What is this all about?

When beginning this course my intentions in terms of my future occupation were to always become a “designer” of some sort; whether I be a graphic designer, interior designer, architect or a visual communicator, I didn’t really know what each occupation consisted of as I was only exposed to the surface value of each of them. To get a better understanding of the trade/profession I would have to learn myself, and try piece things together as I faced them. I would find myself building the blocks of what my interpretation of design was, and try find the middle line between what people expected a designer to do and how a person’s creativity can fairly be paid for.

The fact is, the occupation of being a ‘graphic designer’ is predominantly a trade. From the beginning of time, I saw the occupation of a designer as a profession, and not an occupation which held similar labour facets of a builder, plumber or electrician. It required a level of expertise which some people could appreciate and some others could not. Throughout, my course and this subject I have now valued the fact that my dreams of becoming a successful designer have slowly diminished – why you may ask? It’s known that a designer’s work will always be critiqued and shifted by another’s subjective opinions; positively in this case, it can only make the designer better in the long-term, but the true fact is, no new business owners, or kickstarter business owners want to pay for the “we’re almost there, maybe change this, and make this bigger, and make the colour pop a bit more” design, they want the whole, fine cut, hand-made, “polished 15 times over” design – and when it comes time for the designer to invoice the client, the client won’t pay the full amount, as they can’t afford the 36 hours of work the designer originally put in for them. Although, in some cases with larger businesses, being a designer can pay off, but realistically the occupation will always be the ’fence-sitting’ type.

Although this seems rather negatively focused, I believe there is some positive to take from this situation. The fact that my overall values have changed about becoming a successful designer, have allowed me to question what else I would like to be. I always loved that question – “what do you want to be when you grow up?” The common thing kids recall they would want to be, would be a “police officer, firefighter, lawyer, soldier, model, or a vet.” How simple life was back then, with little responsibility and a lot of time playing outside. As we grow older, understanding the ‘adult’ things in life, bring us into a world of the unknown and a feeling of being afraid of failure. The stresses of applying for a full-time position are the hardest, as you are essentially putting yourself on show, like a ‘pole-dancer’, with the eyes of your bosses and recruiters slapping your wage at you. It’s the most traumatising experience to begin with, but once you get the hang of it and fail a few times, the feeling of failure strangely reverts to a feeling of subtle confidence. As Michael White states, “… in the context of this understanding of modern power, people’s mistakes and errors, the unsettling contingencies of their lives, and at times even their misfortunes or failure to achieve desired ends can constitute unique outcomes.” (White, M pg. 26) As unique as the analogy of a ‘pole-dancer’ could be, it truly feels like that. Throughout my course and studies, I had never learnt what it would feel like to be in a career, no work experience would prepare me for it and no relative or family member could warn me about it enough, for me to feel comfortable about moving into this world of the unknown.

White also highlights the concept of ‘relativism’ which is declared as conservative, as “it ignores the inequality of access to resources, the structures that privilege some voices over other voices, the rules about which forms of speech are valorised, about who is to speak about what.” (White 2011, p. 67) The most amazing evidence of this is through Siobhan Christian’s Interview (Lecture Week 8), where as the Student Advocacy Officer of UOW, her role in supporting students and writing on their behalf respectively to the board, meant that she gained a job role in which she would need to work harder and smarter in order to gain that status of being valorised in her position. Siobhan, loved to write – poetry, narratives and short stories. But felt like she never really pursued with writing. Her life growing up as an adult and becoming a mother meant that she had gained a value of being nurturing, to which her role as a Student Advocacy Officer worked relatively well to. Essentially, all of Siobhan’s life values were forever shifting, and all the skills she has learnt all help to in some way with her occupation. When I relate Siobhan’s experiences to my own, I guess I am still learning more about myself, what I can do and how I can develop myself to be something and to be someone I want to be, no matter what occupation.

I began this subject describing my own personal values as being Clever, Compressed, but Calm. The three C’s are humbly me “to a T” – I feel like a clever person, I’m observant, clue-y and believe I have the “gift of the gab”. The compression in me is one that takes a positive stance, in which I believe I am the type of person who can handle some pressure, and then take a calm approach to everything I do. Throughout the course, being offered a full-time job, quitting my other jobs, and having a social life, there has been no balance what-so-ever. To which I see the Three C’s crumbling so fecklessly in front of me. It is this unbalanced life to which I strive to urge to piece together once again, as we were, when we were children – with nothing to worry about and no responsibility pressed on by others. This feeling of building an identity around ourselves is not “constructed by alternative stories of their own lives and own identities. The alternative stories of life and identity that are derived in these contexts are of the pool of the discourses of culture…” (White 2011, p.9) White describes our identities as cultural building block to which we find out more about ourselves throughout the experiences endured through living.

Personally, the act of me writing this essay is to truly outline how this years course has opened my mind to the understandings of how unknown of a world we live in. Throughout my studies and my life in general, I have been told that I will leave University a knowledgable individual, get a job I will love, work hard, become successful and become a family man. As much as I would love this to be true, I know it will take some goal-oriented campaigns to structure my life the way I want it to fall-out. However, it seems all that I have worked for, studying Graphic Design and Marketing & Advertising will not only deny me of ever wanting to getting a job in that industry, but also open my eyes to which people need those skills I have learnt and start making something of myself – my own job role, my own business, my own pay and my own controlled life. I have been forever saying, a subject like this should have existed in 2nd year of study as most people walk into University with falsely lead expectations and a structured life to which you will achieve when graduating from University. It is these cultural discourses which we form based off older generations of family to shape the way we want to succeed in life.

The focal point I relate to the most in the subject is the unexpected nature each of the Interviewees including my own personal Interview with Gregor Cullen. How each individual almost fell into their current roles – I am still waiting for this day to come. “Does this mean I’m unhappy?” No, just piecing together my life each day, and focusing on the things that make me ‘happier’. Enough about design, enough about jobs and occupations, and enough about structuring my life. With these things holding me back and pigeon-holing me as an individual, restricts me from evolving and moving to bigger and better things.

In summation, the entire course and studying my life in terms of the values I consider ‘valuable’ are still shifting. Through conversations, interviews and seminars focussing on others lives and learning from their experiences is both enlightening and definitely  influential. It allows you to take facets of their own life and draw to experiences of your own. Through these experiences I am able to focus on the positives, and further develop my way to understanding my true values in life, and not just my desired values. The focus on occupations as a driving force behind life is a surface issue, you have to learn to use your own skills and make something of your own to enjoy working in that industry or enjoy that industry as it suits your personality and skill sets. The narratives drawn from experiences and cultural discourse truly outline who we are and what we are indeed meant to do with our lives, and wherever these lines may fall, they will eventually fall and allow you to find yourself as a happy, human being.

Reference:

White, M 2011, Narrative Practice: Continuing the Conversations, W. W. Norton & Company, Adelaide, Australia.

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Cultural Appropriation: The Wicked Problem

I will be taking the time to first outline I am not a racist, and do not intentionally act racist in any way. I do however show a large interest in other cultures, the music, fashion (from a generalised term, and not a term to engage in ‘capitalisation’), food etc. Although I am not born into these cultures, I believe they have a very rich influence on society, and people may sometimes take that for granted; the individual may not take the time to invest a true understanding to the origins of that particular ‘hairstyle, dance or garment’.

But does that automatically mean the individual is ignorant? or racist? or not fitting to that culture?

“White girls can’t twerk”, “white guys can’t rap”, “white men can’t jump”, “white women can’t braid their hair”, “white men can’t have cornrows” – so many things white people can’t do because their own origins forbid them to be apart of these cultures.

I’d like to shift this conversation from ‘Transnational Film’ to a better understanding of Cultural appropriation and the on-going issues the topic has.

Firstly, “Cultural appropriation is when somebody adopts aspects of a culture that’s not their own.” (Johnson, 2014) – Fair enough, but the real problem “refers to a particular power dynamic in which members of a dominant culture take elements from a culture of people who have been systematically oppressed by that dominant group.” (Johnson, 2014)

It’s a tough argument. One I will not create a final answer for…

However, I’d like to highlight a current news story on Winnie Harlow, a super model with “vitiligo, a skin condition which causes white patches to develop on her face and body.” (Lynch, 2015). Harlow recently spoke out about her skin condition and the numerous people appropriating her condition for a fashionable statement – these appropriators were seen as racist ‘blackface’ by other users, and Harlow went out of her way to defend them, as well as taking view of ‘cultural appropriation’ from a much more positive and forward thinking perspective.

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Harlow states: “My response to this is probably not what a lot of people want but here it goes: every time someone wants fuller lips, or a bigger bum, or curly hair, or braids does Not mean our culture is being stolen. Have you ever stop to realize these things used to be ridiculed and now they’re loved and lusted over. No one wants to “steal” our look here. We’ve just stood so confidently in our own nappy hair and du-rags and big asses (or in this case, my skin) that now those who don’t have it love and lust after it. Just because a black girl wears blue contacts and long weave doesn’t mean she wants to be white and just because a white girl wears braids and gets lip injection doesn’t mean she wants to be black. The amount of mixed races in this world is living proof that we don’t want to be each other we’ve just gained a national love for each other. Why can’t we embrace that feeling of love? Why do we have to make it a hate crime? In a time when so much negative is happening, please don’t accuse those who are showing love and appreciation, of being hateful. It is very clear to me when someone is showing love and I appreciate these people recreating, loving and broadcasting something to the world that once upon a time I cried myself to sleep over #1LOVE” (Harlow, 2015)

It is a very sad situation, turned very positive. Highlighting a skin condition she used to be “bullied about” and “once upon a time I cried myself to sleep over” – to something she now holds very close to her identity, and it is being cherished and loved by many others of various cultures.

‘Cultural Appropriation’ is something which needs careful attention, and needs to be considered from multiple perspectives before judgements are made.

Mad Men: Don Drapers “Champagne Face”

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Television in Translation:

The Mad Men Television series has promised to be a rather interesting one with its progressive nature, undoubtedly classy fashion, office bullying, drinking copious amounts of alcohol and smoking cigarettes as if they were going out of fashion.

To summarise, Season 3 was Mad Men’s peak season – with the advertising agency “Sterling Cooper” (American) merging with their overseas competition “Powell Putnam & Lowe” (UK). Both agencies had trouble merging as a team; at one end stood Americans with their old-fashioned glasses filled Whiskey neat, and the “Brits” on the other end, holding their Champagne by the steams with their hands floating flippantly.

This one major clash to the Season plus the many more culture clashes preceding, was in actual fact a worldwide translation for how we as viewers should see this “great societal shake-up of the Sixties, and how that pressurised time in history formed modern America, its families, its consciousness and its consumers.” (Vargas-Cooper, 2010) Automatically we as viewers take side of the Americans, to whom take most of the control within the agency, since they seem more outspoken and less likely to stand down from a clash. The British employees tend to potter around and stamp their authority amongst their employees, but project themselves in a way which seems sarcastic and almost cynical.

The reasoning behind Don Drapers “Drinking Champagne pastiche” is a mockery to his character and acts as a metaphorical understanding to new and unknown translations in language and culture within his workplace. Each photo above of Don Draper pursing his lips, after a quick ‘swig’ of Champagne are relatively all around the same time of the “British Influence” and merger. This is one minor analysis “revealed little about the world of international advertising, depicting a very idiosyncratic picture of Anglo-American advertising relations” of those times. (The Conversation, 2015)

It isn’t a matter of the British vs. Americans, but to whether their cultures clash or have differences in understanding from both perspectives of the characters as well as the audience. It was outline by McFarnon in her article –

“How America’s ‘Mad Men’ fooled British viewers”

to which she states:

“There was a big American presence in British advertising, but what is interesting is you didn’t see the Americanization of British adverts. You had jingles and ‘live action’ adverts demonstrating, say, the effectiveness of a new kitchen roll – both American advertising techniques – but they were cleverly adapted.” (McFarnon, 2013) British drama and advertising based itself heavily around “sitcom-style adverts, which drafted comedy actors” (McFarnon, 2013) so based on these observations there was an obvious clash to the style the British preferred than to what the Americans had created and portrayed.

Overall, I seem to think this example through Mad Men skims the surface behind the topic of “Television in Translation” but provides an interesting view to which we can analyse the clash in the different cultures, similar to Ricky Gervais’ article on “The Difference between American & British Humour”.

Sources:

Gervais, R 2012, ‘The Difference between American & British Humour”, Time.com, p1-11

Vargas-Cooper, N 2015, ‘Mad Men: a Cultural Guide’, The Telegraph, viewed 13 August 2015, <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/7930659/Mad-Men-a-cultural-guide.html&gt;

The Conversation, 2015, ‘If life after Mad Men looks bleak – how about a spin-off set in swinging London’, The Conversation, viewed 13 August 2015, <http://theconversation.com/if-life-after-mad-men-looks-bleak-how-about-a-spin-off-set-in-swinging-london-39829&gt;

McFarnon, E 2013, ‘How America’s ‘Mad Men’ fooled British viewers’, History Extra, viewed 13 August 2015, <http://www.historyextra.com/news/how-america%E2%80%99s-%E2%80%98mad-men%E2%80%99-fooled-british-viewers&gt;