Whitewashing Hollywood

Hollywood film is a vehicle in which sociocultural context can be examined by the roles, or lack of roles, offered to actors of diverse backgrounds, effectively commenting on the social mores of the day. The representation and roles of cultural groups, such as the ‘blacks’ (including the Negro, Hispanic, Middle Eastern and darker citizenry) within Hollywood film, speaks volumes about how ‘white’ America views the contributions and role of others within society. As the “white self is still endowed in today’s world with much of the privilege achieved during the colonial era, the way in which white people are presented [and their interactions with other races] in the media is important for everyone, not just for whites” (Vera & Gordon 2003, p. 2). Influence of casting directors, writers who create hegemonic characters, film studios and agencies, critics, audiences and Hollywood award academies, can be held accountable for oppressed culturally diverse voices and experiences within film. Pigeon-holing of coloured actors into certain formulaic character roles that are deemed suitable for only black actors proves that there is limited opportunity for diversity and black representation within the white hegemonic film industry, that is Hollywood.

America’s greatest cultural export and widely recognised cultural commodity is the film industry. “Hollywood can be read as an ethnographer, reinforcing the hegemony of whiteness onscreen by producing experiences of the black racial types it creates” (Negra 2013, p. 1).  Hollywood has framed the ‘black’ protagonist into certain moulds, such as the ‘magical black’, the thug figure, the athlete with super-human strength, the charismatic sidekick, the ‘help’ or the token coloured detective. “Onscreen and off, the history of the Western culture has typically denied blacks… of historical reference, except as former slaves or savages” (Snead 1994, p. 3). Pigeon-holing actors into roles exploring the history of slavery and colonialism has proven to be an enslavement of black artists in a post-cultural context. Too often the black actor will play the antagonist, challenging the hegemonic community, protected by the white man.  Mixed-race protagonists are typically tragic figures, self-loathing beauties, who rarely find solace or love in the black community in which they are a part of. Said actors are rarely the subject of romantic film, nor do they play roles representative of intellect, power or influence.

“Black skin on-screen became a complex code for various things, depending on the social self-conception and positioning of the viewed; it could as easily connote white superiority and self-regard as black inferiority” (Snead 1994, p. 2). Whilst these roles provide an avenue for a more diverse representation of people in Hollywood film, the pigeon-holing of coloured actors is detrimental to the plight of black artists in Hollywood, seeking work and representation in universal film. Herman Vera (2003, p. 8) concedes “many white male moviemakers are relatively liberal in their personal politics; yet when it comes to racial matters…they still offer up a mostly sanitized and whitewashed view of the racial and other social history of the United States.” This whitewashing in Hollywood has of recent been criticised, with roles created for black actors played by actors of white heritage, creating an inauthentic representation of the protagonists’ experience. Inauthentic castings include Emma Stone in “Aloha” as a partially Chinese character, Jake Gyllenhaal as “The Prince of Persia”, both of which are examples of the black voice and experience being pacified by the white actor.

Whitewashing has been further proliferated in film with the re-emergence of nineteenth century blackface practices. A form of theatrical makeup, where non-coloured people are painted black to feign a stereotype such as the “happy-go-lucky darky on the plantation” and representing the black citizenry as jovial and unaware of the second-class slave treatment they received. The inextricable relationship between whitewashing of casted actors and blackface can be evidenced in the culturally appropriated role of Angelina Jolie as Mariane Pearl in ‘A Mighty Heart’, outraging black campaign organisations.

As an internationally acclaimed white woman who campaigns for various social justice causes, Angelina Jolie engaged in mild blackface by being lathered in body paint to match the mixed-race skin tone necessary for the protagonist. Whilst Mariane Pearl expressed an indifference to this process, questions have been raised about the appropriateness of casting and whether an opportunity was taken from a budding young coloured actress, who has limited options in the Hollywood film industry. Further, actors of mixed descent are rejected for the binary roles of white or black, as they fit into neither category. As a Dominican with Puerto Rican heritage, Zoe Saldana was criticised forquote-i-ve-witnessed-racism-all-my-life-and-of-course-there-s-racism-and-discrimination-in-zoe-saldana-143-92-60 playing famous performer within the civil rights era, Nina Simone. Saldana was directed to darken her complexion with makeup and wear a prosthetic nose to liken her appearance to the iconic figure. Many groups opposed the film, arguing that this performance was a subtle reincarnation of blackface, whereas others praised casting directors for offering a woman of colour a role that a white starlet, stripping women of African descent of limited roles available.

Founder of Black Entertainment Television, Robert L Johnson who played a role in casting Saldana, compared the blackface campaign to the offensive and belittling practices of the “brown paper bag test”, which saw the use of a paper bag as a colour comparison to the negro community. Outcome of said tests would determine how what social class and institutions the individual would be able to access. “To say that I’m gonna cast a movie, I’ve gotta hold a brown paper bag up to the actresses and say, ‘Oh sorry, you can’t play her.’ Who’s to decide when you’re black enough?” Johnson said (Child 2016, p. 1). Actress Eva Longoria criticised that she was unable to extend her acting repertoire past the over-sexualised Hispanic woman. Increasingly she was denied Hispanic roles as she was said to not be Hispanic looking and acting enough. “Some white male casting director was dictating what it meant to be Latin. He decided I needed an accent. He decided I should have darker-colored skin… so they don’t understand you should be looking for way more colors of the rainbow within that one ethnicity” (Stump 2016, p. 1). Both Zoe Saldana and Eva Longoria alike are representative of a trend denying artists access to roles that they are culturally akin to, uncovering the entrenched biases black actors encounter working in the whitewashed Hollywood film industry. Thus, the Hollywood film industry communicates a limited role for African-Americans or those who are not white, reflecting the social mores and status within the United States.

Few black actors have been able to transcend the influence and oppressive nature of their race and colour, when seeking roles. Leading actors such as Morgan Freeman, Denzel Washington, Will Smith, Shemar Moore, Eddy Murphy, Samuel L. Jackson and Forest Whitaker are examples of this minority, who are considered actors and not merely “black actors”. Gaining this status in Hollywood is considerably more difficult for leading women. In the case that coloured women are offered a leading role, it is too often attributed to their sexual prowess such as the case of Halle Berry or Vanessa Williams. Upcoming English star Idres Elba this year stars in four notable films as a lead protagonist, yet his face and physical attributes will not be visible in any of them. In Zootopia, The Jungle Book and Finding Dory Elba plays a voiceover role, whereas in Star Trek he is painted a different colour and is unrecognisable with facial prosthetics (Buchanan). It has become the norm and easiest way for coloured actors to star in blockbuster films, where their skin tone or physical attributes are unrecognisable. This concerning trend can be compared to white actors and how rarely notable actors are painted another colour or altered physically until they are unrecognisable. Consequently, Elba recently addressed English Parliament about Diversity in the media, recounting “when a script called or a black man, it wasn’t describing a character. It was describing a skin colour. A white man or a Caucasian – was described as a man with a twinkle in his eye.” Calling for a vaster representation shed light on the unconscious biases through the empirical experiences of a man who left Britain for Hollywood, not because he was after greater roles and recognition, but because there were no more roles he could play. Thus, the impact coloured actors can make in the media industry, irrespective of their heritage is limited significantly merely by the physical attribute of skin pigment.

There is a shared responsibility within the Hollywood film industry in keeping film directors accountable for the decisions that they make and how they frame the experiences of the oppressed. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (OSCAR) Awards is one the most acclaimed and prestigious awards, dedicated to discussing and acknowledging the contributions of American film to the international community. Over the past eighty-eight years of the Oscars have lacked diversity by those nominated and the honorary members of the Oscar Hall of Fame. For the second year in a row there has been minimal recognition of the creative work and stories of racial minorities in film. Whilst multiple films were released within the past two years following the lives, history and experiences of black people, no black actors or work of black directors and visionaries were nominated for a major Oscar Award. Over the past five years, merely nine non-white actors have been nominated for Academy Awards, with six percent of nominees being non-white actors within the history of the Academy operating (Gray 2016, p. 1). Whilst few actors have been recognised for their work, many fear that these nominations are tokenistic in nature and only occur when the nominee’s performance is so memorable that the Academy has no other option but to nominate, otherwise a major public outcry and investigation could uncover the inherent racism taking place in the body. Further, it was uncovered in 2012, that “honorary members of the Oscar Hall of Fame… that “of the around 6,000 members, 94 per cent were white and 76 per cent were male, the paper found” (Alexander 2016, p. 1). Hegemony within the most prestigious and highly recognised Hollywood award is reflected within which actors, directors and film themes are explored and awarded.

Furthermore, earlier this year, #OscarsSoWhite trended worldwide in response to the omission of black and mixed race nominees in the top four categories of awards, irrespective of the countless films released last year about the history of blacks. The controversy shed light on the institutionalised and entrenched racism and the lack of acclaim given to an actor of a vast backgrounds. In protest, many white and non-white actors vowed to not attend the Awards in the future, until a further investigation and steps were to be adopted to encourage diverse representation. The Academy counteracted the internet sensation by claiming that by Chris Rock hosting the event, this displayed a dedication to appreciating black artists. Jada Pinkett Smith refused to attend any further Oscar Ceremonies, proclaiming “people of colour are always welcomed to give out awards…even entertain, but we are rarely acknowledged for our artistic accomplishments” (Latif 2016, p. 1). Director of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Awards Ms Cheryl Boone Isaccs, herself an African-American woman, committed to “increasing the diversity of voices, opinions and experiences” of those who are nominated and awarded (Alexander 2016, p. 1). The Academy further invited a record number of diverse artists to join in June of this year, to counteract the negative feedback within the twitter-sphere and beyond. Whilst the new 322 annual members shows a willingness to allow access to diverse groups, Academy members are still overwhelmingly white, aged males. It is evident that bias towards whites within Hollywood that historically deflected from the plight of diverse groups, has come under scrutiny, in the hope of allowing diverse groups more artistic freedoms.

Hollywood markets itself as an elite cross-section of society, a group of uniquely diverse and talented individuals representing all in film and other art forms. By alienating and oppressing large sections of the American society, the heteronormative, white, “All-American” figure is being represented to the rest of the world as what it means to be an everyday member of the Western world.  It is essential that there is a variation of individuals and actors within Hollywood film, to safeguard the voices of the non-white experience in America and to offer talented actors, playwriters and directors equal opportunity and a chance to achieve the American dream.

Reference List:

  1. Alexander, H 2016, ‘Oscars discrimination ‘unforgivable’ says Selma star David Oyelowo’, co.uk, viewed 25/5/2016, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/oscars/12108560/Oscars-discrimination-unforgivable-says-Selma-star-David-Oyelowo.html.
  2. Buchanan, K 2016, ‘Why Won’t Hollywood Let Us See Our Black Actors?’, Vulture: Developing Culture.
  3. Child, B 2016, ‘’Blackface’ Criticism Of Nina Simone Biopic Branded Relic Of Slavery’, the Guardian.
  4. Diawara, M 1993, ‘Black spectatorship: Problems of identification and resistance’, Black American Cinema, vol. 4, no. 1, pp. 211-220.
  5. Doane, AW & Bonilla-Silva, E 2003, ‘White out: The continuing significance of racism’, Psychology Press.
  6. Dovidio, JF & Gaertner, SL 2000, ‘Aversive racism and selection decisions: 1989 and 1999’, Psychological science, vol. 11, no. 4, pp.315-319.
  7. Gabbard, K 2004, ‘Black Magic: White Hollywood and African American Culture’, Rutgers University Press.
  8. Gray, T 2016, ‘Academy Nominates All White Actors For Second Year In Row’, Variety.
  9. Hardwick, LH 1946, ‘Negro Stereotypes on the Screen’, Hollywood Quarterly, vol. 1, no. 2, pp.234-236.
  10. Jaafar, A 2016, ‘Idres Elba Posts Full Text Of Powerful Diversity Speech Online’, Deadline Hollywood.
  11. Latif, N 2016, ‘How To Fix Hollywood’s Race Problem’, The Guardian.
  12. Manohla, W 2016, ‘Oscars So White? Or Oscars So Dumb?’ viewed 25/5/2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/24/movies/oscars-so-white-or-oscars-so-dumb-discuss.html?_r=0.
  13. Snead, JA & MacCabe, C 1994, ‘White screens, black images: Hollywood from the dark side’, Psychology Press.
  14. Stoddard, JD & Marcus, AS 2006, ‘The burden of historical representation: Race, freedom, and educational Hollywood film’, Film & History: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Film and Television Studies, vol. 36, no. 1, pp.26-35.
  15. Times, L 2016, ‘Oscar nominees discuss diversity in Hollywood amid the #OscarsSoWhite backlash’, viewed 24/5/2016, http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/la-et-oscars-so-white-reaction-htmlstory.html.
  16. com 2016, Filmmakers talk discrimination, viewed 23/5/2016, http://www.today.com/popculture/27-actors-filmmakers-talk-discrimination-hollywood-powerful-ny-times-feature-t75766.
  17. Vera, H & Gordon, AM 2003, ‘Screen saviors: Hollywood fictions of whiteness’, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Feminism: A Dirty Word?

The earliest memory I have witnessing a female wilfully dissociating herself from the feminist school of though was on ‘shop floor’.

My colleagues with no apparent political or social-justice interest, mulled over the significance and impact of feminism in the modern Western world. To my surprise, my beloved friend and professional mentor proclaimed ‘feminists are nothing but butch lesbians with hairy armpits, with an aversion to men. I honestly don’t get the feminist movement. It’s void, we have it all.’ 

As a self-proclaimed feminist, I bit my tongue to stop the barrage of rebuttals to that statement. Whilst I do understand and appreciate the ever-present stigma and the stereotype attached to the label ‘feminist’, I ponder why a working middle-class woman rejects the feminist movement and the plight for modern equality. I am somewhat glad that my colleague is in an agreeable life position and believes she has not encountered disadvantage or the glass ceiling, however I am concerned that without the support of women in amiable positions, the feminist movement will wither for those encountering disadvantage.

In honor of the one year anniversary of Julia Gillard’s misogyny speech, I give thee my suppressed arguments from ‘shop floor outlining why we indeed need feminism for all women, irrespective of class or wealth in the modern Western world.

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  1. The Gender Pay Gap:

Despite major advances for women in both educational attainment and workforce participation, the gender pay gap remains a permanent fixture of the Australian labour market, with the full-time gender pay gap remaining at or around 20% for more than two decades. The full-time gender pay gap currently stands at around 18%, with women earning on average only 82% of a man’s pay (ABS 2015). This means that a woman would have to work an additional 65 days each year to earn the same as a man (WGEA 2015).  Gender Equity Insights 2016 – Inside Australia’s Gender Pay Gap

As a young woman who has slaved away at a Law degree for many years, I find it indefensible that I will be starting on a menial salary, that is significantly lower than my male counterparts.

Who is to say the work of men is inherently more valuable than the work of women?

2. Women in Parliament:

Whilst having an interest in Australian Politics and matters of Public Office is a niche area of curiosity, examining the composition of Australia’s 45th Parliament is important to ensure an accurate representation of our society. Women and girls make up 50.2% of the nations overall population, yet the highest Public Office of our nation does not nearly reflect these proportions. The lack of a diverse non-legal discursive background in our Parliament results in the views of white, middle-class, privately educated, Christian men being the values we adopt in our nations laws and governance. Although many believe women are underrepresented in governance due to an unwillingness to stand for pre-selections, perhaps it is useful to engage women and discuss what difficulties and barriers women face that detract from political ambitions.

Perhaps there is also a systematic issue, where women in Public Office are perceived as either professionals or mothers and nothing inbetween. Occurances such as Kristina Keneally being instructed to “cut your hair more like a mother” or criticism of Julia Gillard’s outfits, deter women who have political ambition from following their desires.

Last time I checked, a woman does not enter politics to be criticised as if on a Milan runway.

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We need women to advocate on behalf of other women.

We need women to be role models to other women.

We need women in public office so young girls can grow up knowing their professional ambition should not be pigeonholed into stereotypical ‘feminine’ professions

3. The Objectification of Women in Media:

Women are portrayed as one-dimensional, having nothing of importance or value to offer to the public discourse but sex and beauty. The female body and allusion to sexual gratification has been used to sell fast-foods, fragrances, clothes, cleaning products, white-goods and more.

‘The fact that it is being rationalized that a company is basically selling a burger as sex is why we need feminism. Women are not objects. They are not solely for the use of sex and ogling their bodies’ The F Word: Do We Still Need Feminism in 2016?.

I recognise that there is a vast difference between a woman owning her sexuality, in which case we should not engage in ‘slut shaming’, and a women being placed in a position where she is inanimate.

I speak on my behalf when I say,  I don’t look or identify with women who are used in beauty campaigns or women sprawled as sexual objects in marketing campaigns.

So where am I represented in mainstream media and marketing?

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4. Donald Trump:

A man who values women purely on their aesthetics, justifying his comments pertaining to sexually assaulting women as ‘locker room talk’, refering to his female counterpart in the Presidential Election as ‘she’ and ‘her’, instead of rightfully referring to the co-candidate as Hillary Clinton and a man who confesses to Howard Stern that he would sleep with his trumptweet-large_transwte8urzjveortt55st7h5h0sgpseybbkqgtsmqdos-mdaughter if they were not biologically related.

If that was not enough, Trump has a history of unleashing a tyrade of criticism towards women who question him or stand up to him. Trump’s tirade against Rosie O’Donnell illustrates his temprament and sentiment towards women:

Rosie O’Donnell is disgusting — both inside and out. If you take a look at her, she’s a slob. How does she even get on television? If I were running The View, I’d fire Rosie. I’d look her right in that fat, ugly face of hers and say, “Rosie, you’re fired.” We’re all a little chubby but Rosie’s just worse than most of us. But it’s not the chubbiness — Rosie is a very unattractive person, both inside and out.

What is of greater concern, is that a vast portion of the American people share the same sentiment and are willing to support this out of control ‘potential president’ into office.

Let that sink in…

If not for any other reason, Donald Trump is enough of a justification for the need for feminism in the modern Western world!

5. Violence Against Women:

Violence, both sexual and non sexual in nature against women is a harrowing epidemic that is on the rise. Between 2008-10, 89 women were murdered by their current or former partners in an act of domestic violence, equating to over one woman murdered per week. Whilst there is no denying that domestic violence is not a threat exclusively to women (with one in three victims being male), the overwhelming majority of domestic violence and sexual assault is perpetrated by men towards women. A repugnant issue that is not going granted appropriate attention and funding by governments within the Western World.

FTFGender-large.jpg Image via: Australian Human Rights Commission: Face the Facts: Gender Equality

There is no denying that feminism continues to play an integral role in our modern society.

At the end of the day, a feminist is someone who believes that irrespective of gender, everyone should be treated and valued as equals in all facets of life. Although the male and female body perform different functions, a woman should not be defined by her procreative functions and her value should not be purely biological. Feminism by nature believes everyone should have liberties and equal civil right, without discrimination.

So no, feminists are not rightseous, hairladened women who scorn men and their institutions.

Feminists are everyday people, men, women and those identifying as intersex, who believe we ALL deserve to be placed on an even field and be valued as individuals, above all else.

To deny feminism is to deny that there are still fundamental differences between men and women. The plight of women oppressed by the ‘glass ceiling’ in their professional capacities, or those that are valued merely for their appearance and nothing else, need us to stand by them and support the fraternity that is feminism.

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Mediated Suffering & Poverty Porn: Auschwitz and Birkenau Memorial

 Travelling in the 21st century is equally about self-enlightenment, than it is about taking the right holiday snap, at the right angle, with the right lighting and panoramic20140701_062140.jpg20140720_120156.jpg background, to convey a message of being #blessed and #cultured.

In 2014, I ventured across the globe to explore my mother’s homeland (Poland) and the neighbouring regions. By default, I fell into the habit of methodically framing images to share with my network and the rest of the world. One moral minefield that I encountered, was determining where taking pictures was and was not appropriate.

 

As a fresh out of high-school history extension student, visiting the Auschwitz and Birkenau site was an upmost priority. I so desperately wanted to vicariously share with my classmates what I saw and shed light on the content we learnt about. Documenting said experience ended up being one of the most complicated and morally ambiguous events of the trip. I did not use my camera throughout the tour, minus an image of my admit one museum ticket, merely as proof of my attendance (pictured to the right) . Other patrons were not as accommodative and respectful to the Auschwitz and Birkenau Memorial and Museum.

I struggled to reconcile the torture, suffering and desolate extermination of people on this very site, with the smiles and glamour that a selfie offered. In-front of the infamous gates, people flashed ear-to-ear smiles, capturing this moment forever. Inside the gas chamber where men, women and children met their cruel and untimely death, tourists posed next to walls lined with scratches from victims fingernails, a final sign a desperation.

I was annoyed. No, I was furious. Livid.

Yet, I said nothing.

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Auschwitz selfie teen‘, Brianna Mitchell’s headlining image (pictured below) and my personal experiences, have since led me to question: Where is the morality and what ethics are used to justify taking joyfulimrs.php.jpegand self-promotional images at sacred sites?

Opening the Auschwitz and Birkenau sites up to the public, you run the risk of turning a significant historical artefact, into a hollow tourist attraction advertised in pamphlets and marketed as a ‘must see‘. This can cause people to view the camp as a tourist trap, such as the Eiffle Tower, Trevi Fountain, Berlin Wall, etc. Turning a Nazi Extermination Camp into a benign tourist trap would defeat the purpose of opening the site up. The death camp’s walls stand as a testament to the Nazi regime and as a reminder to not let such systematic atrocities occur again. Museums and Memorials all over the world are cautionary tales, reminding the people of today of the failures and political misadventures of their predecessors.

Alabama teen Brianna Mitchell’s image circulated various social media platforms, exposing her to a barrage of hate. Mitchell has since refused to apologise for her grinning photo, justifying that her image was taken in memory of her late father who shared her love of history and learning about World War II. “Like apparently is such a big deal that I smiled. Good Lord,” she said.

Perhaps it is inevitable that there will be people around the world who will engage in such unethical conduct. People who like Mitchell, believe that their circumstance or opinion over-rides the experiences of those in the camps. People who’s ideologies align with the regime of the day and sternly posing next to the gates of the death camp. Direct descendants of the camp’s victims or those who narrowly escaped, triumphantly framing images of a site that so drastically affected their lives or the lives of their loved ones. At the end of the day, it comes down to a balancing act. Balancing the unethical ‘poverty porn’ of patrons, who merely come to take photos and view the cautionary tales hollowly, and those who feel the messages and tragedy of the camp.

I am grateful that these sites, and others alike it are open to the public and stand as constant reminders of the atrocities and systematic genocide that occurred. I advise all article-2702161-1FE3C2C700000578-630_634x631travelling to Eastern Europe to take some time out of their trip to learn first-hand and experience the desolation of these camps. Perhaps this is the ultimate compromise; to allow the enlightenment of the citizenry, we have to tolerate these people who choose to distastefully pose before a mass murder sites, and their images. Hopefully, with time, social media etiquette in such significant places will become clearer and people will think twice before grinning before an extermination camp that saw the death of approximately 1.1 million innocent people.

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The Great Defamation Debate: Hockey v Fairfax Media

Defamation like any other law requires a balance of rights, being the public right to freedom of speech and the private right to protect one’s reputation. Judgements such as Hockey v Fairfax Media have highlighted the contentious legal principle and reignited debates as to whether said laws are a tool of oppression or a private protection. In response, undeniably defamation laws in their current state fall short. Irrespective, it is within the best interest of the public to refrain from repealing defamation legislation and alternatively reviewing and engaging in law reform. Any society that values justice needs to allow protection for individuals and business from malicious intent causing severe damage. Balancing of rights is achievable through defamation reform.article-2633607-1e078c1900000578-109_634x825

The democratic ideal of The Rule of Law dictates that citizens are to have equal accessibility to the law. However, defamation has proven a law for the elite, utilised by corporations and the affluent to pacify the individual and/or the media from publically scrutinising or condemning. Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey’s awarding against Fairfax Media exemplifies this notion of elitism. Newspaper headlines titled ‘Treasurer For Sale’ and two tweets were determined “malicious” and demeaning of Hockey’s reputation to the “ordinary, reasonable reader”. Considering the nature of Public Office, the enactment of the “public figure” defence is appropriate. The proposed defence would work harmoniously with the current defences of justification, privilege and fair comment. This would ensure accountability for those in prominent positions through higher thresholds of proof, de-incentivising politically motivated trials.

Costliness, intimidation and extensive time delays have cause the layperson to fear accusations of defamation. This culture of fear has allowed corporations to threaten individuals into refraining from discussion. Introducing a preliminary avenue before admission to the court such as Alternative Dispute Resolution Mechanisms minimises current reservations. Alternative resolution is more effective at balancing the interests of both parties, whilst removing the intimidation of presenting arguments before a court and in opposition to learned legal professionals. This would ensure cost effectiveness, minimise time constraints given resolution occurs within the preliminary stages and facilitates a law a layperson feels more inclined to engage with.

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Public trust in the judiciary is vital in ensuring a functional Separation of Powers and good governance. The function of the court is to hear evidence and weigh the individual’s rights, societal values and policies. The court considers, penalises or dismisses on a cases by case basis. Considering this, the fear that the court will order a large compensation payout is unfounded. Judges are trained to use discretion with subjective facts, such as the motivations of parties, power imbalances, determining malicious intent and subsequently make proportional judgements. Eliminating or minimising monetary payouts as the main source of compensation with a replacement order of apology, would de-incentivise the affluent oppressing the layperson. Apologies could occur in the same fashion as original defamatory comments, upon the same medium, to the same audience or to an equal or greater extent of prominence. This reform has the potential to remove negative public perceptions and fears.

Freedom of Speech is an inextricable value of a functional democracy, as is granting rights and protections. Defamation safeguards individuals and businesses that suffer great loss at no fault of their own. Reflection and reform can ensure a balance of the freedom of expression Australian’s hold dear, without severely demeaning the reputation of others.

Bibliography

  1. Defamation — Judicial Commission of New South Wales. 2015. Defamation — Judicial Commission of New South Wales. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.judcom.nsw.gov.au/publications/benchbks/civil/defamation.html. [Accessed 09 August 2015].
  1. Defamation law and free speech. 2015. Defamation law and free speech. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.uow.edu.au/~bmartin/dissent/documents/defamation.html. [Accessed 09 August 2015].
  1. Defamation Law, Defamation Lawyers | Slater and Gordon. 2015. Defamation Law, Defamation Lawyers | Slater and Gordon. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.slatergordon.com.au/dispute-resolution/defamation-law. [Accessed 07 August 2015].
  1. Deformation Facts, information, pictures | Encyclopedia.com articles about Deformation. 2015. Deformation Facts, information, pictures | Encyclopedia.com articles about Deformation. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Deformation.aspx. [Accessed 08 August 2015].
  1. Joe Hockey has no regrets over defamation suit against Fairfax Media; Treasurer to recover only small fraction of legal costs – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). 2015. Joe Hockey has no regrets over defamation suit against Fairfax Media; Treasurer to recover only small fraction of legal costs – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-07-22/joe-hockey-court-defamation-costs/6639246. [Accessed 10 August 2015].
  1. Joe Hockey v Fairfax case highlights costs and risks of defamation litigation. 2015. Joe Hockey v Fairfax case highlights costs and risks of defamation litigation. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/joe-hockey-v-fairfax-case-highlights-costs-and-risks-of-defamation-litigation-20150722-gii69k.html. [Accessed 04 August 2015].
  1. Joe Hockey’s defamation case just cost him $500,000 | Business Insider. 2015. Joe Hockey’s defamation case just cost him $500,000 | Business Insider. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.businessinsider.com.au/joe-hockeys-fairfax-defamation-case-just-cost-him-about-500000-2015-7. [Accessed 04 August 2015].
  2. The argument for anti-defamation laws | Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz. [ONLINE] Available at: https://danielmeyerowitzkatz.wordpress.com/2014/03/01/the-argument-for-anti-defamation-laws/. [Accessed 07 August 2015].

National Film Appropriation or Appreciation: Hatufim v Homeland ?

National film is a sacred art, slowly suffocating to the harsh grip of the dominant cultural imperialism of western film industries. Although some nations are developing a stronger and more independent film industry, such as India, other nation states that are less influential are becoming crippled by the Americanisation of film. Domestic film is a valuable asset due to distinct representation of culture, ideology, geopolitical relations and addressing of societal concerns within a respective area. The narrative must retain local tropes and importance in order to relate and engage audiences, to ensure success. However, Western adaptation and manipulation of national film, begs the question;

Does Hollywood Appropriate or Appreciate Nationally Iconic Film?

 Cultural exchange and appropriation are inextricably linked and at times difficult to differentiate. Cultural appropriation is defined broadly as ‘the use of a culture’s symbols, artefacts, genres, rituals, or technologies by members of another culture. It is involved in the assimilation and exploitation of marginalised and colonised cultures’ (Rogers (2006)). This contention can be identified within the Americansation of the Israeli film series Hatufim (Prisoners of War) and Homeland.

Awarded the Israeli Academy Award for Television for Best Drama Series in 2010, Gideon Raff wrote, directed and produced Prisoners of War after realising the lack of discourse regarding the mental health and reintegration of prisoners of war post 3322886423detainment. The series presents the return and readjustment of two prisoners of war, held captive for twice as long as the Homeland protagonist (seventeen years in comparison to eight) after deployment in Lebanon. The series’ cultural significance isHatufim-Prisoners-Of-War-image-hatufim-prisoners-of-war-36468662-660-290 evident through its reception as the highest rated tv drama within the national history and the subsequent international distribution of the subtitled version. Considering the restricted budget in creating series, the craft of the film lays with the authenticity of10REVTVPrisonersOfWar1 cultural themes and tropes. This budgetary issue has allows the series to delve into the personal experiences of the returned men, whereas Homeland emotionally distances itself by taking a more “action based” approach. An example of this is the Unknownrepresentation of the children of the prisoners conscription experiences post high school, which is a distinct occurrence within Israel (Israeli Post Highschool Conscription – Students Prefer Jail).

Homeland on the other hand, is a clear representation of Appardurai’s ideas that  ‘most often the homogenization argument subspeciates into either an argument about Americanization or an argument about commoditization, and often the two arguments are very closely linked.’ Homeland has effectively adopted the same story line and Americanised the war, showing the Iraqi conflict, whilst stylistically modifying the series into an action film preferred by western audiences. Gideon Raff co-directed and produced Homeland, which begs the question; how could one director appropriate a central story line, without destroying the validity of both wars and the cultural experiences of audiences respectively (Differences between Hatufim and Homeland).  Homeland equally received acclaim, with IGN TV stating that it was an “ace thriller” that also managed to have something to say about the “War on Terror”.

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Considering the national importance and the distinct cultural identity displayed within both films, one can see both elements of appropriation and appreciation Hatufim and Homeland. The fine line between the two can be interpreted as either a blatant disregard for one another’s cultural experiences of war, or alternatively the films as two separate entities.  Irrespective of your judgements, the importance of  locally developed authentic film representing the lifestyle, geopolitical relations and values of audiences, is imperative to ensure the film is a successful vehicle addressing pertinent issues in society.

Does Internationalising Education Promote Cultural Competency?

‘International education is Australia’s third biggest export earner, second only to the sale of natural resources of iron ore, coal and natural gas. It is worth $16 billion per year to the country’ (Sydney Morning Herald – The Threats of Exploiting Foreign Student). Students are sold the image of Australia as a secure nation, where multiculturalism and cultural competency are central. However, the trend of commodifying and valuing international students on the basis of how deep their pockets are proposes the question; within a global age and workforce, has the internationalisation of education within Australia succeeded in promoting cultural competency?

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Cultural competency is a multifaceted concept, requiring cultural negotiation, the understanding of divergent points of view, coping with ambiguity and uncertainty and being conscious of identity history (Marginson (2012)). Without purchasing a ticket, one is able to engage in worldly experiences by seeking an international insight, perspectives and experiences.This  can inform and expand the understanding of individuals and society. To our detriment, ‘Australians are often too parochial, trapped within an Australian-centred view of a diverse and complex world’ (Marginson (2012)). Effectively, the cultural contributions of global students have been overlooked through social and systematic isolation.

This ethnocentrism and disparity can be attributed to the “them”, “us” rhetoric employed  within the media, educational institutions and by governments when discussing international students.

Marginson concludes ‘most international students want closer interactions with local students, and are prepared to take risks to achieve this…most local students are not interested.’  Personally, I value myself as being a culturally astute, friendly and inquisitive student. However, within my two years at the University of Wollongong, where over one-third of those enrolled are international students (UOW Facts and Figures 2015), I have had zero interactions with international students. Perhaps the nature of a law degree is not accommodating to said groups. Irrespective, I question;

how many other domestic students show indifference to engaging with others to promote cultural competency?

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Genuine peer interactions are imperative when adjusting to being part of a culture where individuals are the social minority and may encounter difficulties associated with being different (Burke (1994)). Becoming accustomed to a foreign environment, different teaching models, grasping language, developing connections whilst being self sufficient, are all examples of cultural adjustment or ‘culture shock’ which creates emotional stress and anxiety for international students (Forbes-Mewett and Nyland (2008)). Perhaps knowingly signing up for a temporal friendship is not appealing to local students. Global students may  equally encounter language barriers, lack confidence, face financial difficulties or be apprehensive about intercultural engagement. As international education is a fairly recent phenomenon, future generations may realise that the current disengagement is a lost opportunity and become more liberal with cross cultural engagement.

Stereotyping and media hype regarding high student numbers can be attributed to this isolation. Although global students fund a large portion of institutions and are not entitled to domestic benefits such as “student” travel concessions, many perceive students (particularly those of Asian heritage) as wealthy, exploiting the housing, education and job market of Australia. These biases were furthered by reports of international students cheating by buying assessments and notes, before wilfully blind universities (‘Degrees of Deception’).11942250_10204486985882593_1254561792_n

It is imperative that domestic students recognise that only a minority of international students are engaging in cheating and plagiarism practices. Public discourse must begin to address exploitations and vulnerabilities of these students within the workforce, housing market, social sphere and ensure appropriate protections are in place for the mental health and wellbeing of students.

11913039_10204486986242602_1099422509_nThrough mutual respect, engagement and negotiation, Australia can continue using the internationalisation as a primary export, whilst simultaneously ensuring cultural competency.

(Images presented are photographs of current international student/international experience advertisements within building 19 of the University  of Wollongong)

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Globalisation, Media Flows and the Illusion of Beauty

Much alike international political, technological and economical interdependence, the process of globalisation has equally contributed to and shaped cultural ideals of what is considered beautiful. Traditionally, international standards of beauty were considered heterogeneous, differing in relation to where in the world an individual lived.  Historical development, cultural paradigms and interactions with religion shaped the independent nation’s standards. However, due to the intensity and speed at which changes in worldwide relations have occurred, globalisation has caused a homogeneous adoption of beauty standards, influenced by the Western World and American culture. Western standards have become globalised whilst ethnic and cultural benchmarks retreated, a fluid change of values through the dissemination of aspirations.

screen-shot-2014-06-08-at-10-29-51-am Prior to Western ideals being exported  ‘beauty had always been a craft which was very local in its products and traditions. There was no global standard of what it meant to be beautiful. Societies has always varied considerably, both over time and between geographies, in how they sought to enhance they attractiveness through the use of cosmetic aid, hairstyles and clothing’ (http://www.ea.sinica.edu.tw/eu_file/132393925714.pdf, 891).

Traditional cultural ideals of beauty, include:

  1.  Brazilian societies celebrated women who were toned, tanned and curvy with a large waist and voluptuous assets. Brazilian figures are now transitioning to a thinner and more elongated standard.
  2. Middle Eastern women (who chose to use cosmetics) accentuated their eyes with dark smokey colours. Middle Eastern Women continue with these traditions, however there is an unprecedented amount of glorification revolving around green and blue eyes. Thus, whilst Western ideals are accepted, they work in hybridity with traditional ideals.
  3. Within Asian cultures, soft white or creamy skin and hands were a representation of class, to be accompanied by dark thick hair.  Desire for creamy skin continues, however Asian blepharoplasty (double eyelid surgery) has become a social norm to ensure ‘Westernised” features.

Heterogeneity  is represented within a social experiment, where a woman sent an unedited image of herself worldwide and requested “make me beautiful.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RT9FmDBrewA

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Prolific media flows from the Western World to a mostly passive audience, has altered the different and celebrated image of beauty. Such sources include campaign advertising, film, the dissemination of tv shows and celebrity culture. The creation of the Miss Universe Contest in 1952 saw the trend of looking Western begin, noted by Van Esterick as being the “Miss Universe Standard of Beauty” where pale petite features and wide eyes were favoured.  As Appardurai notes in Cultural Dimensions of Globalization, ‘ most often the homogenization argument subspeciates into either an argument about Americanization or an argument about commoditization, and often the two arguments are very closely linked.’ The Victoria’s Secret brand  for example, spans 1,064 stores internationally with 185 countries broadcast the annual Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. Although the lingerie empire has begun attempting to integrate cultural diversity, the features of ethnic models continue to adhere to a hybrid American beauty standard through Western measurements and features.

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Elena Rossini’s The Illusionist documents that ‘just as English has become the lingua franca of the world, so the white, blondified, small-nosed, pert-breasted, long-legged body is coming to stand in for the great variety of human bodies…we’re losing bodies as fast as we’re losing languages.’

Within a world where we are internationally sold the aspiration of looking like the idealised American girl, one has to question –

Who dictates “what is beautiful?”

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