Cultural Criticism
We’re All Glued to the News in The Age of COVID-19
Utsav Srestha
Journalism. It’s been around as long as we can remember. From the early 1890’s when people like Ida Tarbell exposed the oil industry’s corporate monopolies, to today’s stories about the protests and rallies surrounding COVID-19, journalism has been a major part of where we are today. However, journalism has seen a massive spike in public interest the past couple months during the COVID-19 pandemic. Why is that?
Consumers have been recently more invested and have been intaking far more coverage of events happening all over the world relating to COVID-19 because of one major reason: Safety. Both public and personal well being is the driving force behind this media explosion we’re currently living in. However, in all this panic, it is important to understand why journalism is so important now and what it means to find reliable journalism. In such a time, it is critical to think what can journalism do during a time of uncertainty, and why does journalism matter in the grand scheme of things?
Alyssa Vaugh, staff writer at Boston Magazine and professional journalist, offers that, “it’s critical that we as a community stay connected and stay informed with what's happening with the world outside [and] the ramifications of not knowing are obvious.” 
To Alyssa and much of the public, journalism is one of the most valuable sources of information, helping those who may not know what is happening get the information they need. Journalism not only informs us, but it also connects us. We’re all living on the same earth, and sharing stories about issues brings us much closer together. In such a high stakes crisis as this, it’s no wonder many journalistic media sites have seen a major spike in views. 
In fact, while it may seem as though media sites would struggle in the time of COVID-19, this is not the case. According to the New York Times, “USA Today’s online audience shot up 30 percent, year over year, and the number of readers visiting increased 60 percent from the first week of March to the second…” More and more people are tuning into these sites for information they need to stay safe. People have a constant need to be aware of what’s happening right now and these sites are the key gatekeepers to that information. While social media sites have also seen a spike increase (mostly due to boredom), news consumption has seen a far more drastic change. 
The next question to ask is, why is that important? “Truth and connectivity and information are at the core of democracy and can make a life or death difference as you can see right now,” says Vaughn. We need the information provided by journalists to guide our decisions and help us make the right ones, and it is even more important in today’s world with COVID-19. Our own personal safety and the safety of others rests on the fact that people are informed. Someone contracting the virus due to improper virus prevention techniques, like not wearing a mask, could cause serious harm to themselves and the people around them. We need to let journalism be our guide and help us in a time when it seems that the world is on the edge. 
“When there’s a pandemic like this I think it’s extra important for everyone to stay informed...listen to what the scientists are actually saying,” says Eli Harmon, senior at the O’Bryant and avid follower and activist of current news and politics. “[The] goal of journalism...should be to inform the public about what’s going on,” says Harmon. If this is true, then we should all be taking in information and passing it along to others. Journalism has the capability to spread truth to the masses, which inevitably leads to the wellbeing of all; We all just have to embrace it. 
However, before we embrace journalism, we must first determine whether or not we trust the information being delivered. Where does someone look to find a reliable news source, and more importantly, what does reliable news look like and mean? Well for starters, we can all agree social media, especially the infamous SnapChat, is not a reliable source (unless you believe in what some call “alternative facts''). As Cheyenne Petrino, senior at the O’Bryant and passionate political activist, points out, “You have to be very careful of where you're getting your information, where you're getting your news.” 
So be wary of social media sites when looking for reliable news. Reliability comes from a news company’s, group’s, or even individual’s dedication to truthful and factual reporting. When reading or looking for articles, hearing news from a close friend or family member, or even talking to a colleague,  you should be skeptical of headlines or stories that seem sketchy or unrealistic. Most importantly, people can't be “one and done” as Petrino says, when talking about articles or news stories. You should be making sure the source is accurate—like checking if you see many other organizations reporting on similar issues and topics. Remember, in such a high stakes crisis, having the correct information is one of the most important factors in preventing disasters. Someone spewing incorrect or false news could lead to catastrophic consequences. 
If we don’t take the time to fact check our sources of information, we could end up harming ourselves and others. According to Business Insider, “A man in Kansas consumed cleaning products over the weekend, according to a state health official, days after President Trump floated the idea of possibly using disinfectants as treatments for the coronavirus.”
It is clear that reliable information would have prevented anyone from even daring to try such a dangerous thing. The point to take away from this story is that news or information, coming from anyone, has the potential to influence or change somebody’s behaviour or actions, so it is extra important to make sure the information you are reading or receiving is entirely accurate, now more than ever. 
In a world seemingly filled with despair right now, journalism is the key to information and our safety. It can tell us what we need to know and how to act for the better of everyone. Most importantly, journalism is the string that connects us all. Through journalism, we have the power and capability to be more in touch with one another and ultimately learn from one another. However, keep in mind not all journalism is created equal, so be sure to check your sources and their credibility. With proper awareness of what good journalism looks like, it will open your eyes, as Petrino says, “to the fact that there’s a world outside just where we live and the places we go.”
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Cultural Criticism
The income gap impacts every part of life
Kelly Thai
We don't really have an excuse as to why communities are in different economic stages because we all know that law and order should make things equal. We should not give certain people priority over another group of people. Discrimination is completely against human rights and our lens should focus on how we make communities equal to one another—especially in education or health care.
Social inequality results from a society organized by class, race, and gender that unequally distributes access to resources. Inequality can be shown in a variety of ways such as in income and wealth, unequal access to education, health care and different treatment from law enforcement, among other examples. In terms of actual wealth, income inequality is growing. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the richest people had the most income growth in the last 40 years while poorer people had much less growth over time. 
This gap in income is shown in many ways in our society. For example, if you are rich or are from a rich family, you might have more elite jobs and education because you have a lot of access to private tutoring to help you get the best education and do better in school. Additionally, the gap between the rich and the poor is shown in housing, as there are varying conditions with the homeless and lower class in the community. Some neighborhoods are poorer, unstable and plagued by crimes, while others invest in businesses and build mansions. 
Dr. Vanja Pejic, a child psychologist at Boston Children Hospital, sees first hand the issues surrounding low-income healthcare. Pejic said, “It is really true that our communities live in different conditions and it really affects lifestyle in each community.” For communities that have higher incomes, they worry less about having quality healthcare and education. Pejic says that there are three factors that contribute to communities’ wellbeing. First, the amount of money you have determines your lifestyle, then, “the environment. If you live in a good environment that will advantage your health and your offspring will grow up in a good and secure neighborhood with less crime. Third, healthcare. If you are richer, you don't have to worry about seeing a doctor or being neglected while others are bleeding or neglected because of low-income or not having good health insurance.”
In Boston, there is inequality from neighborhood to neighborhood across the city. For example, two communities, Roxbury and Back Bay are both in the same city, but they each have different environments and opportunities. According to, the average household income in Roxbury is $25,000 a year while the average household income in Back Bay is closer to $65,000 a year. Thus, families in Roxbury live in poorer conditions and are more likely to have limited access to good education and healthcare. On the other hand, the Back Bay community has a higher income that gives them a community with less crime and better opportunities for good healthcare and businesses.
Pejic said, “first we should understand that we need to fix our education 
because no one is going to believe you if you say we have unequal education. Many of us think we choose how we live and spend our lives, but truly we are far from that.” This is shown in the way that COVID-19 greatly affects communities of color. Pejic says, “people who are suffering from COVID-19 or other diseases are not 100% at fault because sometimes certain people [such as lawmakers] decide if that community gets the help and resources they needed [in the first place].”
Pejic says that education is a solution to these problems because, “Education removes stigma and increases solving problems. I think having conversations about issues opens up a community and teaches generation after generation and they can pass that info on to others.” 
When it comes to education, private schools have more access than public schools to computers, gym space and fancy parking, while public schools struggle to get access to space and resources. It’s not fair that one child gets access to so many resources while another child is struggling to live. 
When it comes to higher education, students from low-income communities are at a disadvantage when thinking about college options. Vannesa Gomes, a senior at Boston International originally from Cape Verde, believes there is a gap between rich and poor people. “When it comes to opportunity, there is a huge gap between rich and poor people. For me, I would love to go to a 4-year college but I don't have that money to go and it's painful when you need to go somewhere but you can't.”

When Gomes moved to America from Cape Verde, she noticed the differences in the two economies, “In my country everything isn’t expensive like here. For example, in my country, food, clothes and other necessary goods were not at skyrocket high prices. Here food isn't too expensive but imagine going shopping everyday, or every week. You’d spend a lot of money and that type of situation can only be done by rich people.”
Since COVID-19, the government started to send families money so they can provide what they need. When asked if  rich and poor people are in the same spot, Gomes said, “yes, but think this way, COVID-19 is temporary and everything will be fine soon, but the gap will stay and remain forever and nobody knows many people are suffering economically.” 
The only real way to solve the problems with our current system is to make things more equitable for everyone. Gomes says that to solve this problem, we’ll have to close the opportunity gap. To her, the gap, “is not only money but also ideology and what some people believe. I think the best thing we can do is teach youth to understand that every one of us deserves opportunities and not to believe that the more money you have, the more power you have and greater opportunities.”  
We all know the saying “Rome wasn't built in a day.” The same thing applies to this situation. We need to take steps forward to try to erase bad habits in society that keep some people high in life and others down. You might not agree with me and say there are people who have worked hard to have money. I understand this argument but we need the system to be fair— especially when it comes to health and education. It is not fair that one person gets the best access and gets to stay alive and another person gets bad access and has to die.    
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Cultural Criticism
Wrongful imprisonment still hits communities of color the hardest
Christian Spies
In 1989, a group of 30 teenage boys were hanging out at Central Park in New York City. Some of the boys were seen to have been harassing the homeless and causing a commotion. That same night, a 28-year-old white woman, named Trisha Meili went for a jog in the park and was later found beaten and raped in that park. As the woman was in a coma for 12 days, the case of the Central Park jogger would be the top story, and five black and brown teenage boys between the ages of 14 to 16 would be imprisoned and falsely accused of all charges. These boys would soon be known as the Central Park Five.
When police cars began flooding the park, the kids began running and going in all directions, guilty or not. They knew that whoever was caught would be guilty of whatever was happening. Most of those 30 kids had no idea what was going on. Five boys were eventually interrogated by the police. The police manipulated and dragged words out of their mouths for hours, making them twist their words into a false confession. The kids had no idea what was really going on, only that the cops wanted a story, and that they were gonna get it however they could—through yelling, threatening and false promises. Hours later when the cops could put together an understandable story, four boys had documented confessions. 
For the cops it was simple. They had to pin the story on these kids because there was a lot of pressure on them from the public and their boss’s expectations of finding the criminals fast, whether they commited the crime or not. Also, the public was now against the boys because their faces were seen as people who could easily be guilty of these crimes. For the five boys, it was over. After two trials, the five boys were found guilty on charges of assult, rape, attempted murder, and robbery. They were sentenced six to 13 or more years in prison. Everyone seemed to be convinced this was justice and at this time, race relations in New York were strained. Some people even argued that these boys deserved the death penalty.
In December of 2002, after most of the boys served 7 years in prison, Kevin Richarson, Raymond Santana Jr., Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam, and Korey Wise were dropped of all charges when the actual perpetrator, Matias Reyes, confessed to the crimes. When something that could have easily proved the other five boys innocent was found, DNA confirmed the truth. 
In recent years, the story of the Central Park Five has been retold in documentaries and TV shows like, “When They See Us.” These portrayals show us the corrupt imprisonment system we have in America and how it negatively affects black and brown individuals. The boys, now men in their 40s, settled for millions of dollars for the awful mistake that had taken most of their lives. When released, they said that no amount of money would give them back all that they have lost, and that because of the color of their skin people thought the worst of them. 
Wrongful imprisonment still happens to this day as police still judge a person they see fit for a crime. According to The Innocence Project, an organization that works to help the wrongfully accused, 41 out of 367 people pled guilty to crimes that they did not commit. What the system won't admit is that they are not always correct and that they put innocent people in jail sometimes. Cases like these are usually the ones that aren't completely checked out because of assumptions made with barely any proof. Similarly to the Central Park Five, the real perpetrator will be found out years later, or sometimes even after the person is executed, that they are found to be falsely accused of all charges. 
Glenda Lara, a 25-year-old member of the Dorchester community says, “If somebody else paid for their crime, on top of their sentence for that, they deserve extra years to make up for it.” She believed that there should be more serious consequences for the actual criminal. She also believes, “If there’s the slightest doubt [about someone’s guilt] then they shouldn’t make a sudden decision. Wrongfully accusing teens is more common than people think.” It's because teenagers don't think it will happen to them or because it's just easier to target a young person of color. 
According to The New York Times, “the U.S asserts that in this century 343 people were wrongfully convicted of offenses punishable by death, and that 25 were actually executed.” Police tend to target people of color. Particularly, in Boston we see this when we walk past a crime scene or get questioned by police. In an interview with attorneys for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard Law School on racial bias in Boston, they said, “Black youth have been accustomed to-and therefore expect-to be treated with suspicion by police, regardless of if they have committed the crime.” 
The color of our skin can have a lot of influence on police officers because they see us and connect us to an entire biased story. Jared Moore, a history teacher at Match Middle says, “Race and situation definitely play a role, as does legal work”. He maintains that wrongful imprisonment is not always at fault of just one person or a group of people but, “so many people have made serious mistakes that it's hard to blame a person or even one group of people. Police need to do better, so do our lawyers, so do our politicians—so we can move toward a more just society.” Based on this, he believes it's more about the way society and the system plays together, and that we all need to come together in order for this to stop happening. 
Eliminating racial profiling would significantly help aid in the process. The Innocence Project helps accused people who claim they are innocent find evidence and proof when they feel they have not had a fair or equal trial. According to one of the Innocence Project’s articles on what wrongful execution teaches about race, “Thousands of individuals of every race and ethnicity have requested our assistance. Yet, the vast majority of our clients are minorities. In fact, people of color are disproportionately represented at every stage of the criminal justice system.” Because of the color of their skin, black and brown individuals are subjected to racial profiling and a lot of young people have to face this every day. 
People still hold prejudice and are quick to assume. I think that to change wrongful imprisonment, we need to make many changes in society. There is no one solution.
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Cultural Criticism
Toxic Masculinity Is Plain And Simply Toxic
I have thought about getting acrylic nails plenty of times, but I would never go through with it out of the fear of judgment. I think it hurts more when the idea is brought up within the topic of gay men “taking away womanly things.” I was unaware that certain desires and lifestyle choices are for women and men should stick to short nails and maybe, just maybe, paint their nails black. The same was said about makeup.
Men don’t cry, women do housework, men cannot wear makeup, boys will be boys. It's almost as if men are supposed to be stone-cold heartless robots, but that sounds far fetched and absurd, right?
Toxic masculinity is adherence to traditional male gender roles that consequently stigmatizes and limits the emotions boys and men may comfortably express while suppressing other emotions with anger. It is a socially destructive learned trait.
Societal norms and traditional gender roles could be an incredibly long article of their own. Society expects men to be problem solvers and to have a mindset of getting money and supporting the household. Women are supposed to be caring and nurturing to men and children.
There are several aspects of toxic masculinity that are deemed socially destructive, some of these being misogyny, homophobia, greed and violent domination. Today, I’m going to tackle homophobia.
Homophobia is the dislike or prejudice of homosexuals. A lot of men are pressured by society to be masculine and straight in order to be accepted. Being seen as anything but straight puts a bright red sticker labeled “feminine” or “unacceptable” on their forehead.

Straight men will put gay men down in order to raise their own low self-esteem. Teens my age will hit each other’s butts or they'll hump each other, then disguise that behavior with the words “no homo.” The same words are used when they discuss their feelings because that could be considered “gay” too. Everything goes sideways when a gay man does the same things. That’s when he’s called a f----t, because “no homo” doesn’t apply to him.
These straight men internalize society’s rules and expectations and form insecurities and anxieties that center around breaking these rules or not living up to these expectations. Peter S. Theodore and Susan A. Basow, researchers at Lafayette College, described this anxiety in their research article on masculinity and homophobia.

“This anxiety leads many males to reject gay men as a means to reaffirming their sense of masculinity,” they wrote. “While the rejection can range anywhere from covert expressions of disgust and disapproval to overt forms of physical and verbal abuse, each form of homophobia ‘’defines who one is by identifying gay people as a symbol of what one is not.’’’

This rejection of sorts causes ruptures in the lives of both LGBTQ men and straight men. Men consider emotion and expression to be feminine qualities and because of that, they learn to be cold and abrasive. They hold back fear, sadness, lust, and too many other emotions and give it back as anger, anger towards the men that aren’t doing the same as them. These pent up emotions aren’t dealt with so men never heal from the trauma that they hold and they never gain the necessary coping mechanisms. This causes them to live in an “if you can’t beat ‘em, make ‘em join” mindset. Bisexual and pansexual men who are attracted to more than one gender are stuck in a loop of thinking that they have to choose a side because society thinks they're confused.

Society as a whole is actively fighting itself. One one side, there are the people that want to teach boys to be more emotionally open and intelligent. On the other, there are people that stick to these toxic and unhealthy ideals and this only causes a war as the children of tomorrow are pitted against each other. A controversial Gillette ad points the finger at men and the atrocities that have been accepted for far too long with the saying “Boys will be boys.” They point the finger at the men of the past and instruct them on how to right their wrongs in order to turn the men of tomorrow into real men, men that respect women and don’t harass and bully other boys for not being rambunctious as them.

Men in the LGBTQ+ community are forced into living lives that are untrue to themselves. They are living in households that force them to live in fear of the people they love finding out about the lifestyle that they want to live. This is where internalized homophobia is born. (You can read my article about internalized homophobia here.) They were raised to dislike the way they want to live. Because of this, they grow to fear the community they are a part of and may live unaccepted within the straight community while remaining skeptical of the LGBTQ+ people and community. 
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Cultural Criticism
One Day at a Time Brings Vital Representation to TV
Hyde watched as a group of friends made their way through the halls of a high school in the TV show she was watching. She couldn’t help but hear the voice in the back of her head question why in this group of six, not one looked like her. This was something she hadn’t noticed as a kid, but as she got older and continued watching movies and TV shows, she couldn’t help but wonder why she wasn’t being represented on the screens she was watching.
In 2020, there are still certain groups of people who are underrepresented or misrepresented in the media. As reported by Los Angeles Times, a study found that among 1,200 popular films released between 2007 and 2018, out of 47,000 roles, only 4.5% went to Latinx actors. That’s what makes show One Day at a Time so special. The show, with a full main cast of Latinx actors, continues to make headlines for its effortless portrayal of a lovable family and the things they all go through.
The show, a reboot of a show from the 70s with the same title, first aired Jan. 6, 2017 on the streaming network Netflix. The original show, airing on CBS from Dec. 16, 1975 to May 28, 1984, was about a divorced mother who moves from her home with her daughters to give her daughters the life and freedoms she didn’t have when she was a young woman. 
The reboot explores the story of the Alvarez’s, a Cuban family living in Echo Park, California. Lydia (Rita Morena), the charming grandmother, immigrated from Cuba, a story she often tells in the show. Penelope (Justina Machado), her daughter, works as a nurse practitioner and is veteran and single mother of two children, battling PTSD during the show. Elena (Isabella Gomez), Penelope’s daughter, comes to terms with her sexuality and explores a story of independence, love and self-acceptance. Alex (Marcel Ruiz), Elena’s sister, learns what it means to be a young Latinx boy in California and Schneider (Todd Grinnell), the family’s landlord and neighbor, learns the importance of friendship and family during the show. The show also introduces Syd (Sheridan Pierce), a non-binary character who begins a relationship with Elena. Through these characters this show is able to show topics audiences face everyday and shine a light on each story. 
“I think before working on this show, I may have taken for granted how extraordinarily well as a cisgender white guy...I was represented on television.” Todd Grinnell, who plays the landlord Schneider, said. “And to see the amount of people who come to see our shows and contact us on social media and say ‘I’ve never seen myself on television until One Day at a Time’ has been staggering for us and really touches me and really makes me feel like we’re doing something important.”
After the show was cancelled by Netflix following its 3rd season (the streaming platform claimed the show did not have enough viewership), fans took to social media to express their feelings. The hashtags #SaveODAT, #saveodaat, and #RenewODAAT trended worldwide as fans and the cast alike shared their feelings online. The show’s renewal was later announced as picked up by PopTV, where new episodes now air every Tuesday at 9:30ET/5:30PT.
Based on conversations by fans on Twitter, almost every character on the show is dearly loved; the audience has been able to watch the characters’ stories from the first season and now to the fourth, watching them grow as individuals and as a family at large. One particular character much of the audience adores is Schnieder, the landlord, who’s story of sobriety is explored on the show.
“Schnieder and I are both sober people, so that’s interesting to me [...] First I felt a little vulnerable talking about that and bringing that to the character but really it’s been pretty amazing to share that and share that experience with Schnieder.” Grinnell remarked. 
The topic of sobriety is one the audience is first introduced to when we learn about Schnieder’s sobriety chip.
“It’s incredibly important.” Grinnell states about Schnieder’s sobriety chip. “We have a responsibility in making this show that all the communities we represent, we represent them accurately. And because I am a member of a group of sober people at large, it's incredibly important to me that we represent that storyline accurately and fairly, and with honor and respect.”
One Day at a Time was the first show I watched where I felt such an emotional connection to the stories being told and to the characters themselves. A single episode can bring me to tears and have me laughing the next scene. The dialogue and dynamics between different characters is another thing I love. There are relationships like those of Elena and Alex, two siblings who learn over the course of the show to understand each other; or the relationship between Penelope and Schnieder who are best friends, always sticking by each other and learning important lessons from each other; or the relationship of Penelope with herself, where she goes on a journey of self acceptance and learns to do what’s best for herself. 
“What really drew me in about this show was not only the comedy and Rita Moreno’s dancing skills, but also the message and portrayal of the importance of family whether that be biological or more personal.” Jedida Santana, a fan of the show expressed.
This sentiment of loving the show because of its representation and messages is one that resonates with many fans of the show as well.
“I think I consider One Day at a Time one of my favorite shows because I love the fact that I'm able to watch a show that feels relatable to me in a sense.” Santana shared. “Not only being a growing teenager and being Latino, but also experiencing life with my own family in my own small apartment.” 
So far the new season has been nothing short of amazing. The first episode of season 4 does a great job of introducing all the characters to new fans and reintroducing them to the old ones, with a jab at Netflix slipped in as the cherry on top. Though the iconic theme song is no longer present in full, the show still has the same charisma it had while on Netflix, the only change being Alex’s hair. One Day at a Time is a show that reaches all people and audiences in a way not many shows today are able to.
“I think this show really tries to portray a story that not only highlights or ‘mentions’ issues or individual differences, but tries to create a deeper understanding that these things are a part of life, a part of who we are but also knowing that understanding doesn’t just stop there, it’s a continuous process and form of life.” said Santana.
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