Where is the Supermodel Game Going?

My childhood was in a time when it was perceived as the golden age of supermodels.  One however, seemed to separate herself from the rest.  Cindy Crawford was a valedictorian and discovered at 16 while working in a corn field in Illinois, by a local newspaper photographer.   She was different but not too different being able to maintain her All-American girl image.  She also marketed herself as a product with name and face recognition. 
With the rise of gossip magazines and TMZ, celebrities replaced models as the cover stars on all magazines when they were selling better.  On a Vogue cover, a modern icon like Gisele still sells fewer copies than Jennifer Lopez on the newsstand.  Perhaps that is because there are avid J. Lo fans and relatively few Gisele fans, but rather than capitalize on personality, models have continued to get more focused on their name (or making of that name).  If women are not averse to worshipping ideals of beauty, they at least want some difficult personal backstory to go with the ideal.  The problem with the idols that America makes is they are too generic.  They convey nothing in pictures beyond physical beauty.  Chanel Iman is the best of the bunch, but that is because it seems like she might have a personality.  It would be nearly impossible for one model to control media the way Crawford was able to do in the '90s, because there is so much more media now to monopolize.  In an industry often considered to be one of the most frivolous on earth, she took the selling of her own appearance seriously.  How can modeling be considered frivolous when it has such a large impact on our culture?
And ultimately that is what Cindy Crawford had that the other supermodels did not have.  Not a diva or a ditz.  Warm and present rather than cold and distant.  She still understands how to maintain a fantasy, which is why she makes occasional appearances in commercials as the MILF next door.  She made it through the gauntlet of the fashion industry, where constant physical criticism is routine and aging is frowned upon (and then injected with Botox for frown lines), with her dignity intact.
The thing about Cindy that especially sets her apart visually is her mole that some people find disgusting.  But it is memorable, and it became her image, tied to the American tradition of Marilyn Monroe's beauty mark.  And because Crawford's mole could be seen as a flaw, it made her slightly more relatable.  That is why she is more specifically iconic than Christy Turlington or Stephanie Seymour, who are objectively equally beautiful.  Having one obvious "imperfection" became an asset.  Even Heidi Klum tries for something similar, but Klum cannot be relatable no matter how much she tries.  Being down-to-earth is not in Heidi's DNA, which traffics in haughty German perfectionism.
Cindy embodied the clash in the '90s between European fashion (flashy and baroque) and American fashion (obsessed with cleanliness and simplicity).  Rather than the image of a model as a fussy and feminine living doll, Cindy Crawford was James Dean. She did not invent the model-as-American-rebel idea, she was imitating Gia Carangi, to whom she was often compared.  But Cindy, like Gia and Angelina Jolie (whose breakout role was her portrayal of Gia in an HBO movie), brought the same sort of incorruptible strength of presence and associated sexual energy.  Even in a ball gown or styled to look demurely feminine, Cindy broadcasts toughness, a kind of forthright cowgirl confidence. 
She branded herself as American, constantly.  As much as Michael Jordan did.  She established an iconography of white tees and blue jeans and soda, an American flag rippling somewhere in the background.  She might as well have been Wonder Woman.  Megan Fox in Transformers is just Michael Bay's heat dream of the Cindy Crawford persona.

Her real successor is Tyra Banks, who also understood how to latch onto the whole "all-American" thing, how to build yourself into a brand that could last past a modeling career.  In Tyra's case patriotism was also invoked to counteract the institutionalized racism in the fashion world (particularly prevalent overseas, where much of the industry is located).  Banks both embodied the hypertraditional California-girl ideal and flipped the ideal by being black.  She was the first black Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue cover girl and the first black Victoria's Secret model, thereby extending the unforgivingly impossible ideals of youth, beauty, and sex appeal for women somewhat, but not nearly far enough.  Banks also stays relevant by using reality t.v. 
 I wonder if all this public vanity will reach a point where people will start to reject it outright, to consider the negative mental effects and self-esteem problems that constant physical comparison and competition create in everyone, male and female (especially children), or whether it will continue infinitely into a narcissism event horizon.  The whole concept of an "ideal" beauty is so false, so blatantly subjective, why do we valor something no mortal person can achieve?



Recently, I was treated to a presentation in class from a group discussing James Bond and the influence of Orientalism.  I greatly appreciate the point of view displayed by the group but something inside of me felt different from what they were saying.  I have always known Orientalism to focus on the Muslim culture in the Middle East and North Africa.  The group made Orientalism come across more as a universal view of the east to include india, south Asia and the Far East.  I didn't want to argue any point and take away from their presentation, so I felt it best to not dispute on prior knowledge that I didn't research.

Overall, I became almost obsessed in my own personal research of this subject just for the interest of the subject.  The group in class performed great and gave me a need to kind of want to feel things out.  I think in conclusion that we are both correct (if that is possible).  Orientalism kind of has a conflicting definition but I think overall, the main focus is placed upon the Middle East and North African cultures.  Orientalism is based in Europe and portrays their view of the culture mainly in a derogatory sense in that the Muslim culture having a lack the current technologies in the world was inferior.  But there was also the fascination with its exotic elements.  The colors, architecture, food and especially the women attracted many European men to become almost obsessed in visiting and even living in these areas. 

My argument with having the Far East included in Orientalism is that China and Japan have their own titles, Chinoiserie and Japonisme respectively.  Also, Asians are often offended by having anything referred to as oriental because it is not their culture.  In talking to Asians about that, I was told that it oriental was disrespectful and a put down to there culture.  Not sure that I agree with that because it was explained to me that it was the same as being called Negro.  Well, while it is an outdated term, I don't find it derogatory at all. China, Japan and alike Asians cultures are not considered has exotic as the Muslim culture.  Mainly because the element of mystery is not as prominent and also these cultures are superpowers in the trade industry.  Being familiar with the West also helps in the national relations.

Still, I wouldn't deny the influence that these cultures have upon each other.  Having a fascination with each other and a need in trade leads to bonding and dependence on each other to survive.  The importance of having to get along was brought up by the class group but they also focused on taking it for granted and in a way not having respect for a certain culture because it is seen as inferior.  They stressed having an awareness that is not always displayed and hopefully people have grown over time to value the differences we all have.  Orientalism is a big part of that.  Being used in a general sense (which is okay) or being technical in your terminology (also right), doesn't defer from this message and hopefully people can show greater interest in things that are outside the comfort zone.


Hawaiian Culture: Greatly Loved but Sometimes Underappreciated

Recently, there was a discussion on the campus of Cal State Northridge about the Hawaiian/Polynesian Culture Month that is to focus different events and promotions in celebration.  I talked to a few students and civilian of this decent and asked their feelings in order to get a feeling of America and its place with this culture. 
There was a tone of resentment towards the American government from the fact that they came to Hawaii and overthrew the royalty and current structure of their livelihood.  The Hawaiian language was even outlawed for a time while the islands were colonized.  Over the years though, I think that the merging of the two cultures were able to appreciate each other and grow within a bond starting with the bombing of Pearl Harbor. 
A lot of the Hawaiian culture is taken for being kitsch which, Hawaiians find disrespectful, starting with the exploitation of the women being perceived as sexual objects.
The Tiki culture itself began in the United States in 1934 with the opening of Don the Beachcomber, a Polynesian-themed bar and restaurant in Hollywood.   The proprietor was Ernest Raymond Beaumont-Gantt, a young man from Louisiana who had sailed throughout the South Pacific and later he legally changed his name to Donn Beach. Three years later, Victor Bergeron, better known as Trader Vic, adopted a Tiki theme for his restaurant in Oakland, which eventually grew to become a worldwide chain.  The theme took on a life during the restaurant's growth in the Bay Area. The Trader Vic in Palo Alto not only spawned architectural choices, such as the architectural concept behind the odd looking Tiki Inn Motel, which still exists as the Stanford Terrace Inn. There also currently exists a modern sculpture garden from Papua New Guinea that was made to celebrate the modern form of art that was a large part of the original inspiration for tiki culture.  Tiki kitsch culture is a theme used in Polynesian-style restaurants and clubs originally in the United States and then, to a lesser degree, around the world. Although inspired in part by Tiki carvings and mythology, the connection is loose and stylistic, becoming that American kitsch form and not a Polynesian fine art form.
Polynesian design began to infuse every aspect of the country's visual aesthetic, from home accessories to architecture. The peak of its popularity seems to coinside with the 1960's.  Single family homes, apartment complexes, business and even large shopping and living districts of some cities were heavily influenced by Polynesian aesthetics. However, by the 1980s, most of the Polynesian aesthetic had been completely wiped away in the name of progress, some architectural examples of homes, apartments and restaurant buildings remain. A small handful of locations still contain carved tikis. 
Post-war America saw the rise of the middle class as an economic force. This coupled with ever increasing affordability of travel, particularly newly established air travel to Hawaii, helped to propel the nation's interest in all things tropical. Hawaiian statehood was a major factor which further drove the tropical lifestyle popularity, and Americans fell in love with their romanticized version of an exotic culture. Another related factor was the excitement surrounding the Kon-Tiki expedition.  Today, Polynesian traditions such as dancing even in good faith can be taken into account of being disregarded in its sense of a scared and religious art and more of a entertaining good time. 
In learning this, the focus was not the fact that it is incorrect but the fact no one cares it is incorrect. 
I wonder about the importance of exploiting this culture under the goal of gaining tourism and the economy.  Personally, I believe that doing all these activities, even if not even performed by authentic natives have to provide a substantial percentage to the entire economy of all Polynesian countries.  But is this different in any other culture?  It turns out it is mainly because the Hawaiian culture is at a threat of being wiped clean from record.  There are less than 150,000 native Hawaiians left and maintaining a sort of purity of their culture and history become more difficult with every generation.  I commend the American people for being able to draw attention to one of it smallest states and value its contributions to our society but I hope that understanding that having a good time on the beach is not all Hawaii and its fellow Pacific Island kin have to offer.

Jerry Maguire Review

Jerry Maguire is a movie that makes you want to hug yourself.  Jerry Maguire (played by Tom Cruise), is a high ranking sports agent who has a large amount of clients that he can't really focus on any of them. He spends most of his time travelling, going hotel to hotel, constantly meeting up with client and doing the bidding of the company.   Jerry is then fired for having a revelation is the sense that he should be more personal with his client and the company should be more like family than employees.   Being perceived as going insane all of his clients stick with the secure corporation.  Only one client doesn't leave Maguire when he is fired.   Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding Jr.), a wide receiver for Arizona, who fights with Jerry but sees him as being sincere and believe in his ability to make him successful.  Rod's wife Marcee (Regina King) is Tidwell’s most supportive, dedicated and all-around biggest fan, and their marriage is a true love story. Jerry’s own engagement to the power-mad Avery Bishop (Kelly Preston) is then shown to be exposed as some sort of relationship out of convenience instead of love.
Renee Zellweger (Dorothy Boyd), whose lovability is one of the key elements in a movie that starts out looking cynical and quickly becomes a heart warmer.  She is a single mother in a seemingly dead end job and is instantly infatuated with Jerry Maguire.  She has moments where she is standing in her kitchen and tells her older sister that she really, truly, loves a man with her whole heart and soul.  Cruise plays Maguire with the earnestness of a man who wants to find greatness and happiness in an occupation where only success really counts.  She plays a woman who believes in this guy she loves, and reminds us that true love is about idealism ( ``I love you because of who you are--and who I am when I am with you.'').  There are also lines that have resonated with the current culture of the world and keep this movie as a constant reminder to classic moments in film (“You complete me….”, “You have me at hello.”)

To keep the male audience somewhat engaged; there is an actual sports element and comedic dialog that relates to guys. 

The actual sports scenes are actually very predictable.  Yet the focus is to give the feel good satisfaction and also keep the sports from overshadowing the focus on Jerry and dilemmas.  Finally the movie is about transformation: About two men who learn how to value something more important than money, and about two women who always knew.  Both Jerry and Rod have to fight through the trials and tribulations of wanting to be successful without having to sell out or having to sacrifice the idea that it can’t be done while being dedicated family men.


The Rules of Attraction

Recently, I have read a book by Bret Easton Ellis called, The Rules of Attraction.  It is a satirical novel that also has comedic elements in it.  It is based on a fictional college in the New England area named Camden College.  The story follows a few students that become involved with each other mainly through their own personal attraction and relationships with each other.  It is a complicated environment and they continue to fight and yearn for each others attention in one way or another.  The setting is based on a typical 80's campus so love in that time is different from today in the sense that sex is more promiscuously accepted and drugs are a bit more reckless among the student body.

The struggle of being a college student alone is enough for a person to handle.  Trying to find love in the sense that you are either lonely or in the need of affection is an asset that can help you succeed or become such a distraction that you can sabotage yourself.  Love is something that is nostalgic in anyone's recollection so the culture of the time defiantly as an instant effect at times.

My focus in our group is to bring into light the main point but somehow set in a sort of underlining plot of novel which is the fight and complex nature of love.  Being directly involved with pop culture, love is a major part of everyone's lives.  Be it a song, movie, book or historical moment, you can usually point to it connecting you to someone special at the time giving you a feeling maybe missed or felt for the first time.  A first kiss with a song in the background, love at first sight upon someone wearing the hippest outfit and immaculate hairstyle, and having that first dance to "our" song while having your heart race and embrace someone who's side you never want to leave.  These are memories that transform people into being able to connect with society on a intimate level.

The novel also puts into play the difficult hurdles that people face in this environment.  Being from different classes, stressing the torture of a long distance relationship, being of a multiple sexual preference, even having the trouble of trying to express yourself without knowing the words to say.  During our class discussion, I plan to involve the class by first trying to relate to them with and express there own ideas of pop culture and love.  Things that bring certain memories or even basic cultural references such as going on a first date (dinner and a movie) or bringing roses and candy.  Next, relating those things to how they differ today or if it is a staple in our society and therefore graduating into a tradition.  Our group as a whole is going to have the class help analyze the story by bringing in their own point of views into the story and bring it in a full circle by comparing it to today.  Overall, The Rules of Attraction did give me a aspect of personal struggle and agony that I did not realize and although exaggerated  seemed fairly believable.


Ethnography of the Los Angeles Dodgers

Recently, I went see the Los Angeles Dodgers on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.  I haven't been to a game in over 15 years, so I thought it would be a nice place to be able to sit and observe the environment.  The perception of being a Dodger fan is very different from twenty years ago.  Since winning the 1988 World Series, the Dodger's disappointing scorecard and constant instability have made loyal fandom a difficult task.   In the 1980's and early 90's the Dodgers were easily in the top 2 of attraction (with the Lakers and that’s with TWO NFL teams and the current college teams).  Game tickets were highly coveted and Dodger games were a collective interest of Los Angeles residents.   The grandeur of the team was enough to sell tickets.  Now I find that the team has resorted to gimmicky marketing, including Internet and YouTube ads, to sell tickets that were previously so highly valued.  The Dodgers went from being in the top 5 of attendance as recently as two years ago, to in the bottom 5.  Some home games have as few as 9 thousand people there.  That’s only about 18% full!  
I went to only a few games before the Dodgers experienced this drastic decline but I do remember the playoff feel of the games.  The rivalries with the Giants and the Atlanta Braves were highly talked about events, covered in local and national media.  Everyone appeared to have a strong opinion about the Dodgers and the experience of attending a home game further enforced the hype.  Loud roars of the crowd, Dodgers dogs, peanuts and ice cream being sold in the stands, fans cheering and clapping in unison often made Dodger stadium the place to be.  Now, with the Dodgers having to be owned by Major League Baseball, then Fox Sports for a while and now currently Frank McCourt, the organization has made bad move after bad move.  It feels that the Dodgers are now just another sports team, only surviving in the dimming light of its past glory.
This particular game I attended was a Sunday afternoon game on July 17th. Fans still cheered, but not as fanatic.  Food and Dodger merchandise is still sold, but it’s not as cool to wear outside of the stadium.  Beer and Margaritas are even still there, but with extreme limitations and safety being a huge problem since a Giants fan was almost beat to death on opening night.  The entire Dodger stadium is in a current lull waiting for a good product to come and wake the sleeping dragon that is Dodgertown.  I sat in my seat in the direct sunlight observing fans that really seemed not to care anymore.  Empty seats outnumbered the fans and with the lack of an active audience, people didn’t even converse with each other.    The announcer was very dull and lethargic.  The very few loyal Dodgers fans left in attendance appeared bored and pessimistic.  The old hype and hope for a World Series win were memories of the past, while the current aura of the stadium was one of frustration and disdain for the team.
The Dodgers were actually winning and I could only gage a lukewarm response from the crowd almost waiting for the team to give back the lead.  During the 6th inning, I went walking around the stadium to see how the vibe was around this beautiful day.  It was pretty robotic how people walked in a ho hum way.  Lines were fairly short everywhere.  Staff appeared bored and disconnected from the game.  They were no longer part of the Dodgers team but instead a group of transplanted customer service workers waiting for the game to end.
Ferdinand de Saussure's Theory of the Sign, Signified and Signifier really hit home to me being American and growing up in such a culture to where many signs (language, music, art, etc.) that can trigger different things.  Saussure states, “Some people regard language, when reduced to its elements, as a naming-process only- a list of words, each corresponding to the thing that it names” (pg. 77).  Dodger fans of the past are going through the most frustrating years and basically having the Dodgers as a sign signify something that is only a shell of their past glory.  The only similar part of the old Dodgers and the new Dodgers is the name.  The sportsmanship, morale, and energy they had in their heyday have disappeared.  1988 is over twenty years ago and a whole generation of fans have arrived and their sign has changed.  The psychological character of the Dodgers is now one that is marked by losing and underachieving.  Los Angeles residents expect the Dodgers to be the West Coast version of the New York Yankees. The Yankees have won 5 World Series titles and have been in the playoffs 15 times since 1988.  The Dodgers have no titles and have been to the playoffs only 6 times in that same time span.  I hope that the Dodgers organization can be saved before it is too late.  
The Dodgers are one of the few sports franchises that transcend international culture and language.  All over the world, you don't have to be a sports fan and know who the Dodgers are.  The Dodgers have placed Los Angeles on the map as a team that not only is successful in baseball, but successful in unifying a diverse population through sport. Saussure stated, "From even a conceptional viewpoint, value is doubtless one element in signification, and it is difficult to see how signification can be dependent upon value and still be distinct from it."  The Dodgers don't depend on their monetary value but more having a culture and identity of a respectable franchise. This organization can't depend on the faithful fans to keep it relevant but realize its importance to Major League Baseball.  It helps everyone for the Dodgers to be good.  The attraction of Hollywood alone shines throughout the world as a place of making dreams come true.  A successful team validates their existence.  There is a different glow in the city when the Dodgers are good.  Businesses are more prominent.  The blue collar working class of Los Angeles (which is often forgotten) has a voice again, even from the six dollar seats.  The pride of this team brings everyone together more than any other franchise (carrying a torch passed on by the Lakers).
French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu states, “Culture is a way of distinguishing between positions in social hierarchy".  I agree with this statement in that it is human nature to want to associate oneself with a winner.  To many, being a Los Angeles resident can be a great source of pride and culture when a sports team can show qualities of strength, determination and vigilance. I'm willing to believe that society will support you if you don't win all the time but at least be willing to try and give the perception that you really care and want the best.  I feel that the Dodgers are letting down their fans in Los Angeles by relying only on their name to continue their existence.  Growing up with the Dodgers is a fond memory to me.  In a way, it was a part of my childhood identity.  Other companies like 76 gas stations, Farmer John Meat Company and Fox Sports West have also become successful staples in not only California but America thanks to the Dodgers.  This further illustrates the immense financial and cultural power the Dodgers possessed.  I understand that being in such a closely watch demographic really puts the pressure on any team to be champions but, I think it’s time for the Dodgers (even if I’m not a fan) to become a worthy adversary.


Intro to the first day to the rest of our lives

Good evening everyone.  My name is Javonte Gray and I am writing this blog in order to give you the public insight and banter to current events and even maybe some dilemmas that can occur in life.  I'm a guy so I can only write from a male point of view but I try to keep an open mind to the female species and definitely fair about how I communicate.  I am born and raised in Los Angeles, California, served the the Army for 7 years working on helicopters and avionics and also dabbled as a finance personnel in Kentucky.  I would like to keep things simple by saying, "I'm a man's man" yet, not too stubborn on anything different in the world.  I love to travel and love sports.  Indulging in different cultures is something that I also find mandatory in order to be able to really experience all that life has to offer.  This blog will currently coincide with my English 313 class and I hope to be able to provide and enjoyable factor to more than just written assignments.  Please feel free to comment and I look forward to becoming a staple into the bogging community.