by Kyawt Thiri Nyunt
Mad Men: The Least Glamorous Show on Television
by Daphne Ford
As AMC’s “Mad Men” draws closer to its end, many have been reminiscing and reflecting upon its seven season run. Considered to be one of the most critically acclaimed television series of the past decade, it has had a significant influence on culture, fashion and media, garnering huge amounts of attention for its attractive cast of characters and highly-stylized 1960s aesthetic. While the visual beauty of the show is prominent, those who have watched past the first episode know that "Mad Men" does not lean on elegance and allure alone. It approaches commonly glamorized subjects, like sex, smoking and drinking in a way that hits hard and goes far beyond the escapism that some might expect.
Much of its credit can be given to its wealth of complex female characters. Women from the past—Marilyn Monroe, Mary Tyler Moore, Brigitte Bardot—are looked back on today as pinnacles of perfection and femininity. We picture women of the 1960s as being either housewives or sex-symbols. Plenty of women on “Mad Men” fill either of those voids; Betty Draper, for example is introduced as the angelic, blonde home keeper and Joan Holloway, the statuesque office manager of Sterling Cooper has adopted the status of a modern day sex-symbol. Even though they initially fit the mold of society’s established roles of women in the 60s, their characters develop far beyond their one-dimensional stereotypes. These are just two examples; the show features countless scenarios and dynamics in which we see the universal challenges women faced, while examining the individual lives and personalities of defined female characters. The show features many smart, qualified women, many of whom are struggling to define themselves professionally during a time when women were just beginning to break through in the corporate world. We also see the other side; women who are wives and mothers, many of whom have sacrificed their personal goals and interests to support their husbands and families.
Sally Draper, the daughter of Don and Peggy, contributes greatly to the female ensemble. Wise and questionable of authority, she provides the younger perspective of a new generation of women.
The women of “Mad Men", though all very distinct from one another, are universal in that they are all flawed. However visually striking or polished is appearance, they have all made mistakes and done things that have made them far from like-able. We have seen Peggy Olson, who entered Sterling Cooper a meek secretary and was quickly promoted to copywriter, navigate her way through a male-dominated field. Originally one of the most sympathetic characters, she shows an arrogance and attitude towards her superiors that displayed her character in a less-sympathetic light. Peggy changes as she gains confidence in a very realistic way. She is an example of a strong, driven woman, but she isn’t immune to human imperfection.
Along with gender dynamics, “Mad Men” tackles the deterioration of the American family. It differs significantly than depictions of home-life we see in media from the era. As much as we love to put the nuclear family of the 1960s on a pedestal, life wasn’t as simple as it’s shown to be on "Leave It to Beaver". The number of divorces shown or alluded to in “Mad Men” feels like no less than today. Primary characters--Don Draper, Pete Campbell and Roger Sterling--all file for divorce (for some, more than once) through the course of the show, and the viewer is shown the messiness that can ensue during the deterioration of a marriage. The show not only faithfully represents the faults that can tear a couple apart, but also how social standards of the time put strain on those who did not perfectly fit into a marital mold.
There’s a particularly poignant scene in which Pete Campbell, in the midst of a divorce, loudly denounces Harry Crane the day after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. for his callousness regarding the event. Though his monologue is postured to address the catastrophic event and subsequential chaos, it is clear that Pete is speaking in tandem of the loss of his own moral structure and the disintegration of his family.
There is a depressing pattern of failure: women who married young and grew bored of their suppressive, lonely lives; men who take liberties with sexual freedom and lose sight their commitments and dignity. It leaves both parties unsatisfied, and lacks the formulaic happiness we see on programs like "The Brady Bunch" and "Bewitched".
The amount of sex featured on "Mad Men", as much as it probably helps to secure viewership, is rarely featured for the sole purpose of sex appeal. Seldom do we see a sexual encounter between two characters, whether it is a suggestive interaction or sexual intercourse, that doesn’t feel coerced, unbalanced or entirely consensual. From an outsider’s perspective, "Mad Men" may seem as if it’s reminiscing for a time when men held an even greater sexual hold over women than they do today, but the show does an impeccable job of providing two perspectives to every sexual situation. The female perspective is more often than not clouded with discomfort and a sense of obligation. That isn’t to say that there are many sexual encounters on "Mad Men" that are consensual, but the show includes a spectrum of dynamics that show how non-violent sexual interactions often involve power-dynamics that can cause harm. It exemplifies universal sexual and gender norms of the era and the extremes to which women were sexually targeted and repressed. It deals with the past, but it rings true to the imperfect relationship between society and sex today. As a female viewer, I’ve appreciated how the show has always acknowledged a social issue that has hardly improved and a perspective that is so often ignored.
The consequences of sex women face, particularly unplanned pregnancy, is dealt with more than once throughout the series as well.
The male sexual perspectives of “Mad Men” are carefully evoked as well. Below the surface of the careless and casual sexual behavior of male characters lies a desperation that stems from a place of insecurity and fragile egos. There is a consistent pattern on the show of men jumping to sex whenever they feel emasculated: we see it early on when Pete sleeps with Peggy after failing to successfully pitch to Lucky Strike. We see it again when Joan’s fiancee forces himself on her after a tense conversation with her former lover Roger. The examples are endless. We see how internalized patriarchy can ruin a man after Don divorces Betty and continues a solitary life in New York City. He engages in a consequence-free life of casual sex, but all of the encounters shown feel empty and mechanical. He engages in a pleasurable act, but only because it is the alternative to feeling nothing. Sex it is an unstable crutch to lean on. It’s as depressing to watch as an addict shooting up daily because they simply have no other choice.
“Mad Men” is arguably most guilty for glamorizing smoking (Lucky Strike sales have gone up nearly 50% since the premiere of "Mad Men"), but doesn’t fail to show the change in attitude towards tobacco over the course of the decade. To be fair, the amount of smoking on “Mad Men” can be attributed to historical accuracy and the lack of knowledge of the various health problems cigarettes cause. The glamorization comes from the inherent attractiveness of the cast of “Mad Men", who are shown smoking in nearly every scene. Throughout the course of the show, we see society become exposed to health claims about tobacco and slowly develop a stronger resistance to cigarettes. Though the show never highlights any serious effects of smoking, we do occasionally see people reject offers for cigarettes and ask that others not smoke in their homes or cars in later seasons. The change in relationship between Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce and Lucky Strike in season four marks a change to the company, as well as a shift in society’s attitude towards smoking.
The show's relationship with alcohol is similar, the only difference being that the negative effects are plainly visible. Drinking whiskey throughout the day is usual on Madison Avenue and characters appear to be able to handle their liquor the majority of the time, but overindulgence often leads to humiliation, such as when Freddy Rumsen drunkenly wets his pants before pitching to Samsonite luggage, forcing him to take a leave of absence and when Don vomits during Roger’s mother’s memorial service. The long-term effects of alcohol abuse become apparent in later seasons. Several characters struggle with addiction, including Don, who’s downward spiral comes to head in the season four episode “Waldorf Stories". His plot lines are shown out of sequence and in disoriented fragments, forcing the viewer to piece together Don’s life as much as he his.
Though glamorous in appearance, “Mad Men” has proved time and time again that its quality lies in more than just visual appeal. Its merits lie in its faithful, often undesirable truths.
Recent Increase of Racial Diversity on Television is Progress, but Far From Perfect
by Daphne Ford
Last March, Deadline came under fire for publishing an article titled “Pilots of 2015: The Year of Ethnic Castings—About Time or Too Much of a Good Thing?” in which co-editor Nellie Andreeva argued that the recent growth of roles for minority actors on television is leaving white actors in the dust.
From the use of the word “ethnic” to suggestions that racial diversity in television has gone too far; the article was altogether misguided and ill-conceived. The backlash Deadline received from readers, as well as members of the media and entertainment industry, has been endless, and frankly, well-deserved.
The headline has since been changed “as it did not correctly reflect the context of the article” and co-editor Mike Fleming Jr. has apologized, but the question still stands: How on earth could Deadline, or anyone for that matter, even begin to consider a shift towards more racially diverse casting and an increase in opportunity for minority actors as “too much of a good thing?”
The flawed opinions expressed in the article have drawn negative attention, but the focus of the article itself is not grounds for criticism. In fact, we have seen a positive shift in television this past year, with many networks hosting shows with more racially diverse casts than America is used to.
Fox’s drama “Empire” is carried by a primarily African American cast. A huge hit this season; it has broken records in ratings for the network and garnered critical acclaim.
ABC’s “Fresh Off the Boat” and “Black-ish” focus on an Asian and a Black family respectively, while “How To Get Away With Murder” features African-American actress Annalise Keating in the lead role. Though these series are not breakout hits to the extent that “Empire” is, they have received praise for their representation of different ethnicities and cultures. ABC is also been home to African-American screenwriter, producer and director Shonda Rhimes’ series “Scandal” and “Grey’s” Anatomy”, both of which feature racially diverse casts and women of color in prominent lead roles.
“Jane the Virgin” on the CW features a Latina actress in the lead, as will NBC’s upcoming drama “The Curse of the Fuentes Women.”
“The Mindy Project,” a staple on NBC for the past three years, is led by Indian actress Mindy Kaling. In addition, NBC took a step towards increasing racial diversity last year by adding three black feature players to the Saturday Night Live cast, bringing the count of black cast members up to five, which is significantly higher than we have seen in recent years.
Comedy Central has assigned black South African comedian Trevor Noah to host “The Daily Show,” which is an attempt to step in the right direction regardless of recent controversy.
Yes, in the past few years there has been a significant rise in racial diversity on network television, and no, it definitely isn’t “too much of a good thing.”
For years, the racial makeup on television has been far from reflective of the population in the United States. A 2015 Hollywood Diversity Report conducted by the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA states that minorities make up nearly 40 percent of the U.S. population, and are projected to become the majority within the next few decades. Yet in 2013, minority actors were underrepresented by a factor of nearly six to one among broadcast scripted leads, and white actors dominated top credits.
This begs the question: Why haven’t networks managed to attain a realistic and balanced depiction of racial diversity?
Generally, we tend to surround ourselves with media that we can identify with on some level. It isn’t unusual or unreasonable for people to prefer shows that feature actors who look like them, talk like them, dress like them and so on. The flaw here is that currently, television doesn’t reflect what “we” want to watch, it reflects the preferences of a handful of people designated to make decisions. The UCLA study also shows that television and network studio heads were 96 percent white and 71 percent male in 2013. For the most part, white males choose which pilots air, as well as which do not. It’s a flawed system that isn’t justifiable, but it makes perfect sense that network television reflects these preferences, and so often neglects the perspectives of minority men and women.
People crave relatable television and because of the industry’s disarranged order of priorities, it has lead to an abysmal display of racial diversity.
The painfully obvious alternative is to use this as an effective, easy tool to increase viewership. According to the same UCLA study, “Median 18-49 viewer ratings (as well as most median household ratings among whites, black and Latinos) peaked for broadcast and cable shows that at least match the minority share of the population in terms of overall cast diversity” and “Median 18-49 viewer ratings were highest for broadcast and cable scripted shows in which minorities wrote between 21 percent and 30 percent of the episodes.” It would be profitable across the board to start catering to a wider array of racial groups, and African Americans in particular. A 2013 Neilson Consumer report shows that African Americans watch 37 percent more than other consumer groups, making them the most aggressive consumers of media in the market. Clearly, networks would benefit greatly from securing their viewership.
It’s in the numbers: America prefers television shows that feature actors of various races because the fact of the matter is that the U.S. population is not entirely white, however hard this may be for network executives or the editors over at Deadline to admit. It would be in the best interest of network executives to welcome minority actors to the small screen because it could be increasingly beneficial for business. It makes one wonder if television and network executives haven’t clued in or if they are simply that afraid of change.
The financial benefits are apparent, but the social reflection and potential influence are of the most importance. The issue with Deadline’s article doesn’t have to do with television, it has to do with the attitude towards race in this country. Some worry that white actors are having their roles taken away from them, but what makes these roles theirs to take? Sixty percent of the population have been given roughy 90 percent of opportunities in Hollywood, so it isn’t as if white actors haven’t had their chance. Minority groups have consistently been underrepresented in the media, and to take away some of this new-found representation would stunt social progress. People of all races deserve representation in the media. Based on patterns, this isn’t going to happen organically or in a timely manner. Change is a slow process and we can’t expect to see anything too significant in the near future, but the request isn’t unreasonable. Networks need to continue making an active effort to diversify, as well as hire minority executives who can help to broaden the perspectives of networks. It isn’t going to solve the issue of racism, but because people learn from and mirror what they see on television, an increase in positive representations of minority groups on television could contribute to a more tolerant society at the very least.
To pity white actors in hollywood is fruitless. An increase in opportunities for minority actors poses a threat to no one. It gives us a glimpse into a future where shows featuring African American leads can be counted on more than two hands. Though some feel that the pendulum “may have swung a bit too far in the opposite direction,” as Deadline put it, the current display of racial diversity on television is far from ideal, regardless of how far the pendulum has already swung.
Top Three TV Shows on Netflix
by Joyce Chu
Now that finals are almost done, students should be looking forward to getting some rest from studying and Netflix is a good way to start. Netflix, an on-demand Internet streaming media, was first established in 1997. Netflix has a variety of TV shows and movies in all genres. In April, the top three TV shows on Netflix were Mad Men, Breaking Bad and House of Cards.
Mad Men started in 2007 and had an average of 4.1 stars on Netflix. The setting is in New York, where the main character Don Draper struggles to keep a prestigious ad industry running. Aaron Wong said, “I didn’t understand the show at first, but as I kept watching, I got hooked and I even finished a whole season in just one week.” Another Netflix user said, “I took a Rock and Roll Music Theory class in college, and in that class I learned the true meaning behind the Eagles' song Hotel California. The song was an anthem for the most explosive period of growth the music industry had ever seen, and cataloged the 50s, 60s and the rough transition into the 70s. I'm not a fan of the Eagles, but I believe Mad Men does much of the same thing, displaying for us the inner workings and turbulence of a growing nation through an epic. That epic is the journey into the life and soul of Don Draper, and he very much becomes a symbol for what America was, and the changes it went through at that time.”
Breaking Bad which ran from 2008-2012 with five seasons, has an average of 13.4 million ratings of 4.5 stars. After being diagnosed with lung cancer, Walter White, a high school chemistry teacher, starts to produce and sell crystal meth to secure his family’s finances. Christabelle Kim, a frequent Netflix subscriber says, “Breaking Bad is one of the best shows on Netflix that I have ever watched.” Another member’s review from Netflix said, “Breaking Bad has a tightly woven narrative, well-planned and well-executed, from beginning to end. Unfortunately, there are no filler episodes and each one builds on those prior and pushes the story forward. New characters and sub-plots are introduced and integrated without distraction. In short, Breaking Bad will be remembered as one of the best series ever produced.”
House of Cards has an average of 6.1 million ratings of 4.5 stars and has produced three seasons so far on Netflix. Francis Underwood, a very cunning Congressman, along with his gorgeous conniving wife, works his way to the top of the White House. Michelle Chung said, “I haven’t finished this show yet, but watching this makes me feel as if I were part of it. The actors and camera work have truly made me feel as if they were real.” Another user said, “I was drawn in but felt impatient by series one, and series two was fascinating but series three is my favorite of them all. I really enjoyed the race for the nomination in the second-half of this season and if series four is going to be all about the election race, then I'm all on for it. Some of the characters in series three were amazing, from the two female democratic runners opposing Frank to his staff, which includes Doug--or does it? Fantastic writing as always, but those looking for Frank to be as erratic as he had been in the first two seasons are missing a huge point...he was being erratic and controlling to get to the position he is in. Now he must hold on to that position, a different dynamic altogether. HOC continues to be the most perfectly polished production."
After learning about the top three movies, students should have a good list of TV shows to tackle over the summer.
Big Hero 6
by Joyce Chu
In the city of San Fransokyo, Hiro Hamada, a 14-year-old robotics prodigy forms a special bond with a healthcare robot named Baymax. After dangerous situations occur in their beautiful city, Hiro then transforms his friends--adrenaline junkie Go Go Tomago, OCD Wasabi, chemistry whiz Honey Lemon and science enthusiastic Fred and, of course, Bay Max--into heroes. Big Hero 6 is one of the best Disney movies created. Throughout the movie, Big Hero 6 destroys racial and gender stereotypes.
Many Disney movies like Frozen and Tangled have a female lead character go through some big adventure which leads them to finding their “true love”, allowing these movies to appeal mainly to females. Big Hero 6 has a male lead character, but the story plot appeals to both genders because it's about friendship. Throughout their big journey of being heroes, Hiro and his friends show that no matter how hard life is, they have each other to get through the tough times. Big Hero 6 has major female characters like Go Go Tomago and Honey Lemon, both who are bold, intelligent and ready to tackle gender stereotypes.
By having a combination of the cities of San Francisco and Tokyo, the film had a perfect futuristic setting which helped them create a utopian society. According to a Buzzfeed News interview with the director, Don Hall, he said, “This film gave us a perfect opportunity to create a diverse cast. When you look outside your window, you go to any city anywhere in America—the world for that matter—and it’s a diverse world. Our films should reflect that. So very early on, we decided that we were going to have a lot of diversity in this film, and the main characters were going to be a mash-up as well, because this is a mash-up of Disney and Marvel. It’s a mash-up of Eastern and Western culture”.
by Kara New
Making a baby is in our nature, but have you ever thought about making a baby to your very own standards.
The day may be drawing closer due to the advances in genetic technology where it will be possible to reliably choose cosmetic traits such as complexion and hair color or even physical characteristics such as athleticism.
Here are some Pros and Cons of Designer Babies.
Gives a child genes that the parents do not carry
Reduces risk of genetic diseases
Reduces risk of inherited medical conditions
Termination of embryos
Possible damage to the gene pool
Baby has no choice
May be too costly for most people
Where do you stand on the matter?
Baking with a Touch of Insanity
by Julia Salem
Baking has been a favorite pastime for many Americans. Whether it’s baking from a recipe book or trying to mimic those unnaturally perfect cakes seen on Pinterest (seriously, how do they make those things look so perfect?), people everywhere have found some joy in the art of baking. In this day and age, you don’t need an actual recipe book to bake something. Many recipes have been uploaded on blogs, social media websites and videos.
One such recipe found on a blog, titled Pretty Cake Machine, was called Lemon Curd and Pomegranate Vacherin Baskets. Think of it like a lemon meringue pie, except instead of foamy, the meringue is crunchy, and has whipped cream and pomegranates. Sounds like a tasty dessert, right? And from the picture of the finished result, this looks like a pretty easy treat to make.
If you have plenty of baking experience, that is.
In this recipe, the measurements are listed in grams and milligrams instead of cups. If you are mathematically challenged when it comes to these types of measurements, it really helps to look up an online measuring converter.
The most challenging parts of this recipe are preparing the meringue and trying to form the baskets. When making meringue, certain steps have to be taken. For example, it is best to use an electric mixer instead of a whisk, otherwise, you’re going to be beating those egg whites for a very long time. It’s also best to make sure that you use a bowl and spoon that has no dirt, grease or oil present. Also, make sure that the egg whites have no traces of egg yolk, as this can affect the shape and texture of the meringue. If not done right, you will get a mixture of foamy white goodness on top, and egg white on the bottom. Be kind to the meringue, and it will be kind to you. Hopefully, because this stuff is very picky.
When trying to make the baskets, it is good to use a baking pen to draw the bottom portion. These circles will help act as a guide. When your meringue is finished, it must be piped onto the baking sheet, following the outline of the circle.
For beginners, don’t panic if you don’t get this step right the first time. In fact, the piping part is probably the most difficult of the recipe. For first timers, what they expect to be deliciously perfect white basket will more than likely come out as a flat whiteness of blah. In this case, a much better title for the recipe would be Lemon Curd and Pomegranate Vacherin Plates. Not only that, but the meringue can go everywhere and can get very messy and sticky. By that time, you may feel yourself wanting to sob hysterically and throw the pans out the window. You may also begin to wonder if these other bakers have some sort of magic thumb, because they tend to make everything look so easy.
When the baskets (or your first attempt to make a basket) are all on the pre-drawn circles, they should be popped into the oven so they can cook for two-three hours.
The recipe also calls for lemon curd. This concoction by far is the easiest to make. In all seriousness, you’d have to try very hard to mess this up. Not to mention, it’s not nearly as much of a headache as preparing meringue. For this, you will need butter, sugar, lemon zest, and cornstarch. You must whisk all the ingredients together, and save the butter for last. Then, you’re supposed to cook it on the stove. When the concoction starts to bubble, that is your cue to add the butter. Keep stirring until it is thick, and then transfer it to a bowl, and cover instantly with saran wrap. After that, place it in the fridge for it to completely cool.
When the baskets (or plates if it’s your first time trying to mimic this recipe) are done, take them out of the oven and let cool for a bit. You can use a spatula to scrap them off. You must be very careful. Think of the meringue as if it were glass. On wrong move, and they will break.
Next comes the absolute easiest part of this recipe. Far easier than preparing the lemon curd. You are now ready to decorate the meringues. Spoon some completely cooled lemon curd onto the meringues, and cover with whipped cream and pomegranate seeds.
While the dessert may not look like how it’s supposed to, chances are, if you’ve done everything right, it should end up tasting very good. The airy texture and foamy sweetness of the meringue is complemented with the sweet-tart lemon curd, and the whipped cream gives it a rather tasty finish.
If you’re the type of baker who likes to challenge themselves, and try new things (as well as having the ability to refrain from giving yourself premature balding), then this is a fun dessert to try.
Are College Students Over Worked?
by Kiana Johnson
As a full-time college student taking six classes, working (sometimes two jobs at a time), while trying to have a social life--it is quite easy for me to think that college students are overworked and stressed out. Watching fellow college students run around like crazed chickens has only reinforced that belief.
Sometimes it is easy to overlook all of the things that students have to endure while trying to finish complete their academic careers. For those who are student-athletes, living alone for the first time, entrepreneurs, or part-time (or full-time) employees, the daunting tasks of finishing essays, composing presentations or finding time to study for tests can be overwhelming.
I often hear many students share their struggles with each other, discussing the amount of workloads that need to be completed within a certain time frame even though all other aspects of their lives cannot be placed on hold. Personally, I’ve cried many stress-filled tears while typing literature reviews or taking media law tests.
In the end, what keeps the majority of us thriving is the dream of holding that multi-thousand dollar diploma and, hopefully, ending up in the job of our dreams. Fingers are to remain crossed!
Medical Marijuana for Pets
by Kiana Johnson
If your furry, four-legged best friend was in pain, you’d medicate him or her, right? Would you still do it if that medication were one of the most controversial forms of pain relief? The use of medical marijuana is often debated amongst us homo sapiens, but not much has been discussed about the use of marijuana for pets.
Look at it like this—cannabis has been approved for medical use for humans in 22 states and is often used for the treatment of cancers, anxiety, loss of appetite and insomnia. All of the benefits that humans receive from the herb holds true for animals as well. Even the ancient Greeks knew this and, therefore, used marijuana to treat their horses.
Although marijuana is not going to fix any serious medical conditions or illnesses, it will, at least, ease the pain, increase appetite, and help your furry friend feel more comfortable and at ease. Wouldn’t you want them to do the same for you if the tables were turned?
New Season, Rejoice! Orange Is the New Black Returns for Season 3
by Kiana Johnson
Orange Is the New Black is a Netflix original series that has been sparking a lot of conversation. After many fans were tricked into believing that the show had been canceled after season two, one can only imagine the wave of excitement when Netflix confirmed that a new season will air this July. Orange fans have expressed their anticipation for the show’s return and are waiting to see what will happen to their most loved and hated characters.
Piper Chapman, who was sent to prison after being involved in her girlfriend’s drug ring, has to face the challenges of finding herself and learning what it means to be alive and free while trapped behind prison walls. She must figure out which path is right for her regarding love, friendships, family and overall happiness.
The show has been nominated for multiple awards and has won honors including an Emmy, Screen Actors Guild Award and many more. For now, fans must simply endure the routine of everyday life until a new season is aired and they chain themselves to the television for the summer.