Writing this blog has been a challenge to say the least. I'm an avid blogger, but being constrained to a certain form and way of writing was suffocating for me and I found it hard to really articulate everything I wanted to say in the ways I was supposed to say them. I also found myself writing more than I was supposed to but, again, I felt like they were necessary so I kept writing anyway. I always love discussing pop culture texts and dissecting them so at the very least I enjoyed talking about things I like (who doesn't).
I didn't really learn much from the writing process, I guess. I'm very used to discussing pop culture in blog form (I run a blog with a friend about positive/problematic race representation in geek/nerd culture/fandoms) and felt relatively at ease while writing about the things I was writing about. I mostly learned that apparently I am not very good at blogging when there are rules and directions. I already view most texts with a very critical eye and generally try and discuss them with others to try and flesh out the reasons I feel that certain way and how it related to previous discourses. It's something I've always kind of done, but being in the WGS department for this long has really made it a constant thing for me.
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Monday, December 5, 2011
Okay, first of all, I need everyone to look at this picture for a good long while.
Yeah, that's a Black princess with a sword on the front of a comic book. If that wasn't good enough, the entire story is about how this WoC princess is sick and tired of the "damsel in distress->gets rescued->marries Prince Charming" route in life and decides that she should go on adventures and rescue other people all on her own. A better run-down of the story itself and some wonderfully scanned pages and panels can be seen here.
To me, Princeless, is a direct successor to the throne that Buffy the Vampire Slayer had so many moons ago. There is no doubt in my mind that this comic wouldn't exist without Buffy, but Princeless also succeeds in places where Buffy falls very, very short: race representation. Adrienne is a sassy, self-sufficient girl of the highest social standing and guess what? She's a Woman of Color. Even better? She has natural hair. It's not straightened but rather bushy and curly while pulled back in to a reasonable-length ponytail. Princeless could easily be viewed as a work of Third Wave Feminism and most definitely works within the framework Irene Karras uses to explain Buffy and its Third Wave appeal: "The program also exemplifies the third wave's commitment to girl power by turning the victim role typical of the action and horror genres on its head with the character of Buffy herself." (pg. 1) Adrienne, our Not-So-Distressed Damsel is doing the same as Buffy did before her: she is taking the generally passive role of being a storybook princess and making it active by leaving the castle and going adventuring on her own.
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Okay, so choosing between Sleater-Kinney songs is like choosing children for me. This band is so near and dear to my heart that every single song is the best song. There are tons of their other songs that illustrate their riot grrrl/"sassy lady band with a need to say something" attitude just as well, if not better, than this song. I chose this one though because it was a) the first song of theirs I ever heard/liked b) it's one of the few songs with a music video c) it's a really great, catchy pop song and therefore much more accessible to non-riot grrrl/Sleater-Kinney fans. Now, S-K was definitely a later riot grrrl band where their members had been in previous bands when riot grrrl first became a "thing", but they've lasted the longest. They finally broke up in 2003, much to my and my brother's chagrin, but left a legacy in music. This particular track from their album, All Hands on the Bad One, addresses what Zeisler says of the riot grrrl phenomena where the girls involved "[loved] punk music nut hating the guys who thought girls didn't belong in the mosh pits. They called out punk boys for their complicity in perpetuating sexism..." (which had also been previously discussed by some of those "punk boys" like the politically and socially progressive U.S. hardcore band, Fugazi in their song "Suggestion") The song is really about them (as are most of their songs) and their views on how they've been perceived and treated as an all-girl rock band that can honestly play their guitars and write songs just as well as any other band.
Lyrics can be found here.
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
So as I worked my way through the fifth season of the TNT show, Psych, I eventually arrive at the last episode of the season, Yang 3 in 2D, I noticed something very interesting going on with resident badass lady cop, Juliet (Jules) O'Hara: she was a badass lady cop on television whose motivations for being a badass lady cop were not rooted solely in trauma. They didn't even begin there! She has experienced trauma, of course, but it's only really been seen in the previous season and is directly tied to this particular episode. So where am I going with this? I essentially am writing a love letter to the writers of Psych for handling Juliet and her trauma the way they do. For all of the shows glaring problems in terms of...well, just about everything concerning representation, I feel like Juliet has been a fairly consistant beacon of hope for badass lady cops on television (or really any media text).
The most remarkable thing about Juliet as a character is that she turns the stereotype of the badass lady cop into something viewers rarely see: a woman who became a cop for the sake of being a cop. As Kirsten Marthe Lentz points out, "Everywhere [women] are taking up weapons in the name of justice [...] or hysterically in the name of jealousy or sexual promiscuity" (p. 374). It was just what she wanted to do in life. It wasn't because she experienced some horrific trauma in her past that motivated her to become a cop to exact revenge on the world that did her wrong. Juliet became a cop because she wanted to.
Even after Juliet has been through the extremely traumatic experience of being kidnapped by a serial killer, she still does not revert to this stereotypical idea of arming herself to the teeth both physically and emotionally so that she can eventually work her way back to eventually seek revenge on her kidnapper. Instead, she takes up a job out of the field, filing papers upon returning to the force. She then comes back to her detective position and is essentially the same person she was before she left, but with a few emotional scars that really don't get in the way of her being able to effectively carry out the various tasks her high-stress job requires.
This episode in particular struck me as something really wonderful in the way that the writers have treated Juliet as a character. A woman named Allison Crowley comes in to the station claiming she has been attacked by the same person who came after Juliet in the previous season. Her story is met with skepticism from just about everyone except Juliet (and eventually Shawn, the male fake psychic detective and show's main character). When Allison's report is deemed false by the Santa Barbara Police Department, (the now disbelieving) Juliet and Shawn have a discussion outside where Shawn says to Juliet that she should give her the benefit of the doubt and that she, of all people, should understand where Allison is coming from. He asks, "Are you afraid to believe her?" Once Juliet is on board again, she's very no-nonsense and takes the case very seriously.
After finding out Allison is actually the attacker's apprentice, Juliet gets in a physical altercation with her and subdues her while continuing to search for and save Shawn and Gus from being trapped with the attacker. The day is eventually saved and, upon seeing Juliet covered in scrapes and bruises, asks what happened to her in a very concerned tone to which she replies with a smile, "You should see her!" Later, Shawn finds Juliet in an interrogation room where she is supposed to be writing her statement. She tells Shawn she can't write it because she'll have to "relive it again" (in reference to this instance and her kidnapping) and that they're just "marking time" until the next deranged criminal comes after them. Shawn then grabs Juliet's hand and says, "I would protect you" and Juliet smiles and replies, "I would protect you right back."
Essentially, this whole rant is my way of saying how grateful I am that Psych doesn't perpetuate the stereotypical "badass lady with a gun" that Marthe Lentz discusses. Juliet doesn't respond to her trauma with violence, she just moves on with her life. She doesn't forget or pretend to, but she doesn't let it dictate her entire life and make her access to a gun an avenue for her to exact revenge on someone who did something horrific to her. Juliet just does what she does best: being a good detective.
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
So I've been seeing this women's Halloween costume making its rounds on the internet lately and rightfully so. This is possibly one of, if not the most, offensive Halloween costume I've ever seen. It feels to me like a combination of the Levy article, "Raunch Culture" and the Mohanty piece, "Under Western Eyes". We're combining hyper-sexualization with our incredibly narrow view of the Chinese Woman/"Other". This costume is ripe with fetishization and horrible projections of Chinese woman and really, just women in general. The back has a slit across the shoulders that reads "Take Me Out", each breast has "Enjoy" written on it, and the crotch-area has "Thank You" plastered in gigantic generic "Asian" font on it. Her purse is a Take Out Box and to top it all off, it's worn by a very obviously white woman. Oh, and she's wearing a Fortune Cookie for a hat. The style of dress is trying to be either a qipao or...something, but really just throws together elements the West sees as "Asian". The high collar with the red threaded closures are indicative of this. Not only is this buying in to Levy's proposed "Raunch Culture", but it's also perpetuating this fetishization by Westerners of the mysterious, "exotic" Chinese Woman and her culture, fashion, and food, which speaks to Mohanty's piece on the West's tendency to "Other" supposed "Third World Women" and to apply Western ideas and presuppositions when discussing their lives and cultures. There's very little to be left to the imagination, the dress ends mid-thigh with inches-long slits on each side, and there is a "breast window" and a similar one on the back by the shoulder-area. Stripper chic is always prominent during Halloween, but this is just too much for me to handle. I believe it fits the frame of this quote from Levy's piece, "This is our establishment, these are our role models, this is high fashion and low culture, this is athletics and politics, this is television and publishing and pop music and medicine and -goo news!- being part of it makes you a strong, powerful woman. Because we have determined that all powerful women must be overtly and publicly sexual, and because the only sign of sexuality we seem to recognize is a direct allusion to red-light entertainment, we have laced the sleazy energy an aesthetic of a topless club or Penthouse shoot throughout our entire culture." (pg. 26)
Saturday, October 15, 2011
Recently, the cartoon Adventure TIme came in to a bit of controversy. The show is out there. Like, Ren & Stimpy levels of toeing the "not for kids" line. The episode in question is on called "What Was Missing" and chronicles the adventure Finn, Jake, Marceline, and the Bubblegum Princess go on to retrieve their stolen items from this really mean dude called Door Lord. When the four of them approach the Door Lord's door and realize they have to sing a song "from a genuine band". Marceline breaks out in to a song that clearly indicates some kind of past relationship between her and Bubblegum Princess. This reminded me of Gerhard's "Carrie Bradshaw's Queer Post-Feminism" piece. Her definition of queerness, "...narratives, images, and plot structures that can be read as queer, whether or not the characters, actors or writers involved identified themselves as queer" (pg. 75). Gerhard took a primarily hetero-read show and examined it closely and made some compelling points showcasing some questionably queer moments in the show. For this though, instead of finding and applying a queer lens to a reading of a generally un-queer show, this was unmistakable and quite overt. The queer overtone isn't in-your-face, but there's really no way of denying it and it's made very clear upon a quick examination the lyrics in conjunction with the on-screen animated reactions between Marceline and Princess Bubblegum. The lyrics can be found here.The clip's controversy was expertly outlined in Bitch Media and here recently. I posted the entire episode and just a clip of the song in case one of the two gets taken down.
Honestly? I'm not huge with the whole fandom "shipping" thing that goes around but damn, if there's going to be allusions to a positive female-female queer relationship in a show that kids watch? I will, as fandom people would say, "Go down with that ship."
Saturday, October 1, 2011
While trying to look for useful multi-media materials for another classes' facilitation project, I found this video of Joan Scott doing an interview for UC Berkeley. Scott speaks of some really interesting theories and the way being a historian has changed over the years. This video speaks to the Allison, hooks, and Davis writings on the importance of intersectionality, which bell hooks in her opening sentence of Where We Stand states, "Nowadays it is fashionable to talk about race or gender: the uncool subject is class" (pg. vii), as a way of noting how even when discourse tries to be inclusive, it often still falls short somewhere. I really enjoyed a lot of the ways Scott points out the erasure of other systematic forms of oppression get left out when trying to discuss certain, singular issues. She goes in to bigger, more specific discussions when she begins talking about her book about the banning of the veil in France. I think that her rant (for lack of a better word) towards the 36 minute mark is especially great in the context of those three readings because she is discussing how being female, Muslim, and poor are major factors in how this debate over the veil being banned is discussed.
Thursday, September 15, 2011
This past weekend my partner and I watched one of our all-time favorite ridiculous late 90's/early 00's teen films, Josie and the Pussycats. Yeah, I know, it sounds ridiculous that a twenty-something male and female both having an undying love for a critically-panned teeny-bopper-marketed film based on a fictional all-girl three-piece rock band from the Archie comics with a cat motif. I totally understand the skepticism people have when we talk like hyper-active fangirls over how great this film is. Of course, those people get a better picture when we tell them how much we love films like Clueless, 10 Things I Hate About You, or Can't Hardly Wait. The latter is not only one of my all-time favorite films but was written and directed by Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont, the creative team behind Josie. Ah, everything has come full-circle. Josie actually makes reference to Can't Hardly Wait in a scene where one of the scrolling signs in Fiona's (Parker Posey) control room says, "Can't Hardly Wait was underrated". There are more connections *cough*Du Jour*cough*, but those are for another time.
So, the basic plot of Josie and the Pussycats is your average under-dog story.
(From Rotten Tomatoes)
"Based on the animated hit TV show of the 1970s, Josie and the Pussycats is a live-action tale of a group of young girl rockers who desire to make it big. Josie (Rachael Leigh Cook), Val (Rosario Dawson), and Melody (Tara Reid) make up an aspiring garage band that is discovered by shady megalomaniac executive Wyatt Frame (Alan Cumming), the sidekick to MegaRecords boss Fiona (Parker Posey), who runs an industry powerhouse that has been grooming the very successful boy band Du Jour. Unbeknownst to "
At it's core, Josie attempts to be a discussion of what Rosalind Gill describes as "sign fatigue" in her piece, Supersexualize Me! Advertising and the "Midriffs" (pg. 255). "...many media audiences fed up with the endless parade of brands, logos and consumer images." (pg. 255) This is seen throughout the film with the (intentional) barrage of brand logos and product-placement.
"To stay with the 'consumer economy' tone of the film, from beginning to end there are approximately 73 companies who have product placements shown; from logos to actual items ranging in entertainment, electronics, fashion, food, hygiene, and cars. No money was received from all the product placements in the film."
The film even briefly conveys Gill's next point of "...advertisers [having] to address increasing 'viewer skepticism', particularly from younger, media-savvy consumers who had grown up with fast-paced music television and were the first generation to adopt personal computers and mobile phones as integral features of everyday life." (pg. 256) This is seen where the fate of a "non-conformist" goth girl meets Wyatt in a record store and he kidnaps her (with the codename "Smells Like Teen Spirit", which is a whole new can of worms for discussion) after she discloses the "terrors of the modern popular culture" so-to-speak. A main theme of the film is "marketable music" vs. "artistic integrity" which is delivered through a satire of the film's time period's (late 90's/early 00's) consumer-driven youth culture.
Josie is an interesting text when analyzed with a feminist lens. In some ways you could read it as a form of "commodity feminism" and "Midriff" marketing (pg. 256), but I think applying that is doing the film a disservice. I mean yes, the film is selling you female camaraderie and empowerment through three girls who are understatedly sexy rock stars but I feel as though there's a bit more to it than that. Although you could easily argue those viewpoints through the costuming alone. Josie is seen almost never wearing a bra throughout the film and is frequently in halter/low-cut outfits. Mel is always seen in belly-shirts or shirts exposing her skin in one way or another, save the end when she is finally in a full-coverage top. Val is the most "conservative" dresser of the group which could be interpreted as a dig on WoC not being sexually appealing to the majority (white) audience, but I like to see it as a positive representation of a (thankfully) non-hyper-sexualized WoC, which is seen all too often in modern popular culture. This "Midriff" viewpoint could very easily be reinforced if one is a nerd (like me) and dives in to the DVD's special features where the costume designer explicitly states that all of the womens' costumes were custom made. They specifically wanted these particular styles and cuts and fabrics on the women.
However, I tend to think that a lot of that was the time and honestly, the need to make money. Josie is somewhat of a mixed bag in that sense. The thing is though, is that Josie knows what it's doing and mocks itself more than a few times throughout the time. Whether it be breaking the fourth wall with various characters looking at the camera or in the scene where Alexander asks his sister Alexandra, "Why are you even here?!" to which she slyly responds under her breath, "Because I was in the comic book." Alexander looks at her in confusion and she just shrugs and looks away.
All in all, despite the fact that yes, Josie's feminist message may seem questionable on the surface, I feel like if you give the film a chance and really let it simmer (maybe even watch it more than once) it's lovability and good heart are there. It's not perfect by any means, but I'd still probably rather have my theoretical kids watch it over quite a few other modern films.