I’m in my Philosophy lecture now. The number of people turning up for lecture seems to be dwindling week by week. Well. Apart from one reason that I won’t mention here, the other is that there’s webcast for it, so that’s probably why some people don’t really see the need to turn up for it physically.
Anyway, I just had my Sociology of Pop Culture tutorial, where we discussed pop culture icons in representing gender and ethnicity. It was rewarding, to say the least. For our Sociology tutorial, we generally just sit in a classroom and then take turns proposing an idea each, with the tutor starting the ball rolling. He gave Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as a representation of Asian American masculine figures. Some others proposed the idea of a shift towards androgyny in fashion trends (eg, boyfriend blazers and jeans, etc), as well as a move towards curveless models. Someone else talked about Barbie dolls as a representation of the ideal female, with her Kelly doll, so she’s seen as a mother figure, whereas Ken doll drives a car and looks cool and often isn’t sold with the Kelly doll, so it seems as though he doesn’t have any responsibilities. Which is a really cool way of looking at it. The whole Barbie, Ken and Kelly doll package also represents the traditional family with heterosexual parents. And lately, Barbie has been modified to look like a real woman, and other forms of Barbie have also been created to encompass other ethnicities.
I talked about Disney’s princesses, like Jasmine and Snow White. There wasn’t enough time to talk about Ariel, because I also talked about Victoria’s Secret Angels. ‘Angels’ – deification of women by males in a male-driven industry (backstage crew is mostly comprised of males). The Angels pander to male fetishes, the male gaze, but also send out messages of female empowerment because they have curves (eg, Doutzen Kroes, one of my favourite models) and are tanned, toned and strong (eg, Alessandra Ambrosio). Lately, though, VS is moving towards skinnier models like Miranda Kerr (only like her face, but not her body, because it’s so skinny I feel awkward for her when I look at her). I don’t like this trend. VS models are the only models I like, because they look strong yet feminine. Why feature skinny minnies like Miranda Kerr when we already have (way too many) catalogue models like Chanel Iman and Kate Moss? So what does this all say about the male gaze? And the heightened female consciousness of that male gaze? Why are we so conscious of how we look, as compared to guys, who just pull on a polo shirt and berms and are so secure in their skin? Male ego is one thing, but I think women are still inherently dependent on men, so they still see having a soulmate as their ultimate goal for security in life. Males are more financially and physically independent, so they don’t care for that as much as women do.
For Jasmine, she’s one of the sexiest Disney princesses, and on YouTube, I see how guys slobber over her. So even if she’s in her ethnic costume, her outfit is sexually suggestive. Plus, even though she fends off Jafar’s advances throughout the show, she ends up using her feminine wiles to distract him so that Aladdin can save the day. She also, despite being Oriental, has Western ideas of freedom and Aladdin is therefore the person who represents adventure and escapism, and she ends up running off with him and ignores her father’s wishes of arranged marriage.
Snow White is constantly pining for her damn prince, wishing he’d sweep her off in his white horse and save her. She does end up being saved by him too, as does Sleeping Beauty, so does that suggest that women are the weaker sex and can only be saved ultimately by men? Plus, Snow White offers to do the domestic chores for the 7 short little men so that she can stay with them, because them 7 little guys, being guys, are portrayed as being unable to clean up after themselves and shouldn’t be bothered with it, since the male duty is to go out and work (in the mines, in the dwarves’ case) and then come home and have dinner ready for them. And her beauty, demureness and domesticity even wins over Grumpy.
And then someone else talked about magazines like Cleo and 17, and how it defined the feminine identity, etc etc. And someone else mentioned gay culture and pointed out how it’s not so in the closet anymore, and how butches in girls’ schools are idolised, while effeminate guys get their asses kicked in boys’ schools as the ass-kickers assert their masculinity, etc etc. Other magazine examples include T3, some cars and girls magazines for guys. Someone said the girls have absolutely nothing to do for the cars, but the tutor suggested the power of the cars is translated into a (phallic) power to attain the girls. Okay, so there is a link after all, if you put it that way. Objectification of women is still a prevalent practice now – jeez, guys.
And then there was the James Bond example, where the women are given horribly degrading names like Octopussy (my lips curl in disgust). But a reversal of roles is observed, when Halle Berry in Die Another Day was the one in a bikini (or, as Ris Low says, ‘bigini’) coming out of the water, it is now Daniel Craig coming out of the water in his tighties in Casino Royale.
Sex and the City was mentioned too, as was Desperate Housewives, and it was pointed out how that triggered and fuelled the trend of ‘cougarism’. Sarah Jessica Parker’s character, Carrie Bradshaw, was the one who dreamt about marrying Mr Big – thereby reinforcing the idea of marriage as something that completes a woman, as the ultimate goal that women should strive towards – while Kim Cattrall’s character, Samantha Jones, was the cougar who spied on her neighbour changing. Desperate Housewives promotes promiscuity, because of the proliferate affairs – clandestine or otherwise so – throughout the show.
And then we moved on to talking about the representation of women by the media. There were only 4 guys in our class, so it sort of felt like a women’s book group when we talked about the model issue and how they are becoming skinnier, etc. While curves were celebrated in the past (see Brigitte Bardot, Marilyn Monroe, etc), thin is in now, as seen by examples like Chanel Iman (go google her if you don’t know who she is), Jessica Stam and Agyness Deyn. I like Doutzen Kroes because she’s got an angelic face, but womanly curves. Her beauty is breath-taking. Oh, and am I the only who thinks she kinda resembles Carolyn Murphy?
We talked about a lot more, like Buffy and Grey’s Anatomy, The OC, Gossip Girl, Britney Spears and Madonna, etc. It’s so cool how we get to talk about that and analyse all these pop culture icons for school.