American demographics seen through ads

“Demographic change,” Paul Taylor explains in The Atlantic, “is a drama in slow motion.” The United States is undergoing two simultaneous transformations. It’s becoming a majority non-white country, and a record number of Americans are aging.

But this kind of change is paradoxical—”even though it happens all around us, it’s sometimes hard to see.” As Taylor, who researches demographic and generational changes at the Pew Research Center, observed, “You don’t hold a press conference to announce that we’re becoming older or becoming majority non-whites.”

During a talk at the Aspen Ideas Festival, Taylor showed three ads that aired during the football game or shortly thereafter.

One, a Cheerios commercial, showed a black father and a white mother telling their biracial daughter, via cereal, that they were expecting a baby boy (the ad was a sequel to a controversial spot that ran last spring).

The second ad, a divisive Coca-Cola commercial, featured Americans of various ages, races, and religions singing “America the Beautiful” in different languages.

The third, from Chevrolet, depicted an assortment of families—a heterosexual couple with one child, multi-generational households, single parents, a gay couple with two kids. “While what it means to be a family hasn’t changed, what a family looks like has,” the narrator says. “This is the new us.”

If these commercials had footnotes, they might look something like these charts, from Taylor’s “Next America” study for Pew. (Note that in the third graph, on the immigrant share of the population, the U.S. is actually returningto its makeup before a wave of immigration restrictions between the 1920s and 1960s.)

Corporations, Taylor pointed out, generally aren’t the ones affecting social change—they’re the ones affirming it. “Product advertisers are not in the business of making political statements, and they’re certainly not in the business of making political enemies, not when they’re spending $4 million for 30 seconds before the biggest national audience we have,” he said. “Each of them surely knew, because they focus-group these things to death, and they market-research these things to death, that if you have images of parents who are opposite race and same sex, and if you have ‘America the Beautiful’ being sung in six or seven different languages, you are going to offend some portion of your customer base.”

Clearly, the calculation at Coca-Cola, General Mills, and General Motors was that those outraged customers would be in the minority.

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2014/06/americas-demographic-revolution-in-super-bowl-ads/373639/

MTV’s “look different” campaign

MTV is launching a new campaign to appeal to younger viewers by tapping into the issues affecting them right now: race, gender, and sexual identity, the network’s president, Stephen Friedman, told BuzzFeed. As BuzzFeed reports:

“The network’s new “Look Different” campaign — a combination of on-air and digital content, plus social media, which will be officially announced later today — is aimed to “accelerate [the] imagesfight against racial, gender & LGBT inequality,” according to a press release.

“What [we’ve] found is that these issues are a little bit of a third rail and there’s not a place for people to have the dialogue,” Friedman told BuzzFeed. “Our audience feels really strongly about fairness and equality, yet they don’t even really have the language to talk about it or the forum.”

“The “Look Different” campaign will roll out over the course of several years in three phases: The first will focus on racial bias, the second will focus on gender bias, and the third will focus on anti-LGBT bias. Much of the on-air and digital content, which will be hosted on lookdifferent.org, is aimed at dismantling implicit biases and combating microaggressions, brief and often non-intentionally offensive verbal slights that have damaging effects on members of minority groups.

Continue reading “MTV’s “look different” campaign”

Hollywood’s diversity problem

A new study by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University has

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confirmedwhat so many critics have long-observed about diversity in Hollywood: even in 2014, it is virtually nonexistent.

Salon reports that the study says that “only 15 percent of the year’s 100 top-grossing films featured women in leading roles, a rate that has barely changed from 2002, when the Center’s executive director Martha M. Lauzen first began to study the numbers. Beyond lead roles, only 30 percent of speaking roles belong to women, which has risen by only a few percentage points in about 80 years. Lauzen explained the findings to the New York Times:

“We think of Hollywood as a very progressive place and a bastion of liberal thought,” she said. “But when you look at the numbers and the representation of women onscreen, that’s absolutely not the case. The film industry does not like change.”

Ms. Lauzen also found consistencies over the last decade in the number of roles given to African-American, Latina and Asian actresses: last year they accounted for, respectively, 14 percent, 5 percent and 2 percent of all female characters. Those figures also have barely wavered from 2002.

Ms. Lauzen attributed the lack of growth in the number of leading female characters to the relative paucity of women in key roles behind the scenes: since 1998, she has found that women have consistently accounted for roughly 17 percent of writers, directors and producers.

“Lauzen’s findings highlight why it’s so important to have diversity not just on screen, but within the staff of a project. This is not just a problem in film, however; it is a problem that encompasses the entire entertainment industry: Offering a comprehensive look at the dismal record of diversity among leading television programmer HBO, the Huffington Post’s Maureen Ryan wrote last week, “If one focuses only on the last dozen years at AMC, FX, Showtime, Netflix and HBO, around 12 percent of the creators and narrative architects in the dramatic realm were women.”

 

More at: http://www.salon.com/2014/03/11/hollywoods_depressing_gender_problem_new_study_shows_its_barely_improving/

 

Gender diversity growing at colleges

The weekly meetings of Mouthing Off!, a group for students at Mills College in Oakland, Calif., who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, always start the same way, reports a story in today’s Sacramento Bee.

“Members take turns going around the room saying their names and the personal pronouns they want others to use when referring to them — she, he or something else.images

“It’s an exercise that might seem superfluous given that Mills, a small and leafy liberal arts school historically referred to as the Vassar of the West, only admits women as undergraduates. Yet increasingly, the “shes” and “hers” that dominate the introductions are keeping third-person company with “they,” “ze” and other neutral alternatives meant to convey a more generous notion of gender.

“Because I go to an all-women’s college, a lot of people are like, ‘If you don’t identify as a woman, how did you get in?'” said sophomore Skylar Crownover, 19, who is president of Mouthing Off! and prefers to be mentioned as a singular they, but also answers to he. “I just tell them the application asks you to mark your sex and I did. It didn’t ask me for my gender.”

“On high school and college campuses and in certain political and social media circles, the growing visibility of a small, but semantically committed cadre of young people who, like Crownover, self-identify as “genderqueer” — neither male nor female but an androgynous hybrid or rejection of both — is challenging anew the limits of Western comprehension and the English language. Continue reading “Gender diversity growing at colleges”