Sunday, September 25, 2011

What do movie and television posters say about their female leads?

I love watching films and critiquing them. I've been thinking about how movie and television posters portray their female leads. This poster sparked my interest:

In terms of romantic comedies, I think this movie is one of the best ones I've seen in years, so when I saw this poster I was bummed. This image is problematic because Marisa Tomei is reduced to a pair of legs. Steve Carrell is also pigeon-holed into the sex-crazy male with that goofy expression on his face. The "legs as framing" technique is overdone, particularly in hip-hop music videos. For more information on this, you can consult the Media Education Foundation's website and documentary, DreamWorlds. The videos on this site are great for educators to use in their classrooms. They're currently producing a documentary of Jessica Valenti's, The Purity Myth. I read this book last summer. Valenti discusses sex-education in the United States, "purity balls" where young women creepily promise to stay faithful to their fathers before marriage, and she calls into question where this concept of "virginity" came from. Take a look at Valenti's book!

Another promo for a television program that caught my attention:


So "Don't let the name fool you", just judge me based on the slip dress I'm wearing?! What's going on in these pictures? The last one caught my attention because she's not looking at the viewer. While she is powerful and strong, this ad reminds the viewer that she is "feminine" and a woman with the heels and sexy, black dress. There isn't anything wrong with women looking sexy, but there is a problem when she is reduced to that one image. What about these images says that she's strong?

I then looked at this image:

This image fits with many other promos ABC has created. Desperate Housewives was one of the worst offenders with images like this and this. It's playing on an old double-bind that women need to be innocent, as shown with the white clothing, yet sinful and dirty with the slogan "they're not saints." Anyone else notice that while the show tries to incorporate some diversity, they are "whitening" this image. I find that ridiculous! This image will attract male audiences, but I find it problematic and disheartening that these images of women are recycled over and over again. When will this change?

Media education is important in an age where young people and their parents watch on average four hours of television per day. I'm currently reading Catching a Wave: Reclaiming Feminism in the 21st Century edited by Rory Dicker and Alison Piepmeier, and the first chapter begins with a call for media education. I think this starts small by questioning the images that have become so ingrained in our minds that we perceive them as normal. It is not NORMAL that women are portrayed as body parts instead of people.

Friday, September 23, 2011

New Film, A Dangerous Method, Causes Stir

As a psychology nerd, I'm excited about this film. It's based on the true story of Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and his patient Sabina Spielrein. Jung and Sabina begin a sexual relationship, and the film centers around the tension between Freud and Jung. It's a fascinating story. The film's causing some stir for a scene where Jung played by Michael Fassbender spanks Sabina played by Keira Knightley. Why is that necessary? Are the minds behind the film over-sexualizing Keira so more people will watch?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

What I've Been Reading

1. 20 Things You'll Regret Doing in College

Some highlights with my comments: 
Giving that person your cell phone number. Yes, why do I do this?
Wearing sweatpants in public. I will never regret this. I like being comfortable!
Never talking to that attractive person who seemed to be sitting just a few rows ahead of you in all your classes. Yes, I think we're all guilty of this! 

2. Italian Vogue cover replicates this image, left, of a woman with the world's smallest waist. 

Why is scary-skinny considered "fashionable"? These images are disturbing, and it bothers me that more people aren't holding Italian Vogue accountable for its cover.

3. Adolescent boys keep Deep Secrets. I read Dr. Niobe Way's book, Deep Secrets: Boys' Friendships and the Crisis of Connection, this summer, and I was happy to see that Feministing did a post on it a few weeks ago. Dr. Way is a developmental psychologist at NYU, and she's spent the past two decades doing research on male friendships during early and later adolescence. 

She found in interviews that boys in early adolescence have close friendships. They admit to needing close friends to share their feelings with, opposite to the stereotype that boys don't want to talk about their emotions. She noticed a shift in boys attitudes in later adolescence when male friendships dissolve and boys are stereotyped into only talking about girls, sports or video games.

Offensive. I've Decided.

#1 worst conversation to have with your child. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Funny or Offensive? You Decide.


Take a moment to consider what's going on in this picture... I was confused at first until I found this link. At the MTV Movie Awards, presenters, Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake shared with the audience that they have "never dated, are just friends, and are like brother and sister." This sibling relationship was demonstrated by touching each other on stage. 

Okay, I would NEVER do that to my brother. I don't think it's funny to do that in front of a live audience, and really Justin was it necessary to comment about the size of your penis afterward? Now that I'm processing this image, I am uncomfortable with it and the thought that young children were probably watching this show. I LOVE Mila Kunis, and I respect her for publicly speaking about her struggles to be a successful woman in the television and movie industries. Yet, there are aspects of her image that frustrate me. Is she a woman comfortable with her sexuality or is she putting on a show for her male fans? I think it's interesting that we read about celebrities' personal lives and view them in films and feel as if we know them. It is kind of creepy now that I think about it. You decide.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

"Pretty is not enough" for Bare Escentuals Campaign

When I opened up my AOL a few days ago, an email from Bare Escentuals titled "Pretty is not enough" instantly peaked my interest. After some brief research, I found that Bare Escentuals, a company that promotes natural-looking makeup, has a new campaign telling women that pretty is important but being truly "beautiful" is the highest prize. The creators did a blind casting call where models ages 20-60 answered questionnaires. 

My first thought after reading the messages above was "Wait, what?! This doesn't make sense at all. What's the difference between being pretty versus being beautiful?" I'm still confused about what it is supposed to mean. It appears based on the website that this new campaign is meant to be a positive message about embracing inner beauty, but I'm not following.

Why does being "bold" have to be linked to being "beautiful"? Why does beauty have to be a prerequisite for having a bold, happy, "limitless" life? Also, let's consider the type of beauty Bare Escentuals is advocating for. A woman can only become a "force of beauty" if she uses the company's makeup, and her complexion is therefore flawless and conforming to society's perfect beauty standards. Isn't this ad just reinforcing the rule that outer beauty instantly transforms a woman's inner beauty? This is a real dilemma in a world where women are constantly told that the way they look is their greatest asset and source of self-worth. Let's take beauty out of the equation when we tell young girls that they can be strong, compassionate, independent, and spunky.

A fellow blogger questions whether this campaign is sweet or insulting.
An article from The New York Times describing the campaign.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Well SAID...

I LOVE this blog post I read on Feministe... It's a well-articulated reflection on the criticisms single women endure. Chally makes a strong statement writing:

"There’s nothing deficient about finding yourself single, or pursuing the kind of life you want. I know that much of my personal unhappiness comes from not fitting various norms, and feeling like I ought to be more normal in order to have a happy life. That’s not an unwarranted fear as there’s real social marginalisation attached to being non-normative. If we expand our ideas of the kinds of lives that are acceptable, older divorced women; young ladies like me who are starting to build their lives; queer, asexual, and poly people; hey, even happily married straight people – all kinds of people! – will be better served."

The next time someone tells me that "I would be 'happier' if I had a boyfriend" that is the response I'm giving.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Are Men Under Attack?

I've noticed that men are getting a lot of bad publicity in the media sphere over the last few weeks/years. When I returned home from Connecticut, my mother left an article on my bed from the Wall Street Journal, with the harsh title, "Where Have All the Good Guys Gone?" It featured an excerpt from a book released this past March titled, Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men into Boys, by Kay Hymowitz. She analyzes how pop culture has created the infamous "man-boy", a.k.a Seth Rogan before he meets Katherine Heigel in Knocked Up. One immediate issue I have with this book is the fact that women are being blamed for the rise of "man-boys." Why must women be punished for their power and strength? Female power poses a threat to men who are now losing their masculinity and never growing up. This is a troubling connection to me.

I was then sent to an amusing video from The Onion titled, "Obama Releases 500,000 Men from U.S. Strategic Bachelor Reserve." While I think the video's hilarious, there were certain parts that made me a bit uncomfortable. For example, the ideal man, according to The Onion, notices a woman's new haircut and learns to grow a vegetable garden. Is that all women desire in a life partner?

My main question is: Are The Onion, Knocked Up, and Kay Hymowitz onto something? Is this generation of men, less mature, and more boyish? I'm certainly not an authority on the male population, and I've had my fair share of awkward experiences with immature men (for evidence of this, you can refer to this previous post). Yet, I do have an opinion on this "man-boy" phenomena. I think films such as Knocked Up have glorified the "man-boy" archetype and made it more socially acceptable for men to sit around in their pajamas and play video games all day. Why grow up when your favorite celebrity stays a child forever in your favorite television program or movie? I think it gives men "the easy way out" and an excuse to avoid responsibilities in their lives, so let's get rid of the "man-boy" term. Also, it's an exaggeration to say that all men are like this. I'd like to keep the hope alive that there are "good" men out there, escaping the "man-boy" label.

"Man-boys" in action.

Note to Candies Ad Executives: Girls do MORE than shop and vacuum

I saw this commercial and needed to comment on the offensive messages it declares about young women. Apparently, Candies "girls" only wear high heels, exercise, spend hours accessorizing, and need a break after finishing their "work" which is vacuuming the carpet. Also, when you take a close look at the commercial, you notice that Vanessa Hudgens doesn't actually eat the cupcake. She just licks her fingers because well, she can't actually eat the full cupcake without worrying about her figure! Really, Candies! Girls deserve more respect than that. I take classes with many thoughtful, passionate, and intelligent young people that do a whole lot more than obsess about their appearances.

Is this belittling presentation of women the only way to sell a product? Sorry, Candies, I'm not buying it!



These ads also suggest that women exist only as sexual objects. The point of the shoes is to look "sexy" for men, as shown in both the images above. There is something disturbing about both images, especially since this is 2011 and not 1955.