Jay Smooth on the Fall of Mass Media Reductionism

Question: What do you think are the effects of media's portrayal of young black men as almost exclusively athletes or rappers?

Jay Smooth:  I think the most obvious assumptions people make about how the media's representation of young black men would effect our public consciousness—both as young black men, and for everyone else looking at young black men. I think the obvious assumptions people make about how that narrow representation affects people is true; that it gives young black men a very narrow sense of what their opportunities are. I think you can see that all the time; anyone who works with kids you see what they aspire to be. Obviously, we hope that's expanding now with certain other recent developments.

I do think that the rise of hip-hop is also -- and the example that athletes have set more recently, has expanded our concept of what we can do because there's been a phenomenon of entrepreneurship, both in this generation of athletes and in this generation of hip-hoppers, that has also shown the kids that you don’t need to be just an artist who's out there on stage and getting exploited.

You can also be on top of the business end and have other franchises and enterprises and build something beyond that. I think, a lot of people, someone like Diddy, have built a reputation as an entrepreneur more than as an artist. I think that's one of the good things that's happened as we've seen this generation of athletes and hip-hoppers develop; even within that narrow window that they give to us, they've forced in a wider palette for kids to see and latch on to. 

A lot of people in America and around the world, their impression of what a Black man is and can be comes from 50 Cent; and I think 50 Cent is a lot more complex than a lot of people give him credit for; but, nonetheless, he certainly—on his records, if not in his interviews—he represents a very narrow concept of hyper-masculinity and so on that is reductive.

Socially, we've been connecting more and more and hip-hop has been a part of that. We have so much more exposure to each other through the Internet and other forms of media that I don't think anyone is as reliant on television and movies to form their entire impression of other cultures as they use to be. I hope that the reductive impact that mass media has, and how they portray us, is going to be lessened more and more because I think it's inevitable that there's going to be a reductive representation—because in order for you take a culture and change it into a product, you have to simplify it down into something that can me branded and described in five words or less.  There's never going to be a complete representation of who any of us are as human beings when were being turned into a media commodity.

My biggest hope, I think, is that we'll continue connecting with each other in smaller ways outside of those mass media windows and get more of a sense of how much we all have in common, despite those differences on the surface.

Recorded on: August 4, 2009

Hip-Hop and the broadening of cultures

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Sponsored
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

People who engage in fat-shaming tend to score high in this personality trait

A new study explores how certain personality traits affect individuals' attitudes on obesity in others.

Pixabay
Mind & Brain
  • The study compared personality traits and obesity views among more than 3,000 mothers.
  • The results showed that the personality traits neuroticism and extraversion are linked to more negative views and behaviors related to obesity.
  • People who scored high in conscientiousness are more likely to experience "fat phobia.
Keep reading Show less

4 anti-scientific beliefs and their damaging consequences

The rise of anti-scientific thinking and conspiracy is a concerning trend.

Moon Landing Apollo
popular
  • Fifty years later after one of the greatest achievements of mankind, there's a growing number of moon landing deniers. They are part of a larger trend of anti-scientific thinking.
  • Climate change, anti-vaccination and other assorted conspiratorial mindsets are a detriment and show a tangible impediment to fostering real progress or societal change.
  • All of these separate anti-scientific beliefs share a troubling root of intellectual dishonesty and ignorance.
Keep reading Show less

Reigning in brutality - how one man's outrage led to the Red Cross and the Geneva Conventions

The history of the Geneva Conventions tells us how the international community draws the line on brutality.

Napoleon III at the Battle of Solferino. Painting by Adolphe Yvon. 1861.
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Henry Dunant's work led to the Red Cross and conventions on treating prisoners humanely.
  • Four Geneva Conventions defined the rules for prisoners of war, torture, naval and medical personnel and more.
  • Amendments to the agreements reflect the modern world but have not been ratified by all countries.
Keep reading Show less