What to do? Vlogs, Reality Shows, and Afro Natural Hair movement?

I have been thinking a lot about my case study paper and presentation. The topics I have been thinking about thus far are vlogs, reality shows and Afro natural hair movement. All three topic are interesting and connected to me in some shape or form.

In terms of vlogs, I have noticed a trend on YouTube where a lot of people have been uploading video blogs (vlogs) since Sophomore year of high school. What draws me to this case study is how “real” is appears to be when compared to reality shows. This is of course connected to how accessible and somewhat affordable video cameras have become. YouTube has also become a place where these vloggers can post videos, gain popularity and sometimes use it as a source of income (through advertisements). What intrigues me is also the popularity of most of these videos and the content these vloggers are producing. What inspires someone to pick up a camera to show others their lifestyles? Then again, why do we the viewers tune in to watch? How are both sides benefiting from this exchange? These vlogs range from lifestyle vlogs where couples or families showcase their daily life to the viewers. I have even seen some cases where the viewers will send a couple or family gifts when thy announce that they are having a baby. How are people able to connect to others through these vlogs to the point of sending these strangers gifts on these momentous occasions. To support this case study I will use Walter Benjamin’s The work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction. The idea that technical reproduction has been standardized which has caused an impact on the public. One of the quote I want to use is “The adjustment of reality to the masses and of the masses to reality is a process of unlimited scope, as much fr thinking as for perception” (223).

The second idea I have is on reality shows. Reality shows are very popular in the US. In recent years there have been reality shows like Keeping up with the Kardashian, Honey Boo Boo, Duck Dynasty etc. Sometimes when I hear about the concepts of these reality shows, I wonder who approved of them and how they got on air. This can be connected again to Walter Benjamin’s mechanical reproduction and aesthetic and how we, the viewers have become critical of these shows. While some of these shows like the Kardashian shows a “celebrity/socialite” living her life and being famous for being famous and with Honey Boo Boo and Duck Dynasty, there is a class dynamic at play here and it will be interesting to explore it further. Some of these reality shows like Jersey Shore received some backlash from the Italian American community on how they were ruining and degrading their image and promoting negative stereotype of them. So why are there so many reality shows on almost every channel? What is the public’s interest in consuming these shows? It can’t just be because we are bored…there has to be more to this!

My last idea is on the afro natural hair movement. This case study is the most personal and interesting one for me because of how much I know about it. Hair for many men and women is a form of expression and which many take pride in. In many cultures and religion it is covered because of its importance. For most black men and women, especially women, growing up, we have memories of going to the salon at an early age to go get relaxers to straighten out our so called kinks.  Boys go to the barber to get their hair shaved. At the time, most of us do not know, why we have to straighten it, but we do it because it is a sign of reaching adulthood and beauty. Most people just get braids, weaves or wear wigs. This is an example of epistemic violence that can be traced back to colonialism and the idea black bodies being degraded and reduced. The ideal figures of beauty were the white man and women and that was what other should aspire to look like. Straightening and relaxing your hair also brings in millions for the beauty industry who capitalize on the insecurities of people. Afro Natural Hair is seen as unprofessional and unclean in most workplace and school. There has been reemergence of natural hair in what is known as the natural hair movement. There are videos on YouTube that teach black girls and women how to take care of their hair, take care of their bodies and use all natural products (like Shea butter from Sub Saharan Africa, Ghana). There has also been an emergence of black owned business who sell these hair products. As a result of this movement, the beauty industry has lost millions in relaxer and weave sales. Also, blogs and vlogs have sprung about to provide information and tutorials about hair. This empowerment of black men and women through hair has had a profound impact on how they view themselves in this society. There is still a long way to go, as black women are being given the ultimatum of cutting their locks and keeping their jobs and young black girls are being told by school administrators not to wear certain hairstyles like afro-puff  because they are are too unclean and distracting. In mainstream culture, you  see afro hair used as a part of Halloween costumes and clown costumes. Why is that? To support this case study I will use Foucault’s power/knowledge (subjugated knowledge) and how its excavation is having positive impacts on million black women across the world. I will also take a look at disciplinary power and how the negative view of black hair has been so ingrained and internalized by black people themselves that they take measures to “correct” the problem society has with their bodies. I will also use Barthes myth and how black hair is highly politicized, historicized and naturalized. Lastly I will delve deeper into Fanon’s work about the effects of decolonization on the decolonized.

After writing this blog post I have come to the conclusion that I will use Afro Natural Hair movement as my case study because of how passionate I felt when writing it and how easy and natural it was for me to draw on my own experience as a black woman who has also became a part of this movement my senior year of high school. This is not just about hair, it is about beauty standards that are set for many of us before we are born, some chose to conform to the dominant culture, where others chose to be themselves. To some, simply being who they where naturally born to be is a form of protest. It is an an attempt to denormalize this negative narrative while challenging the standards of beauty.

I will keep you posted as I research the topic, find examples, application of the theory and other materials from class.


Asana Hamidu

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