Racism Within Film and TV

Within art, particularly film and TV shows present ethical dilemmas where they illustrate people in that they use extreme stereotypes or prejudices. “For instance entertainment content can reinforce the status quo by constantly depicting certain social groups in an unflattering and unrepresentative way, presenting a distorted picture of reality.” (Patterson/Wilkins, 258) Some of the most attacked groups I have encountered are Muslims, Evangelicals, African American and Asians. I recall that even in some cartoons that were meant for children, such as Bugs Bunny, were very racist and insulting to particular groups.

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Walter Lippmann, the author of Public Opinion, states how we all fall prey to “defining first and seeing second”. By showing all of these stereotypes in the entertainment industry, we are reinforcing these awful perceptions that are exaggerated and insulting. The audience doesn’t question or challenge these assumptions made about these people.

This situation could be viewed in the perspective of John Stuart Mill’s Utilitarianism; Mill’s philosophy is to do what benefits the largest number of people, which is clearly not being done. The film and TV industry are harming both the people they are negatively depicting and the audience members who can be molded by these perceptions that they are being presented with. Neither of these will help to benefit the community if anything, it will harm the people. This could cause people to become racist by accident or even on purpose. This would just cause a cycle of hate and insulting stereotypes.

Two ethical news values that should be applied to this situation are accuracy and diversity. Accuracy should be employed because although all stereotypes have some truth behind them, they are playing up most of the attributes that are untrue and offensive. The creators of these movies and cartoons need to do more research to be fully accurate. Diversity is also problem within these programs because they incorporate diversity but in an offensive way. They need to improve by adding diversity by instead doing it in a correct, ethical manner.

Mind you, not all films and TV shows are this way. There are many that show diversity in a positive light and don’t portray the characters in a degrading manner. Good examples of this is Parks and Recreation, Glee, PBS children’s show Maya and Miguel, and New Girl.

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The Manipulation of Body Image

Photoshopification (the manipulation of photos) is becoming a normal thing into today’s society. This causes conflicts in the terms of originality. “The ability to digitize information also challenges our intuitive assumptions about a variety of things everything from the ‘reality’ that a picture represents to the external symbol systems that words and images together create” (Patterson/Wilkins 229). This manipulation of images can also cause major deception to the eyes of the viewer.

This idea of deception is most prominently seen in the fashion world. Models are highly edited to appear perfect. All wrinkles are removed, their waists are shrunk down to ridiculous portions, and butts and breasts are increased. This is not only deceiving but it’s causing people to have unrealistic expectations for themselves. This has a huge impact on young girls.

Women and girls feel the need to be unhealthily skinny because of this photoshopification of models. Recently there has been this fad going around the Internet that has appalled me. It is called The Paper Challenge. Girls hold up a standard size sheet of paper (8 ½ by 11) portrait view against their stomach. If the piece of paper covers their whole stomach then they are the “perfect size”. Our view is skewed because of major editing of photos.

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Another phenomenon that women recently become self-conscience about is the thigh gap, aka the space between your legs. Apparently it is seen as unflattering if you thighs touch (which is perfectly normal and healthy). This has gotten so out of hand that an artist found it necessary to make a fake ad for Thigh Gap Jewelry. But, when people go to try and buy it, it sends them to a page that talks about unrealistic beauty standards.

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Much like Aristotle’s Golden Means, the fashion industry needs to seek out a happy medium and find a middle ground between two vices. Perhaps, it could alter the photos a little bit to take out minor flaws but not to the extent of complete untruthfulness. Another way to think about it is in the view of Utilitarianism in that it would be more beneficial to a large population of people if the photos remained unedited. Otherwise, women and girls would feel the need to be unhealthy just to fulfill society’s beauty standards.

Privacy

Privacy and secrecy are often mistaken for the same thing but in reality they are quite different. In some cases there can be mixture of both. The anonymous quote, that states if you “Keep your relationship private without keeping your partner a secret, [there will be] a difference between privacy and secrecy.”

Furthermore, some people choose not to post their relationship status on Facebook to keep their privacy protected because they feel the only people that need to know are the people they are close to. Philosopher Louis W. Hodge describes this in the second circle of his concept of the circles of intimacy. On the other hand, if someone did not update his or her relationship status, in order to keep it a secret, other people may get the impression that they are not committed and open to dating.

There is a fine line between when it is okay to share private things with the public and when it is not okay. This conflict is often seen in journalism. A person’s privacy is put into the hand of the journalist who gets to decide what is written and what is not. The journalist gets to decide what is on and off the record, which I think is kind of sneaky on their part. I hope that journalists inform the interviewee of this, but I have a feeling most do not.

Another conflict along those lines that has become more prominent in this age of social media (where people are always on the grid) is the issue of celebrities’ lack of privacy. It is getting to the point that the celebrities know that they themselves will not be able to have privacy but they are calling on the paparazzi and the public to at least respect their children’s privacy.

Jennifer Garner and Halle Berry have been fighting for this right to privacy through the court system. These two women attested before the Assembly Judiciary Committee in support of a bill that would protect celebrities’ children from the constant harassment by photographers. Jennifer Garner stated “I don’t want a gang of shouting, arguing law-breaking photographers to camp out everywhere we are, all day every day, to continue traumatizing my kids.”

I feel that sometimes we do not think of celebrities and other leaders as people. Jimmy Kimmel’s “Mean Tweets” demonstrates this point well where celebrities and other well-known people read mean tweets that people have written about them. Anyways we need to realize that they are people too that deserve respect and privacy as much as every other person. If you look at this issue through the Veil of Ignorance by removing the status these people have they are the same as you and me. If we do not wish to have our privacy violated, why should we violate theirs?

 

Money & Media

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“Seems like everybody’s got a price” tag. (Jesse J) Art has become less about the beauty of telling a story and more about the profit. Film companies are less likely to take risks on smaller films or cast not so well known actors. “The same mentality is true of music and book publishing as well, where fewer producers meant fewer outlets for artists and a dumbing down of content to please the mainstream audience.” (Patterson and Wilkins, p.168)

They are constantly making sequels and spinoffs of characters because they know audiences will watch these for their beloved, and favorite characters. Also there is whole big phenomenon of splitting up a movie into two or three parts, which seemed to become the fad after the last Harry Potter was released.

The most well known flop that did this was The Hobbit. It split up a three hundred paged book into three movies compared to The Lord of the Rings where the books were four hundred pages long and each only had one movie per book. This caused The Hobbit to go off the storyline and the producers added way more action to interest the audiences. They inserted this action because the thrill of action packed films attracts a bigger crowd; hence bringing in more money.

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This is similarly happening with the X-Men franchise. They keep making unnecessary movies so they can keep the rights to X-Men. If they don’t make an X-Men movie every two years or so they lose the rights, so they keep making dumb movies because of this contract to bring in more cash because this is the era of super heroes.giphy (1).gif

Aristotle’s Concept of the Golden Means talks about how virtue lies in the middle of two extremes or vices. Currently, the film industry is on the excessive side of the scale. These producers and companies are overcome with the vice of greed. According to Aristotle, they should try to find the happy medium of ambition but not so far down the scale that it becomes sloth.

Josiah Royce’s idea of loyalties also play into this. The media or, in this case, the companies in charge of producing films, music and books are being loyal to themselves and whatever brings in money even if they ruin the art in the process.

They care more about the money than the people. For example, the situation Kesha had to go through with where she has not been able to get out of a contract with her producer who raped and used her. Royce says “loyalty as a single ethical guide has problems.” In this case the company is being loyal to an unethical cause. They will not release Kesha from her contract because they do not want to lose money. Once again they are being loyal to themselves and have a lust for money.

Walk With The Lord

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We are wanderers looking for the correct path. We get lost in the twists and turns of life there are obstacles protrude on road making it harder to walk. The weather is storming or bright rays of sun shine rain down on us. The path changes constantly. But the one thing that never changes is our companion, God. He is always walking right beside us picking us up when we fall. Even if we cannot see him at times he is always with us. We must accept God’s lead even if it wasn’t part of our own plan.

I feel that I am currently trying to discover God plan for me. I am struggling between my wants and wishes from his own. It is hard to tell the difference sometimes. I tend to take the road less traveled the harder route. I have so many fears and anxieties that eat away at me every day. The things I feel that either I want to do or I feel called to do will be hard to live on. This is very college students fear, not being able to pay off those big debts. I am still looking for the right path for me and hopefully with some prayer, I will be able to find my way again.

Walking with the Lord is also about following in his example of how to treat others, with love and respect. Looking out for others before yourself, just like God looks out for you. Love as Christ loves. These are very big shoes to fill but God will help us along the way. Above is a bunch of photos I took of my feet in different places. We must follow in the footsteps of Christ all the time not just when it is convenient for us.

Ethics of 24-Hour Surveillance

This is an essay I formed from a prompt for an ethics class about a government agent who finds out that illegal surveillance is occurring. This agent asked for Aristotle’s advised on what to do. Hence I formed this essay based on how I believe this philosopher may have responded. This essay is relevant to the current event which involved Snowden.

 

Ethics of 24-Hour Surveillance

Dear unidentified agent,

Ethically this illegal surveillance that is happening is immoral; the first duty of political establishments is to do the good for the city verses the good of the individuals, or the political figures using this surveillance to their advantage. (I.2, p.2) Every craft or means of employment must seek out the highest good through their service and be held accountable when they are not. They must seek an end that is good and make a habit of seeking good. Through this breach of privacy they are not seeking the highest good; rather, they are reaching a vice for they are micromanaging the nation. They are going way too far. It makes sense to keep track of suspicious characters yet they are violating every person’s privacy.

The government needs to be an example for this nation. Moral is a result of habit. For example if a person abstains from pleasure it helps to make them become temperate. (II.2 p.20) Hence if the politicians are not practicing the morals of implementing justice how can they expect the people to do the same? By revealing this abominable crime it will show the public that wrongdoings will not go unpunished and hopefully prevent future wrongdoing, concerning both the government and the citizens of this nation.

However, this plan of telling the nation of this horrifying news could backfire too, similar to the recent case with Edward Snowden who was forced to go into hiding for the executing moral justice for the nation as whole. “Further each person judges rightly what he knows, and is a good judge about that; hence the good judge in a given area is the person educated in that area and the unqualifiedly good judge is the person educated in every area.” (I.4 p.4) Therefore since you are within this particular government and had much training in this area, I would say you are a good judge for this circumstance.

Since you have come to me wondering what to do, I believe you are already aware of the answer. That you must act because if it were not a problem you would not be concerned and asking for advice. Therefore you are the best judge of this situation, not I, but you. You must deliberate about your beliefs that will hopefully promote a good end. (III.3 p. 35) And then determine what steps to take to enact this justice. Since you have acquired character you are no longer free to think wrongly; your brain is programed to think to the means of a good end. (III.5 p.38) You must establish which action to take “For we are in control of actions from the beginning to the end” (III.5 p. 40). Once you have discovered what you wish for, in the end you must “deliberate and decide about things that promote it” (III.5 p. 37).

By saying nothing, you are not holding these people accountable for their actions, even though they have bad intent. They are using it for their power, own personal gain, and pleasure because “many think it is something obvious and evident for instance, pleasure, wealth or honor” (I.4 p.3) that will bring about happiness. We do bad things because of pleasure, instead of the right thing, because sometimes it is painful to do the ethical/moral thing. Pleasure and “wealth is not the good we are seeking” (I.6 p.5). The good we should be seeking is the good of the soul not the external goods. (I.7 p.10) “[W] hat is just pleases the lover of justice” (I.8 p.11). This is the type of people we need in government agencies such as, lovers of justice not lovers of honor or wealth; people like you who must stand up for justice and be an example for the rest of the nation.

In this case I believe there will be more pain involved for the nation as a whole if nothing is said or done. To act virtuous in this situation you must involve yourself in a choice. Whether or not you wish to live in a lie or serve justice to the people of this country and hold these political figures accountable for their actions, we must seek to stand by our ethics as a result hopefully inspiring others of this country to do the same. For people to reach their fullest good and happiness they must seek out the chivalrous, good end verses just an end that leads to pleasure of earthly things. “Hence virtue is also up to us.” (III.3 p. 37) You can find true happiness through knowledge but not the corrupt knowledge, in which the government are stealing from people’s phone conversations and emails, web traffic, and other things along those lines.

In conclusion, you should hold this government agency accountable for their actions and apply the necessary punishment so the public eye can see that actions such as these are not suitable or acceptable. Help the people form a moral habit by exposing them. Follow the path of your ethical character and serve the justice of the people, not of the pleasure hungry individuals at the head of this government. Seek the good end that consists of the good of the soul and not external material goods that the people of the government are seeking. Furthermore, you are the best for this situation for you are more of an expert in this area. You are in control of your actions; please stand up and make a difference for this nation by holding these wrongdoers accountable for theirs. Be a lover of justice!

 

Sincerely,

Aristotle

Is it a Moral Obligation to be Charitable? (According to John Stuart Mill & Aristotle)

Firstly, we must define what is the meaning of the word charitable. According to Merriam Webster’s Dictionary the word charitable is defined as “full of love and goodwill towards others; liberal in benefactions to the needy, of or relating to charity; and merciful and kind in judging others.” Referring to these definitions, they cannot only be associated with helping those in need, but also could be related back to justice within law, because of the component about compassionate or merciful judging.

In comparing John Stuart Mill’s and Aristotle’s point of views on the moral obligation to be charitable would be something along these lines after reviewing their works. Ultimately Aristotle doesn’t believe charity is an obligation but it is an individual’s decision; yet he mentions that helping a greater being such as a city, will help achieve a higher good of the soul through virtue of generosity. On the contrary, John Stuart Mill would believe that morality (which could include charity) is only rooted in us when we seek a higher good or pleasure later resulting from the act. It is not an obligation rather option to help one achieve greater happiness. This is almost an act of selfishness, which is called the Theory of Life. The only exception to this could be if the helping of others could benefit the greater population (II.7, p. 7).

However, there is the idea that being charitable also includes justice within judging law. This would be their stance on this matter; Mill believes that a person can break a bad law justly, that the law should not be the standard of justice, nor favoritism show in judgment, and that a person who is charged should receive what they deserve (V). Aristotle’s view on this is that the law helps people to act or behave virtuously, and the just person is then lawful which will make them virtuous (V).

Aristotle doesn’t necessarily believe charity is an obligation but that it is the individual’s decision. Although he does mention that we will be the happiest if we reach the highest good, which could include helping a bigger group of people such as a city, and as a result, help us attain a higher happiness than if we were just helping ourselves (I.2, p.2). “For even if the good is the same for a city as for an individual, still the good of the city is apparently a greater and more complete good to acquire and preserve. For while it is satisfactory to acquire and preserve the good even for an individual, it is finer and more divine to acquire and preserve it for people and for cities.” Aristotle is explaining that you should want to achieve the highest good and in this case helping a larger amount of people is indefinitely a higher good.

There are other goods as well such as external goods, goods of the body but Aristotle deems the highest good the goods of the soul (I.7 p. 10-11). The goods of the soul can flourish when you seek out the median or virtue. Also he discusses virtue and one of the virtues he talks about is generosity, which is only good in moderation; too much is a vice but too little is also a vice. Aristotle compares the soul to a sick person. He says if the doctor gives the patient instructions on what to do to improve their health and the patient does not listen the sick person will not improve (II.4, p.22). He is saying that your soul cannot improve and unless you make the decision to improve it, it will not improve. One way that it could be improved would be if one helped others through generosity but you have to make your own decision on it because Aristotle himself highly advises it. According to Aristotle the highest good for humans, cities, or communities is happiness, and happiness is an activity of the soul in accordance with virtue and virtue is a state of the soul that decides whether they do too much, too little or just enough (Book I and II).

In addition Aristotle’s quote talking about the city could also be referring to the justice system and that is one of the reasons justice in the government is so important to preserve the good of both the individual and city (I.2, 2). “Further each person judges rightly what he knows, and is a good judge about that: hence the good judge in a given area is the person educated in that area, and the unqualifiedly good judge is the person educated in every area” (11.2 p.19). Having a judge that is well educated is vital because some are more familiar with a certain kind of case than others. In courts today, most judges have special jurisdiction in one of the following areas: criminal and civil, assigning probation, family law, juvenile cases and so on. He also considers that the law encourages persons to behave virtuously hence making the just person not only lawful but also virtuous. Justice can be restored in a court case when the judge is able to equal out the gains and losses of both persons or parties restoring the equilibrium (V.3, p.72).

As stated above, Mill would believe that morality (which could include charity) is only rooted in those seeking a higher good or pleasure, which later results from the act. It is not an obligation rather option to help one achieve greater happiness. The only exception to this could be if the helping of others could benefit the greater population. Therefore, Mill would think that it would be more beneficial to a larger group of people for happiness to be generous and that would be the ideal choice to help the people in need. “The theory of life on which this theory of morality is only things desirable as ends; and that all desirable things (which are numerous in the utilitarian as in any other scheme) are desirable either for pleasure inherent in themselves or as means to the promotion of pleasure and the prevention of pain” (II, p.7). Mill says that people’s actions stem from the “Greatest happiness principle” or men’s (women’s) pursuit of happiness, as well as, the actions they take to achieve that happiness and avoid pain. “Those who desire virtue for its own sake desire it either because the consciousness of its pleasure or because the consciousness of being without it is a pain” (IV p 38). Hence people only do something that is morally right just to benefit them-selves with a more rewarding pleasure in the future (I, p.2). Mill is expressing that virtue is only needed if it helps you achieve happiness or avoid pain otherwise it is not worth your time.