Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Final Project: Media Matters

Media Matters: What television and movies say about LGBT Teens and their progression to adulthood.
Dante Tavolaro

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

Rape in many ways but focusing on Degrassi

As a group we decided to focus on how sex is preserved in the teenage series Degrassi. Because sex is such a broad topic we brought it down to focusing more on rape. A little background information on degrassi: it is a Canada based show that began in 1987. All of its characters play teenagers and are actually teenagers. The show basically takes its watchers through the everyday life of high school teen. It has various character each different from each other. The show takes the viewers each step of the way even into the teens adulthood stage.
     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. 

Final Blog Post: Lesbian images in the media

          In looking at the images of lesbians in the media there are patterns that show up consistently.  Many of the television shows and movies show a common formula of how they portray a lesbian female.  This formula is.
 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.