December 12, 2006

Final Media Projects

"The Image of Muslim Women in American Media"

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Watch the Video!


"Ranking Real Beauty: How Feminine Features Are Scaled"

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Watch the Video!

Secretary

Last weekend I watched "Secretary," Steven Shainberg's film starring Maggie Gyllenhaal as Lee Holloway, a recently hired secretary for James Spader's character, Mr. E. Edward Grey, a "mysterious lawyer." The employer/employee relationship is quickly broken down, as the characters' mutual feelings for each other are exposed.

Because of the Feminist Film Studies course, I found myself analyzing "Secretary" in ways I would not have done before. For example, I noticed that Mr. Grey was often the voyeur, staring at Lee from around a corner, peeking out his head so he could gaze at her but she didn't always notice him. This power of looking that he has over her reinforces the power he has over Lee as both her boss, and as the dominant character in the dominant/submissive relationship they forge.

I also noticed that at the end of the film, when the two have reconciled and are back at Mr. Grey's house, Lee is, for much of this portion, naked, while Mr. Grey is fully dressed, or at the most, briefly shirtless. Looking back, I think Lee's nakedness reinforced her vulnerability, because people who are nude lack the protection and power of clothes. This choice of wardrobe (or lack of it) also reinforces a typical mandate of today's media: a woman will often be seen naked, but a man rarely will.

It's not a film, but I saw it on a screen

Last weekend I ended up "home" in Wisconsin, which means access to cable television. Usually when I'm confronted with 100 channels of filthy reality TV shows and cheesy sitcom dramas, I end up over-indulging in them to make up for the lack of TV consumption I get at my real home in Minneapolis. But last weekend, I just couldn't do it. Fifteen minutes of MTV's "Tiara Girls" was all I could take. (Plus, I had free rentals from Blockbuster.)

The show was about an over-zealous beauty pageant mom and her teenage daughter. Editors showed the daughter straightening her blonde hair, practicing her dance routine, showing off her sparkly, body-clinging costumes (most designed and sewn by the mom), and answering practice questions, such as "What would you say to a girl who is thinking of entering a pageant?"

After a few minutes of viewing the mother-daughter team whine and complain to each other, all I could picture was the giant monster mother shown in class last week by the first pair of presenters. I kept waiting for the real mom on TV to grow tentacles and blobs of fat and suck her perfectly primped child back into her womb.

Unfortunately, this did not happen, and I turned off the TV before I could see how the girl (and her mother) did in the contest. The contest based primarily on looks. On the scaling of bodies. Where an actual point value is assigned for smiles and limbs and clothes.

December 11, 2006

What film isn't feminist?

From this class, I sometimes look at films differently. Last night I took a break from my studying and paper writing and went and saw The Holiday. In some scenes, I found myself thinking about the characters more critically then I would have before. The stereotypes portrayed in the film, like the fact that one of the main female characters can't cry is a shock to everyone. But, the same character is also given power as an advertising company's owner. Since this semester has gone by, from all we have studied and gone over, I have come to feel that pretty much any movie with female characters can be looked at as feminist. The definitions of 'feminist' and 'feminism' are so open and still uncertain makes this look at media logical.

Depending on how you watch a film, you could analyze the lead women as either the dominating heroin, the mother figure, the stereotypical female and so on. The possibilities are almost endless and it's almost as if there is an ounce of stereotyping it can be considered feminist. Because of my broad outlook on this, I think a movie can be considered a feminist film, whether it's slightly feminist or extremely feminist, without the director calling themself a feminist or their film.

Reading through other classmates views on feminist media and looking at their film selections supports my general look at it. Because feminism does not have one strict definition, it is hard to pinpoint what exactly a feminist film is. For example, talking with classmates and even friends outside of class I have heard feminism be defined in multiple ways. Some people feel a feminist is 'anyone that thinks women exist' or 'someone who thinks women deserve rights.' Another way to define feminism is by saying they are 'anyone that promotes the good for women and feels women should be considered near equals to men.' The definiitions I have heard have some similiarities but the differences they have make it clear that the definition is still in question. Until a straight definition is created, it is impossible, in my opinion, to put limitations on what is and is not feminist media.

Feminist Media

I think that it is important to understand and study all of the facets of film. One thing I have come to understand lately is that it is generally important to control your representation. In historical films, there were many things that were mis-represented. Films had very stereotypical characters, much so that the protagonist was nearly always the white male. Male roles with other nationalities were either seen as villains, or characters that essentially didn't matter to the evolution of the story. Woman simply could not be the protagonists, and as Mulvey states in her article about the gaze, that women were basically used by the male viewer, and even the male characters. They were, in Classical cinema, considered 'eye candy' for the viewer. Although this has generally changed in the past decades leading up to present filmmaking, it is still important for women to be able to control their representation.

In feminist media, I think the key argument to be made is that it is important for feminists to be able to control and censor their representations. When they are in positions of power, women are capable of presenting themselves the way they want to be seen. They then can be accountable for the representations in film and other sources of media. Women are then allowed to censor themselves, and eventually tell the stories the way they want them to be told. Because of this, women in writing, directing, producing, editing, and other fields of media are important because they are in a position to control this. That seems to be my understanding of feminist media, or at least an important aspect of its importance.

Apoctolypto

I wasn't sure what to expect before I saw this film. In actuality, I wasn't sure I wanted to see the film. After watching the preview, I didn't know if it would interest me. I am a big fan of Mel Gibson's Braveheart and i think that his direction in Passion of the Christ was good, although a bit gory. This weekend I decided to check out the new AMC theatre in Roseville and decided to hit up the film. Again, I think it is evident along with this film that Gibson certainly knows how to direct a film. The story was very interesting and utterly enjoyable if the bloodshed isn't too much to handle. Based on the decline of the Mayan Empire, there is enough action in the film to keep you interested, although at times it might seem like too much. As I was watching the film, I decided to evaluate the role of women in the film.

All of the women in the film were of Mayan culture, placed sometime around their initial interaction with mankind. The costumes were stereotypical of the time period. The women were often shown with essentially nothing covering the upper part of their bodies. They stayed at the encampment with the children as the men go off to hunt for food. The main story with a woman comes, however, when the Mayan camp is overtaken by another tribe and all of the women are killed off and most of the men are caught and forced to accompany the enemy tribe. Jaguar Paw, who is the main character in the film, manages to hide his pregnant wife and child in a cave that is probably anywhere from fifty to one hundred feet below ground. One of the enemy indians cuts the rope before they leave, which trapts them down there helpless to get out. The men are meant to be sacrificed at a ritual, but Jaguar Paw gets away. Meanwhile, the woman basically sits there with her child and in some ways trys to escape the cave, but is unsuccessful. An interesting note, however, is that the wife of Jaguar Paw manages to protect her and her son by killing a wild animal that falls into the hole. As the cave is flooding later on in the film, she also manages to keep herself, her son, and a new born child above water just as the husband returns. I think this at least shows that the woman was capable of protecting her family. She was not completely helpless. Most films might contradict this notion, and although she certainly wouldn't have survived had her husband not returned, she was capable of prolonging the lives of her children. I think Gibson does a fairly adequate job of portraying the values of family, and I think that the beliefs and family values are the strongpoint in the film.

Juarez

After viewing the documentary about the women of Juarez, Mexico, I was not quite sure what to think. My initial feeling, as I'm sure was the same with most of the other viewers was essentially that I could not understand how something has not been done to stop this. If this was the message of the film, then it seems to be a success to me. Personally, I thought it was a film that held your interest as a viewer, and it included the emotional film values one can take from including family and friends into it. As a student of film, I was pleased that they also interviews persons in all fields, and not just family members. That makes it easier to view the film in a more fulfilling way. Although they included interviews with persons of law and past victims, I did think the filmmaker attempted to sway the audience members opinion, but in this case it seems rightfully so.

One of the things I enjoyed about this film was the editing. By saying this, I mean the way they decide to piece the film together. They could have filmed an interview of a person fully through, and then move on to the next person. Instead, they go back and forth, back again and it comes together to get the full view instead of a partial one. I think that in this case it is a more artistic way to get your point across as a filmmaker. Another thing that I though was fairly powerful was when they were interviewing the family of victims, or even the victims that got away. The slow motion seemed to elevate the emotions that they were going through, and the trials that are still ahead of them. Films of this nature need moments like that because the subject matter that is dealt with are many murdered women. The film is supposed to ooze emotion, and I think this film uses a subtle approach with many filmmaking aspects that we can further indulge in.

Evelyn

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So, over the weekend I relaxed a bit and saw the film Evelyn (starring Pierce Brosnan).
I basically saw this movie because I always meant to see it, but I never got around to do it… and I highly recommend seeing it—the story was very beautiful, and Evelyn was so talented, innocent, and sweet.

Context:
(made in 2002) It’s based on the true story of a man, Desmond Doyle, in Ireland in 1953. Directed by Bruce Beresford (Driving Miss Daisy, Double Jeopardy )and written by Paul Pender (it looks like it’s his first major project).

Content:
In the beginning, Doyle’s wife leaves him for another man, his three young children (Evelyn, Dermot, and Maurice) are taken away from him (and sent to separate orphanages, one for Evelyn, and another for the boys) because the law prohibits him to raise them in a poor environment without a wife, and he basically resorts to alcohol to numb the pain. In the end he fights to win his children back by getting a job and a team of lawyers to plead his case before the Irish Supreme Court. Not only does Doyle get his kids back, he also changes the law—a very demanding and hard thing to accomplish in one lifetime.

Form:
Generally slow paced. A very gloomy, dark, and rainy atmosphere. Lot’s of green color. Mpst of the scenes are held in the courts and at the local pub (very dim and yellow, I think).

Overall, I thought it was really interesting to see a very traditional Irish catholic family suddenly turn completely around: the wife deserts the family (had about 5 minutes of screen time and I get the impression that she’s very cold, heartless, and cruel), while the husband is left to fill in the mother figure role for his children—although you can really see that he always had this very close/intimate connection to them.
I don’t consider this to be a feminist film, but it’s an amazing film nonetheless—I especially loved the sensitive and emotional side of Pierce’s portrayal, and the "angel rays." An interesting research assignment could be the comparison between the real story and the cinematic representation… and even the role reversal of the wife and husband.
also, in the homepage, one reviewer commented how Brosnan left 007 (his famous role as James Bond) to "show off his true acting skills"--not sure exactly what it means but perhaps the reviewer noticed how his role as James Bond was very masculine/domineering/, while his role as Doyle seemed to be more real/sensitive/sweet/family-like

here's where you can find the trailer and homepage:
http://www.mgm.com/evelyn/

The Face of Liberation

I thought the video shown in class about the portrayal of middle eastern women was thought provoking and made a great point. Being from a fairly conservative family in the suburbs, I had always been told that all middle eastern women are so oppressed by their religion and culture, which is obvious due to the way they all dress. When the point was made comparing western women being oppressed by the media to middle eastern women being oppressed due to their clothing, I was immediately thrown into deep thought about what I considered oppression. Like many other women, I thought that liberation went hand in hand with having the right to do what I want with my life and body. I had thought that hiding my body would be oppression, never my choice to be modest. After seeing that video, I have realized that being modest is not oppression but a female's choice.

Great job on your film Saly!

Friends With Money

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Because this movie was written and directed by a woman, Nicole Holofcener, I had hopes that it would portray women and gender in a positive way, but I was disappointed. Obviously people disagree with me because this film wom the Dorothy Arzner Directors Award at the Women In Film Crystal Awards. This movie contains so many stereotypes about gender and gender roles that I have to wonder if it was on purpose. This film centers around four women, three of which are married and one is single. The three marriages vary; although none seem extremely happy. Catherine Keener's character Christine is extremely unhappy and ends up wanting a divorce by the end of the movie. Franny's (played by Joan Cusack) marriage seems slightly more functional, but they do argue about money because Joan Cusack is worth much more than her husband (although she still must check with him before loaning money to friends). Frances McDormand's character, Jane seems to have to most understanding and sympathetic husband, but there is speculation throughout the movie that he is gay, and a strong relationship between him and a man that resembles dating develops. The one single woman, Olivia, (played by Jennifer Aniston) is a stereoptypically "single" woman. She is depressed, poor and completely obsessed with her ex-boyfriend. She calls him repeatedly throughout the film, despite the fact that he is married. She also has the worst job of the four women (as a maid, a stereotypically female job) and the least money. She begins dating a man in the film, who is by far the biggest jerk of all the men in the film. He sits on the couch while Olivia cleans and then asks for money at the end of each job because he "helped". At the end of the film she begins dating a new man; he is nicer but unattractive and overweight. This opens up an entirely new can of worms; why is it plausible in films and television for a beautiful woman to date a heavy, unattractive man, but an unattractive woman is never shown with a handsome man? I would be interested to know what other people thought of this film and the stereotypes it portrayed.
For more information about this film, checkout the website:
Friends With Money

Feminism is Sin and Wickedness

I found a video created by a christian fanatic concerning his and God's view on feminism - it is sin and wickedness. This older, white man speaks about how the feminists, or the right-to-shave prune hearted women, are satan's children, fighting for a pointelss and sinful cause, and were created to serve men. He starts out by saying that when femininsts constantly yelli at men at any oppurtunity and call for a matriarchal structure they are satanic.I was absolutely shocked upon finding this because I have never come across someone as closed minded as this fellow from the UK. His spin on feminism comes from what he KNOWS about Jesus and God's intended creation of a partirachal order of the world. He states that to go against this premium model is to go against God's word. He also states that women were created from men and to serve men. I could not believe that this men had the audacity to first of all draw information upon false stereotypes about feminism and then to also state the women are not equal to men. I honestly cannot believe that there are people this ignorant.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_kOZoSUB3L8

Tootsie and What Women Want

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Hey, it’s me again…
Seeing Tootsie over the past week made me think of another related film—What Women Want (with Mel Gibson).

Considering context:
Tootsie (1982) was directed by a man, Sydney Pollack (who also directed The Way We Were, and The Interpreter), and written primarily by men.
While What Women Want (2000) was directed by a woman, Nancy Meyers (who also wrote/directed Something’s Gotta Give, and wrote Private Benjamin and Father of the Bride I and II) the majority was written by women.

Considering content:
Both involve men experiencing what a woman goes through everyday—like putting on make-up, wearing tights (by the way I hate it when people refer to it as “pantyhose,? and underwear as “panties?—it’s probably too late for comments, but doesn’t it give you this weird feeling. I don’t think degrading is the right word, but it’s somewhere in that area.)…anyway, so being in a heterosexual relationship (although Tootsie ventured somewhat into lesbianism…can’t remember if What Women Want did it too), doing your hair, being discriminated in the workplace, etc.

Considering form:
Both films were very similar.
In the comedic scenes, the editing was generally fast and the dialogue was witty and quite hilarious. The dramatic/romantic moments were slower, and things seemed to pause and focus more on facial expression.
From time to time product placement is integrated (but I think more so in What Women Want)

In maintaining the spirit of our most recent discussing, I personally think that both of these directors are feminist filmmakers (in regards to the majority of their films). Tootsie and What Women Want both involve a variety of women (age, ethnicity, size, class, etc) and deal with the “woman experience? (what it means to be a woman, “what women want,? what they go through, etc.) I think they also seem to generally empower women by exposing both strengths and weaknesses, and bring a sense of gender equality (the male sex trying/willing to understand a woman, while sympathizing and relating to the same strengths and weaknesses.)

Also, here's an interview with Nancy Meyers on What women Want
"Nancy Meyers Talks About What Women Want"
J. Sperling Reich
http://www.reel.com/reel.asp?node=features/interviews/meyers

here's one of the interesting questions in the interview:
" Q: Would What Women Want be a different film if a man had directed it?"

"NM: I think it would be quite different. The inner thoughts of the women … There are no women in this film who talk about, "My thighs, or my hair." There is none of that. It's not clichéd thoughts that you think a woman might have. More about having someone understand or appreciate them. Recognize them or listen to them. I'm not sure a male director would have gone for those things. I think they may have gone for sexier things. I find some of the thoughts are unexpected in the movie, and I think that's because a woman was behind the movie."

Women in Sports

This semester I am also taking a Feminist Debates class and recently we discussed women in sports. We talked about the way women athletes are portrayed in the media and I thought it pertained to this class, but we haven't really covered this topic. According to a 2003 study done by the Journal of Sport and Social Issues, 40% of all professional athletes are women, but only 6-8% of media coverage is focused on women athletes. This same study showed that on Sports News and ESPN SportsCenter 96.7% of airtime was dedicated to men's sports. I decided to check out ESPN's website and it seemed to fit this percentage. All of the major "headlines" at the top of the site were about men's sports and every single photograph (even the advertisements) on the site were men. The only mention of women was under the women's basketball link under the "Columns and Features" category near the bottom of site. I believe one reason for this might be that the creators and producers of the sports news programs believe that they have an all or mostly male audience, and are afraid to upset or lose their male viewers by showing too much coverage of women's sports. This creates a cycle; women's sports are not shown in the media so there is not as much interest in them as the highly publicized men's sports. Because of this, producers of sports programs believe there is no interest in women's sports and do not cover it. I jus tthought that this was an interesting aspect of women in the media that we did not cover, but still applies to the class.
Link to ESPN's website: ESPN Site

December 10, 2006

Yentl (starring Barbra Streisand) and Tootsie (starring Dustin Hoffman)

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This may seem like a random thing, but I just thought it was funny how I unintentionally ended up seeing the films Yentl and Tootsie over the past few weeks. They are both about the necessity of changing one’s sex in order to achieve or to get some desirable thing—of course the moral of the story is not to do it, because discrimination is wrong…so, there should be no need to change yourself in order to conform to some ideal (very simply stated). For instance, in Yentl, a young woman desires education but must dress up as a man in order to get it. Similarly, Tootsie involves a young struggling male actor who must dress up as a woman in order to get a particular acting role that will help him out financially. Essentially, both the female and male characters are being themselves, but are basically forced to wear a mask (change their outer appearance) in order to get “accepted?—which makes it quite ironic. I really love these kinds of stories, because they truly reveal how ridiculous society can be. We are told to believe that a certain type of individual (mostly white male, middle/upper class, straight…) has a certain power or superiority over another. But, it’s all façade. I know it’s very elementary and what mom always used to say, but it’s very important to know that “it’s what inside that counts the most.? So, we can be the most masculine, white, rich, heterosexual in the world and still be the most selfish, cruel, and heartless individual. Sometimes using the most simple/common sense can be the most effective tool in fighting the most complicated and abusive issue like sexual discrimination.
And, as a side note:
I really recommend seeing Tootsie—very, very funny, and quite the cast!
Trailer: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0084805/
But Yentl—was “o.k,? my friend’s a huge fan of hers so that’s mostly why I decided to give in and check it out.

Feminism in media

When I took this class I knew of feminism as a movement but not of the different types of feminism. I feel feminism exists whether we are willing to proclaim ourselves as feminists or we are willing to acknowledge that there is a feminism movement. The same applies to all types of media producers. It is not necessary for me to know that the media producer is a feminist or for the same person to believe they are a feminist either. After this class, I have learned to watch everything with a critical eye. Social issues are represented in everything we see on TV and magazines, the question is whether we are willing to recognize it. For example, in Iris Marion Young’s "The Scaling of Bodies" she states that racism, sexism, homophobia, ageism, and ableism have not disappeared but have gone underground, and dwelling in everyday habits and cultural meaning of which people are for the most part unaware. Where there is a person recognizing misrepresentation - there is the movement of feminism. Feminism, to me, has moved from only representing women, to the bigger scale of representing discrimination against any person’s beliefs. So do we still need to study and represent feminism? There is no question whether these issues still exist when skin still sells, we have not had a female president, and in fact...we have not had a black male president. What I am trying to say is that we are all feminists whether we like it or not. When we choose to believe that someone is being mistreated because of the color of their skin, their gender, or their sexual orientation and choose to stand up for them - that is what feminism is to me. As far as naming media, in fairness to everything I have watched and have yet to watch, I can't limit that list to a few. For example, I watched a football game and there were the cheerleaders, as an object of the sex in the game of football. During the same time, there were scantily clad women selling beer on a commercial. Then I flipped the channel and saw Titanic. Now for a big budget Hollywood movie and with no intention of using the film as an object of transport of the feministic view, there were numerous occasions when Rose was mistreated due to her gender and at the same time was given power through her gender.
Again, feminism is everywhere. I choose to recognize it, but I am not a feminist. I don't have to be one to realize that there is objectification of female bodies, homophobia, and still...racism are present. What we decide to do with the knowledge is what sets us apart from the "real" feminists. A "real" feminist is one who chooses not only to educate us about the issues but also offers some solutions.


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