Recent Comments

thumbnail

As Maureen Dowd would have it, 21st-century gender relations and roles have regressed to pre-second wave levels. Feminism itself seems to be the new “F-word.” My female students often say, “I’m not a feminist but…” and routinely use the word “Feminazi” to differentiate themselves from what they perceive feminists to be. At the same time, Mary Celeste Kearney points out that more girls than ever are producing their own media (music, films, blogs, websites, zines). This contradictory state of affairs suggests that if dominant culture rewards girls and women for their competence in areas other than physical appearance it does so only if they remain “feminine.” In (perhaps oblique) answer to Elizabeth Franko’s questions, it’s possible that the evolution of girl power is a case of hegemony at work: dominant culture’s incorporation of parts of radical discourses and disavowal of others. Auto mechanics may be a perfectly acceptable career goal for 21st-century young women, but only if they can change spark plugs in their Jimmy Choos (or Manolo Blahniks). This is actually nothing new, of course. In the 1970s, empowered-but-feminine was the liberal feminist compromise with patriarchy.

As a post-script, I’d add that the version of girl power we get from Shampoo, the Spice Girls, or even Our Blessed Lady Buffy is much less unruly and messy than that put forth by Riot Grrrl, which preceded but continued to co-exist alongside other girl powers in the 1990s. Shampoo, the Spice Girls, and Buffy present girl power in glossy packages that only weakly challenge conventional beauty standards, consumption, and bourgeois mores.

This is not to say that at the level of reception, corporate commercial versions of girl power cannot be put to more radical uses by the audiences for Shampoo, SG, or Buffy. In fact, without diminishing Riot Grrrl’s importance, its revolutionary message traveled through more rareified channels than did its corporate counterparts, meaning that the Shampoo/SG/Buffy version of girl power reached more people.

thumbnail

Elizabeth Franko has amazing timing. How could she have known when she posted this video that the Spice Girls would announce their reunion tour? Kudos! This video is interesting in that the resistance here seems structured well within working class tropes — I imagine they’d be branded as ‘anti-social’ if they released this song now. The positioning seems much more Lily Allen then Mel B. Something happened in the intervening couple of years after this song to water down the inscribed working class resistance. By the time the Spice Girls were performing their version of girlpower it had moved further away from this track suited (though, yes sporty wore a track suit), motorcycle riding, tough girl to a somewhat friendlier, more consumable image. A girlpower that could be stretched to include the piggy tailed insipid baby spice version as well.

thumbnail

Chuck Tryon

You’re right about Mann’s character….that’s a really odd inconsistency. I read Stevens’ original review and I’m inclined to agree with her follow-up that describes the film as “almost naively pro-life.”

thumbnail

Craig O. Stewart

Dana Stevens of Slate has some interesting things to say about smashsmortion here.

Now that you mention it, the Leslie Mann and Laura Dern characters do have quite a lot in common. Mann’s character is fairly incoherent—the same woman who freaks out about her husband playing fantasy baseball apparently goes clubbing with her sister on an at least semi-regular basis.

thumbnail

Chuck Tryon

Like you, I found this scene to be one of the more interesting moments in the film. I’m wondering, though, to what extent it might be a commentary on the limitations of the Hollywood ratings system and the degree to which it prevents abortion from being discussed in anything other than an R-rated film (if then).

The film itself was frustrating, and I especially found the depiction of the wife to be rather unsympathetic—as if her primary purpose was to prevent Paul Rudd from playing fantasy baseball and having fun, in much the same way that Year of the Dog seemed to be relatively unsympathetic towards Laura Dern’s character.

thumbnail

Yes… It is an interesting contrast to, for example, “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” (1982) in which the character played by Jennifer Jason Leigh considers no recourse for her pregnancy *but* an abortion. The consequences of which are not presented as more serious than a cost of $150 and needing a ride home from the clinic.

A bit more complex treatment of the subject (strange to say) involves the quack abortion performed in “Dirty Dancing.” The choice was perceived as correct for the character, but the details were horrific, arguing (one might say) for our current safe, legal procedures rather than the history that is portrayed in the film.

I was surprised to hear that the film so briefly touched on the subject of abortion… but, then again, it is a comedy that relies on the pregnancy for most if not all of the jokes. A deep consideration of a complex alternative might be too much to expect.

thumbnail
Chuck Tryon

I’ve shown one of Lowery’s other videos, “What Would Jesus Do?”, and both videos are very effective in conveying—as you point out—the importance of alternative media, especially as Lowery uses her videos to challenge normal representative practices. In WWJD, the stark contrast between Bush’s reference to a “mission from God” and the images of wounded Iraqi children is utterly compelling.

thumbnail
Chuck Tryon
Avi Santo

I think that a Gramscian reading makes sense here. In my paper for MIT5, I wrote about fake trailers and noted that Fox Atomic is doing something similar: inviting participants to make “fake” trailers for upcoming films (28 Weeks Later, etc). Of course, they’re all Fox Atomic properties, so fans are actively engaged in promoting Fox’s upcoming films.

Just to make a bit of a leap here, your discussion of this Golden Bucket contest reminds me of the new reality-competition series, On the Lot, in which aspiring filmmakers compete for a $1 million developmental deal from DreamWorks (Spielberg is one of the sponsors). Thus far, I’ve been intrigued by the ways in which the judges and the show itself have positioned the aspiring filmmakers, pushing them into relatively conventional storytelling modes. Again, it seems to be placing some very specific limits on what it means to make meaning through movies.

thumbnail

I also would be interested to note when faux news show such as Colbert are actually “taken seriously.” To be fair, this isn’t one of them.

Colbert isn’t “taken seriously,” at least, not by Feith. Following the timeline, Colbert’s “misstatement” runs dangerously close to accusing Feith of treason, NPR rebroadcasts Colbert’s statements as news, then Feith goes after NPR for the rebroadcast – not after Colbert for the misstatement. It is apparently only when Colbert’s statements are taken up by a “real” news program that they become dignified as accusations by Feith. Colbert’s statement is humor, NPR’s restatement is political, and thus warrants correction. This implicitly trivializes the humorous political text in favor of some sort of bona fide text. Reactions such as Feith’s call into question whether or not Colbert, as court jester, can “speak truth to power;” is power listening? Do those ostensibly in-power take humor seriously? What happens if they don’t?

Anton C. Zijderveld (1982) notes that perhaps court jesters only reify the power of the monarch. He argues that the ridicule of court jesters is infrequent, usually shallow, and depends ultimately on the sanction of the monarch. This makes any power exercised by the jester parasitical to that of the throne:

“The real point was that the monarch, by allowing his fool this kind of impudence, demonstrated in a rather painful manner how utterly powerless the rest of the court actually was. The fool, solidly and solitarily tied to the throne, was allowed to show off his politically innocent, parasitical power in order to demonstrate, as in a reversed, looking-glass manner, how utterly powerless everybody else outside the dyad of king and fool really was. To make things worse, king and jester would at times even swap roles, while everybody present was obliged to laugh heartily about all this folly. They were, of course, obliged to laugh about their own powerlessness!” (120).

If correct (and I certainly hope he’s not), Zijderveld’s characterization severely limits what Colbert can hope to accomplish, and what we as consumers of media and political agents can do. By ignoring Colbert’s comments and instead chastising NPR, does Feith reinforce that only comics can get away with such accusations? When accompanied by a laugh, this is what Joanne Gilbert (2004) has dubbed the “male guffaw,” a laugh by those in power that performs the joke as politically harmless and ineffectual. Ultimately, if we simply laugh at Colbert’s witticism, allowing NPR’s retraction to stand, what do we accomplish?

All that being said, what I love about Colbert’s unasked redaction is that he performs a move parallel to that of NPR – he takes no responsibility himself and passes the (absence of) censure down the foodchain. NPR admits that the quotation was flawed and corrects it. The wording itself here is comical to anyone with an ear for such things, yet it perhaps implicitly chastises Colbert. In any case, Colbert takes it upon himself to correct his statement, but in turn passes responsibility on to an unnamed intern. As he provided free content for NPR, so the intern provided free content for the Colbert Report, and for that both he and the intern deserve a stern wag of the finger, justice served. This may not be so much of a “bite” on NPR, as homage to NPR’s own savvy and somewhat humorous “faux apology,” which itself serves to hold officials accountable.

Gilbert, Joanne. _Performing marginality: Humor, gender, and cultural critique_. Detroit, MI: Wayne State (2004).

Zijderveld, Anton C. _Reality in a looking glass: Rationality through an analysis of traditional folly_. Boston, MA: Routledge (1982).

thumbnail
Craig O. Stewart

Conservative Christians frequently combine self-help and recovery discourse in their “ex-gay” ministries, and homosexuality is often described as a “sexual addiction.” There are certainly tensions, though, between psychological and religious discourses in these communities.