By Najah Farley
As a young person, my parents were very strict about what types of movies and television shows my sisters and I saw. Because we were Muslim, many films and television shows were off-limits, due to subject matter. Some would say they were over-protective. Over the past few years, I have attempted to make up for lost time, viewing old movies that were banned, like “Dirty Dancing” and “Goodfellas.” Although I still have quite a few classics to catch up on, I have been fully immersed in popular culture for more than a few years now.
As I grow older, I have become more interested in how popular culture influences our substantive policies. Film, television and the larger media apparatus is often a direct line to our homes and impacts our thinking. For the last few years, I have watched as media has changed drastically with the continuing segregation of media sources. There are now more cable channels, more viral videos and independent movies, but despite this fracturing in the media arena, the mainstream continues to reward the same images of women and minorities that have been rewarded in the past. Black people continue to win awards for playing subservient characters, such as maids and lackeys. Movies that portray the Middle East as a den of terrorism still generate Oscar buzz along with applause in movie theaters across the country for the portrayal of torture and targeted assassinations. In an effort to live closer to my values, I’ve decided to continue the process of supporting independent media and films, because I think these types of portrayals in popular media have a direct impact on forming our self-image as a nation and in turn, inform our policy decisions. Although I know just boycotting watching the Oscars is not a revolutionary act, I do think it is a way to recognize the types of portrayals I’d like to see in the future and an attempt to live my life in line with my values.