Miss Representation (2011)

This is a very interesting documentary about portrayals of women in media that I recommend to my blog readers.

Synopsis:
Like drawing back a curtain to let bright light stream in, Miss Representation (90 min; TV-14 DL) uncovers a glaring reality we live with every day but fail to see. Written and directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the film exposes how mainstream media contribute to the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence in America. The film challenges the media’s limited and often disparaging portrayals of women and girls, which make it difficult for women to achieve leadership positions and for the average woman to feel powerful herself.

In a society where media is the most persuasive force shaping cultural norms, the collective message that our young women and men overwhelmingly receive is that a woman’s value and power lie in her youth, beauty, and sexuality, and not in her capacity as a leader. While women have made great strides in leadership over the past few decades, the United States is still 90th in the world for women in national legislatures, women hold only 3% of clout positions in mainstream media, and 65% of women and girls have disordered eating behaviors.

Stories from teenage girls and provocative interviews with politicians, journalists, entertainers, activists and academics, like Condoleezza Rice, Nancy Pelosi, Katie Couric, Rachel Maddow, Margaret Cho, Rosario Dawson and Gloria Steinem build momentum as Miss Representation accumulates startling facts and statistics that will leave the audience shaken and armed with a new perspective.

Yes! Someone else understands why I hate “Love, Actually”

So, three years ago I sat down to watch Love, Actually to see what all the hype was about. I was honestly expecting a nice, enjoyable, Christmas-y film. Instead, I was absolutely horrified. The film is a male chauvinist’s dreamland. A bunch of middle-aged men hook up with women 20 years younger than them (all of which are secretaries/maids/tea brandishing assistants), infidelity is excused and even celebrated, and the female characters are punished for being nice while the male characters do not suffer the consequences of being…not so nice. What is so romantic about this film, exactly??? Thanks to Internet magic, I found a commentary by a likeminded blogger, which I chunk-quoted and linked below. (P.S. If you DO actually love Love Actually, please do not send me hate mail/spam comments. Thanks.)

Love, Actually: The Worst Christmas Movie Ever

“…I discovered that “Love, Actually” is instead one of cinema’s nastiest, most depressing commentaries ever on “love,” wrapped up like a velvet box from goddamn Kay Jewelers. Well, you never fooled me, “Love, Actually.” I don’t mind lighthearted holiday twaddle; I just don’t like demoralizing, misogynistic holiday twaddle.

With the exception of Bill Nighy’s witty plotline about an aging pop star’s attempt to secure the coveted Christmas No. 1 hit, every one of the 85 other stories in the movie involves some horrible lesson out of the battle of the sexes playbook. If you were an alien watching “Love, Actually,” you would come to the conclusion that what human British men really, really want are hot chicks who fetch them tea, put up with their dalliances, and don’t speak English.

Which of the many story lines is most likely to make a reasonable human want to get drunk on lighter fluid? There’s Colin Firth’s – the one about a man who, betrayed by his cheating girlfriend, flees the country and immediately falls for his mug-brandishing Portuguese housekeeper. So pretty! So uncommunicative! And she has hot beverages! See also: the Hugh Grant story line, in which the prime minister falls for the assistant who brings him tea. Seriously, what is with you dudes? Do you not know how to boil water?

There’s also the Alan Rickman story line, about the married man tempted by the unbelievably predatory secretary, and the heartbroken wife (Emma Thompson) faced with the choice to “stay, knowing life would always be a little bit worse.” There’s the Laura Linney one, about the noble woman who can’t be with the man she loves because she has to care for her mentally ill brother. And doesn’t that make an interesting contrast to the Liam Neeson plot, in which a very recent widower is rewarded for his emotional pain by hooking up with Claudia Schiffer. Claudia Schiffer!! There’s also Kris Marshall’s, in which a lonely, goofy-looking Brit flies to America to dazzle the ladies solely on the basis of his Britishness – and immediately scores a pile of insanely hot babes. And yet they call crap like this a “chick flick.” I’ve seen less depressing Michael Haneke movies.

You’d be hard-pressed to find another movie – holiday or otherwise – that makes the case so convincingly for how miserable the lives of women truly are, and how all fired up awesome it is to be a man. A manly man who loves tea. And that’s one big holiday lump of sexist coal that stinks, actually.”

–Mary Elizabeth Williams
Mary Elizabeth Williams is a staff writer for Salon and the author of “Gimme Shelter: My Three Years Searching for the American Dream.” Follow her on Twitter: @embeedub.

’90’s Girl Bands

This post is for the people who are into the bubble-gum pop type of stuff. I’ve been going on a trip down 90’s memory lane recently and reminiscing about some of my favorite girl bands. I really like their positive, girl power vibe, and lamented that they gave way to some really raunchy music entering 2002-2003. I know they get a bad rep nowadays, but then again, mainstream society has a way of poopoo-ing anything liked by/catered to teenage girls.

Enjoy!

The “Not Like the Other Girls” Trope

This post is inspired by another well-written post I just read, that discusses the Me vs. Other Girl trope seen frequently in popular young adult films and literature. Basically, many female protagonists of YA fiction are described as being unique and “not like other girls”. What this usually implies is that the protagonist is ‘unusually’ smart, nice, emotionally resilient, down-to-earth, independent, and ‘strong’ compared to the other ‘typical girls’ – her peers/antagonists who are superficial, catty, dumb, and dramatic.

In chick flicks, the antagonist usually takes the form of a “mean girl”, usually blonde, preppy, and/or a cheerleader. It is commonly portrayed in the dichotomy of the smart, intellectual, nerdy, casual-dressing girl vs. the pretty, very fashionable/pink-wearing, shopaholic, and catty girl.

Some examples:

Practically every Cinderella Story remake, with the Cinderella being a ‘Me’ and her stepsisters being the ‘Others.’

Taylor Swift’s “She wears high heels, I wear sneakers; she’s cheer captain and I’m on the bleachers” reasoning for why her crush should choose her over the cheerleader.

In this film, Amanda Bynes (Me) plays a prototypical ball-wielding ‘tomboy’ anomaly. The preppy Monique and girly Olivia are Others.

Amanda Bynes also stars in a ‘Snow White’ parody where her intellectual character (Me) has to battle out preppyOther sorority girls.

Pink’s song “Stupid Girls”. Some of the lyrics: “Baby if I act like that, flipping my blond hair back, push up my bra like that, I don’t wanna be a stupid girl.”

Elphaba (Me) vs. Glinda (Other) I’m not gonna lie – Wicked is actually one of my favorite musicals. Especially since Other Glinda does come with a character curve (she turns out to not be as dumb and shallow as she seems.)

The Trope in Real Life

While such a protagonist may seem like an empowering role-model for women, there is something sexist about her portrayal as significantly unique in her traits. It actually perpetuates the negative stereotypes of women in general: that they are by default catty, shallow, and dumb.  It also implies that it is bad to be “girly” and wear make-up, skirts, and high heels. When other girls try to take after these “empowering” role models (like I myself once had) they usually find themselves under a lot of pressure to meet some narrow standards.  As a girl, you are expected to be girly, but if you choose to wear a dress and heels, you risk being labeled as preppy or shallow.  The Me vs. Other Girls trope also puts pretty/feminine and smart on two ends of a spectrum, and it feels like you can’t be one without canceling out the other.

When we project these same narrow standards on other girls, it leads very easily to harsh judgment.  Laci Green explains it very well in this video.  It is thinking that you are the only girl who reads, plays video games, or studies math or science.  It compels some girls to call another girl a slut for wearing a sexy dress or for flirting with boys.  Shallow for wearing too much make-up, or weak for showing emotion.

From my personal experience, buying into this trope made me feel that, as a woman, I had no inherent value unless I met some groundbreaking standards: being supermodel gorgeous AND fiercely intelligent AND strong.  Dressing exactly the right way so that people didn’t find me too high maintenance, but “laidback”, and having exactly the right amount of partners so that I wasn’t too prudish/slutty.  The standards get ridiculous.  Just acknowledging that we don’t have to fit such unrealistic expectations can relieve us of a lot of pressure, insecurity, and feelings of competition with fellow women.  Remember, other women aren’t the problem.  Negative stereotypes are.

Misogyny makes its way into Harry Potter Fandom

Actually, I still wanted Voldemort – the guy who tried to kill the protagonist and…a bunch of other people – to die first.

A series of Facebook memes (the majority of which are misogynistic in nature to begin with) dealing with Harry Potter fandom have made its way into the Internet arguing that the evil Professor Umbridge makes for an even worse villain than Voldemort.

While Professor Umbridge’s character is definitely corrupt in many ways, it is really obvious that these trolls portray her as a worse villain for the sole reason that she is a woman.  Once again, power hungry women are colossal bitches, and a female wanting political power in the magic world is more unforgiveable than Voldemort/Tom Riddle trying to wipe out the Muggle species and dominate the entire world.

(Again, no…)

 

I just think there is something ridiculous about the number of Umbridge memes and the fact that she wears pink.  After all, we also have Draco Malfoy, Lucius Malfoy, Bellatrix Lestrange, Petter Pettigrew, Barty Crouch, Jr., the Dursleys, the ridiculous Gilderoy Lockhart, and the annoying Rita Skeeter.

Since these memes did spare other female villains in the series, maybe there are other factors in the Umbridge appeal.  However, I still think Voldemort is the worst of them all.