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November 30, 2006

Feminist Media xtra credit

What makes a piece of media a feminist media is if it looks through a theoretical lens of analysis at gender, race, class and sexuality of women and aims to re-establish roles of women in a social or political context. A feminist piece of media also must consider the impact of intersectionality such as religion, age, class, and gender experiences in order to more completely analyze the oppression of women not just in terms of gender. I found two women filmmakers that name themselves as feminists, one woman filmmaker who I believe uses the feminist perspective in one of her films, and one vlog done by a women who clearly holds the feminist perspective.

The first women is a woman named Barbara Hammer. Hammer was born in 1939 and names herself a lesbian feminist filmmaker. A few of her films are a short entitled Dyketactics (1974), and two films entitled Women’s Rites (1974) and Tender Fictions (1995). I believe that Hammer is a feminist because she in fact states that she is a feminist filmmaker and is popular for her feminist work.

Link to Hammer’s website: http://www.barbarahammerfilms.com/

The second women is Lizzie Borden. Borden was born in 1958 and refers to herself as a feminist filmmaker. Two of Borden’s films are Born In Flames (1983) and Working Girls (1986). Borden writes and directs with feminist perspectives and aims to change women’s roles in prostitution in her film Working Girls. In the link below is an interview of Borden’s where she talks specifically about these two films and also in depth about why she herself is a feminist.

Link to Borden’s Interview: http://www.kersplebedeb.com/mystuff/video/review/lizzie_borden.html

The third women is the infamous Eve Ensler who wrote, directed and stared in the Vagina Monologues (2002). I could not find a document where Ensler states that she is a feminist but I believe that the Vagina Monologues are written from a feminist perspective in that she calls for political action in changing the sexual violence that is directed toward women and calls for the social change of the roles that these women find themselves in.

Link to Ensler’s website: http://www.randomhouse.com/features/ensler/

The vlog, which features Chelsea Steiner, is a vlog that I consider to be feminist. Steiner performs a spoken word poem at Stanford University and talks about the mix between women in pop culture and women of past political events and how meshed together create an uncertain future for feminism. Steiner further proves to speak from the feminist perspective when she at the end of her vlog asks the question “who will take feminism under their wing when I am gone?? Even though Steiner does not call herself a feminist I believe that her vlog still counts as a piece of feminist media because she talks about the social concepts of feminism.

Good question

What is a feminist? I've been considering this question since class on Tuesday, and have thus far only come up with one conclusion: that is a good question. I have learned so much this semester, and I am confident that I can identify a piece of media as being feminist, and yet I'm having a hard time actually defining what it is that makes something or someone feminist. Perhaps there are varying degrees of feminism? There are the pieces of media - such as belle hooks' papers - that are flat-out 100% feminist. She spends her life raising the awareness of women's issues and questioning the things around her from a feminist standpoint; there is no doubt in my mind that she is a feminist and creates feminist media. But then there is media like Jane Campion's The Piano. That film can be (and has been) analyzed and picked apart from countless angles to reveal a feminist perspective, and yet Campion does not identify herself as a feminist. She is a non-feminist producing feminist media. So we're back to square one; what is feminism? I think many people would agree that both bell hooks' media and Jane Campion's media are feminist, so I suppose we can assume that the creator herself does not need to specifically identify herself as sa feminist in order to gain the attention of a feminist audience and produce feminist media. So how about this: a piece of feminist media is one that has the ability to be credibly analyzed in a feminist light and has identifiable feminists characteristics, regardless of what the author or director claims and identifies herself as. It is something that simply (or not-so-simply, as it turns out) has joined the fight for women's rights, whether consciously intended or not.

Hogan Knows Best

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OK so this is the second time I have typed this because the first time it did not work and erased everything.
So I watched Hogan Knows Best 3. It is about Terry Hogan who used to be a famous wrestler in the 1980’s and tried to break into film. He now is on this reality show about his family who is Linda the wife, Brooke the daughter and Nick the son. It is about their everyday lives which I find funny because I am sure their lives have changed a great deal since they started this show. The show tries to be like every other show- like the Osborne’s on MTV. This show shows them as one happy family. The mom and dad are in love. The dad is overprotective of his daughter and won’t let her date. The son breaks the rules and is encouraged to chase after the ladies. Mostly the show is about how famous they are (now) and what that means for them everyday. I watched an episode about Brooke mostly. She was trying to get into the Music business. She was in the process of rehearsing and shooting her music video.

This show is on VH1. It is apart of a lot of reality shows on this station. I think that this show basically is there so that the Hogan’s can make some more money. Since this show started Terry has come out with an energy drink and a clothing line. Brooke is starting her music career and Nick wants to be a wrestler and is starting to get in to that. All of this is because they are on television. This is just one of the many sought after reality shows that are on T.V now. It looks like all the rest. I never realized until we talked about it in class how much things or products are endorsed on the show without me even realizing. Until I watched it critically I never noticed. But now after really watching lots of product names are said and worn and used noticeably throughout this “reality show?.
Editing and music were two other things I never realized had such a huge impact. Especially on this show they showed clips from all sorts of different times. They were months apart and sometimes not even in order. I think it is funny how they manipulate time. In one 30min episode Brooke wanted to be a singer and then rehearsed her music video and shot it. Wow that is fast. If only it were that easy. In addition it reminded me of the scaling of bodies. Linda was telling Brooke that she looked fat and no one will buy a fat girls CD. She was saying how you are not just selling your voice you are selling an image and that image is a blonde, skinny, virgin- sounds familiar- Jessica Simpson, Britney Spears. Also I thought that this fit into the Type Casting. They made Brooke just like Britney and Jessica. She is just a normal girl chasing her dream. I soon realized there is no reality in this show at all. Everything is done for a reason and to get a certain look. That is why they play sad music when they cry and zoom in when they are being serious and emotional. Everything is planned down to the last minute!

Hogan Knows Best

OK so this is the second time I have typed this because the first time it did not work and erased everything.
So I watched Hogan Knows Best 3. It is about Terry Hogan who used to be a famous wrestler in the 1980’s and tried to break into film. He now is on this reality show about his family who is Linda the wife, Brooke the daughter and Nick the son. It is about their everyday lives which I find funny because I am sure their lives have changed a great deal since they started this show. The show tries to be like every other show- like the Osborne’s on MTV. This show shows them as one happy family. The mom and dad are in love. The dad is overprotective of his daughter and won’t let her date. The son breaks the rules and is encouraged to chase after the ladies. Mostly the show is about how famous they are (now) and what that means for them everyday. I watched an episode about Brooke mostly. She was trying to get into the Music business. She was in the process of rehearsing and shooting her music video.

This show is on VH1. It is apart of a lot of reality shows on this station. I think that this show basically is there so that the Hogan’s can make some more money. Since this show started Terry has come out with an energy drink and a clothing line. Brooke is starting her music career and Nick wants to be a wrestler and is starting to get in to that. All of this is because they are on television. This is just one of the many sought after reality shows that are on T.V now. It looks like all the rest. I never realized until we talked about it in class how much things or products are endorsed on the show without me even realizing. Until I watched it critically I never noticed. But now after really watching lots of product names are said and worn and used noticeably throughout this “reality show?.
Editing and music were two other things I never realized had such a huge impact. Especially on this show they showed clips from all sorts of different times. They were months apart and sometimes not even in order. I think it is funny how they manipulate time. In one 30min episode Brooke wanted to be a singer and then rehearsed her music video and shot it. Wow that is fast. If only it were that easy. In addition it reminded me of the scaling of bodies. Linda was telling Brooke that she looked fat and no one will buy a fat girls CD. She was saying how you are not just selling your voice you are selling an image and that image is a blonde, skinny, virgin- sounds familiar- Jessica Simpson, Britney Spears. Also I thought that this fit into the Type Casting. They made Brooke just like Britney and Jessica. She is just a normal girl chasing her dream. I soon realized there is no reality in this show at all. Everything is done for a reason and to get a certain look. That is why they play sad music when they cry and zoom in when they are being serious and emotional. Everything is planned down to the last minute!

November 29, 2006

What is feminist?

After contemplating this question for a while I have come up with the following: I have sort of divided the concept of feminist into two categorys. They are "feminist" and "real" feminist. A "feminist" is just someone that advocates for the equality of women and does things to uplift the representation of women in any form of media but they do not identify as a feminist. People that fit this description are people like Queen Latifah in the lyrics that she writes, or Tyra Banks on her television show, or Maya Angelou in the movie "Madea's Family Reunion", or myself. "Real" feminists are people like bell hooks and Laura Mulvey, and Iris Marion Young, etc who do all the things that "feminists" like the above do but they have also created theories and concepts and have written scholarly books and articles and critiques of the things they have seen in film and actually identify themselves as feminists. Hopefully I have made a clear distinction between the two. I consider media feminist when it specializes in the lives of women and advocate for their equality and also reveals the inequalities between men and women. I do believe that one can declare a movie feminist even though the maker him/herself does not identify or call themselves a feminist. Some films that I think are feminist are movies like "Waiting to Exhale", "What's Love Got To Do With It," "Senorita Extraviada", "Their Eyes Were Watching God," "for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf", and "The Diary of a Mad Black Woman".

ANTM

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I watched an episode of America’s next Top Model (ANTM). ANTM can be categorized as a competition reality show. It was created by Tyra Banks (the supermodel) in 2003. It originally aired on UPN but is currently on at 8pm Wednesday nights on CW (which is a merger between WB and UPN). Tyra is one of three executive producers of the show, a mentor to the girls in the competition, as well as one of the judges of the competition. There are usually about fourteen girls or so that began the competition. Each episode, the girls are taught something new about modeling like how to look sad but sexy or how to walk the runway. By the end of the episode the girls have to use what they learned in individual photo shoots. A panel of judges looks at each photograph and chooses who is strong enough to stay and who should go home. They begin to just rip apart each girl from head to toe making comments like “her nose looks piggy in this shot? or “she is showing no emotion in her eyes.? The panel of judges includes a runway specialist who is male, an old school female model, a male photographer, a male photo director, and Tyra herself, who sits at the judging table completely glamorized (make-up, hair, outfit) as if to say “this is what you should be aspiring to become.? There are twelve writers/directors of this show, so I wonder if the judges debating on camera about who stays and who goes is real. When a model is informed that she is “still in the running to becoming America’s next top model? she is called before Tyra who is standing on a pedestal, looking down on the model and informing her on what she did good or, more often what she needs to do to improve her appearance. The winner of the competition gets a $100,000 modeling contract with Cover Girl and a photo spread in Elle magazine, so of course, the show is sponsored by Cover Girl. I found that this show has a multitude of gazes. There is, of course, the gaze of the photographer, who was male. The gaze of the photographer is paired with that of the photograph director, who is watching every shot taken on a computer as it is happening. The job of the photo director is to tell the model how to switch up her poses and how to connect with the camera and in this show is also a male. These two double as judges and each model is aware of this while they are posing. We are sometimes shown that the other models are looking on to find out how well the posing model is doing and to hear what sort of praises or the lack there of that she receives from both the photographer and the photograph director. The camera sits side be side with the other models as if we too are one of the competing models watching the shoot. A slightly more complex gaze is that of the “main? camera from which we gain our insight into this “reality? show. There is also the gaze of the entire judging panel as well as the models viewing themselves in photographs. This gaze is interesting in that the models are usually shocked at how they look often times indicating that they don’t recognize themselves. This show has really caught on in other countries. Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Netherlands, Norway, Philippines, Scandinavia, Thailand, Turkey, and the U.K. all have started their own top model shows, some of which are already on their third season.

November 28, 2006

Kind of Random!

I realize there are a TON of websites like this out there, but I thought it was pretty funny the fact that I came across it as I was searching for a chorizo recipe for my dad. Instead of getting pages like cook.com, I was given this http://www.sofeminine.co.uk/m/beauty/make-up.html The recipe looked nothing like what I was looking for but out of curiousity, I decided to click on it. To my surprise, the women were all air brushed (even the every day women featured on the site!), the recipes I looked at were all about being healthy (which I am all for, but these seemed for the wrong reasons...like compensation for watching TV and eating at the same time!). After browsing the sight a bit-mostly the beauty section and a little gossip, I noticed they had a blog section. I started reading around and found things to be pretty typical. One blog really stood out to me though, a woman wrote about her dieting. Title "In My Head-Striving for Perfection" I instantly got curious. She only had two postings but they both surprised me. The first explained how she is dieting to reach size 14 by New Years starting at a size 16/18. This sounds reasonable but the way she is going about it makes her sound desperate. She limits herself to one meal a day between 4 and 6 pm and water the rest of the day. I hope she doesn't shorten herself of necessary calories or nutrients just to reach a "socially accepted" clothing size. I don't know, I guess after class today and discussing "Real Life" television and the people portrayed in these shows, I found it amusing coming across this web site the way I did and how they give beauty tips and lifestyle tips to reach something that is completely constructed. Hopefully women realize that the images shown with "perfect complexions" are not real. I think it is great that there is advice to assist women in need, but is it really necessary to show an example of something that is not possible?

Conclusions and Final Thoughts

Media is a big part of everyones lives. It is a great way for people to get their thoughts and opinions out there for everyone to see and hear. The media is a good way for feminists to show people what they believe and try and persuade them to see things their way. I don't think that you need to declare yourself as a feminist to count, I just think that you need to belive in the feminist ways and try and push or convince others into that way of thinking. I don't think that just believing in the things feminist say really means your a feminist I think you need to get out in the world and show others what feminists believe by getting involved and participating/following those beliefs. What I think makes media feminist is when it looks at the lives and experiences of women and notes the inequality between men and women socially, politically and economically. When the media looks at issues or situations that make men and women unequal and then tries to find a solution for it. I would say that Kimberly Peirce's film Boys Don't Cry is an example of a feminist film. It looks at the life of a teenage girl who wants to be a male. Throughout the movie you see how she reacts with other males when she is a male, she is one of the boys, but then when they find out that she is really female they abuse and rape her. I understand that it is a bit of a shock but she didn't need to be beat up and raped. It was amazing to see how the boys thoughts of Teena Brandon changed when they found out she was a girl, even though they knew her, hung out with her and enjoyed doing stuff together. It seems as though people think that a change in sex changes your whole personality, but there is nothing wrong, or at least I don't think, with women acting like men and men acting like women. Here is a link to Teenas mom's responses to the film about her daughter: http://www.chasingthefrog.com/reelfaces/boysdontcry.php. I do think that there is a lot of media out there that could be classified as feminist. I would say media is feminist if it deals with the lives of women or an issue of inequality between men and women.

Any conclusions? Final Thoughts?

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Extra Credit Post (worth 1 - 5 points):
Note: If you choose to post, please post by midnight on Sunday, December 10th (if you want to receive credit).

In this course we've done a lot of feminist analysis of media (films, TV, vlogs, images...). I'm wondering now, after all of the critique, what you believe makes media feminist? Do you have a definition that outlines what makes a film feminist? Who are some feminist film and mediamakers that you've encountered?

Does a filmmaker/mediamaker necessarily need to say "I am a feminist filmmaker..." to count? Can you declare a piece of media as feminist even if the maker doesn't articulate a feminism?

Please, list (and/or link us to) films, shows, blogs, vlogs, film and media makers that you believe are feminist.

November 27, 2006

Hogan

Hogan Knows Best is a part of vh1’s “Celebreality? block. The Hogan family is Hulk (Terry) and Linda with two children Brooke (16-18 years) and Nick (14-16 years). Terry is an overbearing masculine figure. Brooke is treated different then Nick, Nick is allowed to date and is encouraged by his father to hit on and pick up women. One episode Terry is jealous of his sons relationship with his girlfriend and sends a “Hotter? 18 years old girl over to ask his fourteen year old son out. His Daughter Brooke is not allowed to date until she is eighteen, according to Terry all guys are after one thing, sex which he is teaching his son to only think about. The show perpetuates gender inequality by Terry’s thinking he needs to shelter his daughter from boys because he feel she is unable to handle her self while his son is almost pushed into dating, like most fathers he is protecting himself from thoughts of his daughter being sexual and stifling her growth as a person. One episode Brooke is allowed to go on a date, her father places a GPS tracking system in their car to track her, and she is only allowed to go into public areas already planed out. In later episodes Brooke is attempting a pop music career, her father fights all the way against making her sexual. The over sexed media battling an overbearing dad, a corporate system, and a Father battle over the sexual identity of a 17 year old women, she is unable to decided her sexual representations. This creates an completely unrealistic sexual identity, a sweet, pure virgin that is extremely sexual. With pop singer in the late nineties (Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera) conveying the same message a virgin playing sexually promiscuous. No matter how sexually liberal or conservative Brook herself might be it is clear that her family and our culture have denied even the tamest of romantic experience, now promoted as sexual it is clear that she has no representation of her sexuality. Her sexual identity is being decided by the Men in her life.

the Ali G show

What makes a TV. show reality? I watched the Ali G. show for this posting, and some would say it’s not true reality. I don’t think any reality TV show portrays reality; instead they are all themed around the illusion of depicting real life. The makers of any reality TV have so much control over editing, camera work, sets, casting, and episode construction that real events are always skewed in favor to a marketable product. If reality TV was life like, it would be so boring nobody would watch it! Also, when people know they are on camera they are performing, acting out an identity that they or someone else has created for them. This identity forms a loose script for behavior.

Now I turn to the Ali G. Show, an evolved reality show with 3 characters all played by the show’s British creator/writer Sacha Baron Cohen who tours America exploiting ignorance, racism, and sexism with out discrimination or shame. He pokes fun of every aspect of culture, from New York to Texas to Hollywood. He makes fun of bigots, feminists, patriarchy, sports fans, homophobia, patriotic people, and anything else you can think of. And why does he do this? I think he is showing the real American way of living, however varied and ridiculous.

His first Character is Ali G, a white British rapper who thinks he is black, and is lacking understanding of the English language and quite a few brain cells. He asks really stupid questions during the interviews he does, and people take him seriously because he has a camera and an HBO show. But people also think he is really challenged mentally, so they let their guard down, and it’s very interesting and entertaining what comes out.

His second character is Borat, a man from Kazakhstan. He tours America in search of learning the culture. Most people react without surprise when the “foreigner? talks about his culture, where he has insestual relations with his sister, has no running water in his town, and talks about his “krum?. He is perverted, embarrassing, and primitive. Is this offensive to real-life people from Kazakhstan? Usually, but I think the real message is how many Americans view people from former soviet countries. In the episode I watched Borat goes to a karaoke night in a country western bar and sings “a song from his homeland? called throw the Jew down the well. The whole bar is singing along by the end of the song, which at first I thought was really funny, but looking back it is just a disappointment. Borat also goes to a wine tasting class in Texas, where he makes very good friends with the two men giving the class. After heavy drinking from all three men, the waiter comes in to bring more wine. As the (black) man leaves the room Borat asks the (white) men is that man was their slave. The reply was “we can’t call them that anymore?.

The third character, Boris, is the host for the German gay-TV station. He generally shows off the shallow inconsistency in the fashion world, and his favorite it to exploit homophobia. He travels to Miami Beach during spring break, and does a segment with some frat boys who are all about the party atmosphere. They yell P-A-R-T-Y and jump around, slapping butts and showing off their large muscles to Boris. At the and of the segment taping he thanked the guys for being on Gay-TV, at which point they all get really angry, start yelling and freaking out. Boris also attends the annual patriotism fair/conference in the southern part of the country. He does and interview with one of the participants. He ask the man, “what does freedom mean to you, as an American?? The man explains freedom is about being free to do whatever you please, so long as it doesn’t hurt anybody else. Boris act like he understands and says “oh I get it, so like I would be free to walk down the street and hold hands with my boyfriend?? the man said no, that is not freedom or American and quickly ended the interview.

To watch a clip of the show: http://www.hbo.com/alig/video/. Watch “peace? to see a fashion show segment, its very funny.

My Super Sweet Sixteen

The reality T.V. show that I watched was My Super Sweet Sixteen. This T.V. show is classified as a reality, news/documentary and it is shown on MTV. All the episodes take place in the same area. According to Wikipedia, "The parties are often set in the same towns. Locations that have featured two or more teenagers include La Jolla, California; Newport Beach, California; Atlanta, Georgia; Beverly Hills, California; New York, New York; Scottsdale, Arizona; Palm Beach Gardens, Florida; Miami, Florida, and Erie, Pennsylvania." When trying to find a list of the people who work on making this T.V. show the lists that I came across seemed to be different for each episodes. It seems as though they hire different people to prep each episode or a few episodes and then they get someone else. This episode was about a girl named Chelsi. She is a thin girl with long brown hair and a very pretty face. She knows she is hot and makes sure that everyone knows she is. Chelsi wants this party to be all about her so she is requiring everyone to dress in a white toga while she wears one that is brightly colored. She wants there to be a gaze on her. To prep for her party she has her dress personally made for her, when it isn't what she wants the first time she demands that a new one is made. She then goes to the gym to recruit four men to carry her into the party. In order to pick them she asks them to take off their shirts and the camera looks up and down their bodies. This is the only part of the show where there is a female gaze. Before her party she also has pictures taken of her and her girlfriends. She is the typical stereotype of a snotty, rich girl who has to have everything her way. You see this many times as she is constantly complaining when things aren't going her way or when she isn't getting all the attention. She asks her dad for a car for her birthday because she says that everyone is expecting her to get one. He says he wont but in the end he gives in to her and gets her one. This show is all about teenagers who get what ever they want. It is mostly directed toward teenage girls but there are some teenage boys on the show getting whatever they want. This show is a stereotype creator. Here is a link to some of the reactions of viewers: http://www.tv.com/my-super-sweet-16/show/33149/summary.html

The Girls Next Door- Career Dazed

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I watched an episode of The Girls Next Door, a show on E! that follows Hugh Heffner’s three girlfriends in their life after being on the cover of Playboy. Many of the shows on E! strive to reveal the lives and stories of celebrities to the world, and in the case of the Heffner girls, their goal is to create humor by drawing from many of the preconceived notions the general public has about Playboy models. The episode I watched was called “Career Dazed? and focused on the girls’ career aspirations of modeling, acting, jewelry designing, and broadcast journalism. Unlike other dating reality shows, the three women featured in this show are not competing for the affection of the bachelor, who is actually only separated from his wife and celebrating his eightieth birthday, but they are content with sharing a romantic relationship while they’re just really good friends with each other. The three women seem to take on specific roles in the house as defined during the opening credits. The first, Holly, plays the role of a cheerleader turned glamour girl, the second, Brigit, a scholarly graduate turned domestic housewife, and Kendra, a tomboy type athlete turned teenage brat. The opening credits to the show are very animated with bright colors and the characters resemble bobble-heads creating an image of something unbelievable and incredibly superficial despite the fact that it’s considered to be reality TV. The music and sound affects added into the scenes contribute to the atmosphere and attitude that the director is trying to convey, such as music that would fit a 50’s family sitcom to create the mood of a happy, traditional home despite the irregular family life and excess wealth as well as using climactic music to bring drama to normally uneventful affairs, creating satire and entertainment for the audience.
As the girls gain more and more recognition and are given the opportunity to excel in their “careers? as public reality TV figures, the message becomes clear that being beautiful is all it takes to succeed in life. All three women have long, platinum blonde hair and Barbie-like figures that are perfected through tanning and makeup. While they are exploring various interests, Brigit mentions that she has a master’s degree in communication studies and explores her new opportunities of broadcast journalism. Rather than highlighting her talents however, they show every mistake and retake necessary to prove that despite college degrees she really is still just a dumb blonde Playboy model. Kendra, the youngest of the three has admittedly the least aspiration towards a career outside the world of modeling and speaks of her enjoyment in being able to have fun while she’s young. However, once again they take what she says in front of the camera, editing it to match what they record her doing at other times, such as having dog responsibilities (showing it her “pimp cane?), doing things she doesn’t want to do (taking a shower when she’d rather continue prancing around in her underwear), and of course her goals (getting a grill so she can be more “gangsta?). However, when she is in a photo shoot for muscle magazine, she is told that she was chosen because they needed someone with personality because the body builder she’s paired with seems to have nothing much past the physical, doing what they can to draw stereotypes of models in general this time (anything he says is inaudible or not included in the cut). Of course during the shoot itself, the photographer makes it clear just how important the physical is as he constantly gapes at Kendra and compliments her perfect body.
As Alison Graham-Bertolini states in the article Joe Millionaire as a Fairy Tale: A Feminist Critique, “Editing convincingly establishes that the women consider this opportunity more important than anything else in their lives. Their degrees, careers, and loved ones are marginalized for the chance to accomplish what is being touted as women’s primary objective, marriage? (Graham-Bertolini, 342). In the same way, the three women in The Girls Next Door are edited in a way that mocks their career goals as something unnecessary and something they are generally incapable of anyways. Instead, they're presented as three "girls" who would really prefer to frolic around in lacy pink underwear with their 80-year-old boyfriend and that the idea of doing something that interests them is just a silly, dismissive idea that Hugh allows them to indulge despite how unrealistic it is.

Reality TV

Last night I watched an episode of America’s Next Top Model. (As a few people have also written about this show, I will forgo an explanation of the premise.) What I find different about this show compared to other Reality TV shows is that the girls are competing for a job, so the whole show is sort of like a weird prolonged job interview. In this way, I do not think that the show is quite as humiliating as others--Fear Factor for example, in which people do and eat outrageous things for money. In the article on RTV in our course packet by Ross & Moorti, they discuss how participation in RTV programs is a form of humiliation. While not to the extent of other shows, humiliation is still seen in America’s Next Top Model. The whole show is basically revolved around the bodies of women, and for some, this focus could be embarrassing, but for the girls who would apply for this show, they take pleasure in being looked at. The humiliation really comes in at the end of each episode when they stand before a panel of “experts? and are judged based on their bodies, faces, and photographs. At the mercy of these experts, the girls will take all the harsh comments that the panel dishes out and are expected to be grateful for the opinions of such esteemed individuals. It is sad to see women being so blatantly judged based on their bodies, and I hate to think of the message this show is sending young girls who watch it.
One thing that stuck out for me in watching this show was the fact that two of the contestants are just 18 years old. They are twins (one of which was kicked off), and it was just said in passing that they are only 18. (I am not sure of the ages of any other participants) But this seemed sad to me because these are really just young girls who are thrown into this demanding, critical situation. It is worrisome that their bodies are such a focus at this young of an age, because they might not always be so thin yet they put so much value on their appearance.
One other thing that I have thought about in regard to this assignment: Many people will say “Reality? TV, putting quotes around “reality? as if it is not actually real. While I have done this too and definitely understand how so many “reality? shows are far from the reality that most people live, I think there is something to be thought about in the fact that this truly is reality for the contestants of these shows. Even though the shows are made for entertainment and so much editing takes places that what the viewer sees is a manipulated product, the participants in these shows are in fact living these experiences and this is their own reality, this is their life…just something I have thought about.

Elimidate

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We are all guilty of watching at least one reality TV show during our lifetime. Since I have started college I have not had much time to watch much TV, but during high school and during the summer, before I had a job, I watched them constantly. The ones I enjoyed most were makeover shows. But I watched shows from Extreme Makeover to Fear Factor. And when I was in the early years oh high school, I watched a lot of dating shows- the one I watched most often was Elimidate. So I decided to visit my younger days by watching another episode of that for this assignment. And looking back at that I hope I only watched it because there was nothing else on. So here is how it works, the show starts out with four flawless looking girls and one guy, and the point of the show is for the guy to eliminate one girl every round so he can be with the last one (the girl he likes out of the four). So the whole time you are watching four, skinny, barely dressed girls competing for this one man’s attention. There are two things wrong with this picture; one, the TV show attracts the attention of a young audience like me in high school, and it presents the idea that you need to look a certain way (skinny and flawless) and you need to dress a certain way (barley dress at all) in order to gain a man’s attention and approval (as if your existence depended and revolved around that). Second, is showed beautiful women going out of their way to please a guy. Basically the point was not to be eliminated, so they were to do anything that the man asked to stay in the game. If that meant it was necessary to strip and get into a hoot tub with a man and three women you did not know, then so be it. If it meant making out with the guy on demand, then that’s what you have to do. So it taught young girls to do what is necessary to get that one man you are after, even if it means degrading or humiliating yourself.
The women on this show were usually white, skinny, with nice hair, flawless skin, and perfect teeth. They were usually very scantly dressed to show off their “perfect? bodies in order to impress the one man they are trying to get. The men on the show were usually between the average to good-looking range and, of course, were pleased with the idea that multiple women are competing for their affection and would bend over on demand. It portrayed women as weak and slave like (that they have to correspond with the man’s every demands). It is even more disturbing when these women got into fights over the man. One particular episode, one woman got out of her seat and went to spell her drink on another one because the man asked her to do something daring and that woman was bothering her. In another episode two women got into a fight and one of them tells the other that she is not going to take her seriously because she is fashion retarded for wearing white after labor day; are you serious, all that for some guy. Just like Marla Harris said in Gender Trouble in Paradise (Hotel), or a Good Woman is Hard to Find “…women are readily typecast by fellow contestants as bitches, flirts, sluts, and nags.? Imagine how many girls actually watched this in high school? What kind of message did they receive, be a slave to male dominance?

The Real World - Denver

http://www.mtv.com/ontv/dyn/realworld-season18/series.jhtml
I watched the first episode of the 2006 “The Real World? – Denver on MTV. “The Real World? was created for MTV by Jon Murray and Mary-Ellis Bunim of Bunim-Murray Productions and Jon Murray serves as the Executive Producer. Jim Johnston and Joyce Corrington serve as Co-Executive Producers of “The Real World: Denver.? Drew Tappon and Jacquelyn French are executives in charge of production. The Real World is a reality show about “7 strangers living in one house? with different personalities and beliefs. The punch line of the show is to “find out what happens when people stop being polite? to each other. I have 2 categories for the reality shows: the “real? reality TV and the “constructed? reality TV. In my opinion “The Real World? qualifies as the constructed reality because of the amount of editing required. Interestingly, there were no names of the camera or editing crew to be found. I feel that the show has gained this much exposure mostly because of the efforts of the camera and the editing crew. These 7 strangers live in a house with cameras located everywhere, leaving them no privacy. Their days are taped 24/7 and that’s when the editing crew steps in to piece together an episode. They have to take hours and hours of footage and determine what they should include in the 30-45 minutes that will air. This is where the “construction? of reality begins. The camera crew accompanies the cast where ever they go. When the cast mates go clubbing is when the crew uses hand held cameras – to be able to keep up with the events. I find it interesting that whenever there is conflict – it will air. Sometimes we even see how things are taken out of context through editing. We will never know the “real? cast mates – we will only see them in the way that the producers want to portray them to us and what sells in our controversial world. From the bars they go to, to the clothes they wear – the cast mates are coached or provoked to unknowingly frame themselves as a certain personality. The only chance we have to get to know them is the “confessional? style room. This is where the member of the cast can come to, lounge on comfy pillows, and have a heart to heart with a camera. I believe it is even more complex from there because the camera serves as a therapist. But the gaze of the camera is the gaze of the audience – that member of the cast lets us into his/her personality and issues. Further, that same cast mate lets us use their gaze onto the other cast mates. We, as an audience, use their gaze to see what that cast mate sees in their roommates. I think it is a very complex exchange of looks because every cast mate gives the audience a chance to do that. In the same sense our gaze is persuaded by theirs.
So, we meet the cast of “The Real World? – Denver. In the premiere episode, Colie, Jenn, Tyrie, Alex, Brooke, Davis, and Stephen move into their fabulous new house in Denver and waste no time getting to know each other. I have noticed that all Real World seasons have a basic recipe for a conflict. You have Brooke, the southern belle; Jenn, the “crazy?, anything goes, ex-cheerleader; Colie, the girl that likes to party and make out; Tyrie, the large black male with great sports ability; Stephen, a conservative, very religious, anti-homosexual black male, Alex, the hot white playboy; and finally, as Tara Kachgal said: “Look at The Real World. There's always a gay teen on there." - The white, homosexual, religious male – Davis. The stage is set for conflict right off the bat when Alex hooks up with Colie and Jenn in the first 48 hours. And things heat up when Stephen tells Davis he thinks it’s wrong to be gay. In this episode MTV has stepped up and is focusing on the relation of religion and homosexuality since that was the main point of the first episode. The problem I am having with this is that the presence of a homosexual in this house is supposed to be normal and accepted since MTV launched its anti-discrimination platform in 2001. But that is not the case. Even Davis himself is uncomfortable to come out to his cast mates and essentially remains in the closet. Before he was put on the spot with a question, he was willing to hide his sexual orientation so no one else was uncomfortable to live with him in this house. Even Brooke, from the beginning of the show kept asking who was gay. As she put it: “It is more fun and interesting if someone is gay. I am disappointed that no one is."
I am disappointed that, as an audience, including myself, we have come to the point where unless there is someone on the show can be humiliated or rejected for something they are or they believe in - it is not fun or interesting for us to watch. I had a psychology professor that once told me that as humans, we are afraid of not being accepted for who we are and because we can witness on TV what happens in certain situations, we can choose to be ourselves or not. So what kind of an example is The Real World to us that instead examining the relationships between strangers, we are willing to sacrifice our own beliefs so we can feel normal by watching someone that is not like us be rejected in front of the whole nation? Tara Kachgal describes “The Real World? as: “The absence of overt television portrayals has reproduces youth homosexuality as deviant and other, achieving what some term, symbolic annihilation."
I think the biggest issue with shows like this one is that teens that are watching them can be persuaded by them tremendously. A gay teen may have watched this episode and felt ashamed of being gay because it was not accepted by some of the cast mates, and more importantly, it was not fully accepted by Davis. According to bell hooks we need to look closely at motivational representation. From my understanding, everything we see - from still pictures, to reality shows, and to the movies – is shown to us for a reason. Someone is “buying? what they portray. We have to be critical of how we choose to use that representation because someone always creates it.

Flavor of Love

I don't generally watch reality tv, partly because I don't have cable, but also because I find most of it to be uninteresting and trashy. However, one show that I actually did watch more than 5 minutes of is Flavor of Love. The premise of the show is a typical Bachelor type show, but instead of the normal bachelor, it features Flava Flav. On the Bachelor, the man who is the bachelor is rich and attractive with a wide appeal. On Flavor of Love, Flava Flav is a not very well known musician who is known more for his eccentricities than his music. He is not very attractive, he is short and wears strange clothing, but somehow VH1 found a group of women who want to date and even marry him. Flavor of Love is a warped version of the Bachelor, but whether it is trying to emulate or mock the Bachelor is unclear. Certainly the format is similar, but the people make it more comedic than romantic. Many of the women who are trying to be with Flav are pathetic and strange. Why they are attracted to him is not clear. As far as celebrities go, Flava Flav is not that famous, sucessful or rich. If Flav is just considered as a normal guy, he is far from handsome and does not seem intelligent or cultured. The only thing he has going for him is that he is somewhat famous and rich and seems to be a nice guy. As in the Humiliation article by Mendible, the humiliation of these women is clear. They are portrayed as strange for even wanting to be on the show and marry Flav. On top of this there are the typical fights over Flav that occur on most bachelor shows, which seem even more pathetic because they are fighting over Flava Flav. Many of the women seem so desperate to be with anyone that they would do anything to be with Flav. Mendible says that a trait of humiliation in reality tv is that, "the victim is made passive and conscious of the humiliating act, while perpetrators must be aware of the victim's condition and derive satisfaction from it." (336) Everyone on the show is aware of the humiliation going on, Flava Flav, the women and the writers/producers. Not surprisingly Flav enjoys the humiliation when they are fighting over him, and the women enjoy seeing others be humilated as long as its not them. When fights ensue many of the women stand back and smile. Not only is this show humiliating for the women because of embarassing situations like fighting, but the fact that they have no choice but to like this unattractive man and fight over him is demeaning. The women have no agency and can't decide during the show that once they get to know Flav that they aren't interested in him, they must fight blindly for him. Obviously they do have a choice, the choice to be on the show or not, but once they decide to be on it they must play along. Like the Bachelor, Flavor of Love perpetuates gender stereotypes and encourages a heterosexual norm, but in addition to this it humiliates women even more by having them compete over someone not especially desirable.

Role reversal on Laguna Beach

I will admit that Laguna Beach is a guilty pleasure of mine. The show starts with a black screen that tells the audience “the events and the drama are real?. Aside from the opening proclamation, you would never know that the show is reality. The show is missing one of the key stamps of reality TV, the confessional. At no point do the characters acknowledge that they are being filmed. The audience is supposed to feel as though they are simply observing the lives of the rich and fabulous teens of a hip California city. The full title of the show is ‘Laguna Beach: The Real OC?. The show came out about a year after the OC had been in syndication. I am guessing that this was MTV’s shot at bringing back the audience they may have lost because of The OC’ s popularity. It seemed to work. Laguna Beach has had a very similar following. The show is shot almost as if it is The OC. On of the markers that it is not are the titles that flash across the bottom of the screen to inform the audience whose drama they are watching. The main characters Kristin, LC and Stephen get the privilege of just their name popping up when they enter a scene. The rest of the cast is always labeled in relationship to these characters. Lo is always presented and Lo: LC’s friend. My personal favorite was Dieter: Stephen’s wingman. The show is shot like a sitcom, with typical MTV tunes in the background. It caters to the chic dream of living a stylish west coast lifestyle. Being rich without being famous.

I think the reason I enjoy the show so much is because of Kristin's character. Kristin, like the majority of the shows characters, is self absorbed and superficial. What I like about Kristin is she is refreshingly honest (in Laguna Beach terms) and she has a sort of no nonsense attitude. Men drive almost all of the main female characters on the show. Characters like LC, and Jessica spend each episode obsessed with boys, how boys see them, what they can do to make boys happy and what girls they will need to step on to get to the boys. These girls accept mistreatment and humiliation from the boys on the show, in hopes of getting back together and winning their affections. Time after time Jessica's boyfriend cheats on her, or is simply mean to her, and yet she always runs back to him, even if they are broken up. This makes the show very frustrating to watch. As a woman it is painful to see the things girls do to themselves and others for guys, especially guys who clearly do not care about them.

Kristin on the other hand reverses these stereotypes. She drives much of the story. Guys are always vying for her attention and when she is sick of a guy then she is sick of the guy. Through much of the first season Kristin determines the course of the relationship between her and Stephen, while Stephen determines his relationship with LC. Although Kristin is sometimes mean insensitive and promiscuous, she presents a refreshing opposite to the passive and submissive female characters. Although Kristin can be selfish, mean and insensitive she, like the boys, gets away with it. Kristin’s character represents a rise in gender equality. She is able to handle her sexuality the way men have for many years. Marla Harris discusses gender equality and sexual liberation. She sites that other shows, such as “Paradise Hotel? feature women who are driven by their own sexuality and will step on anyone they can to get what they want. This reality TV show depicts a young woman who is funny, beautiful, and well liked behaving in the way she wants to. She is in control of her sexuality and relationships. Although the setting leaves something to be desired, the show is a small step in the right direction in terms of feminine sexuality.

What Not to Wear

Have you ever heard the term “Fashion police?? Growing up, it was often used in my house when my dad would wear things that made him look un-kept, and not flattering. Hosts Stacy and Clinton of the television show What Not to Wear can be considered fashion police for Americans today. While watching and analyzing an episode over the weekend, they made some interesting comments and helped a woman improve her self esteem.

The woman on the episode I watched, Christina, was in her late 30’s but “tried dressing like she was still 20.? She was in need of assistance with improving her style. With the help of the show, she walked away with a new sense of pride and power. Stacy, Clinton, and the rest of the What Not to Wear staff helped this lady immensely. They started by analyzing her outfits from the past couple weeks. While watching the videos they had of her and going through her clothes, she realized that some of the things she wears are not flattering to her. It was never the case that they brought her self esteem down; they were very helpful and always had productive criticism.

After Christina discovered her style could use an adjustment, What Not to Wear was more than helpful in finding her clothes that were figure flattering, stylish, and comfortable for Christina. They took into consideration her personal style interests but explained to her why some things are not appropriate in certain situations. Instead of only criticizing Christina, Stacy and Clinton were helpful and made productive comments. They also overcame an issue that is largely at hand in today’s society. As discussed in the “Introduction: Gender and the Plus Size Body,? society is trying to accept every size. But Sujata Moortia and Karen Ross say different, what in my opinion is really the case.

“To me it seems clear that “size acceptance? is limited only to the “average? rather than to all sizes…And yet there are surely many women like Wann, whose weight is no physical impediment, but whose bodies are deemed “unacceptable.??

Stacy and Clinton do a good job of accepting Christina’s body shape and helping her feel good about herself as opposed to making her feel like she needs to change.

Where some might criticize What Not to Wear, they do a good job at empowering women and helping them feel better about themselves. Watching this episode and others in the past, the end of the show is almost always positive. The women feel great about themselves in real life situations, not just when going to a party or a big event. They often end up having a new feminine side they are often excited to show off to their friends and family. They have a new appreciation for themselves and have confidence that was not present before their makeover. To be able to have self confidence is one of the most difficult things for women in today’s society. What Not to Wear helps many women overcome the low self esteem some say they have or simply give those that do not have low self esteem extra confidence they did not know they had within them.

Project Runway: Season 2//Zulema Griffin

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‘Project Runway’ has typically been called an “un-reality? reality television program since it purports to be a contest literally based upon one’s skill, yet it is also a reality television program intrinsically bound up in the industry itself – that is, whatever skill you may have, you have to be marketable, and marketable to a specific audience that ranges from Nicky Hilton to the “sophisticated? women who shop at Banana Republic. As if it’s not blatant, the marketable audience is a white audience. Therefore when I saw several reruns of the second season, I paid specific attention to the token black designer, Zulema Griffin; it may also be key to note that Griffin is a dark-skinned black woman, not light-skinned. To note: Asian women are often featured, though they are edited to appear docile, hardworking, and relatively silent (Season 2 winner Chloe Dao had perhaps one sequence, which focused on her feelings on being referred to as a "patternmaker (aka seamstress)" rather than a designer – so despite her chops, which garnered her the win, she was not flashy enough to be a persona of note). It is two specific episodes that I think embody the idea that a television program bound up in fashion, where black womens’ bodies are commodified as objects, it is the occupation of the creative position that dredges up messy questions of gender, race, sexuality, and class, and how the reality machine works to create biased, contrived portraits of their contestants.
In doing some background work on Griffin, I discovered an interview she did with The Advocate in which she talks about how her lesbianism was completely written out of the show, yet, when she applied as a contestant, they required dating history “10 years back.? She stated not thinking it was of any import whether she was a lesbian or not, but in the assumption that the male contestants on season 2, including Tim Gunn, their mentor/critic, and Michael Kors, one of the mainstay panel judges, there is no shying away from the fact that there is an unspoken norm that gay men seem to inherently “belong? in the fashion industry. In a telling scene, Griffin is pitted as hooks’ “Sapphire? (hooks, 202) against fellow contestant, and gay man, Nick, wherein he continually refers to her as a “bitch? for stealing his model. In yet another episode, Griffin is teamed with fellow white female designer, Kara, and Griffin’s incessant nagging and hard-assing reduces her to tears, and near inability to function. In short, rather than being played off to soften an [absent] black man, Griffin was shored up as a controlling Sapphire, and relentless at that; however, it seems merely to me that she is forced to fight to be taken seriously as a black lesbian designer in an industry that wants their designers largely white, and often men, and their gay designers almost solely in the form of white men.
The episode in which Griffin is “Auf-ed,? the challenge is to use “inspiration? to make a garment. She photographs a black woman on the street wearing a dashiki, and utilizes the inspiration of African form and tradition to make a dress. She is chastised for its “frumpiness,? stating that it doesn’t – altogether now! – make the model look thin[ner], as it just a "sack (aversion to not specifically Euro-Western design)" and is therefore criticized for being technically inferior. Tim Gunn states that her failure was in using “another dress? as her inspiration, rather than something wholly new (denying the meaning behind her inspirational choice as a black woman). The most telling parallel for me in explaining this aspect of design is in the 3rd season when Michael, the token black designer and crowd favorite (as opposed to Griffin as Sapphire), is continually told that his skill is in “sportswear,? and that he shouldn’t bother with “evening wear.? This brings up the argument Ann duCille makes in saying that the “Black ain’t yar; it’s yo,’? and that the black body “is quintessentially cast(e) as...the ‘low-Other.’? (duCille, “The Colour of Class: Classifying Race in the Popular Imagination,? 412) In short, Griffin was in a way doomed to be relegated to designing street wear at best, and her attempts at high fashion, or haute couture were misunderstood because it is simply unimaginable to think of couture as anything but white (it was the couture challenge that nearly “Auf-ed? Michael). (Ibid, 410)
To speak of lesbianism for a moment, if “fashion? without any addendums is read in part as gay, what would lesbian fashion look like? According to Guy Treaby of the NY Times, “It is the subtle incorporation of butch femme dualities...into mainstream fashion that most clearly signals the influence of gay women in the garment industry,? and the mixing of “street and high-end fashion,? creating a “tomboy glamour.? (Treaby, “The Subtle Power of Lesbian Style,? 1-2) It is the same trite notion that being gay implies being able to draw equally from masculinity and femininity, and that gay/lesbian fashion will be a natural incorporation of the two: yet, while lesbian designers (I’m assuming these lesbians are white) are apparently working over womenswear to make it meatier, gay designers (at least on PR) are given free reign to glam up women (since menswear is not part of the competition in general). So, where does Griffin fit into this industry? In my mind, the competition gives her a canned role as a controlling black woman unwilling (or incapable) to sway to the demands of the show and its prescribed “level? of design, yet it also seems a result of simply, not quite knowing what to do with her. If high fashion is so strictly white, male, and by extension gay, then where is a black woman lesbian identity to fit? Relegated again to the lower echelons, she is booted off the show as an example of the ‘low-Other’ whose inability to ‘pass,’ or fit into codified notions of the industry, simply cast her aside.

The Real World: Austin

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Over the Thanksgiving break I spend about 30 minutes watching an old rerun of The Real World: Austin. Their show starts off by an introduction which claims that “this is the true story of seven strangers picked to live in a house and have their lives taped. Find out what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real.? In my personal opinion I thought the show was extremely superficial in regarding to how “real? their lives were suppose to be. The show to me is very phony because a lot of what we see on T.V is edited to make it look like it all happened in a certain timeline. All the houses have cameras everywhere, and there's a clause in the contract of each housemate that says they're not allowed to go places where the cameras are not allowed in. Having cameras everywhere, I would assume that everyone puts on a certain act. Anyway in the show, there was a lot of drama, arguing, fighting, bitching, sex with strangers and drunkness. Throughout the show, the seven people living in the house demonstrates the concept that gender is indeed socially constructed and performed through their behaviors, how they carry themselves, what they wear, how they speak and what they do.

The episode that I watched was basically about one girl by the name of Johanna who is unclear about her love between Wes and a local bartender. On the subject matter of gender performance, Johanna was always emotional and did a lot of crying because she didn’t really know what she wants whereas Wes was always aggressive and acted tough and masculine. This image represents the stereotypes that women are weak and fragile whereas men are strong and stable.

Whenever going out, all the girls (except for one) are dressed in short mini-skirts, revealing tops and in high heels. The girl who didn’t wear such clothing (whose name is Lacey) was obviously the least popular one in the house and she is what I would consider to fall in the category of cultural imperialism. As Iris Marion Young stated in The Scaling of Bodies and the Politics of Identity, “cultural imperialism consists in a group’s being invisible at the same time that it is marked out and stereotyped.? Lacy is consider as deviant or the other just because she isn’t girly and feminine enough and as a result the guy in the house find her to be ugly and unattractive (hence the fact that all the other girls have some sort of relationship/bond with the guys in the house except for her). Regarding to look, The Real World has never hire a girl who is fat for the show and it seems like the show is always trying to add at least one person of color (tokenism) to downplay diversity. All in all, throughout the show it’s evident that the girls act in a different way from the guys. The girl being girlish and the man being manly. This goes to prove that the way people act reinforce their gender status as what it is to be a women or a men and as Tara Kachgal quoted “like talk shows, reality television potentially puts into questions rigid orthodoxies supporting “proper? gender and sexual identities? (The Real World).


dr. 90210h my pedagogy

Shocked really doesn’t describe my feeling towards the way this reality television show projects beauty-- ashamed might come close, but appalled would be much more accurate.
This show follows two doctors, Dr. Ray and Dr. Diamond, through their patriarchal practices in Beverly Hills as they help their patients become ‘normal,’ and ‘perfect.’
What is considered perfect inside this fabricated TV. world is disgusting-- both the doctors home lives (which are detailed to fill time during the show) are mirrors of this negative image. For example, multiple times throughout the episode Dr. Ray makes note of his ‘93 pound’ wife as genetically blessed, then continues to ignore her on all other fronts. She is merely there to give the show one more pretty face, or perhaps attract viewers by displaying the humiliation caused by her marriage-- either way her role in the episode causes a saddened headshake. Dr. Diamond makes less of a show of his trophy wife, but in this episode he was trying to convince her to quit her job (also a practicing physician) so she could stay home and take care of their childless new house. This show screams backward, and reflects the increasing problems our society has with how they look.
The two people actually receiving surgery procedures were west coast exotic dancers. They both felt the surgeries would increase the amount of money that they made at work by giving them the ability to feel sexier and more confident on stage. Jay wanted his nose straight, and Liz wanted new breast implants. Both patients were coerced by their doctors into a larger procedure than originally planed. For Jay it was a new chin, and for Liz it was a much bigger implant than she had planned on.
It made sense to read that the number of plastic surgery procedures has increased over the past twenty years, but I couldn’t believe how much. According to the Bordo article the number of annual procedures in ’89 was around 700,000 while twelve years later that number had jumped to 8.5 million. She attributed the increase to the willingness of doctors to commit procedures purely for aesthetic reasons, and not actual health benefits. The way Dr. Ray and Dr. Diamond push their practice of perfection on their patients reflects that trend.
Even without a barrage of tasteless commercials and advertisements, Dr. 90210 pumps an unrealistic, unhealthy, and unobtainable body image onto its viewers. What I want to know is why people are tuning into such a show? Is it actually believed that this type of entertainment has no effect on people? Look at what happened in Fiji-- look what is happening here. The correlations are not hard to make, but the public continues to tune in. WHY?

blog augmentation:::

okay, so I watched this episode two more times in order to catch some of the context and form aspects of it and now I'm even more disgusted with TV than before. As far as filmic construction goes, I noticed that all the shots in-between scenes where either of expensive cars, or headless skirts gyrating down the beverly hills sidewalk. Also, the time spent telling the story of the female dancer was over twice that of the time spent telling the back-story of the male dancer. I guess cop uniforms and latin spandex don't get the ratings that pole lessons and censor blurs do.... or is there something else going on here??
This led me to wonder about context-- who was benefiting from this show, and it was quite interesting to find out that at the end of this atrocity of an episode no credits rolled. Are the producers embarrassed? Are the writers ashamed?
Fortunately for me I am now finished with this assignment and can once again go back to ignoring all the mind mutation that goes on between viewer and television screen. However, I thought I'd leave this electronic space with two quotes just to document why I turn my head from primetime.

dr. diamond in regard's to jay's nose:

" your chin is a little bit weak, i think an implant would really give you a more masculine look"

dr. rey in regard's to liz's chest (okay i have two for him because this guy was wacked out)

(while liz is under the knife) "just look at how ugly that is... ugly. ugly. ugly."
(post surgery interview) "in about a month liz's swelling will go down, and she'll have that really beautiful seventeen year old look"

WHAT THE YUCK!!!!-- and i'll just leave it at that.

Model Humiliation

Myra Mendible, in “Humiliation, Subjectivity, and Reality TV,? writes that in 1996, Avaishai Margalit said, “humiliation involves treating human beings as if they were ‘merely things, tools, animals, sub-humans, or inferior humans.’? In “America’s Next Top Model,? the contestants could not fit this definition more perfectly. They are not “people? (although Tyra’s infrequent bonding/therapy sessions with the girls may have you think otherwise). They are “models.? They are there to stretch and morph and make-up their bodies and faces until they look like a product, a tool, for selling clothes. They are told throughout the series, by judges, photographers, and fashion designers, that they are “canvases,? blank slates, there to be molded into the client’s vision, regardless of the actual person and emotions and intellect beneath the skin. They are tools. The means to an end.

And they are often humiliated. Alessandra Stanley wrote in the New York Times in 2002, “humiliation is the unifying principle behind a successful reality show.? In “America’s Next Top Model,? the contestants are constantly shown as stupid, inept, and odd, despite being recognized for a perceived beauty. In front of judges, they’re critiqued for not having enough personality. For making a biting comment to a photographer. For being too “porn-star looking? or “boring? or “adolescent.? In photo shoots, where they’re made to pose in painful looking, odd, poses, sometimes in front of wide animals, like a bull, which often causes them to run in fear, and appear idiotic on screen. When learning how to walk down a runway, they’re laughed at and made fun of when their walks aren’t up to par. And the viewers, along with the show’s judges, often laugh along, enjoying watching these “beautiful? women display their imperfections, thus making the audience feel better about themselves.

The women are also blatantly ranked, in a “scaling of bodies? that is, ultimately, the point of “America’s Next Top Model.? Not only do the judges rank the contestants bodies, but in Episode 10, of season seven, the models are asked to point out, in front of each other, which model they think has the most and least potential. In this way, the contestants are forced to rank and demean each other, a move that causes distress for the women who live and work together on the show, and ultimately, more drama for the viewers at home to salivate at.

Reality TV "The Girls Next Door"

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The Reality TV show entitled “The Girls Next Door? is a show in which cameras follow around three playmates, Bridget, Kendra, and Holly, as they live their lives in the playboy mansion. All three of the women are about the same height, have long smooth and shiny blonde hair and have all admitted to having boob jobs. The three playmates act like they are ‘above’ everyone else in the sense that they are the queens of their castle, the playboy mansion. The three women have three different personalities. Bridget is the girly girl who loves the color pink, cute little animals, and talks in a very high pitch voice. Kendra is the athletic girl who loves to talk about sports and can be seen as the “bitchy? girl who is often times complaining. Holly is the “housewife? type girl who wears pearls and acts as a mother figure to the other two girls and is shown to be actually dating Hefner. Even though the women are shown to be more then one dimensional, none of the women cook, do any housework or work of any kind so they can be seen to be utterly ‘useless’ without their looks which is the only thing that the women need to worry about. The main thing that these three women have in common is that in the show they are constantly showing off their bodies in some form or another in every outfit that they wear, which illustrates the shows dominant male gaze. To sum up the type of people that are on the show these four main characters all share the same intersectionality by being all white, rich, and straight. Iris Marion Young’s article “The Scaling of Bodies? is a perfect article to explain this TV show’s situation of narrowing down the ‘acceptable’ appearance of women to a slim minority. The three women are shown as the perfect example of what sexy women ‘should’ look like and how in effect these women should act. There are no women on the show that are above as size 4 in pant size and below a C-cup in bra size. The way that these women are ranked is only on the appearance of their bodies. Even though Bridget, Kendra, and Holly are each shown to have different personalities whenever Hefner is in the room all the women kiss him, smile at him, and agree with whatever he says or tells them to do. The episode that I chose to watch was one called “Fight Night? in which the playboy mansion hosts a night of boxing matches and invites all kinds of sports people and celebrities. During “Fight Night? the women literally transform into objects or animals (the bunny) when they put on their bunny costumes and pose for the cameras while holing signs that say “Round One? or “Round Two? of the boxing match. In one scene where a male sports star approaches Hefner to shake his hand he completely blows of the three women even when they look at him and smile as they shake his hand. The ironic part of this scene was that Hefner had no idea who the man was and Kendra the sports fanatic had followed this man’s career and was just dying to meet him. However since Kendra was a playboy bunny the man obviously treated her as an unimportant object and passed her by in order to talk to Hefner. Another aspect of this episode is that the outer appearance of the women boxers and the playboy bunnies are bluntly compared when Hefner’s old girlfriend from the 60’s says to her sex therapist, “Are those girls?? while pointing to the women boxers. This section of the show sends the message that if you don’t look like a playboy bunny then you will be assumed to be more masculine then feminine. In this episode along with appearance discrimination there is age discrimination. Hefner admits to not dating women over the age of 24. This sends a message to the viewer that being young is always seen as better then being older because men like younger women better than older women. Another aspect of the show is that no males are shown on screen unless there is an attractive woman in the same shot. This further proves the male gaze dominates the show’s production.
The film theory aspects of the show enhance the beauty of the women. There is always high-key lighting that allows the women’s bodies to be shown off in every shot. There is also some backlighting used in one scene with the playmate Bridget where she is shown as particularly innocent with a halo of light surrounding her long blonde hair coming from an open window in her pink themed room. A Long shot and a medium close-up shot are the main types of camera techniques used. The long shot allows the women’s full bodies to be seen from head to toe and the close-up shot is used during the commentary of the women who talk directly at the camera in a type of interview/diary part of the show where they share their feelings about what is going on at the moment. Medium close-up shots are used rather than close-up shots because the viewer ‘has’ to be able to see the playmate’s breasts in every scene, even in the commentary part of the show. Also a high angle shot is used most often when the playmates are in a scene so that the viewer can see more of the upper cleavage and down into the playmate’s shirts, allowing the viewer to have a voyeuristic gaze. Directive sound or live sound is used because the TV show is shot like a documentary where the cameras follow the subjects around filming them at all times.

Flavor of Love Show

The reality t.v. show I decided to watch was a rerun of the season 2 finale of the Flavor of Love show. For those not familiar with this show, it is about an old rapper named Flavor Flav and he is looking for a girlfriend. There's about 10 to maybe 12 women staying in his mansion with him and they are competing against each other to be his one and only. In the finale, there were two women left, New York and Deelishis. I find this show highly disgusting and a horrible reputation for women. When it comes to the "gaze", it is almost impossible to argue that the gaze is not a male gaze. You can see the camera zooming in on the women's bodies as they are in bathing suits or kissing Flav and on top of him. I also noticed this notion of the Jezebel, which is a concept developed by Kimberly Springer in her article "Waiting to Set It Off". The Jezebel is a slut, whose presence is to only serve the sexual needs of a male counterpart. The women on the show would have sex with Flav. A lot of the women seemed to not care about their bodies or their self-dignity. The black women on the show just further represented the stereotypes in today's society and were a great disappointment to me being that I am a black woman. They were loud, ghetto, and violent, and some portrayed themselves as easy hoes. They represented what Springer also called the Sapphire. Although the show did have some white women in it, I just think it was a further breakdown in the representation of black women. All this show did was further concur society's painting of black women: voluptous body and violent.

America's Next Top Model

While watching America’s Next Top Model earlier this week, I became fascinated and appalled with it. A show about young women competing for a top modeling career, America’s Next Top Model is promoting female self reliance, but in a patriarchal structure based upon an ideal perfection of their greatest asset, the body. Tyra Banks, world famous model, talk show host, and executive producer of the show, mentors these young women on how to make it in the modeling system; giving advice to achieve perfection, she helps build self-esteem and confidence in the girls before each shoot. But soon comes the humiliation in dissection of each girls shoot. I do not believe this humiliation is unnecessary or particularly bad. Each participant is striving to show her full worth for this job; they all knew what they would be in for. As stated in another blog, its like an extended job interview, and the critique is what helps to refine the girls’ skills. Mary Mendible states that one, “ Must know s/he is being humiliated and the perpetrator must be willfully exercising that power.? Tyra as a perpetrator is truly aiding these girls by humiliating them to promote progress, but its unfortunate that it is so harsh; or so it seems. The reality of these RTV shows is not necessarily all that goes on behind the scenes. It is pretty well known that hundreds of hours of footage are taken, and only a fraction are selected to be shown, but this is what makes it interesting for the viewer. The writers and producers of the show tweak the footage to create an engaging drama that will bring in the money. The camera angles, lighting and timeline of final piece are very constructed, giving the viewer a very unreal reflection of the true reality of these girls lives. They are constantly bombarded with cameras (made up of male gazes), exposed to harsh instigated drama between the participants (intended destruction of others) and striving for the title of the ideal beauty(which is all a matter of perspective). “The film image,? as McCabe states, seeks, “to naturalise what is only a projection of patriarchal ideology.? These girls are submitting themselves to the undervaluation of women in order to succeed. Many are forced to give up their morals in order to win the competition based on patriarchal ideology, an ideology in which they will never be the permanent best.

America's Next Top Model

The reality television show that I watched this week was the show America’s Next Top Model. This is a show that takes the desperation of women to become “something big?. This show allows women to humiliate themselves in the hopes that they may become America’s Next Top Model.

As disgusting as this show is to sit through and watch I must admit that I have a strange addiction to it and I must watch this show every week. I really do not understand my obsession with the show because the way it is shown to the audience is something that is suppose to be inspirational to women, but it actually makes you feel kind of horrible about yourself. The show makes you feel horrible about yourself because it shows these women with the impossible body types, yet they are suppose to be real women from around the world that have somehow achieved this perfect body type.

When it comes to the gaze of the show, I believe it is definitely a male gaze. I really do not see this show empowering women, but rather it breaks them down. I have been watching this show for a while and in almost every season that have one “real? woman in the season. One episode from this season they had one girl, Anchal, who was bigger than the other girls on the show, however still a tiny women, and all the other “models? talked about how fat she was and how her body was not good enough to be a model. Another illustration of how this show is shown through a male gaze is the choice of pictures that they take of the girls. In the very first episode of the season there first photo shot was a naked photo shot. The girls had to sit naked in front of the world and directly in front of many individuals they did not know. This sounds somewhat empowering, to the fact they are taking charge of their sexuality, however most were uncomfortable, and when they did not want to do it they had to worry about getting kicked off the show.

Reality TV: Breaking Bonaduce


The reality show I watched was the premiere episode of the second season of Breaking Bonaduce. The show chronicles the relationship between Danny Bonaduce, and his wife Gretchen. Last season Dany was drunk, high, and 'roided up. He went to rehab, and hopefully got his marriage back on track. This episode mostly featured Danny's trip to Mexico, but recaped many off the events of the first season. The highlight being when Danny is enraged that his wife is attending a bachelorette party with male strippers. This is extremely hypocritical, as in addition to the drugs and booze, Danny is also a sex addict, and has cheated on her in the past.
The gaze is used a lot in a scene where they recap Danny almost cheating on his wife the last season. The camera travels around a bar lingering on nearly every scantily clad woman. It is so over the top that for most of the girls you never see their face. The camera pans up and down focusing on their legs and breasts.
Breaking Bonaduce is part of VH-1's Celebreality group of shows. Like most of these shows it was heavily influenced by shows like The Osbournes, and The Surreal Life. These shows are really at their best when the people are acting nuts. At this point these shows are so commonplace on TV, that the crazy antics on all the shows often times seem like performance.
The crazy antics are also lacking in this episode. The second half of the program showed brief clips of how crazy Danny will be in the future episodes. In these scenes Danny is tossed out of the house, only to have Gretchen bring him back. The show portray's Gretchen as a victim of Danny's overbearing personality. This is highlighted in the scene that concludes the show where she and their therapist gang up on Danny for being nuts. I don't know if he ever hit her, but Gretchen seems to have battered wives syndrome, she keeps going on with this loser. I wonder if it is all performance on both their parts. Gretchen plays the part well. The audience sympathy is with her, but why should it be? Clearly it is in her best interest financially to stay with him, the reality show is produced by both of them, and the show only works if he has something to go crazy about (her).
I woulld say that overall that the show does not portray women in the best light. They are either seen as sex objects, or with Gretchen as an almost willing victim in what appears to be an awful marriage.

Real World

I recently watched one of my friends old recordings of an episode of the Real World: Key West, which I haven't seen. I have watched bits and pieces of the show from time to time, but not in a steady manner because I never really got into reality tv. While watching the show, I took notice in the way that all of the characters represent stereotypes that typically clash with the other personalities on the show. In this season of the Real World, there is a group of four guys and three girls. One girl has an eating disorder and is very emotional (she also has an abusive boyfriend), another girl is high maintenance, and the third girl seems extremely independant and opinionated. Amongst the guys, there is a guy that seems opinionated and rebellious, an openly gay guy, a succuessful hispanic student, and another strong willed guy. In the reading by Tara Kachgal, it is stated that almost every season has woven in a gay character. She states "The inclusion of gay and lesbian characters "within the tribe" is politically significant, given the mobilization of neoconservative and neoliberal discourses to construct
sexual minorities as anti-family and anti-child (Lee Edelman 1998)." This is important to look at because it seems that the producers of the show are attempting to appeal to most every group and the inclusion of gay characters is supposed to further come off as being 'real' within the stratosphere of the show. I think some of these personalities were chosen because they would characteristically clash with one another during the show. One of the central themes of this season revolved around Paula, who is the girl that seems to have an eating disorder. She has problems with it throughout the show, and that seems to be prevelant in regards to the gaze. The girl seems to fear the way other people see her, which forces her to harm her body by refusing to eat at times. She is a very emotional character in the show, and she often clashed with John (one of the guys in the house).

The episode I watched was one in which the crew goes out for a night on the town and hits up a local club in Key West. During the night, John is hooking up with a girl at the club when Paula seems to pop up and basically steal the girl away from John. John, being a very opinionated individual himself, takes a great deal offense to this and they clash once they return to their place. The ensuing argument leads to further specualtion about Paula and her problems in her life with her abusive boyfriend. Once she sobers up she basically tells John that she was shielding the girl from him because a part of her wants to protect her. John then declares that he is not her abusive boyfriend and all kind of seems to get well for a while. This is just one example of the many problems that pop up during the course of the show. I think one other idea of feminist theory regarding the gaze deals with the women of the show. This goes for all seasons, but they usually tend to put girls on the show that could be regarded as eye candy for the viewer. This basically ensures that viewers will continue to watch the show and develop a loyal following. All of the girls are different looking, all have different problems and personalities, and they usually have distinctive features that make them stand out to a viewer. This typically goes for guys on the show too, but I think it is more noticable in the females on the show.

The Bachelor: Rome

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The final two "bachelorettes."

My hour of reality television experience was with this season of The Bachelor, in which Prince Lorenzo was down to the last three girls. I found the way the show tries to construct reality very interesting. Many of the women who have already been eliminated act out of their own character just to appeal to the bachelor himself; out of desire to win or to be the best. It seems as though these women are looking for some kind of love, a love from the bachelor, even though it is not real. In addition to this, most men do not date three girls at a time and immediately following, chose the one he will marry and spend the rest of his life with. The thought of how difficult this would be for any person to do supports the fact that the entire construction of the show is very unrealistic. One construction of reality that came close to the actual situation was the interaction with the families of the final three girls. The parents of the women make their best representation of who they are and the true character and personality of each candidate comes out around the people who they were raised around. This particular reality television show has a strong angle of “scaling of bodies?; while observing all of the girls who had been eliminated during the introduction, along with the remaining ones, the similarities were easy to see. All of the girls, except for one Italian, came from the United States and were very beautiful – in the eye of popular culture and media. Each of them had long and shiny blond or brunette hair and a great smile. They were all thin and tall with beautiful eyes, and without a sense of their personalities, didn’t have many distinctions. In each and every episode, all of the women were made up perfectly with the right colors and amount of makeup and the perfect hairdo. In order to emphasize this point, an article written by Gust Yep and Ariana Ochoa Camacho called “The Normalization of Heterogendered
Relations in The Bachelor? contains a very relevant statement that is extracted from the visions of the actual producers of the show. This block quote was taken from page two of this article.

The Bachelor clearly reinforces current US standards of female beauty and objectification of the woman's body. In the first episode, Mike Fleiss, Executive Producer, tells the audience about how the women were selected: "Most importantly, they have to look good in the hot tub." The women undoubtedly submitted to the "tall, young, fit, and thin" beauty standard as one of the participants observed, "All the women are beautiful, gorgeous, and skinny." Although the bachelor typically described the women as "amazingly beautiful" and "extremely intelligent," the show focused on their physical appearance—body shape, clothing, make-up, and hairstyle. The women were mostly presented as objects of the male gaze. This was accomplished through two primary techniques. The first uses visual approaches that scan and scrutinize the women's bodies with the camera focusing on the women's breasts, buttocks, and legs as they dressed, entered and left the pool, or disrobed to catch the bachelor's attention. The second technique utilized plot devices that created situations for the women to expose their bodies such as pajama parties, water rides in an amusement park, and interactions in hot tubs and pools. In a number of these shots, the women's faces were absent or de-emphasized as they became interchangeable body parts for public consumption. On the other hand, reflecting the asymmetrical power relationships, the bachelor's body was hardly the object of scrutiny. The bachelor was presented as the subject of the gaze complete with agency and control of every situation in the show.

Another idea from feminist theory that is brought up in this particular article is the idea of the male gaze. The Bachelor is one of many Reality TV shows that imply a heavy use of the male gaze. The camera is used to focus on the general beauty of the body and face of each woman from the man’s point of view; such as scanning her from her toes to her head. Most scenes are filmed with the camera pointed at the candidate and not at the bachelor himself, unless he is directly speaking at it. Not only this, but many of the scenes are filmed with the women in their bathing suits, especially when the couples are on exotic vacations. If only in real life we were all able to fall in love with the right person for us, no matter who they are or what they look like, on exotic vacations and with all expenses paid.

My Super Sweet 16

The reality TV show that I chose to watch was My Super Sweet 16. I choose this show because I have watched it many times before; I, along with many other female viewers, don’t necessarily like this show, but am somehow drawn in every time it is on. This show is definitely aimed at young girls and women, as most of the people featured are young women (just turning 16). This show features girls that the audience loves to hate; all these girls fit perfectly into the stereotype of “spoiled little rich girl?. They have never had to work a day in their life and their parents pay for their designer clothes and hair styles that cost hundreds of dollars. The particular episode that I watched featured a girl named Nicole, a slightly heavy, but still attractive young girl with long dark hair. The party that she planned had circus performers and professional dancers. Before the party Nicole tries on many dresses, trying to figure out which looks best. She ends up buying four, each one costing thousands of dollars. She does this because she knows that everyone at the party will be looking at her, especially during her entrance into the party, and she wants to look as attractive as possible. This is an interesting representation of the gaze, because Nicole knows that everyone will be looking at her and actually encourages it; she thinks of it as a good thing, unlike many other examples of the gaze that have been discussed. Her mother describes her dresses as “dainty?, and Nicole describes them as “sexy?, both traditionally desired aspects of a woman. After choosing dresses to wear, Nicole flies to Hawaii to have a certain stylist highlight her hair, and then spends hours before the party have professionals apply makeup and style her hair. In the chapter, “Commentary and Criticism Introduction? Karen Ross and Sujata Moorti discuss how Joe Millionare “glamorizes traditional notions of appropriate demeanors for women, and normalizes ideas about roles acceptable for women to assume and the goals women should aspire to.? Although this show is very different from Joe Millionare, I believe it has a similar effect. The girls on this show do not spend money that they earn themselves, but money that a man (at this point in their lives their father) gives to them. These girls do not aspire to become more intelligent, become successful, or do anything important with their lives; they aspire to look pretty and have someone take care of them and continue paying for their designer clothes. In Myra Mendible’s chapter, “Humiliation, Subjectivity and Reality TV? she discusses a survey done by Psychology Today which reported that fans have a desire to see [and imagine] prestige and status. This show allows them to see young girls that have a high status, simply because of their parents’ money. This causes a reaction of jealousy and sometimes hatred from the audience, which the creators of the show take advantage of. They know that the audience loves to hate these girls and that is what brings in the viewers.

... Find out what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real.

It’s been a while since I’ve seen cable television… this assignment was a great opportunity to catch up on my MTV while I was home for break. I ssswatched the Real World: Denver. I used to watch the real world all the time. The great thing about it is that it’s relatively predictable, yet still somehow manages to keep you hooked. It’s been on the air for eighteen seasons and the show is considered to be the leading creation of the "reality television" explosion of today… and not that I’ve watched all eighteen seasons, but I have seen my fair share and I feel the producers have the casting to a science which leads to the inevitable drunken drama. This show is on MTV, which is probably the most watched television of teenagers in the United States, and I don't think that is too big a generalization to say so, which means they have to have a "hit" show. According to an article I read in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel the day after the season premier “The Real World Denver is about seven people from around the country living in a totally cool Denver house designed for fun. From the get-go, they have little more on their minds than getting loaded and, well, sex.? This season we’ve got three girls and four guys. All the members are attractive and in their twenties. This touches one the ideas of Young's "Scaling of bodies" because the girls all are relatively skinny, with long hair, wearing makeup and the guys are athletic with nice bodies. The show contorts to the stereotypical image of what society thinks is "attractive." You’ve also got your minority groups in there, the two black males and the gay guy so that the show isn't considered as "racist" or "prejudiced." The show is essentially about exploiting kids in their twenties to see the reactions of living with complete strangers with different viewpoints on certain subjects for entertainment. The producers want to put people on the show who are attractive for several reasons. One, because they want the cast member to be attracted to eachother. It makes for good television drama which in tern makes for good television content. I feel like people will also be more inclined to watch the show if they are attracted to the cast members as well.

This first episode basically introduces us to the cast members. Throughout the episode, there were several comments, other than the obvious and expected sexual comments, that I found particularly interesting. Brooke, the “cute? southern girl, stated when asked what she thought the rest of the roommates would be like that “there will probably be someone gay because there always is.? And the other was kind of a voice over when all the roommates were introducing themselves in the house by one of the two black males: “I just assumed I was going to be the only black guy in the house.? I thought they were very important, and proved to be later in the episode when Davis is forced to spill the news that he’s the sole gay member of the house during a dinner conversation and his roommate Stephen is offended by that. He confronts Davis saying that he doesn’t agree with him being gay and Davis says it’s not something you choose, just like Stephen didn’t choose being black. It just is. In the article on WebCT by Tara Katchgal “Look at the real world: there’s always a gay teen on there,? it referenced a writing that “argued that The Real World deployed narrative strategies to engender conflict between…? two of the cast members. This can be related to Bell Hooks' idea of "motivated representation," as I feel that this might have been the intentions of the producers and that this was a deliberate result of type casting. We shall see more as the season progresses though.

In a previous post, Nodira Ismoilova discussed the different views of reality shows as either being “real? or “constructed? reality. I agree with the opinion that the Real World is "constructed" reality. Not only for the editing, but also for the intentions of the show. In the past there used to be members on the show under the age of 21 who could not go to the bars. Now all the cast members are conveniently 21 and can legally drink, get drunk and make terrible decisions that they might regret. I think the editing is just a direct result of time constraints and for the purposes of allowing the viewer to follow the plot without the extra everyday activities that don't pertain to the storyline. Although, I guess the editors to get to choose which storyline will be more interesting for the show. I do, however find the camera angles, transitions and smoothness of the editing to be done quite beautifully.

Reality TV Post

Recently I watched an episode of America’s Next Top Model. The show is hosted by Tyra Banks and is about women who want to become models. Each episode they are given a different modeling task. This particular episode they were made into things from the side show at the circus. The point was to make them look ugly and still take good pictures. To add to this drama they all live together in a big house and fight amongst each other often. At the end of each episode they are judged by Tyra and few others and the person that did the worst job with their shoot is kicked off the show and everybody cries for a while. The thing that got me about this show is a look into what modeling actually is. Most of the girls on that show, even the ones that are considered the best, are in my eyes, not as gorgeous as you think when you hear supermodel. The thing that gets me the most is that when they get all made up in fancy clothing and have their pictures taken, the pictures look great. This means too things are going on. The beauty of these women lays on the expensive make-ups and props and that there is a bunch of computer stuff going on after the picture is actually taken. I knew these things were going on but actually seeing it happen really made me realize. The bad part about this is some girls/women are looking at supermodels as role models for how to look. And likewise men look at supermodels as the way they want their wife to look. The problem comes in because there isn’t a possible way for a real person to look like this all the time. It is an impossibility and so some women are striving for something that can not be accomplished. Its fine if they want to make their pictures up all fancy with computers but it is unhealthy for almost everybody to look at.

Dr. 90210, Oh the trouble shows like this cause...

I have always thought that Dr.90210 was possibly one of the most ridiculous shows on television, but after watching an episode critically it got more ridiculous then I thought possible. Dr.90210 is a show that documents people’s journeys through plastic surgery. It begins with the consultation then the procedure, and concludes with the follow up visit. I have watched the show in the past as a way to pass time, or as a show to fall asleep to. This assignment forced me to look at the show critically and all of the negativity the show exudes.
The episode I watched chronicled the journey of two twin sisters who both wanted to get breast enhancement surgery. The episode began with one of the twins coming in for a consultation, then the shot faded out and showed her at home talking to her sister about the surgery. The twins proceed to have a bitter conversation about how if one got enhancement surgery they would no longer be the same, and one may get more attention then the other. The two sisters were already beautiful (at least by the standards society sets) they had long blonde hair, tan complexions, thin bodies, and had very proportionate breasts for their bodies. Needless to say both girls end up getting the surgery, and having breasts put on their bodies that looked absurd.
The whole episode got me thinking about the emphasis society, and women put on the importance of looks and appearance. Why did two sisters who were already attractive have to alter themselves to be confident? In the world of advertising, media and marketing today there is a huge emphasis on beauty, and the importance of being beautiful. It is almost implied that in order to be appreciated, and embraced in society you must be beautiful. The show Dr.90210 just hits this ideal home. It shows men and women, mostly women coming in to see these doctors who they believe can make them more appealing as individuals through cosmetic enhancement. Shows like Dr.90210 are used explicitly to show that people’s insecurities are toyed with and that there is a strong belief especially in America that changing your physical experience changes your worth as a human being.
The episode I watched really brought me back to Iris Marion Young’s article: The Scaling of Bodies and the Politics of Identity. In the article Young discusses bodies, and how society has put together a system of ranking/scaling bodies based on sex, ethnicity, sexual preference, religion, class, etc. this relates to the episode of Dr.90210 I watched because the twins had such a distorted view of what beauty was/is. They were girls who by many societal standards would have been highly regarded based on their appearance alone. They were already included in a group of people who did not have the pressures of racism, classism, and sexism beating down on them. But even with all of the things they had going for them there was a sense of needing more to be better. If they had not had the surgery hey would have felt unacceptable to the world. It is a shame that these pressures exist in society and even sadder that they exist between sisters. It has become trendy to stop by the doctors office in the morning and have a new body/face by the evening. This concept goes against the grain of feminist thought. From my understanding of the material covered thus far in class, feminists are striving for recognition of talent, and of societal worth for women. Shows like Dr. 90210 do nothing but hinder these aspirations. In fact they set them back. Women believe that changing their physical appearance somehow gives them more worth. Women are not giving themselves the credit they deserve. Women should strive for acceptance of their bodies and self, not for a quick fix that leaves them exposed to society as women who could not believe in themselves enough to remain who they are.
There will forever be people whose existence is based solely on their appearance and shows like Dr.90210 help to further distort these people while making networks big bucks.

November 26, 2006

Hogan Knows Best 3: Brooke’s Dating Game



To summarize the episode “Brooke’s Dating Game? Linda (Brooke’s mother) is thinking out loud about whom her 18-year-old daughter should be dating. This thinking out loud turns into a competition between Linda, Nick (Brooke’s brother), and the Hulk. They all try to find the perfect man for Brooke. Not surprisingly Brooke goes with the plan and meets all three men that her family has chosen for her. Nick finds a young, skinny, car-loving guy like himself, Hulk finds an aspiring wrestler, and Linda calls up the 25-year-old model that worked with Brooke on her music video. In the end Brooke goes for the model, again no surprise.
It is probably safe to say that most normal families would not make a competition out of trying to find their daughter a boyfriend, especially at the age of eighteen. But since this is a reality show, and because “RTV viewers place a very high value on both revenge and competition? according to the information Myra Mendible found in a study conducted for Psychology Today and put in her article “Humiliation, Subjectivity, and Reality TV? it would make sense that the Hogan family makes life interesting by turning Brooke’s dating life into a game. Most likely if the Hogan family was not being taped for a reality show, this competition to find Brooke a perfect man would have never even been started. Hulk was not very keen on doing it right after Linda mentioned something. It was not until a little later in the show that he thought it would be fun. What probably changed his mind was a producer saying that they needed something interesting, like a competition, to make a show interesting and worth watching and that he would have to go along with the competition. Because the reality TV show viewers crave competition, especially when it involves relationships and sex, Hulk had to compromise himself and his family to appeal to his audience.
The use of the voyeuristic gaze is very apparent throughout the show. Brooke meets the model third and decides to go on a date with him right away. When she comes back from changing the camera’s pro-filmic event is a shot of Brooke’s tiny black dress and all her skin. What it interesting to note is that Brooke’s father is conservative and doesn’t want his little girl to show much skin, but gradually Brooke wears less and less clothing the show has gone from season to season. Linda does tell Brooke to put some more clothes on, but she only puts on a small shirt. Clothing, or lack of clothing, is a big ordeal in reality TV. In the last scene of the show, Brooke is on the beach with her model boy and he is sweating up a storm. She tells him to take off his shirt and he does. In this scene the voyeuristic gaze has been transferred from Brooke onto the model.
Hogan Knows Best is filled with motivated representations, which are one of the main reasons people watch the show. The Hogan’s family “participation should be seen as a voluntary mode of sanctioned humiliation which they regard as a necessary part of becoming famous for 15 minutes? (Karen Ross and Sujata Moorti, “Commentary and Criticism Introduction)?. Karen Ross and Sujata Moori were commenting on women who are on reality shows to find a husband, but I think it also pertains to the Hogan family because the Hogan family is also humiliating themselves by the way the dress, how they act, and how the treat one another. Overall, this episode was similar to the others because it uses Brooke as an object or even a puppet for the satisfaction of the viewers.
The form of the show, summarized in one word is very "camping." Even Brooke Hogan said that "We're finally having fun as a family. It's sad that a drag show pulled us together" according to the imdb website (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0468996/). Because the show is on VH1, it makes sense that it is cut together with hip music and the scenes are cut together in somewhat of a music video sort of way. The ransitions between shots are of the family members either in fast pace soing something like waving or moving their hips. The graphics are bright orange, red, and other bright colors. The show is filmed with a music video approach. Time is constructed fast paced, probably because if we watched any point of time (scene) for more than 45 seconds we would be board to death. The editing is done in such a way to bring out each family memebers main characteristic. For example any footage they have od Brooke looking like a dumb blonde or showing some skin they put it. Overall the editing follows most of the reality shows that are put on VH1 and MTV.
Occording to Wikipedia, Hogan was offered a reality show "prior to his famous WrestleMania X8 "Icon vs. Icon" match with The Rock in 2002" but he refused. It was only untill he saw what reality shows and TV shows were doing for popstars such as Britney Spears that he decided to do the show to support his daughter Brooke and get her name out there. With this idea in mind, it makes perfect sense that Hogan went along with Brooke's dating competition. Many of the episodes are centered around Brooke and her up and coming career. Hulk probably would not have allowed Brooke to partake in such revealing photo shoots and crazy dating games if it was not for the reality show. I am pretty sure that the Hulk would never let he daughter go out in a pink bra (like the one in the photo above) if it were not for publicity.

Vertigo

I recently watched Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, this movie is said to be one of his best. But it is a perfect example of male gaze and voyeurism but can also be seen as a new one as well. The main character of this film literally stalks a girl for days on end as his detective “job?. Throughout the whole film no one sees anything really wrong with it either. But the film itself plays on this idea of male gaze by switches sides and showing how everyone desires to watch others and be watched in some kind of way. They show this through a unique love triangle where one girl isn’t being noticed and wants to be the object of his lust or “watched?. The other woman knows she is being watched and ends up falling in love with her watcher/stalker. The whole movie leads us to see the main stalker as he focuses all his energy to recreate his love for another women onto his new girlfriend by dressing her in all the same clothes and forcing her to do the same things. Giving us new view of the gaze and voyeurism as human nature and only natural to some extent. The movie doesn’t agree with the objectification of women it shows how it is human nature to want to be desired in one way or another. So the movie puts names and non-cliché characters to the people being watched to create more then just lustfull feelings towards them. All around this movie is pretty good, even it if does have its stalker/misogynistic moments.

The Real World Denver

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VISIT THE MTV REAL WORLD WEBSITE!
This weekend I was reintroduced to cable television at my parent's house and decided to watch the new Real World Denver. This season seems very similiar to the last seasons in that the cast contains at least one homosexual character. Davis is this season's homosexual male castmate from Georgia. Initially, the other cast members assumed that Davis was a typical straight, blonde, frat boy. Until Davis was put on the spot and asked about his sexuality, he kept it quite. Now that he was directly asked in front of everyone, though, he proudly admitted himself gay. Not without explaining the hardship he had gone through the year before in his southern baptist religion and with a mother who undeniably told him he was going straight to hell. In typical Real World form, the castmate sitting directly next to Davis during his outing to his roomates happened to be a very religious guy named Stephen that was completely against everything and everyone homosexual. He felt that there was no room for homosexuality inside the church, and similiar to Davis' mother, thought Davis would go to hell. The ever-apparent tension between the two castmates heightened to a very direct arguement. According to Tara Kachgal's article found on the website, "The program's articulation of sexual freedom to democractic self expression and empowerment is continually troubling and conflicting...reality television potentially puts into question rigid orthodoxies supporting 'proper' gender and sexual identities." Stephen feels that heterosexuality is the only option. Because Davis is homosexual, Stephen feels like he can not fully accept him as a friend. Yet, oddly enough, before Stephen found out that Davis was, infact, homosexual, he had only nice and positive things to say about his southern-baptist, first-found-friend in Denver...Davis.
There's a particularly heated scene that really captured the intense argument between Stephen and Davis. In it, Stephen blatantly tells Davis that he doesn't think it's right that he's gay. He goes on to say that Davis can not and should not be accepted by the church because of his homosexuality. Davis retailiates commenting on Stephen's race. Stephen, however, claims that that is different because he didn't choose his race like Davis CHOSE his sexuality. This brings on a whole other argument about sexual orientation being chosen or inherent.
All in all, while I was watching just this one episode of Real World, there were two huge issues concerning race and homosexuality. It almost made me feel bad for the castmates because they are ultimately chosen and put into a situation based on how much drama and arguments they could potentially get into. Not suprisingly there are stereotypically: one gay roomate, two African-American roomates, and the "hott" guy, those are the men; and then three gorgeous, outgoing, single females. Each roomate sets their life out there, and the Real World producers seem to find that one other roomate that will completely clash with the first. Obviously this makes the best tv and that's understandable, but when I really sat and analyzed what was happening, I thought it was really kindof sad that Davis, for instance, was put on the show as a homosexual man and purposely paired with a roomate completely against his lifestyle.

The Simple Life

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I watched one hour of The Simple Life, a reality-based show about Nicole Richie and Paris Hilton. They are known as two rich socialites who do not have a care in the world, and party all the time instead of holding down jobs. In the episodes I watched, the two young women are taken from their luxurious lives and given only a pink pick-up truck and an RV and their mission is to take a road trip across the country staying at different families’ homes and the only money they have is from the jobs they work along the way. The two jobs they worked in the episodes I watched were rodeo cowboys and members of a mermaid water show at a local water park.
What seems to be the main goal of this show is taking Nicole and Paris out of their element and mocking them as they try to live the “simple life.? Even more than this, the tone from the families on the show and the narrator was that these two women were not fit for the working world – from this show, the audience could feel superior to them because they knew how to work for a living and had morals, as opposed to Nicole and Paris. Even though they are incredibly wealthy, without their money Paris and Nicole could not survive. As Myra Mendible argues in her article “Humiliation, Subjectivity, and Reality TV,? the audience feels somewhat superior to the people who are being humiliated on the reality show, because they are embarrassed or are being judged in some way. Through the Simple Life, the television audience can create a sense of superiority of Nicole Richie and Paris Hilton, by feeling more intelligent and suited for the “real? world.

Girls Next Door and True Feminine Fulfillment

I watched the episode “Heavy Petting? from The Girls Next Door which is a show about the lives of Hugh Hefner and the playmates that live in the mansion. During this episode, there were two parties. The first was for all of the dogs; some of the girls decided to throw a birthday party for all of the dogs. They bought a dog cake and dog pizzas and everyone ate out of dog bowls. The second party was the Easter party where thousands of eggs are hidden and the children of old playmates and friends go Easter egg hunting. Overall, the show revolved around the animals and getting ready for parties.

What bothered me about the show were the outfits. All of the girls, no matter what they were doing, wore shirts that accentuated their chests. Hair and makeup was always done perfectly. Every girl’s hair was platinum blonde and most wore pink all the time. They all spoke about wanting to be mothers or that they felt motherly because they took care of the animals. There were no persons of color in the house; even at the Easter party there were no guests of color. It was a white, rich, male-dominated event.

The camera did not look only at the girls’ faces. If there was a close up, it was always the girls’ face and chest. There were many chest shots when the girls were doing something or even as a transition to another shot. The gaze of the camera, according to Laura Mulvey, was scopophilic. According to Mulvey, Freud “associated scopophilia with taking other people as objects, subjecting them to a controlling and curious gaze? (Mulvey 37). This opinion describes accurately the nature of the gaze upon the girls. This scopophilic gaze, “arises from pleasure in using another person as an object of sexual stimulation through sight? (Mulvey 39). Mulvey’s theory of the male gaze is apparent within the filmic construction of this show. The women on screen are there for a male’s pleasure in looking.

These girls are searching for feminine fulfillment. All associate the future as being married and having children and the mansion is just a stepping stone to getting there. Some don’t see marriage but only see children and becoming a mother. Being a mother is very important to them. Betty Friedan describes the housewife in Feminine Mystique: “She had found true feminine fulfillment? (Friedan 199). Friedan describes housewives from the 1960’s as those who were told that, “all they had to do was devote their lives from earliest girlhood to finding a husband and bearing children? (Friedan 198). I believe that this ideology runs within the girls from the show. They see their future as a housewife with children and with ‘true feminine fulfillment.’

The new bachelor and male gaze by Jillian Schwantz

The new bachelor includes a "prince" (who knows where from or how important he is), and a group of females that want to fall in love with this "prince." In my opinion, how corny is it to have a group of women suck-up and pretend to be so in love with someone they know has money? It is all about the gold-diggers and desperate women. However, the whole show is focused on how this prince preceives these seamingly perfect women, who all happen to be in love, or falling for this prince. This show always seems to fall in line with the entire Laura Mulvey male gaze. The females in the show are required to be passive, because showing signs of no interest would undoubtfully get them eliminated. The camera eye constistantly follows these women as an object. Especially through what they are wearing, and highlighting on certain parts of their body. They are subjectified to events that are unfamiliar (and uninteresting), and they pretend to love the cirumstances even though when in private commentary, they can admit to the ackwardness. The females all have an obligation to be passive and optomistic about situations they would normally not be a part of. The gaze is for males to say, "these women will do whatever I feel like doing, and whatever I say to do." It is an extremely sexist show, but most importantly it objectifies women as being passive and gazed upon as inactive and submissive. The male is always in control, and is the spectator of these females doing as he wishes. In the end, the most important thing is the money, and objectify your feminitity by indulging in activities that are sexist and unnecessary like private hotel rooms.
I read over the reality TV article about the bachelor on our website, and I agree that there is a lot of strict hetereosexual tendencies. There is no room for homosexuality because the entire show is about our male voyuer gazing upon these women, while they are have no choice in their future romance with the prince. Reading that this is one of the most popular shows (or at least in 2003), makes it obvious that the audience is probabaly hetereosexual, and we are all a bunch of male voyuers gazing upon the female body in parts and wanting to be the prince in order to decide which sexual female is most deserving. We don't necessarily care that the prince is lame, or yuppy, we only care that the winning female embodies all that is pure, sexy, and heterosexual. The camera says the most about this type of spectatorship because we see scenes with the male and femals in hot tubs, and pools and beautiful dresses; focusing on mainly legs breasts and seemingly perfect bodies. The camera moves slow with the women because like Mulvey says; the female stops the narrative. However, the entire show is shot with "god-like" angels as if we are somewhere we shouldn't be, and seeing something that is secret. This show was definately produced because of its competition eliments, but also because of its ability to reaffirm male hegemony and "popular" hetereosexual beliefs and lifestyles.

Dr. 90210

I watched an hour of E!’s Dr. 90210, which focuses on plastic surgeons working in the Los Angeles area. The opening title sequence shows images of a doctor in surgery garb then it cuts to a camera and a woman stepping out of a car and onto a red carpet. We then see pieces of a woman’s body, focusing on the “beautiful? parts; lips, hips, small of her back and tip of her butt, and her neck and shoulders and her body is covered in drops of water. We then see images of palm trees to remind us, as if the title weren’t enough, that the show takes place in California. The graphic for the show replaces the "1" with lipstick to further symbolize patriarchal views of beauty (the idea that women need to alter their appearance in some way to be desireable and attract a mate). While the show is categorized as “reality TV,? the fact that all of the people on the show are “beautiful? and that it is based in a city that is notorious for producing a fake and unrealistic culture (i.e. films, Hollywood, the Beach Boys song, “California Girls,? etc.) leaves the viewer with a skewed idea of what reality really is.

In her article Humiliation, Subjectivity, and Reality TV, Myra Mendible states, “RTV contestants generally understand that moral weaknesses, body flaws, and intimate betrayals offer the most thrilling evidence of ‘reality’ in the genre,? the second of those being the focus of Dr. 90210. The article also focuses on the fact that persons participating in "reality" television shows know that there is going to be a fairly substantial element of humiliation on their part, and that humiliation may either come from the person or from clever editing by the producers. There were two women featured in this episode: Bea, a competitive body builder, and Jacki, a girl who had all of her breast tissue removed to avoid breast cancer and needs breast reconstruction surgery. These "body flaw" issues are a form of humiliation for the two women because they are embarrassed to be seen with them. They feel the need to correct what they see as problems before they can live fulfilling lives.

Bea has only 5% body fat and therefore her chest is mostly muscle. She wanted to get the surgery to “enhance her professional image? and “enhance her on stage.? She believed that getting breast implants would help her win more competitions, however just before her surgery she won a regional competition. Basically she has found that no matter how much bodybuilding she does, she can’t create the perfect body and will need to pay for one.

Jacki had previous breast surgeries and wanted one more to correct mistakes made in the past. This problem has caused self-esteem issues for her and affects every aspect of her life. She works at a restaurant where her outfit consists of a lingerie top that barely covers her bra and shows most of her chest (I find myself asking, if she has a problem with the way her breasts look, why does she have this job?). She can’t get into a relationship because she doesn’t like the way she looks. She said, “what’s the point of getting in a relationship when I know it won’t get intimate?? She also says that after her surgery, she will fall in love, get married, and have babies. It seems that getting the surgery will make all of her dreams come true and end all of her problems.

Both of these young women are quite attractive before their surgeries and it seems that the show is presenting the idea that you cannot naturally have the perfect body, you have to get plastic surgery to achieve what you want.

America's Next Humiliated Young Model

America’s Next Humiliated Young Model
By Lara Healy

< For over an hour I sat and watched as Ms. Tyra Banks picked, poked, chided, and eliminated young American girls. They wanted to be the next top model in America, and they had all decided that being on the reality show was the way to make their dreams become a reality.
I had seen the show before, or had it on in the background while I studied or cooked, however, I had never sat down with an intentionally critical eye and watched each second. I was disappointed with myself for not having noticed previously how the women were treated and ultimately humiliated. They were promised “The Dream?, but in order to achieve it they needed to have: the eyes, the hair, the face, the body, the desire, the knowledge of the industry, an edge (but not too much), something that sets them apart, a ‘non-commercial’ face (whatever that means), and numerous other ‘requirements’ that Tyra spouts off throughout the episode.
When these women sign up for America’s Next Top Model they have stars in their eyes, and dreams of becoming famous, but the reality of reality TV is not so dreamy. They are channeled through a grueling selection phase just to become a participant. Where the judges project their gaze on the women and select the ‘best for the job’ through a disgustingly organized scaling of bodies.
On the episode that I saw (which was one of the later ones in the season) Tyra showed the camera an evaluation card from the initial judging period for the season. Next to the girl’s name all she had written was a big red “NO?. Obviously the show wouldn’t survive without the competition aspect, but to see the leader of the show so blatantly disregarding the same types of women she is trying to empower makes a very clear statement. “You should only be confident and strong if Tyra Banks believes that you should be!? Wouldn’t it be refreshing to live in a community where programs were made according to Avishai Margalit’s point of view? “An ideal of universal human rights independent of individual achievement or status, a society where the “dignity? of individuals relies only on the fact that they’re human beings? (Mendible pg. 335)

“Myra Mendible, considers the usefulness of the concept of humiliation in the game show as genre, arguing that our interest in watching other being humiliated is an essential aspect of the success of sub-genre “survival? shows…[she]…asks whether, for women in particular, participation should be seen as a voluntary mode of sanctioned humiliation which they regard as a necessary part of becoming famous for 15 minutes, regardless of the fact that they receive highly critical attention to their bodies and their attitudes towards men and money? (Intro in Course Packet Pg. 1).

Humiliation is the name of the game on this reality monster. To further injure the young women’s self-esteem the challenges they are asked to participate in force decisions between reaching the goal of America’s Next Top Model or holding on to morals. The show is continuously asking the women to strip completely bare in front of the camera, or seductingly embrace a strange man or fellow model while being naked. For many of the women this request puts them in a very difficult position. On the episode that I watched there were four women left, and the nude photo was the next challenge. Two out of the four girls decided not to participate in the photo shoot because it went against their beliefs. However, only one of the two was eliminated that week, and it was the African American woman. The all American blonde haired woman was able to stay in the competition for another week although she too did not have a nude photo shoot.

Fredric Schick says that the “defining characteristic of the process is that the victim is made passive and conscious of the humiliating act…and the perpetrator must be willfully exercising…power? (Mendible pg. 336).

These same women that were told to walk with their heads held high, to show the world that they are important, strong, and confident were cut-down by the people who were previously lifting them up. The people in charge, like Tyra, were and are subjecting these women, and when they are non-compliant they are voted off.

My final vote:

Humiliation + Hypocrisy = America’s Next Top Model

P.S. I found this great web-site...it is kinda a Top Model Bashing Site, but it does drive the point home...give it a look!


http://www.televisionwithoutpity.com/articles/category_1186.html >

November 25, 2006

You could have a pinic on her ass!

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Flava Flav!

Love it or hate it--the Flavor of Love is on VH1.

This "reality" TV show (or as VH-1 dubs it "celebreality") pits women against each other (physically and mentally) for the "love" of an old rap star named Flava Flav. The show completely objectifies women. Remarkably, the women in this show eagerly chomp at the bit to give away their pride and self-esteem. This could be a result of conditioning throughout their lives or the fact that they are all, in fact, gold diggers to the nth degree.

The basic format of the show reinforces the patriarchal system of dating. The man, Flava Flav, has all the control over any and all decisions--including whether to keep someone around. The contestants also exhibit the exhibitionism and projection of a perhaps regressed desire that Mulvey describes of women and men alike through their fights and sexual conquests.

The contestants use sex overwhelmingly to gain favor with Flava which turns the show into the Harem of Love. Perhaps this could be aimed at the males in the audience as a projection of a regressed desire. The gaze utilized in this series does nothing but support that claim--especially through the screening process. You could have a picnic on her ass! Flava and the audience receive a strong scopophilic gratification by watching this program (Mulvey 39). The actual film construction of the piece is very bare bones--a two person crew consisting of a camera operator and a sound engineer give it its shaky and/or real feeling to the show.

No matter who you are, you will receive pleasure from looking at bodies. It's the nature of life. But looking is powerful. Flavor of Love is no different as we sit in a powerful position that can scale bodies based on features and traits of the women presented to us. Beauty and attractiveness are defined and reinforced through this show (Young 123). This can translate into our everyday lives and therefore perpetuate the status quo.

Why do women watch this show? Perhaps the Flavor of love shows an oversexed nature of the women. Women identify with a women who lives in puritanical societies that frown upon women seeking sexual gratification. These women use sex to get what they want--either Flava, money, fame or all three. Or maybe it's all just one big freak show we now call entertainment.

In the end, love is never truly an issue, but rather used as a means to legitimize the actions on the program. This program creates an “illusion of reality? that aligns itself closely with the fictional cinema. Libido and ego drive this show through Flava and the responsibility to identify this falls on us (Mulvey 39).

VH-1's stake in the activities and the show's program is based on the dollar. Truly his show is not about creating high moral fiber or challenging any status quo. It uses the tatics used by patriarchy to generate revenue.

Bridezillas

I watched an episode of Bridezillas on the WE network (Women’s Entertainment). I chose to view this show because the commercials for it have always bothered me. There is always a woman incredibly mad, rude, usually screaming, and the show portrays her as mentally ill or insane. The show’s website also makes comments about these women being monsters and insane and there is an interactive game where you can “whack? people who give the bride trouble such as the mother-in-law or the chef.

This show is based on the stereotypical bride. She is presented as a control freak and someone who is mentally unhinged, perfectionist, self-centered, bossy, violent, and rude. Except for a few minutes at the beginning of the episode, the only time we see the husband to be is when the bride is yelling at him to do something. The show follows the bride around and we see her yelling at her friends and family, crying, and even throwing temper tantrums. The obsession for everything to be perfect also pertains to how the bride looks. In the episode I watched, one bride, who appeared to be a thin, healthy woman, is seen going to and from the gym and eating low calorie food so that she “looks perfect? on her big day. The other bride featured in the episode had lost 80 pounds for her wedding. Laura Sloan Patterson discusses the exclusion of plus sized brides from the “mainstream American bridal fantasy? in advertisements that portray plus sized brides in distinctively different images than slimmer brides. “Unlike her slim sister’s ads, which are free to show Bridezilla levels of contempt for the audience, the PSB’s image indicates an obligation to show happiness, even gratitude, in the face of marriage,? (Patterson, Why Are All the Fat Brides Smiling?). If this bride had not lost 80 pounds, would she have been featured in the show or would she be expected to just be grateful? Should Bridezilla-like behavior be acceptable for anyone?

As much as I don’t like this show however, I did notice a few positive aspects of the show, at least in comparison to other wedding-related reality television shows. As Judith Halberstam points out in her article Pimp My Bride, “All the shows have refused to test the waters of interracial dating.? However, the episode of Bridezillas that I viewed did feature an interracial couple. The show also appears to feature brides from different socioeconomic statuses. Unfortunately, whatever economic background the bride is from, it appears that they all go into debt to pay for the wedding. So while the show may feature slightly more diverse characters, it still does not present many positive images of brides or women in general.

November 24, 2006

What not to Believe you Have to Wear

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Is TLC’s hit show, “What not to Wear? transforming women into an image that isn’t true to their true character? The strategy is simple: hosts Clinton and Stacy select people volunteered by their friends to receive a wardrobe and style make-over. The people shown in this program often appear to dress normal enough, but through the keen eyes of “top Hollywood fashion consultants,? these people have a terrible choice in everyday dress attire. The way someone dresses is often seen as an expression of one’s personality. When others come in and tell a person what they should and should not be wearing, I believe it forces that person to re-evaluate their themselves to bend to the will of the others, that person then becomes untrue to themselves.

From the get go, this show is full of upbeat dance music. The show rarely has any men on, I guess men have a much better fashion sense than women after all, or maybe this programis geared towards women and designed with them in mind. This show’s fashion faux pa victim is Kristy. She is described as, “A frumpy legal assistant.? So what’s Kristy’s problem? She wears too much black, her shoes are too rectangular and her glasses are too old (they’re from 2003). When we first are introduced to Kristy, we see that she is shy, quiet, and very self-conscious about her body (she is a few pound over-weight). Overall, Kristy lacks confidence in herself. Kristy (like everybody on the show) agrees to give Clinton and Stacy complete control over what she will now be wearing. What she will be wearing are likely to be styles found in the commercial advertisements that station TLC runs in the time slot. Various product placements of clothing items and other beauty products are laced throughout the show. The show airs at 12pm, 2pm, 9pm and 11pm. The show seems to jump around the "prime time" line up of shows it would have to compete with if it aired earlier in the morning or the 7 o'clock to 9 night programs. This way, theshow can catch it's main audience after Desperate House Wives and Grey's Anatomy and other shows with predominately female veiwerships.

When the show’s hosts describe Kristy, they use words such as “fun, young and vibrant.? They are giving her an identity. From observing Kristy throughout the show, it is obvious that she is not a “fun, young, and vibrant? type of person. She is actually quite conservative and honestly dull, she claims she doesn’t like to stand out and be noticed. If this how she describes herself, why do Clinton and Stacy tell her that she is the opposite of what she is? She dresses in dark, unrevealing styles because she doesn’t want to stand out, not because she doesn’t know how to dress. Something that I found completely ironic about What Not to Wear is its commercial on TLC. In the promotion for TLC and the show, host Clinton sits in front of the camera and explains to us that “we are constantly bombarded? with the thoughts, views, and opinions of others. Clinton tells us that we should be unique and be ourselves. What? If everybody should be themselves why do they need a show to tell them that they shouldn’t be dressing the way they like, rather, conform to the styles set by a changing society? The show obviously contradicts its own promotions.

When Clinton and Stacy tell Kristy what to wear, she looks down at the floor and grudgingly goes along with it. This is not Kristy’s identity. The hosts also tell her how to hide her weight through different clothing options. As Kristy tries on new clothes, the camera is quickly jumping around her body and the fabric, giving extra attention to her stomach and curves. There is a segment near the end wear Kristy (or who ever the victim may be) strike various poses as the camera pans up and down her body while her face makes us believe that she's trying to act/appear "sexy". They even go as far as to change her make-up, hair, and eyebrows, all in an attempt to make her more appealing to the values of society. This is an example of the scaling of bodies. In this theory, a common prejudice is that society only values the fit, thin and beautiful people, not the overweight and unattractive. The show is centered around the message that this make-over will change the lives of those selected for the better, bringing the person new successes. Wouldn’t it be better if the overweight (women in general) were judged more on their charisma versus their appearance.

“Acceptance will not result in healthy female bodies, though, unless accompanied by rigorous and on-going critique of women’s representation in the media.? (The Body is the Message, Cara Woods. Gender + Plus size Body).

The gaze present in this show is surely male. The camera is constantly looking up and down the body of Kristy. One could argue that this only to show off the clothing styles (which is the clear intention). The counter to this is that the camera stops and focuses close in on Kristy’s chest and hips. Objectification of the female body in Western culture produces a multitude of negative consequences for women.

“Increasingly, researchers have investigated diverse samples of women and demonstrated a variety of detrimental effects associated with self-objectification including increased body shame, appearance anxiety, disordered eating, self-surveillance, and diminished mental performance and capacity to achieve peak motivational states.? ( A Test of Objectification Theory: The Effect of the Male On Appearance Concerns in College, Rachel M. Calegero. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 28 (2004).

In the end, Kristy is happy with her new look and the choices that Clinton and Stacy made for her. I still find it a little troubling that she disregarded what she was comfortable wearing to appease the opinions of those who believe they know the only acceptable way to appear in public.


The Bachelor Rome: A Fairy Tale Come True

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“Once upon a time there was a charming young bachelor searching for the woman of his dreams,? states a man’s voice at the commencement of ABC’s The Bachelor Rome. This hit romance reality TV show, currently in its ninth season, adds a new twist to this fairy tale search for true love. The young bachelor is real life Prince Lorenzo Borghese from Rome. He’s educated, polite, athletic, and portrayed as perfect. Yet, he feels as if women don’t love him for him, but for his title. So why not go on TV and announce to the entire world that a Prince is looking for a Princess to call his own? This will really help eliminate all those women looking to fulfill their life long fantasy of marrying Prince Charming.
In the Bachelor, one man must select from 25 women in his search for a happy ever after. These women are “chosen? based on their intelligence and personality. Yet, every last woman is tall, skinny, gorgeous, and looking as if they just stepped out of a salon. They become the object of the male gaze. In Kaplan’s article, Is The Gaze Male? she states, “[Men’s] gaze carries with it the power of action and of possession,? (121). This is evident in all scenes that require the women to remove clothing. In this single episode, there were two scenes involving water, which can be very sexual, and the removal of clothing. As princess #1, Jen, is taking off her clothes revealing a string bikini. As she gets into the hot tub, the camera scans her body in slow motion, focusing on her breasts, butt, and legs. This also occurs during a scene when Princess #2, Sadie, and Lorenzo are scuba diving. This underwater shot lingers on her bikini clad body. In both instances, Lorenzo’s body is hidden completely, not even his swim trunks are shown. It’s as if the gaze is Lorenzo’s, living out any man’s dream, watching nearly naked women swim. Possessing the control, Lorenzo is then able to determine which of these women he is physically and sexually attracted to and whom he should select as his own.
In Yep and Camacho’s article The Normalization of Heterogendered Relations in The Bachelor, they discuss how The Bachelor reinforces heterogender structure in which “privileging men and exploiting women, in the institution of patriarchal heterosexuality? occurs. This is apparent because 25 women are vying for the attention of one man. In this episode, the last three contenders went on overnight dates, one on one with the bachelor. All destinations emphasized love and romance with time stopping shots of candle lit dinners, full body massages, rooftop gardens, and sunsets. Lots and lots of sunsets. During these dates, all three women gushed and fawned over Lorenzo, spilling their hearts out saying that they all have “really strong feelings? towards him. In all instances he replied that he felt the same. In the end, Lorenzo had to use his proactive power and select two women to stay. All in all, Lorenzo, the male gets all the power and control while the women are analyzed to the core on “wifely? qualities.

What Not to Wear

The BBC’s reality show “What Not To Wear? constructs a reality in which there is only one correct way for women to look. The show enforces this construct by humiliating contestants who do not look “correct.? If Alessandra Stanley’s argument that "humiliation is the unifying principle behind a successful reality show" is correct, then “What Not To Wear? can consider itself a truly successful reality program.
The entire point of “What Not To Wear? is to humiliate women into modifying their appearance according to a normative standard, all under the guise of “helping? them. In the episode I watched, the hosts, Trinny and Susannah, “madeover? two women. The first woman entered the show wearing bright clothes and a fake ponytail. The program began with the hosts telling her that the reason she wasn’t getting hours at work was that her co-workers were probably embarrassed to have her working reception. Then the woman watched a tape of her husband making fun of and laughing at her appearance. This constitutes humiliation under Avishai Margalit's definition, in which humiliation consists of treating people as "merely things, tools, animals, subhumans, or inferior humans". When Trinny and Susannah sat this woman down and had her taped watching a video of her husband laughing at her they were definitely treating her as an inferior human. Then the hosts gave the woman a two minute demonstration on what she “should? wear – the colors, the shapes, the lengths, which bits of skin to cover, and which to show. Then she was sent off to shop alone. The next day the hosts came to review the woman’s purchases. They humiliated her blatantly, making fun of her new clothes in a variety of colorful ways, including comparing an outfit to a “gaudy toy at the funfair.? This humiliation is intentional on the part of the show. Even if the intentions of giving women a set of rules to govern her appearance are benign, telling these rules to her in two minutes and then expecting her to understand and act on them immediately is setting her up for failure.
The hosts then chose an outfit for her, replacing her usual pinks and reds with blacks and blues, and covering up all of her skin, much of which was exposed when she entered the show. She hated the outfit, and told the hosts that. They told her that they were right, that she had to trust them, because they understood what women should wear, and she didn’t. This is another example of the hosts treating the contestant as inferior, and thus humiliating her. This is also an example of why the humiliation of this woman is considered socially acceptable. The show and the hosts portray the humiliation of this woman as “helping? her to stop humiliating herself by dressing how she wants. They act as if they are enabling this woman to leave the margins and enter mainstream society, which most viewers consider constructive. The truth is that “What Not to Wear? further marginalizes contestants by covering up their difference, stifling their individuality, and forcing them into the mold that mainstream society pushes on all women. Marginalization and humiliation are not the only ways in which “What Not to Wear? abuses women. Even if Schick’s argument is correct, and people can be humiliated without losing self-respect if they behave according to their “ideal standard?, it does not apply to contestants on “What Not to Wear?. The first woman was forced to change her ideal standards to match the standards of the hosts. This was displayed blatantly twice on the show. When looking at a pair of pants that she liked, but did not follow the “rules?, the woman asked the camera, “should I be good or shouldn’t I?? This displays a lack of self–respect, as she acknowledged in this comment that her sense of style differed from that of the hosts, and also that their opinions were “good? and hers were not. Later on the show, the woman said of a new outfit that the hosts had chosen for her, and she didn’t like, “Once I get used to it, I’ll be able to carry it off better.? Under Schick’s definition, this woman has then surrendered her self-respect by not behaving according to her ideals, as well as being humiliated by the hosts, making “What Not To Wear? the ultimate degrading experience.
Myra Mendible argues that the content of reality shows “reflects the underlying logic of our social order.? I would argue that this content reinforces and perpetuates this logic as well. These arguments make “What Not to Wear? even more disturbing. Not only does this show humiliate the contestants into changing their appearance to fit a normative standard, but it reflects the social construct that women in society at large must look a certain way or else be humiliated. Why can’t there be more than one socially acceptable way for a woman to look?

November 21, 2006

Texas Cheer Moms

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Last night I watched an hour of Texas Cheer Moms, a new reality show on TLC. This show is about a group of girls on a cheerleading team and their mothers. This show takes place in Waco, Texas where, “it’s an honor and a matter of pride when your son is a part of the football team or your daughter makes the cheerleading squad? (TLC website). All of the girls on the team are white, skinny, and tall. They all wear heavy make-up and designer clothes. Their houses are typical suburban with a dash of classic southern style, with huge family portraits in gaudy frames. Many of the girls on this program are obviously spoiled and explode in a fit of tears when they do not get their way or are spoken to rudely. They are the obvious queen bees of their lives and their school. What is almost worse are their mothers, whom are a clique of teased hair women with ‘midway high school’ sweatshirts, heavy eyeliner, and a deep interest in their child’s ability to tumble. These women seem to be only interested in their daughters’ lives. In Kristy Fairclough’s essay “Women’s Work? Wife Swap and the Reality Problem? she talks about reality TV’s portrayal of women and homemaking, “…Wife Swap achieves nothing except to further emphasize the fact that women should be natural homemakers by virtue of their gender…?. This can also be applied to Texas Cheer Moms because the mothers are mostly homemakers, and there is no talk about other jobs.
One of these women, the mother of Meagan who has been cheerleading since she was 3, seems to care more about her daughter’s weight and cheerleading abilities than her education. This show, like many others, pays great attention to the girl’s weight and body type. In Laura Mulvey’s essay, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema?, she states that “the conventions of mainstream film focus attention on the human form?. In the beginning of the first episode there is a segment focusing on Meagan’s weight. She is forced by her mom to “get in shape? before the upcoming cheerleading season, even though she is quite skinny. In Iris Marion Young’s essay “The Scaling of Bodies? she states that, “Beauty in women, like beauty in men, is a disembodied, desexualized, unfleshy aesthetic: light-colored hair and skin, and slenderness?. There is a definite scaling of bodies in this show; all the girls are pressured by each other, their mothers, and their coaches into being skinny and blond.
This show bothers me because of the incessant use of stereotypes. As I mentioned before the moms are obsessed with their daughters and don’t have a life to themselves. They are “typical? suburban moms. The girls only care about wearing the right clothes, and having the right friends. They are not worried about their education at all. Most of these girl’s dreams were to become cheerleaders. In my opinion, women should be able to choose what they want to do, from cheerleading to construction working. But this show is demeaning to me because it makes it seem that all girls just want to be cheerleaders, and should want to be like cheerleaders.

November 20, 2006

The documentary about Juarez

The documentary about Juarez was both very moving and very informative. It exposed a lot of the injustice that goes on in the world that we aren't aware of or even think about. It made me feel blessed for the security that my family, friends, and I enjoy. It also made me feel like we as human beings for the sake of humanity should do something to ensure women around the world the same basic necessity of security. In that movie they interview a young girl who looks like one of my best friends (who is Mexican); and looking at her made me want to cry because I imagined my best friend in that girls place. Why should things like this only affect us if we know the person? It should be a priority to provide safety to people living in any country, but the authorities of Juarez have failed miserably to do so. The most disturbing fact that this documentary pointed out is that not only were these innocent women being victimized by men, but also by women. You would think the women who did this to these young women would place themselves in their shoes. Another disturbing point was how the attorney general was a women and she failed to do anything about what was going on. Sometimes it looked like she didn’t want to do anything about it. You would think that being a woman herself she would have some empathy toward the victims and their families. It looked like she might even be paid off because she wouldn’t look for girls who went missing and then she had the papers falsely print that a girl was found with her boy friend. Another sick thing was how the police was involved and how they found a scapegoat (Sherief) and blamed the whole thing on him, even though he was in prison and the murders kept happening. Where would he get the money to pay gang members 1000 dollars each to murder women if he is in prison? I find it insulting that the police would think that people would actually believe that. It is obvious that the problem goes up to high government positions because there is strong evidence to incriminate police officers (like when they give a skeleton back to the family and it’s not the right skeleton but the right clothes; and there is a pile of women’s clothes at the police station) yet nothing is done. Even if the officers are reported, like the three who assaulted Maria, they are not convicted. I think the way they are dealing (or in this case not dealing) with the cases is wrong. It seems that they don’t care for these women because they view them as “disposable.? There is a lot of them, they all come looking for jobs, an a lot of them don’t seem to know that is going on (they all know that some women disappeared but they don’t know why of what happened to them). They come from helpless families that have no power or affect on the government whose members seem to be clearly involved. It is disgusting how people can take advantage of the helpless while a whole government cans stand there and watch.

Juarez

I watched this documentary in a class last year and was shocked and appalled with the situation in Juarez. I have been there twice with my church and never heard anything about the crimes. It's amazing how corrupt governments can become when the wrong people gain the upper hand. The most shocking thing to me is that although 80% of the maquiladoras are owned by the United States, we do nothing to stop it (unless of course a U.S. citizen is in danger.) Our countires leaders claim to be doing all in their power to stop terrorism and to help mankind but because the situation in Mexico involves low income women, they do nothing. Sometimes, I wish that I didn't even know about what goes on in the world because it is so dispicable and as Angeline said, I feel powerless. It's amazing what the human race is capable of.
But on the other hand, situations like the one in Juarez gives the people and the women of the world a reason to stand up and tell the world that we will not tolerate this treatment. Even if the United States has recognized the female gender as equal to the male, many other countries have not. Being privaledged women, we need to make a difference for those who are not as lucky. I don't believe this documentary's purpose was to depress all that watch it. I think it was meant to show us how much work needs to be done and to motivate us to act.

Virgen de Juarez

This weekend when I went to Blockbuster, I unfortunately stumbled upon a film by Kevin James Dobson that was based on the same subject matter of the documentary we viewed. I should have seen the title "Virgen of Juarez" as a red flag but instead recognized that it was most likely a dramatic representation of the Juarez murders, similar to what both Jennifer Lopez and Selma Hayek plan to make. What I had expected from the film was a personal account of what happened to a specific family or group of people, being able to internalize the tragic accounts on a more personal level as we could in "Boys Don't Cry". Instead, the film focused on a relgious phenomenon and icon that developed from the events and on an almost foolishly fearless American reporter who is not only an outsider (which is just what we are as an audience member not living in Juarez) but also completely detatched from the culture, not even attempting to speak Spanish and completely in disbelief of their religious superstitions. The views of the reporter only reinforced the way that I already felt about the situation rather than introducing any new perspectives that I wouldn't already gain from a documentary. The horrible part about the film, however, was the religious spin that it took that reinforced the idea of blaming the victim. The story focuses on Mariela, a miraculous survivor of one of the attacks who becomes a religious icon to the community, being considered for sainthood and nearly becoming synonymous with the Virgin Mary, whom she supposedly witnessed while being attacked in the desert. Throughout the film, despite the loss of her memory, she has flashbacks that are triggered by men that were involved in the attack and each time begins to bleed from her palms as Christ was pierced through the hands when crucified signifiying the Catholic phenomenon of stigmata. She begins to crusade for justice, passing out pictures of the men she believes to have been involved, eventually causing their murders one by one, and also speaking to the public on the radio from a hidden location. Although vengeance might be the only way to solve the situation on a smaller level without the cooperation of the authorities, but it glamorized the idea of capital punishment in my eyes which does nothing to end violence (another example would be "Boondock Saints" which valorizes the killing of those who are corrupt or immoral). In a way it reinforces the idea that the immoral should be killed and that the good will survive. Overall, the film seemed to be somewhat without a well-defined plot. Even with the knowledge of the situation, the film was difficult to follow and accurately understand what was going on and what the purpose of any of the extra subplots were. On a more positive note however, the film seemed to have attempted to speak out the extent of the injustice and violence against women in general. When the reporter first arrived in Juarez, in her first night while visiting the family of a victim, another woman is killed and to the dismay of the police department, it is the reporter who discovers the body during a search the next day (which i thought to be somewhat unrealistic that they would even be searching so quickly). The woman, who was an older and presumably less naive and vulnerable of the women attacked, was overly cautious and carried a horn in attempt to attract attention and call for help if she became a victim. When her body was found, the horn was still in her hand, apparently not very successful of a prevention tool. So much focus on rape is always on what women can do to protect themselves rather than what should be done to stop the attempts in the first place and this pointed out how inaffective modes of protection are in preventing an attack. But then, the focus instead went to the character of the victims, as Mariela is a deeply religious woman who carried a pendant of the Virgin Mary and her followers are young women who realize that it is her moral perfection that saved her. This same idea is played out in every typical horror or slasher film in which there are several dispensible immoral female characters who are killed off one by one while the intelligent and virginal one escapes alive. As seen in the beginning of the documentary, this was the general view of the authorities in Juarez with their claim that all of these women were really strippers and prostitutes, in a secret night life of which their families were ignorant and that a simple curfew should solve the problem. This may have been the goal of the director, pointing out the deeply religious values of the people which caused some of the skew on prosecution, but it was certainly not clearly defined. Instead, the film got into a debate of religion and supersticion towards the end with confusion of who the good guys and bad guys were. It was also not very clear who exactly all of the characters even were as none seemed to be clearly developed with the exception of the neutral and emotionless reporter who was overly logical and disconnected from the situation at hand.

Whitney's Realtiy TV Experience: thumbs down



“The sexual division of labor at home and in the workplace produces gender-specific forms of exploitation and powerlessness.?
- Iris Marion Young, The Scaling of Bodies p. 123


It is exactly the powerlessness that Young describes above that leads women to participate in reality shows like “America’s Next Top Model.? In today’s society, if a woman is to make a living working outside the home, she must learn to accept her exploitation; women have always been viewed as objects, and it is no difference in the workplace. For this reality TV show, contestants are asked to participate in various photo shoots and activities, all of which are rather demeaning. In the episode that I watched, the required activity was to dress as a mermaid and hang upside down from a chain over a smelly fish market… while being photographed and maintaining a “sexy? appearance. The women were dressed in a mermaid-like costume, which included a barely-there bikini top and a harness. The harness was attached to a chain and pulley, and after being secured to the model, she was lifted upside down over a river and fish market in Southeast Asia. All of the women were obviously in pain from the harness, but only one spoke up. The rest maintained their silence and simply did what they were told; they did their poses and took the pain. The one model who spoke up on camera was later reprimanded for not being professional and for having the audacity to allow her facial expression to reveal pain. Since when does professionalism include physical pain and the inability to speak out? According to Mendible, this is where the humiliation side of reality TV comes in. “Humiliation involves treating human beings as if they were ‘merely things, animals, subhumans, or inferior humans’? (Myra Mendible, Humiliation, Subjectivity, and Reality TV). This is exactly what happens in America’s Next Top Model. The models are repeatedly exposed to adverse conditions just to get the perfect angle in the perfect photograph in the perfect setting. They truly are treated as if they are ‘merely things’ that can be dressed, positioned, and, as shown in this episode, effectively silenced. This TV show represents everything a woman is expected to be in today’s society, and people are making money off of selling this idea. And, since is not the first season of America’s Next Top Model, the producers apparently are doing a pretty good job of selling the idea; contestants keep applying and keep enforcing these gender roles. Needless to say, my experience with realtiy TV was not a good one.

November 19, 2006

Juarez

This documentary was amazing. I'm just picking up the basics of film analysis in this class, so I still basically judge films by the gut feeling I get from watching them. This one gave me a stomach ache. I've been thinking about it a lot. I knew nothing about Juarez before I saw this film, and I'm glad to be a little informed about the atrocities that are happening there.
But I'm also frustrated. This film left me aching for vigilante justice. After watching it I found myself thinking that I should go to Juarez, single-handedly figure out who is murdering these women, and kill all the responsible parties. But then of course I realized that that would never work, that it would be me, one person, fighting a systemic and widespread problem. Basically impossible. That left me feeling powerless. I could give money to the organization that is trying to help families in Juarez, and I support that organization, but what I really want is direct action. Something I can physically do that would create tangible results. I guess that's my frustration in feminism as a whole. I'm committed wholeheartedly to this war for equality. I want to fight it on a large scale but I don't know how. Changing my own life has helped me personally and I feel strong in my sex and gender, but now I want to change the system so that it fits everyone and is open to difference. I find myself wishing that the patriarchy was a physical thing, or just a handful of people, so that I could destroy it. But its not, and I don't know how to fight these massive social and systemic problems alone. Not that I'm alone in this battle, I'm lucky to know many strong women that I respect and admire. I guess I just feel like theory and discussion and thinking have gotten me as far as they can, and now I need to act. But what do I do?

November 18, 2006

Laguna Beach... Land of Barbie and Ken

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I watched an episode of Laguna Beach titled “Kiss and Don’t Tell?. This show airs on MTV and follows the lives of high school students from Laguna Beach, CA. This particular episode was about some of the stars that went to San Diego for a night. One of the guys, Cameron, “hooked up? with a girl named Tessa, who was the reason they went down there for her modeling. It was a big deal because Cameron is kind of dating someone else, Jessica, and, therefore, it was seem like he was cheating on her to the audience, although Jessica does not know.
Stereotypes run rampant throughout this show, and this episode was no exception. First there was the stereotype of women are not as strong as men. This was portrayed by Cameron and Jessica at the gym. They showed her as being weak and a complainer. Another stereotype shown by the directors was that women are easy to fall in love. They show Tessa just smitten with Cameron after only one night together. Meanwhile, Cameron just sees her as a “hook up? and goes back to Jessica the next day.
Another portrayal in this show is the obsession with perfection. Every character has gorgeous hair that looks like they have their own stylist. Their clothes are right out of the magazines. They are fit and petite. Their nails are manicured and their feet perfectly pedicured.
This show is the perfect example of what Myra Mendible talks about in her essay on humiliation. She explains how many of the people on reality tv subject themselves to humiliation because the fact that millions of people are watching makes them feel extremely important (336). It elevates their status and helps them keep their self esteem because even though things may hurt them on the show, they know people are watching and it helps them think that people care (336).
I think this has a lot to do with the people on Laguna Beach. They are ordinary people, however, their lives are taped and viewed and the audience plays right along in with their drama. It makes them feel like they are celebrities and so they act like them, even though they are not. They are just reality tv stars.

November 17, 2006

Wife Swap

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For this post, I’ll be discussing the gender stereotypes in “Wife Swap.? First of all, I have to explain the show’s crazy premise. In “Wife Swap,? two families basically exchange wives for two weeks. Certainly, high ratings demand that these families be completely different from each other in regards to their values, creed, race, class, etc. For the first week, the wives live by their new family’s rules. In the second week, however, the wives introduce their own rules that their new family must follow. When the two weeks are over, the wives and husbands meet face to face to exchange their experience. The meeting generally gets pretty loud and emotional. Although some families choose to change their lives for the better after the show, I think that most do very little and/or decide to go back to their usual ways.
The most obvious problem in this show is in the title itself: “Wife Swap.? Therefore, husbands are essentially exchanging their wives like objects/animals which enforces the stereotype that men are superior to women—a contributing factor to a “patriarchal culture? like the McCabe article (“Woman is Not Born, but Becomes a Woman?) suggests (McCabe 3). In the article, de Beauvoir argues that this kind of male dominance “is responsible for generating and circulating self-confirming parameters that institute gender hierarchies and sexual inequalities.? Thus, “He,? the man/husband, becomes the “Subject? and “Absolute,? while “she,? the woman/wife, is the “Other?--the “object? (McCabe 3-4). The Fairclough article (“Women’s Work? Wife Swap and the Reality Problem?) continues de Beauvoirs argument that “Wife Swap? centers on the stereotype that a woman’s “place in the home? is the kitchen: “Wife Swap achieves nothing except to further emphasize the fact that women should be natural homemakers by virtue of their gender... the men are portrayed as doing little of the domestic work and often emerging from the program as heroes, whilst the woman appear as either impossible controlling or exploited doormats? (Fairclough 345). In essence, the show focuses on the craziness that a woman must handle inside the home with the children, and the countless chores that must be completed before the husband comes back from his job. It is interesting to note that Wife Swap was created by a man (Stephen Lambert), and airs on ABC—which is owned by Disney, a company that promotes the traditional family. Thus, with a male perspective and Disney’s influences, it is clear to know why Wife Swap’s content runs in such a patriarchal manner. Furthermore, hand-held camera shots create a very intimate and real portrayal of the families—a behind the scene access into their lives. Also, reactions shots are incorporated in order to heighten the emotional aspect of this family centered show.

Sexism in media representation

Since I have started this class and thanks to Bell Hooks, I have been watching everything that is on TV with criticism and a much more open view. This morning I was watching the weather channel and there was right on national TV the most obvious sign of sexism: Joe Cantori was interviewing a family that survived a deadly tonado in North Carolina last night and blatantly asked questions to the "head of the household", the husband. Not even once did he address the question to the wife! I was outraged because here he was asking how scared they were and how did their kids feel but not once, did he ask the wife how she felt during this terrifying time. Just wanted to share that there is the simplest forms of sexism that happen every day even here, in US.

November 16, 2006

Rachel L's America's Next Top Model report

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I watched an episode of America’s Next Top Model. A group of supermodel hopefuls compete, one being eliminated each week, through photo shoot critiques. The women are judged solely on their looks, what is desirable, sexy, or cute in their physical features. Not only does the show promote objectification, but also brings the ideals and standards for a woman’s physical appearance into pop culture. The judges exploit what a model should and should not look like and have a set of standards for the women’s appearances. Iris Young, in “The Scaling of the Bodies? writes about many of the hierarchical standards that cultural imperialism imposes on women and other groups, that they are “assessed according to some hierarchical standard.? She explains that beauty standards are instilled by a hierarchy and that “the normalizing gaze of science focused on the objectified bodies of women.? It is cultural imperialism that has decided what a “normal? or ideal woman should look like. The judges on America’s Next Top Model are looking for the ideal woman’s body. The six models remaining all have long hair, are tall and very thin.
All the contestants on the show are thin and tall. I believe the show starts out with one plus-sized model, but she never lasts long. Sujata Moorti and Karen Ross, in “Gender and the Plus-size Body? discuss “size acceptance? in our media, “it seems clear that ‘size acceptance’ is limited only to the average rather than all sizes. This troubles me despite that acceptance of bodies rounder or shorter than those of straight-sized models is underway.? The models on America’s Next Top Model that make it through many shows, enforce a standard involving “size-acceptance?; promoting what is an ideal and most accepted body for a woman. Moorti and Ross express their concern with the trend of “size acceptance? and its current meaning, “movement to a middle-ground rather than true size acceptance- the acceptance of all shapes and sizes of all people, rather than the idealization of some, the acceptance of the average, and the denigration of others.? This show exploits the standards for a woman’s body and then marginalizes other, “less desirable? bodies beneath it.

Juarez

First of all, what we saw in this documentary about Juarez and the treatment of women there was a cry for help. That was a way for Portillo to expose the injustice that is going on there. We saw the worst kind of misogyny that was exercised not only by men but even some women of Juarez. I felt that the overall opinion of the government was that these women deserved it. Not only were they subjected to horrible torture, but now their families had to defend them which showed the value of a woman doesn't amount to much there. The government made it look as though the girls/women were "bad" because they were out at night and did questionable things. On top of that, there was an overall understanding that if you were to come out and say anything, you could be in trouble. We see that when one man said that he didn't question anything or anybody when he found a body of a girl because he didn't want problems. The same happens when Suly, the investigator, basically implies that she is scared to do justice in one of the interviews. And, finally, in the treatment of Maria, the woman that came forward with the allegations of police being involved. Most importantly, I don't understand how the people that run the maquiladoras can just turn the other way and ignore this issue of severe injustice against women.
I feel that Portillo chose a certain way of telling this story, mostly through symbolism: shoes - representing the only way the relatives could identify a body; hands - when the relatives of the missing and murdered women decided to rise up and take this issue and the investigation into their own hands; and the close-up of the faces. I think the close up shots of the faces of these women was to familiarize us with their story. To let us know that they are humans first of all and highly devalued women.
Lastly, I felt that there should have been something said about the men of Juarez. Did they work at the same maquiladoras? Maybe they could have organized escort services for the women working early and late

November 15, 2006

Juarez

I just wanted to share with you guys a interesting thing that happened to me yesterday... After class yesterday I met up with some people from my church to do what we call theology on Tap. We meet at a bar and basically talk about our faith, weird I know but thats what we do. So at the meeting I was talking to a man from another church that participates and he mentioned that he was recently down in Mexico doing some mission work. I probbed and asked where? He said he had been in Juarez. I stopped and being me went off about how I had just earlier in the day seen a really intense film about missing girls/women in Juarez and how big of a problem it was in their community. He looked at me like I was crazy and asked if we could possibly be talking about different Juarez, Mexico's. He said he had heard nothing like that while he was there, and was sure that he would have in his month long stay. It really made me think about the politics of the film, and whats truly being done to help the situation and protect the women of Juarez. Why do outsiders not hear about these things, espeially after being there for a whole month? He also told me that he spoke Spanish. I could believe that in he had heard nothing about this tragedy. It was just an eye opener to me that films really can bring awareness to subjects that may not otherwise have gotten exposure. It was just ironic that the two times in my life I have been exposed to Juarez they were in the same day and on completely opposite ends of the spectrum. I passed my new knowledge on to him, and encouraged him to maybe do a little research or watch the film before heading back down there next time. Thats it, just thought I would share.

November 14, 2006

Sample student group project

Here's the video that my Feminist Thought and Theory students made for their final a few years back. Although it was a different class, a similar project could be made for this course. Lots of potential in the Mall of America.

Post from my blog:
A few years back my students from WoSt 3102 - Feminist Thought and Theory gave my daughter a makeover at Club Libby Lu . They filmed the whole thing, edited a video, and wrote really smart papers about girl culture, heteronormativity, whiteness, girl power movement, the gaze, and all those concepts important to Women's Studies. Theorizing the MofA is a very fruitful exercise!

Here's the video (forgive the hiccup in the middle of the clip. i can't find the student's final edit & i don't have time to pull out clips of just T, but you can get the point from it anyway):

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(Click for Quictime file - 14.5 MB file size)

Did you catch the clip of me with a weave-o-rama? Yup. Too much fun!

Well, one of my girl's best friends had a Club Libby Lu b-day party this weekend. Her rock star makeover:

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What's really scary is so much of the stuff for sale in the store (as you can see in the video), and if you get the deluxe makeover package you get a great bag (it's a gir thing!) filled with all kinds of heteronormative gender binary enforcing princess power.

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See Club Libby Lu's website for yourself.

Reality TV Post Assignment (10 points)

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1 - Watch (at least) one 30 minute episode of "Reality" TV

Focus on one particular episode from a "reality" TV show focused on or targeting women, young girls, or queer audiences. Makeover, weight loss, plastic surgery, model competition, sweet 16s and others would be great choices. You can choose to watch something you watch often (but watch critically or you can choose something you would absolutely not watch unless you were forced to).

If you do not have a television or access to TV or cable, you can visit the FMC lab and you can purchase a show off of itunes Store for $1.99 (with a credit card or debit/credit card). To do this, launch itunes, click on "itunes Store", go to "TV shows". They have a "reality TV" category, or choose by Network like "MTV" or . They have plastic surgery shows (Dr. 90210), MTV shows (Sweet 16), TLC shows (What Not To Wear), and Bravo (Black.White.).

2- Analyze the episode using a feminist intersectional analysis and key concepts from feminist film/media theory

Analyze the show using the feminist theory and film theory you’ve read thus far. Use concepts of gaze, intersectionality, identity, stereotypes, “scaling of bodies? / ranking of body type, skin color, hair texture, hair length+ , representational practices (construction of characters/caricatures, stereotypes), constructions of "reality", or any of the "issues" discussed in the course that you see reflected (or ignored) in the show you watched.

3 - Use theory to support your ideas/claims

Browse the .pdf files from the special issue of Feminist Media Studies focused on feminist analysis of “reality? television on our WebCT course site. Find an article that can add to your “reading? of the show you watched. You are also welcomed to find an alternative scholarly article to help analyze your viewing experience.

Select a few relevant quotes from any applicable course readings and at least one passage from the additional article (from Feminist Media Studies or other relevant scholarly article) that you chose to read.

4 - Post your 300 to 500 word entry, that cites at least one scholarly essay, by noon 11/27.

Your entry should be 300 to 500 words (about a double spaced page). Suggestion: type in word then cut and paste into blog entry to get word count, spell check, and to back up your writing.

Boy's Don't Cry - xtra links

This post has generated a lot of amazing discussion. This film would make a great topic for your final essay.

Want to let you know that The Brandon Teena story IS a documentary. An award-winning documentary.

(If you clicked the link +underlined text+ in the assignment post, you would have known!) For anyone interested in viewing, It is available on Netflix and for rental at videostores like Blockbuster.

Here's the doc's homepage - Zeitgeist Films

Read the doc's press kit - download here

some relevant NY Times articles:

Review

REVISIONS; When Art Digests Life and Disgorges Its Poison

FILM REVIEW; A Rape and Beating, Later 3 Murders And Then the Twist

& some other interesting Links from M.L.:
http://www.crimelibrary.com/notorious_murders/not_guilty/brandon/1.html

Curiously while searching for old issues, online about Brandon Teena, I found this case about Gwen Araujo. Lifetime made a movie about her story. But the article is titled: Echoes of Brandon Teena http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1589/is_2002_Nov_26/ai_95263233

This one is from the court tv site, called crime library. A little splashy but the author does an interesting job fleshing out story from the limited sources she had.
http://www.crimelibrary.com/notorious_murders/not_guilty/brandon/1.html

here's a reprint of names and deaths that was from OUT Magazine
http://www.godhatesfredphelps.com/hatecrimes.html

You can also do a library search and find some great articles in the advocate, newspapers and lots of periodicals.

November 13, 2006

Gender Identity

I'd like to provide a link that people may find useful in understanding the difference between transgender, transsexual, cross-dresser, homosexual, etc. The language used in Boys Don't Cry may be misleading; when Brandon is in jail he tells Lana that he is a Hermaphrodite, which is incorrect. Also, I noticed some blog responses that used terms inappropriately, so maybe we could all benefit from understanding more.

Transgender is the state of one's "gender identity" (self-identification as male, female, both or neither) not matching one's "assigned gender" (identification by others as male or female based on physical/genetic sex). Transgender does not imply any specific form of sexual orientation (transgender people may be heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, pansexual or asexual.) (Wikipedia)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transgender

The body and gender performativity

What does the film say about the body - gender performativity, binding, "passing", masculinity/femininity/androgyny, sexual ambiguity, identity transformation, violence, and intolerance... Does the film reinforce or complicate gender binaries?

I think the film illustrates gender binaries through the characters, but they are all complicated by the presence of Brandon. Especially because it is set in a small town gender stereotypes and expectations are very strict. Brandon is aware of this and to prove to himself and others he acts especially masculine. He smokes and drinks in excess, he fights in bars and does other dangerous things to seem tough and manly. Brandon's performance of gender is very important to him and his successful passing as a man. However, the other characters also perform gender to the extreme especially the other men who later rape Brandon. They rape him because they are proving their masculinity and are punishing him for threatening their maleness. The part of the film that most complicates gender is when Lana finds out that Brandon is a girl and loves her anyhow and even is still sexually attracted to him. The fact that gender doesn't matter to her and that she is attracted to Brandon as a person, not a man is important for breaking down binaries and heteronormative attitudes.

on responsibility

Responsible-- yes, she is most assuredly responsible. The fact that it is her story implies nothing less; without her action this film would not have come into discussion. Without the doings of Kimberly Pierce, Boys Don’t Cry, and the illusions it made would have remained another hateful news story. This film, however, is art. It leaves an imprint, and stirs up the mix a bit.
To react I wrote a poem. The words are not my own, But the story they tell is, it’s my art.

‘never a truestory anyway’

-for mark nowak


involvement in artforms.
changes the shape of perception,

working from true stories,
you just know it.

is this how you would have said it?
feeling on fire and uncomfortable

in their own skin.
each time layering down another layer.

without actually knowing the route
you are going to take,

subliminal-- what the
story::: on a literal level.


When the credits roll Kimberly Pierce is the creator here. Where she received her inspiration is very relevant, and worth investigation, but in the end her name’s on the box-- it’s her art. She will do with it what she will, without responsibility to anyone under its base.

Boys Don't Cry

What do you think about Pierce's directorial choices like casting "unknown" Swank instead of "big name" actor? What do you think about Swank's portrayal?

Since this movie, Hilary Swank has become a much more well known actress than she was before. When this film was made, she wasn't a big star and hadn't played any roles that were permanently pinned to her. Because of this, Pierce's choice to cast her as Brandon Teena, instead of a big name, was a good one. Swank, unlike many well known actors, had not portrayed a character that shaped her image in the public eye. For example, when Anthony Hopkins played Hannibal in "Silence of the Lambs", it created an image for him as an actor that sticks in the audiences minds. He is now forever known for this role because of it's strength and impact. Hilary, at the time, had not starred in a role that gave her this type of image. She had a clean slate, that viewers would be unbiased about. She was a fresh face and was able to completely fill the shoes of the role of Brandon.
Swank's portrayal of Brandon in "Boys Don't Cry" was impressive to many. Even though winning the Academy Award for best actress for her performance in this movie proved that she surpassed expectations in playing Brandon; she didn't need it. It was clear to me through viewing the film that she took this role very seriously. She paid attention to details such as facial expressions, body language, and much more to play the part as accurately as she could. Her performance allows the audience to focus on the actual story, the documentary part of the Brandon Teena story, and not on her as an actress or the fact that she is a woman playing a transgender role. Hilary Swank did an amazing job of bringing the story to life, and Kimberly Pierce was smart to cast her.

Boys Don't Cry

What do you think about Pierce's directorial choices like casting "unknown" Swank instead of "big name" actor? What do you think about Swank's portrayal?

Since this movie, Hilary Swank has become a much more well known actress than she was before. When this film was made, she wasn't a big star and hadn't played any roles that were permanently pinned to her. Because of this, Pierce's choice to cast her as Brandon Teena, instead of a big name, was a good one. Swank, unlike many well known actors, had not portrayed a character that shaped her image in the public eye. For example, when Anthony Hopkins played Hannibal in "Silence of the Lambs", it created an image for him as an actor that sticks in the audiences minds. He is now forever known for this role because of it's strength and impact. Hilary, at the time, had not starred in a role that gave her this type of image. She had a clean slate, that viewers would be unbiased about. She was a fresh face and was able to completely fill the shoes of the role of Brandon.
Swank's portrayal of Brandon in "Boys Don't Cry" was impressive to many. Even though winning the Academy Award for best actress for her performance in this movie proved that she surpassed expectations in playing Brandon; she didn't need it. It was clear to me through viewing the film that she took this role very seriously. She paid attention to details such as facial expressions, body language, and much more to play the part as accurately as she could. Her performance allows the audience to focus on the actual story, the documentary part of the Brandon Teena story, and not on her as an actress or the fact that she is a woman playing a transgender role. Hilary Swank did an amazing job of bringing the story to life, and Kimberly Pierce was smart to cast her.

Boys Don't Cry

I think that this story tells a lot about "small town" america, american values and american life. This film shows how ignorant, uneducated, and evil people are. It shows how hostile people are toward those that are different from them. It shows that in america, there is a structured and uniform image that people have to possess, those that do not conform to it are outcasts from society. This movie goes back to what Judith Butler calls gender performativity, and in america, those who do not perform the assigned roles of that given gender are therefore very deserving of abuse, humiliation, and even death.

Responsibility...

Responsibility…we as a nation, and/or generation, have evolved into an entity that rejects and continually pawns accountability onto someone or something else, but in fear of what? A ruined reputation, or financial, civil and criminal repercussions? But with that said, it would be nice if more people started standing behind their decisions, actions and work, especially if creating a heated social production for society to intake and react to. Responsibility should weigh on the minds of everyone in any situation.

In the case of Boys Don’t Cry, Pierce took liberties to ensure that the message, emotion and power of this horrific event was portrayed and felt by her audience. In that sense, I feel that Pierce was aware of the “responsibility? she took on to give Brandon and his story agency, even if it wasn’t told verbatim. Some of the other posts to this topic touched on the fact that Pierce left out a third victim’s story, and in that sense she somehow didn’t live up to the accountability she signed up for. Yet, if Pierce set out to tell the story of Brandon Teena and felt that the third victim confused that story or hindered the sympathy conjured or ground gained for the transgendered community, as a filmmaker/director she should be granted that right. Leaving out the third victim doesn’t make what happened to Brandon any less true.

Saly's Response

I Believe I can safely say that this was the most intense movie I have EVER seen. The word scary still comes to mind every time I think about it. I think what scared me most was the fact that during certain parts of the movie I was thinking this can’t possibly happen. There is no way a person can be this cruel, there is no way police officers could be that merciless or stupid; only to find out at the end that it was a true story. I believe everyone would agree that the most disturbing scene in the whole movie was the rape scene. Although we were warned before the movie started that the rape scene would be graphic, I never honestly thought it would be like that. I have never felt so sick in my life from watching anything; and worst of all I kept feeling sick every time I thought of the movie (I could not eat for days after). The part of the movie that angered me most was the scene after the rape scene where Brendan goes to the police station and reports John and Tom, and the police have enough evidence from the analysis to incriminate them, but instead of going to get them they are sitting there asking questions that are not relevant to the case; like “why do you like to kiss girls?? How is that any of their business? How is that relevant? Why would that matter? There is a rape victim in front of them and all they want to know about it her sexual preference? That seems both unjust and inhumane. The part the really ticked me off was that the police called up John and Tom asking them to stop by the station the next morning, instead of going to get them and throwing them in jail. If the police would have locked them up instead of calling them politely they would have never gotten the chance to kill two innocent people. I believe when a crime like this one takes place all personal qualities of the victim should be disregarded. There should be reason why anyone should have to suffer through something so disturbing because of their sexual preference or any other personal piece of information. I think this had a large impact of the public because I believe that after anyone watches this movie, even if they don’t agree with Brandon’s life style, they start to feel sympathy for her. They see that no one deserves this kind of treatment and hatred.

Violence in narrative

This movie was difficult for me to watch, however I was very upset with myself for how little I seemed to be effected by it, at first. I'm not a monster I swear. I didn't realize while watching the film that it was based on a true story. I watched the film believing that it wasn't, and I used that assumption to help me get through it. I had heard from many people that the film was incredibly difficult to watch, and I spent the entire film on edge waiting for some scene of horrific violence which came at the very end. I think the rape was probably the worst part of the film for me. The murder scene however, had very little effect on me. I think this was a combination of the fact that I still believed I was watching fiction and because, for me, the rape scene was much more traumatic. All the while I kept thinking about how I was mostly affected by the images of rape, and not the characters story, again not because I didn't care but because I convinced myself that it wasn't real, but rape is very real and you know that it happens every day, even if it didn’t happen to a character name Brandon. Throughout the film my mind kept drifting to the Matthew Shepard story. I have seen two stage versions of the Laramie Project and the film. Each piece has been very hard for me and I always find myself in a crying fit that usually last well after the end of the film/play. So when I realized Boys Don't Cry was a true story my heart absolutely fell. It was such a difficult feeling, similar to my feelings with Laramie, but different. I keep wondering what my response to the film would have been had I known while I watched the murders that they were real peoples lives that were lost. The only way to know is if I watch it again, which I'm not apt to do.

So what’s my point? For me its amazing the difference the simple words “based on a true story? can make. With movies that feature such terrible stories, to get through them I have to remind myself that it’s not real, it’s just a film. I need to be careful that I am not sutured into the narrative. This is hard to do, but when I know I am watching a retelling of someone’s life, there is just no way to take that step back. I wonder though about the violence. I'm not an advocate of violent films. I understand that violence exists and that to an extent it needs to be addressed, but some films I feel get carried away, or they use violence for the wrong reasons. I worry that some violent films only give people new ideas, new ways to hurt others. Do I think Boy's Don't Cry does this? I don't know. It is important to address the issues of rape, hate crimes and murder, but what I think is key when addressing them is to show why they are wrong. That means the effects need to be demonstrated, not just the act. I think Boy's Don't Cry did a successful job making us understand the horror of rape. For me however, it wasn’t necessary. I didn't need to watch the actual rape to understand what it would do to Brandon, or why the crime was so terrible. Perhaps some people do. Maybe some people just can't understand until they can see it. This brings me back to Laramie. Why I love the Laramie Project is because it is completely devoid of violence, and yet, there is no way to walk away from it without knowing that the violence surrounding Matthew's death was horrible. You never even see Matthew; we don't need to fall in love with the character to feel sympathy for him. We just understand based on the effects it had on others that the crime was truly terrible.

I guess I don't know what my point is. This is a hard film, for all of us. I think what it comes down to is this. To make a statement about hate, violence, ignorance or any issue really, the best way to do so is to use a real life example, then no one can hide from it (well some people still may but you have to at that point realize those people may be lost to hate). Also it does not always take explicit violence to make a point, it’s not the images of violence but the images of the lives affected, the faces and the hurt, the emotion that get to us. But perhaps some people need to see the violence to understand. Just like I need to know it’s a true story before I’m truly affected. Maybe the shock of knowing its real is like the shock of seeing instead of just knowing it happened. I guess we all respond differently. As long as everyone can walk away from a film like Boys Don’t Cry or Laramie Project and understand that hate and violence are wrong, it doesn't really matter how they figured it out.

Emily's response

I agree with the general consensus of pervious posts in that films like Boys Don’t Cry have a large impact on public views of issues presented. I feel that this impact is both positive and negative.

I had a similar reaction to others as I left the classroom; feelings of empathy, despair, I had a really hard time jumping back into my day. How can there be so much hate in the world? This film acts to raise awareness and combat ignorance surrounding transgender issues. Many people fear and hate what they cannot understand, and Boys Don’t Cry may help people to understand Brandon.

But this is also the downfall of the film. They way that people understand Brandon may be the way the public understands all transgender people. Since this film is breaking new ground in mainstream media as depicting the transgender experience, it may be taken as the authority on the subject since its all some people have been exposed to. And because it’s based on a true story, many people will assume the narrative is accurate to true life, which isn’t likely. And even if it was, this is one person, not all transgender people. While the oppressed and marginalized people in a society all share that as a common experience, it’s really important to understand how much variation within a group there is. Look at feminism, with so many divisions of people saying “this is my experience, and it’s very different than yours?. As time progresses, we will see more and more varied representations of transgender people that reflect the huge variation of experience within this group of people. Until then, let’s keep in mind that Brandon is just one of many.

Boys Don't Cry and the public's view on issues

After watching this movie, I now understand more about the issues that people go through when they are having a "sexual identity crisis" like Teena Brandon was in the movie. I think that after watching this, anyone should be concerned and want to do something to help or make a change with society because no one should have to go through what she went through and die because of who they are and who they want to become.
I think that films like this NEED to impact the public's view on issues. People need to see this film to gain a better understanding of people and what they go through when they go against the norm. I think this film has relevance to the present issue of same-sex marriage and same-sex partnership because this film makes you feel for Teena and this film could help change people's minds about banning same-sex marriage.
If more people could learn about instances like this and learn from them, then the world would be a better place and the public could become more accepting of people who are different and see the things that people go through to be themselves and to live the life they want to live. No one should have to go through what Teena Brandon went through just to be who they are and be raped and killed for it. This film did have an impact on the public at the time, but I feel that it would have an even bigger impact on the public now because of the issues people are facing now in our society.

Reponse to Stephanie's Post on Documentary

I agree with Stephanie's point about the positive reasons for not creating this film as a documentary. One reason for this is the wider audience this movie can attract. Like Stephanie said, if this were a documentary, the audience would be even smaller and this issue would not have caused such an uproar at the time it premiered. Another reason a Hollywood film was a good choice was the way Brandon's life was shown. Although Hilary Swank did a great job of becoming a male figure and blurring the line between male and female, she is still an attractive actress. This was an extremely safe representation of the violence of the incident. The rape scene was incredibly hard to watch, as was the majority of the movie, but it was still created in a way that made it easy for a wide audience to watch it. Because of Pierce's choice to create a Hollywood film, instead of a documentary, more people were affected by Brandon's story, and were not turned away because of something too graphic or uncomfortable.

Documentary

I feel that Boys Don't Cry was able to bring up taboo issues that much of society rarely acknowledges in an empathetic intimate style.The documentary would definately not have engaged the audience as well as the Hollywood narritive because the narritive was formatted to give a more personal, yet milder content suited for a wider audience range. It still is gritty enough to be considered offensive by many people, but it gives an insite on the violence surrounding the so often disregarded 'others' in society. Also, the Hollywood film was not a best seller. Many people do not care to pay money to watch a film that will make them uncomfortable. If Boys Don't Cry were a documentary, I think even fewer people would have seen it. I think that the choice to omit certain parts of the true story was beneficial in that it allowed the viewer to get more involved with the characters and film. If it were a documentary, it would have been more aloof because we would only know half the story. This way we are able to be taken into Brandon Teena's life, even if its not wholly accurate.

Boys Don't Cry: Raising Knowledge of Public Issues

As earlier stated, films can be easily avoided by the close minded, which was possibly the case for Boys Don't Cry. This is part of the beauty of film: although it can open one's eyes into a completely different world than their own, if one isn't ready or feels too uncomfortable around it, they can miss out. Even though this film may not have put a fortune into the pockets of all who participated in it's making due to that fact that transgender issues are very controversial, it definitely brought the issues to the attention of those that were willing to be exposed to it.
I think that in time, this movie will continue to bring transgender, gay and homophobic issues to the attention of many people who may not understand but are willing to try.
After seeing it, I have talked to many of my friends about the film and the issues brought up by it. These discussions are important in creating acceptance- and were sparked by the film. I think that even if a few minds were changed, enlightened, or somehow affected by the film or any hollywood film, it has done it's job.

If Boys Don't Cry was a documentary...

If Boys Dont Cry had been a documentary about Brandon Teena, it would have been a very different film. Either Brandon Teena wouldn't have been raped and killed in the end, if the film crew had prevented it, or these scenes would not have been included, if the crew was absent, or the crew also would have been murdered. This would have changed the entire film, as the rape and murder of Brandon Teena was the terrible climax that followed the tension that had been rising throughout the film. Therefore Boys Dont Cry could really only exist as a retold story, and not a as documentary. Retold stories allow for personal experiences to be recreated on film and worked into a story. Although Brandon's story would have been harrowing and horrible told in any format, the level of emotional involvement that Boys Dont Cry achieves with the audience could only be attained through this format. The character development and plot, both of which could not have been so linear and flowing in a documentary, leave the audience relating to Brandon Teena. The audience then has difficulty watching the violent scenes, and walks away from the film angry that Brandon Teena was murdered. This additional emotional pull involved in retelling an already emotional story makes Boys Dont Cry an excellent tool for fighting prejudice, and probably a more effective one than a documentary. Boys Dont Cry has broader audience appeal than a documentary. It is a piece of critically acclaimed mainstream cinema, which certainly indicates a large number of viewers. This large audience is one way in which the retelling of the Brandon Teena story has power that a documentary does not. Even if a member of the audience of Boys Dont Cry does not walk away from the film angry that Brandon is dead, they will at least be thinking about people outside of the male/female gender and sex binary. The simple act of thinking about people, and knowing they exist, helps to pull them out of the margins of society.

Also on responsibility

After class I had a number of mixed emotions, it was hard for me to stop thinking about the film for days after we watched it. I wanted to walk out of class but was also compelled to find out what would happen in the end. I decided to look up Teena's story online to find out how true to his life Kimberly Pierce had kept the film. I too was shocked to find out there was a third, African-American male victim who was not portrayed in this film and wondered why. I began to question the validity and reliablity of Pierce's story. I thought this film did an excellent job on eliciting emotions from the audience, but questioned how much of the last few weeks of Teena's life was altered to do just that. I think it is the responsibility of the filmmaker to tell the true story and was disappointed that she felt to leave out the third victim. How and why did she make such a choice? I remember in one of the readings Pierce had mentioned that she had found a beautiful farmhouse and wanted to use that one but that others had told her that it was important for them to find a farmhouse that showed what class the people were from as if to say that the viewers will better respond to lower class, uneducated, small town folks who have nothing better to do than to drink. I wondered if the decision to leave out the third victim was because he did not fit in to the story they were trying to tell. Could it be that she left him out because if the murderers and victims socialized with an African-American male, the audience would not see them as the small town, close-minded individuals the filmmaker wanted them to be portrayed as? The action of the two murderer's proved that (the closed-minded, uneducated part) which is why it was unnecessary to leave out the involvement of the victim, Phillip DeVine. If you are going to tell a true story, especially one you are not witness to, respect all who are involved. This is not to say that the film itself was not any less powerful or effective, again, I just believe that when you are telling a true story, especially one of this magnitude of such a socially significant issue and of importance, it is your responsibility to tell the most accurate account and not alter it according to how you feel it should be portrayed to the public.

Boys don't cry and its location

Boys Don’t Cry is a film that makes you think. When I left class, and for the most of the next day, it was in my head. I had never seen it before and the dramatic way that it ended shocked me a great deal. I thought the reaction of the two men was quite drastic. I think it has great deal to do with where the story took place. It does make all the difference that it was a small town in the south rather than large city. I do agree that there is prejudice in every city and people everywhere are always afraid of what they don’t understand but the difference here is due to exposure. If the men had been around homosexuality and gender confused individuals they wouldn’t have reacted in the drastic fashion they did. Granted they were trouble men with histories of crime but many other places around the country had this happened, a confrontation would have settled it. It was, however terrible, a well made film. And I think it can teach people about things they are not so familiar with or at least make them think a little.

Brandon's Performance and Normative Society

This film effectively portrays the effort and conscious decisions it takes to perform gender. Brandon tries so hard to fit in and he does things that he really doesn't want to do because he thinks that thats what men do, and this is what he says to Lana after skiing on the trucks. He doesn't know how to fit in and doesn't seem to fit in any place that he stays. Either he should just admit she's a dyke, or he does whatever it takes, doing anything the men say to try to fit in. He never seems to be good enough. Throughout the film, this inability to fit in or be 'good enough' portrays the difficulty of transgender and transsexuals to fit in or the never ending struggle to be good enough in the eyes of normative society. He is depicted as the 'lesser' and the 'other' trying to become 'normal.' Normal within the film is a reflection of attitudes within society. Normal men and women, no matter how many faults they have, are still superior to the 'gender confused'.

Hollywood's Responsibility

In the situation of Boys Don't Cry, I feel like there is a real responsibility to tell the story accurately. This is such a controversial issue and type of film that the subject matter needs to be approached in a way that is respectful of the family of the vitctims involved. I had not known a lot about this film until I saw it. I was unaware that this was based on a true story, and I am actually glad I did not know until the end, because I think it would have been that much harder to watch. Although, I think the film showed the facts and shed a light on the manner that was done in a sensitive way to the family involved, while still being upfront and out right honest about the activities involved in by Teena and her friends. I really feel that because this is such a social issue, and because it was a true story that the filmmakers have a responsibility to tell the story accurately. I think that regardless of the point of view of the filmmaker, that they should be able to speak to the way they told the story, and present it in the most truthful way possible.

In regards to the reading, it talks about how she was shown the way others depicted her during interviews, but the way that she really was will never be known because it was not actually documented. However, even though this is a criticism of the film, I still feel that it is the best that can be done to tell the story. There is no way to guarentee that an actor will exactly portray someone else perfectly, but if it were the case it would mean a lot less telling of truly important stories. So, in this regard I disagree with the reading and I think that it is trying to tell the story as accurately as possible is the point, not how to-a-tee is the character portrayal.

Comments on the casting...

So many people commented on the casting of Swank. I find Bodnia’s comments interesting and a bit thought provoking. Initially, I thought the same thing about casting a big Hollywood actress… that it would overshadow or take away from the theme or purpose of the movie. Upon further thought, I have to say I disagree though. After all, that is the job of an actor, to get the audience to believe they are the character. I do not think that casting someone like Julia Roberts into the role would take away the “personal connection? for the same reason Bodnia suggested that it would… because the film deals with a sensitive topic. I think that the most important thing when casting the character of Brandon was that the audience was able to identify with him as a person. In the excerpts on Kimberly Pierce's creative process it is quoted that she (the director) “was looking for a human response,? and that the point of the story was “to include people in Brandon’s journey.? I think that this film would have had the same emotional connection to Brandon’s character no matter who played it, as long as they played the character with as much interest with portraying the actual person as Swank did.

I do agree with Bodnia’s comments that her physical features or stereotypical “masculine? features of facial structure and muscular body type had some influence on the directorial decision of Swank’s casting. I don’t know anything about casting or many of the details to the film process in general, but I wonder if the directorial decision was as much thought out as to thinking of casting an unknown actress such as Swank because Brandon Teena was kind of unknown as well… to herself and others and that they both (the character of Brandon and Swank as an actress) felt as if they had something to prove in “doing? the role.

November 12, 2006

The story of Teena Brandon is such a tragedy. The fact that this incident took place should break anyone's heart. The fact that it took place in a small town, however, I think is not a topic of importance. True security is higher and acceptance is more likely in a larger town or city but this hatred towards homosexuals and transgenders is found in every size town in America. It is truly unfortunate that this is the case. However, with the emotion and truth portrayed in this film, Kimberly Pierce does a good job at bringing the story to the publics attention in an appropriate and respectable manner. Watching this terrible hate crime reenacted is much more affective than a documentary would have been. Where a documentary would tell the story completely factual, it would not give the same images and character connection that a film can give.

While watching Boys Don't Cry, the viewer is introduced to the characters and given a chance to feel their emotions along with them. When Brandon's true identity comes out towards the end, viewers can't help but be intrigued and hurt by the events that take place. For one to watch this movie and witness the tragedy, they become educated and are likely to be affected by how horrible this hatred really is and how unnecessary it is within our society. To see this film in it's entirety gives people the realization of American society can change. It is not necessary for a viewers opinions on homosexuality to change but it should be noted how ridiculous it is to hate someone so strongly for their way of life.

Boys Don't Cry and Public Opinion

Films can be very powerful works of art. Important films can stir public conversation and opinion. Unfortunatly I don't think Boys Don't Cry reaches this level. Don't get me wrong, it is a very good film, with great performances from Hilary Swank and Chloe Sevigny. I would classify Boys Don't Cry as a film that preaches to the choir. Most of the people who have seen it already lean towards acceptance of homosexuals/transgender issues and the film just reaffirms their beliefs. Now you can make the argument that Fahrenheit 9/11 preached to choir as well, but the difference is that Fahreinheit also rallied the oppisition. Boys Don't Cry didn't have that effect as it played in mostly liberal parts of the country, and could be easily ignored by the opponents of gay/transgender rights. Even though Swank won the Oscar, the film was never front page news. Yes, it may have swayed people on the fence, or those with no previous opinion, but how many people is that? According to IMDB, the film only grossed 11.5 million dollars in its theatrical release. I don't remember it setting records in video sales or rentels. Yes the film helped shine a light on the issue, bu not too many people saw the light. That is not to say its a bad film, it just plays better to a specific audience, and was easily ignored by most of the country.

Casting Choices

I think this film was extremely well cast. Based on the setting and lifestyles of the characters, the actors in this film represented their characters the way they probably should have been. Hilary Swank was an excellent choice for the film, but I don't know that I agree that she was 'unknown' at the time. She had appeared in numerous television shows and movies prior to her portrayal of Teena Brandon, so its not like this was her first role. She was known, but she just hadn't made it to that upper tier until this role. Obviously casting Swank paid off as she won best actress. The film probably would have still been good without her in it, but she brought a certain believability to the role. As far as the other actors in the film, i really enjoyed Peter Saarsgard in his role. He projects a lot of life in his character. Its easy to feel both sympathy and anger towards him. He wasn't very well known either until recently as he has been in successful films such as Garden State and Flight Plan. Chloe Sevigny was also a good choice for her character. She portrayed the small town, trailer trash very well and the believability of these characters is what makes the film successful in my opinion.
I think that these actors had to be less known than others, yet had to have qualities of being a good actor. They also had to fit into the stereotypes of the characters. The casting was done extremely well. Hilary Swank's versatility is reflected and she does a perfect job of portraying Brandon in the film.

Boys Don't Cry, Pierce's Accountability

When Kimberly Pierce decided that this story was one that inspired her enough to make a movie about it she assumed the responsibility of being responsible for its outcome. A story such as Boys Dont Cry requires alot of research and accuracy to ensure that the "real story" behind the film is acurately portrayed. Of course in a Hollywood film directors are often expected to take some creative license, because even the most dramatic real life stories can always be made a little more dramatic in Hollywood, but back to my initial point... When Kimberly Pierce made Boys Dont Cry she became responsible for just about every aspect of the film from the initial research of the story, and Teena Brandon to the inteseness of the final rape/murder scenes. It was her project from the beginning, and as with something that someone/anyone takes onand wants there name to be on you are responsible for the content of that work. I read an article that discussed how the members of the towns portrayed in the movies were upset with the movie because of their portrayal as biggot, drunk, idiots. It is that kind of backlash that Pierce should be held accountable for. She also gets the pleasure of getting the credit for the positive things surrounding the film such as Swanks Academy Award. Its a double edged sword, but I do think that Pierce is and should be responsible for the films content, and criticism and praise.

Boys Don't Cry Response

I believe that movies, such as Boys Don't Cry, DO bring attention to concerning and pressing issues that the audience(public) should be aware of. Just as media sell more tragic stories and headlines, movies that end in tragedy tend to pique awareness. Usually, this effect is heightened even more, if there is tragedy or death in a film that is based on true events. In Boys Don't Cry for instance, Brandon's tragic death at the end of the film really secures the urgent importance for audiences to understand and sympathize with transgender individuals. As Kimberly Pierce mentioned in her creative process interview, she wanted the audience to really sympathize with Brandon's situation, as well as other characters. This is why Pierce wanted to accurately portray even small details such as the farmhouse that the film was shot on. Instead of choosing a nicer-looking farmhouse, Pierce understood that that would not accurately depict the true setting of the film. Inturn, the audience's response would not be accurate and as sympathetic. Sometimes, however, in films this awareness is heightened through exaggeration of the "true" events. Pierce mentions that Brandon's reasons and responses are unclear/ or not 100% known, simply because there was no direct interview with Brandon. Essentially, the director chooses why a character would think or act a certain way. I don't think that this exaggeration, though, lessens the audiences awareness or the impact on the audience. Ultimately, I believe that a film even slightly based on true events sends a stronger message and urgency to the audience watching and absorbing images that are then translated into prolific messages.

The impact on public views

A number of people have commented on the question “Do films such as this impact the public views on issues?? I agree that these types of films definitely impact public opinion on the issues they deal with. When a movie such as Boys Don’t Cry generate so much conversation and draw so much attention it is inevitable that they will influence public opinion. I found this film both incredibly difficult to watch and totally captivating.
I think that many people are unaware of the differences and difficulties faced by various “othered? groups, and this is why there is hatred and disapproval of such groups. By making Boys Don’t Cry, Kimberly Pierce provided a vein through which people can have some sort of contact with a person whom they might normally judge or look down upon. By viewing this two hour film, audience members can watch from a distance, see the whole story first, and then reflect on it afterward. Without some sort of contact, many people would hold to prejudices against these “othered? groups, but this contact the film provides helps dissolve prejudices because it is impossible not to connect on some level with Brandon. I think that films such as this provide a way for people to have some sort of experience with a person whom they might judge and whom they would normally not have any contact with. Hopefully at least some hatred, discrimination, or intolerance was avoided or broken because of this film. In any event, I think that films such as this are catalysts for important conversation.

Truth vs. Facts in the Recreation of Events

Retelling the story of Brandon Teena, or any story for that matter, in a theatrical manner as opposed to a documentary involves the audience in a completely different way. As several people have mentioned in previous posts, viewing this film had an extremely significant effect on them. In any “good? movie, actors always discuss how they had to truly become their character in order to accurately portray someone believable. As Kimberly Pierce mentions in the article about her creative process, she recounts the development of the rape scene and that she told actor Brendan Sexton III “you’re not yet doing it [raping Brandon] because you don’t need to do it? (100). Once he was able to internalize his character’s emotions and self loathing, the scene was perfect and had an incredible effect on the actor from the internal conflicts of actually becoming that person. As an audience member, this character development makes the scene more believable and realistic and I was able to feel the horror of witnessing the scene as if it were happening right before me and I could do nothing to stop it. Instead of hearing the facts of an event, regardless of how shocking they may be, the viewer realizes what it’s like to be involved rather than hearing and dismissing it as something that doesn’t directly or personally affect them. Clearly a dramatized version won’t be as accurate as a documentary filled with straight facts and unbiased representations, but I believe it to be more true to the event itself. It’s impossible to completely and perfectly recreate true events without having filmed the event directly because even memories and recaps will have certain biases. However, even an actual viewing of the event would not necessarily capture everything truly involved in the scene. Pierce explains the process of researching and then internalizing the story to begin the creative development of the recreation of not only the cold facts but also the actual horror and emotions of what went on that may not be visible to an audience automatically. Because it’s impossible to know exactly how a person is feeling or thinking, it is up to the director or writer to decide through their own creative process and internalization of the characters how they will be portrayed, whether it is factually accurate or not. The question of accuracy regarding the number of murders has been brought up a few times in previous posts and I see this omission as a way to avoid distraction, drawing more accuracy from the final scene because of the way it will be interpreted by the audience and the importance to the plot. Because it is too difficult for the audience to develop an emotional or personal connection to several characters (or at least one that is significant), Candace’s death represents both individuals who were murdered as sort of innocent bystanders as opposed to the premeditated murder of Brandon. I presume that this third person who was killed was either unknown or of little plot importance in the rest of the story and would easily be brushed aside as another casualty in the event instead of noting the brutality of the death of an actual person. Rather than this omission devaluing this missing character’s life, it leaves the audience with the proper reaction because of their familiarity to Candace.

Expanding on this previous idea and in response to the claim that this is not a transgendered movie, I believe that the impression of Brandon as simply a lesbian who changed her identity to fit what was accepted by society may be shaped by the director's portrayal and interpretation of the film as well. In viewing the film, I had the same reaction and found myself wishing she (he?) would stop trying to pretend to be a man and simply find a female who was attracted to her as another female. Rather than this being the misinterpretation of the audience or critic as Annabelle Willox suggests, I think it is because Brandon's gender identity seemed to be clearly linked to his sexuality and wanting women to be attracted to him and being able to deceive everyone he met in order to fit in. The real problem, however, is not misinterpretation or mistakes in portrayal of who the character was actually supposed to be or may have become, but rather in the creation of categories and the assumption that a person may fit perfectly behind one specific label of transgender or homosexual or even crossdresser and the expectations and social roles that accompany them.

The Hidden Half

I watched Tahmineh Milani’s The Hidden Half. She is an Iranian director and was actually arrested for a time following the release of this film. The Hidden Half was the first Iranian film to show actions leading up to and following the Islamic Revolution.

I can’t say that this film was very enjoyable but it was definitely interesting to watch. The lead character Fereshteh may not be seen as very feminist by our standards, but in post-revolution Iran her actions would definitely be seen as feminist and rebellious. Fereshteh is the wife of a judge who is being sent to investigate the appeal of a female political prisoner. Fereshteh believes that this prisoner could very likely have been her or one of her friends. She writes a letter to her husband revealing her own political affiliations with a communist group during the revolution and a relationship she had with an older man. She reveals her story in the hopes that her husband will listen to the prisoner’s whole story and not judge her too harshly. It is dangerous for her to reveal her past, not only could it harm her relationship with her husband, but it could also lead to her arrest if her husband were to reveal her past to the authorities. The film also shows the brave actions of women in the communist party, prior to the revolution. These women risked their lives to voice their opinions and concerns. I think the film is evidence that women around the world are working in their own ways and within their own means to create change. Merely telling this story placed Milani’s life at risk, yet she continues to persevere and attempt to tell stories that are meaningful instead of conformist. I think it is important to support films like The Hidden Half so that filmmakers are encouraged to create films that portray strong women working for change.

the "unknown" actress

I do agree with the posts below in regards to Swank being a good choice because no one could identify her with any previous roles. I was also thinking of other reasons it would be beneficial to use Swank and I came up with the idea that it was possible that Swank might be bolder and able to do a more controversial role because she was new to the Hollywood scene.

Many actresses have in their contracts what they will and will not do with regards to nudity and sex scenes. Swank probably wanted to make a big impression (I assume) in the Hollywood scene and probably would not object to the demands that the movie had. Because of this, Swank was a good choice because she might have been more willing to do controversial nudity and sex scenes that might not have been done by using another actress. It is probably true that well known actresses would have not had a problem with the nudity or sex scenes, as in the case of the film "Monster" but everyone knew what Charlize Theron looked like and for me at least during most of the movie I was wondering how she looked so different. Because I had never scene Swank before the thought of what she really looked like never occurred to me. Because of the combination of her probably not having many restrictions on her contract and because she was new to the scene made Swank the perfect choice for the film because these attributes made her believable.

Language

When watching this movie I didn’t feel that language had a big role; I felt that the actions of the characters in the film were more important. During the film when the other characters learn about Brandon’s situation, most of them switch to referring to Brandon as “she?. Lana is really the only one that keeps referring to Brandon as “he?. When the others learn about Brandon, they get angry because someone different, someone they don’t approve of, is in their lives. Lana stands up for Brandon because she loves him. This movie doesn’t discuss the issues of what is transgender, cross dressing, or transsexual. This movie is more about the unnecessary hate and violence that is brought upon people who are “different?. At one point in the movie, when Brandon is talking to Lana in jail, he tries to explain his situation and he mentions some medical term and that this condition is quite normal. If I am correct, that is the only instance where we hear Brandon try to define anything. We also learn that he is or is trying to take some hormones in order to get a sex change, but that is also a very brief conversation. I don’t think that Kimberly Pierce’s main focus was to discuss if Brandon was transsexual or transgender; I feel that the film mostly portrayed the problem of pointless hate and violence that we have towards people who don’t fit the “norm of our society?.

Hollywood and one-sided views

Although I do feel that it's one of the responsibilities of the media to bring serious issues into the the publics view, I would argue that most filmmakers have one track mindset and don't voice the opinions of more than just one side of an issue.

The fact is most Americans are aware of current events because they DO read newspapers, watch television broadcasts and access a variety of news based websites. Anyone who would argue that the majority of working adults in America watch more hours of movies than spend familiarizing themselves with current events is just plain wrong. More Americans tune into the nightly newscasts than put in movies or go to the theaters. I would say that it's more an issue of importance, rather than being oblivious. The American public, generally, only cares about issues that affect them or they can relate to--news organizations know this and more often air stories that the greater majority can associate with. I do however believe that, even though Americans are not familiar with the Teena Brandon story, they are familiar with the prejudices that the gay, lesbian, and transgender community faces.

Hundred of people are killed every day in this world for reasons more pointless than the one Brandon was killed for. Is a pizza delivery boy being murdered for a free pizza an issue of any less importance than the death of a girl for fooling people about her true gender? Movies could be made about virtually any reason for murder–-"Boys Don't Cry" just happened to strike a chord with the gay, lesbian and transgender community. Could it have been that director Kimberly Pierce planned to side with that particular audience and thus angled the message of the movie for them? Other groups might not see the importance of the murder of a person with a sexual identity crisis other than the fact that they were murdered.

In the end, it is the producers and directors who decide what is important. From the reading of "Branding Teena: (Mis)Representations in the Media," we get the idea that Director Pierce could have gone off on several different paths when telling the story. When discussing whether or not the victim Brandon Teena really did want to have a sex change, "Pierce at least felt it was a possibility" (414). When you have complete control over the direction of a film, you decide what the audience should believe is important and what is not.

Not a Transgender Movie

Some argue that this film is about backwater USA dealing with a transgender person. People can be transgender, but based on what I've seen in this film--which some claim inaccurately portrays the events--shows a lesbian dealing with her lesbianism. She grew up in a community that does not want or appreciate homosexuality. She probably learned about her identity at a very young age. And according to Butler, "Identity categories tend to be instruments of regulatory regimes..." and the term lesbian was just that, so to avoid that term and the hate surrounding it--Teena Brandon changed her identity (409). Teena Brandon's male facade made Brandon feel accepted and empowered.

Why do I believe this, you say? I would have called this a transgender movie, if it wasn't for the lesbian scene at the end where we see that Teena is accepted for who she is and doesn't need a rubber phallus to make love. If Teena Brandon wasn't killed, I think that she would have come to terms with her lesbianism.

And to argue against something Alex said--I don't believe that the media is in Hollywood's pocket. The media has been blamed on so many levels. In fact, the "Branding Miss Teena" article does nothing but blame the media for their missuse or misunderstanding. I stand by Adam Mars-Jones from The Times (refer to page 417). If he muddled up the meaning of the film, then why aren't we focusing on the filmmakers portrayals? I am proof that he wasn't the only one who apparently missed the "real" meaning of the film.

Thoughts? Retorts or Rebuttals?

The "Unknown" Swank

The only reason I can think of as to why Pierce would cast the “unknown? Swank is that the audience wouldn’t have any other role to see her in. Any other actress would be difficult to believe she was a man. I would have the tendency to see her as a woman, a woman in a previous film. I didn’t have anything to compare the character of “Brandon? to. It was easier for me to forget that Swank was actually a woman. There were times when I saw her as a man. This was the point of casting a fresh actor.

Let’s say Pierce would’ve cast Natalie Portman. It would be challenging to divorce our minds from the women she has previously played. I might snap back to see her in a pink wig like she wore in “Closer?. There are many examples to draw upon. It would be difficult to believe that someone so feminine, so womanly, could ever believe she was a man, or play the part of a man.

Swank was successful in her portrayal. When “Brandon? was “bumper surfing,? or whatever it was called, I remember the way his body was positioned. I read his body as masculine. The way he raised his fist to the sky, the way he stood on the bumper, and the way he stood up and shook of a fall. There was nothing feminine about the way this scene was played.

I constantly forgot the “Brandon? was being played by a woman. Maybe it’s because I have female-to-male friends, or male-to-female friends? I don’t rely on how their body parts identify their gender. I rely on what comes out of their mouths, the way they carry themselves, and how they dress. Swank was a man. The former tools of identity were those of a man. She did a fabulous job of portraying a man. Sure, she was a pretty man, but there are pretty men out there. We’ve all seen them, right?

I also agree with Whitney and Renee. Films such as Boy's Don't Cry do impact the public views on issues. I think the main goal of a film like that is to bring the issue to the viewers' attention. In today's socitey it seems that most people go about their lives and don't open themselves up for anything that isn't the "norm", especially in a small town. I hope that, as it happenned to me, every person that watched this film was in shock at the inhumanity that was portrayed in it. I think the degree of the impact on the public depends highly on the story, the portrayal of the issue in the film, and most importantly how it its told. For me it was very difficult to watch because when I came to US, I was under thim impression that this was a country that was not prejudice to other peoples' choices and lifestyles but more and more I witness the opposite. The film wasn't supposed to change the viewer's mind and change their beliefs but it just simply said: Brand Teena was a real person, with hopes and dreams, just like everybody else...and just because she didn't fit the "norm mold" her life tragically ended.

Hollywood and Public Views

Movies such as Boys Don't Cry, that are based on true events do play an important role in bringing serious issues into public view. Although it is sad, many Americans do not watch the news or read newspapers and have very little knowledge about current events. Despite this lack of connection to current events, most Americans do watch mainstream media such as television shows and Hollywood movies. Movies like this attract viewers that see it as entertainment only, but then bring serious issues into the mainstream. Also, it forces people to see the main character as an actual person. This is important for people that maybe heard the story and dismissed it as unimportant. In the case of this particular movie is is important for people to see Teena/Brandon as an actual person and to see many of the horrible things that she/he experienced in life. People are much more likely to be sympathetic to an issue if they can understand it and relate it to an actual person. This effect can have negative results though, as described by the article "Branding Teena: (Mis)Representations in the Media." Saying that a movie is based on a true story can result in people believing that the movie is somehow a documentary or 100% accurate, when it fact it is just a representation of what someone believed happened. As this article points out, many things are left out, like the death of the third person and other things are added for dramatic effect. The writer and director also add their own beliefs to the film, such as the part when Brandon says that he cannot afford the time or money to go through surgery; it is not known whether this is true because filmmakers were not able to interview Brandon, but Kimberly Pierce thought this was the most likely explanation. Because of this, films based on actual events are important, but the filmmakers and actors are responsible for their portrayals and the audience must understand that these films are not entirely truthful and accurate.

Jillian Schwantz and Kimberly Pierce

I would have to agree that Kimberly has made a strong effort to recreate a story that is honest and real. In her readings, she discusses how she completely researched, went to trials, and conducted interviews, all to achieve a perfect story. She wrote about how she was concerned that perhaps she is wrong, and that she really wanted to know "Who is Brandon Teena?" Unfortunately, when you never knew someone, it is hard to convey them to the world. However, I think Kimberly did a perfect job at creating a Brandon that we can all relate to and connect with.
Kimberly discusses in specific instances that she had to have the actors do the rape scene more than once because she wanted it to have feeling. During this experience, the character Tom cries and reveals that he would never want to be or feel what his characters lives. Any director that can turn the entire cast into a group of real people discovering things about themselves has truly done a phenomenal job. I truly believe that as an author Kimberly has done her job, and has conveyed to the audience that these characters are real, even if they were never who she played them to be in Boys Don’t Cry.

Jillian Schwantz and kimberly pierce

I would have to agree that Kimberly has made a strong effort to recreat a story that is honest and real. In her readings, she discusses how she completely researched, went to trials, conducted interviews, all to achieve a perfect story. She wrote about how she was concerned that perhaphs she is wrong, and that she really wanted to know "Who is Brandon Teena?" Unfortunately, when you never knew someone, it is hard to convey them to the world. However, I think Kimberly did a perfect job at creating a Brandon that we can all relate to and connect with.
Kimberly discusses in specific instances that she had to have the actors do the rape scene more than once because she wanted it to have feeling. During this experience, the character Tom cries and reveals that he would never want to be or feel what his characters lives. Any director that can turn the entire cast into a group of real people discovering things about themselves, has truly done a phenomenal job. I truly believe that as an author Kimberly has done her job, and has conveyed to the audience that these characters are real, even if they never were who she played them to be.

Responsibility

Being that Hollywood dominates the media when it comes to movies because of their big budgets and connections I feel it would be a joke to think that Hollywood filmmakers and actors shouldn’t be held accountable for the stories they tell. Boys Don’t Cry is a perfect example of a movie that needs people to be responsible for the retelling. Because it’s a true story the storyteller has to be as accurate as possible, especially when the topic is so significant. Everyone that watches this movie will learn something and depending on the way the story is told this could be good or bad. By showing the reality and by letting people see what it could be like to have to live your life like Brandon, they are able to comprehend the situation more clearly. If this story was told through the eyes of anyone else like John, then we might get a different view of Brandon. Without a doubt it would be extremely hostel towards people with different sexuality preferences. This could make people feel as though his actions would be justified but this would be incredibly wrong. So if people didn’t take responsibility for the work they did there could be many movies that could hurt society and give people the wrong impressions. The responsibility falls onto everyone that is evolved in the process from the writers to the actors.

Gender Performances

Regarding to the “unknown? actress, I didn’t even know who Hilary Swank was until the movie “A Million Dollar Baby? came out and that happens to the first and only movie that I seen of Swank. For the reasons that I didn’t really know who Swank was, her character as Brandon to me was a lot more realistic and effective whereas if it was to be play by a famous actor that I know. I thought Swank did an excellent job at acting as a boy which was really real to me. In retrospective, this reminds me that gender is always being performed.
In the movie “Boys Don’t Cry? I think it helps explore the idea of gender as performative. Throughout the movie I thought it shows some really good demonstrations of how a man and a woman is suppose to act or what it’s roles is supposed to be like. For example, it’s quite evident that the men in the movie are all “macho? whereas the women are the opposite. Another example in the movie that I thought displayed gender performance extremely well was when the guy asked Brandon to stand up behind a Ford runner while the car was still in motion and driving over dangerous bumps to see how long he can last standing. Even though Brandon fell down a couple of times he continues to try again because he knows that “playing dangerously? was something that the guys do. Furthermore, considering the fact that no one can even determine that Brendon was a girl (until someone found her tampon underneath the mattress) proves the fact that gender is indeed performed. As Brendon has demonstrated in the movie, everyday our gender is performed through our behaviors, posture, how we carry ourselves, what we wear, how we speak and what we do. In short, this movie goes to prove that as a performance, gender is never fully established or completely internalized by us. Instead, we must daily repeat our acts and gestures of gender to reinforce our identities as woman or man.

Jessie's Post: Unknown Actress

Although it is a popular belief, I agree with the other postings that casting Hilary Swank, the "unknown" actress, to play the lead role was a great choice, and I think that's obvious from the fact that she won an Oscar. The first movie I ever saw her in was "The Next Karate Kid" and this not only shows that she has come a long way as an actress, but also that she can play a wide array of roles. She did a great job of making her performance believable and I think that casting a big name actress for the role would only have taken away from the problems of the character; more focus would have been on the actress herself instead of the character.

The Role of Language - Repost

I have seen this film several times, and each time I watch it I am struck by how prevalent Foucault’s discussion of the need for the “confessional? is: throughout the film various terms are ascribed to Brandon’s body, and yet, as opposed to the “truth? of “coming out (of naming oneself),? or the need to confess what one is, it’s the assumption that the body itself must be “the site of authenticity.? (Willox, 410) Throughout the film there are allusions to lesbianism, “dykes,? gender dysphoria, sex reassignment surgery, referring to Brandon as “she,? “it,? followed by the golden: “what the fuck are you?? Still, it is that need to know , to know the “truth? of Brandon’s body that sets up the dilemma of language in the film. While in theory it is easy (well, easier) to discuss the transgender body as an idea or concept as opposed to an actual embodied body, this film has a difficult task because Pierce is forced to contend with questions of gender while still visually representing a body to the audience. However, as Willox states, it is through using language that Pierce may in fact achieve that feeling of “never knowing,? as in a way this film is supposition because, “in the absence of Brandon himself, it is unclear exactly how Brandon experienced his gender identity, and how he reconciled this with his body.? (Willox, 414) Brandon’s gender identity is ambiguous as it is gleaned second-hand, and as Lana herself, possibly the primary source for the knowing of Brandon “claimed variously that ‘Brandon was a girl,’ and ‘Brandon didn’t need a sex change, he was always a man to me.’? (Ibid)
Hardly decisive, this sets up the quandary of how to potentially visualize a transgender body, a body that is in a sense politicized because it is a body defining itself outside of the parameters of the prescribed gender/sex corollary. Through language, Pierce attempts to posit the complexity of trans identity through both negation and assertion: Brandon states that he’s “not a dyke,? and at one point calls himself a “hermaphrodite,? having “both male and female parts,? shying away from sex reassignment surgery talks, and stating that he’s a “boy-girl.? This last example I think is the most charged, and in some, the most effective, calling into question the failure of language itself to describe the trans experience; Willox makes the comment that “the use of the term ‘boy,’ both here and within the title of the film, could help to underline the gender binary through excluding Brandon’s subject position as other.? (Willox, 419) The use of “boy-girl? also seems to suggest in some way that Brandon still thinks of himself in some as “girl,? and not only “boy? or “man.? Rather than focusing on the way language works to name Brandon’s position as “confused,? I prefer to think that the use of disparate descriptions of Brandon’s self-proclaimed gender, and of the violent desire to know , of the desire for the legible body, that it highlights the failure of linguistics – both in pronouns and classifications – to properly account for identities which defy categorization and classification, or which decide to leave it altogether. Why isn’t Brandon’s identity (I’d prefer to not use “performance? since I don’t know if Brandon thought of himself as transgender or genderqueer) perceived as “authentic,? or as “true?? Again, language will always fail when it is linked to the notion of the body as truth.

November 11, 2006

Swank as an "unknown" before she was known

I agree to the responses regarding Pierce casting “unknown? Swank as Brandon instead of a “big name? actress. Yet, for those who have never seen Boys Don’t Cry until this class, Swank is not an unknown. This film was released in 1999. For her role, Swank won an Oscar for best performance. This lead to Swank being named as People Magazines Most Beautiful People in 2000, 2004, and 2005. In 2004 she was in Million Dollar Baby in which she won another Oscar and a Golden Globe award. She’s hosted SNL and she and her ex/husband Chad Lowe are tabloid magazine fodder. Overall, she has lost her “unknown? status.
When I watched Boys Don’t Cry Swank was not an “unknown? actress in my perspective. I know there were a couple of instances that I thought to myself that she was doing an amazing job acting like a boy or wow, she really does look like a boy. Yet, it was hard in some aspects to not picture her with long wavy hair wearing a gorgeous dress, walking down the red carpet. I also realized that Swank doesn’t usually play the sexy starlet roles. She plays a man as Brandon, a boxer in Million Dollar Baby, and a detective in Insomnia. I found that really interesting and with that note, I do agree that Swank (as an “unknown? or not) was a better choice than other actresses, such as Roberts, who do tend to play feminized roles.

Filmmaker Responsibilities

Should Hollywood/narrative films/filmmakers/actors be responsible or accountable for the stories they tell?

I think that filmmakers and actors should be accountable for the stories they tell and how they choose to tell those stories. Boys Don’t Cry is based on a true story and it tells the story of a real person. Brandon Teena was a real person. He had friends, was loved, and loved others. It would be an injustice to portray him different than the way he was. It is important that the filmmaker and actor do their best to be truthful to the character of the person whose story they are attempting to tell.
I think that Kimberly Pierce and Hilary Swank both did a wonderful job of trying to stay true to Brandon’s story. Although they could not actually speak to Brandon to get his viewpoint, Pierce did interview friends of Brandon and other transgendered individuals to get many different perspectives on his life (Willox, 229). The world will never really know how Brandon defined himself, so I think that Pierce acted responsibly by leaving the two possible readings of Brandon’s identity open. Pierce explains that, “I wanted to make Brandon as realistic as he could be…I try to touch on gender in the way that I know Brandon touched on it throughout his life,? (Willox, 232). I think that the different possibilities of Brandon’s identity further one of the main points of the film and the lesson to be learned from Brandon's life and death. In the end, it does not really matter whether Brandon was transgendered or a lesbian, he was simply a person who wanted to love and be loved just like everyone else.

Public View of Boys Don't Cry

I completely agree with Whitney's blog post on the publics view of Boys Don't Cry. This movie was very hard to watch. I walked out of the class after watching this movie in shock because I couldn't believe what people can do to others that they dislike for whatever reason. This movie leaves a lasting impression on you and know matter how homophobic or against the main character's, Brandon, sexual performance you can't help but feel sorry for her. This is the exact reaction that I feel the writer was trying to get. She wanted to bring people into the lives of those that we see as being 'different' or 'weird' because they don't live or act as we do, and show them what these 'weird' people have to go through every day because certain people don't think its right. I do think that this movie had an effect on the public, at least it did on me. Just getting people to think about situations like this and realize how wrong and mean people can be is an effect on the public. This movie gets you thinking about how cruel people can be and hopefully that is enough to get people to take action to try and stop this harrassment.

November 10, 2006

Response to Bodnia's Post

I agree with Elizabeth Bodnia's previous post, which states that casting a well-known actress, such as Julia Roberts, would distract the viewer and subtract from the portrayl of Brandon's character. Unfortunately, more attention would probably be paid, by reviewers and viewers alike, to someone like Roberts' physical transformation, rather than their use of acting nuances that really make up the character's portrayl.

For example, when Charlize Theron played Aileen Wuornos, I remember hearing more about her "remarkable transformation" -- the swan in reverse -- than by her portrayl of the real-life murderer she was modeling herself after. CNN wrote, in one piece "What everyone is talking about, though, is what’s most obvious on the screen, the incredible physical transformation she underwent. Theron gained between 25 and 30 pounds. She shaved her eyebrows. She even had prosthetic teeth in order to look more like Wuornos. " The same also happened with Demi Moore and Sigourney Weaver, when they each shaved their heads for roles (in GI Jane and Monster, respectively).

I also agree that Swank did a terrific job portraying Brandon. From her deepened voice (though not too deep) to the way she carried herself, Swank succeeded in blurring the line between male and female.

Casting Swank... the "unknown"

✢ What do you think about Pierce's directorial choices like casting "unknown" Swank instead of "big name" actor? What do you think about Swank's portrayal?

First of all, I have to say that this film was very difficult to watch. And, I’m pretty sure that the rest of the class felt the same way. One person even commented that they “needed a cigarette,? because it was so “intense.? Clearly, this is one of the many things that Pierce wanted us, as an audience, to take away from the film—an uneasiness, the shock of it all, etc. Accordingly, I believe that because this film involves an incredibly sensitive and very “taboo-like? topic—transgender, sexual identity crisis, etc.—casting someone like Julia Roberts, a “big name actor,? to play the role of Brandon would make the film seem too “HOLLYWOOD?—consequently, the money aspect would appear to be the most important part of the film. Even if Roberts looked exactly like Brandon, the film would just never have the same raw-like effect, because she would be too famous, and thus quite distracting—pulling audiences away from the story and the personal connection with an unknown (some average/ordinary/anonymous person like us). Therefore, I think that Pierce made the right decision to cast an unknown.
Personally, I thought that Swank did an amazing job. In a few interviews, Pierce even talks about how Swank got into the role by acting “like a sponge?—how she “drank Brandon in… his spirit.? Furthermore, Swank’s sharp facial features and skinny/somewhat muscular body type made her very masculine and really look like the real Brandon. Her acting was quite good as well. Swank could act like one of the boys, yet be very sensitive, emotional, and know what a woman wanted. Overall, I thought that the casting in general was quite extraordinary. Obviously, getting into the exceedingly disturbing and violent scenes is very hard to do. However, with the kind of chemistry they had on set, it really looked like the cast achieved those challenging levels of emotion.

November 9, 2006

Boys Don't Cry made me cry....

< Although I knew the story of Brandon (Teena) from previous courses, I wasn't prepared for how powerful the story would be visually through film. The film conveyed a new dimension of the story to me, and I was completely emotionally caught up in it. One thing that really stood out for me throughout the film was the struggle that Brandon went through and internalized. The scene depicting him having to buy feminine products was heart wrenching, I can't imagine what it would feel like to have my mind telling me I am one gender, and my body telling/showing me that I am another. The fear associated with being a transgendered person in society definitely shone through in the film as well. Having to hide the remnants of tampons, not appearing in court, and not wanting to tell Lana of his biological identity were just a few ways in which this was shown visually. There was a constant notion that at any moment the life that he knew could be shattered, and the people that he loved could become the people who could hurt him the most. Additionally shown was that Brandon’s fears were not out of cowardice...they were out of protection and self-preservation. Boys Don't Cry is a tribute to beautiful people that live behind their fear of being discovered by others who don't understand (and won't give acceptance and understanding a chance). It shares the story of someone strong enough to be the person that their heart tells them to be, and in the process finds a love that is gender-blind. Unfortunately, everyone in the world isn't as strong as people like Brandon were, and people hate out of fear. People hate because they don't understand and are scared. Gender is a performance done in society, and Brandon chose the gender that he associated with. If people could understand that gender is an option - and by breaking away from the norm you are assigned to is not deviant but amazing and courageous, then maybe people like Brandon would still be in the world today...making it a better place to be. >

Whitney's Post - Public Views

✢ Do films such as this, impact the public views on issues?

First and foremost, I would like to say that this was one of the most difficult films I have ever watched. When I left class on tuesday I could not get the film out of my head; no matter what I was doing, that film just kept making it's way into my head! It was aweful.
This, I think, is exactly the reaction Kimberly Pierce was hoping for from viewers: shock, horror, pity, sadness, empathy, an inability to forget and return to what once was. It is through these emotions that public views on such issues will change and progress. Currently our society chooses to shun these ideas and tendencies, to simply put them out of the public eye. Through this film, however, Pierce put the transgender issues on the forefront of Hollywood, forcing the audience and society to take notice. By telling the story from Brandon Teena's point of view - that of the victim - Pierce forced an unwilling society to take notice of Brandon's emotions, and to realize that he seems just as uncertain as the audience watching him. During the film the audience becomes attached to Brandon's character, whether consciously or not, and in the end finds themselves hoping that the story will turn out to be a happy one; that Brandon and Lana will go to Lincoln and live happily ever after. Obviously, however, this is not the case. As the audience leaves the theatre after seeing this film, one thing is different: his or her ideas. No matter how insensitive, how superior, or how conservative a person is, he or she acknowledges that what happened to Brandon Teena is wrong. And that is the first step in changing today's society.

November 8, 2006

Rachel L's Boys Don't Cry Response

Whether a story is told through documentary or film narrative, it can never be completely accurate. Brandon Teena’s life has been made into both. While a documentary has real life interviews, photos and is generally considered non-fiction, it is still a film. “The Brandon Teena Story? was made in 1998, a year before “Boys Don’t Cry.? The narrative film had more exposure and was more publicly viewed. Although the documentary had real footage of the real people involved in Brandon Teena’s life, I believe the narrative film had a much larger impact on audiences emotionally. Even if “Boys Don’t Cry? was not a completely accurate representation of events (For example, some of the real violence that went on in Brandon’s life was cut out) the changes were made to keep the audience interested in the story.
Kimberly Peirce explains in “Creative Filmmaking? that if all the violence was left in it would desensitize the viewer. Also, after screening the film, some audience members thought it had too much violence and it was getting too long so a substantial amount was cut out. Even if this was not completely accurate I believe that it was a warranted decision on Peirce’s part. Films, although they do not always have to end positive, need to have a story line and some “hope.? “If Boys Don’t Cry? had excessive amounts of violence, audience members maybe would not stay interested and engaged with the characters. When making a film based on real events, you have to be appealing to the audience, while trying to stay truthful. One of the most important things is that Brandon Teena’s story was revealed and now maybe more people have different views of gender identity crisis’ and hate crimes.

November 7, 2006

Small Town America

What story does this film tell about "small-town" America? American values? American life?

Kimberly Peirce’s film Boys Don’t Cry showed the tragic effects of “small-town? American life in the case of the young woman/man, Brandon Teena. The characters in the film were all of a low socioeconomic status and as Linda Dittmar described in her article, “Performing Gender in Boys Don’t Cry? all of the youth in the small town were of the working class. This is evident in the film when Teena’s girlfriend Lana is shown working in a large factory and the rest of the characters in the film are shown to live in trailers and old run down homes. Dittmar further explains this on page 147 of her article by quoting interviews done by reporters who interviewed the youth of Teena’s small town after the murders took place. “Certainly Boys Don’t Cry is about gender and homophobia, but it is also about social class and human aspirations. Brandon was ‘trailer trash,’ a gay high school acquaintance tells a reporter.? The story shows how in small town America every debatable issue of life is intensely magnified to extreme dangerous proportions. It was more dangerous for Teena to be a boy in a small town than in a large city because of the close-knit community and cultish type feel of small towns.

In Falls City where the film took place everyone knew everyone in the community and that sense of togetherness creates a type of small town pride. In the particular small town where the film was shot the people seemed to be coping alright with their S.E.S. and at times were really having a fun time. Teena and others riding on the back of a pick up truck by holding onto a rope is one of the film’s example of this. But with a low amount of income, mass consumptions of alcohol, and a general feeling of being trapped in the life they are living it is no wonder that small towns exhibit extremely violent acts against one who comes to their town and upsets their already shaky foundation of life. Dittmar explains this idea of targeting the ‘Other’ (Teena) perfectly on page 147 of her article. “Such Others end up targets of violence because it is hard for societies to accept difference, especially when what they fear threatens to expose their own fragility.? As I watched the film I noticed how even the smallest threat made from one person to another person in this small town blew up and made the issue larger than what it really was. The main example of this is the murder of Teena because of being ‘found out’ as being a member of a same sex relationship with Lana. Lana’s ex-boyfriend could have just let the issue go, but he was consumed by a rage that resulted in his torture and murder of Teena. In small town America, citizens I’m sure have most of the same values as citizens of a large city, but as stated earlier, being part of a low S.E.S small town magnifies and intensifies these issues to extreme violent proportions. Violence that can be turned against any person who becomes part of their community but does not share the same close-knit prejudice ‘values’ as the community as in the case of Brandon Teena entering the Falls City community.

Blog Post Assignment: Boys Don't Cry (2 points)

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On The Readings:

The weblinks (on our WebCT site) are crucial this week! Print the pdf files & READ! Remember big brother (no, call me big mama!) can see who visits each link and downloads off the site!


1. Intro from Creative Filmmaking (WS)
2. Excerpts on Kimberly Pierce's (the director's) creative process from Creative Filmmaking (WS)
3.Branding Teena: Misrepresentations... (CP)

* Be prepared to discuss the films and the readings in class next week! *

Assignment: Use one of the following questions as a spark to write your post about Boys Don't Cry. Please READ WHAT OTHERS HAVE WRITTEN and BUILD upon topics. Please DO NOT REPEAT someone else's point, but add to the conversation they have started. There are many prompts and many places you can go with your ideas. Really, the possiblities are limitless. This post is due by NOON on Nov. 13!

Using key moments from the film and some ideas generated in the assigned (and/or optional readings) on Boys Don't Cry, address (in a paragraph or two) one of the following questions or ideas generated by the question(s):

✢ What is the relationship between narrative storytelling, a "real" or "true" event, and documentary filmmaking? What changes were made to the actual events? Were the changes (in the filmic telling) warranted, deceptive, simply a choice?

✢ What does a narrative film do that maybe the documentary, The Teena Brandon Story, wasn't able to achieve (thinking: public attention, issue awareness, create an Oscar winner, etc...) What is/was at stake in (re)telling a true story?

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✢ Is Kimberly Pierce responsible for the story she tells? How and why? (think factual accuracy versus creative license, artistic accountability, ethics and responsibility)

✢ Should Hollywood/narrative films/filmmakers/actors be responsible or accountable for the stories they tell?

✢ Do films such as this, impact the public views on issues?

✢ What does Pierce achieve stylistically (think Director's palette)? Does this match her vision articulated in Creative Filmmaking text? How important is style? content? representation?

✢ What do you think about Pierce's directorial choices like casting "unknown" Swank instead of "big name" actor? What do you think about Swank's portrayal?

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✢ What is/was at stake in representing transgender issues? What was in the public about these issues before the film? How has the film impacted society's view on gender, violence, and the other issues presented in the film?

✢ What is the role of language in this issue (cross-dresser, transsexual, transgender, use of pronouns like he/she)? How does the film use language to tell this story?

✢ What does the film say about the body - gender performativity, binding, "passing", masculinity/femininity/androgyny, sexual ambiguity, identity transformation, violence, and intolerance... Does the film reinforce or complicate gender binaries?

✢ What story does this film tell about "small-town" America? American values? American life?

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November 5, 2006

He's Here!

Steven Joseph was born 11/3 at 6:44pm. 7 lbs 5 oz, 20 inches long.

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He'll be meeting you all very soon.

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I hope that paper writing is going well. There are enough options and resources (don't forget you can still watch the films in the lab on Monday) for you to write a great paper. Can't wait to see what you guys come up with.

So, yes, I'm back to business (was I never not answering emails?), so please continue to email if you have any comments, questions or concerns.

-R

November 1, 2006

Taking What Has already Been Taken

"By robbing banks and, most importantly, getting away with it, the four women of "Set It Off" engage in a form of revolutionary expropriation: they steal what has already been stolen. Frankie uses this logic in trying to convince the other women, "Look, we're just taking away from the System that's fucking us all anyway, you know?"" From Set It Off by Kimberley Springer181-182.

Bank robbing is such a typical crime portrayed in films about African American’s sticking it to the man. When watching this movie I was thinking about Bell Hooks and how she was talking about directors picking certain characters to fit into rolls to make them seem more realistic. This is what exactly happened in "Set It Off". I feel like the director thought “let’s make a film about black women. What could it be about? How about they are all professors or teachers in an inner city school? No that's not believable, people won't watch that. Robbing banks, now that's believable." I really don't think that the director wanted to make a film that empowered African American women. If she did it would not be so stereotypical and so degrading.

As for their motives for robbing a bank they do not fit the crimp. Just because you need money to prove that you can be a good mother, doesn't mean that you should be a bad role model and rob a bank. If these women were so upset about how they were being treated they should have gone about getting back at the man in a different way. For instance why couldn't they try and join the police force. And why was the one black woman on the police force not on their side. She didn't try to help the ladies out at all. I think that this movie is not believable in real life and not a very good film. Why not portray African American women in a better light. Why not have they been police women or professors? Why not show them helping others instead of helping themselves?

If the four women wanted to get back what the system was taking from them they should have done it in a different way that showed them as empowering women doing the right think and getting back what they deserved. It would be one thing if they stole a loaf of bread to stay alive, but thousands of dollars to buy outfits for their girlfriends? I guess I was hoping for a feminist film that was empowering. What I saw was a degrading, stereotypical movie that was all about money, sex, drugs, and killing.


Stereotypes

“Most of the women of Set If Off are provoked to violence by their economic situation, believing that robbing banks is their only recourse. As previously noted, Stony, Tisean, and Frankie were all abused by the judicial and law enforcement systems. They see money as their way out of poverty and into middle-class respectability.? Kimberly Springer, Waiting to set it off Pg. 187

I think this movie is a good example of how stereotypes can influence an individual to put themselves into that particular stereotype due to abuse and accusation from the standard norm. For instance, at the beginning of the movie Frankie and Stony were both portray as “good? people until they were both accuse or being blame as apart of the “bad? norm. Frankie being fire from her job because she was accuse of being related to the robber and Stony having to experience her brother’s death because he was accuse of being the bad guy. In result, these accusations trigger them to think that since they are already being stereotype as “bad? from the dominate norm then they might as well be or act “bad? to work against the system (which in this case would be the judicial and law enforcement systems). In retrospective, these two women feel that they are being ill-treated because they are simply Black. Sick of the stereotypes and the negative accusations that go with it, they feel the need to rebel and be vicious. On the whole, stereotypes then can be problematic in various ways reinforcing the idea that if you think I am this way then I guess I'll act this way.