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The Selfie Diaries – documenting ourselves

For the past 3 months I’ve undertaken a project to explore the medium of selfies.

Through Facebook I’ve sourced over 40 selfies.

Each selfie is accompanied by two quotes from the subject of the selfie, responses to the following questions;

  1. What does your selfie say about you?
  2. What does your selfie fail to say about you?

These selfies were then curated publicly on Instagram, and tagged appropriately.

The only specifications given regarding the selfie was that it had to be a photo of you, taken by you.

This led to some interesting interpretations.

The majority of selfies sourced were taken by women. This reflects similar, global-scale studies on the selfie.

Most selfies submitted showed the selfie-taker at their most photogenic. There were a few notable examples though which seem to be trying to appeal through humour.

Taking a selfie with an animal was not uncommon, a trend which appears to be global. Several ‘animal selfie’ trends have circulated online in recent months such as quokka selfies.

Taking selfies with animals, domesticated or exotic, ties in with how people also appeared to like taking selfies when they were doing something out of the ordinary.

In regards to the question What does your selfie say about you?, responses were fairly descriptive of the content of the selfie. Respondents described their image, sometimes with explanation as to why they look that way.

More interesting however were the responses to the question What does your selfie fail to say about you? Often this revealed that the person in the selfie was not as confident or content in their life as the image may make them appear.

People, especially young people, genuinely enjoy taking selfies. The medium is used as a way to document their life, from the places they visit, to the people they meet and the experiences they have.

Most of the time people want a selfie that shows them at their best, though for some this may mean taking a humorous shot. Selfies capture a moment in a person’s life that can be read as documenting them as they were at a particular place and time.

But it is important to remember what selfies cannot document. Selfies–documenting us at our best–fail to communicate the inevitable troubles faced by everyone.Therefore selfies can be seen as a tool of photojournalism by the self, a way of creating and controlling your image in an increasingly online world

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Whitewashing: Hollywood’s dirty habit

Whitewashing: Hollywood’s dirty habit

Is it ever appropriate for an actor to play a role outside their own racial group?

Hollywood has a long history of casting white actors as characters of a completely different race. The practice became so commonplace that it has been nicknamed ‘white-washing’. While white-washing in television and film is rarely as caricatured and racially insensitive as in the early days of film, ‘white’ actors are still commonly cast as characters of a completely different race and culture (think Jake Gyllenhaal in Prince of Persia, or the entire cast reversal in Avatar: The Last Airbender).

Apparently the casting director had a rare type of colour blindness…

So why is ‘whitewashing’ bad?

The practice is harmful because it implies that viewers only want to see white actors on film and television, that only white actors are good enough to play leading roles. It is an issue of representation, the importance of which should not be underestimated. White-washing is particularly harmful if the film or television in question is unquestionably based in a non-western, non-white culture where it is entirely unrealistic for protagonists to be white. Basically ‘white-washing’ prevents fair and equal representation across the racial spectrum.

But is it ok for an actor to play a character of a similar race?

In the recent American sitcom Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt the love interest of titular character Kimmy Schmidt is a Vietnamese character named Dong Nguyen. Many critics have praised the show for the inclusion of an interracial love story, a rarity on American cable television.

The twist is that Ki Hong Lee, the actor who plays Dong Nguyen, is Korean-American not Vietnamese.

The argument against casting an American-Korean as a Vietnamese character might state that there are significant differences between Korean and Vietnamese people. Such a casting decision could be argued as another example of western cultures perceiving all ‘asian’ or ‘black’ people as one culture.

At this point it is helpful to stress the difference between ‘race’ and ‘culture’.

 Racedefinition

culturedef

From these definitions, it’s evident that an individual may identify as one race (defined by physical characteristics like skin colour), but from an entirely different culture (defined by the society they were raised or reside in). In an increasingly globalised world, more and more people identify with a culture(s) outside what may have been defined by their race. An personal account of the difference between race and culture can be found here.

Back to our original question. If an actor physically resembles the race of the character they have been cast as – even if they identify as different culturally – is it an ethical casting decision?

Yes.

After all, an actor’s job is to be someone else.It is the casting director’s job to find an actor suitable for the described character. To clarify; television and film ‘white-washing’ is racially insensitive, it disregards people of colour from being allowed fair and equal representation. But in a media landscape that has Australian actors playing English characters, English actors playing South African characters, and absolutely everyone playing Americans – whose to say a Korean actor cannot ethically play a Vietnamese character?

[Me]dia

[Me]dia

Somethings just go together.

Bacon and eggs.

Death and taxes.

Spongebob and Patrick.

Participatory culture and the internet.

The internet is a massive, open source machine containing  arguably every piece of information currently known. What’s more is that most of it wasn’t put there by News Corp, Time Warner, Disney etc. Unlike legacy media, the vast majority of content available online comes from the people formerly known as the ‘audience’ – those who consume media content. As more and more online content is created by everyday citizens, the once entrenched divide between ‘audience’ and ‘author’ (those who create media content) is becoming blurred. Those who use the internet are just as like to be participating in it’s continual creation.

The proliferation of smartphone ownership in the last decade has hastened  the integration of ‘author’ and ‘audience’. Breaking news these day is more likely to come through your Twitter feed than it is the nightly news bulletin. Furthermore, the participatory nature of smartphone technology enables people to interact and add to other’s content. Reddit, 4chan and most notably, Wikipedia demonstrate this. Smartphones are enabling those once considered the ‘audience’ to also become the ‘author’.