AMC’s “Mad Men” premiered in 2007, highlighting the lives of 1960s-era advertising men and women working on Madison Avenue. The series revolves around ad guru Don Draper, a heroic figure with ruggedly handsome looks who has a sixth sense about advertising (and women). In this post, Ami Stearns suggests that Don Draper exemplifies one of Max Weber’s ideal leadership types, the charismatic leader.
For research purposes only, I just finished playing the quiz “Which of Don’s Women Are You?” on the official Mad Men website (FYI: I’m Allison, Don’s one-time secretary and one-night stand). Love him or hate him, Don Draper is the larger than life face of AMC’s Mad Men.
You’ve heard of Mad Men, right? The period drama, which just wrapped up its sixth season, has set a record for basic cable television shows by winning an Emmy four years in a row. The highs and lows in the bedrooms and boardrooms of the NYC advertising execs have created legions of fans over the past six years, spawning a Wall Street Journal weekly blog, the requisite official merch, and even games.
McDonald’s restaurant once served as a model of rationality; customers would come in and be feed ina smooth, precise, and efficient standardized process. Today, its bloated menu (with oodles of choices and combinations) threatens its reputation as the standard for rationality. In this post, Stephanie Medley-Rath explains how McDonald’s is putting the McDonald’s back into McDonaldization.
George Ritzer coined the term McDonaldization to describe how McDonald’s restaurant provided an archetype of rationality, which served as a model for other bureaucracies. Rationality refers to how bureaucracies come to operate under formal rules and procedures. A bureaucracy is characterized by a hierarchy of authority, a division of labor, reliance on written rules, and impersonality of positions. For example, your college is an example of a bureaucracy. Let’s get back to McDonald’s.
Ritzer chose McDonald’s because of its pervasiveness throughout not only the United States (where you are never more than 107 miles from one in the lower 48), but throughout the world (they serve 1% of the world every day). McDonald’s is seen as a powerful business success and a symbol of America.
Principles of McDonalidzation include:
How do these principles exist within McDonald’s?
Efficiency refers to “the optimum method for getting from one point to another” (Ritzer 2006:15). Think about the assembly line method of food production in a McDonald’s restaurant. Instead of one person making your complete meal, the task is split up into its basic components along a hamburger assembly line. This means your meal gets to you more quickly. Continue reading
The bombs that exploded at the finish line of the Boston Marathon represented the extreme of what would be defined as a deviant action. As the initial shock wore off, Bostonians “circled the wagons”. Soon the phrase, “Boston Strong” became symbolic of the determined mood of solidarity sweeping the Massachusetts city. In this post, Ami Stearns uses the theory of moral boundaries to suggest that the Boston Strong movement serves to clarify deviant boundaries at the same time as it brings societal groups closer together.
Boston-area Samuel Adams Brewery releases a limited edition batch in celebration of the Boston Marathon every year. Named the Boston 26.2 Brew, the light-bodied beer is “worth crossing the finish line for,” according to the company’s blog. In light of the tragedy at this year’s event, Samuel Adams Brewery has plans to rename their marathon brew “Boston Strong 26.2 Brew,” and is requesting a trademark on the phrase “Boston Strong” These two words now adorn Yankee Candles (tea-scented), car magnets, shoelace plates, t-shirts, hats, wristbands, and were even spelled across the LED screens of Boston’s public busses the week of April 22nd. A Celtics player scribbled “#BostonStrong” on his Nikes and the words were displayed on the Red Sox’ video board during a game. Boston citizens have been writing “Boston Strong” on signs, penning the words on their clothing, and tattooing the phrase on their bodies. On Twitter #BostonStrong appeared half a million times in the week following the explosion at the finish line
AMC’s “Freakshow” debuted this winter with the aim of bringing a little freak right into viewers’ living rooms. The reality series follows the daily escapades of performers at the Venice Beach Freakshow, each of whom displays a unique talent or exhibits an unusual appearance. The show emphasizes reclaiming the “freak” label and seeks to challenge what’s normal. But Ami Stearns suggests in this post that “Freakshow” illustrates the commodification of weirdness: packaging and selling “freak” to the dominant culture.
Nothing quite says “normal” like a leisurely tandem bicycle ride down the boardwalk in the California sunshine. But when the hands steering the bicycle belong to a man with no legs, and the legs peddling the bicycle belong to a man with no arms, you’ve got something that’s the opposite of “normal”. The Venice Beach Freakshow, a business owned by former music exec Todd Ray and the subject of a new series on AMC, recently filmed this tandem bicycle scene with Jesse the Halfman and Jim the Armless Wonder. Other Freakshow performers include a sword-swallower, a bearded lady, the world’s most heavily tattooed and pierced man, a human pincushion, a man whose face is completely covered with hair, and a three foot-tall woman, to name a few.
With the tagline, “Normal is relative,” Freakshow aims to show the humanness of people who have uncommon abilities or different appearances. The show emphasizes the sideshow’s ability to give unique individuals a voice, an opportunity for income, and visibility under their own terms. The performers at the Venice Beach Freakshow claim the label of freak and wear it proudly. As three foot-tall Amazing Ali says on the show’s website, “the Venice Beach Freakshow is a place where difference can be celebrated.”
However, the AMC show and the Freakshow itself offer glimpses of “freaks” for a price. For customers on Venice Beach, it’s five bucks for the opportunity to gaze. For the viewers at home, it’s the cost of watching a barrage of advertisements between packaged and produced scenes. Though the show is careful to make a distinction between exploitation of the performers and opportunity for the performers, the fact remains that Freakshow collects, exhibits, and packages freaks for a “normal” audience to consume with their dollars.
White supremacy is often mischaracterized as only a person or group of people (e.g. Neo Nazis & the KKK), but thinking of white supremacy in this way hides too many people who are affected by it. In this post Nathan Palmer will push us to think about white supremacy as an ideology and explore how each of us may personally believe it.
Every year we had a “multi-cultural day” at my elementary school. Usually in January (around Martin Luther King Day) or in February (to “celebrate” Black History Month). We’d eat foods from other cultures (there was always baklava), watch a movie about Dr. Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement, and learn about how racism used to be a problem in the United States. The overall message was clear to all of us kids, “racism is something mean people used to do and if you do anything racist today, you’re a big meanie”.
I can still remember the befuddled look on my teacher’s face when I walked up to her and asked, “If today is multicultural day, then what are the rest of the days?” Her face scrunched together, she folded her arms, and told me, “Oh, just go back to your seat this instant!”
I was thinking about my multicultural day experience recently because last week was the 45th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martine Luther King. The message I learned at these multicultural days (that racism is only a problem at the individual level) I think is largely still present in our society. But in many ways the issue of racism is as much about acts of discrimination as it is about the ideas and ideologies that support prejudice.
The Ideology of White Supremacy
To fully understand white supremacy we have to separate it from the people who identify as white. White supremacy is not a person or group of people, it’s an ideology. Ideology is fancy-sociology-speak for a collection of ideas that work together to affect how we see and understand the world around us. As an ideology, white supremacy encourages us to value white people, white culture, and everything associated with whiteness above the people, culture, and everything associated with people of color. We can encapsulate all of that by using the common white supremacist tagline, “white is right.”
Heteronormativity is the belief that heterosexuality is the only acceptable sexual orientation. This attitude leads people to value only traditional gender roles and heterosexual relationships while rejecting all gender, sex, and sexual behaviors that fall outside of this narrow box. Heteronormativity contributes to the creation of a society that is unwelcoming and even dangerous for people who do not conform to this norm. By using the popular MTV show, Catfish, Kim Cochran Kiesewetter explores some of the consequences of living in a heteronormative culture.
My partner and I do not typically like the same TV shows. It’s almost impossible for us to find things we both want to watch together. One lazy evening, we stumbled upon a documentary released in 2010 called Catfish that detailed a young man’s journey to meet a girl he fell in love with online, only to discover that, in reality, not all was what it seemed to have been online. We were enthralled… and, apparently, we weren’t alone.
The popularity of the film led MTV to create a show based on the same premise (aptly named Catfish: The TV Show) where host Nev Schulman helps individuals from around the country meet their online loves for the first time. In a nutshell: it’s typically a train-wreck. The anonymity of online communication allows people to present themselves in ways that differ dramatically from how they appear in real life, also known now as “catfishing” in popular culture. People can catfish others online by creating false personas that may involve fake careers, false geographic locations, and the borrowing of someone else’s photographs. (Catfishing, the verb, probably reached it’s critical mass when Notre Dame star football player Manti Te’o admitted in January that he’d been a victim of the hoax). Continue reading