Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Presidents and Chimps

I've enrolled in a course called "Race, Rhetoric and Technology" this semester, and our very first course reading really got me thinking. (A good sign!) It was an article on race in America by Victor Villanueva. Although I certainly didn't agree with everything in the article (especially the notion of "reverse discrimination," which is a discriminatory term in itself), there were several good points to be had. Two of the narrative examples which stood out to me were:

  • The story of two young Latino children found covered in flour, saying they wanted to be white enough to go to school.
  • The example of a graduate student who appeared at a Halloween party in blackface, saying he was portraying black jazz musicians, who he admired.

While the reactions to these two situations were typical -- very little reaction to the Latino children, university-wide outrage at the white student -- the rhetorical tension between the two situations reminded me of the much-debated New York Post monkey cartoon.

This cartoon sparked outrage because many felt it portrayed President Barack Obama, our nation's first "black" president, as a monkey -- which, if true, would obviously be an unethical and outrageous racist commentary. The cartoon's defenders said it did nothing of the sort, rather, it portrayed our political system as the violent chimpanzee that had been gunned down that same week in Stamford, Conn.

Regardless of the cartoonist's true intentions, the fact that there was significant outrage over this cartoon and not a bit of hype over the myriad comparisons between former President George Bush and chimpanzees indicates that race/color is still a visible characteristic that sparks a ridiculous amount of tension in our society. (Regardless of whether "race" is even real or just a social construction -- see my recent post on my culture, rhetoric, and technology blog.)

We still have a lot of work to do here in America.

Saturday, August 22, 2009


I've had a rather hard time finding LASIK ads from countries other than the U.S. Similarly, LASIK photos of people with brown eyes (or any color other than blue) are few and far between.

I did find an article in a Singapore-based zine called "asianone health" about government concerns with the marketing of the LASIK procedure. This article has a companion photo of a person apparently having an eye pressure test done in preparation for LASIK, and the person has brown eyes.

Of course, the fact that the article comes out of Indonesia is not necessarily the determining factor in why a person with brown eyes was chosen for this photo. As you can see, the photo has also been altered to include a scary black box with a caption demanding that people "see the truth about LASIK," with some of the type in a blurry typeface to visibly demonstrate possible complications or problems with the procedure. I also think it's interesting that the person chosen for the photo has almost no visible eyelashes, which is a visual cue connoting sickness. (However, please note that the article is written in standard journalistic style -- the style that most people believe is neutral. I'm just hypothesizing a bias in the photo used, which the author likely had no control over.)

I wondered, at first, why the woman in the photo had no eye makeup on, as the pre-operative procedures don't require a ban on eye makeup. Then I realized I was assuming the model was a woman and that most Indonesian women wear makeup. More on those cultural assumptions later.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Cyborg vs. Carano

Here's something I don't think I've touched on before: fighting. Talk about some visible rhetoric! Mixed martial arts is an up-and-coming sport, largely because the amount of blood inherent in the fights kept it off TV for a number of years.

I was at a friend's house this weekend to watch the fight between Cris Cyborg and Gina Carano. It was the first time I'd watched a major fight between women. However, I'd seen enough of "The Ultimate Fighter" and other UFC fights to notice a distinct change in the visible rhetoric of the broadcast.

The first thing I noticed was that there was a lot more emphasis on the women's faces. As the two prepared to face off, cameras maintained a tight focus on each of their faces. In fact, the focus became so tight that it eventually narrowed to just the eyes. I've never seen this done with male fighters while they are actually in the ring. This was pretty interesting given that women usually have their bodies played up in Western-style broadcasts. So, is this a sign of a feminist attitude within the fighting culture, or is it some sort of strange twisting of that usual prejudice? I'm leaning toward the former, especially since it was clear that the observers of the fight -- including many well known male fighters -- thought of it as no different than any other.

The online visible rhetoric of the fight is somewhat different, with Carano -- who is recognized as the more traditionally "pretty" of the two -- shown in sexualized poses while Cyborg seems to maintain a persona as a fighter and a fighter alone. (Check out the photos I've posted, which, obviously, are borrowed.)

Thursday, August 6, 2009


They all look kind of alike, don't they? Right down to the color scheme. I'd guess the predominant color in these ads -- blue -- springs from the fact that most people have blue or blue-green eyes. (The figure is 47%, according to the American Academy of Opthamology. The next-highest color is dark brown with 25%.) All the irises visible in these ads are certainly blue.

This leads me to wonder if LASIK ads in parts of the world where eyes are predominantly brown are different. I'll see if I can find some ads from, say, India and post them here later.

In the meantime, there is a lot more to be done with these ads. What other themes do people see?