Popular Culture

BGSU College of Business hosts event on digital entrepreneurship

By BGSU OFFICE OF MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS The Sebo Series in Entrepreneurship continues to bring innovative and current entrepreneurial leaders to Bowling Green State University. This year’s event on April 8 will feature keynote presenter Dr. John Kelly, who oversees Watson, the IBM supercomputer that answers questions using artificial intelligence to accept and process natural language requests. The Sebo Series will take place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Lenhart Grand Ballroom of the Bowen-Thompson Student Union on campus with Kelly’s talk scheduled for 12:15 p.m. For details visit: https://www.bgsu.edu/business/centers-and-institutes/dallas-hamilton-center-for-entrepreneurial-leadership/e-week/sebo-series-in-entrepreneurship.html Watson wowed the public during its “Jeopardy!” debut when it defeated two of the game show’s top champions. Watson learns about subjects and automatically updates as new information is published, which made its “Jeopardy!” appearance a day-by-day process in which the supercomputer became increasingly better each day as it learned more about the game and subjects. Kelly is the senior vice president at IBM and his top priority is to stimulate innovation in key areas of information technology and to bring those innovations to the marketplace quickly, to apply these innovations to help IBM clients succeed, and to identify and nurture new and future areas for investment and growth. Other featured presenters include William Amurgis, intranet and internal communications specialist; Mark Hosbein, managing director at Accenture; Lisa Mitnick, managing director at Accenture Digital; and Dr. Gene Poor, Hamilton Professor of Entrepreneurship at BGSU. The event will be at the Lenhart Grand Ballroom of the Bowen-Thompson Student Union. Reception and networking begins at 8:30 a.m., with the welcome at 9 a.m.Kelly will be the afternoon keynote speaker.  

Scholar puts feminist spin on issues of sports & fitness

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Scholar Pirkko Markula’s talk Monday at Bowling Green State University on “Women’s Empowerment Through Sport and Exercise: Rhetoric or Reality?” revolved around pole dancing, or pole fitness, as it has come to be called. The exercise, popularized in strip clubs, has become a popular form of fitness training for women. Markula opened her talk with positive comments about the activity by one of her students and testimonials from those who participate in pole workouts. The student reported that it helped build her self-confidence as someone who had “overwhelming dissatisfaction with my own body.” This led Markula, who is a professor at the University of Alberta, to wonder: “Pole fitness may be an avenue by which women can develop and maintain positive body image as a result of an environment that emphasizes body acceptance and the body’s abilities.” Still the exercise, with its emphasis on shaping the woman’s body in a stereotypical form that appeals to men, is problematic. At the conclusion of the lecture, Leda Hayes, a graduate student in American Culture Studies, asked the speaker if the popularity of pole fitness could lessen the stigma on those working in the sex industry. Markula said she, contrary to what some believe, considers the sex industry harmful to women, and she wondered why women would choose the particular form of exercise to do. There are other forms of pole exercise, including one practiced in China, that are not sexualized and provide the same benefits. Pole fitness, like female sports and fitness in general, is fraught with issues about social expectations and norms, about empowerment and submission to social stereotypes. Pole fitness “reflects the multi-meanings of feminism for today’s active women,” she said. In her talk, Markula explored the theoretical responses to sports and fitness. Liberal feminists, she said, advocate for inclusion in sports. “Women are liberated when barriers are lifted.” They advocated for Title IX that opened up participation of women in school sports. They pushed for greater inclusion of women in the Olympics. Nearly half the athletes at the last Olympics were women. However less than 3 percent of the media coverage was about women. “Equality,” Markula said, “has not been achieved.” Critical feminists, Markula said, contend that liberal feminism fails because it does not challenge the underlying structure. Women may be tennis players, swimmers, soccer players, boxers or weight lifters, but the media coverage still emphasizes their personal lives, their mates and how they deal with motherhood, not their athletic accomplishments. And the emphasis remains on those who are white and middle class and possess “the thin, toned sexy femininity attractive to men” as opposed doing those with more muscular physiques. Liberal feminists, Markula said, were accused of doing too little to challenge the social structures “that keep male dominance in place.” Post-feminism “actively works to undo feminism while simultaneously appearing to be involved in a well-informed and well-intentioned response to it,” Markula said.  “It’s a sensibility that combines feminist and anti-feminists themes.” From feminists, post-feminists adopt the language of empowerment. Yet the empowerment is tied to the notion that being fit is to conform the same “hetero-normative” body image. One fitness magazine promises not just a sexy body but “a body built for sex.” Women are challenged to actively participate in their…

Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head take up residence at BGSU

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Mr. Potato Head has had a storied career. The pop culture icon has been a beloved toy, a movie star, a “Spokes-spud” for physical fitness and the Great American Smokeout. He’s encouraged consumers to buy Burger King fries and citizens to vote. Now, Mr. Potato Head and his wife, Mrs. Potato Head, have become Bowling Green State University Falcons. Thanks to a donation by Matthew Wilson, of Michigan, a collection Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head toys have taken up residence in the Popular Culture Library on campus. In February, Nancy Down, head of the Popular Culture Library, and Alissa Butler, a doctoral student in American Culture Studies, gave a talk at the Women’s Center on campus to discuss the history of Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head and their roles in popular culture. Mr. Potato Head was born, the brainchild of inventor George Lerner, fully formed with bushy mustache in 1952. “Mr. Potato Head is the best friend a boy or girl could have,” the original ads promised, Down said. Mr. Potato Head was the first toy advertised on television. His wife arrived a year later followed by offspring, Spud and Yam. At first they were sold as disembodied features, noses, eyes, mustaches, hair, and shoes. Kids had to supply their own potatoes or other vegetable of their choice. The plastic body was introduced in 1964. The spud couple were epitomes of 1950s consumer culture. They had two cars – his with a boat trailer, hers with a shopping cart. They had a boat and a plane. They even had a train. “How many couples in the ‘50s had their own locomotive?” Down wondered. They stuck to the established gender roles. Mrs. Potato Head was her husband’s dutiful helpmate. She had her ever present purse, and fancy hat. He had a jack hammer, she had a feather duster. Though the accessories and detachable parts were interchangeable, the packaging was color coded to make clear which gender the toys were intended for, Down said. Only Mr. Potato Head was inducted into the Toy Hall of Fame in 2000, the third class of inductees. Given her character, though, his wife surely would have been proud of him, but would have cautioned him not to let it go to his head. By then the Potato Heads had emerged from the toy chest. He ditched his pipe for the Great American Smokeout. Urged people not to be couch potatoes for the Presidential Council for Physical Fitness and promoted the importance of voting to kids in a campaign sponsored by the League of Women Voters and Wal-Mart. He also appeared in political ads in the 1988 campaign after vice presidential candidate Dan Quayle famously misspelled “potato.” The Potato Heads landed a television show, but their most famous screen time came in the “Toy Story” movies. Mr. Potato Head, voiced by Don Rickles, played a major role in the first movie. He was, explained Butler, a fully formed, if static character. He was the “surly, sarcastic” member of the gang in Andy’s room (and the only licensed product), quick with a cutting remark, and always expecting the worst. Butler said that while not completely free of problems, the Pixar movies had a more enlightened view of gender roles than typical of…