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.

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