People often use nonverbal communication through meaningful objects or behaviors such as facial expressions, gestures, body language, symbols, clothing articles, and posture standings to interact and communicate his or her idea or opinion. These meaningful objects and behaviors are viewed as a sociological framework called symbolic interactionism. The receiving party observes the objects or behaviors to interpret the meaning. For example, wearing a suit and tie to a new job interview is to illustrate professionalism and impress the interviewer. Symbolic interactionism is prevalent in today’s culture and media.
Symbolic interactionism is in magazines, newspapers, print ads, the Internet, and on the television. Symbolic interactionism can significantly influence or manipulate a person’s thoughts or opinions. In the television show, Everybody Hates Chris, the main character Chris deals with everyday social inequalities growing up in the early 1980s in suburbia New York City. The show is based on world renowned comedian Chris Rock’s adolescent experiences. Chris is a teenage black male living with both parents in the household and two siblings in the working class Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood.
America perceived most black families as single female parent households living on government assistance for many years. Chris’ father works two jobs to support the family’s lifestyle so Chris can be educated in predominately white schools. Chris faces challenges adapting to his peers and teachers at school and his neighbors. Chris is a victim of bullying and racial stereotypes in both home and school environments that he does not relate. The episode analyzed, Chris’ father, Julius, finds $200 in food stamps which he gives to his wife Rochelle to go grocery shopping.
Rochelle does not like using food stamps because she is worried what people may think. Rochelle proceeds to go shopping for name brand items with intentions on using the food stamps, but pays with savings cash to keep from being embarrassed after she runs into a friend. Julius assumes Rochelle used the food stamps so he suggests splurging the savings cash on the family. Rochelle is forced to secretly sell the food stamps to recoup the savings. The social theme addressed in the episode is social change. Before finding the food stamps, Rochelle brought store brand items for the family.
Rochelle felt she inferior using food stamps. Rochelle actions seemed she want to belong in a status group. In the time set the show is based upon, black families were moving more into the middle working class areas of the country and out of the ghettos. The episode had many scenes where symbolic interactionism was displayed. For example, the store and name brand groceries. Rochelle making a facial expressions and gestures at her daughter Tonya for picking up the food stamps she purposely threw down so her friend would not see it and at the breakfast table when her husband comments about the brand name cereal.
Also, Rochelle makes a facial expression towards her husband when he is discussing different ways on splurging to savings cash. The meaning of the store brand symbolic interactionism interpreted in the episode shows the norm of most American families living paycheck to paycheck. Rochelle’s facial expressions toward Tonya and Julius were interpreted as warning for disciplinary repercussions and guilt for deceiving her husband. Most parents have a misbehaving presence or expression that he or she gives his or her children which instills fear in the child. The child knows to correct his or her actions or face negative reinforcements.
Couples also practice the same behavior as disapproval of the other’s behavior or actions. The perception of black families portrayed in the media has significantly change in throughout the last 30 years. For example, The Jeffersons and The Cosby Show help shaped society’s perception of black families by breaking away from the typical social stereotypes portrayed in shows such as Good Times, Sanford and Son, Julia, What’s Happening, and That’s My Mama. In today’s society, many ethnicities want to emulate the black culture and social structures in which black families were once criticized for and antagonized, but yet embraced in pop culture.
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