Victims and the Media/ Harold and Kumar/ Article Review
In today’s media crazed world, it can sometimes be difficult to identify the victim in a crisis. Through images on television, the internet, and even or cell phones, we are exposed to too many ideas that appeal to our inner ideals of who the victim may be. The greatest example, of course, is the September 11 attacks. The media scrutinized Muslims, Indians, and anybody else who fit the ideation of the terrorists who launched planes into the WTC towers. That was until the American public and many around the world were sure that the entire Middle Eastern population at large was a group of writhing evil. Seja’s four primary points throughout the article are that the media controls how we view the victim, as well as how we view the enemy, satire will not be tolerated when it tries to point that out, and the media will try to subjugate minorities for war profit. We forget the media have a certain amount of control over how we think, feel, and see others even when the situation is dire. This concept was exposed in Nina Seja’s “No Laughing Matter? Comedy and The Politics of the Terrorist/Victim,” wherein she discusses the media’s habits on victimizing and criminalizing individuals and groups of people. She uses the popular characters Harold and Kumar as examples.
After reading Seja’s article and analyzing more of the media I watch, I have to agree with the points she made about the media controlling who we believe is a victim. I also agree that the characters, Harold and Kumar, are apt to illustrate her point. Harold and Kumar are essentially displayed as hapless stoners in all three of their movies. That includes their sophomore effort wherein they are mistaken for terrorists as they light a bong on a plane and are sent to Guantanamo Bay . We were able to see them as victim’s throughout the film because previous groundwork had been laid for them. A previous movie showed the two as miscreants who were indeed smuggling drugs, but were by no means engaging in terrorist activities. These previous actions humanized the two characters. The media often dehumanize those they want the public to see as the enemy, even if it is an entire group. This process is something evidently easy to do when the groups, Muslims, for example, are so different . Humans do not empathize well over differences, making it simpler for the media to cast a shadow over entire countries after an atrocity is committed.
Why then, was Harold and Kumar such a good example for Seja’s article? It is due partly to the satirical elements to the film. Seja admits several times that comedians are now taken more seriously than most politicians are and in some instances I would have to agree this is true. If an individual is truly analyzing the content, politicians typically run a three-ring circus of a show during campaign season. They are funny within their rights. In contrast, comedians and comedy movies are funny, but they have an underlying seriousness, much like Harold and Kumar films. They challenge many political agendas. Several dystopian authors wrote to be entertaining, but also challenged politics in the same way. Harold and Kumar also make good examples because it is difficult to dehumanize them; they are prime candidates to show how the media attempts to veil people based on color, orientation, or nationality. However, in the case of the two bumbling druggies, they cannot. This method was illustrated in Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay several times, but the most obvious instance is when it is automatically assumed the two are terrorists. Kumar looks the part of a “typical terrorist.” For years before the film’s release the media had laid groundwork painting anybody looking remotely Middle Eastern may be suspect. The vile nature of the media is called center stage when the movie, also mentioned in Seja’s article, accuses Asian-American Harold of being North Korean. Not only does the media deface him as one of the least trusted nationalities, but they disregard his true heritage and negate the rationality behind the idea that not all North Koreans are bad.
I also agree with the article because Seja explains it from the other perspective. Though it is clear that her plight is with people who are painted as criminals when they are victims, all the information is given in the article. She explains that some media portrayals of Guantanamo explain the inmates drink too much, alluding to the idea they are foul to the inmates. This image could plant the idea that the guards are the criminals and the inmates the victims. Nevertheless, in other media portrayals it suggests that guards at Guantanamo are often covered in human excrement, suggesting they are there to stop the prisoners from reaching the boiling point and are constantly mistreated. This image lets the audience know the guards are the victims and inmates are deserving of whatever they are receiving . One can easily assess that the media dictates who the victim is through a simple use of a tool like sympathy. When done right, it would not be surprising if one’s disposition switched back and forth during the same news broadcast.
In sum, I do agree with the article and think it was well-stated. The use of Harold and Kumar as an example was apt and useful. The characters are known primarily for getting high and going on misadventures for burgers. To think of them as terrorists is laughable, but it also made them perfect to challenge the political ideology of who the victim truly is. The majority of Seja’s credibility, however, came from the fact that both sides were explained. She assesses how the media can paint the inmates, but also how the media can paint the guards in the facility. Depending on how one is depicted, the other will be either a victim or a criminal. It allowed the reader to see just how easily the media controls our thoughts on which the victim is.
Seja, Nina. "No laughing matter? Comedy and the politics of the terrorist/victim." Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies (2011): 227-237. Article.