Amy Abramson, my mom, was born in Asbury Park, New Jersey in 1956. She lived with her four siblings and her mother, who was not only a single mom, but she worked, which was very uncommon for women of her age. Growing up on the Jersey shore was very special to my mom and her siblings. The combination of a liberal upbringing, strong female role models, and her location, all had a huge influence on the type of media she consumed as a child and teenager. Her weekends consisted of taking the bus down to the Asbury Park Boardwalk to see concerts, go shopping, and hang out at the beach. Tough life.
I conducted my interview before I did the readings, to ensure that my questions were not biased towards what was said in the reading. What I found was that gender did not play nearly as big of a role in my mother’s interpretation of the media as it did in the Hains, Stern, and Mazzarella article, or even the ideas presented in the Gauntlett reading. My guess is that having a mother who went to college and had a degree allowed her to ignore all of the stereotypes thrown at her through the media.
I asked my mom about women that were prominent on television and although she didn’t remember specific women, she recalled watching game shows and she and her sisters and friends noted the glamour of the host’s “assistant”. The relationship between host and assistant on these game shows was, and still is, very similar to the relationship between husband and wife in a “Leave it to Beaver” type show. The woman on a game show was dressed very glamorously, with a dress and makeup, and would stand, “look pretty”, and did exactly what the host told her to do.
In the Hains, Stern, and Mazzarella article, Amanda’s account of looking up to Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire as role models very similar to how my mother felt about celebrities. Amanda obviously did not want to look like these men, but she admired them for their dancing talents, which she aspired to have. My mom would watch Miss America with her friends, not because their beauty enamored her, but she would mimic the talent portion of the show. My mom understood that “none of these girls were very smart”, so there wasn’t much desire to be like them.
TV was not a big part of my mother’s life, other than the annual award shows and Miss America. Her main source of media was music, and everything that went along with the music scene. Some of her fondest memories were days when her friends would come over and they would sit in her room and listen to her collection of records and LPs on her phonograph.
As soon as I asked my mom about the music she listened to, the conversation took a turn. Music seemed to be the most important part of her childhood, seeing as she remembered the smallest of details about the music she listened to and the collections she had. A weekend activity for my mom and her friends would be to take the bus down to the boardwalk and buy records. Since I Skyped my mom, I could see her visualizing her record collection, and showing me the exact dimensions of her box of records and LPs. Having a record collection was considered “cool” and her friends would come over listen to records on the phonograph.
Perhaps the most interesting point of discussion in our interview was my mom’s recollection of an era, rather than specific celebrities. When asked if she ever bought anything that had to do with a celebrity, she told me this: “There was no brand of Janis Joplin shoes. We didn’t have a Jessica Simpson clothing line”. This coincided exactly with the idea that “they didn’t have any Hannah Montanas” (Hains, 130). Yes, she wore hot pants because that was the style, and she wore her hair long with a center part because that was the style. What was not as clear as it is today is whether or not the artists reflected the times, or the times reflected the artists.
If I were to ignore my mom’s interview, and just look at the readings, I would assume that things have gotten better over time and hat women are being better represented in the media. Talking to my mom made me think again. Yes, women may be represented more frequently, but our society has become more media centralized, to the point where we feel more pressure to act like those in the spotlight. The premise of Hannah Montana is a young girl obsessed with boys, fame, and selling a full line of products from t-shirts to notebooks.
As a woman who grew up in Asbury Park, NJ, she couldn’t finish an interview about her childhood and teenage years without talking about hometown hero, Bruce Springsteen. He was the prime example of someone who reflected an era and a time where young people were political and revolution was taking place. For my mom and her siblings, it was not about what her role models were wearing, or how much makeup they wore. “You don’t see Bruce Springsteen clothing. It is much bigger than that. He is about his connection between music and the people.” (Amy Abramson).