Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Reflection on Process-#9

Overall, I enjoyed the process of writing the blog.  My favorite part of doing the blog entries was looking for the right picture or video to capture the essence of my blog post.    It was challenging connecting the assigned text directly with the pop culture example.  Doing this, required a lot of creative analysis.  This project taught me to become a more critical reader of pop culture.  Instead of passively absorbing the messages that are given to me , I now have the tools from this class to challenge the textual ambivalence of most popular culture texts.  Many texts such as Lady Gaga appropriate aspects of feminism for commercial means, does this cheapen the message of feminism?  In the future, I plan on maintaining a blog on hip hop.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Gonick "Betw. ..Reviving Ophelia" - Twilight's Bella #8

In Maria Gonick's article entitled "Between Girl Power and Reviving Ophelia: Constituting the Neoliberal Girl Subject" states that, "Ophelia is shadow twin to the idealized empowered girl.  Without intervention she is at risk of failing to produce the required attributes of the neoliberal feminine subject (15)."

The book Reviving Ophelia uses Opehlia, a Shakespeare character, to represent the modern girl.  Girls in this book are "vulnerable, passive, & voiceless (1)" and need someone to rescue them from the oppressive pressures ascribe to them once they enter young adulthood.

Bella, from the Twilight movies can be seen as a modern day Ophelia subject in pop culture. In the series, Bella, a 17-year-old girl falls in love with her classmate Edward, a vampire.  In order to be with him she must give up everything she has her family, life, identity in order to merge fully into his.   Her marrying him, being bitten, and then bearing his child accomplishes this in Breaking Dawn, third film.  There is an analogy throughout this film with premarital sex (Bella-Edward) and death/ sin.  The urges for Bella’s blood are uncontrollable for Edward especially when they become sexual. Bella’s sexual desires must be controlled for an higher purpose which is matrimony.  Her sexual development begins and ends with Edward in this series.  Her search for an identity that was implied in the beginning of the first film ceases once she enters into a relationship with Edward.  She serves as a vessel for his desires.  Bella is not a typical neoliberal female subject because she is not fully independent nor overtly sexual.  She observes the decisions that take place around her and comments during the narration about them.  Through her actions, she does not directly change the outcome (throughout the first and second films).  She must be saved throughout the entire series from otherworldly beings such as werewolves and vampires.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Zeisler, Feminism & Pop Cutlure, Ch 4 - Bridget Jones Diary - # 7

Zeisler states that, "[Ally Mcbeal] was irritating enough to knock down but conflicted enough to be held up as 'proof' that women didn't really want feminism-they just, in the end want to be loved and validated (99)."

Trailer for Bridget's Jones Diary (2001)

This critique could be applied to another popular female character known as Bridget Jones.  The film Bridget Jones Diary is based on the book by Helen Fielding. It tells the story of a thirty something woman who works for a Publicity firm in England.  She frequently worries about two things being single thus dying alone being eaten by dogs and losing weight.  Bridget's shaky self esteem was used for comedic purposes.  She frequently drinks when she is in nervous situations or feels unsure of herself (dinners with her married friends, social gatherings).  Her career is only worth mentioning due to her crush on her boss.  It is her romantic life that is the defining part of her identity.  If she loses weight she will gain more self esteem and thus attract more men.  Both Ally and Bridget self-narrate their thoughts frequently to the audience.  Ally through her daydreams at the firm and Bridget through her diary and inner monologue that plays out throughout the film.  These females fears of being alone is something that is taught by society.  It is common to hear statements toward older females who are single "Why aren't you married?, "biological clock", "It's too late."  Bridget is often derided or openly pitied by her married friends  for being single at her age.  For men the option of finding love is never time specific so there isn't the same pressure on them to lock down a spouse right away.  For females it is much harder because as they get older, the males their age are either married or are desire younger females.  This leaves a lot of females out and creates a greater sense of competition.  For Bridget her romance with her boss Daniel ends when he cheats on her with a more conventionally attractive younger woman.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Levy's "Raunch Culture" & Lady Gaga-Just Dance video- #6

Levy states in her article that,
 "Because we have determined that all empowered women must be overtly sexual and because the only sign of sexuality we seem to be able to recognize is a direct allusion to red-light entertainment, we have laced the sleazy energy and aesthetic of a topless club or a Penthouse shoot throughout our entire culture (26)."

Lady Gaga’s music video for just dance is a current example of how sleaziness and pop culture do not just coexist but have intersected.  The video begins her entering a wild house party and is interspersed with scenes of the day after (hangover, lost keys).  There is a sense of desperation to the female sexuality displayed in this video.  The females are either buzzed and sloppy or aggressive and desperate acting with shots of them hooking up and rolling on the floor. This video is significant due to its popularity with mainstream audiences (140 million Youtube views).

Several examples of Raunch culture stand out in the clip: 
  • Gaga humping the plastic dolphin in the mini pool (3:05)
  • Gaga taking her shirt off
  • shot of girl with legs spread on couch (2:45)
  • Trash everywhere
  • Shots of people hooking up in the hallways, showers, and living room
  • line "I love this record, but can't see straight anymore."
Link to video :

There's an intentionally disoriented feeling to the video due to the random quick shots of various people, which  produces the feeling of being drunk.  Ten years ago, a video such as this could not be made and played on channels such as MTV without controversy.  As, videos such as this one become more commonplace,  it sets the threshold for shock value (drug use, portrayal of recklessness, darkness) higher for future acts who seek the same level of attention.  The usage of sex to become a pop singer is no longer preferred but mandatory for up and coming pop singer/ dance divas.  These have connotations not just for female pop entertainers but for young girls absorbing the messages that these videos portray.  In today's culture the construction of a woman's public identity requires them to negotiate their sexuality.  There is an expectation that to be a strong confident female you must openly engage with your sexuality, this comes from media sources.  A female who chooses NOT to engage  in these discourses, is  isolated by their peers in a sex-dominated culture.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Mohanty's "Feminist ..Colonial Discourse"- Neda Agha Soltan- #5

In Mohanty's article entitled "Feminist Scholarship & Colonial Discourse states:
"It is in the production of this 'third-world difference' that western feminisms appropriate and colonize the constitutive complexities which characterize the lives of women in these countries (63)."

In the case of Neda Agha Soltan’s murder her image became a symbol not just amongst the Muslim world but in the West of the anti-Iranian government movement.  This image of the victimized “third world women” is not unfamiliar to Western audiences.   There is a scarcity of diverse images of these women, so the few images that are disseminated are that much more powerful.  The decision to spotlight stories such as Neda’s from the Muslim world is a political choice.  Neda, a middle class woman, was killed on her way to a protest against the outcome of the 2009 Iranian presidential elections.  Her death was captured on video by local photographers.  For, the anti-Iranian protesters her image was a useful political tool to garner sympathy and support for their movement.  The image of a young, beautiful woman hemorrhaging is both a dramatic and tragic image.  For, the western media (CNN, MSNBC) it furthers plays into anti-Iraq news fare.  Americans have to save these people from their own government.  These people need rescuing from themselves (their own government). 

video shot of Neda bleeding 
When discussing "third world women" there is a tendency to portray them as victims or as seekers of western ways and culture.  This is a patronizing attitude that ignores the complexity of their situation and the role that many of these women have played in the cultural and political spheres of their country. Traditionally in western feminism there has been an assumption that the goals they are persuing are universally applicable.  When looking at the narratives of third world women one is struck by how complex their histories and experiences are.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Stryker's "Intro to Transgender terms"- film Beautiful Daughters- # 4

 In Stryker's article entitled "Introduction to Transgender terms" he states:

"A critical issue of "transgender politics-that the sex of the body does not bear any necessary or deterministic relationship to the social categoary in which that body lives (Stryker, p. 11)."

The film Beautiful Daughters is narrates the experiences of four trans woman who are participating in the production of the first all-transgendered version of  the play The Vagina Monologues (written by Eve Ensler).  A interview Ensler has with Janes, one of those four women emphasizes Stryker's assertion .   
 Eve asks Janes: "What about your parents?"
Janes replies: "At same time, I was chosen for them[adopted], they choose a sex for me that didn't feel right."

(directed by Josh Aronson, 2006)

The quote Janes make is that due to her being born male, her parents inscribed a masculine/ male identity for her.  A person's sex is not naturally correlated to their gender.    Gender is a socially constructed role that we are taught to adhere to from infancy. The simplicity of Jane's response struck me.Without knowing that she is adopted, this quote could be interpreted as relating birthright to gender. For the women spotlighted in this film while their biological sex is male their gender identity is female.  They fight against physical differences that make their living as a female a difficult process.  In our society there are barriers that transgender people face due to failing to meet a strict gender and sex alignment.  Our legal, educational, and governmental institutions demand that a person be classified as male or female in order to classify people and group them.  Transgender people fall outside of such a simple construction.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Pratt's "This is the Way We Live"- Rupaul's Drag Race #3

Miller & Roman state that, queer performance spaces "become a [way] be absorbed into a critical mass of subcultural resistance to the heteronormative muscle they must encounter continually in [their] daily lives (Pratt, p.343) " 

The show Rupaul's Drag Race is an example of how queer performance serves as as a way to disrupt or challenge the dominant  discourse that says gender and sexuality must be linked.  The heterosexual matrix is the prevailing assumption that if one is to be male than one must be masculine and if one is masculine than one must be heterosexual.  On the show contestants are seen in original costumes that they preform in for the judges.  They are competing for the title of "America's Next Drag Superstar."  This contrasts with the individual interviews which feature the performers without their makeup which suggests to the viewer a "male" identity.  This show illustrates how gender identity can be fluid.  For these contestants  performing in drag is more than dress-up, it it a form of cultural resistance to this 'heterosexual matrix.'

Shangela is a contestant of Drag Race season 3.  This photo is just to illustrate how fluid the gender transformations on the show are.