certain length of time and students would have to return it at the end of the semester for no money back, she said.

The prices of textbooks are a major concern for students worldwide, whether they are purchasing them at their convenient school bookstores, or searching the slew of online Web sites that are cropping up to combat the high book prices.