Barbie has existed for many years, where the target audience are young girls who desire and aspire to behave and act like Barbie. Barbie positions the ideal construction of a female while encompassing the attributes of femininity. Since, Barbie socially constructs the ideal narratives that society puts forth it begins to shape the identities of many girls because they are told this is the correct way and they need to conform to these practices as it is the ideology. Identity message circulates through merchandise that surrounds young consumers as they dress in, sleep on, bathe in, eat from, and play with commercial goods decorated with pop culture images, print, logos, immersing children in products that invite identification with familiar media characters that communicate the gendered expectations about what children should buy, how they should play, and who they should be (Wohlwend, 2009). Over the years, Barbie has been represented as the ideal heteronormative female that is shown through her figure, her accessories, shoes, her pink cars, pink house, stuffed animals etc. These are constantly shown to girls through advertisements, billboards, peers, and parents that constantly reinforce this. Femininity is colour coded with the colour pink, that is constantly reinforced in the media and by parents that pink is considered the ideal colour of femininity. These ideas are reinforced as society and media have socially constructed the female body of how they should be, their manners, their looks etc. Many girls view Barbie as the ideal and this begins to be part of the discourse in society that sends a message that Barbie’s personality, her actions, manners should be practiced by all girls. Historically, media promotes and advertises Barbie and Ken where they are used for promotional purposes that allow young girls to know that they need to be heterosexual in order to be in a relationship with a guy similar to Ken through his physique, his masculinity. The dolls identity texts from damsel in distress fairy tales with princess victims and prepare the ground for the insertion of the little girl into romantic heterosexuality, where it portrays girls as dependent and innocent waiting for their royal husband as life’s fulfillment (Wohlwend, 2009). Barbie becomes more dependent on Ken, where when she didn’t know him, she was an independent women and then with Ken she embraces the ideal role of women to be dependent on men to take care of them. In addition, other consumer products involve the representation of males and females to perform the traditional ideal heteronormative constructed gender practices that need to be conformed by society which are told at a young age that they need to practice. Some examples include, G.I Joe, Batman, Hulk, Dragon Ball Z, Transformers etc. whereas for females its Barbie, and Disney princesses that they try to emulate their persona.
“The Three Little Pigs” is a story that is taught to kids at a young age, where everybody knows the order of the story as it is the same. However, this new version of the story was creative and interesting to read because it challenges our thinking and surprises us of what possibly could happen next. In this new version, the pigs were able to escape from the wolf and outsmart it by escaping from the scene itself. The pigs were able to rework the old story and create a new one, where they were able to come out of the story by the wolf blowing and visit new fairy tales. This story challenges our thinking of what a story should consist of and how it should end.
This fairy tales supports critical literacy as it is about the reader assessing and understanding what is happening in the story through the implicit messages, or pictures that inform our thinking. Critical literacy is the reading and re-writing of the world (Morell, 2007), where this story does the same by pigs having a chance to re-invent their own story by having dragons, cats in their house to create their own definition of what a story should consist of. By doing so, it allows the reader to create their own imagination of what could possibly happen next and this imagination has no restrictions rather it is our way to express ourselves. Thus, critical literacy allows the reader to not just read the text but assess and understand it (Morell, 2007).
The story for me was a nice juxtaposition between the old and the new and how there were blank pages that made me think as to why it is such, or even the layout of the pages of different stories above ground as if it is a maze of those stories that one has to figure out. For me it was interesting to see the maze and how in order to get to the center of the maze, I as a reader can create my own story by passing and through my directions I have reinvented a story myself. For me this story, shows how it is a remixed version or style that is prominent these days through the media and TV shows that are being rebooted to create a different story, such as Fuller House etc.
Media is a key institution within society, that people are exposed to on an everyday basis that uses its superiority to represent people that becomes the norm or ideology. The representation of people perpetuates various social inequalities based on identity, class, race, social language, gender, which begins to create resistance towards those individuals since they aren’t part of that representation. For instance, as an individual who is from a South Asian background, the mode of representation is that of the portrayal of South Asian women and families in the mainstream media. This is seen through the movies, shows that depict South Asian families as loud, having a ‘brown’ accent, getting arranged marriages, dark skinned people who want fair skin, they live in joint families, have cultures and rituals that are seen as abnormal/weird. This is greatly shown in contrast to that of the Caucasian families as a binary of what is seen as normal and deviant. However, many of the representations of South Asians aren’t practiced by many individuals who are from that background, rather media exaggerates its ideas to create new images that seen to become the ideal when it is not true.
Media’s popular culture are based on post-colonial ideas that have shaped the Western values, beliefs and identity. The article on post-colonialism, discusses how these ideas are based on a Eurocentric perspective that perpetuates colonizers belief that their culture was civilized, sophisticated, whereas, natives were savages, backward, and undeveloped. This led the post-colonial idea where the social construction of individuals was based on the ideal Caucasian race to create the dominant images of others, where other ethnic groups were misrepresented. A term coined by Edward Said, called Orientalism is where the East are viewed based on the Western ideals of being savages, abnormal, deviant. Orientalism is prominent within the media as it creates a binary of the representation between East and West. This representation has been seen through the First Nations which shows how they were misrepresented by their language, their culture, and mostly how the men who portrayed First Nations were white men, who were coloured to appear that way. Over time, the portrayal of First nations were more of the white savior complex, where First nations who were known as experts of bows and arrows, guns and now they were represented as weak, scared individuals who were being taught to use a gun and white people were yelling at them and telling them to be brave. On the other hand, the misrepresentation that the media does towards individuals shows how the media will never tell us the acts of resistance that are taking place everyday in society, the strikes, the protests, and individuals acts of courage, where these acts go unnoticed and unreported by the mainstream media (Kelly & Stack, 2006). These acts of resistance are unnoticed as many people do not know what is happening, rather they are focused on the entertainment side of media where the misrepresentation is happening through the movies, shows, songs etc.
New Literacy Studies also known as, multiliteracies is “the need to communicate using multiple modes of representation, not just language” (Alverman, 2011). Primarily, it is associated with communication that allows people to represent ideas through a variety of media outlets. New Literacy Studies focuses on the new forms of literacies during the 21st century. It is different from the autonomous model, which characterized reading and writing for individual’s cognitive ability, in a universal way which involved printed text. Nowadays, there are numerous ways of communication through online chat rooms, fan fiction writing, instant messaging and texting (Alverman, 2011). Whereas, the traditional literacy focused specifically on the reading and writing.
Popular culture practices can be expressed through new literacies within the teaching pedagogy by having the teacher use modes of literacy found within popular culture to engage students in the classroom. This can be done through music, videos, advertisements that students can enjoy learning about because it is a mode of media that they are familiar with in their everyday routine. Popular culture creates a hegemony where the dominant groups in society win over the subordinate groups in society (Storey, 2009). Hegemonic views which are incorporated within popular culture can blend in with new literacies as a way for teachers to understand the underlying representations of certain images, videos that can be taught in their classrooms where students can learn about the implicit meaning behind images, through visual learning.
By looking at the second debate in Alverman’s reading of "whether or not young people's participation in reading, viewing, listening to, and creating popular culture texts is an education experience (Alverman, 2011). This does have the potential to transfer from informal to formal learning through the curriculum expectations. Through the various new forms of literacy, information can be seen through popular culture that follows the expectation stated in the curriculum. The use of multi media within the classroom can allow teachers to keep up with the advance age of technology and use literacy to educate the students, where students can use their own real life experiences and ideas to share within the class that will keep them engaged and want to learn. For instance, in class we had seen a Budweiser advertisement, that can be used in class a way to show the literacy skills by the words written on the advertisement, of the representation and its underlying gender expectations that is being portrayed. In addition, music videos or commercials that show the resistance of individuals, usually teenagers that are figuring out their identity while trying to either conform or resist the hegemonic ideology towards gender, sexual orientation etc. can be taught in a class with students in that age group.