Monday, April 18, 2011

Talking Points No. 9/////////Reflection: Twilight

In the beginning of Twilight, Bella Swan, the female lead, is portrayed as independent, kind of a social floater, non-materialistic, fairly into cars, clumsy, cares about her parents, and generally defies a lot of the female and/or teenage stereotypes depicted in the media. As a feminist, I find her character really rad at the beginning of the movie. She doesn't seek out attention from males, either, or act flirtatious, which I identify with and admire. However, from the moment that Bella sees the Cullens sitting together at the cafeteria table forward, many of her characteristics that I think are so awesome quickly start to disappear. Actually, it isn't even that they disappear so much as it seems like she loses her identity unless she is under the protection and control of Edward.

It seems that what happens is Bella's life kind of spirals out of control when she falls in love with Edward, and he feels responsible for picking up the pieces and rescuing her from harm constantly since he is the one who indirectly causes the problems. After all, Edward is a vampire. Understood. Although this plotline makes perfect sense, from an analytical point of view, it's scary. I would argue that the pattern of Edward and Bella's relationship mimicks that of an abusive relationship. First of all, Edward never leaves her side. He constantly knows everything that is going to happen to her because of his sister Alice (who has visions of the future) and he always gets there just in time. The way that Edward is both responsible for Bella's suffering while he is simultaneously the only person who can make it go away reminds me of abusive relationships I have seen friends in and one I've had, not to mention all the studying of it I have done. It reminds me of stockholm syndrome.

Not only does this pattern occur in terms of other people harming Bella, Edward being responsible for it and Edward saving her, but it also happens in the context of only Edward and Bella. What I mean by this is Edward even has to protect Bella from himself. There is a constant fear that Edward is going to destroy Bella. He might be kissing her and just want to drink her blood...and they don't even discuss it explicitly in the movie. It seems like they could be referring to going to far sexually when they are actually talking indirectly about Edward eating her and thus killing her. This always happens when Edward is watching her sleep or in her bedroom for some other reason, which also seems abusive and creepy, especially when this is the relationship tweens everywhere are idolizing.

I think that the scariest scene in terms of setting the tone for tweens is the one in which Edward and Bella are in the woods and she says she isn't afraid of him. With that, Edward seems to turn into a hulklike spider who grabs her and moves so fast he looks like a blur and then runs up a tree. He is performing hypermasculinity, and further, the movie-makers use this moment to hike up the sexual mood of the scene. I think we have a problem when films like this are making millions and girls as young as six or seven are wanting to grow up to be Bella Swan. They might face the sad reality of what they seek out in relationships...that potentially drinking blood...can translate into assault or murder.

I get especially nervous when Edward whispers "Say it. Out loud." in a commanding way or (voyeuristically) asks "Are you afraid?"

It seems like he enjoys scaring her in this scene. :/ Then she says she's not, and he tries to show her the reasons she should be...

That ain't love.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Extended Comments: Alexis' Post on Atalanta, Alice in Wonderland and Tolman and Higgins' "How Being a Good Girl Can Be Bad for Girls"

Firstly, I agree with all of the extensions to world issues and main points of the texts highlighted by Alexis. She starts out by stating what the main arguments of the Tolman and Higgins article are:

"* Good girls don't have sex unless they're married/it's to procreate.
* Bad girls have no morals and will have sex with anyone.
* Sex (for females) is not for desire, but relationships.
* If you have sex with more than one person and/or outside of a committed relationship, you are a bad girl."

She also points out that these points are "cultural stories" according to Tolman and Higgins, which relates to the concept of re-presentation we have recently been studying in class. We learn our values according to what we see presented to us repeatedly, which so happen to be things like...victim blaming. Alexis drew my attention to various real world victim blaming situations (she hyperlinked two cases I hadn't specifically heard of before), which led me to think of Bill Napoli, the Republican senator in South Dakota who said he justified abortion under these circumstances:

"A real-life description to me would be a rape victim, brutally raped, savaged. The girl was a virgin. She was religious. She planned on saving her virginity until she was married. She was brutalized and raped, sodomized as bad as you can possibly make it, and is impregnated. I mean, that girl could be so messed up, physically and psychologically, that carrying that child could very well threaten her life."

This quote holds inherent judgment value that blames victims of issues like sexual assault or domestic violence. In order for a woman's trauma to not define her life, according to Napoli, she must be a victim of something including being "brutalized," "raped," and "sodomized." Napoli is also not alone in this statement...ones such as this have been spreading around the country like it's nobody's business lately with talk of all the cuts and changes surrounding things like abortion rights. This happened when I was in high school.

Napoli also says that the girl had to be religious and a virgin.

A "virgin." Not to mention the fact that virginity is a socially constructed norm that generally only applies to heterosexual intercourse even though what "sex" is has a range of possibilities.

Furthermore, as Tolman and Higgins state, rape law puts all of the responsibility onto the female to have proven "nonconsent," which takes the responsibility off of the male and also makes the male out to be out of control.

Lexi goes on to say:

"Both Atalanta and Alice deal with this idea - being told what you must be. Atalanta, in the end, is successful in taking control over her life - just like Alice. However, while watching "Alice In Wonderland", I focused more on the portrayals of woman who weren't Alice."

This is an interesting point, since other female characters in Alice and Wonderland surely are not depicted as empowered, unique and agent in the positive light that Alice is. I would argue that the depiction of The Red Queen actually kind of counteracts Alice's positive characteristics and shows that females who take the "bad" path or who show sexuality in their characters are sinister.

At the end of Lexi's post, her final question is still "Why is the only female who ever shows true romantic inclination the one who is ultimately shamed out of society? Is this a representation of the good girl and bad girl that Tolman and Higgins discuss?" I was essentially having the same confused thoughts and questions. Thanks Lexi for letting me spiral off your thoughts even more and awesome work/critical thinking :)

Monday, April 4, 2011

Talking Points No. 8////////Project Ideas, Teen Sexuality in Media

Sorry this is late! I went to a feminist conference over the weekend in DC and the drive was over eight that's 16 hours of driving in one weekend. Ew. But it was awesome! "Momentum: Making Waves in Sexuality and New Media" :) Anyway...

I really want to do my project on teenage sexuality. I really want to focus on sex education received from the concepts of abstinence rings, purity balls, Jessica Simpson, Miley Cyrus, the Jonas Brothers, Britney Spears, etc. and their obsession with the socially constructed idea of "virginity." But, I have done something similar in another class from last semester :/ so I don't know if this is a good idea. I think I could examine further now and have better tools, but I don't know if this is allowed, still.

If I don't do this, I'm going to do teenage sexuality learned from Teen Vogue, Cosmopolitan (cause let's face it, teens read this, probably more than older women actually...),, Seventeen, and maybe a couple others. If what I research isn't expansive enough, I'm going to then compare this information with what is learned by teens who read Bust or Bitch magazine (feminist magazines directed at young people).

Friday, March 25, 2011

Talking Points No. 7///////Argument: Ball, Colonialism is the Lens and Hip-Hop is the Mirror

In “Colonialism is the Lens and Hip-Hop is the Mirror,” Jared Ball is arguing that the concept of colonialism is one that can be a focus of the perspective through which we view hip-hop music and the culture it promotes. Furthermore, when referring to general hip-hop, Ball is focusing on mainstream hip-hop and the implications it has on our viewpoints. For example, Ball states “Black poverty is not the result of the choice to purchase “spinning rims” as D’mite suggests, it is that fundamental to colonialism is the monopolization of land ownership which forces, promotes and relegates only the purchase of rims and other trifling goods to the poor. And if this basis is understood all systems of media and popular culture can be more clearly identifiable as to their function and necessity in keeping image, thought, and action within what those in control find to be acceptable ranges.” In other words, blaming hip-hop for poverty rates for people of color is not an accurate assumption. What is really happening is that colonialism is still an evident problem that keeps money and property in the hands of a small part of the population while people of color are encouraged by producers of that mainstream media to purchase “trifling goods.” There are stereotypes being perpetuated and reproduced here, and it is designed in a way that keeps systemic oppression happening. Ball is arguing that once we recognize that “those in control” are deciding what is acceptable for different demographics, we can apply the concept of colonialism to this and see who is in a position of privilege and power and who is being dominated and suboordinated.

An example of the kind of message Ball is describing could be found here (not that the song isn't good, because it really is, and it could be perceived as West making a positive statement about mobility for people of color...but that's an oversimplification of implication, which I think is an implicit point in Ball's article).

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Connections: Glee Episodes, Raby and Grinner

When viewing these three episodes of Glee (Pilot, Never Been Kissed and Furt) as texts, comparitively, they seem to transcend limitations and boundaries more than other contemporary television shows. There are a variety of characters who fall into different categories and experience different forms of oppression because of their identities. For example, there is a disabled character whose disability is not ignored but is also represented in a limiting light. The same concept goes for Kurt, since he is a gay character who ultimately receives support from many of his peers but is represented in a limited way. These teenage characters are displayed with alternative lifestyles than those depicted commonly (dominant ideology in the media as discussed by Grinner), however, they are still stereotypical. There is a lot of focus on problems like bullying and emotional intensity in the teenage years, which is based on real-life problems teens are facing today. However, by representing this issue in the media, in a sense it is perpetuating ideas discussed by Raby such as "the storm." Reputations seem to be very important at the high school that the show takes place at, making teenagers seem shallow, stupid, vapid and clique-y at many points in the show. While reputations are in fact something that many teenagers think about, these representations also send messages to those who perhaps aren't so aware of those kinds of social dynamics, and it becomes hard to distinguish whether stereotypes have any validity or if teenagers are conditioned by media like Glee and emulate what they see re-presented to them. In terms of SCWAAMP, the show appears to promote messages such as equality when it is not necessarily doing so. Though there are gay characters featured on the show, it is still predominantly hetero-centric. It focuses around themes like marriage and having babies without recognizing these things as institutional mechanisms that do not help us acheive equality. In the marriage scene in Furt, it is clear that the wedding is based on Christian tradition and a priest is marrying the couple and therefore holds authority. The characters on the show are predominantly white, and the representations of non-white characters are fairly stereotypical. There are no characters featured in these three episodes who are not American. There is one character who is not able-bodied, and he is shown as someone who needs a lot of help and is often victimized by peers without having discussion about why this is an issue that deserves attention. The females on the show, such as the cheerleading squad, definitely are shown trying to dumb themselves down and cater to male characters like Puck in the restaurant scene, which shows that the male characters are given more power in the show. Finally, none of the teen characters are property owners, however, in the scene in which Puck is singing outside on the steps with a guitar, they mysteriously gather 300 dollars from performing. What teenagers randomly have so many dollar bills to spare? The whole show is different at first glance, but when analyzed more closely it is clear that dominant ideology and stereotypical discourses for representing teenagers are both at play here.