Defining the Non Traditional Athlete
Author: Noah Robinson
Advertising, also known as branding, has taken a long journey. Over the past 90 years, American media has changed dramatically, influencing the art of storytelling and commercial broadcasting. It is undisputed that the evolution of commercial advertising has swept the nation by a storm. With new advancements in resolution quality, cinematic visuals are sharper, and the messages are clear. In 2013, a controversial television commercial was introduced by the Coca-Cola Company for the sports drink Powerade. The commercial entitled, “Made You Look” aired nationally during the 2013 March Madness tournament, the Super Bowl equivalent to college basketball. The spot aired on ESPN and most major networks around the country. This advertisement challenged stereotypes among athletes who may not look like they belong in a specific sport.
First, it is important to discuss the commercial’s audience. The creative director chose to air the commercial during March Madness because sports have a large viewership audience. The audience is most likely sports enthusiast coupled with a fanbase familiar with the product. Choosing this audience was essential because if the objective is to change the perspective of collegiate and amateur athletics, the best way to do it is from the inside out. The commercial wants to change the way we view athletics through the passion and competitive spirit of the athletes. Set in modern-day, the commercial begins with a sequence of shots introducing the principle talent identifying themselves as athletes combating gender, status, race and size stereotypes in their sports. The opening shot is a small framed basketball player saying, “I know what you think you’re lookin’ at, someone who’s too small.” Then, a big Hispanic football player on the field with his teammates says, “too slow.” The Caucasian female wrestler says, “not in the right body,” and lastly a black hockey player says, “not in the right sport.” The advertisement suggests that society connects certain sports with racial, gender and class roles. For gender and race roles, the advertisement suggests that all hockey players need to white, and all wrestlers need to be male. However, the advertisement suggests a certain class with each sport in a subtle way. For example, in the opening scene with the small-framed basketball player, we can see that he is walking around with no shirt on wearing a gold chain. The tall men in the background are African American, which signals to the audience that he is a basketball player in a predominately black community. Further, he is playing at an outdoor basketball court surrounded by a classic fence with little to no structure. The player is not playing at a huge stadium or with an organized team. Rather the ad chose to depict this basketball player in a neighborhood court. This image would draw the audience to think that he is a poorer neighborhood basketball player, further connecting the socioeconomic class with certain sports.
But the athletes in this commercial do not want the audience to feel sorry for them. Instead, they say “It’s okay, it’s gonna be that much sweeter when we are properly introduced.” Then, there is a cut to a sequence of live-action dramatic visuals of non-traditional athletes truly excelling at what they do no matter the size, shape, gender or race they have. In fact, the athletes think it is going to make them that much stronger. To add to this powerful message, the creative director uses blue tones, the traditional color of Powerade with each of the characters. In this case, blue symbolize power and energy and this idea is reinforced throughout the commercial. The opening basketball player wears neutral black colors so the blue Powerade drink captures your attention. The black hockey player wears a jersey that has large blue stripes along the sleeves and blue hockey pants to symbolize the “Powerade Blue.” Although the female wrestler is wearing red, the wrestling mat and the gym she is competing in is blue. The color blue is creatively placed in the commercial, so the audience knows that blue is Powerade and Powerade represents strength, courage, and tenacity among non-traditional athletes.
This is an exciting time to be non-traditional, I must have replayed this commercial a thousand times. Although this “Made You Look” campaign ran in print, new media (online website, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook), and television, the televised presence proposed a greater impact on me. Athletes come in all ages, sizes, gender, and color. But there is one common denominator. Courage, strength, talent, and technique in a sport has no race, gender, color or socioeconomic class. These traits can be seen in anyone and give them the tools on what it takes to succeed. This is the overall message of the ad. The commercial was innovative and allowed the audience to view others through a different lens exposing what people might not have thought they had within them. So, the next time we see a small basketball player, Hispanic football player, a female wrestler, or black hockey player know that they have the talent, skill and discipline within their craft to really make you look.
The Mission. “Powerade: Made You Look.” The Coca-Cola Company, Vimeo, 20 March 2013 https://vimeo.com/62283738., Accessed 26 September 2019.
All Eyez on Me:
A Perception Built from Within
Author: Noah Robinson
I believe in audiences because there are two choices: falling into the perception of the audience or standing on my own two feet consciously deciding to control the audience taking them in the direction I want them to go. I have stepped on stage many times in the past two years. The first time was the most nerve-racking. It was a full house that night.
My mentor tapped me on my shoulder and said that I would go last (which in the comedy world means I just became the headliner). The worst part about going last is that you watch everyone else’s routine and the competition is no joke. With each passing act, I played two simultaneous roles: the audience and the performer. Balancing these two roles, to some might give them perspective on what they need to do. But at that moment, with each comedic set passing and bombing, I knew that no matter the audience, it was going to be a sink or swim moment and I was left on my own to succeed or fail without any help.
My walk on stage did not amount to one specific thought or feeling but more like an intensive euphoria racing through my mind, trying to remember the key components of a great comic. Will I remember my material? Will I finish before the red light comes on? Will I get more than a chuckle? Will people like my material? I know my mother thinks I am hilarious but when the club lights dim and the spotlight is on me, will I even know which laugh is hers?
I would rather go first because there is no one to compete with and I have the opportunity to set the expectation high among the other comics, especially in front of my mentor Jamie Masada, the owner of the Laugh Factory in Hollywood California.
Beyond all of this, I still believe that this audience filled with supportive, loud friends, family and mentors brought out the best version of myself.
But the audience is an interesting animal. Each one is different. There’s the skeptical open mic, the room filled with disengaged faces, hecklers and shallow smiles of other comedians chasing the same ambitions. I favor the showcases, especially on a Friday or Saturday nights. Sunset Boulevard is busy, and the club is filled with an audience of smiling first-date couples eager to make a great first impression, celebrity icons, bright-eyed tourists and familiar faces. However, no matter the audience I believed in not bending to the energy of shuffling silhouettes.
That was the night everything came together. The young, ambitious me had figured it out. You have to choose a side and sometimes it is spontaneous, but there is no straddling the fence. It is either believe in yourself or absorb the beliefs and perceptions of the audience. I chose not to straddle the fence. We make choices every day and some of those choices, either way, define the performance of our lives. I am now not afraid of being nervous because I know I will learn from the experience. When I face an audience each day, I know that all eyes are on me. With this, I make an effort to do my best on any of life’s stages.
Where the Crow Flies:
A Bird’s-Eye View of an Unequal Society
Author: Noah Robinson
Michelle Alexander’s scholarly book titled The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, talks about how Jim Crow laws are still prominent in our world today. However, they hide in our prison and the criminal justice system. One of the most interesting aspects about the book is the title. The New Jim Crow refers to Jim Crow laws from 1877 to 1965. These laws promoted segregation of blacks and whites in America. For examples, it was lawful to enforce “white only” restrooms, drinking fountains, and schools. Although there are not laws the explicitly enforce these laws, there Jim Crow laws are still alive today. While the subtitle “The Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” explains how institutionalized racism is colorblind, putting more people of color in jail than whites.
The New Jim Crow is a scholarly book rather than a non-fiction or fiction book because it is based on the author’s credentials, the publisher, and the content. Michelle Alexander, the author, went to Stanford Law School and later began teaching at Stanford Law School. After writing and publishing this book for her credible publisher “The New Press” in 2010, people everywhere were able to read about social injustice through Michelle Alexander’s voice. Throughout the book, Alexander cites various sources and makes footnotes to support her arguments and findings. These sources give her credibility to influence her intended audience. Michelle Alexander writes with a specific audience in mind. She wants this book to be:
For people like her who care deeply about racial justice but who, for any number of reasons, do not yet appreciate the magnitude of the crisis faced by communities of color as a result of mass incarceration…those who have been struggling to persuade their friends, neighbors, relatives, teachers, co-workers, or political representatives that something is eerily familiar about the way our criminal justice system operates, something that looks and feels a lot like an era supposedly left behind, but who have lacked the facts and data to back up their claims. (qtd. in Alexander, Preface)
There is a societal shift that allows us all to recognize the racial caste system. This book, in Alexander’s words, is to move this shift forward so people can observe how racial oppression has taken on a different form. The racial caste system is a type of stratification wherein people of color are kept in an inferior position.
The New Jim Crow emphasizes the negative effects of incarceration in America. Other creative professionals have highlighted this as well. The movie 13th by Ava DuVernay shows scenes of inmates hanging off the railing in a jail. Jails have been used to punish people for bad behavior and seem to thrive off of terrible conditions. The movie states, “I wouldn’t even keep my animal in this condition.” The United States continues to house twenty-two percent of the world’s inmates. Yet, we have one of the worst conditions. In my opinion, the law has supported these terrible conditions. In 1871 case Ruffin v. Commonwealth the court ruled:
For a time, during his service in the penitentiary, he is in a state of penal servitude to that state. He has, a consequence of his crime, not only forfeited his liberty, but all his personal rights except those which the law in its humanity accords to him. He is, for the time being, a slave of the state. He is civiliter mortuus; and his estate, if he has any, is administered like that of a dead man” (qtd. in Alexander 31).
Courts believe that a prisoner is equal to a slave with no rights, land or purpose other than living as a slave. The law fails to recognize criminals as real people. This is continued to be reflected for decades. As a result, our U.S. Constitution has developed laws that carve out America’s craving to continue slavery in this country. The Fourteenth Amendment notes that “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens in the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law; nor deny any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” U.S. CONST. amend. XIV, §1. Although the U.S. Constitution claims to value the life, liberty and property of its citizens they fail to uphold human rights once you have committed a crime. Although the 14th Amendment honors life, liberty and property of free citizens, this is not the same for criminals. The 13th Amendment says “Neither slavery not involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist in the United States…” U.S. CONST. amend. XIII, §1. There is a contradiction in these two sections of the Constitution. This made me think about a couple of critical questions: What is the difference between a criminal and a slave? What is the definition of prisoner? What does “duly convicted mean?”
Over the years, there has been an increased incarceration of black people. But these people have not been duly convicted. According to the dictionary “duly” means “in accordance with what is required or appropriate, following proper procedure or arrangement. When reading The New Jim Crow, reading society’s way of criminalizing black people by announcing a “War on Drugs” does not sound anything close to being appropriate. Is it appropriate to put blacks in jail that committed crimes of smoking marijuana in a state where marijuana is now illegal? Is it appropriate to criminalize five black boys (The Central Park Five) after forcing them to admit to a crime that they did not commit? Or is it appropriate for private prisons to make millions of dollars off of the slavery of black prisoners in America? The answer to all of these questions is no. This structure of society has made people a target. We take away a prisoner’s ability to vote, function in society and their freedom. As a result, once these past inmates are released there are limited places where they fit in society. Some inmates feel like they belong in jail because there is nowhere else for them to go. There is no cure for this system overnight. But Alexander’s awareness is a starting point. America has found a way to create a system that allows us to live in these harsh times. Now, we just need to figure out a way to disrupt it.
In my opinion jails should function as a rehabilitation for inmates. For example, in Sweden, jail cells there have a desk to work, draw, or read. Inmates also have a television so they can keep up with what is going on in the world. This can be used to help heal the prisoners mental state in a decent living conditions rather than brow beat the prisoner. This is different than the American jail system. The conditions are so harsh that it is similar to slave labor conditions with many fights, horrible food and much more. What is interesting is that Alexander points out that violent crimes are declining but the inmate population is growing at an astounding rate. At first, I was confused about this fact. But after thinking, it started to make more sense. Just because there are less violent crimes does not mean that police are not putting blacks in jail for non-violent crimes. Non-violent crimes are theft, stolen goods, drug usage, bribery, gambling, fraud, and tax crimes. These are not all the non-violent crimes, but these are a lot of opportunities for the police to put someone in jail. Especially if you plan to target low income black communities. Although this is a book about our society awareness, I don’t think that it would be for everyone. This book focus on the negative aspect of being black and it doesn’t bring out the positive events thought-out the history of black people. Michelle Alexander’s approach for this book feels outdated for today’s society.