Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Stuart Hall - 'Reception Theory'

Stuart Hall - 'The media defines the majority of the population'

This statement is very true, as almost everybody owns a TV or has access to some other type of media, such as a computer or tablet. The views and information displayed within these types of media are easily transferable to the viewer, and even though they choose whether to believe it or not, they will still know of the opinion and keep it in consideration. For example, in the 'IT Crowd', Moss and Roy are based in the basement of a huge business, and are looked upon by the other workers on the upper floors as outsiders or weirdos. They are treated this way because they know everything about modern technology and computers, when the other 'normal' people know nothing at all. Out of the millions of people who have watched as much as one episode of this programme, there will be a minority who will develop the same view that is being portrayed though the characters by the writers as comedy. After all, this programme is funny due to these characters being different, and most people do view nerds as strange as they have a dedicated interest in something most people know only a small amount about. You could even go as far as saying that the writers are expressing the view that all IT technicians are weirdos, but of course the programme isn't portraying this view seriously, if not at all. The same can be said for Boogie's comedy Youtube videos that focus on the main protagonist Francis. Through seeing Francis, people may then think that all serious gamers are really fat and have some kind of speech impediment, even though anybody can enjoy computer games. They may think that anybody who plays computer games must have no life outside of these virtual worlds, and that you cannot enjoy comupter games unless you dedicate your life to it. Of course this is wrong, as you can enjoy the occasional computer game no matter what stereotype you are classed as.

Stuart Hall - 'Media seems to reflect reality, but in fact they construct it'

This statement relates well to 'The Big Bang Theory', as I personally feel that my own view of nerds has changed as a result of this programme. When this programme first started,the characters portrayed typical nerd characteristics, but one that I have notice change is the characteristic of being bad around girls. This is a central characteristic of a nerd, but I think it has changed somewhat as the seasons of this programme have progressed. All the characters are dreadful with the opposite sex in the first coupe of seasons, but eventually they learn from their mistakes and in the current season, all the characters have or have had successful relationships with women. Their social skills as a whole have improved and they still enjoy all the stuff that they did before, such as comic books and video games. In modern times it is not surprising to see a nerd have a girlfriend, but it used to be. This was because everyone thought that nerds were only interested in their video games and school work, and that that they didn't have any time for anything else. 'The Big Bang Theory' has gone someway to changing this perception

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Stanley Cohen - 'Moral Panic'

Cohen - 'The media overreacts to an aspect of behavior'

This quote is extremely relevant to my study group, as everything nerds are known to do is blown out of proportion in TV programmes such as 'The IT Crowd' and 'The Big Bang Theory'. For example, one of the main characteristics of a nerd is their ability to become obsessed with collecting things, whether it be cards, costume or comic books. The characters in 'The Big Bang Theory' take this obsession to a whole new level. All of the main four characters value their comic books so highly that the comic books themselves often cause rifts between members of the group. They keep some comic books in 'mint' condition without even opening them and reading them, and these certain comic books alone are high in value. Sheldon actually has a safe dedicated to the storage of comic books. The characters visit the comic book store once or twice a week to buy new comic books. They spend hours searching the shelves and value the comic books that only they possess extremely highly. Lorre and Prady have clearly identified this characteristic of a nerd and exaggerated it to add comedic value. This is a perfect example of the overreaction that the media causes, which in this case is their portrayal of the characters.

Another example from the same programme would be Raj's inability to speak to women at all. Nerds are known to lack social skills, especially around the opposite sex, but this usually is shown through lack of eye contact and a general sense of shyness around them. Never have I personally seen someone who has a complete inability to actually physically speak to a woman. This is the exact characteristic that Lorre and Prady have installed upon the character Raj. He suffers from an extreme social anxiety disorder and can't physically speak to woman unless he is drunk. This is one of the main sources of comedy for the programme, as when he is confronted in any way by woman, he turns around and walks away from them. 'The Big Bang Theory' have taken this characteristic of a nerd and exposed it to huge levels of exaggeration to further enhance the comedic value of the programme.

The television programme 'The IT Crowd' also provides examples relevant to the quote, and are included by Graham Linehan to, once again, create comedy. Moss and Roy are situated in the basement, and have an extremely high knowledge of computers. Firstly, nerds are known to be socially awkward, and in some films they are portrayed to be too scared to go outside or see the sunlight (Benchwarmers). The head of the company has placed the IT Crowd in the basement as he feels that's where they belong as they are classed as strange compared to the other workers who don't specialise in IT. This is an exaggeration that has been included in the programme and it supports the quote that I have chosen by Cohen further. Another overreaction is included through the Moss and Roy's knowledge of computers. They don't have a knowldge that has never been seen before from a nerd, but they are the only two people in the building who know anything about computers. They receive calls for help by workers who cannot figure out how to turn their computer on, an this is usually because the computer is not plugged in. Through including these types of features, Linehen has made nerds look like they are the only ones who know anything about this type of technology, and it puts across the message that they are the so called 'leaders' of this area.

Theorist Quotes

'The medium is the message' - McLuchan

'Dominant ideology serves the interest of the ruling classes' - Marx

'Identity is complicated. Everyone thinks they've got one' - Gauntlett

'Identities are not 'given'. But are constructed and negotiated' - Gauntlett

'Stereotypes are not always negative' - Perkins

'The media overreacts to an aspect of behavior' - Cohen

'Gender is what you do, not what you are' - Judith Butler

'Identity is performed through your expression' - Judith Butler

'The social practice of missrecognising yourself is based on a full consciousness' - Althusser

'Genre are instances of repetition and differences' - Neale

'Media seems to reflect reality, but in fact they construct it' - Stuart Hall

'Identity is ambiguous' - Stuart Hall

'People who supposedly threaten social order, folk devils' - Cohen

'Audiences read texts differently, some accept, some negotiate and reject reading' - Stuart Hall

'The more one depends on the media, the more it will be important to someone' - Defleur

'Identity is problematic, and in a consistent state' - Stuart Hall

'The media defines the majority of the population' - Stuart Hall

'The power of mass media resides in their ability to place a subject' - Althusser

'Invisible nature of ideology' - Stuart Hall

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Dave Grossman

Grossman argues that the techniques used by armies to train soldiers to kill are mirrored in certain types of video games. He believes that in playing violent video games, such as first person shooters, a person becomes hardened emotionally to the task of murder by simulating the killing of thousands of opponents online. This could be true to some extent. For example, playing a game like Grand Theft Auto at the age of 10 could lead the player to believe that these kinds of actions are okay or not that horrific. The person could grow up with these games being a significant part of their lives and become hardened to the violence over time. This could possibly make the person more likely to commit a violent crime that they have seen in a video game that they have grown up playing. The age restrictions for these games are very relevant however, and the parents shouldn't let their children play these sorts of games. I think it is more likely to  have an affect on a person who isn't in a healthy psychological state. They could use a method of killing seen on a video game to commit a real crime of this nature.

In terms of nerds, they are arguably the stereotype that is most at risk to the argument that Grossman applies. Nerds are known to spend countless hours playing video games, which are mostly of a violent nature. Children playing these games is less of an issue than people playing them who have mental problems. Nerds are known to lack social skills and because of this spend a lot of time alone, and they spend most of this time gaming. People with mental issues are viewed as strange by some people and also bullied. Nerds are also viewed and treated this way at times and so people with mental illnesses are similar to nerds in some way. These mentally ill people are the ones that are most at risk from the effects of violent video games, but it can also effect nerds too as they send a lot of time gaming. I don't believe that this theory is particularly worrying, as people know that when they are playing a video game that it is a game and not reality. However, due to gaming being a nerd's life, you can see how they might view their gaming experiences as reality as they don't believe in themselves outside of the video game.

Thursday, 31 January 2013

David Buckingham - 'Media Theory'

David Buckingham is a media theorist who believes that children and young people have identities that don't exist at all or are constantly changing. He studied their interactions with electronic media, and he believes that ,due to the constant change of media, identities are constantly changing. He believes that genre isn't simply given to a young person as part of their culture, but instead it is constantly being negotiated and changed. The media reveals the bad sides of the world and therefore parents keep their children indoors to hide them from this reality. Due to this, children spend far too much time around various types of media such as TV's and computers, and therefore learn too much about the world and are constantly going through change due to the amount of views, opinions and cultures that they observe.

In relation to the topic of nerds, this theory by Buckingham makes sense as nerds are known to spend countless hours using these various types of media. This media includes games consoles, computers and TV's. Out of all the social groups and genres that exist in the world, nerds will spend the most time using this media and therefore becoming exposed to what it contains. They will not witness this first hand as they are not known to spend a lot of time outside socialising, but the increasingly growing opinion that nerds are often the victims of bullying is evidence of the fact that they may look upon the world and it's features in a negative way. They may have bad experiences with other people and various types of media will help them communicate with people similar to them, which will allow them to gain an understanding of the world in a different way to others. Although nerds are the most likely to find increasingly detailed content on the internet, this may not be the case. Even though nerds do spend a lot of time around computers, they are not known to do anything with them but use them as gaming platforms. They play console games, computer games and internet based games. Their huge interest in this hobby restricts them from viewing content that can cause a constant change in their identities, which is what will be happening to most young people.

"Identity is complicated, it's never simple or straight forward"

"Identity is complex, everyone thinks they have one"

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Historical and Contemporary (2009 - Present)

There hasn't been a huge change in terms of people's perception of nerds as time has progressed, as the dress sense and characteristics remain similar; comb overs, smart clothing, overwhelming intelligence. The stand out change that has occurred has been the knowledge of modern technology that nerds learnt to possess, with the introduction of home computer games in the late 1970's to early 80's. A film named 'Revenge of the Nerds' (which I am not studying), released in 1984, is a good example of how nerds have changed and added the knowledge of technology to their characteristics. Even though this film was released after home computer games were introduced, it was less common to own this type of technology. The main characteristics of nerds in this film is their smart clothing (buttoned shirts, glasses, comb overs), general intelligence and lack of sporting skill. The image on the left shows two characters from the film, and you can see that they are wearing smart clothing and glasses, have smart hair, have smart shoes and they are also wearing their trousers high which results in their socks showing. They have that general look of intelligence, and these were the main features of a nerd at this time. Over time, as technology started to become a bigger part of society, the increased knowledge of technology that nerds possessed became one of the main features that made a nerd.

'The IT Crowd' is a classic example of the way nerds are portrayed and seen in modern times, and even though the first three out of the four series of this programme were filmed before 2010 (which therefore makes them historical), the main reason why Moss and Roy are classed as nerds is due tho their expertise of and interest in computers. They are singled out from the rest of the employees at the company due to their profession, which happens to make them nerds. As seen in the image to the right, there are some similarities with the nerds from 'Revenge of the Nerds'. These similarities are increasingly evident in Moss's characteristics, as he wears  identical clothing the nerds in 'Revenge of the Nerds'. Roy on the other hand is dressed more casually, but has a similar personality to Moss. Roy is wearing jeans, a T'shirt and a jacket, and isn't dressed very smartly at all. He also enjoys going out drinking when Moss doesn't, and he also lives in his own flat when moss lives with his mother. Roy is a character who wants to mix with normal people, but cant because his knowledge and interests set him apart. Aside from these differences, both paint the picture of the modern nerd, as they both take incredible interest in computers and are viewed differently because of it. They both come across as a little bit strange, and this combines with the technological interests to make them nerds.

Tbbt Cast Sheldon Cooper Full The Big Bang Theory'The Big Bang Theory' is another good example of how nerds have changed, with the fact that they all dress casually being one of the differences between them and the characters in 'Revenge of the Nerds'. Like 'The IT Crowd', the early seasons of 'The Big Bang Theory' (first two seasons) were filmed before 2010, but the programme still portrays nerds in a much more modern light than 'Revenge of the Nerds'. Season three and the more recent seasons have been filmed from 2010 onwards. The characters wear clothing tributed to superheroes, collect comic books, cards and mementoes from films, and play all sorts of different types of computer games. Their behavior is a lot more childish than the nerd's in 'Revenge of the Nerds', even though they still possess great minds. They are still portrayed as being socially awkward and all lack sporting skill, so the only additional nerdy features they posses are their childish interests and their choice of clothing. The characters enjoy regular 'Halo nights', where they come together to play the popular video game. These video games were not available in the 1980's, and even though everyone plays these games nerds are known to spend the most playing them. They are even known to play them professionally and enter gaming tournaments, and doing these kinds of things contribute to the modern perception of a nerd.

From season 3 onwards, Leonard and the other characters become more socially inept and begin to from relationships with women. Leonard eventually gets Penny, and this is another example of how nerds have changed over the past few years. Leonard will be seen by many to be 'punching above his weight' so to speak, but the fact that he got Penny, who previously liked more physically dominant men, shows how far nerds have come as they have started to distance themselves from the idea of social awkwardness. These days, nerds are less frequently bullied and they fit in with other people, and this could be down to the fact that almost everybody owns a gaming console. Due to everybody owning this technology, everyone has a great knowledge of it and therefore nerds are no different from normal people in this aspect. As seen in 'The Big Bang Theory',they wear more casual clothing too. Some women find themselves getting attracted to nerds now days, and this is testament to how far the perception of a nerd has come and how much it has changed.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Textual Analysis 2

This image taken from the first season of 'The Big Bang Theory' in 2007 shows the characters dressed in their fancy dress clothing. They are attending Penny's Halloween party but have arrived early as they take great pride in being on time. Sheldon is a prime example of this, as he arrives places at the exact time he was asked to be there. It is one of his many obsessions. Even though this party is fancy dress, the costumes worn by the characters still set them apart from the other 'normal' people. The other people turn up to the party wearing caveman, cat and fairy costumes to name a few. Instead of choosing this type of costume, the characters show up in costumes taken from films associated with nerds. Sheldon (far left) is dressed up as a scientific principle. He claims to be 'The Doppler Effect', which is science related and therefore no one else understands it. It is a very unusual choice of costume, which goes along with the scientific nature of the costume to make Sheldon look like a nerd. Of course Sheldon is a nerd, and probably possesses the most nerdy characteristics of all of the characters. Raj comes as the mighty god Thor, which is a famous character from the Marvel comics. Thor is also a character included in the recent movie 'Avengers Assemble', and both this film and comic books can be seen as nerdy. In fact, the characters' relentless interest in comic books is one of the most nerdy interests. Due to the origin of the character he has come dressed as, Raj also looks like a nerd, and his costume could be seen as that of a typical nerd's choice. Leonard's costume is similar to Raj's in the way that it is that of a character from a famous franchise of films. He is dressed as Frodo out of 'The Lord of the Rings', and this film is one that nerds obsess over. Due to this reason, the costume is a typical choice for a nerd, and it makes Leonard look like a nerd. Howard's costume isn't as nerdy as the other three's, and it is again similar to Raj's and Leonards in the way that it is a costume worn by a character from a film. Robin Hood perhaps isn't seen as that much of a nerdy character when compared to Thor and Frodo, but it is still a costume that could be viewed as nerdy. It certainly makes Howard looks silly, and he is mistaken throughout this episode as Peter Pan; which makes him look quite pathetic. The costumes chosen by all four characters showcase their nerdy characteristics, with Sheldon dressing as something that no one else at the party can understand , and the other three dressing childishly as characters from fantasy films. The childish element that is attached to Raj, Leonard and Howard's costumes is the main reason why they look nerdy and pathetic, and it also shows that they are obsessed with these characters as they are prepared to wear these costumes in tribute to these characters and not be bothered by how pathetic they look.

This image shows Leonard and Sheldon in the comic book store looking at a replica excalibur sword with amazement. The comic store really brings out the nerdy characteristics that the characters contain, as it allows the viewer to witness their sad and embarrassing interests. Professor Brian Cox was quoted as saying that a nerd is a person who can be "serially obsessed" with things, and this image really does show that Leonard and Sheldon are serially obsessed with certain collectable objects. This sword isn't going to be of any use to either of them, and would be bought only as a collectable which they could take pride in owning - even though most people would view it as sad. It would also be very costly for the uses that it has, and this is money that the two characters are prepared to pay in order to own a useless object that both of them would have trouble even lifting. The models positioned in front of the sword sum up the comic store really well, as they are figurines of characters from films that serve the same purpose of the sword; to be collected. It is something that is of massive interest to the characters, and it is definitely seen as something nerdy.