Monday, December 17, 2007

Final Project

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Living a Fairy Tale: The Gendered Controlled Aspects of the Movie Gia

The film Gia chronicles the ascension of a woman from working class to superstardom and her decline ending in her death. As in all fairy tales Gia rises from the ranks of a modest beginning and winds up with riches, eventually falling for her version of “Prince Charming”. The main character, Gia, also writes her own fairy tales; though they are all of the same basic plotline. The movie itself follows a basic fairy tale approach as well, chronicling the woman’s rise to stardom, her time spent at the top, and in the end her death; though, there are conflicts among the messages sent about gender, sexuality, and beauty.

Gender has been thought of as an oppressive statement; it has been commonly viewed as hegemonic, usually with women on the receiving end of the oppression. Even with the advances made by the feminist movement, total equality is yet to be attained because those who are the oppressors do not wish to lose their “superiority”. Gia, like the maiden in a fairy tale, breaks through that typically oppressed status, as can be seen when she is at a photo shoot. Once the scene begins, the audience knows exactly who is in charge, Gia. Her personality goes against what is commonly believed to be the “place” of women, by continuously acting out and not allowing the “perfect” shot to be taken. However, she also is put under the pressures to follow the hegemonic lifestyle because she is a model, and models typically are believed to hold all the “true” values that society sees in women, looks. Therefore, Gia’s gender role is shifted from what is deemed male to female depending on which situation she is in at any particular time. This does not lead to understanding among her employers and photographers, but rather dissent, who believe she should be submissive and attentive, rather than dominant and aloof.

Sexuality is one of the ways in which women have and enforce power, however Foucault argues that power is everywhere, because it comes from everywhere (Method, 93). But in many areas this power is repressed because power is “incapable of doing anything except to render what it dominates incapable of doing either,” (Foucault, Objective, 85) The fact that Gia comes to be seen as the pinnacle of sexuality coincides with the fact that she was already a headstrong person, but that she also had the other virtues of importance commonly sought in women by men. The fact that she was beautiful and could sell products with a stare was why she was sought after, but the stare was the most captivating thing about her and for this reason she was considered a sexual being. But this view leads to contradictions among ideal views, ideally a woman should be considered equal on the basis of being human, but the hegemonic practices encouraged by our society depict women as subordinate.

Gia is also a lesbian, one of the contradicting messages about sexuality and how it should be used to attract men. Gia’s “Prince Charming” was a stylist she met at one of her photo shoots, Linda. In a society that is intolerant of homosexuality, for a gay woman to get to the top of an industry that sells heterosexuality is a contradiction in itself. From a young age women are taught that to be successful in life they need to find a husband; however, this movie challenged this view with the fact that in order to be successful a woman doesn’t need a husband, a woman can be successful by having a wife, or no significant other at all.

The messages sent about beauty also conflict with those of fairy tales. Gia is more than just looks; it was her personality, the attitude, the sensuousness of her being that made her so captivating. Looks alone do not make a woman beautiful; it’s her attitude as well. Typical fairy tale personalities to go along with the beauty are benevolent, “motherly”, and complacent; whereas Gia is a woman with an attitude and a booming sensuousness. In the contradiction of the “sought after” she shows that beauty is not just seen in what is expected, but rather what can be if people are allowed to spread their wings.

Gia’s is a success story, she reaches the pinnacle of an industry that is typically lined against her but her success and her “happily ever after” are both gendered constructs. Gia’s happily ever after comes when she and Linda begin talking again amicably after the relationship is torn apart by frequent drug use and arguments. And her success is shown through her hard work, and determination to get sober and to win back the heart of the woman she loves. Neither of these go along with the typical fairy tale ending, but they can be interpreted as such: she could have ended up with her “Prince Charming” and she has attained wealth and fame (much like marrying the Prince would have brought her). In these situations it is not difficult to imagine that Gia herself was a fairy tale princess, but the cost of glamour was high, however the message sent by the movie was not to be dominating and daring, but rather to comply and to submit.

In the end, Gia succumbs to AIDS and passes away, which is why the messages she sent to young women about living free and being yourself were utterly dismantled. The story served to keep women complacent and oppressed for fear that if they lived the way they wanted to, they would contract a deadly virus and die; but the “depictions of glbtq characters lead to stereotyping,” (Raymond, 101). This is how the “happily ever after” and success are kept gendered, it could be argued that if she were not homosexual nor a habitual intravenous drug user she would not have contracted the disease, but not all homosexuals or habitual drug users have AIDS and some of those with AIDS are neither a homosexual nor a habitual drug user. If one thing could be learned of the life she lived and the spin the movie put on it, it would be that hegemony will always dominate society, and breaking out of your “role” will have consequences.

Works Cited:
Raymond, Diane. "Popular Culture and Queer Representation: A Critical Perspective." Gender, Race, and Class in Media: a Text Reader. Ed. Gail Dines and Jean M. Humez. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2003. 98-110.

Foucault, Michel. “Methods.” The History of Sexuality. Random House, Inc, New York: 1990. 92-102

Foucault, Michel. “Objective.” The History of Sexuality. Random House, Inc, New York: 1990. 81-91

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Sex Sells, But What is it Selling?

This collage focuses on the concept of masculinity and how its representations thereof are used to market products to men. Sex is used to sell to both genders by both genders; although, a more overt depiction of sex selling is the beautiful woman who becomes attracted to the masculine man for using a certain product being advertised. However, as in advertisements for make-up or certain deodorants (such as Old Spice), a beautiful woman sells to the common woman and a “rugged” man sells a product to the common man. Therefore, sex does sell, but it sells the ideal that in order to appeal to the opposite sex the consumer needs to use a certain product to be seen as masculine (or feminine) in the eyes of the other gender.

Here I have depicted ways that would be used by companies or organizations to sell the concept of masculinity to men. For example, the Navy’s slogan of “when the entire world is counting on you, it’s best to come prepared” is showcased by a fleet of battleships sailing toward a destination, ideas like this were influenced during the 1920s when the advertising industry generated “a body of theory and research on marketing,” (Breazeale, 231). In many of these cases, the advertisements are catering to the typical “man’s man”. And as society accepts, or rather expects, these men are after one thing--sex. By catering to this stereotype, they also market to a particular type of woman; the attractive, tall, slender, woman with “perfect” features. By using these products, men expect to be able to obtain these women for their own gratification; however, these women also exemplify the fact that only women with such looks are capable of gaining the approval of the aforementioned men.

Because this is a portrait of the way that a company would advertise to a certain demographic, it does not show the way that this collage also points out what is expected of the “desired” woman by society. The women are being told that if they want to be happy and get a man who is this archetype, they should not take on any of the characteristics associated with the socially dominant and masculine nature of men. It is in this dichotomy that the hegemonic processes of male superiority are being infused into American culture. If any similarities exist between the sexes it throws off the otherwise dominant power that is being perpetuated; it is this dichotomy that must be strictly adhered to if the advertisements are to be successful. This is shown when otherwise “feminine” are trying to be sold to men. Advertisers will therefore use more masculine language and give more information to uphold the “over-determined masculinity evoked by the rest of the advertisement,” (Kirkham and Weller, 270). Therefore, in the ads I have used to shape my collage, I showcased the masculine views of society involved with movies (i.e. James Belushi as Bluto in the comedy Animal House), video games, sports, war, and food and drink. However, by showcasing what society considers masculine, what is considered feminine is also highlighted because the views of each should be in direct opposition to one another.

Breazeale, Kenon. "In Spite of Women: Esquire Magazine and the Construction of the Male Consumer." Gender, Race, and Class in Media: a Text Reader. Ed. Gail Dines and Jean M. Humez. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2003. 230-243.

Kirkham, Pat and Alex Weller. "Cosmetics: A Clinique Case Study." Gender, Race, and Class in Media: a Text Reader. Ed. Gail Dines and Jean M. Humez. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2003. 268-273.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Toy Shopping: Gendered Consumers/Engendering Consumerism

As soon as a child leaves its mother's womb, it is born into a world that believes he/she should fit into one of two gender based stereotypes, male or female. If the child is not "instructed" into which gender role he or she should fill, the result is often ostracism from everyday occurrences such as playing with school mates and other social norms. The stereotyping of everyday life is compounded by everything, either subtly or blatantly; for example, having both boys and girls sports teams, and the more subtle aspects of life, such as toy shopping.

As children grow and begin to find, or rather identify, themselves based on these cultural stereotypes (which suggests “that the way the sexes are shown in is the usual and appropriate arrangement,” [Henley and Freeman, 84]), it becomes increasingly simple to determine that such subtle acts have a significant impact on the child's life. And when children are young, toys are one of the main agents of socialization; therefore, they have quite a significant impact on the way children see the world. Toys directly influence gender socialization, and to depict its severity the author, (I) went shopping for a theoretical nine year old girl named Steph. Steph has an array of toys she would like, ranging from typical “girls” toys, such as dolls, to more “unisex” toys, such as, board games.

Upon working my way through the various channels of the aisles of the toy store Toys R Us, I found myself looking at how different items were being advertised. Those being advertised to girls (my depiction of what was “feminine”) were typically brightly colored, soft, or domesticating and “instill in legions of little girls a preference for,” (Gilman, 73) these roles. To further delve deeper into the inner workings of one of the most popular outlets for toy purchases I asked an employee what a “typical” nine year old girl would be interested in. Without fail she directed me to the area where my previous conceptions were now confirmed. When I asked why she did not direct me to a different area of the store she said “this is where the girls’ toys are,” I thanked her, and went about finding toys for Steph.

Steph, for the most part, fits the “typical” nine year old girl. She enjoys playing with dolls, kitchen sets, tea sets, and board games. The only thing about her that would be “atypical” by a patriarchal viewpoint was that the board game she was most interested in is Monopoly. Buying and selling property is normatively viewed as a shrewd market, one not settled into by women; however, to make this game more appealing to females there are countless different varieties of the game, and as I asked another worker she pointed out a Disney Princess version of the game. By seeing that girls’ toys are generally geared towards domesticating women at a young age, and unisex toys have different versions depending on whether the buyer is male or female, it can be seen that today’s society is still patriarchal.

Toys allow people to see what is expected of them in society, and therefore what society sees as valuable assets. For girls society sees them as kind and nurturing, motherly stay at home types, which accounts for the high probability of finding a tea set or a doll in almost every girl’s room you enter. On the other hand, our society does not dictate that they be strong or competitive, in other words, they teach young people what society wants them to be, not what they want themselves to be. Girls are taught from a young age via the media and other agents of socialization; they have a place in the world, but that place is the home, which could lead to dissatisfaction, if they do not enjoy what society dictates for them. This brings up a very crucial point, if children do not adhere to society’s demands they are overlooked and outcast.

Finally I set out to find a gender neutral toy; one that I believed could in no way be biased towards one gender or another, sadly I found very few. The toys that were to be initially considered were the board games, but looking at the depictions of men and women in the classic game of Clue, led to its “toss out”, similar conclusions were reached about other board games as well, and then I thought about playing cards, but they too signified gender superiority. I found the card game Uno to be a neutral game only because there is no gender basis for the value of each card, only numerical.

To conclude, the demand of society for women to be submissive is apparent in all aspects of the world, including toys. Direct examples of which include domesticating play sets and baby dolls, whereas indirect examples include the “feminine” versions of the popular game Monopoly. The former toys are important to advertise to girls because society sees these qualities as valuable in girls. The advertisements help to “spread the word” so to speak about how women should act, and to get young girls to believe this as early as possible. As the children get older, the stronger the dichotomy between the sexes becomes. And, if the children do not display the stereotyped interests, they are seen as awkward and as a misfit, but thinking for oneself should hardly be considered awkward.

Works Cited
Gilman, Susan J. "Klaus Barbie and Other Dolls I'd Like to See." 72-75.
Kellner, Douglas. Gender, Race, and Class in Media. 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publicaions, 2003. 9-20.