Legos vs. “That Pink Stuff”

I remember when I was a kid I would drag my mom to the nearest Toys “R” Us store to buy me the newest Lego X-Pod. Meanwhile other girls were playing dress-up with Barbies, I found more amusement in creating a unique masterpiece out of my Lego pieces. Some may consider this a defiance of gender norms, however, like at the time, 4-year-old Riley strongly argues, “Why do all the girls have to buy pink stuff”?

Lego Friends

Lego Friends

Following the controversial release of the 2012 “Lego Friends” line, which gives into gender stereotypes, young girls like Riley spoke out to express the sentiment that boys’ and girls’ toys should not be based on gender differences. In the video, Riley claims that “the companies who make these, try to trick the girls into buying the pink stuff instead of stuff the boys want to buy, right?” Here, she defines a very clear awareness in the marketing strategies Lego has attempted to utilize in their conceptualization of the Lego Friends collection (there’s no fooling the incredibly wise Riley, is there?!). The Lego Friends collection is depicted by a group of slender doll figurines that do “girly things” together. Prior to this, Lego had been a pioneer in fostering child creativity for both boys and girls.

"What it is is beautiful."

“What it is is beautiful.”

A 1981 Lego ad, that reads “What it is is beautiful,” pictures a young girl in denim overalls and braids, holding her masterful Lego creation. Here, the product is demonstrated as being equally entertaining for a young girl as it is for a young boy and makes no mention of gender stereotypes, but rather is a “universal building set” for all kids. After the extremely controversial release of Lego Friends, parents, women and especially girls, petitioned for companies, such as Lego, to cease such gender-based marketing strategies and make efforts to recognize that both girls and boys may be interested in one particular toy and should not have to feel discriminated in any way when choosing to play with it.

After years of discussion, it seems as though Lego has finally gotten the message. Lego has reestablished girl empowerment through their recent, inspiring 60-second advertisement, “Inspire Imagination and Keep Building,” created by the agency, Union Made Creative. In the commercial, a young girl narrates her thought process for creation while using Legos. The girl explains that she knows that no matter what she creates, she will make her parent proud because she used her own creative initiative to make something unique and powerful. Lego aims to reinforce the idea that Legos were made for all types of kids, no matter what gender they may be and that Legos foster creativity in a way in which no other toy can compare to.

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“In the Rooster We Trust”: A Global Hot Sauce

When we spot that bright green cap and the unmistakable red bottle with the white rooster logo our hearts skip a beat with excitement as we realize we are in the presence of a condiment god- the Sriracha god. For Today - Affordable Flavor (Wood)Though we may not know exactly what the foreign letters may say on the bottle, the Sriracha brand has grown to be a familiar household ingredient we put on virtually anything. But how much do we really know about Sriracha besides its mouthwatering, tongue tingling effects? Where does it come from? Is it truly as foreign as its’ branding makes it seem?

                          

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David Tran founder of Huy Fong Foods

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Vietnamese Pho & Sriracha

Surprisingly enough, Sriracha has become an American cultural phenomenon that was created by Chinese-Vietnamese immigrant, David Tran, founder of Huy Fong Foods in California in 1980. Despite its’ seemingly foreign façade, Americans have created a somewhat cult obsession with the brand and have adapted its’ uses to fit a variety of dishes and cuisines. David Tran’s Sriracha recipe has had both American and international success in which it has found major markets in Japan featured in the popular spicy tuna roll, and Vietnam in the traditional noodle soup, pho. However, the original Sriracha sauce, in fact, can be traced back to its origins in Si Racha, Thailand where Thai native, Ms. Thanom Chakkapak created the first sriracha

Sriraja Panich

Sriraja Panich

sauce called ‘Sriraja Panich’ in the 1930s. Today, Sriraja Panich is the most popular of the hot sauce products created in Thailand and despite its’ homegrown success, natives recognize it as neither glamorized nor fetishized but rather as a common product utilized by the masses. Chef Jet Tila, who became the first official Thai culinary ambassador for the United States proclaims that in fact Tran’s version is not quite as authentic to the original Sriraja versions.

Tran, upon arriving as a refugee from Vietnam, aboard a ship named “Huey Fong,” began his venture to create what is now a globally recognized and beloved product. Adapting the flavors and utilizing Californian grown chilies, Tran introduced to the American landscape innovative Asian flavors through his interpretation of a popular Thai hot sauce. Through a series of adaptations, Sriracha landed onto the market bearing a fusion of Asian symbolic branding images; a rooster for the Chinese year Tran was born on, a name reminiscent of its’ original Thai homeland Si Racha, as well as a Vietnamese translation of the name, paying homage to Tran’s origins. Attempting to stay true to its’ multicultural origins and uses, the Sriracha sauce we know and consume in the United States has been a highly adapted interpretation of a product that originally was created in Thailand. However, despite Thailand’s Sriraja Panich being the original of the sauces, Tran’s Sriracha version, which was created in America, has since been distributed worldwide and has become a staple of cuisines all around the world.

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In America, the addiction for the sauce has escalated to the point that a Sriracha Festival was held to celebrate the product, as well as the creation of countless merchandise bearing the logo and even more recently a pocket-sized bottle for on-the-go easy access. Due to its’ extraordinary success, owner David Tran admits he has never found the need to advertise and solely relies on his strong fan base to promote the product by word of mouth and in 2013, “Sriracha,” a documentary film about the history of Sriracha was released.  At least in the American market, there is no doubt that despite being an interpretation of the original Thai product, Sriracha has dominated the world of Asian hot sauces and has become an unforgettable multicultural, fusion brand.

The Bare Reality of Celebrities’ Not-So-Private Lives

In a recent scandal, many Hollywood actresses and models were subject to the terrors of online hacking when hundreds of elicit photos of them were leaked from their personal accounts on online storage devices, such as iCloud. Most victimized by the attack is Academy Award winner, Jennifer Lawrence that had dozens of nude photos and a video leaked onto the media sharing website 4chan.    

After extreme scrutiny by the press, Lawrence finally found the words to address the issue. It has been revealed that in an interview with Vanity Fair, Lawrence defined the attack as “not a scandal” but rather as a “sex crime” committed against her (CNN).

In the interview Lawrence pleas for social change that will aim to protect the privacy of all individuals, but primarily the overtly public lives of celebrities. She claims, “Just because I’m a public figure, just because I’m an actress, does not mean that I asked for this,” she also points out that, “It’s my body, and it should be my choice, and the fact that it is not my choice is absolutely disgusting…I can’t believe that we even live in that kind of world” (CNN). In an effort to defend her questionable actions, Lawrence describes her reasoning in taking the photos due to the fact that she was in a “loving, healthy, great relationship for four years…it was long-distance, and either your boyfriend is going to look at porn or he’s going to look at you” (CNN).  Ironically enough, despite Lawrence’s claims of being distraught due to the irreversible publication of her private image, she accepted to pose topless on a the November cover of Vanity Fair which seems more like an invitation to gaze at her physique once more, rather than an opportunity to listen to what she has to say about the issue at hand.  Though Lawrence, as any human being, has the right to protect her privacy, a question arises, have celebrities taunted the image of nudity and sexuality onscreen or in the public so much, that they have created a false sense that privacy is not as valued as it once was.

Jennifer Lawrence on the cover of the November issue of Vanity Fair

Jennifer Lawrence on the cover of the November issue of Vanity Fair

Kim Kardashian on the cover of W Magazine, Jennifer Lawrence on the cover of Vanity Fair, Rihanna on the cover of French magazine, Lui

Kim Kardashian on the cover of W Magazine, Jennifer Lawrence on the cover of Vanity Fair, Rihanna on the cover of French magazine, Lui

Displaying nudity and female sexuality in such overtly explicit ways in the public and in the media, female stars have created an environment that promotes such risqué and provocative behavior. With skimpy clothing and highly sexualized conduct, celebrities have changed the ways in which spectators observe female representation to become a type of spectacle for the male or even female gaze. There is virtually no restraint or repercussions for instances in which beautiful women in society willingly pose in front of a camera wearing little to no clothing to become an image for society to consume and desire purely out of pleasure.

Kate Upton, one of the victims in the leaked photograph scandal, on the cover of the 50th anniversary swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated.

Kate Upton, one of the victims in the leaked photos scandal, on the cover of the 50th anniversary swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated.

Take Sports Illustrated or Victoria’s Secret models, for example, these models are highly respected due to their beauty yet the fact that they are one tiny article of clothing away from nude, is not seen as an invasion of privacy. This leads me to wonder, at what point must these females draw the line between their right to embrace their female figures, with the importance of earning respect for their bodies in their private, off-screen lives.

Jennifer Lawrence, despite her utter disgust at the invasion of privacy she was subject to, had no problem displaying her body when casted in the role of Mystique in the X-Men movie, “X-men: Days of Future Past”. In the film, she is covered from head to toe in blue paint and bears no clothing to protect her female identity.

Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique in "X-Men: Days of Future Past"

Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique in “X-Men: Days of Future Past”

As discussed in “Celebrities’ Rights to Privacy: How Far Should the Paparazzi Be Allowed to Go?” Jamie E. Nordhaus discusses the difficulty society has for distinguishing the privacy celebrities innately have versus the privacy society actually allows celebrities to enjoy. The author elaborates, “articles recounting details of the daily lives of celebrities generate a much higher level of interest on the part of the public than do similar stories concerning unknown people… as a result, a broad spectrum of information concerning celebrities is transferred from the protective shield of privacy into the realm of the public interest” (Nordhaus 289). As celebrities vie for public attention and to be recognized worldwide, they fall victim to overexploitation in exchange for popularity through their publicity. As these public figures tolerate harsh criticism, speculation, and intrusion of people they do not even know on a personal level, they become more “psychologically tolerant” of being disrespected (290). This leads to an immense struggle of whether or not privacy can be ever be achieved in the lives of public figures that do not seek preventative measures to protect themselves. Does Jennifer Lawrence’s fictional behavior connote that she does not value herself on a personal level and thus is depicted as a vulnerable target for exposing her personal life?

In most instances, I would argue that female celebrities should definitely take action to create a more empowering image of self-respect that will establish the importance of respecting the female body in the public light. However, as human beings, Jennifer Lawrence and all celebrities are entitled to choosing in which way their bodies are represented and their wishes must be upheld.

Sources:

http://www.cnn.com/2014/10/07/showbiz/celebrity-news-gossip/jennifer-lawrence-vanity-fair-nude-photos/index.html?hpt=en_c1

http://www.asc.upenn.edu/usr/ogandy/c734%20resources/celebrities%20rights%20-%20nordhaus.pdf