Misrepresentations of Pacific Islands culture in Disney movies

Story by DAYNA BAE

Cultural delineation in media frequently involves praises and criticisms at the same time. The Pacific Islands culture could not avoid such portrayal.

The Walt Disney Company Co., one of the major entertainment companies in the world, has depicted various cultures through its film productions.

As a result, Disney’s animated films gained large popularity and reputation for their diverse cultural representations. Up to the present, Disney has released numerous films including “Aladdin,” “Mulan” and “Pocahontas” based on different cultural backgrounds around the world.

With success of prior films, Disney released two animated films “Lilo and Stitch” and “Moana,” both of which describe Pacific Islands culture.

Two films depicted culture and stories of indigenous people in the Pacific Islands. The films starred a number of actual artists and professionals with Pacific Islands background.

Jacob Fitisemanu Jr., a clinical manager with Health Clinics of Utah and an associate instructor of ethnic studies at the University of Utah, said in an email interview, “Lots of Pacific Islander artists got into the production of the films and movies, and it became a good opportunity for them.”

The production and release of movies about the Pacific Islands not only aroused public attention about its mysterious and veiled culture, but also provided a good opportunity for Pacific Islanders working in the field of animation production.

“The major positive aspect of those films is the showcasing of the incredible potential and abilities of the Pacific Islander artists who lent their expertise and talents to the films,” Fitisemanu said.

According to the Guardian, the writer-director team of Disney’s “Moana” conducted a five-year research trip to Polynesia to interview elders and people living in Samoa, Tahiti and Fiji to have a better understanding about Pacific Islands cultures.

Despite the efforts of the research team, the public reactions to “Moana” varied. Some people showed optimism about the movie for displaying unique features of a minority culture, while others, reported the Guardian, criticized the movie for misrepresenting the culture and history of Pacific Islands.

Fitisemanu said, “Some people are very upset about Maui’s depiction and the way his legendary exploits are shown in the animation.” Maui is a main character who is a demigod in the movie. He also said that some people are uncomfortable with the fact that Maui is not put into context. According to Fitisemanu, Pacific Islands legends are in fact metaphors of actual historical events, unlike how the movie portrays them as mythological and fantastical ones.

Dr. Malie Arvin, an assistant professor of history and gender studies at the University of Utah, said, “The movie was not making sense to me, because Maui was described as a braggart, comical, and arrogant person in the movie.” She said that Pacific Islanders criticize the movie because many of the legendary stories of Maui’s are missing. “Maui has lots of stories such as slowing down the sun and fishing up islands,” Arvin said.

Another criticism of “Moana” deals with tourism. According to the Guardian, “Moana” caused a flurry of travel articles about the Pacific Islands triggered by the movie’s depiction of vibrant landscapes. Disney partnered with Hawaiian Airlines to promote the film and tourism catalyzed by “Moana” led to more ecological destruction of the Pacific Islands. The Guardian reported that the problem is due to the “merchandise and tourism machine [which] operates in direct opposition to the morals of Moana, a young girl who cares fiercely for her people and her island.”

According to the Huffington Post, one of the major flaws of the movie is its failure to mention Hina, a companion goddess of the god Maui. “In Polynesian lore, a goddess with a god creates symmetry that gives harmony and beauty to the story.” In this regard, “Moana” lacks a critical concept of “symmetry” in the story.

However, this is not Disney’s first time to be criticized for its misrepresentation of indigenous cultures. “Lilo and Stitch,” an animated film released in 2006, was also blamed for using inappropriate lyrics for a Hawaiian traditional song.

According to Arvin, “There is an aboriginal song about King Kalākaua, who was the last monarch of the Hawaiian kingdom before he was overthrown by the U.S. government.” The lyrics are a dedication to his honor, which is very respectful about his legacy. “However, ‘Lilo and Stitch’ just took that song and replaced his name with Lilo’s name. It was disrespectful and painful to see,” Arvin said. “And that was really depreciative of the history of Hawaii,” she added.

Although there are fierce criticisms toward Disney’s films about Pacific Islands culture, there are still positive voices that compliment the works for their valiant efforts and attempts.

Fitisemanu said, “If the Disney movie inspired Pacific Islanders to learn more by doing their own research, opening dialogue with family elders and cultural custodians, and increasing the sharing of our own stories with the next generation, then I think that is a good thing.”

To prevent and correct cultural misconceptions created by major film production and entertainment industry, Arvin said that there should be more Pacific Islands directors. “One of the most famous Pacific Islander directors is Taika Waititi. He is a Maori film director who directed Marvel’s ‘Thor: Ragnarok’,” Arvin said.


Social media fundraising for refugees: A dream nightmare come true

Story and slideshow by JACE BARRACLOUGH

The creation of social media has connected people worldwide. For some, it’s a tool used to help refugees of war-torn countries. Through various organizations, a person can simply click a link that redirects them to a donation site where they can send money to provide relief to refugees struggling to survive financially, medically and educationally. But, knowing where the money is going is crucial.

Humanwire is a website geared toward assisting refugee families. It claims 100 percent of donations go to the cause. It was founded by Andrew Baron in Boulder, Colorado, in November 2015. It has marketed itself by encouraging its followers to share personal stories of their supported refugee families and donation campaigns via social media. Just like most businesses, Humanwire understands that word of mouth from those you trust bridges the gap between hesitation and execution when it comes to buying a product — or in this case, donating money.

“I was made aware of it because of another friend who posted about it on social media,” says Molly Jackson of Park City, Utah, in a phone interview. “When I saw her experience and how easy it was … [I said] I’m going to do that.”

Humanwire allows donors to choose a refugee family to support by way of social media-like profiles on its website. The amount that is donated, whether all at once or collectively, allows donors greater or lesser degrees of interaction with the family. Individuals providing smaller donations are awarded limited information about the family they have sponsored, whereas larger donations allow you to interact with them via live-stream on Skype.

Jackson says she hasn’t donated or posted about it for months. However, she receives email notifications that friends and strangers alike continue to donate to her chosen family as a result of her old social media posts. She’s received single donations to her Humanwire account totaling $1,000 to support her refugee family. Some are from people she doesn’t even know.

“It’s as easy as posting an Instagram post,” she says. “You just say, ‘Look at these people. They are in need. I’m the host. Here’s the link. Donate your money.’”

Trusting that their friends and loved ones are vetting the organization, it has left little thought for many to follow through with the research portion of the company before handing over their hard-earned dollars.

In the summer of 2017 it was claimed in a YouTube video, posted by Humanwire’s co-founder Andrew Baron, that the director of its “Tent to Home” program, Anna Segur, had stolen $10,000 via ATM withdrawals.

“The theft was followed by intense slander, criminal activity and harassment,” Baron says in the description portion of his video. “She caused many people to join her cause, misleading volunteers to believe that she owns and controls Tent to Home, and causing many of our staff members to quit out of pure fear for her slander.”

The other co-founder of Humanwire, Mona Ayoub, was living in Lebanon, taking care of the company’s donations, schools, students, teachers, employees, and registering refugees. In August 2017 after the funds stopped, Ayoub said via Facebook Messenger, she flew to the United States to get to the bottom of the issue. Unfortunately, she discovered Baron had mismanaged the funds and misrepresented the way they were being used. She said Baron claimed the money had gone toward operating costs even though Humanwire had promised all donated funds would go to the refugees.

In September 2017, Baron later admitted to the Denver Post to have taken as much as $80,000 over the last two years. However, after a police investigation, it was discovered that Baron had taken over $100,000 from Humanwire and was arrested on felony charges of charity fraud and theft.

Ayoub submitted her letter of resignation on November 1, 2017.

“Had I known the extent of mismanagement and misrepresentation prior to traveling to the United States, I would have resigned immediately,” Ayoub said.

Yet more problems have surfaced since the claims against Humanwire. The organization has started to lose its partnerships with other organizations dedicated to helping refugees.

“Standing With Alana” is a group whose mission is bringing awareness and aid to the Yezidi people from Syria who are facing a genocide at the hands of ISIS.

On October 8, 2017, Standing With Alana announced via Facebook, “Standing With Alana is no longer working through Humanwire due to financial problems within the organization. We are now communicating directly through Yezidi Emergency Support (YES).”

Yezidi Emergency Support team leader Anne Norona was one of Humanwire’s contacts overseas. As Baron tried to extinguish the flames of ridicule on Humanwire’s Facebook page, Norona added more fuel by expressing her frustrations in a reply to Baron’s YouTube video, which he later shared on Humanwire’s Faceboook page.

“I asked you in JUNE to send the money when I last went to Iraq,” she says. “There are FOUR Yezidi families you owe a LOT of money to.”

With allegations publicized, both internally and from its partners, it has left donors wondering what happened with the money intended to help their refugee families.

“I did photo shoots and donated all the money I made to them,” says Terra Cooper of Syracuse, Utah. “It was a sacrifice for my family since usually that’s how I pay for our Christmas.”

Through Humanwire, donors like Cooper have their own financial account to hold money for their refugee family. Whenever the family needs certain items they can use that money to purchase them on Humanwire’s site and have it delivered by local representatives. At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work?

“I’ve released money for surgeries and medical bills and they’ll send me a picture of them holding the check,” Cooper said in a phone interview. “They’ve been good at sending that kind of stuff.”

However, she says she’s noticed over the last few months things haven’t quite been the same. Cooper has had approximately $1,000 left of the $3,000 she raised in her family’s account, but she has been unable to use it.

“I’ve been trying to release that $1,000 for their rent for three or four months and it still hasn’t been released,” she says. “I have been emailing them and I haven’t heard back.”

Cooper even went as far as commenting on Humanwire’s Facebook page asking for answers, but says her post was deleted by the company. When trying to get in touch with her point of contact, she was made aware that person had left the organization.

“I’m sick about it,” she says. “I don’t care about me, though. That money was supposed to be rent money for my refugee family.”

Cooper’s love for her refugee family, with whom she has kept in contact, is what has fueled her to investigate the dealings of her funds. After all, at the end of the day it’s the refugees, not the donors, who suffer the biggest loss.

“The organization did do a lot of good in the beginning,” says Laurel Sandberg-Armstrong, a donor of Humanwire. “My guess is they expanded too fast and lost control,” She said in a phone interview.

The Federal Trade Commission encourages anyone who is thinking about donating to a charity to do research beforehand. Well-known organizations such as the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Rescue Committee (IRC) are generally good options for those wanting to donate.

Humanwire was contacted for comment. An employee replied via Facebook Messenger saying the accusations were misunderstood and they still encourage people to support their organization.

“Humanwire is awesome,” a representative from Humanwire said in a Facebook message. “Please give it a try and see for yourself.”


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Good cop, good cop

By: Mike Haglund

With all the bad publicity and negative media, it’s hard to believe that anyone would want to put up with all of that. I talked with two individuals to discuss just that. Sergeant Bryan Peterson of the West Valley City Police, and Mario Widdowson, an intern for Unified Police currently under going the interview process to become an officer. For both of them, the desire to become a policemen started out as a child’s dream, and confirmed later in life when they had a positive interaction with a policeman.

For Sergeant Peterson, that experience came when he was in 5th grade he was a victim to an attempted mugging and had a knife held to his throat. “The detective assigned to my case” he said, “was very caring and worked very hard on my case. I was never able to ID the suspect, but the professionalism by the detective impacted me and my desire to be a police officer.”

“I want to be a policeman first and foremost” Widdowson explained, “because it was a police officer who had the most positive impact on my life when I was 18 years old and getting into trouble.” He also hopes to be accepted into the program so that he can have a positive influence on the community that he was raised in and have the opportunity to change a life like the officer who changed mine.

Two individuals with very different backgrounds, both with the desire to help their community. So why do the police have such big targets on their backs, and are put in such a negative light? As Widdowson and I discussed this question, we both agreed that where you grow up, and the experiences you have with the police have the most impact on your personal perception of them. We discussed that perhaps socioeconomic status played a big factor in crime. The majority of people don’t commit crimes because they’re bored, they do so out of necessity. If someone grows up in the projects of Baltimore and has negative interaction with the police from the time they’re very young, there’s a pretty good chance that they won’t grow up to respect the police.

We’re all human and humans make mistakes. When we make a mistake in school, we get a few points docked off our grade. At work when we make a mistake, your boss will bring you into their office and take corrective measures. Just like anywhere, there are good apples, and there are bad apples. But, when you are a public servant working out in public, everybody has their eyes on you, watching everything you do. When you do something wrong, people will pull out their cameras and start recording you, and in the blink of an eye that video will be posted on countless social media outlets. Soon enough it will be circling the news on a 24-hour cycle.

While talking with Sergeant Peterson, and Widdowson I asked them if their departments do anything from a public relations perspective to help counter all the negative media. Sergeant Peterson said that for a long time his department didn’t do anything PR wise, and thought that might have hurt them. They now have someone in charge of their social media, they have even posted pictures to Facebook of people they are trying to identify to get the public involved as well. Every summer, Unified Police holds an annual event called “Night Out Against Crime.” The goal of the event is to increase public awareness of crime prevention, build bridges between law enforcement and the community, and send the message to criminals that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back against crime. Widdowson also told me that they host a citizen’s academy where you take a class once a week for a few months and learn a variety of things that relate to police work. He says “people really do learn a lot from this experience and I would welcome anyone to go to it. You start to think more like a police officer and can better put yourself in their shoes.”

I asked Sergeant Peterson I asked him if there was anything the public can do to help change the effects of the negative media. He replied by saying, “I wish the public would ask the media for more heartwarming stories, or even call in to the media when they see good things happening. There are a lot of cops in the Salt Lake Valley doing a lot of good work that goes unnoticed.”

Education, skills and connections: Many say this is the pathway to one’s career

Story and slideshow by PEYTON M. DALLEY

Meet Chris Haston, the head photographer for NBC Studios.

In the small neighborhood on Catalina Avenue in Burbank, Calif., one may not recognize the flood light cameras and crew surrounding the house where the production is occurring. But it’s just another day in Hollywood. The crew and cast are filming a pilot for a television show that they hope will become an instant hit.

Among the hustle, directors are yelling “cut,” “quiet on set” and “that’s a wrap.” Assistants fix fly-away hair, and set designers find the perfect angle of lighting.

Chris Haston, NBC’s head photographer, is part of this scene. Haston has been working for the company for 23 years, and can be found behind the camera capturing the perfect angle of every noted Hollywood icon. He also has had cameo roles in sit-coms like “The Office.”

While Haston’s home may be the rolling green hills of Hollywood, he has also shot movies in Park City and Salt Lake City.

Focusing on the success of Chris Haston

Haston attended a junior college in El Camino, Calif., and tried to figure out which art college he wanted to attend. But he realized formal education wasn’t a good fit for him. “I’m glad I didn’t waste four to six years, when I’m already doing what I love,” he said.

Haston worked at a local camera store in Gardena Calif., a job that meshed with his interest in photography.

While working there, Haston began to take photos of off-road racing, and used a studio called Trackside to edit his footage, experiment with lighting and develop his skillset.

He had also built a connection with a man named Frank Carroll, who was an NBC photographer.

“I stayed on that guy constantly for a job at NBC,” Haston said.

After six years, Haston finally was hired for a lab position in the NBC Studios in Los Angeles producing and making film.

“Persistence and work ethic got me the job,” Haston said. “Being hungry and not letting words ‘it’s not possible’ cross your mind.”

Some aspects of success

Haston not only is doing what he loves, but he also knows his cast and crew. Haston said it’s important to treat everyone with kindness and respect in this industry, because it gets people further than any ego.

“Be nice, not egotistical,” Haston said. “Having egos make[s] it impossible to work with [people] in such a competitive field.”

Haston isn’t the only one making dreams a reality. He works alongside photographers Dave Bjerk, Rafael Ortega and Allan Nadel.

Bjerk said timing in the career process is crucial. “Just because something opens up does not mean a person is ready for it,” he said.

Ortega said, “Some people need to go to college for experience. I took pictures and figured out how to use a camera. Can’t say I’m in a better place than I am now.”

Nadel added, “You can definitely make connections in school.”

While the City of Angels may be the hot spot for future careers, connections play a valid role for hitting the big leagues, Haston said.

So how does one break into the field?

Although higher education wasn’t an ideal fit for Haston, others can benefit from taking classes that help them gain skills. The Career Services office located at the University of Utah can be a good resource for students. Director Stan Inman said his office helps current students as well as alumni to tell their story.

While Career Services provides both connections and help with resumes and portfolios, Inman said students “have to have the skillset to do the job.” That becomes the story students can share with their connections.

“Education credentials are important to have,” Inman said. “We provide contacts that can develop into opportunity.”

Students who have graduated from the U can be surveyed and  jobs they have acquired after graduation can be tracked. Although the survey isn’t inclusive, Inman said, the Career Services website shows students as well as potential employers who has hired Utah graduates. Currently, 35 jobs were booked in the film and media industry, and 11 were booked in the theater industry.

“It’s not a cut and paste process,” Inman said. While a job or internship may not happen immediately, it’s important to have the skillset and credentials.

Haston said even in Hollywood, “knowing someone doesn’t get you the job.” But being able to prove yourself with credentials or skillset can help you get a foot in the door.





Laura Durham: The work of an artistic woman


Laura Durham enjoys her job with the Utah Division of Arts and Museums. Photo courtesy of Durham.


Utah native Laura Durham has a bachelor’s degree in art history from Brigham Young University. She currently works for the Utah Division of Arts and Museums in Salt Lake City and manages marketing and special projects that encourage public value of the arts in the state.

Growing up as a young girl, she really enjoyed music and art. Both her parents were musicians so she was surrounded by music all the time. The turning point for her was when she was in high school. She went to London with her father when she was 17 to study art and music.

“Since my parents were both musical artists I knew I wanted to do something with art and music and kind of rebelled against them by going into the field of art history,” she said in an email interview.

She has 15 years of working experience with the Utah Division of Arts and Museums. Before being promoted to marketing and public value manager, she worked as the visual arts coordinator. She also does graphic design on the side as a hobby, but has used those skills to create a brand and unique look for the Utah Division of Arts and Museums.

Durham also enjoys cooking, traveling, writing and sharing stories in her spare time. With her enjoyment of music, she sings with the Utah Chamber Artists.

Durham works out of the division’s main office in the historic Glendinning Mansion at 617 E. South Temple in Salt Lake City. Also located there is the Alice Gallery, named after founder Alice Merrill Horne. Durham chose to work at the Utah Division of Arts and Museums because she wanted to work with the arts and build programs, while also giving back to the community.

She serves on many boards, including the Salt Lake Gallery and Utah Emerging Museums Professionals. And she sits on the Downtown Marketing and Events committee, assisting with the Downtown Farmers Market, Dine O’Round and other community events.

She has worked for several other arts programs within the Utah Division of Arts and Museums, and was the visual arts coordinator managing the Rio Gallery and Traveling Exhibits. She also served as the vice president of the Salt Lake Gallery Association from 2003 to 2006.

Durham was program director of the Salt Lake Gallery Stroll from 2005 to 2010. “It was significant because it’s a great anchor in Salt Lake City when it comes to the visual arts,” said Durham in an email interview. “It’s a community event that people can count on each month and it has fostered a fertile environment for new galleries to pop up and join. A lot of business have joined the fun too, as we see more small business rotating local artwork on their walls and opening up their doors for the Stroll.”


A piece that Durham designed for “15 Bytes” about Utah artists. Image courtesy of Durham.

She regularly contributes to “15 Bytes,” which is an online visual arts magazine in Salt Lake City. She serves, too, as assistant editor and managing music editor. Durham has developed a longstanding partnership with Artists of Utah, publisher of 15 Bytes. The magazine publishes two free adds every month for the Utah Division of Arts and Museums so it can advertise what is going on in its galleries, literary arts programs and more.

Durham has developed many other partnerships, such as with the Salt Lake Film SocietyUtah Film Center and Utah.com. She is in the process of helping the latter showcase its website and direct tourists to the wide variety of arts that are available here in Utah.

In 2014, Durham completed the Change Leader Program, which is a professional development course. According to the Utah Division of Arts and Museums website, “Participants attend a three-day institute with instruction on assessing environment and the communication and facilitation skills necessary to implement change.” As part of the program, Durham initiated a project called “Utah’s 15 most influential artists.” In a press release about it, Durham said, “Hopefully this program will inspire more people to recognize how art has enhanced their quality of life as well. And hopefully we will nurture a society that more widely and visibly values artists and their contributions.” She  said in the release she believes artists influence our landscape and culture. “I sought to identify Utah artists who influence and impact our community,” she said.


Webster agrees, the definition of beautiful is YOU

Story and slideshow by SHANNON O’CONNOR

Learn more about how people are impacting lives through positive body image.

Lexie Kite, 29, created the nonprofit organization, Beauty Redefined, with her twin sister Lindsay Kite. The idea to start the motivational program was sparked in their media literacy class at Utah State University.

The class opened their eyes to how women are negatively represented in the media. The Kite sisters were angry at how the media transform the public’s idea of what makes a woman beautiful.

“One day my heart started pounding faster and I wanted to spread the word,” Lexie said. Lindsay felt the same way.

They decided to continue their research on body image and the media at the University of Utah and earned PhDs in 2013.

Their doctoral dissertations formed the basis of an empowering visual presentation they have given to “tens of thousands of people across the U.S. since 2009,” according to the website.

“We started through a dinky website, and based on the reviews we realized people were starving for this information,” Lexie said.

Their presentations are a compilation of their research, studies and experiences. “Beauty Redefined teaches audiences to recognize and reject harmful messages about bodies and continuously resist those limiting ideals through the power of body image resilience” according to the website.

Body image resilience is their main promoted message. It is “the ability to combat harmful ideas and bring to light the lies women are told,” Lexie said. The lies that women are just objects and have to look a certain way to be beautiful.

Lexie and Lindsay are passionate and driven to empower women and remind them they are “more than just bodies, more than just something to decorate the world,” Lexie said.

The portrayal of women in the media makes them feel pressured to look a certain way. If women don’t look that way, they may feel negatively about their appearance or get negative critiques from others.

“You’re just fat and ugly and jealous of all the beautiful women,” wrote a woman in an email to the Kite sisters.

“We can use painful experiences as stepping stones and not stumbling blocks,” Lexie said. “We can help provide the skills, resources, and tools to do that.”

Lexie and Lindsay Kite will not stand for women being objectified. They are influencing people around the world to have a positive outlook on body image through their blog, website and presentations.

Another program that promotes positive body image is a University of Utah club called SPEAK (Students Promoting Eating Disorder Awareness and Knowledge). SPEAK chapters are spreading to other universities, including George Washington University and the University of Minnesota. Each chapter has about 100 members.

Some of the 110 members at the U are people who have experienced an eating disorder or a body image issue. Other members, like Jon Junejo, financial director for SPEAK, have not experienced such issues. But they have a passion to educate and help people through their body image struggles.

Members of the U’s SPEAK chapter regularly engage in outreach to elementary schools, high schools, teams and clubs throughout Utah. “The more outreaches we do, the more it becomes evident that our program, and other positive body image programs are worth it,” Junejo said.

Junejo, 21, has been a part of SPEAK since 2013. At first, he joined the club so he could gain public speaking experience. Junejo wasn’t expecting to gain a passion for the importance of positive body image.

“Honestly, after the first outreach I did at Dilworth  Elementary, SPEAK became something much more,” Junejo said. “As I began hearing stories about people’s experiences with the eating disorder epidemic, it became clear to me that I could have a real positive effect on these people.”

SPEAK’s mission is to educate people about the effects from negative body image, body dysmorphia and provide ways to help people struggling with body image.

Body dysmorphia is a “conflict between what you see as an ideal body, compared to what you actually look like,” Junejo said. The disorder can affect people of all ages and may be caused be peer pressure, genes, or culture – including images in the media.

Junejo learned about one result from negative body image, eating disorders. He has not experienced it himself but he has friends who have suffered from anorexia and bulimia.

“Our [SPEAK] goal is to prevent eating disorders in the first place,” Junejo said. “We refer people to treatment centers on an individual case basis.” He added that eating disorders are predominantly emotional issues, but each person has a unique situation. It’s a multidimensional problem that the members of SPEAK are trying to help.

“Who you surround yourself with can dictate how you feel about yourself,” Junejo said. It’s important to have positive people around to overcome negative thoughts. Junejo has been a part of helping people through a struggle that people are scared to talk about.

When people compare themselves to the media, Junejo and the team want them to re-evaluate the source and “think differently about what source is making you feel like you should look a certain way.”

A main source to promote positive body image is through social media.

“They’re [social media sites] great places to get a conversation started with girls and women. We struggle wanting to be a certain way and look like this person, or that person,” said Nicea DeGering, host for “Good Things Utah.” “So when someone says, out loud, ‘just be you, you is good enough’ and it’s said on social media, which is the primary language spoken by young women today, it’s even more of a positive impact.”

DeGering has been a host for “Good Things Utah” for 12 years and graduated in 1995 with her communication, broadcasting degree from Brigham Young University. DeGering is a successful woman, wife and mother to two daughters.

She sees her daughters influenced by the pressure the media have put on women to look a specific way. “It’s something that we talk about in my house on a daily basis,” she said. “When is it OK to just be yourself? The answer should be, every day.”

DeGering didn’t have the same social media issues as her daughters, but she did struggle with her body image growing up. Her peers called her “big” because she was 5 feet 10 inches tall by the time she was in seventh grade.

“Now I’m mad I wasted one minute worrying that I was different,” she said. “Thank heavens there is only one of me, and I want to do me the best I can. Unique needs to be celebrated.”

Beauty Redefined promotes this notion, too: “Reflect on what impact narrow beauty ideals have had on your life and take inventory of the time, money and energy you dedicate to appearance concerns.”

DeGering added, “Looks are the first thing we all see. That’s a fact. And that’s actually OK, as long as you keep looking, as long as you continue to dig deeper beyond that, there is more to everyone. Everyone has their hard times, everyone struggles.”

The media disseminate many unrealistic messages about beauty to women.

“Conversation and awareness are key in making change,” DeGering said. That conversation begins with help from programs like Beauty Redefined and SPEAK, and by influential people like Nicea DeGering.

“Just be you, you is good enough,” DeGering said.

‘Django Unchained’ — the ‘d’ is silent, but not the critics

Story and photo by RENEE ESTRADA

The 2013 Academy Awards were held on Feb. 24, 2013. Films, actors and others in the industry were honored for their talents. While all the films got their moment in the spotlight, one film seemed to stand out from the rest, and that film was “Django Unchained.”

“Django Unchained” stood out from the rest because of the controversy it garnered in the weeks prior to the awards ceremony. Many spoke out against the film because they believed it to be racist, crude or desentizingly violent.

“Django Unchained” received two Academy Awards: one for best original screenplay, awarded to Quentin Tarantino, and one for best actor in a supporting role, awarded to Christoph Waltz.

The movie is about a freed slave, Django, who joins bounty hunter King Schultz in his search to find criminals. He does so in order to earn the money to buy his wife, Broomhilda, her freedom, and the two can be together again. All along the way he mercilessly kills white slaveowners.

Some critics, namely Aisha Harris of Slate, say the entire film is a blatant slave revenge fantasy. In her piece, “When Blaxplotation Went West,” she argues, “He’s [Django] not standing up on behalf of his fellow subjugated man. You can choose to identify with Django, but if you do, you’re rooting for his overcoming of oppression, not a collective victory for the black race.”


Meanwhile, blogger and critic Jamelle Bouie argued that while the story of Django may be unrealistic, at least the movie depicts some true aspects of slavery, which is very unlike Hollywood. There is no gentle and kind slaveowner. Calvin Candie, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, accurately portrays the cruel slaveowner who was depicted in history books and imaginations. He is ruthless and probably doesn’t have an ounce of compassion.

Ingrid Gonzalez, a student at the University of Utah, agreed with these sentiments.“’Django’ showed how blacks were treated at that time. The director didn’t cover anything up,” Gonzalez said. “When it came to the treatment of slaves I feel that it was spot on, and to me that’s rare in movies because most movies show kind slaveowners, and there really weren’t many of those.”

Some critics, namely James Rocchi of Box Office, defended Tarantino’s work, suggesting the violence and language used is his style. In his review he wrote that the film combines “his maniacal style of mashed-up fragments from the cultural canon with a seriousness of intent that turns Django into a discussion of both pop and politics.”

A few years ago Tarantino made “Inglorious Basterds,” a fictitious movie in which Jews went in search of Nazis to kill and scalp them. The film enraged Germans for the depiction of Nazis. In an article for the U.K Telegraph, Richard Alleyne wrote, “Germans fear it will turn the Second World War into a comic book adventure in which their countrymen have no redeeming value.”

Others say the language in “Django Unchained” is over the top, considering the n-word is used more than 100 times. “Pulp Fiction,” another film written and directed by Tarantino, is not a movie involving slavery and Tarantino was criticized for his usage of the n-word in that. Given that “Django Unchained” is set in the antebellum South, some might argue the word is more historically relevant than a film set in California during the 1990s.

Some critics say that the violence is what is excessive. Jermaine Spradely, the multicultural editor at the Huffington Post, argues, “The problem is that, by showing non-stop killing, maiming, whipping and beating throughout the entirety of the film, by the end, the viewer is so desensitized….”

Some viewers agreed with that. Sara Scott, a student at the U, said, “I liked the movie but the gore definitely took away from it. The violence was over the top in my opinion, but I knew before I watched it that’s Tarantino’s style.”

While critics may not agree on what the film represents, movies like “Django Unchained” prove that viewers need to watch with a close eye. As controversial as movies can be, that doesn’t always negate their value. Some aspects can be surprisingly accurate, while others can be outright appalling.