04 July 2010

"You orient yourself around him without even thinking about it"

Ah, Twilight. The perfect kind of saga for my two favourite worlds to collide - pop culture and gender theory, of course.

No, I haven’t seen Eclipse yet. And I probably won‘t for a while...at least until the teenagers (and their moms) have had their fill and I can sit in a cinema where there aren‘t high-pitched squeals every time someone takes their shirt off. That scepticism you’re sensing? It’s completely warranted! Somewhere along the line I had the opportunity to take a class for my Masters where I wrote a 25pg paper about the the Twilight series. This may have been the ultimate low (or high, depending how you look at it) in the merging of my two favourite worlds. Judge all you want - I got an A on the paper...and an offer to have my Phd supervised (should I choose to spend the next four years of my life writing about vampires).

As far as I’m concerned, the books have all amalgamated into one. I know bits of what I’m about to say don’t actually appear until the fourth instalment, but that’s beside the point - I’m simply taking the opportunity of its cinema release to enlighten the world on my view of this seemingly innocent tale of star-crossed love. And if you’re mad that I’m spoiling storyline details, get over it. It’s a low brow piece of fiction.

The Twilight saga, in a nutshell, presents certain messages (grounded in patriarchal ideology) that deals with the construction of teenage femininity- promoting traditional gender roles, a conservative view of sexuality, and most importantly, a reactive depiction of female sexuality, all causes for an otherwise informed reader to ask the following: do we really want teenage girls reading a story that promotes this kind of backlash whilst supporting some of the most damaging ideologies within our current culture?

As you can see, I wholeheartedly believe this series is capable of doing more bad than good. Why? Because I honestly think the targeted audience (females, aged 12-17) have the ability to consume these books without the knowledge of sexism in popular culture and the larger ideological powers of patriarchal society. And yes, I also believe that this could lead them to conclude certain things- namely, that Edward and Bella’s relationship is what romance, love and sex should look like.

Now of course the whole point of fiction is that the author can create a fantasy world (enter vampires and werewolves) but I think it’s also fair to say that Stephenie Meyer more accurately reproduces real and current patriarchal values and norms, ones that actually do permeate in real life. This, in short, is why I find it appropriate to label the Twilight series a literary backlash. A decidedly anti-feminist piece of fiction. There you have it. My opinion.

So - let’s get into it.

The topic of sex and female sexuality is where I want to touch base as it’s a bit of a tricky sitch between humans and vampires, particularly when the latter could quite easily kill during a moment of pure ecstasy!

Most important thing to keep in mind? Edward is first and foremost the ultimate predator...everything about him is meant to invite Bella in, in order for him to destroy her. But gee, what a guy- he makes the noble choice to be her protector instead. What. A. Hero.

(This might be a good opportunity to say that I firmly reside on Team Jacob.)

Because Edward is dangerous and Bella breakable (the playing out of male aggression and female fragility) and as we learn early on, that both are virgins, Bella’s physical safety becomes an immediate substitute for her virginity. And despite Edwards’ position as a constant threat to Bella’s physical safety, we find that she is all too willing to sacrifice this for the dangers associated with sex. So, in order to not be killed by her partner, purity and chastity (no sex!) remain the ultimate goal, hence the oxymoron ‘abstinence porn’ that some have used in describing the Twilight saga. And it’s through this exact juxtaposition, Bella’s fragility and Edward’s threatening appetite, that Meyer manages to sexualize abstinence while simultaneously romanticizing sex.

Think about it...the act of sex (even so much as kissing) can very easily lead to and/or equal death for Bella. So, it’s Edward who must takes sole responsibility for preserving Bella’s virginity (read: sexuality). So really, abstaining from the physical act(s) of intimacy become heightened and sexualized because it’s equated with danger (Bella’s death). And wouldn’t you know it, this is exactly what plays out...

“It” happens when Bella is still human so the possibility of death looms closely, permitting an otherwise critical thinker to read Bella’s overjoyed reaction to this sickening encounter as somewhat of a rape fantasy. The actual ‘scene’ is never even described- perhaps an intentional move by this otherwise conservative author (Meyer practices Mormonism..is that a word? Whatever - she‘s a Mormon. Birth control is sans appropriate as is sex before marriage...Yikes!). Anyway- Edward says something to the effect of ‘if I hurt you, tell me at once’...and through the magic of books and a few “* * *” centred on the page, we know that time has passed. The scene picks up the following morning where E and B have found a pillow torn to shreds, bite-sized chunks missing from the headboard and Bella is covered in bruises and welts. This is where things get unspeakably frustrating. Bella doesn’t even notice the marks until Edward points them out, and when she looks in the mirror, she describes herself as being ‘decorated with patches of blue and purple’. Decorated. You mean like a Christmas tree? Because those are the kinds of things I like to see decorated.

I remember reading that sentence for the first time and thinking Whoaaaa, back up the truck! The use of this word and the connotations associated are only enhancing the fact that Bella isn’t angry or fearful for her life (even though Edward almost killed her in the act of sex) but that she somehow feels more beautiful and complete, having shared something so intimate with him, something that has left these so-called ornamental, beautiful marks. Doesn’t stop there - this is what Bella says when she realizes how beat up she is: ‘I tried to remember the pain- but I couldn’t. I couldn’t recall a moment when his hold was too tight...I only remembered wanting him to hold me tighter, and being pleased when he did’. So what this seems to be suggesting is that they so perfectly belong together that any amount of pain becomes irrelevant and worthy of enduring. All in the name of love, right? And only her arms and legs were covered in bruises, correct? The act of penetration left no marks or excruciating amount of pain?

For Bella, the vulnerability associated with sex and the danger Edward poses are ultimately irrelevant because they are outweighed by a pleasure that’s obviously grounded on the basis of what she thinks love is; not only does this suggest that sex should be worth the risk of any dangers involved (uhh, pregnancy, infection to name but a few) but that it should be. Especially if two people are in love. Answer me this: does the targeted audience of these books really know what love is? Mmm probably not.

Does the targeted audience also know that a woman is much more likely to experience sexual violence by someone she knows rather than a complete stranger?

Do the readers know that partner-related violence stems far beyond the physical and that Edward manages to psychologically, emotionally and verbally abuse Bella?

Do they know that 1 in 4 female adolescents report these varying forms of violence each year? What about the girls who, for one reason or another, don’t report it?

Violence is violence. Whether you’re told you can’t hang out with your werewolf best friend because your boyfriend is jealous or whether you wake up battered and bruised from a night that’s meant to be special and memorable, it’s all violence. It’s all a way in which Edward controls Bella.

Speaking of power and control...

(Click on image to enlarge)

This wheel was developed from women who have experienced violence and is used in thousands upon thousands of domestic violence treatment centres. It acts as a way to place name to certain behaviours, something that Bella inherently refuses to do. But as you'll notice, many of these behaviours are portrayed in their relationship.

Don’t think I’m giving Twilight readers enough credit? On ‘Obsessive Edward Cullen Disorder’ (a fansite that had thousands of views when I referred to it last year), visitors were asked ‘Is Edward too controlling of Bella?’ Out of 3305 responses, only 5% agreed that he is. The vast majority (78%) were cast in favour of ‘No Way! I love him just the way he is!’ I think that says enough.

Numbers like this support the notion that, like Bella, the readers are completely unaware of how controlling Edward is and that their relationship does, in fact, blur the lines between love and intimate partner violence. And since 78% of the poll-takers don’t think Edward is too controlling, doesn’t this just prove that the readers may not know that partner-related violence goes beyond the physical? Mindboggling. And truly, truly sad.

To recap, not only do we know that Edward has to abstain from Bella‘s blood (described as his own personal brand of heroin), but he now must control his sexual appetite as well. How does he do this? By controlling Bella’s sexuality and any and all decisions regarding he and Bella’s sexual relationship. The underlying message? That when it comes to a woman’s sexuality, Bella can really only learn it as a reaction to Edwards actions. She has literally no control over the decisions made as her very existence depends on his ability to protect her, not prey on her. And as I’ve so beautifully shown, this occurs at the price of blurring the line between love and violence.

The Twilight series may have been voted by teenagers themselves as one of the ‘Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults’ but what becomes obediently accepted is that certain damaging ideologies are embraced without question. And that the literary backlash this series represents becomes dismissed through the narcotic power of romance fiction and its relationship with female audiences.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I’ve got way more ground to cover with this. Maybe that offer to do a Phd wasn’t such a bad idea after all?

Girl, Deconstructed

19 June 2010

Daisy Dukes, Bikini's on Top

Let me present you with a preview of what's to come:

The accused? Katy Perry and her latest video 'California Gurls' (yup, Gurls with a 'u'). The issue? Consumption of the female body and the infantalization of women (both represented brilliantly in the above photo).


There’s ALOT of things going on in this video, none of which promote any sort of positive aspect of what it means to be a California girl...or a woman from anywhere! The imagery is tasteless, the dance moves are cheesy, and of course, I can’t help but ponder the notion that ‘sun kissed skin so hot we’ll melt your popsicle’ is meant to conjure up some serious phallic images. Popsicles...sure.

During the first few seconds I was only annoyed that she seemed to be seriously ripping off the giant room in Wonka Land. You know the one, the only place in the world where they mix their chocolate by river :) ...But then things took a turn for the worse: she’s wearing sweets (sweets that we are meant to want to eat, but by virtue of the fact that she's wearing them, we would be eating her). And then we see her licking some of the bon bons....uh oh, this can only lead to one thing...the ultimate consumption- the sexual objectification (this is what I mean by consumption) of the female body! Enter the annoying, stick-in-your-head-for-three-days-at-a-time chorus and we are literally forced to consume Perry, naked on top of a cotton candy cloud. Awesome.

Consumption of the female body...in other words, viewing/objectifying/gazing at the female body as something to be consumed, both literally and figuratively. And if you think about it, when all's said and done, this certainly supports the notion that women and their bodies are simply meant to be consumed...by men, and in this case, the male spectator. But more on that later...

It's not just me, right? She is acting like a 5-year-old throughout, no? She completely infantalizes herself throughout the entire jont in candy land! Listen lady, you’re not a child. You’re 26, and you’re marrying someone who’s 10 years older than you. By embracing all this cutesy cupcake business and for the love of God, sporting a sexed up version of a girl guide uniform, I cannot help but seriously wonder what the fuck is up with this girl.

This is a classic example of how women can so easily (and unwittingly) promote certain values regarding femininity and as a result, become a part of their own suppression. The infantalization of the female subject, whereby Perry’s act of licking ice cream, embracing child-like/coyly innocent poses, age inappropriate costumes and so on, only helps support the understanding that many hold - women are inferior. Why? By association of course. A child cannot take care of themselves, right? So the representation of women as children helps to maintain certain male-defined meanings of what it means to be a woman- that they are fragile, inferior, need to be taken care of, and so on.

And if you actually pay attention to red carpet fashion/love the weekly gossip mags, you’ll know that Perry actually dresses like this outside of her music videos. Not only has it always been a part of her image as an artist but she’s a full blown Hello Kitty-wearing, lollipop sucking, streetwalker. Don’t believe me? Have a gander…


School girl? Blowing bubbles? Yes, infantalization.

Cool panda dress!

And the classic Perry....coyly posing, holding a lollipop, plopped in front of a kiddie pool....oh boy!

The one word that repeatedly plays over in my mind is tacky. Tacky, tasteless and of course, way too juvenile. I don’t know how music execs can take her seriously when she dresses like a rebellious pre-teen. UGH...

You know, I eventually forgave Miss Perry for kissing a girl, liking it, and hoping her boyfriend wouldn’t mind...that song was the perfect example of hetero-lesbianism, in other words, lesbianism for purpose of heterosexual men (not for the women‘s own pleasure). This time, however, I don’t know if I can forgive her for.

In both cases, she may not have produced the male-privileged meanings attached to the consumption of the female body or the infantalization of women but by participating in it she is doing nothing to eradicate such concepts- only confirming them and their existence in our culture. I, along with others, would surely argue that this makes her an accomplice in her own oppression (not that she thinks she’s oppressed, but by this I mean the general subordination of women as a whole). By promoting an image such as this, she supports claims of female inferiority.

This begs the question...

What kind of space does this song and video offer young women in terms of what it means to be a woman? A very narrow one I tell ya. The role of the female spectator is seriously restricted here- we become forced to adopt the male gaze and effectively consume her as a sexual object and therefore accept her portrayal of a sexualized and infantalized version of what it means to be a woman. Why is this, you ask? Well, have you ever pranced your way through Candyland with Snoop-a-Loop?? Didn’t think so. We simply cannot relate therefore view her from the only perspective made possible. The male gaze.

Biggest annoyance of them all? I think Russell Brand is genius.

But their pending nuptials make me like him less.

Bottom line is this….

It would be really great if there was a mainstream female artist that portrayed herself as an image of a woman for a woman; but Perry continually proves to be the exact opposite....she’s an image of a woman for a man.

Girl, Deconstructed

29 May 2010

"I really thought you were different, Finn"

I’ve been anxiously waiting the arrival of this clip on YouTube since Tuesday‘s episode of Glee. The second it aired, I actually verbalized (out loud, alone in my bedroom) ‘ooo gotta get my greedy little hands on that one!’…… Done!

Apologies for the quality - the original version has been stripped from YouTube somewhere inbetween when I started this post and now (darn copyright laws!)

I get legitimate chills watching this.

Firstly, because I think...Hang on,

...if you don’t watch Glee, you probably should. For someone like me, it’s literally mind-blowing - there’s pop culture references left, right and centre; they cover current music (whatever, I hate Lady Gaga); they cover older music (most recently Sinatra‘s ‘Lady is a Tramp‘)…and for the younger generation of viewers, this is probably their first listen to some everlasting classics; annnnnd lastly, I’m kind of in love with Puck.

Sigh....back on track...here’s some context to the above clip:

Kurt’s dad, Burt (Ha!) and Finn's mom are dating. And moving in together. Burt loves Finn- he’s the football-playing, heterosexual son Kurt could never be. Enter Finn's enraged schpeel about the drapery and Burt stands up for Kurt (seriously, the rhyming!) in a fricking heartbeat. The underlying intensity of this scene is grounded in the painstaking heartache that is Kurt and Burt's relationship. They've both made attempts at embracing the other's interests but as we’ve seen all season, their relationship remains strained. Kurt even tried his hand at being straight a few episodes ago- and it didn’t even feel like it was so much for Burt's approval but rather so they could have some things to talk about (namely girls, lumberjack ensembles and John Mellencamp). We saw the extent Kurt was willing to go to be a part of his dad’s life and this week, we finally saw Burt stand up for his son when it mattered most.

If we take this tiny clip, this small portion of an (already) iconic television show and enlarge it tenfold, we can see that it addresses a seriously important issue. Language. Better yet - the pejorative use of it, also known as derogatory slang.

Have you ever heard anyone say the following?

That’s so gay.
Stop being a fag.
You’re a retard.

Have you ever said some variation of the above? It’s okay, I have too. But in 2003 (yes I remember the year, it was during Frosh week of my undergrad) I started making an extremely conscious effort to take these words out of my vocabulary. For good. It wasn’t like I was going around dropping bombs all the time, but I most certainly used them sporadically. But now...pfft, you can bet your bottom dollar I’d rather eat a light bulb than call someone by a name so inappropriate. So disgusting. Sure, it took a bit of effort (a few lip-biting incidents) but proved to be more than worth it in the end. I took responsibility for something that I hadn't created or produced but could've easily been a part of. I chose not to participate.

Burt Hummel dosed out some serious information-questioning to Finn- scratch that, to Finn and (hopefully) Glee audiences everywhere. And it made me love its creator (Ryan Murphy) that much more. Not only did he push the envelope so far as to say ‘fag’ on primetime television, but in so doing he created a situation where the characters could address a hugely important social issue.

Gay, Retard, Fag...all in their pejorative form suggest that something (or someone) is abnormal. (What’s normal, you say? Whole other can of worms!) Every time you or someone you know uses these words- joke or not, no matter what the context- you/they are only affirming current laws and social norms which suggest homosexual people, disabled people (and so on) should be treated as 'not normal'. In short, you only confirm the worst traits of our society when you choose to use words like this.

Glee gets it. And has showed us where these pejorative meanings stem from and how they can so easily be dismissed as meaningless everyday slang. So come on people, let’s be that generation Burt Hummel talks about... 'that new generation of dude' who sees things differently- 'who just came in to the world knowing'.

And that’s what you missed on...Glee

Girl, Deconstructed

25 May 2010

(Insert generic male name), will you accept this rose?

The girl who once chose her career over love now officially bats for the opposing team, the fairytale. Enter Ali - the new bachelorette.

First things first, what is up with this photo? I think it's the childish cutesiness of the hand-on-chin combination. And she's wearing a pair of Converse...with a wedding dress. Ohhh, I get it.....So what you're saying is that you're serious about marriage but you're also a fun-loving gal who likes to mix things up. Awesome.

I have to admit - I sort of ashamedly enjoy this show. But I justify it by the fact that, like most bits of pop culture, I enjoy it through the always-present informed lens. Alright, sometimes I just enjoy it for all its juicy drama (reality television has some sort of hold over my life.) I don’t however, watch this programme and others like it, for the fairytale it so falsely promotes.

I only ever caught a few episodes of last season's Bachelor (in which Ali left for reasons explained below) but I definitely do like her...(I wrote this section before the episode aired last night. I think I might actually hate her...it looks like she might cry... ALOT.) One thing's for certain, I'm glad she forewent a future with the prepetually lame, nerdy (and not in the cool way) Jake. Such a dink…

See? Dink.

But alas, he is the reason Ali caught my attention. In short, when she was faced with the tough choice whether to stay on the show or keep her job, Ali inevitably took the realistic, non-fairytale route. She apparently had her dream job and at the end of the day, couldn't gaurantee that Jake would choose her. So, for anyone keeping score that's Career, 1; Love, 0. And even though we witnessed her immediate regret when whinging about having made the wrong choice, I respected her decision. Why? Because at the very least, it was a nod to this thing I like to call real life.

Then she got offered The Bachelorette. Can we blame ABC? The poor girl had to go back to work! She lost her chance at love...what a sad and tragic event. Of course they were going to offer her the new season! I mean, what better way to make up for it than asking her to leave her job permanently! And as we now know, she did. So while that would make it a tie game, Career, 1; Love, 1, I'm effectively overriding career's point on account of Ali's idiocy. Apparently love. conquers. all.

So what do I think is in store?

Well, considering the eight minute ‘This Season on The Bachelorette...’ segment, it looks like my Monday nights are about to get real interesting! Hands-down best bit? A group of the guys suspect Kasey for being legitimately obsessed with Ali. Like, stalker-obsessed! Ambulance sirens are heard, a distraught Ali is shown, Kasey shows up the next day with bandages around his wrist...ohh Boy!

Well readers, I did a little digging. Someone who suggests that their ideal date is (and I quote) "horseback riding on the ocean, followed by lunch on a sailboat, then coming home to a prepared dinner with candlelight" needs to seriously get a grip.

Plus, there's embroidery on his shirt.

In the spirit of yachting and candles, that's the other thing I can't handle - the forced romance. And they’re only making it worse this season by shipping Ali and the boys around the world...well who wouldn’t wanna fall in love in an exotic location with someone they've only known for three weeks?!? Ali does! (I kinda do too actually.) And as someone who actually has, let me just say the location can blind you to your partner's faults. End of.

My stomach literally turns at the thought of fairytale type stuff - not the being in love part, just the actual acts of romance...I don't know about you, but I do not want to sip champagne, wrapped in a blanket at the top of the Eiffel Tower. That, to me, is not romantic. It's not original, it's not personal, it's crap. Plus, I hated Paris.

Nonetheless, if you do watch the Bachelorette (heck, even if you don’t!) stay tuned for more indulgences, because let's be frank here, this show offers a whole realm of worthy topics...representations of heteromasculinity, the non-existence of racial diversity (thank GOD she gave the ‘first impression rose’ to Roberto, the only non-white bachelor out of the entire 25)....perhaps even a look into the promotion of traditionalism, for instance, the importance in maintaining the nuclear family through reality romance television.

So while I may have only written this to ensure myself of having a valid reason to watch The Bachelorette, I guess I’ll just accept the fact that like Ali, I’m going to be there until the final rose is given. Whether I like it or not.

Girl, Deconstructed

17 May 2010

Advocate this....

"She’s basically a short man with boobs. A lot of what I love about her is her butchness. I’m not saying I fell in love with her in a sexually neutral way. I love her sexuality—it’s a big part of what I love about her—but I feel like it was her. It wasn’t something in me that was waiting to come out. It was like, this person is undeniable. How can I let this person walk by? Christine would probably kill me for saying this, but my daughter said one time that if you really had to break this down, [it looks like] she would be butch and I would be femme."

-Cynthia Nixon on her partner Christine, The Advocate, June 2010

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

First up - I love Nixon for the way she rejects the idea that you have to be either gay or straight, one or the other, as if it’s all that black and white! Instead, Nixon offers us a tale that many before her have told. It may seem ridiculously obvious and simple to say that love has absolutely nothing to do with gender, but for someone like her who has a heterosexual past (married with 2 kids), she defends her current status in a same-sex relationship by aknowledging her belief that love is about being drawn to someone who is undeniable, whose force is so magnetic. Gender? Pfft, doesn't matter. (I know, still sounds a bit obvious…hold on).

It's absolutely true to say that gender’s only purpose is to build a wall, a boundary if you will, by which the majority of society determines who their life mate should be. Most of us stay within this boundary and simply reject the notion that Nixon believes - “If anybody, prior to my meeting and falling in love with Christine, had asked me about what I think about sexuality, I would have said I think we’re all bisexual. But I had that point of view without ever having felt attracted to a woman. I had never met a woman I was attracted to [before Christine].”

It is for this, her recognition of bisexuality as something more seemingly natural than most of us may think, that I admire Nixon’s effort in maintaining that she had no ’knock-you-down sense of shock’, no coming-out moment. Just a realization that she had fallen in love with an amazing soul....who happened to be a woman.

If only I wasn't so motivated to find the rain cloud in everything :)

My reason for eye-rolling begins here...

Calling one’s partner ‘a short man with boobs’ doesn't really feel like the best compliment one could pay, despite the fact that I'm certain she said this lovingly. According to Nixon, this butchiness is a lot of what she loves about Christine, who, the interviewer also points out, dresses in men’s clothing and would most certainly be at odds on a lunch date with Carrie, Charlotte and Samantha (lame joke).

FINE, so Christine isn't what our current culture would call 'traditionally feminine'...don't even get me started on that, entire other entry on it's own.

But here's the thing about masculinity...

We know it's considered of higher value than it's counterpart, femininity - our patriarchal culture confirms this, as does the fact that our language operates through creating hierarchical binaries (in normal words: opposites, whereby one half of the opposing concepts is given higher value). So, we know that in a hetero relationship, men come to benefit from the privileged meaning attached to the concept of masculinity because it's our patriarchal culture that creates these meanings in the first place. Still with me??? Refer to 'A Brief Introdution to Poststructuralism' and you'll be sorted ;)

So, by virtue of the fact that there are also two people in a same-sex relationship, one half will (theoretically) be held at a higher value simply because that‘s how our culture operates - things only have meaning when there‘s something opposing them. But because of the fact that we are trained to think heterosexuality is the norm, one partner in a same-sex relationship will (theoretically) be masculine and the other feminine and in so doing, we end up creating concepts like butch/femme whereby same sex relationships have the potential and ability to reflect (by appearance) some version of a heterosexual couple.

The obsession with ‘Who’s butch? Who’s femme?’ (in any same sex relationship - lesbian or gay) gets me in a bit of a twist. Why do we need to deem one half of a same sex couple more feminine or masculine than the other? As I‘ve just outlined through my use of language and meaning systems (whaaaat?...seriously, Poststructuralism is the coolest stuff if you can get in to it!), the answer is actually pretty simple. Because that’s how deeply embedded ‘heterosexuality as the norm’ lies....within our social processes, institutions, and systems of meaning. In short, our entire society and culture.

This deeply ingrained norm is what could make Nixon's relationship (and others like her and Christine's), easier for some people in our culture to accept - by appearance, they are essentially some version, some degree, of a heterosexual couple. But it's also a piss-off because it's only furthering the point that we look at lesbian and gay couples and try and pick out the butch, the femme. And that's not right. Now I'm not saying the butch/femme dichotomy is only destructive or limiting (as I know these concepts can have varied and positive meanings in LGBT communities), but I simply wanted to point out how our language, our male-defined meanings and institutions, processes and cultures, can create concepts that only help to further the assumption and belief that heterosexuality is the norm. Woman and Man...end of.

Girl, Deconstructed

11 May 2010

'If you're gonna by my man, understand I can't be tamed'....cool lyrics Miley, cool lyrics

On November 23, 2010 Miley Cyrus will turn 18. She'll be a legal adult....and shit might hit the fan.

In the last year or so, it’s been hard not to notice Miley’s transformation- both physically and musically. With the announcement that Hannah Montana would soon be coming to an end, Miley immediately began focusing on an entirely different, non-Disney version of herself (which, at the end of the day, I think we can all appreciate). Her hair went four hundred shades of dark, she hired a new stylist (have to say, some of her red carpet looks are unbelievably put together) and she started releasing music that probably had Mom’s across the globe feeling a touch uneasy regarding the whereabouts of one Miss Hannah Montana.

Miley’s latest uproar? Her song and accompanying video ’Can’t Be Tamed’. First let me just say what an original concept this is...........

....sense the sarcasm. It's not even worth trying to pick apart this song - we’ve heard it in 452 different ways by 452 different pop tarts. However, for your viewing pleasure...

I don't blame you if you couldn't make it through the entire 3 min 49 secs....it's painful. The jist: a ‘creature’ formerly believed to be extinct is unveiled at the circus and wouldn’t you know it, it's none other than the offspring of Billy Ray Cyrus! But this isn't just any offspring - this one’s sitting in a bird's nest, clad in leather and bondage-like arm pieces. She sports Snooki-esque hair, 3lbs of black eyeliner and 5-foot spanning black wings. Yup...wings.

The best part, you ask??

"Every guy everywhere just gives me mad attention
Like I'm under inspection, I always get the 10's
Cause I'm built like that"

As they say in the old country, bloody. ruddy. brilliant.

Sigh.....I just can’t buy into a sexed up version of Hannah Montana and I'm left wondering if the rest of the public can either. She obviously (and respectfully so) has the pipes to transition from teen star to adult singer..I'm not doubting that! But she will also always be Hannah Montana and it's for this reason that I've come to believe the teens who fall within the post-Disney age demographic may not be able to take her seriously. They were too old (and cool) for Hannah Montana and now too smart (and cool) to accept Miley for anything else.

I certainly don’t think it’s her intention to alienate her tween fans through this newfound sexiness (she's simply growing up and on her own journey of self discovery). But if I was the mother of a 13 year old, no, I probably wouldn’t be enthused that Miley's 'on stage' persona appears to be straying from what she once proudly emulated - wholesomeness? innocence? You choose. Plus - didn't she pole dance during a performance at the Teen Choice Awards whilst singing about partying in the USA. Partying? Aren't you, like, 12?

Now...here's where I'm going with this...Have we not already seen this exact same attempt at transitioning from teen star to adult singer and the subsequent fall out that came along with it? Does the name Britney Spears ring any bells?

It’s TEXTBOOK people. Let's consider the basics:

They're both from the South.
They're proud Christian girls who have publicly talked about their beliefs.
Both have announced plans to save sex for marriage (and we all know how that went for Britney.)
Each were figuratively 'owned' by Disney (for different lengths of time) while underage.

And in Brit Brit’s case…
Turns 18 and slowly but surely, falls completely off her rocker.

Miley’s career is mirroring that of Britney's early days to an uncanny degree right now! And while I will maintain that Britney lost her adored public image when JT released 'Cry Me a River' and the world found out she was a cheating be-atch, it's also probably safe to say that the ultra sexy image she embraced with the release of 'I'm a Slave' confirmed that Britney wanted us to change our view of who she was as a performer. So it's merely a coincidence that her life unravelled shortly thereafter????

I’d love to say that it seems Miley has a way better head on her shoulders but when Britney was 18, the world seemed like her oyster too. Hello?! She was dating Justin Timberlake and they wore matching denim ensembles. Life can't really get much better. No denim ensembles to report just yet but Mily is in her first serious (and public) relationship. You just wait...disaster will strike!

In all honesty, I have nothing against Miley. I don't actually want her to fall apart the way Britney did. And I do understand and appreciate how hard it must be to go from tween to teen to young adult in front of billions of people, but I'm just crossing my fingers and toes that Miley doesn’t go from THIS


The most important thing we can do to help? The un-tame-able 17yr old sings it best herself: ‘if you try and hold me back I might explode’ …Well little lady, best of fucking luck.

Girl, Deconstructed

26 April 2010

Donor Dad? Stone Cold Fox.

The Kids Are All Right film trailer

There’s four very positive points to make about The Kids Are All Right trailer:

1) Vampire Weekend. ’Cousins’ is featured in the opening seconds. Heck yes…indications of a promising soundtrack.

2) Mini Gwyneth Paltrow (Mia Wasikowska) as the begrudgingly, ballsy daughter - proof that Tim Burton has the power to turn nobody’s in to somebody’s (she played Alice, and she played her well).

3) a jewellery-wearing, bike-riding, slightly-greying, scruffy-bearded Mark Ruffalo. I swoon.

And of course, most importantly 4) A married lesbian couple, played by two of the biggest female actors in Hollywood, is making its debut on the big screen.

The Kids Are All Right looks smart. It looks clever and fresh. And while its not out until July (I’ve disappointingly heard it may be limited release), it does appears there are some critics over at Rotten Tomatoes who have gotten their greedy hands on a copy. One critic describes the film as ’cleverly peppered with laughter’. What an amazing combination of two words. Cleverly peppered…

My feeling about trailers is that you have to view them with a teeny grain of salt. That said, please take my forthcoming critique as neither conclusive or in any way correct. Trailers themselves can provide little inclination as to how I’ll actually end up feeling about the film (Shutter Island being a perfect example of this - horribly misleading trailer, amazing film) but I’m hoping this one won’t disappoint, despite a few red flags...

If you please:

It has the potential to be full of clichés, but then again I suppose it’s rare for any movie to be completely void of them. Maybe this red flag is waving at the thought that it could be full of lesbian clichés? Hopefully the following will expand...

The physical juxtaposition of the Mom’s and the way its utilized throughout the trailer is a bit of an overused representation of lesbians in mainstream pop culture. Julianne Moore is instantly pitted as the more feminine partner. Why? Well, for starters, her hair is longer. Yes that’s right. That’s how annoyingly obvious mainstream culture’s representation of lesbians can be. Come on, admit it. At least 7/10 of you immediately pinned Annette Bening as the more masculine partner, completely based on her physical appearance. And it's not your fault for doing so. It's just confirmation of an age-old, completely outdated cliché.


As we discover at the 1m37sec mark, Moore’s character is also the one most likely to be/have been/become heterosexual. The fact that she is both desired by and (at least momentarily) desires Ruffalo only helps to confirm that she is, in fact, more feminine as a direct result of being just that- desired by a heterosexual man. But more importantly - why the shit is she kissing Donor Dad?? This. Is. Ludicrous. Yet I’m simultaneously so intrigued..was Moore’s character straight at one point in time? Did she hop on Stone Cold Fox because he’s the sperm to her egg? Or was she simply curious about what it would be like to kiss a man? I have to wait until July 7for answers???

'A film that plays fast and loose with sexuality’ claims another critic over at Rotten Tomatoes. My response to this- things better get real juicy in the 1h44min of screen time because quite frankly, I'm not remotely getting that vibe from the trailer. If we’re going to receive the message that all women who are desireable and therefore desired by men are apparently (and perhaps inherently?) heterosexual, then it is most certainly not playing fast and loose with sexuality- it's only doing the opposite, preserving traditional heterosexuality. Cliche.

And lastly, I sincerely hope the underlying message throughout the entire film does not have to do with the fact that a family with both male and female parenting figures is the best way to raise a well-rounded child. That would be the biggest cliche of them all.

You can bet your bottom dollar there will be a full review of The Kids Are All Right come July...until then I'll be spending the better part of my time attempting to come up with a phrase as equally charming as ‘cleverly peppered with laughter’.

Finally, for your swooning pleasure:

Girl, Deconstructed

25 April 2010

Because I'm wearing white pants....

Hopefully by now you’ve heard of the U by Kotex campaign. If not, here's a marvelous refresher...

This requires absolutely no explanation. Just a healthy outpouring of appreciation and love. And a massive shoutout to the Kotex employee whose idea it was to include the clip of a screaming, white cat.

I discovered this one a few days ago- same campaign (which is actually pretty cool - check www.ubykotex.com for a quick peek). I'm leaning towards the thought that this one is just a web commercial as I have yet to see it on my t.v and somehow doubt that it will make it there.

The sarcasm is laid on quite a bit thicker than the first one, no?

Again though, no explanation necessary. Just an oversized outpouring of admiration for a company who’s making a keen effort to change the way women think about their bodies. Period.

Brutal pun but I couldn't resist :)

‘Don’t all these angles make me seem dynamic?’

Girl, Deconstructed

Practice Safe Breath

‘How Do you Prepare Yourself When You Know You’re Going To Get Close With Someone Else?’

If we read this ad at its most literal level then sure, there’s nothing wrong. The people in the ad are kissing; as a precaution, they may want some gum. But in our overly (and overtly) sexualized culture, we know the real topic here is sex.

I can’t even admire Dentyne for the scenarios with which the need for ‘gum‘ presents itself- it’s all a bit obvious, right? We get it - gum equals condom, kissing equals sex. Wow, that must’ve taken the advertising team hours to come up with. You mean they’re not talking about gum? OR kissing? Shocking.

Call me crazy but it’s my assumption that most people above the age of 19 have probably experienced one of the three scenarios presented (to Dentyne’s disappointment we find ourselves in need of an actual condom, not a piece of icy gum.) The irony is that the age demographic featured in the commercial (the same demographic the ad is targeted towards) are among the highest rate of adults who have unprotected sex (adults under 25 contract and spread 9.1 million STI‘s each year in the U.S).

My concern then, is this: nothing’s actual being done to promote safe sex here. Forget promoting it- nothing’s even being done to say ‘Hey, you might need more than just gum!’ Yes, I'm acutely aware that it’s not Dentyne’s job to educate today's youth about practicing safe sex, but that’s what’s so annoying! This topic stems so far past gum that, for me, it stands outside the realm of metaphors Dentyne should be using in their ads. In the end, it only confirms and reinforces the fact that people in their 20’s have way too much unprotected sex!!

We live in a culture that’s too sexy for its own good. And in an effort to sell gum, Dentyne not only sexualizes it (which is a whole other can of worms in itself!) but does so by confirming an issue of serious concern. An issue that should not be reinforced by a chewing gum company in a lame effort to sell its latest product.

If anything, I'm crossing my fingers that condom sales increase as a direct result of this wonderfully constructed ad.

Girl, Deconstructed

19 April 2010


If there was ever a student who could take an essay question and turn it into an excuse to watch Heathers, Clueless and Mean Girls all for the sake of one academic paper, it’s me. Oh, I’ve definitely ruined many of my favourite shows, films and books in the process of all this deconstruction (not to mention the memories that go with them) but in the end, I've spent the better part of six years completing two degrees on two different continents, all with a common purpose - to question information. Always.

And that’s what Girl, Deconstructed is all about - a medley of my academic background and my (sometimes) pathetic but undying love of pop culture. In other words, examining pop culture through an informed and gendered lens. Par example,

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Did you know that Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland is a commentary on female puberty in the Victorian Era? And that Tim Burton's version still upholds many of those reclusive themes, despite Alice's feminist(ish) happy ending?

Are you one of the few who actually recognize that Bella and Edward’s relationship blurs the lines between love and intimate partner violence? (This would be a good opportunity to say that I side with Team Jacob.)

And aren't you just completely appreciative yet slightly dumbfounded that it took Kotex THIS long to come up with a commercial so hilariously witty?

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So please… sit back and enjoy while I take it upon myself to simultaneously destroy and enlighten your experiences of pop culture.

Girl, Deconstructed