Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Final Essay Post

Michelle Zamora
Professor Wexler
English 495ESM
13 December 2012

Negative Views of Law Enforcement

In the United States, the image of the police force is contradictory. On the one hand, they are seen as protectors of the innocent, men and women who respect regular citizens and the law.But there's a second image, one that gets wider media attention. Reports of corruption, unnecessary use of force, and racism hit the media more often than any other type of news. The film Babel, directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, portrays law enforcement as violent, uncompassionate and suspicious of every individual they interact with; the police are not to be trusted.

The perception of law enforcement in the US isn't unwarranted. One of the first incidents of police brutality and abuse of power televised for the nation to see began with the Civil Rights Movement. African Americans and white civilians walked in a peaceful protest to demonstrate their dissatisfaction with the current laws of the time. Segregation, racism, unfair and often violent treatment of African Americans was rampant within the south, often going completely unchecked by local authorities. Law enforcement reacted in a brutal fashion and citizens could see first hand how African Americans were treated by those who took an oath to protect and serve: Fire hoses were used to spray protesters, many were beaten with clubs before being arrested. This incident forever changed how the public would view the individuals who wear badges.
Yet another famous incident takes place in the 1992, in Los Angeles, California. Rodney King, while on parole for a robbery, fled from officers, leading them in a high speed chase. But when King was finally apprehended, he was beaten by several officers while others stood by and watched. However, the entire incident was caught on video and quickly circulated through the news media. The country responded in outrage, and when the four officers responsible for the beatings were aquitted in court, several riots broke out in cities all across the country. Since this incident, several other occasions of police brutality caught on tape have circulated throughout the United States, prompting many to become distrustful of law enforcement.
In the movie Babel, the audience is introduced to several characters from different countries around the world. Amelia, a woman of Mexican heritage, is the caretaker of two young children, Mike and Debbie, who are both blonde and blue eyed. Mike and Debbie's parents have been delayed in Morocco due to an accident, causing Amelia to choose between missing her son's wedding or taking the children with her when she is unable to find a baby sitter. Deciding her son's wedding was too important to miss, she takes the children with her to Mexico without incident. But on her return trip back to San Diego, everything goes wrong. Leisa Rothlisberger explains it best. "On the way back to San Diego, border officers question Amelia about the two white children sleeping in the back of the car and ask for notes from the children's parents giving permission for Amelia to take them out of the United States, paperwork Amelia does not have...The border officials treat them as suspects, searching the car and making them nervous...When the border officers shine the flashlight in Santiago's face, he becomes even more perturbed by the way he is treated." Fearful of the consequences that both he and his aunt may face, Santiago flees the border patrol and drops his aunt and the children off in the desert, promising to pick them up after the sun rises. Amelia, left with little choice, exits the vehicle. The desert overwhelms her and the children, and she leaves them in a shady area so that she can brave the desert on her own to find help. But when she is pulled over by an officer, his indifference to her plight distresses her further. After the officer and Amelia fail in their attempt to find the children, she is taken to an office where another officer tells her that it isn't any of her business whether or not the children are safe, and deports her without the opportunity to get her belongings from her house. Amelia is never given the chance to explain he predicament, and is treated unfairly from the very beginning of her interaction with the border patrol.

The most extreme case of police brutality in the film takes place in Morocco. Yusef and Ahmed, two young sons of a goatherder, accidently shoot an American woman who is riding on a tour bus. They both run away, and the situation immediately becomes international news. The Moroccan police force conduct an investigation, leading them to the man who sold Yusef's father the rifle. Law enforcement believe that the incident was enacted by terrorists, and they treat their suspect as such. They surround both the innocent man and his wife,  beat them while they are being interrogated before an explanation on how the rifle was obtained can be given. When the Moroccan man is finally given the opportunity to explain how he got the rifle and who he sold it to, the police head to Yusef and Ahmed's house to verify the information. When the officers come across the two boys on the road and ask them for directions, instead of thanking them or simply saying "goodbye", the head officer threatens them in a cruel manner. The image of the Moroccan police force here in the United States is less than favorable. According to Business Anti-Corruption Portal profile on law enforcement in Morocco, the US State Department in 2010 stated that "corruption and impunity are pervasive in the police force. These factors have reduced the effectiveness of law enforcement officials as well as their respect for the law." Despite this report being released several years after the movie's release, it is clear that there is some truth to how the officers in Morocco are portrayed. In cases of officers abusing the authority that they are granted, it often takes several years for any meaningful chances to take place. Although steps have been taken to minimize law enforcement's ability to take advantage of citizens, the process will be a slow one.

Although the officers in Babel are fictional, how they are portrayed reflect an inescapable truth. Whether based on fact or fiction, individuals who wear badges inspire fear and distrust for many people here in the United States, and others around the world. Reports of police abusing their power are more widely circulated than cases where officers do more than their job description entails. The stress that individuals go through when they put their lives on the line everyday becomes irrelevant. What becomes more important is how they respond to individuals on a daily basis; when officers cross the line, it isn't Big Brother that is watching: It's the citizens.

Works Cited

Business Anti-Corruption Portal, Morocco Country Profile. 2011. Web. 8 December 2012
Rothlisberger, Leisa. "Babel's national frames in global Hollywood". Jump cut: A Review of Contemporary Media. Web. 8 December 2012

Thursday, December 6, 2012

World Text Analysis paper

The assignment due next week focuses on my interpretation of the movie Babel, starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett. This is the first time I've ever seen the movie; I remember seeing the previews and thinking to myself that I'd never watch it, despite my taste for dramas. I think because they were focusing on the two main stars being in Morocco and using the terrorist angle when there is so much more happening turned me off. After watching it, I decided that I'd focus my essay on the portrayal of police in general in the movie. My interpretation is that, for the most part, the police are people to be wary of, because 2 out of the 3 departments treated the civilians with disrespect and, in the case of the Moroccan force, with severe brutality. Here's the scenes that I'm going to cite:

1. When the Moroccan police department conducts their investigation of the shooting of Susan Jones, they beat up the people they are questioning.

2. When approaching Yusef and his brother, the police threaten the young boys in a vulgar manner if they find that they were lied to.

3. How the Border Patrol spoke to Santiago, treating him with suspicion and disrespect.

4. When the Border Patrol picks up Amelia, he treated her pleas of help with indifference.

5. The only police force that was respectful was the two officers from Japan: how they approached Chieko, spoke to her in a kind, respectful manner.

6. When Chieko brings the officer up under false pretenses, he brushes off her advances yet doesn't make her feel dirty or stupid; he treats her with compassion.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Media Classmates Presentation Reflection

Several of my classmates have used various media forms in popular culture that can be incorporated in a classroom setting. One presentation had the idea of using certain video games in the classroom, and another touched on the use of comic books as a form of literature. I especially loved this last idea. I actually used two popular manga/anime's to teach two of the students I was tutoring about character analysis and how to identify protagonists, antagonists, and various themes found in literature. I personally don't play video games; but my husband is a gamer; I consider it his second full time job. I am familiar with Portal, Portal 2, Bioshock, God of War, and many other games just because I hang out with him while he's playing. I learn about these games through osmosis. That said, I knew that they were great for strategy building, but I never thought of Portal as a game involving psychics or math. That may be because I'm not great at math, and my brain just doesn't process information that way. Something to work on in the future, I'm sure. But using God of War to teach mythology seems like it could work. I'd have to be careful of the portrayal of various Gods, though. And the stories that are told.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Media Presentation Reflection: My groups

I am a terrible, terrible person when it comes with being up to date with technology. Part of that reason is because I cannot really afford half the tech that comes out. And the other reason is that, for the most part, technology that keeps me in one tiny spot causes my claustrophobia to flare up; I can't stand laptops for this reason. Even my phone starts to bug me if I'm talking too long on it, so I tend to try and use my head set. I can come up with countless reasons to explain why I can't seem to keep up with the latest trends and what not, but these are all excuses. Anyway, while my group and I were discussing what to talk to the class about, it occurred to me that many businesses and software companies that come up with new ways to increase productivity inevitably trickle down to the masses. As a kid, I was enrolled in classes to increase my typing capabilities but I didn't own a computer until I was 15 years old, and even then it was a very old fashioned mac, where the CPU was attached to the monitor. Then, when I entered college, all my papers needed to be typed out on a Word document. Then we had to make Power Point presentations, much like a person would in the corporate world. Now we have communication software like Skype, that enables you to have face to face (sort of) conversations with people all over the world. You can conduct classes, lead presentations; it seems almost limitless at this point. Which means that I really can't afford to be ignorant of the things that are happening around me. I worry about the repercussions, though. Kids are stuck on videogames, their phones...I must be too old fashioned still.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Myth Presentation Reflection

Reading the chapter on the Female Divine and then having to read the myths that went along with it was a little daunting. There were several long stories, and in addition to this, the myths themselves were sometimes really dense. In fact, my group members felt the same way. I suppose being an English Subject Matter major I should be used to reading material that isn't written in modern English. But there were other myths in the book that were translated into Modern English; the authors/publishers gave us a myth with the modern translation as well as the original as dictated from the people who hold the myth close to their hearts. I believe they were Native American. I digress!

I really enjoyed working on this project. Not just because I had two fabulous ladies helping me out, but because the informational chapter was so enlightening. In high school, several of my peers started referring to themselves as Wiccan, complete with the Pentagram, etc. They weren't treated very kindly; they were called devil worshipers, among other unpleasant words. But when I took the time to look into it, the history behind the practice was extensive and unlike Christianity, the gender of the god is female. The readings for the presentation stipulated that archeologists took for granted that societies started out as matriarchies, despite the low number of what could be seen as female artifacts. I just find it so baffling that people, whose job is to focus on EVIDENCE, can stray away from that path in order to have it coincide with their own theories. I guess I shouldn't be too surprised. I know too much to expect anything else. What further disturbs me is when spiritual folk want to put an emphasis on gender within their practice. Each gender has their merits and downfalls. To stereotype straight across the board is ridiculous especially because each person is so different. Again, digressing! But you see what I'm trying to get at.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

More on Media Literacy Readings

Perhaps the most striking sentence that gets my wheels whirling concerns childhood. "There is the idea that childhood as we know it is dying or disappearing and that the media are primarily to blame for it." Okay. I am going to be a mom very soon. But even before this kid starting growing in my tummy, I was aware of just how many kids spend their time in front of a TV, either watching movies, playing video games, or tuned in to programs with adult content. I recognize that I spent my fair share of time in front of the boob tube. However, I also enjoyed my days outside playing with my friends just as much. Much has changed within the last 15-20 years. Sex, violence, etc. are all more easily accessed by kids. One critic argues that children are learning more about the "secrets" of adult life and are demanding access to it. My thoughts? Since when is a parent supposed to give in the the demands of their kids? Since when is it not the responsibility of the adults to monitor what their kid is watching, playing, etc? My mom and dad both worked full time. I was left to my own devices for most of the day. But when they came home, they talked to me. Asked me what I did, what I learned, etc. They knew what I was being exposed to and tried to explain what I was seeing, or to tell me they didn't want me watching it. (The Simpsons is the only show I was banned from because I mimicked Homer Simpson and my mom couldn't stand that guy). My point is that the blame is too easily shifted. Yes, I do think that the media should take some responsibility. But if a parent can not be there to facilitate, control, censure what their children are being exposed to within their own home, then the fault doesn't lie with the media, it lies with the parent.  That said, there is such a thing as protecting too much. But that is the decision of the parents. There needs to be a balance. Maybe I don't know what I'm talking about because my kid isn't even here yet. So we'll see how long I can hold on to these views.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Media Literacy Readings

The history of Media Education is not what I thought it was. To be quite honest, I didn't even think that there was such a thing 20 years ago. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that such a topic was taught, but not at all surprised with the agenda behind it. The readings define Media education as "the process of teaching and learning about media; the outcome - the knowledge and skills acquired." Professors started teaching it because of the vast number of hours kids spend in front of a television. To ignore this fact completely is like trying to cut out a significant portion of the overall education people receive in their lives. I find myself agreeing with the first critics of media education: the media can be harmful and damaging to kids and adults. At the same time, not everything the media presents to us is meant to corrupt/brainwash the masses.

Granted, I grew up on TV so I am a little biased. I laughed when anvils fell on the heads of unsuspecting characters, when Gallagher used a mallet to squash watermelons onto his audience and jumped up and down on a very over sized couch. Come to think of it, I still laugh when I see these images. Yes, I could see how these sources of entertainment could be seen as "low culture". But there isn't anything malicious about it. I'm not going around dropping anvils on people's heads. I'm not throwing food at strangers or jumping up and down on furniture (well, not anymore although I really want to sometimes). Not everything we see on TV or read is suspicious. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that the images presented to me daily on TV forced me to do critical thinking. I was a tomboy growing up (I still am, basically). And when I saw young girls who were supposed to represent girls my own age, wearing makeup or crying because they were being teased, I got defensive. I knew that not all girls acted that way because I knew who I was. I beat up bullies who picked on my brother; I climbed fences and onto the rooftops of the neighboring buildings. TV didn't teach me to be a damsel in distress. It showed me that there were some girls that acted that way but that I certainly wasn't one of them. So this idea that media can be blamed for people becoming sexist, racist, homosexual, etc. is a bit ridiculous.