thinking big: feminism, media, and pop culture

Posts Tagged ‘rebound’

Student Loan Slow Jams: That’s Entertainment

In Television on April 26, 2012 at 12:27 pm

Sarah T.

Contemporary American politics often bows to the pressures of entertainment.  Many of the candidates in this year’s GOP primaries seemed more like the cast of a reality TV show (Toothy Delusional Penthouse? I guess that’s just The Apprentice) than people seriously contending for a spot in the big white dome. Politicians pander to 24-hour news cycle with empty sound bites that appear ripped from the latest “In a world…” disaster movie trailers. Meanwhile, a media starved for content often focuses on inane details that have little to do with practical matters of government (CookieGate: the new arugula?) .

But as President Obama’s Tuesday appearance on Jimmy Fallon shows, the marriage of politics and entertainment can be a two-way street. While entertainment value often dumbs down political conversations, the student loan slow jam harnessed the fun of watching the Barack-ness monster get his groove on in order to get out a serious message.

Accompanied by the dulcet vocals of Fallon and the Roots, Obama broke down the issue at hand. Interest on Stafford student loans will double from 3.4 to 6.8 percent interest in July unless Congress acts to stop it. Insert movie trailer guy voice here, but for real: In a world where $1 trillion worth of U.S. student loan debt could become the next subprime mortgage crisis, where tuition costs climb ever higher as the feasibility of getting a decent job without a college degree continues to shrink, we must take action to make higher education affordable for everyone. As the POTUS himself says, “Now is not the time to make school more expensive for our young people.”

The student loan slow jam was a smooth, smart move.  Its conceit is plenty goofy, but the subject matter is serious. The song strikes just the right balance between the two tones by leaving the wisecracks to Fallon and the Roots. Obama plays the straight man, explaining why the vote on Stafford loans matters. His message is delivered a little more rhythmically than usual thanks to a cool beat, but it comes through loud and clear. The sketch is also great PR for Obama: he comes across as both accessible and presidential, the kind of man who can afford to be a little silly because he’s got gravitas to spare.

What’s more, the skit worked. By Wednesday morning, the video had already gone viral; blogs, Facebook and Twitter feeds were littered with links to the slow jam. In response to a surge of public interest, and corresponding public pressure, House Speaker John Boehner scheduled a Friday vote on the extension.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that the vote will pass, or that it will pass without big trade-offs. Republicans want to use health care funds to pay for the lost revenue, which will likely be cause for another contentious debate. (Even if, as the song pleads, “The right and left should join on this like Kim and Kanye.”) But the student loan slow jam was a reminder that pop culture can spark effective political conversations without stooping to the lowest common denominator — particularly when star power is wielded by politicians who know how, and when, to use it.

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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.”

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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 »