Soc 001 Writing Assignment 1
Soc 001 Writing Assignment 1 Soc 001
Penn State Abington
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This 7 page Class Notes was uploaded by ryan on Friday September 23, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to Soc 001 at Penn State Abington taught by Dr. Hutson in Spring 2016. Since its upload, it has received 2 views. For similar materials see Introductory Sociology in Sociology at Penn State Abington.
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Date Created: 09/23/16
1 Ryan Brocker SOC001 Spring 2016 2/15/2016 A Sociological Perspective: South Park On the surface, South Park may appear to be just another crude Rrated cartoon filled with foul language and insensitive comments, but at the heart of almost all of it's episodes is a meaningful perspective on all of the ills of society and what we can do to change for the better. Before discussing two episodes of South Park and relating them to the ideas of identity, self, and socialization, I will first define these three sociological terms to provide a clearer basis of analysis. The idea of the “self” says that each person is the subject of their own experiences. As the subject, we are the experiencer in our own stories. Without an experincer(self), there could be no experience in the first place. Self is the individual person as seen by that person from their own perspective. Being selfaware is having the capacity for introspection and allows us as individuals to realize that we are separate from other individuals and from our environment. The term identity can be used to group together the actions and norms of individuals, countries, cultures, subcultures, and even entire species. Individuals can also have multiple identities themselves. For example, as an American, I can relate to the national identity that we all share as a country. Our national identity of being Americans is what brings us together on the fourth of July and is why we all know the lyrics to the national anthem by heart. People can relate to many identities and therefore we are not limited in how we can relate to the rest of the world. Sometimes our identities conflict with each other and cause internal struggles for an individual. For example, a man who enjoys going turkey hunting would identify himself as a hunter and trapper. This man also volunteers at the local animal shelter and also identifies himself as an animal lover. These two identities could cause an internal conflict of values that the man must process and rationalize to himself in order to maintain his 2 identities. This hunter rationalizing his identities might look something this; “I hunt to control the turkey populations in my area, or else they would be hit by cars and potentially put people at risk. This doesn't mean that I don't love and respect all animals. I would even argue that hunting and eating my own food is more morally just than buying frozen chicken nuggets at WalMart, completely ignorant to where they came from and what they actually contain.” Conflicts of identity like this one are something that we all deal with at some point in our lives and South Park does an excellent job of portraying this in one of their episodes. The South Park episode titled Fish Sticks does a wonderful job of illustrating the ideas of “self” and “identity”. I will briefly summarize the episode before talking about when and where the ideas of self and identity are represented. The episode begins with one of the main characters, Eric, walking in to his friend Jimmy's house while he works on some jokes for his new comedy routine. Jimmy's mother comes in with some fruit and smashes a spider on Jimmy's desk and tells the boys that potato chips are unhealthy. The joke that Jimmy writes goes viral and even ends up on The Tonight Show and Larry King. For the sake of clarity, the joke is “hey do you like fish sticks?” Assuming they say yes, you then ask “do you like fish sticks in your mouth?” Again assuming they say yes, you call them a gay fish (play on words). Kanye West however, takes the joke literally and thinks people are calling him a gay fish. Eric starts to take credit for the joke after he sees how successful it is. Eric wants to make money off of the joke and the other characters find out through Jimmy that Eric didn't contribute anything to the joke. Eric believes that he came up with the joke by misremembering the events and recalling a completely different story where he and Jimmy equally came up with the joke. By the end of the episode, Eric's recall of the story ends with him killing a dragon that breaks through Jimmy's wall. For the sake of clarity, the joke is “hey do you like fish sticks?” Assuming they say yes, you then ask “do you like fish sticks in your 3 mouth?” Again assuming they say yes, you call them a gay fish (play on words). It is important to note that this episode also speaks to the homophobia that is a part of our culture. The idea of self is evident in Eric's altering of the original story and his new and improved view of himself. “Although some of our selfviews are gained by direct experience with our environment, most of what we know about ourselves is derived from others. According to the reflected appraisal process, which is based on the “looking glass self” (Cooley, 1902), significant others communicate their appraisals of us, and this influences the way we see ourselves. In a now classic review of studies on the reflected appraisal process, Shrauger and Schoeneman (1979) found that rather than our selfconcepts resembling the way others actually see us, our selfconcepts are filtered through our perceptions and resemble how we think others see us.” Stets and Burke, 2009 By changing the story to where he helps Jimmy write the joke, Jimmy's mom telling him he's not fat, and him killing a dragon with a sword, Eric is reaffirming with himself that he is in fact awesome and therefore fully capable of coming up with the joke. How Eric sees himself as appearing in favorable ways to other is best explained when one of his friends says to him “I believe that you believe you helped write that joke. That's how people like you work! Your ego is so out of whack that it will do whatever it can to protect itself. And people with a messed up ego can do these mental gymnastics to convince themselves they're awesome even though they're not.” Eric's sense of self changed dramatically throughout the episode and we can use sociology to explain why. Eric altered his view of himself based on how he thought others viewed him. Our sense of self is completely objective but the world we live in and the society and people that inhabit it play a crucial role in how we see ourselves. In the same Fish Sticks episode there is a side story that pertains to Kanye West. Kanye identifies himself as “a genius voice of a generation”, but when he hears the fish sticks joke, he takes it too literally and ends up utterly confused about who he is. Is he the genius voice of a generation or is he a gay fish? I will use Kanye's experience in this episode of South Park to illustrate how identities 4 play a role in life and selfawareness. Throughout the episode Kanye is upset about the fact that people are calling him a gay fish because he currently identifies himself as the “genius voice of a generation”. We see that Kanye's sense of self is merely a projection of how he thinks he is viewed by the world. So when he is called a gay fish, Kanye has an internal conflict of self. Although it is poking fun at Kanye's intelligence, this is an example of a crisis of identity. Kanye is not able to rationalize being the “genius voice of a generation” and a “gay fish” at the same time and so he struggles with finding out who is throughout the episode. By the end of the episode, Kanye accepts that he is a gay fish and now sees that everyone was “just trying to help”. He jumps in to the sea to live out the rest of his days as a fish. Kanye's struggle can be explained by “James’ (1890) notion that there are as many different selves as there are different positions that one holds in society and thus different groups who respond to the self. This is where identity enters into the overall self. The overall self is organized into multiple parts (identities), each of which is tied to aspects of the social structure” (Stets & Burke, 2009). Kanye was unable to organize his multiple identities, which led him to believe he could only be a gay fish because that is what everyone had been telling him via the fish sticks joke. Conflicts of identity play a crucial role in who we are as individuals and how we live our lives. Although these conflicts are completely inside our own heads, we look to others for confirmation of who we think we should be. Social acceptance and peer input are major keys in figuring out who we are as individuals. Interaction with our peers and societal norms are what help us to formulate our self views and identities. There are many factors that can alter our selfawareness and identity, but socialization may be the most influential. Socialization is the process by which individuals learn the language, values and social cues that will enable them to become a functioning member of society. We live in a complex, organized, and 5 differentiated society. The characteristics of the society we are raised in influence the availability of the tools we have at our disposal to deal with social interactions and situations as we are expected to by the general population. Socialization consists of primary and secondary agents, or factors, that are both necessary for successful socialization to take place and I will use an episode of South Park to illustrate this theory at work. The South Park episode titled Hooked on Monkey Fonics is about two homeschooled children, Mark and Rebecca., whom the main characters have never met before. Mark and Rebecca win the approval of the town in one way by winning a spelling bee, but cannot seem to fit in with the other kids for some reason. Mark ends up attending public school with the rest of the town's children and we see how secondary socialization agents play a crucial role in fitting in with the rest of society. While Mark is sitting in his giant hamster ball in class, the teacher asks a question Mark knows the answer to so he quickly raises his hand. Mark answers correctly, but the teacher goes on to say that he is going to throw off the curve and cause the other students to flunk, making the other students unhappy with him. This is an example of a secondary agent of socialization that Mark was not prepared for because he was previously homeschooled and isn't socialized to the grading norms of the public school system. Although he did nothing but answer the teacher's question correctly, societal norms suggest to him that he shouldn't do so because it will cause the other students to receive a bad grade, and in turn dislike him at the same time. A few times throughout the episode Mark witnesses the main characters call each other names and hit one another. Mark is perplexed by this because he doesn't understand why friends would punch each other and call each other names. Stan explains this to Mark by saying “Yeah dude, but guys just do that. We rip on each other and stuff.” It seems as if Mark begins to understand when he says, “I see, it's like, you have to mark your territory as a boy, you have to socially find your place”. Mark is 6 beginning to pick up on important secondary agents of socialization. By the end of the episode Mark has gone through the process of being socialized in to the public school system and we see evidence of this in a conversation he has with is father. “You see, I've learned something today. Public schools may be a bit lacking in education, but it's the main place where children learn all of their social skills. You can't teach a child social skills. They have to learn them themselves. And the only place to do that is on the playground, in the cafeteria, and so on.” Mark now understands and accepts the secondary agents of socialization and so he can now fit in as a normal student. This is made clear in an exchange where one of the main characters calls Mark a nerdo and Mark responds by saying “Thanks gaywad”, to which Eric replies “Now you're getting it.” But were you wondering what happened to Rebecca? She did not attend public school like Mark did and did not play a big part in the episode after the spelling bee. Her minor role in the show can be explained by Thorne's take on how boys and girls do spend a lot of time together in school and on the playground, but this contact does not turn them in to true friends like same gender contact between just boys or just girls more often does (Thorne, 1993). Since all of the main characters on the show are male, it makes sense that Rebecca would not play a key role in the episode like Mark did. We can now see how the ideas of identity, self, and socialization are all interconnected and influenced by our environment and those who surround us. The degree to which our selfawareness and identities are influenced can vary depending on many social factors, but the take away message is that we are constantly changing who we think we are in order to fit in well with the rest of society. Our views of our self are actually views of how we think other people see us, not how they truly do see us. Realizing this is a crucial step in true self awareness and the first step down the road of being one hundred percent comfortable is one's own skin. Always remember to step back once in a while and seriously take a look at yourself and the choices you make to ensure that you are the person you want to 7 be. References Thorne, B. (1993). Gender play: Girls and boys in school. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press. Burke, P. J., & Stets, J. E. (2009). Identity theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
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