Cultural Criticism and Transformation, Orientalism- bell hooks and Edward Said




In Cultural Criticism and Transformation, bell hooks is interviewed about many topics, including pop culture, the impact representation has, and the motivation and construction of works.  She is also interviewed on some popular figures such as Madonna, Spike Lee, and O.J. Simpson.  hooks speaks heavily on the impact the media has on race, gender, and sexuality.  Overall, hooks speaks on the impact the media and its hidden intentions has on people.

Pop culture and media are heavily consumed by the world, and are some of the main ways people obtain information and develop ideas or opinions.  bell hooks talks about the impact this has on people when media perpetuates white supremacy and raises white male voices, while suppressing others.  She also discusses the impact capitalism, greed, and white supremacy can have on those who wish to combat these notions.  For example, hooks describes Madonna and her descent from a feminist icon to placating her audience with oversexualized content that would earn her more money.  She also discusses the fact that no one spoke about Madonna’s blatant racism because it was not a hot topic and would not make money.  hooks also speaks about Spike Lee and how he is seen as a failure due to the fact that white people only like to see movies about black people that are made viewable and interesting for them.  For example, hooks talks about Crooklyn and the review by white critics saying it had no plot, when in reality the plot was simple and white viewers just did not care enough to understand it.  Upholding, praising, and funding white male artists while suppressing other artists and calling them failures is an example of white supremacy.  In the interview, hooks also discusses movies with violence towards women, such as Kids, making a point on how if enough of this media is consumed, violence is normalized.  Overall, hooks makes a point on the importance of knowing who is making media, the intentions they had, and the impact it has on us as consumers.

The excerpt from Orientalism by Edward Said discusses the issue with Western Supremacy and the impact is has on the rest of the world.  Colonialism and white supremacy separated the East and West, the Orient and the Occident.  From the separation came a sense of supremacy from the West in thinking that their cultures were better and far more advanced.

The Western supremacy discussed in the excerpt is one of the main reasons of colonialism.  Said discusses how this idea that the West is superior to the East created terms like “third world.”  In the excerpt, Said speaks on how the West is European countries and other eurocentric places.  Overall, the idea of Western, and in turn European, supremacy has harmed the East, as well as other countries.  Both are divided into broad umbrella terms, required to speak for the multiple cultures in each.  The West and the East are defined by what they are not, the East being separate and different from the West and it’s “superior” cultures, while the West is not the East with its more “exotic” cultures.

From both pieces we learn about the importance of being aware of where stories come from, how they are written, who they are written for, and the impact these stories have on us.  Being aware of white supremacy, the purposeful suppression of voices, and the media we watch, read, and listen to is vital as a consumer.  Without knowing it, these works can impact us greatly, sometimes in negative ways.

What are some examples of media that play into the same ideas bell hooks discussed?

Image Sources

The Humanism Of Edward Said.

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