Gender and the Pleasure of Looking

26 Apr

For my paper I am going to discuss gender and how it relates to the media.  Specifically I am going to discuss the pleasure of “looking”.  I am going to talk about how the pleasure of looking works for both men and women alike.  We have discussed in class postfeminism and the role that it plays in today’s media.  I will touch on this in my paper.  I am also going to discuss how we look at men and women in both positive and negative light in the media.  We look at those who have what we see as “perfect” bodies and aspire to be like them and try to emulate that body as best as we can.  Also, I will discuss how we look at those who seem to have “imperfect” bodies and how we tend to look down on at times and sometimes even belittle these people, when maybe there is nothing wrong with the way they look, other than the fact that it does not meet the so called standards that we have set for ourselves and media images.  I will focus a portion of my paper on the translation from the pleasure of looking to sexuality.  The pleasure of looking relates directly to sexuality, and I plan to look deeper into this obsession in how this developed over the years.  At this point I plan on comparing and contrasting the different forms of media.  I plan on looking a lot of movies and print ads and comparing how the two go about creating the act of looking.  Obviously they are very different forms of media, but have similarities at how they try and real people into this act of looking.  I don’t yet have the movies or ads narrowed yet, but I am in the process of finding good ones to fit in.  Overall I plan on talking about how the pleasure of looking has transformed over the years.  I think that early on this act of looking was mainly tagged for men looking at women.  I think that years ago when men maybe had more control than women, this was definitely the case.  But, as things have changed so much over the years and women as a whole have gained a lot more power and control, so too has the act of looking changed.  I think that men are still the main targets of this, but women have become targets as well.  There are a lot of print ads geared towards women looking at men.  We discussed in class how Sex and the City displays this throughout their episodes.  I think it is interesting to look at how much this has changed and how we are all becoming targets of this pleasurable act of looking.

Lucas Zwieg


Gender issues in Mass Media

24 Apr

Gender and the media have always been at a crossroads when they come into context with each other. The media enables traditional gender stereotypes because it reflects prevailing social values. Our world is really structured by a sexual imbalance in mass media culture. It seems to be split between active male and passive female. Women are really displayed as objects of an erotic spectacle. Mainstream media always tries to find a combined spectacle of subject and narrative. It was made relevant to me that the presence of woman is an indispensable element of spectacle in normal narrative film, yet her visual presence tends to work against the development of a storyline, to freeze the action of moments of erotic thinking.

Gender and Television

Many narratives on TV are implicitly designed to be interpreted from a masculine perspective. It seems that in almost all forms of media, viewers are frequently supposed to identify with male characters and to objectify female characters. I believe that you have to distinguish gender from sex. Gender roles aren’t necessarily biologically determined because they vary according to culture. That is why gender roles have been described as being socially constructed. Most of the behaviors associated with gender are learned rather than being inherent. Within a culture masculinity and femininity may be defined differently by various people. Some groups may see them as according to age, ethnicity, social class or sexuality. If you look at gender this way there is no single femininity or masculinity, but rather multiple femininities and masculinities. What I mean by that is not all women are emotional, affectionate, gentle, dependent, sympathetic, etc…and not all men are assertive, independent, leader-like, aggressive, and so on. All of these qualities are usually found in varying degrees in most people.

Gender and Advertisements

In TV advertisements gender stereotyping has a tendency to be at its strongest, because the target audiences are regularly either female or male. There has been a decrease of this in recent years, but the general pattern still remains to be prevalent. In TV advertisements men tend to be portrayed as more independent and self-sufficient. They are portrayed in more occupations than women because women are portrayed generally as mothers and housewives. Men are definitely more likely to be shown advertising business products or cars and women are shown mostly advertising domestic house type of products. So in general men are more likely to be portrayed as authorities in a business setting or outdoors and women in domestic settings. Men are more often portrayed as authorities.

It’s so bizarre that woman are displayed on two different levels; one an erotic object for the characters within the screen story and two as an erotic object for the spectator with a certain venue. I see the underlining issue with gender and the media being that the image of woman as passive raw material for the active man takes the argument of post-feminism into the structure of representation. This argument really seems to turn to the psychoanalytic background because woman as representation signifies castration, including fetishistic mechanisms to circumvent her threat. This is present because cinema and mass media become a mechanism for producing an illusion, flowing movements, and an ideology of representation that revolves around the perception of the subject. I think people seem to focus on the subject more than some sort of erotic fetishism that’s present on screen or as an illusion. It creates a sense of the unknown or some sort of fantasy world throughout American mass media culture that people want to strive for.

Portrayal of race in the US media

24 Apr

In this blog I will be discussing the relationship between race and the media today. I will be evaluating media representation of race as a whole. This will include but not be limited to: television shows, commercials, advertisements, etc.

Race is a very controversial topic and is heavily debated amongst peers in every media outlet. The point that I will attempt to make about the media and race will be that there is still a sort of racism towards people who are not Caucasian in the media. I will admit that through the past couple of years the amount of diversity in the media has increased greatly. However, there are still many sources that portray people of specific races in there stereotypical environment.  Another thing we commonly see is inferential racism. Racism has been around for so long that I believe sometimes people do things and do not realize they are being racist because they are unquestioned assumptions, but they are in fact being racist. So I will focus on media that is portraying race, but in a manner that is not a positive representation.

The first media source that I am going to focus on for my observation is a cartoon show that is played on Cartoon Network. It is called “The Boondocks” and is about an African American family that consists of a grandfather and two children. This cartoon is a comedy and I am guilty of enjoying the program. However, when you sit back and look at it from an observational perspective, the program seems racialized. In the show the two boys are often fighting for equality of people and for things they strongly believe in. However, the way they are portrayed reflect the common the common stereotype of African Americans. To further prove my point I will give examples from the program. I mentioned briefly that the two boys live with their grandfather; a stereotype common of African American culture is that they have one absent parent; in this program they are missing both a mother and a father. Throughout the program you commonly hear the N word, the kids solve problems with violence and commonly skip school and break laws. I have many African American friends and they love this program, the creator of the program is an African American so many of my friends feel that it is not racialized. Although while watching the program as an observer instead of as a consumer, I found it to be highly racialized.

Another example that I will use will be a commercial for State Farm insurance. It is an African American couple and they need their insurance agent to help them with an automotive problem. They are presented as casual African American people with a nice demeanor and attitude. Then they start making changes to one another and the man becomes a hyper sexualized African American male with tight jeans and no shirt and the woman becomes an overly sexy African American woman with her rear end accentuated. There voices also develop the urban “slang”. I found this commercial to be racialized because of these reasons. Like my last example this media source is meant to be funny, and it is. Even though the commercial is funny it also is racialized.

To further prove my point I will examine more sources and will also look to find rebuttals against my opinion. In my paper I will further examine and develop my ideas on race in the media. This is presented as a rough draft of the ideas I will be focusing on in my final paper.

Brianna Miller

“Gender Bender”

24 Apr

What does gender entail? It’s not just enough anymore to ask for someone’s gender. To know if a man or woman is exactly that, a man or woman, the sex of the person must be asked. But to ask for the gender of a person is a socially constructed norm. One may be a woman but possess male characteristics; physically, emotionally, or perhaps just by their actions. The same is true for men (vice versa with the characteristics that is). And then you throw in the men and women who are homosexual. People that are gay are usually ranked along a “gayness” scale of how gay they may or may not act. But on top of all of that, we, as an American society have constructed a set of stereotypes of what it means to be a straight man, a straight woman, a gay man, and a gay woman. A manly man and a girly girl are the stereotypes for what (straight) men and women genders should act like. The opposite holds true for gay men and women. Media usually plays off of this when depicting these social roles in shows, movies, music, and etcetera. One show that takes a different spin on these constructs of gender is the new show Happy Endings.

Happy Endings is a show about a group of friends where each has their own distinct stereotypical role in the group. Two individuals that seem to defy the stereotypes of societal norms are Max and Penny. They do not exude the gender norm for their sexual orientation. Max is the sole gay guy in the group but one would not know it. He acts like a straight man; he loves drinking beer, watching sports, hates anything girly, and doesn’t have a higher pitched voice. In the link below Penny gets mad at Max for not being a “real” gay man for her to be best friends with. The traits she wishes to see are ones of exuberant flamboyancy that loves to shop, wear tight clothes, and touch her boobs in a platonic way. This construction of their group’s norms is quite interesting because we do not see gay people depicted this way, or at least not very often. These gender roles are being displayed differently. It makes us take a step back before relying on our societal stereotypes when judging whether or not we know someone’s gender.

To add a funny twist to the storyline, Max points out that there is no need for the typical token gay guy in the group because she displays all those characteristics herself. See the video below to watch these two situations in action.

Happy Endings clip start at 1.50 = Max not the “typical” gay guy

5.00 = Penny displays “gay guy” traits

Monica Guzdkiewicz

Woman’s New Struggle

23 Apr

As a young women in a time where I am able to pursue whatever avenue I choose I find that some shows that are aimed at my generation help show the different choices we are faced with as a sex on a daily basis. When looking for a certain medium of media to conduct my analysis of for the topic of gender I asked myself the question of, “What should I pursue as a woman?” This questions seems silly but I often found that I am at ward with myself because I am pursuing a career but enjoy things now deemed as “domestic duties.” I am a woman who wants to pursue a career but also would like to come home to a picked up home, why can’t I have it both ways? There is a show on television today that shows women in different age groups with different levels of intelligence, family and profession. Desperate Housewives is a realistic portrayal of the  choices women are faced with when it comes to family and careers.

Over the course of this class we have talked about how gender often projects a stereotype onto the characters. I believe in this show there is some tongue in cheek portrayal of typical “housewives” but there is also the contrast of women who do not have it “made,” but may be more willing to fake it until they make it. I have never been interested in this show until we started discussing gender portrayals in the media and found that I judged this show harshly. While there are still components that would condemn it to following typical media norms of women. These do fit a typical norm of having killer looks and even more amazing bodies for their age but many of them have much more to offer than a pretty face. The characters all embody some sort of turmoil that many women face throughout their life. There are also some instances where  can honestly say that would probably never happen but they are selling a television show here.

The characters often are put in uncomfortable positions as wives, mothers, friends and as women. I find that each character has some topic that may be more crucial to them but in reality affects a large portion of women. Bree is woman with a family that she tried so hard to control that they fell a part. What she desired was to be the perfect American family with two children, a mother who performed all the female duties and a successful husband. Well Bree’s world did not turn as the Norman Rockwell picture portrayed the American Dream, her son turned out to be gay the daughter ran away and her husband was killed. While that may not usually happen all to one person there are some common occurrences. The characters reflect some of the real life struggles women go through since they now have the choice of what dreams they want to pursue.

Sam Heurung

Class Portrayal in That 70’s Show

21 Apr

Media has notoriously influenced class and society’s views on the topic. There are numerous shows and movies that help to add on to these ideologies, but I would like to touch on one specifically. In the program That 70’s Show, Red Forman and his family are not strangers to money and employment issues.

The Forman family is a middle-class family living in Wisconsin. Red works multiple jobs throughout the span of many seasons, including a factory worker and a salesman. He does not have a high paying job, but makes enough money to help provide for his family. While this is happening, Red also portrays a father who is very strict with his son, Eric, and we see Red constantly putting Eric down. The Forman family is a typical working class family; money is tight for them and they all help each other in order to stay in their social class, a topic that will be discussed more in-depth in my final paper.

This show and the way it portrays class reminds me of the article “Ralph, Fred, Archie and Homer: Why Television Keeps Re-creating the White Male Working-Class Buffoon” by Richard Butsch. In this article, Richard explains class and the way it is represented through media. He describes in detail how husband and wives are portrayed and what their roles are for their social class. This show also carries similarities to the article ““Class Dismissed? Roseanne and the Changing Face of Working-Class Iconography” by Julie Bettie, where class is also explained in detail.

The show does not always portray normal class scenarios, however. In the article by Butsch, he describes, “Working wives were almost exclusively middle class and in pursuit of a career. Working-class wives… who have to work to help support the family, were very rare” (82). In the show, Kitty Forman is a working wife and mother. As a nurse, she works to help provide for her family. While it is not always imminent that she brings a paycheck home all the time, there are points in the show where Red loses his job, and the family is forced to live off of Kitty’s paycheck, a situation that is not normally portrayed in the media. During these periods of time on the show, the normal roles of the family are reversed, where Red is at home and Kitty is out working in order to keep their family in their social class.
This also feeds into another quote in the article by Bettie, where she describes, “Economic restructuring has seen the rise of low-paying service and manufacturing jobs performed largely by women and men of color, and by white women” (126). Kitty is a white, middle-class woman who bends these portrayals by working as a professional nurse. Because of these reasons, the Forman’s sometimes portray the opposite of what an otherwise normal working-class family would look like.

Jason Nesbitt

Where Did You Learn to be a Gossip Girl?

18 Apr

The class system is a completely subjective take on how we as consumers view those around us. The Julie Bettie article Class Dismissed? raises questions about how class is determined and if those current representations of class can me displaced through the use of media. I would argue working classes could at a minimum be overshadowed.

I watch minimal television and when choosing a media text for this paper regarding class the first show that came to mind was the CW’s Gossip Girl. Gossip Girl is one of the few shows I have watched a complete season of, actually two complete seasons. The show is set in New York Cit and depicts the lives of “Manhattan’s elites,” a group of teenagers who lead extravagant lives, throwing parties, shopping and, of course, gossiping.

The characters in the show lead charmed and fabulous lifestyles—all at the expensive of mom and dad. Since their parents live in a upper “class” these teenagers do as well. Bettie examines the effects the working class has on television productions, but what about the effect the upper classes have on productions. I question if the lavish lifestyles these characters lead resemble the upper class society in anyway. Or is a show such as Gossip Girl on the air purely of entertainment and an escape from the harsh reality of the working class.

In the third episode of season one, Poison Ivy, we see that not even in Gossip Girl is everyone “in” the upper class. With the Humphrey family, we are able to see a glimpse of reality, the middle class. They live in Brooklyn, not the Upper East Side however they in a way attempt to be apart of that society by attending the private school, St. Jude’s, alongside their wealthier counterparts.

I am fascinated with the interactions the Humphrey’s have with the remainder of the Gossip Girl characters by simply living in the “wrong” neighborhood. How classes define who people are in media is prominent. It poses significant difficulties for the young Humphrey teenagers. Yet, it still leads me to the question of how accurate with reality are shows like this.

Bettie, comments on the working class and the society they live in. She says “class is primarily represented ‘in an individual-interpersonal way through a character’s problematization of classism in a narrative’” So is this the same way we choose to understand a character and the class level of that character? Through the individual representation? It seems as though we judge class based on our own personal situations. We use our selves as a starting point in order to judge those around us, both in media and reality.

The show Gossip Girl barely touches on the working class and overshadows them with the difficulties this high-class society has with the middle class intruding on their turf. Is class all based on perception? There are so many questions to answer before delving into the ranking of classes. It is more important to uncover how classes are determined and by whom they are determined beforehand.

This concept of understanding society is what I want to base my paper on. Through media studies it is possible to understand where people develop these ideas of class. Also through media studies we can see that how people relate and consume certain types of texts. A simple episode of Gossip Girl may seem like a bunch of rich girls walking around with daddy’s money, but step back and think about where these preconceived ideas came from. Was this the society you were brought up in? Or was this the one you were brought up to envy? What did these thoughts and ideas stem from…