Tuesday, May 3, 2011
To start I want to take a look at the class assumption that was the inspiration for the title of this project.
Media Matters: Popular culture is not just a form of entertainment. The media play a critical role in teaching us about the world. Film, television, music, the Internet, advertising, fashion and other forms of popular/digital culture shape the daily lives of all Americans whether we celebrate or resist their influence. We must learn to see the things we take most for granted, to analyze and interpret the media around us in order to understand how these things contribute to how we think about what is “normal,” “natural,” and “good.” In this class, we will take the media seriously as an educating force.
This was the starting point for this project because it is important to acknowledge and analysis those things that shape and form they way we think. Christensen in "Unpacking the myths that bind us," talks about the assumptions we hold and where we get them from. In the trainings I ran for Youth Pride Inc. I frequently heard folks say things like, "Well I don't know any gay people, but I've seen them on TV." I think Christensen would have the same reaction I did, one not of surprise but of disappointment and sadness. These persons take what they see on TV and assume it to be the reality. We all know what happens when one assumes!
Let's look at some of the media texts - primarily in TV and Movies - around LGBT Teenagers.
Here is a trailer for the 1999 movie Boys Don't Cry.
I picked this video for the project because it is a better portrayal of the entire movie as opposed to the official trailer.
Boys Don't Cry, was the first movie I ever saw about a transgender individual. It did not give me the courage I needed to come out. There are other films out there. I recommend the documentary TransGeneration . Here is a quick clip to give you an idea of what it's about.
This is a great mini-series documentary that follows the lives of four trans identified college students.
Another classic LGBT Teen flick is But I'm A Cheerleader. One of the things that is great about this movie is it deals with the issue of perceived sexual orientation and the failure of "ex-gay" programs. "You know it's kind of like homosexuals anonymous"
One of my favorite movies is Latter Days It is the story of a young Morman man who is gay - but can't tell anyone or even admit it. He moves next door to a gay man - and I'll let your imagination do the rest. The story does have a tragic end, but it shows the problem that many LGBT individuals have with religion. It is a story about what happens when shame and guilt are allowed to overcome a person's life and they are denied for who they are.
I could go on, there are so many great films that show the positive and not so positive realities of LGBT life. A great place to check out is LOGO. LOGO is a station owned by MTV that focused on LGBT content. One thing that you may notice, is that for the most part you'll never seen these on main stream television. This is where Leslie Grinner comes into play. In a tongue-in-cheeck sort of way I only put one word down for how Grinner and SCWAMP apply: "DUH!" As we learned from SCWAMP (and paying attention to society in general) there are certain identities that are valued above others. Straightness is one of them. The reason why much of this is never shown on mainstream television is that homosexuality is not something that is valued in our society. To think back to Christensen and the class assumption, media matters because it is portraying myths of invisibility for LGBT individuals. Remembering the Glee episodes we watched earlier in the semester, there are mixed messages in that. Violence, rejection, acceptance, openness. I think it does give a better picture of the complicated experiences of LGBT teenagers - and LGBT individuals in general - than most TV images out there.
Raby's discourses can also be seen here. The violence and self destructive behavior of LGBT teens plays right into the storm. There are hundreds of statistics out there that ultimately say the same thing: that LGBT teenagers are more likely than there heterosexual peers to engage in at-risk behavior. Becoming is also clearly seen not only in the coming out experiences of the characters, but in the coming out process of those around them. Think of the parents in Latter Days and in But I'm A Cheerleader.
These aren't the only images of LGBT folks in the media. There is a very dramatic shift in the images of LGBT teenagers and that of LGBT adults.
There is the hit showtime series Queer as Folk.
Now this trailer is all well and good - it's Showtime getting ready for a new show. But this is a little more what the show is all about.
This is the intro for the show circa seasons 4-5. It shows that this show is definitely about sex! There is a lot of anonymous sex, drug use, etc. It deals with family, coming out, AIDS, and many other issues that effect the LGBT community.
There is the classic Ellen coming out episode.
Ellen faced a lot of backlash in real life for this, but her experience overall on the show was nothing compared to some of the images of LGBT teens.
Then there is Will & Grace. Some praise the show for having openly gay characters, but for my most part Will is normalized to be as straight as possible - while still being gay. Jack - is the joke, the stereotypical image of a gay man. Here's a clip of the show that shows some of the best "gay" moments.
Again, I could go on, but you are probably sick of reading this by now.
I want to go back to Christensen. It is very important to unpack the myths that bind us. I think Queer as Folk does that. It shows the stereotypical images, but also tackles some very challenging issues and forces the audience to look differently at the lives of the characters. This is something that the mainstream Will & Grace could never do.
As times change the images are beginning to change. There are more positive images, mixed in with the classic negative ones, in mainstream television and movies today. There is hope things are changing. To see the next wave, the deconstruction of myth, the further acceptance of LGBT folks in society all we need to do is look to Glee. A mainstream show, that has demonstrated hardship, struggle, and always has a good love story.
Monday, May 2, 2011
Before I begin to explain these various forms let me begin by explaining to you that rape and sex are two completely different actions. Sex is when a person consents to intercourse while rape is not consenting. The first scene that I will take you through is a seen with a character by the name of Darcy. Darcy is seen as a well rounded, wholesome girl. She is heavily in to religion and seen it as the core of her existence. She is a virgin. Before this scene takes place we find Darcy and her boyfriend at the time taking a break from each other. In her rage Darcy decides to attend a house party where she begins to drink. Someone slips a date rape drug into her drink. The next morning late she can not remember what has happened to her but yet she finds herself in a bed naked. Here is the clip.
Just to let you know that the man that Darcy is kissing on for the fist seconds of the video is not her boyfriend it is her rapist! After going through her rape many of the girls in her school are jealous of her for having sex while to the boys she is seen as a sex object. But to her self Darcy sees her self as a Monster she blames her self for what has happened to her. She puts up walls pushing away people that want to help her for a while she keeps her rape to her self until she is forced to come out with a reason as to why she has been acting out of character, so she decides to blame her rape on a teacher. Darcy's rape is one that many girls go though on a daily basis.
The next clip is another one from Degrassi but this rape is different and is not commonly understood as rape, but it is. This clip is of a girl names Holly J she is class president and is see as a goodie good so to speak. She is in a relationship with her boyfriend. After the school dance Holly goes over to her boyfriend's
home to talk and things begin to get a little out of hand. Pay close attention to Holly's facial expressions and words.
As you can see Holy does say NO to Declan, but he continues to push himself on to her. This form of rape is not commonly the type that is reported it is more so just pushed under the rug and thought of something that did not happen. For the record once the person says no it means no and any type of sexual activity that occurs after that is seen as rape NO MATTER WHAT. You can see in Holly's face that she is not into having sex with him.
This show degrassi shows teens various forms of rape so that if they were to be caught in the same situations they would be able to having something to relate their experience to and receive the proper help after their experience.
1. Seemingly straight teen meets rebellious lesbian/bi teen.
2. Outwardly straight girl struggles with questions of sexuality while tentatively entering into a relationship with lesbian/bi teen
3. Recently outed girl faces shocked and disappointed family/friends
4. Newly formed couple overcomes a separation to live happily ever after, or at least the teenage version of that (which means, happily together for at least a few months).
In looking at teenage shows we found that the story of the lesbian teen does in truth follow this formula. One example is Pretty Little Liars.
The character of Emily has followed this formula almost exactly. In the beginning of the show she met Maya, who has some rebellious characteristics including an occasional use of pot. Emily struggled with questioning her sexuality and moving into a relationship. She came out and her friends were supportive but her family was not. She was happy in that relationship but the relationship did end. She then moved into one with Paige who was in the video. The whole time she dealt with the mysterious A who threatens to reveal all, speeding up the process.
Another show that has used this formula was Glee. We watched Kurt deal with coming out and bullying. Recently the audience has been exposed to the Santana coming out story. The relationship between her and Brittany has been teased but Brittany is currently with Artie, the boy in the wheelchair. In this scene finally comes out to Brittany and is meant with support, but Brittany does not seem to want that yet.
It does not follow the formula exactly as she seems to be the rebellious teen in this scenario. She is often the bitchy character in the show. Brittany is the dumb blond cheerleader, who seems to be bisexual but currently in love with Artie. She has been struggling with her sexuality and seeing what Kurt went through scares her. Right now Brittany is the only one she came out to. In the last episode with the Born this way sequence the characters wore shirts with a fault on it. Brittany gave her a shirt that said Lebanese (it was supposed to be lesbian but Brittany can't spell) It will be interesting to see if she will come out to Glee club. Glee club is the friends but has parts of family in it.
Another show that dealt with this is Degrassi. Recently the character of Fiona, has come out as being a lesbian.
Fiona likes Holly J but she is pretty much straight. It ignores the whole rebellious piece. Fiona seems to again be the more rebellious character, with rehab from alcohol behind her. She came out to her mom and she was supportive. It is interesting how this show portrays so many issues and different viewpoints. In comparison they also recently dealt with a football player coming out story where the mother does not support it and ignores it.
Still it is rare to see a natural lesbian relationship that is just there. The closest example is from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Willow and Tara, both witches are lesbians. This did not follow the formula so much. They met but it was natural. They were at a Wicca meeting and both discovering they were not pretend witches but real ones. With a few brushes with death as common to this show. they were brought together. Buffy as the first Willow told was surprised but supportive, a natural reaction. This partnership lasted from the fourth season to the sixth season when a death ended it. This being one of my first exposure to a teenage lesbian relationship, was interesting to me. They have the forbidden layer of the witch but every character in the show is dealing with that. Also they were probably the most successful couple who would have lasted if it wasn't for death.
In thinking about lesbian relationships in media, there are not many examples. Recently it is coming up more. Is it because the public is more accepting of this? Is the sexualization of lesbian characters playing a role? How does it compare to the male portrayals? This is something that is very interesting to look at and explore.
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
I then went on to connect the course readings to some of the songs’ lyrics and music videos. I tried to get a relatively wide array of songs. I chose songs by different artists, from different genres, and from many different decades. This allowed me to see how views on teenagers have changed over the years. It also allowed me to see the different ideas that people have about teenagers. Croteau’s “Media and Ideology” was the first piece that I connected some songs to. Croteau states that:
In essence, the accumulation of media images suggests what is “normal” and what is “deviant”. This articulation is accomplished, in large part, by the fact that popular media, particularly television and mass advertising, have a tendency to display a remarkably narrow range of behaviors and lifestyles, marginalizing or neglecting people who are “different” from the mass-mediated norm.
I found lyrics from five different songs that exemplified Croteau’s argument. These songs include, “Teenagers” My Chemical Romance, “Teenage Frankenstein” Alice Cooper, “I’m Just a Kid” Simple Plan, “High School Never Ends” Bowling for Soup, and “Teenage Dirtbag” Wheatus. The music video for “Teenage Dirtbag” is also highly relevant to Croteau’s piece because of Jason Bigg’s character in it. He is the outcast in the video who desperately wants the unattainable popular girl. He is ostracized and looked down upon because he is different. Dominant ideology does not label him as “normal” so he is marginalized and neglected.
I then chose to analyze a song using Grinner’s SCWAMP framework. Many of the videos and songs that I found could have also been easily dissected using this method but for time purposes I only chose to analyze one, “Teenage Dream” by Katy Perry. This song and its video especially fall into the categories that Grinner lays out. Although the lyrics do not blatantly say it, this song is obviously about a heterosexual couple, as exemplified by the music video. Christian comes into play with the Madonna/whore dichotomy that is played out throughout the video. When Katy is near the lockers she is portrayed as almost innocent and pure and then by the end she is seen as “bad” because she has sexual desires. Although there are some people in the video that are of other races, it is predominantly white people. There are no disabled people in the video and everyone in it also falls into the dominant beauty structure of our culture (i.e. thin and pretty/handsome). The first line of the song “You think I’m pretty without any makeup on” implies that normally to look good for a man (and therefore keep him) a woman must wear makeup. Also, while Katy is the one that suggests they “go all the way tonight no regrets just love” the male in the video is extremely dominant in the motel scene. Lastly, property holding is exemplified in the Ray-Ban sunglasses that Katy has on and the convertible that the man is driving.
From Christensen’s piece I quoted, “the secondhand information we receive has often been distorted, shaped by cultural stereotypes, and left incomplete”. I examined four different music videos and was able to find a great number of stereotypical depictions in them. The stereotypes were for teenagers as well as the various high school cliques that are so commonly portrayed in our media. The four videos that I looked at were: “I’m Just a Kid” Simple Plan (the cheerleaders/popular girls and the punks/skaters), “Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous” Good Charlotte (the goth/emo kids), “High School Never Ends” Bowling for Soup (the jocks/popular boys), and “Teenage Dirtbag” Wheatus (the dorks/geeks/losers).
Lastly, I connected some lyrics and videos with Raby’s “A Tangle of Discourses”. For each discourse I found quotes from the article as well as lyrics and music videos. “Teenage Whore” Hole, “Teenagers” Hayley Williams, “Teenager in Love” Dion & The Belmonts were the three that I connected with the storm discourse.
Becoming was the next discourse that was discussed in the article. I used “The Anthem” Good Charlotte, “Seventeen” Boyd Bennett, “Seventeen” Mandy Moore, and lastly “I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman” Britney Spears.
For at risk I chose lyrics to Dive’s “Teenage Tragedy” and “Teenagers” My Chemical Romance.
Lastly came pleasurable consumption for which I linked the video for “Girls & Boys” by Good Charlotte.
Overall my final question was what do teenage songs and music videos teach us about teenagers? I realized that basically all they do is reinforce dominant ideologies, portray stereotypical teenagers and high schools, and they go hand in hand with the television and movie portrayals of what high school is like. Lastly, I believe that what these videos and songs are trying to tell us is that it’s hard to be a teenager (especially if you are one in love)!
When using the SCWAMP ideological theory I learned that even though they are exhibiting ‘lesbian’ experiences, they is a straight white male behind it. In Wild Things the white male able-body character directs the girls to kiss each other. While in Cruel Intentions a white girl is having another white girl kiss her, the reason is for her to learn how to kiss a man. So even though we attempted to find lesbian representation, it was more like bisexual or male driven fantasy representations. This brings me to Learning about Good Girls. They discuss male aggression and female responsibility. Though there are no rapes in the scenes I have selected, like the examples they use for the article – Men are the aggressors whether directly or indirectly and the women are responsible to respond sexually to these men. It’s the heterosexual expectation with a lesbian/bi-sexual road. What I learned via these movies is that lesbian representation isn’t real. It’s a straight, white, property owning male’s story.
An interesting observation I also made from the movie Wild Things, which is not shown in my selected clips, proves and backs up Tolman and Higgins. In the end of the movie one comes to find out that one of the girls who was involved in the threesome scene, who was shown as the troubled youth with a reputation outsmarts all the main characters in the film. In the end they are all dead due to her careful planning and she stays with millions of dollars. This conclusion demonstrates how bad behavior is rewarded and that bad girls have power.
Monday, April 25, 2011
- The photographer is a teenager
- Her work spans six years, documenting her life beginning at age eleven through present day – she turned seventeen last month
- The photographs are (primarily) portraits of teenagers – her friends and herself
- Bee shares her work publicly via multiple media outlets (flickr, website, blog, twitter)
- Bee is popular – thousands subscribe or visit her sites
- Bee is represented by an artist’s agent and has been hired by corporations (Nike, Converse) for professional photography shoots.
Leslie Grinner – SCWA(A)MP In other words - and using Grinner's dominant ideological framework - Olivia Bee’s pictures are populated with straight, Christian, white, able-bodied, (American), male, property-holding subjects. There are only a handful of photographs (>10 out of thousands) depicting non-white or non-straight teenagers, and while there are many female teenagers in her work, the majority of the subjects are male. While Portland is less diverse than similarly sized U.S. cities, its non-white population at 22% is not represented in her photographs. Olivia Bee started – and to many extents still is – documenting her community and lifestyle. Does she have a responsibility to produce anti-racist, queer-friendly, pro-female imagery? Is she simply representing her own life as it is populated? Should her photographs be viewed as art, as distinct from media?
Rebecca C. Raby, A Tangle of Discourses: Girls Negotiating Adolescence Raby identifies five prominent teenage discourses that have been applied to the teenage experience (storm, becoming, at-risk, social problem, pleasurable consumption). Primarily, Olivia Bee's photography invoke becoming and downplay the other four. But I do think her photography does not fit neatly into these discourses - which is precisely Raby's point. Bee's photography avoids reducing the teenage experience to 'perceived discourses' and I think this is in large part because the producer is a teenager herself. To expand upon this notion that Bee's photographs rarely invoke stereotypical teenage discourses beyond becoming, I think this can also be criticized. Olivia Bee's photography invokes the magic of teenagehood - and ignores the difficulties that can be associated with being a teenager (social anxiety, consumption, insecurity, sharing time/space with parents, burgeoning sexuality and activity, bullying) - in a way that makes her work heartening but misleading as an accurate portrayal of her life. Olivia Bee's Commercial Work I think it is a combination of the storm-less magical teenage world - inhabited by subjects adhering more or less to dominant ideology standards as outlined by SCWAMP - that makes Bee's work marketable.
David Croteau, Media and Ideology
The media give us pictures of social interaction and social institutions that, by their sheer repetition on a daily basis, can play important roles in shaping broad social definitions. In essence, the accumulation of media images suggests what is “normal” and what is “deviant.” (P 163)Olivia Bee's photographs - while challenging some of the more popular teenage discourses - do embody 'normalcy' as noted by Croteau. The photographs depict a slice of Americana that is saccharine, wholesome, and admirable to many. There is also the added bonus of the viewer experience the 'secret life' of the American teenager - the viewer sees them in their own habitat, unburdened by adults, school, work, or problems. While not purposely trying to add to the repetitive discourse of what is normal and what is deviant, by virtue of her work and time being purchased for dissemination by major media outlets, Olivia Bee becomes complicit in the act. The "normalcy" discourse is striking - particularly in her Nike photo shoot.
Recent Work Olivia Bee turned seventeen less that one month ago and her work has rapidly begun changing. Her work has been likened to Ryan McGinley, whose first solo show at the age of twenty-five at the Whitney depicted a "downtown neverland where people are thrilled and naked, leaping in front of graffiti on the street, sacked out in heaps of flannel shirts—everything very debauched and drug-addled and decadent, like Nan Goldin hit with a happy wand. Part of what made McGinley so famous (like Goldin before him) was that he offered not just an artist’s vision of a free and rebellious alternative life but also the promise that he was actually living it, through photos that looked spontaneous, stolen, of an intimate cast of characters, a family of friends." (New York Magazine, 7/7/07) The Whitney curator explained that McGinley's subjects, "are performing for the camera and exploring themselves with an acute self-awareness that is decidedly contemporary. They are savvy about visual culture, acutely aware of how identity can be not only communicated but created. They are willing collaborators." While Bee's friends have always been self-aware subjects in pictures, the activities she has been depicting now represent more of the 'deviant' as defined by Croteau and illustrate some aspects of Raby's seedier teenage discourses.
The film “Easy A” is about an adolescent female who actually obtains her status as a “virgin” despite the fact that a lie she told to get an annoying friend to leave her alone has spread around the school and made everyone believe she is a “whore” or a “superslut.” Due to the spread of the lie, several males approach Olive asking for help with their reputations. Essentially, these young men pretend to sleep with Olive and pay her with giftcards to different stores.
When Olive faces resistance from her peers, the situation is a double bind from an analytical perspective. On one hand, the film shows how ridiculous it is when teens gossip and judge one another on the basis on sexual experience because much of the time the stories are conflated. Furthermore, the teen boys are being praised for their sexual practices while Olive faces sexual harassment and assault, rumors that she has STI’s, responsibilities that are not her own, gossip, slut-shaming, and more. In this way, the film could be interpreted as presenting reasons why sexism is still pervasive and dangerous even/especially in high schools. In the film, Olive is referred to as a superslut, a tramp, easy, a harlot, a floosy, and more.
Throughout the movie, one of the issues we really expected to be dealt with was slutshaming. Olive is shamed, ridiculed, and other-ed simply for (at least, appearing to) take control of her sexuality. The double standard of the males being praised for their roles in sexual situations, while the girls are punished, is evident in the way the males who take part see a rise in popularity and respect. At one point, one of the males tells Olive he doesn't need her permission - he can tell people they did whatever he wants, and they will believe him because of her reputation. It's a horrifying example of how our society works because it's completely true.
I've seen it argued that the overall message of "Easy A" is that rumors and being in other people's business is wrong, not that being sexually active is bad.
I disagree. I think though the overall message is a positive one handling privacy, that the movie continues to be controlled by the dominant social ideologies. It largely does not step outside of Leslie Grinner's SCWAMP guidelines. Even it's handling of homosexuality, something it's been praised for, seems questionable. Homosexuality is presented as a passing phase, or something that's possible to oppress with both the father and Brandon. Further, the entire plot line of changing Brandon so he will stop being bullied - something our protagonist boasts as wise, and is thus accepted by the audience - has victim blaming roots.
In an article, Women's Media Center's Caroline Framke dealt with her issue with the movie.
By comparing the two characters, I believe you can see how Easy A continues to promote the negative sexual gender roles. As Tolman and Higgins discussed in "How Being A Good Girl Can Be Bad for Girls", girls are put in charge of males sexuality. It becomes their responsibility. Olive perpetuates this gender role by putting herself in a nurturing position for the males. In contrast, Mrs. Griffin (Kudrow) is shown as ignoring her husband - she, gasp, doesn't even provide him dinner one night. It could have been a refreshing, gender-neutral, positive representation of a marriage. It ultimately ends up as another piece of "evidence" in the morality case, presented to the audience, against Mrs. Griffin.
The writer of Easy A, Bert V. Royal, was asked what the moral of the movie was;
We entered this class with the assumption that media matters, and this piece proves it. Because our society's ideology of gender roles is so negative and all encompassing, a piece of media that does have an incredibly important message, has undertones of misogyny that go unacknowledged. Ultimately, the only two characters that are punished are, in the end, the two females who show true signs of sexuality. It says something about the current climate of the entertainment industry when the movie that has been praised as a feminist movie is ultimately still presenting negative messages.