thinking big: feminism, media, and pop culture

Posts Tagged ‘motherhood’

Corrupting Motherhood: The Women of Westeros

In Uncategorized on October 9, 2012 at 2:55 pm

Sarah S.

The acclaimed Song of Ice and Fire novels feature an diverse array of female characters. One could easily write a “How to Be Awesome Like” GLG post on the Women of Westeros. Much like Phoebe’s post on the women of Friday Night Lights, one would be hard-pressed to narrow down the number of impressive ladies under discussion. Yet despite the large number of female characters in the cycle (better known as the Game of Thrones books/television series) and their uniqueness—both from each other and from stereotypes of fantasy/medieval women—I noticed one thing that separates these women into two camps: motherhood. Not all of the characters in the medieval-esque world are mothers or destined for marriage and motherhood. But all those who are mothers reveal it to be a corrupting influence that alters the character for the worse.

Requisite disclaimer: This post is about the entire series of novels (and not the HBO series) up to the most recent, A Dance with Dragons, and contains serious spoilers! Proceed at your own risk.

Let’s divide this discussion into camps: Mothers, Non-Mothers, and the Ambigous Ones.

Mothers

Queen Cersei Lannister: The most obvious example of corrupting motherhood, Cersei commits a series of horrendous acts—including murdering her husband—in her ambitions for her son, the loathsome Prince Joffrey, and then her second son, young Prince/King Tommen. Indeed, Cersei’s status as a mother is corrupt from the beginning as all three of her children come from her incestuous relationship with her brother, Jaime. In a feminist reading, we might applaud Cersei’s commitment to the one she considers her other half, and her deft avoidance of her “legitimate” husband, King Robert. Nevertheless, Cersei’s arrogance mingles with her ambition and stupidity to make her the most malevolent mother the series offers up.

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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

In gender, reproductive health, Weekly Round-Up on February 4, 2012 at 8:55 pm

As usual, just some good reads from around the internet. Enjoy!

“The New Girl” launches a defense of the manic pixie dream girl, as recapped by Vulture:

http://nymag.com/daily/entertainment/2012/02/new-girl-recap-season-1-episode-11.html

Molly Fischer critiques the ladyblogs of today at n+1…

http://nplusonemag.com/so-many-feelings

… and several ladies affiliated with said blogs respond:

Emily Gould: http://emilygould.tumblr.com/post/16832249416/ladies-women-and-girls

Autumn Whitefield-Madrano: http://www.the-beheld.com/2012/02/on-ladyblogging-and-slumber-parties-of.html

Anne Helen Petersen: http://www.annehelenpetersen.com/?p=2902

Some info and linkes on Komen’s de-funding of Plan Parenthood:

http://colorlines.com/archives/2012/02/bad_politics_thwart_susan_g_komen_foundations_noble_mission.html

And the most recent update from Jezebel on Komen reversing their decision:

http://jezebel.com/5882018/breaking-komen-reverses-decision-on-planned-parenthood-is-still-likely-full-of-shit

The Wonderful Women of Friday Night Lights

In gender on December 30, 2011 at 10:05 am

Phoebe B.

Of late, I am watching a lot of Friday Night Lights (it is all on Netflix streaming!) and I just finished seasons 1, 2, and 3 and now am swiftly moving into season 4 (I have big plans to watch the whole series over Christmas Break, so we shall see how that goes). Many things strike me about this show as a first time viewer, including its candid, important, and often uncomfortable discussions of race and racism, including but not limited to interracial dating, in a network landscape currently dominated by problematic post-racial fantasies. But the topic of this post is another phenomenal facet of FNL, which is the wonderful, nuanced, complicated, and dynamic female characters. I am blown away by the women of FNL, whom I did not expect to encounter in a show dedicated to the male-driven world of Texas football. For example, Tami Taylor, Corrina Williams, Tyra, Mrs. Saracen, Waverly, Julie, Devon, and even Lila, to just name a few. Recently, Sarah T. posted a wonderfully detailed account of Tami Taylor’s awesomeness on GLG, but I want to highlight and celebrate my other favorite FNL lady characters, who are by no means perfect but strong and complicated women, the likes of which are rarely seen on network television. So here I want to highlight why Tyra, Waverly, Mrs. Saracen, and Corrina Williams (my favorite) are a particularly refreshing escape from a network landscape too oft-populated by post-racial fantasies and one-dimensional women.

Tyra:

Tyra (on the right) with her mom and sister on her sis' wedding day

Landry and Tyra (Adrianne Palicki) have a heart to heart

Tyra suffers consistently from her class position as much of the town reads her as ‘white trash’ and she is plagued by other people’s conceptions of her as such. However, we see her strength when she stands up for her mother against her abusive boyfriend, and she even stands up to her mother for her mother’s own sake. In season one, Tyra convinces her mother to attempt life on her own after an affair with the town’s resident football lover and car dealership owner, Buddy Garrity, leaves her jobless and angry. It is in these rare moments early on that we see Tyra’s strength and her potential—something Tami Taylor (Guidance counselor extraordinaire, Principal, and wife of football coach Eric Taylor) also realizes. Throughout the show, we see Tyra struggle as she falls in love with Landry, the most wonderful and smart and awkward kid in school (who, not to give too much away, also saves her life). Landry functions, for me, as a means of viewing Tyra outside the town’s perspective and judgment. Landry sees that she is is strong, smart, and capable in a way that she does not see or value. However, at times she is selfish and frustrating, but that is part of what makes her great (which Landry points out to her). What makes Tyra wonderful is that she makes bad and good decisions, and she must be forced to take herself seriously (instead of skating by on her good looks), which in and of itself is a struggle.

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I’m Going to See Breaking Dawn OR How A Smart, Independent, Educated Woman Learned to Love Twilight

In gender, girl culture on November 23, 2011 at 12:48 am

Melissa Sexton

The first time I went to visit my sister in her new home in Seattle, I needed something to occupy my time during the long days she spent working. I was a 2nd year PhD student in a literature department, so the last thing I wanted to do on my downtime days was read anything serious. Still, my sister made a full disclaimer when she handed me her roommate’s copy of Twilight. “It’s not great literature,” she said with a shrug. “But I bet you’ll be entertained.”

Such a disclaimer was more than warranted given my lit snob past. I had spent my teenage years aspiring to an elite aestheticism, sneering at my younger sisters for their fantasy novels and their mainstream movies. Like many a wanna-be intellectual before me, I wanted to like the right things. I wanted to read philosophy and great literature; I watched old movies, not blockbusters, with my boyfriend. I didn’t watch TV; I backpacked, hello. Before I ever even thought about drinking, I started going to “shows.”  I was relentlessly and, to be honest, baselessly opposed to anything that could be construed as popular. Luckily for me, I was already outgrowing what I still think should never be more than an an adolescent phase: the conviction that, just because we don’t like something, this makes the object of our disdain inherently and objectively bad; that there are good and bad things to like, and your aesthetic preferences say something meaningful about your character; that there were things not just that I hadn’t read but that I wouldn’t read, that I shouldn’t watch. Read the rest of this entry »

How to Be Awesome Like… Tami Taylor

In Uncategorized on November 20, 2011 at 3:56 pm

Sarah Todd
Friday Night Lights was a rare and beautiful ensemble show, and it is difficult to pick favorites within it. Nonetheless, I have a favorite, and her name is Tami Frickin’ Taylor.

The reason Tami Taylor is my favorite is this: the woman does not give up. As a guidance counselor and high school principal, she doesn’t give up on the lost, angry, confused teens dealing with not only the ordinary trials and tribulations of adolescence but also with serious socioeconomic and familial issues over which they have no control. She doesn’t give up on her husband Coach Eric Taylor, who is incredibly kind and upstanding in his own right, and adores Tami as he should, but who can be a bit stubborn when he’s in the wrong. She doesn’t give up on her perceptive but sometimes bratty daughter Julie. And she doesn’t give up on fighting the local powers-that-be who prioritize football over academics, money over education, old-boys networks over actual merit, and white privilege over equal opportunity. Read the rest of this entry »

Daughters of Anarchy

In gender on November 6, 2011 at 11:43 am

by Sarah S.

*spoilers*

Tattoos. Harleys. Illegal gun running. And…awesome female characters? You’d better believe it. Sons of Anarchy (SOA) relies on updating older narrative tropes that, much like Deadwood, veer towards the Shakespearean. It’s no surprise, then, that the Prince (in the form of Charlie Hunnum’s Jax Teller) loves a woman from outside the club (Maggie Siff as Dr. Tara Knowles) or that the Queen (Katey Sagal’s amazing Gemma Teller) owns her Lady Macbethian role from episode one. But in their roles, Gemma and Tara also received the updated treatment, and in the process turned a TV series about bad ass bikers and the girls that service them into one about family, community, and the different kinds of strength women carry. That is until this season, season four, which has so far (9 episodes in) declawed, defanged, and de-interested the women of SAMCRO. Read the rest of this entry »

I Spy a Mom: Motherhood and Femininity in “The Debt”

In gender on September 16, 2011 at 8:06 am

Sarah Todd

Secret agents are people too, as spy movies like to remind us. The gun-toting, building-leaping, parachute-plunging protagonists of espionage movies often have spouses, children, parents, friends, pets, and partners. They make scrambled eggs for breakfast (foreboding scrambled eggs), take their dogs for runs in the park, and drop their kids off at school. Even James Bond falls in love sometimes, for a while. These personal details remind audiences of our heroes’ humanity, and of what they have to lose.

There are three spies in The Debt—Mossad agents Rachel, David, and Stephan. But only Rachel, played by Jessica Chastain and Helen Mirren in her younger and older incarnations, serves as the film’s emotional anchor and moral compass. As a young agent, she’s incredibly courageous, but her expressive face reveals every moment of self-doubt, fear, fury, and sadness. As an older woman, she’s more reserved and composed, but no less central to the film’s exploration of the ethics of espionage. Her fellow agents are interesting and appealing—David a tragic, thoughtful figure, Stephan all swarthiness and ambition (Marton Csokas, what are you doing later?). But their primary functions are as angles in The Debt’s love triangle. The film’s story is told through Rachel’s eyes, and crucially her perspective is repeatedly characterized as a distinctly feminine one.

More specifically, the film distinguishes Rachel as a sexually desirable woman, mother, and daughter. Each of these roles relate both to her work as a spy and to her personal life. Read the rest of this entry »

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