Friday, May 2, 2014

Final post!

This is my final project! Hope you enjoy!

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I chose this topic because, as I reviewed what we've talked about in class this semester,  plus with a personal family situation going on with my own teenage brother, I was really bothered by the fact that teen dating violence - and teen relationships as a whole - are so poorly represented and seemingly not discussed nearly enough. Why do adults view the relationships teens have as "other"? As not nearly "real" as our own? The first clip is from an apparently popular tv show which is solely about teens and relationships (The Secret Life of the American Teenager). It's awful, and a solid example of how the media skews everything pertaining to teenagers. However, my project also includes an amazing example of teens talking back, and speaking up, against dating violence, so this post is kind of a mix of these things.

Here is another link to a more local example, it's just teens discussing social media on the Rhode Show, but is somewhat informative:

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Tricia Rose

First of all, I would like to say that Tricia Rose is pretty rad! I have read excerpts from two of her books within the art history program (really interesting connection, actually, to modern American art - especially when you're talking about cultural appropriation in all aspects of art and media) and enjoyed all that I read, even though I personally do not know much about or identify with any hip hop music whatsoever. I know of a few other scholars because of this particular background, but can't find the paper I wrote which used some articles that go along well with Rose's work.

Her mission seems to be informing people about the truth of hip hop - where it began, why it's important, what it's really saying, and how it's been stolen, appropriated, misconstrued, distorted, and why that's so. Talking about and understanding intersectionality is the key to her work, and she uses hip hop culture as a framework to teach us about intersectionality, and vice versa I think.

She says in the interview with Time that "there is an incredibly rich world of hip-hop that has been literally buried. I tell my friends and students, That's why they call it the underground — because it's in fact buried. But it's not dead; it's an underworld. It's like the Matrix, an alternative world that has its flaws but is part of a living force." Again, I know very little about the genre, but I feel this statement connects to the type of music I listen to in very same way. There's corporate rock, and shitty "punk rock" bands following certain trends to specifically appeal to one group (i.e.  middle class white kids under the age of 21), and it lacks the substance of bands that are playing underneath the mainstream surface. I think the same argument is made by Rose and others when it comes to hip hop and its commercialization since its inception.

For your viewing pleasure, the artist Kehinde Wiley does some absolutely amazing portraits of famous rappers and hip hop artists using famous Baroque and 19th century European works (typically those of Napoleon Bonaparte) as a backdrop. This is a great, informative link that discusses what he is doing here more in depth than I could really describe:

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Queer Representation in the Media

The author of the "Queer Representation in Film and TV" states  that networks are willing to feature queer characters- so long as the shows are profitable and have high viewer ratings. I think that although shows like Will & Grace or Queer Eye for the Straight Guy becoming popular in the mainstream is a somewhat positive thing, these shows still grossly stereotype the queer community, so what good is it really doing? Not all gay men are wealthy and stylish, but that's what it takes for America to be okay with queer representation in a prime time slot, I guess. The author says networks are being cautious, where I would say they're just feeding into stereotypes or just plain old making them up as they go. The section on "Queer Representation in the Media" suggests that the queer community pushed back against this and there has been slightly wider representation since, but since I don't watch a lot of tv, I don't know how true that is, or how much better it has gotten. I would even venture that Queer Eye might be used in homophobic arguments, that gay men are trying to "turn" straight guys gay. Is that the case? NO, of course not, but look at popular shows aimed toward a similar demographic in a similar time slot: freaking Duck Dynasty. I do often wonder about who makes these shows - what is their identity and speaking location? I really liked the questions it asks of queer representation, as it reminds me of the Bechdel test we spoke of several weeks ago (I think many tv shows would fail, horribly).

In all of my excitement for seeing my favorite comic series turned into live action movies, I had never really thought about the film's plot also being a reference to queer representation and acceptance, nor did I know that the director (Bryan Singer) identified as queer! It makes me love the franchise even more!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Orenstein "Cinderella Ate My Daughter"


 I highly enjoyed this article, because not only did it play into my intense feelings that Disney is mostly bullshit, but because Orenstein's writing style is funny, accessible, and not densely theoretical (I needed a break from that!), and she points out things I have never even considered when it comes to the princess phenomenon.

1. “I had never seen a study proving that playing princess specifically damages girls’ self esteem or dampens other aspirations. There is, however, ample evidence that the more mainstream media girls consume, the more importance they place on being pretty and sexy. And a ream of studies shows that teenage girls and college students who hold conventional beliefs about femininity – especially those that emphasize beauty and pleasing behavior – are less ambitious and more likely to be depressed than their peers. They are also less likely to report that they enjoy sex or insist that their partners use condoms. None of that bodes well for Snow White’s long-term mental health.”
           None of this surprises me, but I think it's a good, succinct description of the downward spiral girls face today when it comes to the media. American media is directly built upon patriarchal demands that women either have no outward sexuality (but a private one which caters to the sexuality of men, no matter what), or if they do, that it must still exclusively cater to men. 

2. “Dressing up fancy, at least for now, was something she felt she got to do, not something she had to do. It was a source of power and privilege.”
            This was really interesting to me, as I haven't really ever thought of this princess phenomenon like this. I've always that it seemed negative, a way to keep girls in traditional gender roles and not much more. It's nice to see little girls might often feel this way about dressing as princesses and etc., but I wonder how long this idea really lasts - because it doesn't last, at least not entirely. I suppose I've heard some women my age comment that getting ready to go out is often the best part of going out (which, depending on where they go, is easily true, when I recall all the times I've been dragged to bars that are out of my normal routines and the near- fights I've been in with sexually aggressive men). But I do think there comes a point when little girls stop dressing up for fun, and it becomes more of an act. Of course it isn't the same for every girl, but I think perhaps teen girls face this struggle the most.

3. "The simplicity of American Girl is expensive, while the finery of princess comes cheap. In the end, though, the appeal to parents is the same: both lines tacitly promise to keep girls young and 'safe' from sexualization."
             I also hadn't considered that many parents recognize the dangers of Disney princess culture, but opt into it because they don't want their daughters to grow up too fast. At face value, I think maybe both lines do promote childhood free from sexualization, but when we go back to the first quote listed, it doesn't matter anyways - which is horrifying to think that the media has that much power over gender roles and sexuality.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Museum of the American Teenager

The topic of my exhibit is heavy metal! 

It's a genre of music near and dear to my own heart, as I grew up with exposure to some legendary metal bands. I specifically want to explore why metal during the 1980s became so popular with teens, and the cultural conflict that existed (and still does) between metal music, Regan era conservatism (via homophobic, sexist, pro-patriarchy religious icons like Pat Robertson), and the view of teens who listened to metal during this time. My premise is that metal offered many teens (although not all teens, as the fanbase was largely male, and white) a space to be themselves and express themselves as they wished without the harsh criticism and backlash of American society under Ronald Reagan conservatism. Metal, and teens who listened to metal bands, unfortunately did receive backlash anyways in the culture wars of the time: deemed as Satanic cult members and branded as evil, regardless of what anyone's personal beliefs actually were.

Current sources:
- Weinstein, Deena. Heavy Metal: A Cultural Sociology.
- Wiederhorn, Jon. Louder Than Hell: The Definitive Oral History of Metal.
- Harrison, Thomas. Music of the 1980s.   *This is worth a look to a few other projects!
- Bukszpan, D. The Encyclopedia of Heavy Metal.
- Arnett, Jeffrey Jensen. Metalheads: Heavy Metal Music and Adolescent Alienation.
- Berelian, Essi. Rough Guide to Heavy Metal.

I'd like to ask everyone how much text they plan on including in their posters.... I am a little nervous about including too much, or too little.

A little sample of one of my all-time favorite bands, Iron Maiden. A lot of my aesthetics for my poster will be linked to this band and their imagery. 

Gilbert "A Cycle of Outrage: America's Reaction to the Juvenile Delinquent in the 1950s"


1. "But for all these positive conclusions Americans remained puzzled and distressed by the activities of postwar teenagers. Perhaps that is why speeches and newspaper and periodical articles sought to introduce and explain to the public a phenomenon that was already very familiar. Certainly adults did not lack exposure to adolescents. Yet hostility and suspicion cast a pall of misunderstanding between generations and within families, communities, and institutions devoted to the young. At their worst - and to many observers, the worst already prevailed - teenagers lacked a sense of the line between good fun and delinquency." pg.12
        This statement could so very easily be applied to any subsequent generation after WWII, I feel. (It could also easily apply to groups other than teenagers for that matter.) But I think that's the point Gilbert wants to subtly make as well: that after the war, it becomes a cycle of adults attempting to analyze, understand, and categorize the new generation of youth and their icons. Humans are generally fearful and suspicious of that which they do not immediately understand, and so we seek to explain and control the unknown by any means we can. It's a more in-depth analysis and historical look of one of our core assumptions: that teens are "other" or alien life forms who make no sense to adults.  

2. "The frenzied dances, music, and ritualized family rebellions forewarned of a larger and very serious social problem." pg. 13
          This strikes me as funny, because Gilbert doesn't comment on what the serious social problem actually was, just on what it was perceived to be at the time. Being a teen is a social construction, so really, the "very serious social problem" being talked about here doesn't have to do with the subjects under scrutiny, but those who are doing the scrutinizing. But this is a historical article, not a gender studies article, so it makes sense Gilbert doesn't say much about this.

3. "Yet to be successful, films had to evoke sympathy from young people who were increasingly intrigued by the growing youth culture of which delinquency seemed to be one variant....These films broke new ground for Hollywood because each simultaneously generated a good deal of controversy (including the accusation of prompting delinquent behavior) and each stimulated enormous interest in, and perhaps participation in, a new youth culture." pgs. 178-179
           Oh, Hollywood. It never fails as a beacon of what's wrong (and, I guess, what's right) with American culture. What came first then, the idea that teens of the 1950s were susceptible to delinquency, people adopting this idea, or movies about the idea? Gilbert uses analysis of movies about this topic because it's easily accessible, we can get a better glimpse of the atmosphere in the 1950s through film because film is directly a product of an era, and since we didn't witness it firsthand, this is the best we can do to understand at a very general, broad level. 

I decided to look up other films surrounding this era and gathered some clips for you to check out:
The Lords of Flatbush (1974) - has the Fonze in it!

Hey Good Lookin' (1982)
West Side Story (1961)

I also would like to have discussed Alan Freed and the DJs who introduced new rock n' roll acts to American teens - or the role of adults influencing youth culture, and the lack of mention of them when people talk about youth in the 1950s.

Raby "A Tangle of Discourses: Girls Navigating Adolescence


I liked what Raby was attempting to do with her study, but found that it's such a small, specific example of people that she interviewed, that I didn't particularly think it was the best reflection of the relationships between teen girls of various generations and the discourse surrounding adolescence (which she does admit, but still, it wasn't easy to relate to for me). I also think that her terms for the five main discourses she's talking about are accurate ways to describe the ways teens are talked about and represented - in terms of "at risk" and "the storm", I don't know how many times I had to hear adults around me talk about hormones and rebellion. Plus, the way in which Catholic school informs you about sexuality is so abhorrently narrow (obviously), you can't help but wonder sometimes if adults are really the problem and not your hormones.

But if I had to really examine the period of time in which I felt I was "becoming", it certainly has been the years immediately following adolescence. Between 19 and 24, I have felt the strongest sense of exploration and uselessness. My dad passed away suddenly on my "sweet" 16, and I think instead of playing into these discourses as a teen, I actively just did the opposite of what anyone anticipated me to do. I just felt so frustrated that adults wrote me off as an angsty teen, so I instead grew up faster than maybe I should have in order to feel like I belonged. I remember the anxiety I had when I got to college and wondered if I'd missed out on something important, and it caused me to just go nuts in my 20s. Actually, I think despite what the media would have us think, teens often just grow up too fast because of this discursive pressure, which can cripple us emotionally in our 20s. My question this week is: Do you ever wonder just why it is that people in their 20s are living at home more than ever before? I think there's a connection between the two ideas, but have a hard time putting why I think that is into words. I just know that having those negative associations that Raby is talking about, including my relationship with my grandma and the generational differences there, I felt more strongly after my teen years as a direct rejection of those things.

  This my best friend, who I met in the absolute worst time in my life (when I was 20), and I circa this summer.
This is me at 16 (holy crap). I still wonder what I missed out on because of adults pressuring me to be a "good girl" and not a "rebellious teenager".

This is just a song by my favorite band, who not only has been a refuge for over 10 years, but often writes about teenage pressures and decisions, and how it manifests as you get to be considered an adult.

Christensen "Unlearning the Myths that Bind Us"


Linda Christensen is arguing in this article that what we perceive as our "culture" is really what systems of power (which I strongly feel is still accurately called patriarchy) use to force or convince us to buy into the systems, beginning with our early development. Patriarchal structures begin shaping children at a very young age what is "normal" and "right". Christensen is calling this a "secret education", because it is so subtle at times that most people never consider there is anything outside of the norm. She uses an extremely relevant example: Disney cartoons. Seemingly cute and innocuous, we as students of gender issues realize that this is not quite the case. What the big secret is is that in our general acceptance of cartoons and other media is that we are in a sense brainwashed to a point where we might stop critiquing media and culture altogether - which reminds me of bell hooks' idea that "the master's tools will never dismantle the master's house", so to speak.(If any non-gender studies people want a great article to think about when it comes to thinking about societal structures and even modern media, I highly recommend it!) Christensen is talking specifically about young schoolchildren, who are being herded into acceptance of media and the gender/class/race/sexuality roles they reinforce all the time, before they even have a chance to develop the skill of critique, which is extremely problematic in terms of striving for equality. She specifically mentions that little girls see Disney princesses and grow up thinking that marriage is the ultimate life goal, that "happy ever after" is something to worked for above all else, which fits perfectly into patriarchal  heterosexism and heteronormativity. It's quite unsettling, both for me and for Christensen it seems, to think that as far as we've come, newer generations still have to battle to crippling pressure to conform.

My question for discussion is: what classic Disney film is the most harmful in terms of reinforcing gender roles, and why? Which is potentially the least harmful? I have a hard time watching The Jungle Book, because the racist content is off the charts.

Also, I always wanted to be a Disney villain as a little girl, what does that say about me?