Contexts

sociology for the public

Culture

Making meaning of people making meaning.

Paintings, Pensions and Pain

Sociologist Paul Draus and Economist Juliette Roddy discuss tensions in Detroit as the nation's largest municipal bankruptcy unfolds. The competing interests of art and pensions and the stamina of social contracts in times of financial insecurity are examined. Read More

Survival of the Fastest?

Borrowing from Herbert Spencer’s phrase “survival of the fittest,” the documentary film Survival of the Fastest aired just before the 2012 Olympic Games. It recycles the outmoded notion that race is an extant biological category that determines physical and intellectual outcomes. Sociologist Matthew W. Hughey discusses how such archaic racist assumptions are repackaged in the media spectacle of contemporary sporting and the glossy veneer of documentary film. Read More

Hollywood Sperm Donors

Sociologist Margaret K. Nelson explores how Hollywood has portrayed the use of assisted reproductive technologies. She argues that these new technologies have the potential to transform the nuclear family as we know it; however, popular films glorify romantic love and traditional family structures. Read More

The Cultural Life Of The Living Dead

Zombies have become an explosive cultural phenomena which producers, retailers, and governmental agencies utilize to target consumers. Sociologist Denise N. Cook argues that the zombie myth pervades cultural narratives because it helps people distance themselves from criticizing actual social problems yet at the same time the zombie analogy can help to highlight potential social problems. Read More

Framing Social Movements Through Documentary Films

Sociologist John A. Stover III highlights the significant impact documentary filmmakers can have on social movement agendas and frames via their production, distribution, and outreach strategies. New Day Films, a cooperative collective of social issue filmmakers, is spotlighted as particularly effective in promoting social change and justice. Read More

Django Unchained, Voyeurism Unleashed

In his latest shock-fest, director Quentin Tarantino cloaks a revenge fantasy in a redemptive slave story and leaves a bad taste in one sociologist's mouth. Read More

Queasy Questions About Media Effects

Increasingly violent media shows no signs of driving away audiences. Cynthia Chris explores the possibility of redemptive arcs as ripped-from-the-headlines stories play out on TV, but with happy endings, and, in the end, she still reaches for the remote. Read More

Reality Queens

How did queens rule come to rule reality television? Sociologist Joshua Gamson argues that the rise of segmented cable television, and of consumption-friendly subgenres, have invited style gurus, best-gay-friends, and queer worlds into the refracted spotlight. Read More

On the Wings of a Fantasy

Sociologist Timothy McGettigan argues that science is the most effective means ever invented to transform fantasies into reality. He discusses how DARPA stimulates scientific progress by challenging scientists to pursue fantasies, and nowhere is this better illustrated than in the 100 Year Starship project. Read More

Missing Romance

Sociologist Minjeong Kim asks why Asian American characters in the U.S. television shows and films are always in interracial relationships, and explores the implications of the absence of Asian American couplings on screen. Read More