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Verstehen Top 10 Socio-Cultural Heavyweights of 2013 (Part I)

The year 2013 packed on some hardcore sociological and anthropological weight, and I don’t mean some chub. When I say packed on, 2013 went heavyweight through and through. Allow Verstehen to refresh your memories as we count down the top ten sociologically relevant things that happened in 2013.

You might be thinking that this endeavor is foolish, knowing full well that everything is sociological and anthropological, but there are those that occur that make us stop in our tracks and rethink where humanity is now, and where it is going (or not going, for that matter), and those are the events we revisit in this year-end countdown.

10. Miley Cyrus twerked

Love her or hate her, Miley Cyrus got our attention in 2013, especially when she decided to shake her tail feather. She got more buzz going around for her when she found it wise to, literally, “come in as a wrecking ball”, stark naked in her music video.

Since Miley’s songs have been blasting from almost every other holiday party on your block this season, take time to appreciate the sociological relevance of it all – cultural appropriation, new ways of thinking about gender and sexuality, and dramaturgy – “backstage” behaviors exhibited “front stage.” You can also twerk, if you roll that way. ‘Tis the season to be jiggly, after all!

9. And Miss *insert Beauty Queen title here* 2013 is…

This year proved to be major, major in the pageant division. Miss World 2013 Megan Young, Miss Supranational 2013 Mutya Datu, Miss International 2013 Bea Rose Santiago, and Miss Universe 2013 3rd Runner-up Ariella Arida are names you may have heard whilst getting a trim in the Beauty parlor this year.

If anything, the surprising peak in the number of Filipina beauties getting recognized internationally proves a progressive leap in major societies’ conceptions of beauty. The pool of shortlisted contestants in major beauty pageants of the year also shows larger diversity: the tall, white, and blonde is now accompanied by average height, caramel-skinned, dark-haired girls in the pageants’ top fives. It’s interesting to think about whether the trend will carry on, but the more relevant questions, perhaps, are whether or not there are indeed changing standards of beauty in pageants, and which nation-states dictate these standards.

8. Don’t H8, appreciate

Mid-2013, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram were flooded by “No H8”- related posts, all in reference to California state proposition 8 which sought to “protect the sanctity of the union between man and woman” thence discriminating against unions that are otherwise.

It’s a classic case of social media propaganda. The age of the smart phone and the Internet has allowed us to launch unorthodox revolutionary means. How do we legitimize it, though? How can we tell if people are genuinely fighting for a cause or if they just want in on being able to say that they “participated”? Social media is rebranding our ideas for creating change: how, with the click of a button, we have suddenly “strengthened” the anti-Prop 8 campaign, or how we evaluate the foundation of a cause using the number of page likes, followers, etcetera, etcetera. If 2013’s “No H8” campaign is any indication, the social media revolution will continue to exist, but will it create relevant change?

7.  “SELFIE!!”

2013 is the year of the selfie; whoever you are, you’ve probably taken a selfie (or at least participated in one) at least once this year. Some say it has become an obsession to take pictures featuring you, your stretched arm, in any form of photo taking device, be it your smartphone, a Polaroid camera, or your DSLR.

This year proved that it has become increasingly convenient to present the self in images published via online means. Selfies are ways by which we manage the impression others have of us and as such, control situations. Social approval rigidly quantified by the number of likes and/or attention a selfie receives. That said, it would seem that selfies wouldn’t be dying any time soon so cue in a high-pitched voice, excitedly screeching “Selfie!”

6. Disney is starting to get it right

After Disney’s long tango with various hits and misses, they finally released a movie that reminded us of the production company’s long history of childhood-defining hits: Frozen. The animated musical feature reached a box office high that rivaled “The Lion King.”

The damsel-in-distress archetype propelled many Disney productions; it was only recently, beginning with Mulan, where we find a more progressive approach to the portrayal of women in Disney films. Frozen sets itself apart because it has an interesting dichotomy of protagonists and antagonists which is subtly gender-based. As opposed to Brave, Disney’s first, overt attempt at portraying a heroine, Frozen’s heroines are much more independent from their male co-characters. Here’s to hoping that Frozen will pave the way for stronger female characters in media, and that Disney’s target audience – children – will grow to be men and women who can challenge the patriarchal status quo.

Editor’s note: This is Part I of Verstehen’s Top Ten. Stay tuned as we conclude this list!

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  1. Pingback: Verstehen Top 10 Socio-Cultural Heavyweights of 2013 (Part II) – Verstehen

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