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Archive for March, 2012|Monthly archive page

Weekly Round-up: The Hunger Games & Race

In Hunger Games, race, violence, Weekly Round-Up on March 30, 2012 at 1:40 pm

Keeping with this week’s theme, here are some good reads from around the web on The Hunger Games and race. Enjoy and have a great weekend!

From Jezebel:
http://jezebel.com/5896688/i-see-white-people-hunger-games-and-a-brief-history-of-cultural-whitewashing

From Racialicious:
http://www.racialicious.com/2012/03/27/update-racist-hunger-games-fans-are-still-racist/

From the Awl:
http://www.theawl.com/2012/03/the-hunger-games-bloodless-sexless-and-not-very-hungry

From the New York Times:
http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2012/03/28/the-power-of-young-adult-fiction/more-nonwhite-characters-are-needed

From Nerdgasm Noire Network:
http://nerdgasmnoire.wordpress.com/2011/11/03/yes-there-are-black-people-in-your-hunger-games-the-strange-case-of-rue-cinna/

And, from Slate a really cool slideshow of the town where District 12 was shot:
http://www.slate.com/slideshows/arts/visit-hunger-games-district-12.html#slide_3

GLG Responds to The Hunger Games: Terrifying Technologies

In dystopian literature, environment, Hunger Games, technology, violence on March 30, 2012 at 8:14 am

Like many of you out there, the GLG folks could not wait to see The Hunger Games on the big screen. And this last weekend, we did! Given our serious fandom of The Hunger Games more generally, and Katniss specifically, we thought we would do a little HG response fun. So, this week we asked the GLG folks to pick a particular topic from the film and respond to it. Read on, for thoughts on Katniss as badass heroine, terrifying technology, Hunger Games violence, and much more! And, if you have a topic you want to discuss, post away in the comments or send us a question at girlslikegiants@gmail.com.

Last up: Phoebe B. on HG & Terrifying Technologies

One of the most striking things about The Hunger Games on the silver screen is the terrifying ways technology comes to life. This is not to say that technology itself is terrifying, but rather its destructive capabilities as wielded by the gamekeepers. The pristine and technologically advanced all-white nerve center of the gamesthe arena where the gamekeepers operate—stands in direct opposition, visually at least, to the technology-starved districts and even the arena, which it controls. In the film, visions of dystopian technology rise from iPad-like screens and are then wielded by the simple movement of a hand. A gamekeeper’s quick whisk of her hand sends panther-like mutants into the arena to attack the last contestants. Another hand flutter makes two more appear out of thin air. While the arena is both produced by and at the mercy of very advanced technology, that technology is virtually invisible from within it, save for the shots of the faces of those lost to the games. And, this faux-natural world is incredibly threatening to those who enter into it.

the technological center of the Games

Yet in the course of the film we learn to tell the difference between real nature and constructed nature. The film figures the presumably real natural world as a safe haven, outside technology. For example, Katniss’ life and hunting outside the boundaries of District 12, or Gale finding solace in those same woods while Katniss is in the games, suggest an area outside of the Capitol’s technological grasp. For Gale, nature provides comfort and cover. But inside the arena, the visually similar nature threatens Katniss’s or Peeta’s life via deadly tracker jackers, panthers, and more generally the game itself.

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GLG Responds to the Hunger Games: On Silencing Katniss and Lady-Feelings

In gender, girl culture, Hunger Games on March 30, 2012 at 8:09 am

Like many of you out there, the GLG folks could not wait to see The Hunger Games on the big screen. And this last weekend, we did! Given our serious fandom of The Hunger Games more generally, and Katniss specifically, we thought we would do a little HG response fun. So we asked the GLG folks to pick a particular topic from the film and respond to it. This week, read on for thoughts on HG and violence, terrifying technology, Hunger Games fashion, and much more! And if you have a topic you want to discuss, post away in the comments or send us a question at girlslikegiants@gmail.com.

Chelsea B.

The absence of Katniss’s voice in The Hunger Games movie didn’t become clear to me until after it ended. Once I realized that her silence was bothering me, even more troublesome questions began to arise. Why eliminate Katniss as narrator?

The answer to that question is probably found in Twilight. In the Twilight franchise, Bella is the primary narrator of her story, sharing the minutiae of her emotional life with abandon. Many of Bella’s musings read like they come from my (early, okay?) teenage diaries. They feature a singular, laser-like focus on herself and her place in the world, with little concern for anything or anyone not directly involved in helping her through the process of self-actualization.

Sarah Blackwood over at The Hairpin and GLG’s own Melissa Sexton have eloquently analyzed the problems with dismissing Bella and the Twilight franchise on terms of its emotionality and subsequent feminization. Such defense of The Hunger Games won’t be necessary since (as also noted by Melissa) the filmmakers circumvented such criticism by eliminating the primary female voice entirely.

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GLG Responds to the Hunger Games: Without Hunger, It’s Only Games

In dystopian literature, Food, Hunger Games on March 29, 2012 at 12:59 pm

Like many of you out there, the GLG folks could not wait to see The Hunger Games on the big screen. And this last weekend, we did! Given our serious fandom of The Hunger Games more generally, and Katniss specifically, we thought we would do a little HG response fun. So we asked the GLG folks to pick a particular topic from the film and respond to it. This week, read on for thoughts on HG and violence, terrifying technology, Hunger Games fashion, and much more! And, if you have a topic you want to discuss, post away in the comments or send us a question at girlslikegiants@gmail.com.

Guest Contributor Jeni R.

I’ll admit it: I’m a sucker for survival stories. Starting with homesteading in Little House on the Prairie and the lost-in-the-wilderness Hatchet, I’ve been intrigued by the way they force us to reexamine the tools of power and privilege in our own lives. Perhaps that background is why I loved reading The Hunger Games series so much, and it also might be one of the reasons why the movie adaptation left me so disappointed. In the books, the problem of hunger is a primary concern. It determines relationships: Katniss and Gale become friends while hunting to feed their families; Katniss differentiates herself from Peeta who grew up with “the smell of baked bread”; Katniss dismisses Prim’s cat Buttercup as “another mouth to feed.” What the characters eat is described in sensory, specific detail: eating an egg-sized portion of lamb stew with prunes sent by parachute; learning to dip bread in mugs of hot chocolate on the train; sharing strawberries, goat cheese, and bakery bread in the woods; admiring Greasy Sae’s latest soup concoction. Katniss’s “hollow days” in the Seam are an asset in the arena, and a stark contrast to the on-demand decadence of food in the Capitol. Food metaphors pervade even seemingly unrelated aspects of the story, such as the arena’s “cornucopia” of weapons, naming conventions (“katniss” root and “Panem” itself), and the description of sexual desire as a kind of hunger. At various times throughout the books, food is power, currency, privilege, barter, control, temptation, celebration, art, and connection.

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GLG Responds to the Hunger Games: The Erasure of Violence from The Hunger Games

In dystopian literature, Hunger Games, PG-13 Ratings, violence on March 29, 2012 at 7:42 am

Like many of you out there, the GLG folks could not wait to see The Hunger Games on the big screen. And this last weekend, we did! Given our serious fandom of The Hunger Games more generally, and Katniss specifically, we thought we would do a little HG response fun. So we asked the GLG folks to pick a particular topic from the film and respond to it. This week, read on for thoughts on HG and violence, terrifying technology, Hunger Games fashion, and much more! And if you have a topic you want to discuss, post away in the comments or send us a question at girlslikegiants@gmail.com.

Melissa S.

When it became public knowledge that the film adaptation of The Hunger Games was earning a PG-13 rating, I spent a lot of time speculating about how the film would accomplish scenes such as Rue’s death or Cato’s battle with the muttations. These violent battle scenes would certainly have to be limited, sanitized, or changed in order to avoid an R rating. The only way I could imagine such scenes taking place was off-screen; this would allow the emotional impact of the scenes to remain but limit the blood and gore we saw as an audience. When I saw the film this weekend, what surprised me was how the film went a different route: sanitizing, downplaying, even erasing the violence from these scenes so that they felt more like typical action movie fodder. Instead of being slowly eaten by muttations throughout a torturous night, Cato suffers for only a few seconds before Katniss gets a shot off and ends his life. And instead of being skewered by a giant spear while cowering in a net, Rue is killed by a lethal yet tiny blade while Katniss exchanges fire with the District 1 tribute. As a result, neither death had nearly as much emotional impact on me as it did when I read the book. I felt sadness or relief, but not revulsion, horror, or outrage. My muted emotional response had me thinking about the use of violence in this novel, one of the savviest I’ve read about how the media manipulates emotions in order to achieve certain political effects.

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GLG Responds to the Hunger Games: Some Hunger Games Savvy

In adaptation, Hunger Games on March 28, 2012 at 5:46 am

Like many of you out there, the GLG folks could not wait to see The Hunger Games on the big screen. And this last weekend, we did! Given our serious fandom of The Hunger Games more generally, and Katniss specifically, we thought we would do a little HG response fun. So we asked the GLG folks to pick a particular topic from the film and respond to it. This week, read on for thoughts on HG and violence, terrifying technology, Hunger Games fashion, and much more! And if you have a topic you want to discuss, post away in the comments or send us a question at girlslikegiants@gmail.com.

First up: Sarah S. on Savvy

I opted to comment on changes from book to film that I’m calling additions of savvy. (It seemed better than spending my time ranting about Lenny Kravitz’s awful Cinna). The film remains quite faithful to the book, but they added some noteworthy twists to either foreshadow the next two movies or to slightly alter the characters.

First, President Snow (Donald Sutherland) plays a much larger role in this film than the book, and his primary purpose is to foresee Katniss’s potency as a figure who could spark a revolt. The film adds scenes of Snow warning game-maker Seneca Crane (Wes Bentley) to avoid making her into a symbol to rally around, either as a martyr or a winner. It also shows the stirrings of said revolt, beginning in District 11 as a response to Katniss’s humane behavior after the death of their young tribute, Rue (Amandla Stenberg).

President Snow & Seneca Crane

On one hand, this depiction of Snow’s savvy enhanced the film plot. But on the other hand, it undermined a key attribute of the Capitol: arrogance. In the book, the real reason Katniss can get through the Games as she does is because the Capitol, from Snow on down, is so immured in its own propaganda and immutability it can’t see her (and Peeta) coming. Indeed, immediately after the games (in book 2, Catching Fire) only Snow recognizes the danger she poses. Relatedly, there’s a thread in the first book (particularly) of Katniss and Peeta struggling against being pawns in the Capitol’s game. But in order for that theme to work, the Capitol has to view them as mere pawns. Yet in the film, we get the cliché movie twist of making the protagonist always already extraordinary. For my part, I would have preferred to retain the set-up of the novels, where Katniss works as a character because of her flawed humanity.

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Rebound: Katniss & Body Snarking

In body politics, gender, girl culture, Hunger Games on March 27, 2012 at 6:43 pm

Phoebe B.

GLG contributor Brian Psiropoulos recently alerted me to the trend of body snarking Jennifer Lawrence. This Slate article takes on the New York Times and others’ truly destructive and sexist criticism of Lawrence’s body. But I find myself still unsettled even by the Slate response, which argues against the criticism of Lawrence’s body as not skinny enough to play Katniss by asserting that Lawrence is in fact skinny. This assertion, while true, is not the point. Rather, as the Slate article does note, this body snarking is exclusive to Lawrence’s portrayal of Katniss and is not a kind of scrutiny the male actors undergo. Oddly enough, the film version of both Peeta and Gail’s characters did not align with the ways in which I imagined them. But this disjuncture is not reason enough to suggest that their bodies ought be different or would make them more believable. Given that the snarky criticisms about these male characters’ figures are conspicuously absent, it seems that the discussion of Lawrence’s body has everything to do with her being a woman.

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How to be awesome like Ayesha, “She-who-must-be-obeyed”

In gender, How to be Awesome Like, race on March 26, 2012 at 9:39 am

brian psi

First edition

[From H. Rider Haggard’s She: A History of Adventure, 1886-7]

The Set-Up. Just finished Haggard’s classic adventure novel, about an expedition mounted by a few good Englishmen into the Darkness[t] Heart of Africa. Their quest:  to find the white goddess-queen Ayesha, ruler of the once-great inland empire of Kôr, which exceeded even Egypt in its architectural, technological, and medical sciences. The team is made up of L Horace Holly (LHH), the ugly and bookish scholar-narrator; beautiful Leo Vincy, descendant of Kallikrates, priest of Isis,  slain by Ayesha 2000 years ago for daring to love another; and Job, Leo’s boyhood caretaker and salty sub-paragon of the English lower orders (and also their many servants and their pilot, “a stout swarthy Arab, Mahomed by name,” all of whom perish violently within the first few chapters). After a number of perilous adventures, they meet Ayesha, “She-who-must-be-obeyed,” the focus of the next few paras. Mostly, I want to talk about about Ayesha herself, and what (and how!) she represents awesomeness. But first…

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GLG Weekly Round-up: Trayvon Martin

In activism, race, violence, Weekly Round-Up on March 23, 2012 at 9:10 am

This week I want to dedicate the round-up to Trayvon Martin, race, and racism in the US. If you don’t yet know who he is, then now seems a pretty good time to get acquainted. And, if you have more links to share please please do so in the comments section.

Tim Wise on white denial & the unacceptable burden of blackness in America:
http://www.timwise.org/2012/03/trayvon-martin-white-denial-and-the-unacceptable-burden-of-blackness-in-america/

Images of the million hoodie march, from Racialicious:
http://www.racialicious.com/2012/03/22/images-the-million-hoodie-march/

From The Crunk Feminist Collective:
http://crunkfeministcollective.wordpress.com/2012/03/16/3459/

From the Atlantic, on the white savior industrial complex:
http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/03/the-white-savior-industrial-complex/254843/#.T2n4oXMnvhc.facebook

And, take action for Trayvon Martin at Color of Change:
http://act.colorofchange.org/sign/Trayvon?referring_akid=2383.748504.Rua4Og&source=facebook

Pretty Little Liars Finale Recap: “‘A’ Day” (Season 2, Episode 25)

In Pretty Little Liars, teen soaps, Television on March 21, 2012 at 10:43 am

This week, on the season finale, the PLLs wore some masks; traveled to a Psycho-like hotel in search of A; Spencer found A’s lair but was tricked by Mona; and Mona was revealed as part of the A team. Read on for more on this week’s crazy episode!

Mona is A! (Or at least part of the A-team.) How do we feel in our hearts and souls?

Melissa: Sad! I believed in Mona’s redemption, up until this very episode. But I also still kinda love her, because she is such an evil mastermind, and it was gratifying even to me (Spencer’s biggest fan!) to see Mona outsmart Spencer for a few moments. (The muttered line, “Cashmere sweaters……” was so hilarious to me. What a reveal for Spencer!) I also feel like this was a half-reveal. Mona herself admits that she’s only part of the A-Team (a fact the rest of the PLLs seem to be blithely ignoring, God only knows why) and I feel like she’s clearly not THE mastermind, as the closing tag shows her saying, “I did everything you told me to!” I’d say whoever is pulling Mona’s strings is the real (wo)man behind the curtain…

Chelsea B: The whole Mona storyline over the last half of this season felt so weirdly centralized that it was always suspicious. However, I did think Mona did a good job of bluffing with Spencer (Master of Suspicion) up until she was good and ready to show her hand. She knew the black swan thing would be a tipping point, for reasons I’m still unclear on. I suppose I mostly feel validated, but interested in more details about the Mona/Vivian Darkbloom partnership because if her story about shopping in Brookhaven and running into Ali wasn’t entirely fabricated, the red coat that appears in the final scene has important implications.

Phoebe: Yes yes and yes! So, I loved Mona’s final monologue about lipstick and things. It was so creepy and amazing and felt straight out of Psycho (as did the rest of the episode I suppose). And, I was gratified to find out that Mona is actually super smart and kind of like an evil Spencer. And, the red coat at the end I feel like is a sign that Ali has a twin. Okay, so I just really want Ali to have an evil twin who is running the show.

Sarah T: I was only really sad when I thought Mona was dead — when her eyes flew open and she checked her watch I was flooded with relief. Because as Melissa and Phoebe say, it turns out she’s a pretty awesome psycho-villain-genius, just as she was a pretty awesome superficial mean girl with a heart of gold and a pretty awesome eager nerd with braids and glasses. Mona just gets five stars whatever she does in my book. However, I feel awful for Hanna, who really loved Mona and must be experiencing serious trust issues (and now Lucas is implicated too?).  Good thing Dr. Sullivan is back in town. OR IS IT? Trust no one. Read the rest of this entry »

The Care-taking Women of “50/50″

In Uncategorized on March 19, 2012 at 4:54 am

Sarah T.

All the characters in 50/50 are defined by their relationships with Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a  crinkly-eyed 27-year-old diagnosed with spinal cancer.  Adam’s mom Diane, his increasingly unreliable girlfriend Rachel, his therapist Katherine, and his best friend Kyle orbit him like concerned planets, only rarely coming into contact with each other or anyone else.

The care-taking methods of Diane, Rachel, Katherine, and Kyle are all intertwined with their gender roles: the mom, the bad girlfriend, the love interest-as-therapist, the best buddy. It’s no surprise that Kyle (Seth Rogen) emerges as Adam’s MVP. The women must contend with such a host of expectations about care-taking that they’re bound to pale by comparison.

As a failed caretaker and bad girlfriend, Rachel (Bryce Dallas Howard) is easily the most reviled character in the film. First of all, she’s an abstract painter (we know how Hollywood feels about people who like abstract painting!), so she’s supposed to be pretentious and untalented. She won’t go down on Adam, which is a big strike against her. More seriously, she flakes out more and more after he gets sick, arriving an hour late to pick him up from chemo and refusing to accompany him inside the hospital. When Adam explains that she’s scared of hospitals, his fellow chemo patients reasonably point out that nobody actually wants to pad around among IV drips and paper-thin gowns–family and friends suck it up out of love. Finally, when Kyle catches Rachel cheating on Adam with another guy, the film lets loose its fury. Kyle calls her a whore, and later he and Adam destroy one of her paintings with much fire and brimstone.

The audience is supposed to find this revenge as cathartic as Adam and Kyle do — the shrew gets what she deserves! But perhaps thanks to Howard’s complex acting, I had some sympathy for Rachel. Yes, she was a bad care-taker and a sub-par girlfriend. Yet it’s possible to understand how she got so overwhelmed. Read the rest of this entry »

GLG Weekly Round-up: Women’s Health & Activism

In activism, reproductive health, Women's health on March 16, 2012 at 7:44 am

The assault on women’s health continues. Thus, here are some links on what’s going on this week — but also some links at the bottom for ways to get involved and stand up for women’s rights. And if you have links to share, please post away in the comments!

Some awesome female democrats in 6 different states put men’s health on the legislative table in Virginia:
http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2012/03/15/148695307/in-protest-democrats-zero-in-on-mens-reproductive-health?ps=cprs

From the Huffington Post, Cecile Richards responds to Mitt Romney’s statement that he would get rid of Planned Parenthood if elected President:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/14/cecile-richards-mitt-romney-planned-parenthood_n_1345479.html

Maureen Dowd on Hillary Clinton’s work to stop the attack on women’s rights:
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/14/opinion/dowd-dont-tread-on-us.html?_r=1&src=tp&smid=fb-share

Women saying no to the GOP’s attempt to legislate control of their bodies, regardless of political affiliation:
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/11/us/politics/centrist-women-tell-of-disenchantment-with-gop.html

An anti-abortion bill in Kansas includes a provision that would permit doctors to lie to pregnant women about the results of blood tests, amnios, and ultrasounds:
https://www.aclu.org/blog/reproductive-freedom/kansas-pregnant-women-little-lie-your-doctor-wont-hurt-you

Texas’s new law disqualifying Planned Parenthood from Medicaid coverage has now resulted in a loss of the state’s entire women’s health program:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/15/texas-loses-entire-womens_n_1349431.html

To take action with Planned Parenthood, click here. Or, want to support Planned Parenthood? Here is the link.

Take action with “Take Back the Night.” To learn more, click here.

Pretty Little Liars Recap, “If These Dolls Could Talk” (Season 2, Episode 24)

In Pretty Little Liars, teen soaps, Television, Uncategorized on March 14, 2012 at 12:38 pm

This week, our beloved show finally lost its mind, and it was amazing. Dolls came alive and murdered everybody; creepy psychic children ate lollipops while imagining what it’s like to be buried alive; Garrett was arrested; Jenna is not blind (what?!); and Ali sure gets around for being six feet under. Things fall apart, the center cannot hold, you get the drift. Read on for more of this week’s end-of-times-esque PLL adventures.

PLL is really pushing hard for the sheer skirt over short skirt trend these days.

Let’s talk creepy dolls. What did you hide behind (scarf, pillow, sweater, etc) during the “Follow me, end up like me” scene? And why are the grandmother and kid on A’s dole?

Phoebe: Oh my goodness, this scene was SO creepy. I most certainly hid behind my hands and the dog. And, then peeked out to see what I was missing. Between the creepy doll-voice and all the dolls falling on the PLLs, it was totally freaky. Also, I want to know how the creepy doll store owner and A knew that the girls would go back to the store and thus had the perfect set up to terrify the PLLs. Or, was A there and thus controlling the strings of the creepy dolls coming alive situation? But, also, that child! So terrifying. And, I cannot figure out what their relationship is to A, maybe the grandma owes A a favor? Or maybe they are related?

Sarah: I actually can’t remember the last time I was so freaked out by TV. I was totally edging back on my couch and looking wild-eyed at the door as if a tiny Ali doll was going to burst in bearing a butcher knife. But that image of the Ali doll parroting “Follow me, end up like me” half-buried in a mound of dirt is so powerful — it’s going to stay with me (terrifyingly!) for a while.

Good question on whether A was there at the of the flying shelves and cymbal-banging monkeys — I feel like either A or the grandmother must have been behind the doll attack, unless PLL is straight-up going the supernatural route. (But how would A or the grandmother make the dolls’ eyes snap open like that?? AGH they’re alive.) And also: how perfect that this show keeps coming back to creepy dolls. Every time we see dolls — normally a symbol of innocent girlhood — they’re always monstrous. Our core four don’t live in an innocent world.

Read the rest of this entry »

Sympathy for the Supervillain: A Post-Bachelor Wrap

In Uncategorized on March 14, 2012 at 8:20 am

Guest Contributor Sarah H.

Before I begin, it might be good for you to know: I am a sap. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a well-educated, well-rounded, well-read woman. But I’m also a hopeless romantic who self-medicates during these long single times with guilty pleasure television like The Bachelor.

But I’m not dumb, I swear. I’m a smart person and I’m freakin’ awesome. (See Sarah T’s recent GLG post “Defending Deschanel” for a more thorough defense of the kind of person I am. I get the Jess comparison a lot.) Rather, I’m just a woman who has grown up with an evolving mental picture of a perfect mate. I want what the Bachelorettes want. I want to fall in love and find that fairy tale. That’s why I watch this stuff. And to be fair, I’m not the only one in this boat. After all, both The Bachelor and The Bachelorette are pretty popular.

Now, on with the show. (spoilers abound!)

I’ve liked Ben since Ashley’s season. He’s down to earth, a little off-kilter and he makes wine, which is a total win for a wino gal like me. He’s more relatable than ken doll, jock-brained Brad (Seriously, though. Don’t you think Brad probably has a pink plastic Mattel mound down there?). He’s kind of a normal guy. I believe, under the right circumstances, with my own makeup and wardrobe team, I might even be able to lure him into a conversation.

Throughout this season, I saw him act with a fairly level head. I saw him ejecting ladies in a rational and, I thought, healthy way. He got rid of the crazies, flakes, and fakes. He waded through the boring girls and kept a fairly solid final five including one larger-than-life personality that I, at first, thought was around for production value only.

Courtney simply overshadowed every other lady in the running. I watched each episode this season and have a hard time recalling the names or faces of the other 24 women fighting for our hero’s affections. For the last 8 weeks or so, since the first claws came out, she has been the entire selling point for the season. She was the topic of commercials and online banter and debate, not to mention half of the evening on the “Before the Rose” feature. What would have happened to ratings had Courtney not made it to the end of this competition? Ben’s locks weren’t enough to secure viewers alone.

Ben + Courtney "After the Rose"

What was it exactly that had people so excited about this woman? She wasn’t a villain in the Cruella de Vil sense. The crux of her evil really comes down to a trait Ben’s sister praised in her: she doesn’t “sugar coat”—that is, she isn’t careful. This saccharine series has a premise of finding true love; it’s full of Minnesota-nice, homegrown girls. They are normal girls who deal with conflict in the normal way: through passive aggressiveness. Courtney isn’t passive in any way. That’s her supervillain power. Read the rest of this entry »

Scored: A GLG Reading Group

In Uncategorized on March 13, 2012 at 5:59 pm

In Lauren McLaughlin’s Scored, all public school children are monitored and scored on their “fitness.” This includes academic achievement, but also behavioral items such as relation to “peer group,” “impulse control,” and “rapport.” Imani, our working class, mixed-race protagonist, must only maintain her above-90 score for two more months in order to receive an automatic scholarship to any state university and thereby fulfill her dream of resuscitating the dying Atlantic coastline she calls home. However, the arbitrary police state apparatus associated with the score proves more challenging for Imani to navigate than she expected. Consequently, she faces a host of ethical quandaries that she had never encountered before. Complicating her struggle, of course, is a boy—Diego Landis, one of the dreaded “unscored.” He challenges Imani with an audacious proposal that may prove her salvation—or her downfall.

Recently, GLG’s Sarah Todd interviewed McLaughlin about her novel. Subsequently, GLG opted to do a digital reading group of the book. In it, we discuss race, the education system, and the sisterhood between Imani and Katniss. And, we would love to hear what you thought of Scored in the comments!

- Sarah S.

Respondents: Sarah S., Jeni, Gina, and Austin.

*Spoilers Warning! No joke!*

Let’s begin with the questions that McLaughlin posed at the end of her interview with Sarah T: “I’d love to ask readers what they think they would do if they were in Imani’s shoes. Would they give up their best friend to salvage their future? Or would they remain loyal? Also, I’d love to know whether they’d ever faced similar moral dilemmas in their own lives.”

Sarah S: In all honesty, this is a tough one for me only because Imani faces real consequences because of Cady’s behavior and the stakes are incredibly high. Obviously, the system is totally screwed up and unfair but I also think it’s unfair to judge people by privileged ethical standards in such cases. At the point when Imani’s score drops because of Cady, the potential for her future life plummets as well. I like Cady as a character, and am glad they resuscitate their “pact.” But I also think she was unfair to keep her relationship a secret from Imani and, therefore, deprive Imani of the true opportunity to choose friendship over the score. In this sense, I think the book brilliantly unfolds these ethical quandaries, making them complex questions to be wrestled with, rather than obvious missteps.

Gina: But I think that Cady keeps her relationship a secret, precisely because she is afraid of how it will influence Imani’s score. She is naive (she’s only a teenager) and believes that she can outsmart the magnetic chip tracking. In my own life, I have had friends like Cady, young women whose lives seemed predestined to preclude them from academic or financial success and who try to protect their friends from a similar fate. These are the young women who don’t invite you to a crazy party or to hang out with a sketchy boyfriend because, even in our “unscored” society, they want to keep you pure.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Unique, Potentially Surprising Ethics of The Vampire Diaries

In gender, girl culture, teen soaps, Television on March 12, 2012 at 6:07 pm

Sarah S.

*spoilers*

The Vampire Diaries employs many twists and turns of plots in its depiction of the supernatural roller-coaster that is the life of Elena Gilbert (Nina Dobrev). And it needs these twists to keep the story going through now, its third season. If Elena and her vampire boyfriend Stefan (Paul Wesley) vanquished all the bad guys, found a non-Elena true love for Stefan’s brother Damon (Ian Somerhalder), and lived happily ever after, the show would be over. Many series deal with this dilemma with a shrug, paying no heed to continuity or character development in pursuit of ever more soap-operatic happenings to keep viewers engaged (paging Lost). The Vampire Diaries does something different though: it adheres to an unwavering ethical conviction in second chances that grounds its continuous switching of allegiances—romantic, familial, political, or all-of-the-above.

The motif of redemption characterizes the entire love triangle between Stefan, Damon, and Elena. When the series begins, she’s looking for a new life after the death of her parents, Stefan’s looking to fix the mistakes of his past by loving Elena, and Damon comes to strive for the same endeavor—albeit with seductively wiggling eyebrows and the added moral quandary of not hurting his relationship with his brother. This dynamic continues in seasons 2 and 3 when Stefan “turns off his humanity” and becomes a monstrous, murderous “ripper” who Elena and Damon, nevertheless, believe can be saved. Elena functions, in many ways, as the moral compass for both brothers and for the show as a whole. However, she’s no pure and wilting damsel, making mistakes of judgement herself that often require apologies or other attempts to fix what’s broken. In the end, no matter how despicable either Stefan or Damon is, was, or will be, all three of the central characters believe the offender can be redeemed.

She's like a love compass.

We see a similar emphasis on second chances in the rest of the boys who round out the cast: Elena’s emo younger brother Jeremy (Steven R. McQueen); the high school quarterback Matt (Zach Roerig); the tortured vampire hunter/history teacher Alaric (Matthew Davis); and the town bully turned self-reflective werewolf Tyler (Michael Trevino). Tyler epitomizes the group’s belief in second chances perhaps best of all, transforming from a swaggering ass to a tortured werewolf to Caroline’s boyfriend to a hybrid werewolf-vampire unable to exert self-will against the orders of his “sire,” Klaus (Joseph Morgan).  Through each of these transformations—emotional and supernatural—Tyler grows as a character and, therefore, rises in the audience’s connection to him. Read the rest of this entry »

How to Be Awesome Like April Ludgate

In Uncategorized on March 12, 2012 at 6:51 am

Sarah T.

Since my post on Friday played defense (with a few reservations) for Zooey Deschanel’s Jess on New Girl, it seemed appropriate to kick off the week with an appreciation of a character who’s pretty much Jess’s opposite: April Ludgate of Parks and Recreation.

Curb your enthusiasm, please.

What I love about April, as played with quicksilver wit and subtlety by Aubrey Plaza, is how layered she’s become over the course of the series. In early episodes, she’s a sulky intern with a semi-permanent sneer. Frustrated with her small-town Midwestern life, she’s the first to roll her eyes at anyone who displays the slightest sign of sincerity or enthusiasm.

But the warm humanism of Parks and Rec won’t let that kind of blanket negativity stand for long. Part of the change comes as April falls for Andy, a character fittingly described by Margaret Lyons at Vulture as “a human golden retriever.” In contrast to April, Andy exists in a constant state of delighted wonder at the workings of Pawnee, frisbees, peaches, and shoe-shining. His innocent sunniness brings out new dimensions in April: she’s lighter and more free-spirited around him, and touchingly protective. Meanwhile, April both anchors Andy and broadens his worldview.

April’s other relationships cast new light on her character as well. She bonds with her boss, Ron, over a shared dislike of productivity in the workplace. His libertarian gruffness intersects perfectly with her hipsterhood — he’s pretty much her second dad. The show also introduces her sister, nearly identical in both looks and temperament; her doting, bizarrely cheerful parents; and her friend Oren — a tall, pale, raven-like creature who’s constantly freaking everybody out by predicting the dates of their deaths and hiding under tables. Over the course of the series, April has evolved into a richly drawn character: still snarky and sarcastic and a lover of all things weird, and fundamentally good-hearted too.

And so, without further ado, here are a few ways to model yourself after the awesome sauce (April hates that word) that is April Ludgate. Read the rest of this entry »

Defending Deschanel

In Uncategorized on March 9, 2012 at 1:18 pm

Sarah T.

Sometimes we don’t get to choose who we relate to.

As a nine-year-old tearing through The Babysitter’s Club series, I understood that Claudia and Stacey were objectively the coolest characters. (Claudia’s neon-green leotards worn under purple hammer pants! Stacey’s glamorous city slicker past!) But I couldn’t help but love Mary Anne Spier—a shy, big-hearted girl who loved animals and cried at the drop of a hat—the most. It was kind of embarrassing, but there was nothing I could do about it.

When I started getting into music from the 1960s in middle school, I understood that picking your favorite Beatle said a lot about you. A John person was smart and sensitive and revolutionary. A George enthusiast was mysterious and spiritual. Even a Ringo fan was fun-loving and unique. But I liked Paul best despite myself, knowing that it marked me as hopelessly cheerful, daffy lightweight.

Today, I find myself in a similarly uncool, wide-blue-eyed boat with Zooey Deschanel, the star of Fox’s The New Girl. Of course, plenty of people like Zooey—after all, she’s a sunny, funny, beautiful actress who has a hit sitcom on a major network. But she has a powerful band of detractors too. GLG’s own Melissa S. wrote a very eloquent, well-reasoned, non-attacky post on her problems with Deschanel’s character Jess in The New Girl. Many others make their points less diplomatically.

Deschanel critics tend to organize around several arguments. First, they claim, she is cloyingly twee. This is a problem not only because her critics are experiencing cute overload akin to The Berenstein Bears and Too Much Birthday, but because they see her adorkability as retrograde and unfeminist. Her girliness, they argue, places too much emphasis on singing and kittens and other childlike, harmless preoccupations, and not enough on adult, serious-minded matters.

While I understand these concerns about Deschanel, I can’t help but bristle at them. And a big part of that is because I know that I am in possession of many of the traits with which Deschanel-detractors take issue. Read the rest of this entry »

GLG Weekly Round-up

In gender, race, reproductive health, Uncategorized, Weekly Round-Up, Women's health on March 9, 2012 at 6:56 am

This week, we have a variety of good reads from around the web including, but not limited to, reactions to the stop Kony campaign, Tim Wise on race & white resentment, and an article on masculinity and The Hunger Games (go Peeta!). Have a great weekend!

Tim Wise on his new book and white resentment: http://www.truth-out.org/dear-white-america-letter-new-minority/1330718926

Arturo Garcia on the problems with Invisible Children’s Stop Kony campaign, at Racialicious: http://www.racialicious.com/2012/03/08/stopkony-activism-or-exploitation/#more-20984

Jessica Winter at Time Magazine and “Are women people?:” http://ideas.time.com/2012/03/07/subject-for-debate-are-women-people/

Two fun articles from Bitch Magazine … One on Cynthia Nixon and the politics of labels:
http://bitchmagazine.org/post/visibility-cynthia-nixon-and-the-politics-of-labels-bisexuality-feminism

And one on The Hunger Games and masculinity:
http://bitchmagazine.org/post/the-rebel-warrior-and-the-boy-with-the-bread-gale-peeta-and-masculinity-in-the-hunger-games

Lastly, a super-cool interview with Jennifer Egan about the days before she made it as a writer:
http://www.thedaysofyore.com/jennifer-egan/

Interlude: Old Navy & Mr. T

In advertising, Interlude, race on March 8, 2012 at 7:43 pm

Phoebe B.

Last night, I was watching Psych, a show I quite like because Shawn and Gus remind me of my best friend’s and my fairly goofy relationship. I was enjoying myself, having a glass of wine, and relaxing. But then, this new Old Navy commercial featuring Mr. T appeared on my TV. And then, I was no longer relaxed but rather frustrated and surprised.

Check out the commercial on Facebook here.

The commercial stars Mr. T and is part of Old Navy’s new push for their “Best Tees,” marketed as the most comfortable and softest t-shirt ever. Despite Mr. T’s presence, the commercial–like pretty much all Old Navy spots–is really annoying. But that’s not the problem. The problem is the appropriation and stereotyping of Native American dress on Mr. T midway through the commercial.

Out of nowhere, Mr. T descends from the ceiling of a massage room dressed in dream catcher style earrings, lots of bracelets, feathers, and a brown stereotypical Native dress–the kind of ensemble we might see in 1950′s Westerns or Disney’s Pocahontas. Indeed, he resembles the Pocahontas photoshoot with Mariah from America’s Next Top Model last week, which Melissa wrote about last week on GLG, as did Adrienne K. on Native Appropriations (which if you don’t know it, is an awesome blog). And then, Mr. T says his tag line, “I pity the fool who wears a scratchy Tee.” 

Read the rest of this entry »

Engaging Television: An Interview with Writer Jacob Clifton

In gender, girl culture, Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars on March 7, 2012 at 9:59 am

Sarah Todd

“Why bother watching the show when the recaps are so amazing?” my friend Ali emailed me in 2008. We were talking about the Television Without Pity recaps of Gossip Girl, a show then in its headband-wearing, Met-steps-lunching glory days. The in-depth recaps, written by Jacob Clifton with a killer combination of fiery passion, arch humor, and wide-ranging cultural references, were an essential part of the Gossip Girl experience.

Jacob’s recaps didn’t just help us see things about the show that we might not have spotted otherwise. They also influenced the way we thought about friendships and power dynamics and teenagers and surveillance—and, of course, how we thought about television.

I’ve looked forward to Jacob’s weekly Gossip Girl recaps ever since, along with his writing on True Blood and Pretty Little Liars. He’s one of the few writers I’ve followed quite so faithfully. The author of novels The Urges and Mondegreen, he currently recaps American IdolThe Good Wife, and more for Television Without Pity.

Jacob graciously agreed to talk with Girls Like Giants about recapping, teen dramas, feminism, the power of stories, and why Elena from The Vampire Diaries is way under-rated. Come join the conversation in the comments.

How did you start writing for Television Without Pity?

The internet, in 2001, was a very different place! TWoP (MightyBigTV, back then) was a small enough concern that I was able to lobby for some small, one-off assignments that, over a few years, turned into regular assignments. It was a very empowering, very encouraging chance to be given, and I’m still very grateful to the editors at that time for giving me a shot.

You have a very distinctive and dynamic recapping style. A recap of Pretty Little Liars might have made-up dialogue that highlights Aria’s crazy pants (and the fact that she is crazypants), followed by a Jungian analysis of how the four main characters’ personalities complement each other, followed by a mini-treatise on bullying. How do you approach writing your recaps? What do you want them to be, and how has that developed over the course of your career?

I think that, for me, it’s about capturing the sort of tangents and thoughts and jokes that you might go through on the couch, just watching anything. For shows like PLL, that obviously brings up a lot of stuff and thoughts that I feel like are worth representing on the page: This is what it was like for me watching this show, what was it like for you?

I mean, obviously I have my preoccupations — critical, philosophical, political, feminist — and I don’t really hesitate to bring those to bear on whatever’s actually happening on the show, but I trust myself to know the line as far as what’s worth saying and what’s just blabber or personal axe-grinding. (I also cross it regularly, of course.) But that’s what it means to me: A sort of taking shorthand minutes on where the show takes me as a particular person.

However, I do think there’s a certain amount of workshopping that goes on when you’re forced to pay such close attention to a show over such a long period of time. I don’t know if my writing has improved, but I definitely understand television and storytelling a lot more than I did ten years ago — and part of my mission is to bring that into it as well. The opportunity to turn our brains off, or to reject a show or episode for false reasons, is always there. So by bringing out the storytelling qualities, or the writing tricks, or the production values, the hope is that readers can find new ways to enjoy their television shows in a more interactive way. Read the rest of this entry »

Pretty Little Liars Recap, “Eye of the Beholder” (Season 2, Episode 23)

In girl culture, Pretty Little Liars, Recaps, teen soaps, Television on March 6, 2012 at 7:45 pm

This week’s prettiest little liars triumphed over house fires; pieced newspaper clues together; met a random pilot named Duncan; and perhaps found an ally in Jenna. Read on for more on this week’s PLL escapades.

Let's talk about these outfits.

Who do you think this Duncan character is? Can we trust him, and what did you think about his scenes with Aria?

Sarah T: Who? Ohhh Mark Wahlberg’s younger brother you mean? I trust him so far, since we haven’t been given any reason to believe he’d want to hurt Ali or anyone else. Going off of last week’s discussion of Aria becoming Vivian, I thought that scene with Aria in the plane was so illuminating–when Duncan tells her, “You want to understand your friend? What she was looking for? Take control.” Because now the show is really pulling together the ways the four PLLs are dealing with the loss of Ali, her complicated legacy, and the aftermath of her death.

Spencer is dealing by trying to solve the mystery and lay all the answers out in the open once and for all, so that the house she lives in isn’t always so dark and shadowy and filled with strangers. Hanna’s dealing by helping and/or befriending pretty much everyone Ali ever hurt — Lucas, Mona, now Jenna. She’s the new Ali, but she’s reinventing what the new Ali can be by harnessing her own inherent solar power and making amends for the past (particularly since she tacitly supported Ali’s bullying by not doing anything to stop her). Emily’s dealing by continuing to love Ali and remember her in her better moments, so that all the best parts of her live on. And now Aria–who was the most self-obsessed for a long time, and seemed to be dealing mostly by transferring all the pain and confusion and hurt into her secret relationship with Ezra–is finally dealing by becoming Ali/Vivian in order to understand her. She’s learning how to recognize the parts of herself that lived in Ali, and the parts of Ali that are still alive in her. And that is a rocky, bumpy, scary business, hence the plane and the turbulence, but it may be the key to making a breakthrough. You guys! I can’t even say how much I love this show.

Phoebe: Oh my, I think you said it all and best! But, I am a little less trusting of this Duncan fellow and the time up in the plane with him (with all those tight shots of the two of them) totally made me anxious and feel like he might be up to no good. However, I am excited by this new piece of the puzzle in which Ali returned to Rosewood hours before any of the girls knew. What did she get up to that afternoon? And what had she found out? I can’t wait to know! Also, I am intrigued by Spencer’s mom’s confession that she is the one who suspected Melissa … why didn’t Mr. Hastings reveal that to Spencer? So many lies in the Hastings house, but it was nice to see Mrs. Hastings and Jason chatting at the end of the episode.

Chelsea B: The scenes with him were good, though I agree with Phoebe that the airplane scene made me super anxious. I think this is probably just a personal problem, but I keep assuming that every new dudebro they write into the show is going to supplant Ezra (Holden, Jason, etc.). We’ll see if that actually happens with this one, or if I’m doomed to forever imagining romantic conspiracy theories involving Aria.

Read the rest of this entry »

Singing Out: In Praise of Women (And Against Rush Limbaugh)

In Uncategorized on March 6, 2012 at 3:56 pm

Sarah T.

Let’s talk about sex.

More specifically, let’s talk about women who have sex, and why some people want to punish them so much.

Rush Limbaugh thinks a woman who wants affordable birth control—and, by extension, any sexually active woman—is a slut. The problems in his statement are almost too numerous to name. Lauren O’Neal at the Hairpin and Emily Bazelon at Slate, among others, do a good job of unpacking them.

But it’s not just moralizing extremists like Limbaugh who are trying to wrest power away from women by shaming them for what they choose to do with their own bodies. There are more insidious ways that our culture gets people to internalize the idea that women should be judged for their sexuality and sexual activity. From there, it’s an easy move to persuade people that sexually active women don’t deserve to be safe from the threat of violence, or to be treated with respect and decency, or to decide for themselves whether they are physically, mentally, emotionally, financially, and circumstantially able to bring a child into the world.

I’m talking about the message that gets sent when someone laughs and calls, say, Courtney from The Bachelor a whore, when what he means is that Courtney is manipulative, or mean, or fake. Or when a smart, educated woman calls her ex’s new girlfriend a slut, when what she means is that she’s hurt and angry, her pride is wounded, and she doesn’t like this new girl at all. Or when campus security announcements about sexual assaults emphasize what women ought to do to protect themselves (stay at home all day long while wearing a Snuggie with all the blinds drawn and a couch shoved up against the door, one imagines) instead of talking about what everyone, men most certainly included, can do to eliminate sexual assault and make the campus safer. Or when people make fun of girls who show cleavage or wear short skirts or get tattoos on the smalls of their backs. Or when the person sitting across from me at a bar last year said casually of a mutual acquaintance, “Even you would think she’s a slut.” Read the rest of this entry »

Rebound: Shall we receive GCB?

In GCB, gender, Rebound on March 6, 2012 at 7:58 am

Rebound is a new short-form GLG column that seeks to respond to, critique, and ask questions about current media events and affairs. –Phoebe & Sarah T.

Phoebe B.

On Sunday night, GCB premiered on ABC following the network’s self-proclaimed original “it girls,” the desperate housewives. GCB is one of two new shows that invoke, but do not proclaim, the word “bitch” in their title. The other show being, Don’t Trust the B— in apartment 23.

the ladies of GCB

GCB is all about post-high school mean girls in Dallas, TX and the grudges these ladies carry.* GCB seemingly revels in and produces humor via women being cruel to other women and reliving the icky cliques of high school. And, it is all about women competing for, and being paranoid about losing, their men—a narrative that always pits women against each other and blames women for the choices men make. The use of “B” as a stand-in for “bitch” in the title seems to suggest that the show revels in, and glamorizes, this mean behavior. Indeed, behaving like a “bitch” is seemingly the bread and butter of GCB.

However, the title’s juxtaposition of “Good Christian” with “bitches” suggests the underlying, and humorous, tension of the show. Indeed, the pilot pokes fun at the not-so-Christian undercurrents of this church community. For example, one of the most pious characters secretly owns a Hooters style bar, but she chastises one of the other ladies for working there (before her ownership is publicly revealed that is). And in this way, the show is quite funny and aptly timed—given Christian groups self-proclaimed righteousness and current attacks, in the name of Jesus, on women’s health and LGBTQQI teens. So, I see the point of the title and I like the juxtaposition of good and bad within it. But, I worry and I wonder about the invocation and use of the word “bitch.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Rebound: GLG responds to Flavorwire’s Fave Female Characters

In girl culture, race, Rebound on March 5, 2012 at 4:42 pm

Rebound is a new short-form GLG column that seeks to respond to, critique, and ask questions about current media events and affairs. –Phoebe & Sarah T.

Today Flavorwire published their list of the top ten most powerful female characters in literature in honor of Women’s History Month. The list includes wonderful literary (and filmic) women from Jane Eyre to Hermione Granger and many more. GLG discusses our take below, but we also want to know what you think. Do you like the list? Who would be on your own list of most awesome female characters?

Chelsea H: I’m not familiar with everyone on the list, but those I know I generally approve of. I adore the inclusion of the Wife of Bath – she takes control over Chaucer’s project in a way few of his other characters do, and in fact, I’ve just entered revision stages on a dissertation chapter that deals with her and her self-creation and performativity a la Judith Butler. She certainly belongs here among these greats.

It surprises me that Katniss gets knocked for “boy-related waffling and wailing” more than Jane Eyre does – the internal monologue Jane provides is much more brooding and agonizing over Mr. Rochester than Katniss’s confusion. As I read her, at least in the first book, Katniss can’t understand why Peeta would be acting the way he does – she can’t even fathom that he could have genuine feelings about her given their circumstances. That seems more practical than whiny to me.

I might want to add Sethe from Beloved. Talk about strong and conflicted! Her story is all family and self survival. Maybe Lady Macbeth too – though most of the women on this list are heroines and Lady M. is a “bad guy,” her power is incredible as she manipulates her husband through desire, ambition, treachery and murder. Her downfall at the end of the play, I think, only enhances her power and independence: though she descends into madness, she makes her own choices through the whole story. Read the rest of this entry »

The Feminist’s Dilemma

In Uncategorized on March 4, 2012 at 10:07 am

Sarah S.

Today, Slate posted on article on “Hollywood’s New Beefcakes.” In it, authors and note that “Hollywood always likes to keep a few beefcakes around for use in its big action pictures and romances” and they grade the newest crop accordingly. (It’s worth clicking on the main link to the article to see their graphic, which includes hover-overs for each celebrity situated on top of what part of the cow they represent; I could not snag an image of it for this post.) Taylor Lautner, Twilight hunk, gets Rump Roast and grade of “C” for his “bland acting,” revealing him to be “just a rump, perhaps beef’s least flavorful cut.” Ryan Gosling, on the other hand, gets deemed grade “A” beef, Mock Tender, for being “more interested in subverting his hearthrob dreaminess than in perpetuating it.” Channing Tatum, Chris Pine, Jake Gyllenhall, Ryan Reynolds, and others also make the “cut.”

Image

Here’s my dilemma: If someone did something similar comparing fresh, young starlets to cuts of beef (or any other food item) I would be appalled. All my feminist hairs would stand on end, inflamed with righteous indignation at this objectification of women, this reduction of women to only their bodies. It’s because of such responses that a magazine such as Slate would never publish that article. Why is it okay, then, to reduce these men to meat and not do the same for their female counterparts?

One response is that such an objectification of men subverts a patriarchal paradigm, putting men into a “feminized” position and claiming the traditionally male power of “the gaze” for (straight) women (and gay men). It’s okay because men still enjoy more power and privilege so cannot be problematically hurt by their alignment with beef.

One might counter, however, that such a reduction of any human being to solely their physical self is a problem. And we can see that it’s problem given the rising instances of male anorexia and other signs of body obsession in young men. No human should be viewed so reductively.

Read the rest of this entry »

GLG Weekly Round-up: Women’s Health

In body politics, reproductive health, Uncategorized, Weekly Round-Up, Women's health on March 3, 2012 at 6:37 am

With all the legislative madness afoot in the U.S. in regards to women’s health, we decided to devote this week’s weekly round-up to Women’s Health. Please share more links in the comments if you have them!

On the Academy Award-winning film, Saving Face:
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/mmw/2012/02/%E2%80%9Csaving-face%E2%80%9D-may-be-a-saving-grace-for-women-victims-of-acid-attacks/

On Virginia’s new proposed anti-abortion legislation:

From Slate: http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2012/02/virginia_ultrasound_law_women_who_want_an_abortion_will_be_forcibly_penetrated_for_no_medical_reason.html

From xoJane:
http://www.xojane.com/issues/virginias-proposed-abortion-ultrasound-requirement-turning-your-uterus-public-forum

From Colorlines:
http://colorlines.com/archives/2011/12/gender_2012_more_battles_for_reproductive_healthcare.html

And in response,

From The Huffington Post:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/22/georgia-vasectomy-ban_n_1293369.html

And AJC:
http://blogs.ajc.com/political-insider-jim-galloway/2012/02/21/democratic-women-seek-a-state-ban-on-vasectomies-for-men/

How to be awesome like Georgina Sparks …

In Gossip Girl, How to be Awesome Like, teen soaps, Television, TV villains on March 1, 2012 at 4:07 pm

Phoebe B.

Gossip Girl’s Georgina Sparks (Michelle Trachtenberg) is one of my favorite television villains. We first met Georgina at Constance where once upon a time she was best friends (albeit briefly) with Serena (Blake Lively). These days their relationship, like all of Georgina’s, is fraught at best and enemies at worst. In earlier episodes of the series, Georgina drank too much; hid a man’s death after he died in her and Serena’s presence (something I think she blackmailed Serena about and perhaps also the beginning of the end of their friendship); and convinced Dan he was the father of her child and then abandoned said child (by the by Dan is not the father). Then, Blair exiled Georgina to Russia, which was after Georgina had found God and promptly gotten kicked out of her God-camp, perhaps also at the hands of Blair. And, most recently Georgina ruined Blair’s wedding to Louis. In fact, one of the reasons I think I like Georgina so much, besides that she is hilarious, is that she makes a good rival for Blair as she is perhaps almost as good a schemer.

Georgina dressed as a priest and set to ruin Blair's nuptuals

This season Georgina returned to New York married to a supposedly rich yet not so bright man, Philip, with her child Milo, and on a new mission to stir up trouble on the Upper East Side. And just this week it seems that she was successful. Indeed, Georgina did declare quite happily that it appears that she has just taken “down the entire Upper East side.” We’ve celebrated many wonderful characters and actresses in the “how to be awesome columns,” thus, I thought it was perhaps time to celebrate a good old TV villainess. So, while you might not want to be awesome like Georgina, after all, she is a little evil, here are some tips of things to avoid should you want to stay far away from the villainy behavior that defines Georgina Sparks.

Read the rest of this entry »

1776, 1964, or 2012? Race Relations in ANTM’s British Invasion Cycle

In body politics, girl culture, race on March 1, 2012 at 12:03 am

Melissa Sexton

At this point in my life, there are only two television series of which I have seen every single episode: LOST and America’s Next Top Model. As I sat down tonight to watch the first episode of ANTM’s Cycle 18, I had a sense of obligation and despair similar to the feeling that haunted me through the last two seasons of LOST. A long-cultivated loyalty to the show paired with a fanatical desire to keep seeing every single episode drove me forward, even though I was feeling acutely aware that the show had long since jumped the shark – heck, the show had probably been eaten by the shark at this point. But I just had to know how it ended…And so, I sat down to watch what I was sure would be a troubling cultural stew, the “British Invasion” cycle of America’s Next Top Model – a cycle that pitted 7 American models versus 7 British models as one new way to freshen the old modeling-show formula.

Culture Clash! Cowboy hats and cut-offs versus the Union Jack!

I’d say that Top Model has had a dramatic story arc. The show began airing in 2003, and the first few seasons were delightfully trashy. There were catfights galore. There was cheap cinematography. There were reductive representations of race, class, and religion. But while the melodrama and the catfights remained, the show that was on the air when I started watching in 2006 was a sleeker, smarter, and sexier version of the original model battle-to-the-contract. The photo-shoots became increasingly sophisticated, spectacular, and unreal; the models jetted around the world to exotic shooting locales and lived in swankier and swankier dream-houses that looked like they were furnished by grown-up Barbie on a credit card bender. The runway challenges became increasingly conceptual as the girls strutted in floating bubbles, across airborne walkways, and over runways ringed by fire. The girls participated in music video shoots, video fashion editorials, and television talk show spots. And meanwhile, the entire narrative of the show became increasingly streamlined, to the point where the cadre of longtime viewers that I watched the show with could predict episode by episode how each cycle would play out: the makeover episode; the major runway teach; the overseas destination reveal; the modeling go-sees.

The show’s underlying narrative of self-empowerment and self-love also became increasingly solidified. As I’ve written about before, Top Model became a place where girls were sold a weird mix of capitalist buy-in and self-empowerment. Such weirdness carried over to race and gender relations: the show embraced diversity as a deliberate challenge to fashion industry norms, but the importance of branding remained paramount. If you were black, you better read as black; if you were gay, you better read as gay. Think about, say, April from Cycle 2 – the half-Japanese model who wanted to represent mixed-race women but was repeatedly told that her branding was unclear. Was she going to look Asian or white? Or think about the plus-sized girls who are routinely told they’re not “plus enough.” The catch, of course, is that the modeling industry also embraces protean, ambiguous models: models of mixed ethnicity or with androgynous figures. So…apparently modeling requires girls to thread the same weird path between conformity and individuality that seems to shape all senses of individual identity in capitalist culture: be yourself, but make sure that self fits in a demographic and knows where it belongs. Be yourself, but know how to use it.

Read the rest of this entry »

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