Tag Archives: media literacy

The Cast of 90210 – Then vs. Now

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The original 1990s American teen TV soap, Aaron Spelling’s seminal hit Beverley Hills 90210 saw a prosperous 10 years on air. It was (successfully?) revived in 2008, touted as a “spinoff” and not a remake and is currently into its fifth season.  

Admittedly, I have never seen the newest extension, but I do remember the world of the Walshes: the climatic Dylan/Kelly/Brandon drama, Brenda absconding to London in a feeble attempt to write her off the show and loving the brainy and bow-bedecked Andrea Zuckerman for her academic commitment, feminist inclinations and writerly ambitions. The original show, although highly problematic in many areas, actually conveyed development in the main characters to some degree over its arc of ten seasons, that I appreciate in retrospect.

But, more importantly I recently came across a blog post that highlighted the differences in female body types from the early 90s cast to the latest and greatest of today. Even though there is a starring cast member of color and another character is dealing with questions of his sexual orientation (one of the topics the old series never touched; in truth it addressed social issues methodically – broadly and softly), the revival disproportionately focuses around straight white teens,

Check out the side-by-side cast comparison below and how the thin ideal has gotten smaller and more sexualized over the past decade.

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Don’t get me wrong – the female cast members were thin THEN, but it’s clearly evident that not only are the females thinner collectively in the current cast, they are also significantly more sexualized. This supports the idea that in recent years what women and girls are seeing reflected in popular culture among Hollywood starlets and celebrities is a body ideal that has gotten increasingly/excessively thinner and considerably less diverse. Even the men featured in the latest spinoff have displayed, chiseled bodies (in the beach scenes) versus the cast of yesteryear where Steve is the only one sans shirt.

Visually I also find it interesting that the 90s clan take photos where they are physically closer in many of the shots, their bodies are seemingly less on display for consumption.

Changing the Conversation: Gendered Product Offerings & the Sexualization of Youth, Outrage is NOT enough

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A blogger and Mom I deeply admire, Melissa Wardy from Pigtail Pals and Ball cap Buddies had an amazing blog post a few weeks ago that I wanted to highlight and write about. If you aren’t already aware, PPBB is an amazing company that sells alternatives to the highly gendered and sexualized selections available for children in mainstream retail purchasing outlets.

 You know the products – you’ve probably seen them in passing and thought nothing of them. Clothing that attempt sto be edgy and toes the line of inappropriate. I have seen them take two forms, the first being sexually implicit to egregiously young age groups, as evidenced by the Abercrombie and Fitch controversy a few years ago where they were marketing thongs to 10 year old girls with  dangerous innuendos inked on the front (“Eye Candy” and “Wink Wink”; need I say more?)

Add in a push-up bikini top offering for the same age group and I am left equal parts disgusted and awed at the total lack of irresponsibility on the parts of th decision-making heads at these companies that is wholly absent from bare bones ethics and concern for the protection of the safety of our children. A&F in particular is a serial offender, touting tees with onerous and objectifying slogans: “Who needs brains when you have these?“ and “Do I make you look fat”?

I feel a burn of anger blowing through me just typing this. A&F is one of the worse corporate criminals with ads featuring erotic scenes that promote group sex and barely clothed models. This company exploits the burgeoning sexual curiosity in youth and demeans young people by selling a specific brand of sexuality.  It introduces and blatantly enforces the idea of normalizing sexualuation of youthful bodies.  It passes off objectification as something alluring and imposes the idea that one’s worth comes from their sexual appeal and physically attractiveness. The thong is over the top for sure, but the push-up bra disturbs me in a different way. Girls are extremely impressionable at that time in their lives when their bodies are changing and developing. It’s a time of inherent self consciousness and confusion. The first messages they receive should not be to boost their bust or sport undergarments with sassy sayings. This is irresponsible and insidious.  They need to receive empowering messages that encourage body acceptance and respect for this time in their life. The sexualization of children and the horrifying crimes that have become an epidemic are a very real and very dangerous reality and public health issue. We live in a world where child trafficking is rampant, boys and girls sold into sexual slavery. Our culture commodifies people to sell products, infantilizes our adult women, but at the same time hyper-sexualizes  products and services geared towards our young girls. 

This brings me to our second type of contagious cultural correspondence: products and attire that are soaked in gender stereotypes and many that spill into sexist territory. You’ve seen them, for sure. Ranging from: Future Supermodel emblazoned on a Toddler tee to onesies that bear superimposed bikini shots. (WHY you would want to put that on your baby and have it simulate a sex object boggles my mind!) Last August 2011, JC Penny was at the center of a controversy involving a T-shirt they were marketing that read: “Too Pretty to do Homework. So my brother has to do it for me.”

 

Que?! The shirt was being marketed to 7-16 year old girls. The caption next to the shirt, even worse, read: “Who has time for homework when there’s a new Justin Bieber album out? She’ll love this tee that’s just as cute and sassy as she is.” Eventually the shirt was discontinued and JCP agreed it did not convey appropriate messaging, but they are not the only one with these sexist sayings that reduce GIRLS to objects for consumption and imply if they are attractive enough (conventionally of course!), then who cares about brains, because looking good is where your REAL worth comes from (drenched in sarcasm). This is the message young women grow up with and adult women are subject to hearing on repeat, droning in the cultural backdrop of the media for the entirety of our time on this planet. Technology is so advanced and widespread that advertising and media are available on so many platforms, with increased accessibility to consumers.

What about this other offering from JCP:

 

Not only does this reinforce pathetic paradigms about girls’ focus at that age it demeans the intelligence of our female youth, it assumes that their pursuits are less intellectual than their male counterparts.

This is a sensationalized and historical myth about the quantitative competency of girls vs. boys. Recent studies have patently dispelled this fiction that females are inherently less adept at mathematics than males. In fact, recent research indicated that it was the reinforcement of gender stereotypes that had the greatest impact on performance. Girls who were told that females were biologically inferior to males in their mathematical skills, performed poorly on tests versus those who were not specifically saddled with that stereotype prior to the exam. Need I say more? Yet still T-shirts like this persist because they are somehow cheeky and many render them innocuous. In reality, they do a horrific disservice to basic humanity. Here’s another lovely one this time courtesy of Forever 21 who is no stranger to advertising atrocities (a la no knee capped models!):

 

Melissa Wardy thinks it is time to reroute the conversation and I couldn’t agree more. Instead of demanding corporate monoliths to change their standards, which is often hugely problematic, (because for profit companies only particularly care about the bottom line and the definition of social responsibility seems to be a nebulous term) we need to spread awareness to parents, educate them on the damaging effects. Early sexualization and the promotion of the thin ideal and a specific brand of beauty and propagated by the media is scientifically shown to cause depression, poor body image and be a precursor to eating disorder behavior in young girls.  It causes them to adopt the dangerous equivocation of appearance with worth, believing that our truest value lies in our level of attractiveness and physical appeal to others.

Our boys are given a specific brand of masculinity to subscribe to and sporting any sort of traditionally feminine interests or personality traits are demonized. They are told how to be “real boys” and “real girls”.  Gender roles that support the social construct of our culture are imposed upon them, and consumerism in our country wholly supports this.

We are in a tender space for our youth at this point in history. With the proliferation of the Internet and global digitalization the messages are coming faster and more frequently. Marketplace competition forces companies to be edgy in ways that require shock value to stand out, but ultimately provide roadblocks to equality. Our children receive millions of messages from their infancy about gender and few parents think anything about how the cute catch phrases may have a larger impact and contribute to stereotypes that reinforce sexism. Endless nuances in products push stereotypical implications of  gender roles that are every present since the inception of our personhood and subconsciously internalized, adopted and reinforced for the rest of our lives. until they are deeply woven, often undetected, into our identity. 

We need to do more than just pointing, gawking and instigating Internet outrage. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think we should stop protesting these products or passing along their offensiveness to our cohorts. But, I do think that we need a more proactive approach that doesn’t stop with forwarding along an iPhone shot of insulting innuendo or an offensive product offering. We need to help promote products, like Pigtal Pals and Ball Cap Buddies that combat this crap.

As indicated by the subversive subtexts underlying the above clothing and products offerings for our children, these companies perpetuate harmful stereotypes and make money off of tired gender folklore that demean both girls and boys in their formative years. These corporate monoliths embed these messages so deeply into their product offerings that they appear innocent, when they are really insidious. They make money on contributing to social norms that oppress and devalue the range of talent and unique abilities in our youth.

But anger is not always enough. We need action. We need more parental education on how to raise a media literate child and although I do not have children myself I can said with utmost certainty that it is nearly impossible to school your child on ideals that you yourself do not adopt or are unaware of

We need to foster open dialogue with our youth about these messages. Girls are unequivocally told that what matters is how “hot” they look and this is where their primary worth stems from. It devalues the more important attributes, talents and uniqueness- the core things that make them individuals.

Boys are revered for how well they perform on the masculinity report card and ostracized for exhibiting any “female” branded characteristics. We need to teach our young boys to honor and accept themselves for all that they are beyond these limiting notions of gender and in turn, also educate them on the harms that girls undergo and the mendacious messages they are receiving. We need to help shape BOTH moving pieces- the way boys are taught to relate to and view women, as humans and not pieces for consumption or viewing pleasure AND how girls learn to own and honor their own bodies, getting their power from something deeper than appearance or male attention.

                                                             

At the end of the day all education and activism begins with the adults who can help to convey these powerful antidotes to the public pollutants. The more aware we become to the effects of the pervasiveness of advertising in our own lives, the more equipped we are to pick up on it in the subtleties of products and services that are marketed to our youth.

What is generally portrayed as girl power is often duplicitous and stealthy marketing at its best. Girls need to own their power not from their ability to look pretty and cute, but from simply being WHO they are and honoring their diversity and beautiful human differences. When we believe our only worth comes from our appearance, we are buying into the larger social scheme where we constantly seek out products and services to enhance our appearance, thus fueling the cycle of consumerism and our own successive self-doubt.

It has taken me nearly all the years of my life to understand that I don’t need to DO anything to be good enough. I already am.  Cultural communication leads us to believe otherwise. Our girls and women deserve to be self possessed, not oppressed by self uncertainty and the insecurity the advertising industry thrives upon.  They capitalize on our self consciousness. Let’s use our dollars to support empowering clothiers like PPBB who have tees that truly empower, “Full of Awesome” reads my favorite offering.

 I don’t think this means to eschew every piece of pop culture we enjoy that presents even a hint of conflict or question to our values, as that is sometimes the BEST place to utilize as a jumping off point for conversations, giving fertile space to question the inherent messaging and larger social themes.  Harmful elements and detrimental social standards will continue to exist, but we can be better empowered to use them as stepping-stones and not as roadblocks. By thinking critically and making insights about the media we ingest and the messages it is conveying, we open up our own awareness. Then we are able to take action and truly contribute to the solution by fostering meaningful dialogues that empower the malleable minds of our youth.

The Glamorization of Weight Loss in Celebrity Culture and Unattainable Ideals

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I am a horribly inefficient shopper. In my rush to gather the weekly staples and plow through the check-out line, imagine my dismay when I was forced to stand in a sizeable line to the register,  where my eyes met the ubiquitous and visually unavoidable magazine displays. I was horrified (but not surprised) by a trio of celebrity tabloid magazine covers showcasing and celebrating weight loss, as depicted in my picture above. Here is yet another indication of our society’s troubling weight-loss obsession: celebrity culture gives us constant reinforcement of stars (presumably those who embody success and fame) that are always in the business of shedding weight as an avenue to happiness. Total crap.

Most upsetting to me was the Kelly Clarkson spread that promised to house “her simple diet plan that will work for you” and “how a new boyfriend boosted her confidence.”

I actually subscribe to this magazine. It is a mindless, gauzy gem of nonsense that takes me all of fifteen minutes to leaf through. I use a lot of quotes and features as examples in my writing, revealing the appearance-driven focus of the mag, painting pictures of beautiful celebrities we hold in high regard and posh lifestyles we should aspire to. I enjoy examining the messages and implications in the interviews and general objectification and exploitative slants that many of the stories take.

So back to Kelly. In a September 2009 issue of Self magazine, Kelly was the featured cover girl. Unceremoniously dubbed the “Body Confidence Issue”, the singer’s frame was photoshopped to svelter proportions while they inappropriately ran quotes about how comfortable she was with her figure. She says, “Sometimes I eat more; sometimes I play more. I’ll be different sizes all the time. When people talk about my weight, I’m like, “You seem to have a problem with it; I don’t. I’m fine!’”

Yet, the US Weekly article paints a very different portrait of the American Idol alum. It lauds her for shedding 30 pounds and says she is “10 pounds away from her goal weight”. It goes on to say that she has someone to celebrate with when she hits that “magic number”. As per standard the elusive “insider” or “close pal” does the majority of speculating on Kelly’s reasons for slimming down (she wanted to look good for her man, duh!) and how happy she is now. Unsurprisingly, there are few actual quotes from Clarkson herself. The piece glamorizes weight loss and again reinforces the damaging message that happiness can be held in altering our appearance.  What’s so twisted about it is that in this warped world of bling and beauty, everyone’s currency is measured on their ability to conform the beauty ideal – being thin, conventionally attractive and in control of their lives and careers. Yes, there are certain worse celeb tabloids for sure, but they all contribute to the same larger problem. They offer up this glossy garbage that satisfies the voyeur in us that longs to glimpse into the private spaces of the posh and prosperous, to obtain their “secrets” so we, too, can attempt to mirror their lifestyles.

Additionally, the only mention of “healthy” is a quote that ends the piece from Clarkson herself who claims that she just wants to be happy and healthy, but then follows it up with her own affirmation of how good she looks. To the naked eye this seems to be empowering, but the truth is that it is confirmation that even those who purported to be at peace with their bodies in the past, are now, after a trimming transformation, finally happy. Was Clarkson lying in 2009 when she told Self that she was happy with her body and that the Hollywood’s horrific beauty and size pressures had no bearing on her self esteem? I don’t imagine that it was particularly affirming for Self to photoshop the hell out of her cover.  I snagged this pictorial comparison from Beauty Redefined who has an amazing article on photoshopping.

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The point is that this mag published quotes from Kelly that supported her positive body image, but then in a most unethical and disingenuous manner, went to town shaving and slimming her real bod. Is this not a very public slap in the face to the singer who has just been extremely open and vulnerable in bucking the trend of celebrities who succumb to idealization of thinness and depictions of  this narrow definition of “beauty” at any cost? In what turned out to be a very public admission of photoshopping, Self labeled their alterations an “industry standard.”

Herein lies the egregious problem with these alterations: this “industry standard” is erroneous and misleading. Even celebrities we see, and attempt to emulate are unrealistic representations of themselves. It encourages our young girls and even grown women that these pinnacles of perfection, (who are incidentally “just like us” because they – gasp- grocery shop, hold their children’s hands and walk dogs!! Can you believe that, and all along we thought they weren’t even human, but rather autobots!) are actually real and attainable. What is sad is that they attempt to align themselves with the reader by treating this body dissatisfaction and weight loss goals as a universal concern, ultimately normalizing it.

Males are not left unhindered by these polluting pretenses. It sends them the message that women should look like that. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard from young girls that boy’s comment on the physical appeal of salacious spreads of celebrities in magazines and the pressure they feel to look that way. Our boys are growing up believing that those female depictions are what they should expect their female counterparts, mates and sexual partners to personify. The same can be said for the propagation of masculinity and what the physical manifestation of that is for men of various ages and in different stages of development. Young boys and men tie their worth to the level of attractiveness of their mate, regardless of gender identification or sex, which is a dangerous game of objectification and reducing individuals to their outward appearance. The media seemingly breeds misogynists with its inaccurate portrayals of women that lack respect and equality and are teeming with stereotypes and sexism. The porn industry is also notorious for contributing to an unrealistic representation of sexual behavior and bodies in both males and females. Another notable irritation for me was the emphasis on a new boyfriend being a key to motivation to her exterior transformation; she “wanted to look good for him”. This is really stark sexism at its best. This is a terrifying dual reinforcement: you should lose weight so that you can look good for your mate, who will in turn, be a motivation to stay subscribed to this thin ideal. Validation is achieved through being in a relationship and based on your body size and ability to fit a standard of sexy and attractiveness.

US Weekly is just another example of mainstream media pandering to the perceived allure and fascination the public has with fame, and those who possess it. Nearly all forms of media are supported by advertising dollars, so they have an incentive to continue to support images of celebs as idols we should aim to imitate giving us ways (and products!) by which we can attain Taylor Swift-esque waves, or replicate the couture clad looks from awards shows. Even the actresses and models plastered in ads and in our magazines are not accurate depictions of their real bodies. It all erroneously supports the illusion that we can be successful and fulfilled if we can fit a certain standard of beauty that is unrealistic and truly unattainable.  The damage is in splashing covers with these pictures, glamorizing weight loss and the refusal to acknowledge beauty in all shapes and sizes.

Media literacy educates adults and children alike on the fallacies of media message and their damaging effects on our psyches. We have been reared in a society in which we are inundated with these (often subconscious) forms of communication that reinforce societal standards and narrow definitions of beauty, success, gender, etc. The list goes on with regards to the cultural conveyance of attributes and the once loose links to these markers has been seared into and cemented cerebrally as we are socialized in our developmental stages. Awareness of these connections and the understanding that so very much of what we are fed through the media is skewed to the consumer, to prevent needs that products, services and unattainable ideals meet. The market for beauty products, cosmetic surgery and other appearance enhancing services would drastically decline if we were all actually educated on the motives of the advertising industry and how life sustaining it is for these companies.

Creating a need (ultimately awakening some brand of insecurity) is one of the tenets of marketing, the field in which my formal education is rooted. I have first hand knowledge of the mechanics these professionals’ minds operate when attempting to generate campaigns that will boost sales and profitability. There is a very fine line of ethical integrity in this business and so very much of their motives to raise revenue are rooted in capitalizing on a collective timidity and our endless quest for improvement.  We are sold images of what it looks like to be _____ (insert socially admirable attribute, typically genderized – men = strength, masculinity, women = sex appeal, attractiveness, in the past several decades – selective empowerment).

These impractical ideals bleed through the very fabric of our society and what it means to live and be human. Our media driven culture is saturated with so many inaccurate and limiting representations of beauty, success, masculinity, femininity, intelligence, etc. – the list goes on. They discourage acceptance and invite self-rejection, court insecurity and doubt about our levels of competency and worth as individuals.

We must advocate awareness of this mendacious marketing of unrealistic ideals and values, with the deceptive subtext of how much better our lives will be once we have attained _____ (insert socially sanctioned value that determines, or enhances one‘s worth), that ultimately exploit our self-consciousnesses and appetite for improvement. We must educate our children and neighbors (figuratively AND literally) on the dangers of this prepackaged perfection and advocate for more responsible and realistic portrayals of individuals in the media, demanding diversity across all boards. Media literacy programs must be brought to schools and children edified on the pervasive messages that left unexamined leave us attempting to embody an ideal that does not exist. For women (and men) we need to bond over more than bad body image and weight loss goals. Life is richer in a space of acceptance and self-honor for the unique bodies we possess. Constantly striving for the unattainable is a zero sum game and our society can be a more productive and empowering one if we are all armed with this knowledge. As Leah Wilson said at the Geek Girl Convention, “The most dangerous media is the unexamined.”

Glamour’s Jennifer Lawrence is not what I’m “hunger”ing for

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My latest from About-face:

Cleavage-clad Jennifer Lawrence on Glamour cover is not what we’re “hunger”ing for

The cover of Glamour’s April issue features Jennifer Lawrence, the actress who portrays the Hunger Games‘ heroine Katniss Everdeen, in a bosom-bearing one piece outfit. In the book, Katniss is a symbol of strength, but this photo subdues that strength with a side dish of sexy.
Is it not enough to be a strong female, that we must sexualize Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen?

The upcoming movie adaptation of the first installment of the behemoth book trilogy, The Hunger Games, is set to open this week. While the Glamour piece is obviously showcasing the actress (not the character), the prop she’s holding (a bow) blurs the line.

The central plot of the novel involves a futuristic nation, Panem, where the government creates an annual, reality show-esque game involving two individuals under 18, randomly selected from each of the nation’s 12 districts, to complete in a fantastical death match where only one victor comes home alive.

I’m only on the second book, but I have yet to come across a description of an outfit resembling the one featured in this picture. Sure this feature is giving us Jennifer Lawrence and the article is about her, but, really, Glamour? We could see this in a men’s magazine, many of which notoriously disarm powerful women with some element of sexualization.

I was drawn to The Hunger Games because of the heroine. Katniss was resourceful, and lauded for her strength and skill, not for her beauty or body. There was little emphasis appearance. In fact, the book makes a point to say that thinness is equated with poverty, as many of the geographic sectors do not have easy access to food. Katniss hunts, using her archery acumen to provide for her family, until her little sister’s name is drawn during the annual “reaping.” Katniss offers herself up in her sister’s place.

The only references made to “beautifying” are related to the prep work she must undergo prior to her public appearances, where the aim is to make a splash in the memories of viewers. The author describes these beauty regimens as painful, not glamorous; a process of being scrubbed and plucked after which she is fitted into outrageous outfits conjured up by her innovative stylist, Cinna.

The prospect of a movie adaptation with a young, female protagonist (and a female producer too!) whose success came from determination and courage thrilled me. Here was a strong, positive paradigm for young women. However, photos like that on Glamour‘s cover are reductive, given the otherwise positive role.

 Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen: Embodying strength and skill.

The series falls into the Young Adult genre, so undoubtedly, millions of girls will be looking to emulate this actress. This shot is objectifying; when a young girl sees a photo like this, it reinforces the fusing of self-worth to appearance, a connection to a specific standard of beauty and attractiveness that is unconsciously strengthened through repetition. The pervasiveness of media messages and how many we are exposed to from birth makes this deeply disturbing. It contributes to the sexualizing of females and supports the normalizing of self-rejection.

There is also a clear double standard at work: It is not enough to simply be a strong female — you must also be sexy in a very specific way.

I guess I just didn’t expect such an obvious and gratuitous representation from the mag that touts itself as honoring beauty outside the box of one-size-fits-all. This photo brushes dangerously close to a Maxim-style cover. So, Glamour thinks it’s not okay for Katniss/Jennifer Lawrence (yes, I do realize they are not the same) to simply be bad-ass and not breast-bearing. Because not fetishizing or objectifying her might make her power too potent, right? Oh the horror! Not cool, Glamour; not cool at all.

Miss Representation

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A dear friend of mine taped the airing of the documentary Miss Representation on Oprah’s OWN network last week as I am sans cable.

We had a wine and dine viewing this evening and I devoured the message with impassioned fervor.

This documentary gave voice to the ways in which women are marginalized, disempowered and objectified in mainstream media and popular culture.

The scary stats and main message was not one I was unfamiliar with and some would argue it was a didactic dispatch. I found it important to try to remove my feminist frosted goggles and remind myself that the statements made are geared towards the unwitting flocks of females in our society who simply swallow the cultural candies they are fed, never really questioning or acknowledging the STILL ubiquitous disparity in equality among women and the continual perpetuation of an unattainable beauty ideal that is fueled largely by advertising, capitalism and a need to maintain a sense of social order. I think that it important for those in the feminist community to be aware of the critical target audience, we as a society, must hope this film reaches.

Regardless of cinematic critique, the message was powerful and potent. The vast viewing platform, Oprah’s literally and figuratively OWN network, encouraged a large female viewership, which was the only caveat I could consider, as I think it is equally important for men to understand the atrocities facing women today and the sexism still stewing in so many spectrums of our social presence.

We hear from prominent talking heads in the political, comedic, journalistic and activist genres, as well as heart-wrenching divulgences from youth so addled by the pressure to slide into a certain standard of special. The damaging and far-reaching effects of this idea that young women must sacrifice any sense of self in order to breed acceptance and alignment with our societal sold form of beauty and personal value.

The thematic vein of the entire piece was the encouragement of ingesting media responsibly, an unveiling of the systemic ways in which the very nature of our social order in this country marginalizes women. The film speaks to the idea of media literacy: the promotion of responsible consumerism, the understanding that the images and stereotypes and definitions perpetuated by the media are simply idyllic and not attainable. The flawless models we see are not in fact real, but digitally enhanced. Yet, our children and youth are spoonfed these artificial atrocities and led to believe they will never measure up. We are breeding our future female leaders to value the size of their hips rather than their SAT scores.

After watching this film, even I felt embarrassed that I still reflexively react to certain media impetuses in ways that I’ve been culturally coached. This has further recommitted me to challenging the automatic and making a concerted effort to be more aware of the unconscious ways I may be responding at any given point in time.

I cannot encourage the viewing of this documentary enough. It inspired me so much that I could have easily pumped out an impassioned tome on all its implications and subtleties. I was moved, not so much because there was any pioneering precept of sorts, no revelatory realization either, but just simply the fact that there were so many other women exercising their vocal chords about something I feel so deeply about.

We must contribute to the collective voice of challenging popular culture and continue to encourage others to acknowledge and fight against the insidious ways in which the media holds women back, limits them and trivializes them in society.

As a culture our females are trained in self-objectification from birth, the majority of our worth lies in our outward appearance. While males societal worth grows as they age, a women’s currency is in her physicality, her youth and diminishes as she grows older. It is a stifling paradox, that of the older, well adjusted and presumably successful male seeking out a youthful counterpart.

The sexualization of females in all forms of mass media is nothing short of repulsive.  .  I was especially happy to see the distinction highlighted between mainstream cinema, the lack of female protagonist and the seemingly innocuous way in which all the major plot lines somehow revolve around a man. Big budget films either have a male leading character, or if the front runner IS a woman her power is largely sexualized (a suggestive and scantily clad superhero or latex-lined and lithe, a la Catwoman). Female leads are also highly popular in the indigestible genre that is chick lit, where  the plotline still tirelessly orbits around a man.

I fully intend to expound upon this highly nuanced film and provide additional insights into the many streamlined subtleties. Each incites its own unique and in-depth discussion and expansive pieces of perspective.

There is an overhaul needed in the portrayal of women in the media, the world over – and it needs to begin with expansive attempts at education and increased advocacy in media literacy. There is an irrefutable and inherent sexism still alive and well in our patriarchal society.

If you haven’t already seen this doc, it will be airing again on November 12th at 11:00AM.

Read more at http://missrepresentation.org.

Make arrangements to view it, DVR it, heck – throw a party! Regardless, it is certainly a must-see for the masses and a popular culture vegetable that promotes the increasingly important cause that is media literacy.

I’ll be saddling back up on my soapbox shortly, so stay tuned. Until then, pass this along.

Flick Chicks

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I like to think of myself as a selective and responsible consumer of media. Given that, I find I am routinely repelled by mainstream cinema. I am a lover of indie flicks and unconventional and/or unorthodox endings. Being asked to view Nights in Rodanthe is about as pleasurable as a pap smear for me. I devour profanity laced television series to the chargrin of my mother who prefers her media moral and conventionally kosher, buttoned up by some quixotic conclusion.

I rail against the confection coated, often gag-worthy histrionics of  Hollywood “happy endings”.  The depictions of achieving self-actualization and fulfillment through male validation/blissful, almost utopian relationships/unity feed society’s appetite for ideals. Even when the ending purports to be less than a dull rendition of the last film, there is always some repeated resolution that still leaves the audience warm and fuzzy. I am all about “feel good” flicks and pass no judgement on those who relish the Katherine Hiegel, Sandra Bullock led casts of gorgeous misfits who inevitably “get the guy”, as if that should be a of woman’s primary aspirations.

Many individuals cite escapism as reasonings behind their preferences for click flicks and their cousins. A study named Family and Personal Realtionships Laboratory at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh revealed that romatic comedies aid in the “unrealistic expectations” people levy on relationships. The conculsion was that fans of this genre possesed a misconception about communication in marriage, suggesting the influence and weight that many people, sometimes subconciously, give such media portrayls.

I do, however, believe that gorging on said genres passes along unrealistic messages to our young ones and teens about the realities of relationships.  This cinematic conspiracy is another topic I could easily rant and rave about for pages upon pages, but wanted to lightly touch upon before sharing a humorous link.

Predictable plotlines aside,  the depictions of women in mainstream movies are generally hackneyed and clichéd, but now even the dutiful attempts at character diversity ultimately evolve into stale stereotypes. Make no mistake, these set of personas are a tad more palatable than the evil tempress or the “good girl”, but they still end up being contrived characters that fall short of reality.

While I can’t join in her affection for RomComs and the like, I believe Mindy Kaling, a la the Office, gives a witty and wry voice to these typecast token females. I find it comical that Hollywood’s attempts to etch out new characters, ultimately end up being archetypes themselves.

Mindy’s book comes out in November and should be a fun read.

Flick Chicks by Mindy Kahling