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The Paradox of Dominate Ideologies in the Fight of Social Justice

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Art is used in mass media to influence people, especially people in the generation and culture we live in today. The majority of art young people receive in our culture is through television and in particularly popular culture networks, like MTV. The television show on MTV called The Hills is an example of a show that promotes dominant ideology to young children/ teenagers. Slightly opposite of that would be another show on MTV called Jersey Shore, which is an example of a show that partly reinforces and partly challenges dominant ideology to the same type of audience. The two shows are looking at people who are in their 20s and there life as they live it in their current situation, they both claim to be reality television with no scripts. The Hills follows the life of one main girl and her friends, partners, and career however, all the actors in the show come from wealthy parents, and live a wealthy life style. Jersey Shore however, is a show about eight people living under the same roof, and following their lives as middle, working class people while they live together for the summer and also embracing there Italian culture. The difference for the Jersey Shore cast is that they do not come from wealthy parents and are only living together for the summer, until they part their own ways again. The paradox between art and social justice would be that art can be shown to fight for and against social justice. In this essay we will be comparing how The Hills is showing the dominant ideology of an upper white class structure that fights against social justice, while Jersey Shore is fighting for social justice by not showing the dominant ideologies of upper class, instead showing working class Americans. The essay will compare the two popular shows by looking at the differences between the ideology of food, race, culture, and privilege is shown on two different scales.

While watching the two shows there are many differences, however one major thing that stood out to me while I was watching was the differences of food and quantity. Within The Hills there is almost never times where we see the cast members eating a meal, if we do see them at a restaurant they are drinking but never eating. In the rare few times that we do see food at the table we hardly ever see them eat, and the food that is placed in front of them are small portions of salads or other healthy substances of food. There is differences between in the food that the males of the show eat and the females eat, again on the rare times that food is involved the women are seen to have the salads where the men are seen to have meat substance of food, however, both still falling on the relatively small size portions of food. Women’s relationship with food is always different then men’s because women are seen to need less food, and seen to need to diet. Men need more food not only because they are seen as ‘bigger’ but also because in order from them to diet/ gain muscle they need to eat lots of protein for working out. Women are also seduced into losing weight also with implications that come with it through the media we have. Many of the advertisements we see focused on women lately deal with the issue of women losing weight, getting fit, and looking like there favourite celebrity. “Admittedly, women are continually bombarded with advertisements and commercials for weight-loss products and programs…” (Bordo, 1993).

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Not only are women the ones being bombarded with advertisements to be thin and an ideal image of femininity, but within those images they ultimately are telling people that in order to gain the ultimate image of femininity they need to have the look of the white European. The people on this show are all of upper class status with money, and good jobs. They all have wealthy parents as well who helped them along the way; however, even though they have money and who would never need to starve themselves because of money issues, they still indeed are starving themselves to look a certain way. “Almost all of us who can afford to be eating well are dieting-and hungry-almost all of the time” (Bordo, 1993). The last point about ideological food with The Hills to bring up would be that even though they are all dieting all the time, and not eating that is still not enough for them to have reached their ideal feminine body standards. If they cannot achieve their body by just dieting and being hungry alone, they go to more drastic methods like one in particular cast member named Heidi Montag who went in for cosmetic surgery to get operation on many aspects of her body including liposuction. When upper class people who have money cannot achieve their ideal body image they resort to paying a huge amount of money for cosmetic surgery. “Thus, we all ‘know’ that Cher and virtually every other female star over the age of twenty- five [or younger when talking about the girls on The Hills] is the plastic product of numerous cosmetic surgeries on face and body” (Bordo, 1993).

Now looking at the MTV show Jersey Shore and how they treat the ideology of food. The Jersey Shore cast has a different appearances then the cast of The Hills, the cast of Jersey Shore are not all one unified look, and have different body types. From the first episode you can tell that they have an extremely different relationship to food that is being shown on the show. Almost in every episode there is food being prepared and consumed, the food that is consumed is not of the same type that was being consumed on The Hills. The Jersey Shore cast members are eating larger portions of food and also heaver food, not just tiny salads. One main differences in the two shows is that with Jersey Shore there days activates are run like a family, and centered around dinner time where they all eat together.

One can be lead to believe that because of their dominate nationality of being Italian they treat food differently than the people in The Hills who’s nationality never arises in the shows content. “True, if we survey cultural attitudes toward women’s appetites and body size, we find great variety-a variety shaped by ethnic, national, historical, class an other factors” (Bordo, 1993). Nicole ‘Snooki’ Polizzi is one of the female cast members of the show, she is one that stands out for her personality, but also for her looks, she is the shortest of them all, and also has a bigger framed body. She unlike all the other girls of The Hills shows a difference in the dominate ideology shown on television. Although she is not tall, thin, or have blonde hair she is still seen as an attractive girl in the Jersey Shore. Another girl of the show Angelina ‘Jolie’ Pivarnick is seen in the first few episodes talked about how she has never had any plastic surgery, despite her body. She goes on to say that her ass is nice and big the way that Italian guys like it without her having to alter her body through cosmetic surgery. “Even as such fleshly challenges became less widely appreciated in the twentieth century, men of Greek, Italian, Eastern European, and African descent, influenced by their own distinctive cultural heritage, were still likely to find female voluptuousness appealing” (Bordo, 1993). The types of food that were seen being prepared and eaten on the show where, lobsters, steaks, potatoes, and all types of rich hearty foods, unlike The Hills, Jersey Shore is using art to fight the dominant ideology of skinny white Europeans.

The next dominant ideology to look at in our paradox is race, and class which leads to privilege. Starting off with The Hills we can see right away that there is a dominant ideology of white, upper class, privileged people. Privileged people seen through “…members of dominant groups- men, whites, heterosexuals, or the wealthy- have privilege by virtue of their being members of particular social groups” (Bailey, 1998). The cast is seen as a privileged group of people from the houses social group of people they hang out with, who their parents are, and are shown to be upper classed through the cars they drive, the houses they live in, and the jobs they work. Majority of the cast from the show came from another school called Laguna Beach, witched followed a high school group of children around, and once they graduated there show turned into The Hills. Starting from their young age in Laguna Beach you could tell that this group of teenagers were not your average high school group of friends, they grow up in a wealthy area of Orange County. The cast members on The Hills all drive expensive cars, when they are driving, and when they are not they are seen riding in limos for a night out, or taking privet jets to luxury places to celebrate birthdays, or just girls/ guys weekends away. All of the cast members live in their own houses away from each other and their parents, the houses are not small apartments while they start off on their own, they are huge homes filled with decorations and furniture from expensive stores, along with technology and electronics. For the cast members that do work, they have high level paying jobs at major corporations, and achieved those jobs through connections of friends, or parents. All the cast members of the show also have very expensive wardrobes and are never seen wearing the same thing twice, granted some of the things they have achieved on their own.

However, most of it was granted to them from the ‘reality’ of their hit show The Hills. “Power from unearned privilege can look like strength when it is, in face, permission to escape or to dominate” (Bailey, 1998). From all those reasons and more we can conclude that they are from what dominate ideology tells us, of a privileged higher class. “…privilege granted to members of dominant groups simply because they are members of these groups is almost never justifiable… most privilege is invisible to, or not recognized as such by, those who have it…”(Bailey, 1998). As mentioned above there is never talk about what ethnicity the cast members are, they are however portray in a way to make the audience believe that they are white Europeans, with class and wealth. This reinforced the dominant ideology set by standards that white Europeans are better and should be of higher standards than others. “In that sense images are a fundamental element in determining the political strength or weakness of the various groups in society” (Edelman, 2001). This is why The Hills is a representation of the paradox which uses art to prevent social justice from happening.

Than in order to think about Jersey Shore as showing the opposite of the dominant ideology when it comes to race, class and privilege, in our paradox we have to look at how because of their ethnicity they have less in their lives. The first episode of Jersey Shore is a great example to show the differences in their cultures and the different privileges the two shows have. The first episode starts off in the home towns of all eight cast members, showing the camera crew around their home. All cast members coming from different areas of New York, New Jersey, and Rhode Island, however all their home towns have something in common, their homes are of nothing spectacular. Unlike The Hills where the homes they came from where already spectacular and big, the Jersey Shore cast members homes where average size homes crammed in with lots of Italian people. In every home they had no fancy furniture, or big electronic devices to show off, but they had a lot of family and a lot of love in their homes.

The next point of the first episode to make is that when they are all going to the jersey shore house they leave in their own cars, they are not picked up in limos or taxies, they drive themselves there. All of the casts cars are older looking cars, and in fact Nicole’s car breaks down on the way to the house, which also shows how they are not of the same class as The Hills. The house that they all get to live in, is very small, in fact they actually have to share bedrooms, and bathrooms. Not only is the house smaller, but it does not have anything extremely expensive put into it. They have old sofas that look to have been donated, plastic plates and cups to drink out of, and no electronics in the house, even the home phone is a dunk that quakes. On top of their living conditions, they do not get to live there for free, as part of their agreement they must work for the owner of the house. They are not working however for large corporations like The Hills; they are however, working in retail selling shirts to tourists. “Race, like gender, is ‘real’ in the sense that it has real, though changing, effects in the world and real, tangible, complex impact on individuals sense of self, experiences, and life changes” (Frankenberg, 1994). As it can be seen from the show, because of race differences everything about their lives change, from troubles to challenges that they would not have faced if they were of privileged class. “…Italian Americans, and Latinos have at different times and from varying political standpoints, been viewed as both ‘white’ and ‘nonwhite’ ” (Frankenberg, 1994). One can state that just because they are Italian dose not make them non- white, however, from the implications of the show we can see that they are not of highest dominant ideologies.

Overall, “The plain lesion of these observations is that works of art do not represent ‘reality,’ ‘the real world,’ or ‘everyday life,’ even if those terms are taken to carry a specific or meaningful reference” (Edelman, 1995). Even though The Hills is seen to be reality the fact is that they are protected behind contracts that do not let the audience see certain things about their lives, and also that protects them for showing who they really are, so that what we get is a version of what seems to be the proper way white Europeans portray themselves as. “Together, art, the mind, and the situations in which they are applied construct and transform beliefs about the social world…” (Edelman, 1995). The audience is than together with the artist form we are viewing (television) come to conclude that the members of The Hills are of higher status, then the members of Jersey Shore, and we come to a conclusion of this because of the way that they are portrayed to us from the source of art. Although we can state that Jersey Shore is not the best example to use when talking about the fight for social justice they are still an example that against The hills which shows us dominate ideologies is a good pick. In the end we can see how the paradox of art and social justice excites in our main stream media, through the two examples of the hills against it and Jersey Shore for social justice.

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