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