MacKenzie McHale – Dependent, Weak, Flustered

The Newsroom follows the story of hotshot news anchor Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels). After he comes back from a forced vacation, McAvoy finds out that his staff has left him for another show and must now work with a different staff. His new executive producer, MacKenzie McHale (Emily Mortimer), is also his ex-girlfriend. McHale’s job entails overseeing all activity on the show and making executive decisions. Her main goal as the executive producer is to produce a news show that isn’t conventional. She wants to talk about issues on the economy and legislation rather than the Casey Anthony trial. At first glance, MacKenzie McHale represents a strong, independent, and influential person. Unfortunately for McHale, The Newsroom, compensates her with characteristics that depict her as someone who is not competent for the job. She continues to mess up on her job, needs help from other men because she can’t complete a task, and at times clueless.

I made a video to help illustrate the disparity between McHale’s esteemed job (executive producer) to how she is actually portrayed. The video starts out with Mortimer herself explaining her character’s role in the show and ends by saying that “[McHale] is at the center of all the action.” With that being said, Part 1 of the video illustrates the control that McHale has over her staff. She leads meetings, monitors the work done by her reporters, and inspires them to produce a great news show. McHale’s power is quickly trumped in Part 2. Even though McHale pushes her boss to change the conventional style of the show, she ends up listening to him and takes ‘no’ as an answer. She hires other men for work she can’t do. She also lives with the guilt from cheating on McAvoy, which immediately gives him an upper hand in their relationship. McHale is clumsy and dependent on men to get the job done. My goal with this video was to further prove that, in the media, women who hold positions of power are compensated by having weak characteristics that make them seem unqualified for the job. The video format helps visually show how quickly a character can change. McHale is viewed as the person leading the meetings, and then quickly is portrayed in utter confusion. By showing clips one after another the audience views the progress of her character.

DIY projects are necessary because it gives an opportunity for people to express their reaction to the media they consume. Alison Piepmeir interviewed people who do DIY projects and explained that “Because we must take over the means of production in order to create our own meanings,” also “if I didn’t write these things no one else would” (Piepmeir). DIY projects are an opportunity for fans to creatively display their reaction and have a discussion about it. They are able to comment on the media and what that says about our culture. 

Works Cited:
Piepmeier, Alison. “”If I Didn’t Write These Things No One Else Would Either”” Making Media, Doing Feminism (n.d.): n. pag. Print.

 

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“Men Can’t Be Cool”

dando_zineIn the summer of 1994 Jeff Fox was inspired to write a zine against Evan Dando, the lead singer of the Lemon Heads. Fox’s inspiration came from a statement by Dando in which he wanted to be more like a woman because, “men have proved that they really can’t get it together, they can’t be cool.” Dando’s quote was the fuel behind the creation of the zine, “Die Evan Dando, Die.”

Fox explained, “having been freshly out of college, where you are told around the clock that you should be ashamed of being a male, I resent males that collapse into that kind of thinking.”
The 18 page anti-fanzine was aimed to dismantle the claims made by the Lemonheads front man. The zine was designed to boost male confidence levels – “masculinity without shame.” Fox did not want to see Dando’s naked body on the cover of every magazine and thought that the “overexposure was driving people nuts.” The zine featured topics such as shaving tips, checking out muscle cars and a page of philosophy from stock-car driver Richard Petty.  Fox’s aim was to reinforce the idea of masculinity, because he feared public figures such as Dando were redefining the term. “Die Evan Dando, Die” sold over 800 copies and was featured in Time magazine. Fox asserts that the popularity of his zine was because many people disliked Evan Dando. Furthermore, many zines out in the market were targeted towards women and “Die Evan Dando, Die” was one of the few that reinforced the idea of “masculinity without shame.”

“She’s a cross between Mary Tyler Moore and your 10-year-old-sister”

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Zooey Dechanel openly has come out and explained that she identifies herself as a feminist – someone who likes to be girly but is allowed to be strong and independent. Jada Yuan in  “The Pinup of Williamsburg” describes Zooey Deschanel in the ad above as “arms raised joyously ­skyward, head cocked, leg lifted, a cross between Mary Tyler Moore and your 10-year-old sister”. The way she’s standing with her arms up in the air portrays a slippery slope to the idea of what she thinks feminism is. Nothing about the way she is acting in this ad says Jess is tough and that is where the main argument lies. Deschanel expresses that she can be a feminist and still be a fan of girly things. Yuan notes Deschanel’s character Jess is constantly being portrayed as girly from, “watching Dirty Dancing six times a day, sobbing uncontrollably, creating her own theme song—“Who’s that girl? It’s Jess!” I see Deschanel’s character more towards having post-feministic characteristics because she has very “girly” aspects to her but is tough and independent.

In the episode that we watched of New Girl, Jess loses her job and gets extremely sad. Her initial announcement to her three male house mates is that she is “fine” and just needs to sit in her room alone to think things out. Additionally, when she screws up for the umpteenth time by dropping a glass at the bar, she demands from her housemate to stop being nice, but rather be mean to her. Throughout these scenes Jess is vulnerable but strong. Jess’ speech in the youtube video below defends those who have attacked Zooey Deschanel and her character Jess by explaining that she can “rock a lot of polka dots…but that doesn’t mean I’m not smart!”  Deschanel complains, “that people equate being girlie with being nonthreatening … I mean, I can’t think of a more blatant example of playing into exactly the thing that we’re trying to fight against”.

Yuan explains:

“Among women, Deschanel tends to be more polarizing. They either covet her bangs or they resent her for seemingly playing into the male fantasy that women are only attractive when they act like girls”. This description is the crux to which many people have argued about Deschanel. People want to look like her but also dislike her for trying to be too girly to get attention. Additionally in the episode, Jess keeps taking lost-and-found items from her to boss to cope with her sudden loss of job. The next shot is cut to her holding a box full of items as she is sobbing on the ground – presenting an image of vulnerability and weakness.

I understand those who argue how Jess can portray the idea of feminism with impossible expectations. She’s extremely girly and passive in the scene where she is fired. The reason why I side with her having post-feministic qualities is because she stands up for herself by reassuring her roommates that she doesn’t need help and that she chooses to stop being a “shot-girl” and goes back to being what she is – a teacher.

http://nymag.com/arts/tv/profiles/zooey-deschanel-2011-9/

Indirect Interactions

“Bond with other men and be different than women, but be straight and remain in control” (Becker 17)

In the opening scenes of the episode “Mac and Dennis Break Up”, Mac and Dennis are presented standing at the door of Dee’s apartment. Both men look as if they are a couple, but reassure Dee that they couldn’t have come over to get a large bowl without the other in case of an emergency. Mac and Dennis remain in control and explain to Dee: it isn’t abnormal that two heterosexual men cannot be without each other because they work as a “team” and won’t let the other person down.

Mac and Dennis’ relationship coincides with Scott Keilings study of male bonding in a college fraternity, which relied on a wide range of  “indirect speech genres, acts, and stances as a way to negotiate the contradictory imperatives of hegemonic masculinity” (Becker 17).

Social Indirectness: Kieling notes that “men created homosiociality and expressed a desire for male bonding” by translating conflict via insults, boasts and competitions (Becker 17). Mac and Dennis spend a lot of time with each other, but their affection is turned into conflict when Dee brings up how much time they actually are spending together. Mac takes the break up almost as competition by making his own living condition better than Dennis (by cleaning and trying to change Frank’s lifestyle) and checking in on Dennis indirectly through Charlie.

Topic Indirectness: Keisling explains that another form of indirect speech is how people “talk about impersonal subjects like sports” (Becker 17). Although it isn’t entirely in the episode, topic indirectness is exemplified by the extensive conversations Mac and Dennis have on the movie Alien. More specifically when Mac goes into detail about the physique of the different characters within the movie.

Addressee Indirectness: Keisling adds that “expressing affection for a guy by talking positively about him to someone else while he is present”. The closest example I can connect this to the show is when Dennis talks about the video store clerk and Mac gets extremely aggressive about it.

By having these indirect methods, the two characters Dennis and Mac have a way of expressing their affection for each other but in a heterosexual way. Both Dennis and Mac’s relationship could possibly be seen as homosexual bonding, but because of their indirect communication it offers “straight men another way to express affection for other men” (Becker 17).

It’s Friday

To be clear: I’m only claiming Rebecca Black’s Friday Music video as being camp right when it came out. Her situation can be looked at differently after her video reached millions of views and many parodies of the song had come out.

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Sontag expresses that, “Camp rests on innocence” and that Camp’s essential element “is seriousness that fails” (Sontag 7). Black represents innocence in her music video (singing about partying with her girlfriends in a convertible) but still manages to “fail” because the music video “purposes itself seriously, but cannot be taken altogether seriously because it it is ‘too much'” (Sontag 7). Black explains in multiple interviews that she geniunely wanted to make a credible song, but unfortunately it was perceived as a total joke. Either way she received national attention.

Desperate Kingdom of Love

“I like to think you’d pick me. You already did, didn’t you, when you asked me to marry you. You chose me. I won. Didn’t I?”

 Summary: Mary’s thoughts on her marriage with John.

I’m not stupid, you know.

I may not be The Only Consulting Detective in the World but some things are still fairly obvious to me.  You think I don’t notice the way you look at him. The only reason why this doesn’t bother me as much is because you don’t notice the way he looks at you.

You’re standing over there at the window. He’s just left. “It’s raining,” you say. “I know,” I say. I know you’re not watching the rain. You’re not fascinated by this outburst of nature. You stare at him, his tall dark figure vanishing in the grey of the afternoon. He had come over to tell you that the case was solved and you had made some tea for him. You didn’t even look at me, didn’t even ask me if I wanted some tea as well, do you know that?

It hurts, John

You turn around and smile at me, but it’s not as genuine, not as real as it is when you smile at Sherlock. He hugged you briefly before he left. His nose buried in your shoulder, his fingers pressing against the small of your back. I saw it all.

I don’t hate him. I don’t hate you either. It’s all bearable because neither of you seem to know how the other feels. And that makes it okay, really.

You press your hand against the window pane and I imagine that you imagine it was him you were touching. Softly caressing his bloody cheekbones, kissing those perfect cupid bow lips.

It was more difficult for me when I realized it first. I wanted to kill Sherlock, for the way his eyes lit up whenever you were in the room, for the way your smile seemed to deepen as soon as you spotted him. But you proposed to me and Sherlock came to our wedding and for a while I thought the little crush you had had on your flatmate and best friend was over.

I step beside you and you wrap your arms around me from behind. We fit perfectly like that. “I love you,” you whisper into my ear and I know that it’s true and I smile. We both stare outside now, the rain pounding against the window. Your grip around me tightens.

I’ve lost count of the number of times you would jump out of bed in the middle of the night, mumbling something about Sherlock and a case and just leaving me behind. At first I was angry at you, mad for always putting Sherlock first. I am your wife, the one you love, the one that should be your priority. Sometimes I still want to yell at you, make you pay attention to me and only me.

There is a certain kind of loneliness about you. It’s in your eyes, when you think I can’t see you, it’s in the way you straighten your shoulders before stepping outside of our flat, as if getting ready for another battle, another war.

I try not to be around when Sherlock shows up. Whenever he steps into the room, I can practically hear it click. You slightly cock your head, he raises an eyebrow or crooks a faint smile and suddenly, just like that, you’re a whole person again and I can see the loneliness in your eyes slowly fading away. You need each other in order to live, to breathe, to be.

But you also need me. You need the warmth, the comfort, the promise of a safe and happy life.  You need the ordinary, but crave the danger. You need me. And so I remain quiet. I don’t get jealous (not much anyway) and I don’t try to keep Sherlock away from you (although I wish I could).

Sherlock will never tell you how he feels.  Although you fantasize about it, probably. Him, flustered and embarrassed, uttering a confession, clumsily stumbling over his words, choking on his tongue. What would you do, John?

Would you give in, throw your arms around his neck and kiss him, tell him you feel the same? Would you take him to bed, make love to him, lace your fingers together? Or would you back away and call him an idiot, tell him that you’re married to me, that you love me, that you don’t want him?

Who would you choose?

I like to think you’d pick me. You already did, didn’t you, when you asked me to marry you. You chose me. I won. Didn’t I?

The rain has stopped and sun breaks through the clouds, the streets, wet from rain, glistening in the sunlight. Your phone buzzes, a text from Sherlock. “I’ll be back tonight,” you murmur and kiss my cheek. You hum as you put your jacket on, you seem ten years younger.

And just like that, I know that I already lost.

How do we react to this?

In anticipation for the show to start, the women in line hoot and holler at Tatum as he walks into the club. Inside, the women react barbarically to Tatum’s dance moves. Are the results of the women’s behavior enhanced by the situation they are in – safe (not actually having sex), taboo (hardly see men dance like that), and a group activity that arouses their curiosity?

Quotes to ponder:
“Women are so used to seeing the female body equalized on screen – from the point of view of the male gaze – that we don’t even know how to react to the sexualized male body?”

“Ladies-only male strip clubs exist primarily for groups of female friends to get a li’l wild ‘n’ crazy – in a parodic way – not for individual women to pursue their carnal desires”

Go Go Power Rangers

The Power Rangers first aired in 1993 and continued to come out with different versions every year or two afterwards. The basic premise of the show is that an alien wizard Zordon (whose face is illuminated onto a large glass column) finds five “teenagers with attitude” to help fight evil powers from outer space led by Rita Repulsa. The teenagers “morph” into power rangers dressed in skintight outfits and equipped with shiny football-like helmets with dark visors. Each character represented a different color and had a unique weapon. **Nod your head along if you thought that Tommy (green ranger) and Kimberly (pink ranger) were destined to be together.

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The Power Rangers television show taught kids the idea of discipline. The rangers had a set of rules that they had to abide by:

  • They may only use their powers to fight evil.
  • They are to never reveal their identity to the public.

The structure of an episode featured the team hanging out with each other until Zordon called them in. They learn about a terrible new bad guy to fight and lose on their first attempt because they work individually. Persistence & Teamwork – the rangers regroup and defeat the antagonist at the end of the episode by combining their powers together to create one large machine called Megazord.

In Sean Griffin’s article “Davy Crocket and the Children’s Space” he quotes Michel de Certeau who explains, “children take what they can and make their own culture with it, called ‘poaching’” (Griffin 104). One of the ways I challenged the design of Power Rangers was that I focused on the violent parts of the show and took it to the recess black tops.

My mom and dad’s style of parenting coincides with Griffin’s notes when he explains how the television set was a “built-in babysitter” because it kept me occupied for hours and out of trouble (Griffin 108). This resulted in watching many hours of Power Rangers, which lured me into the fictional world. Unfortunately, Griffin comments how the television set can be a “double edged-sword” because it could “broaden the ideas of violence into unprepared and innocent minds”, which was reflective on my behavior in elementary school (Griffin 108). During 1st-2nd grade I loved recess and Power Rangers. I was fascinated by all the “cool” fighting attacks and super powers that they displayed. I took the show so literally that a group of my friends would pretend to act like the Power Rangers (I was the red ranger) and attack the evil powers – naturally being the 4th and 5th graders. Our method of attack was scratching (not that severe). We each got our own Power Rangers costumes for Halloween and wore it to school to attack older kids. The principal quickly stopped our violent activity and we all got put in timeout.

Mighty-Morphin-Power-Rangers-the-90s-367889_693_296A side note: by looking at the picture of all the power rangers from the first season, the production team made a conscious effort to represent a range of race and gender. The group consists of both men and women, and different races such as African American and Asian.  Power Rangers was the common thread that made it easy to make friends with girls because we both shared a strong interest in the show. There were many instances where I would pretend to be the red ranger and also play with a  girl who was the pink ranger. Similar to the way Disney marketed Davey Crocket to boys, the advertisements for the Power Rangers were advertised to the same market. The video below displays multiple commercials that feature Power Ranger action figures that are all sold separately but shows a boy collecting them all. Despite these ads and similar to the way girls were interested in Davy Crocket and bought his coonskin hat, girls my age were buying Power Ranger merchandise regardless of how it was advertised.

Before there was K-Pop, there was Nam Jin

My mom, Jessica Choe, was born in Pohang South Korea in 1960. Her father was a doctor and her mother stayed at home to take care of my mom and  her six siblings. The house that they grew up in had two bedrooms and was located on the edge of the city. Back then, my grandparents preached the importance of academics to my mom everyday. Her family didn’t get a television until she went off to college, so the only forms of media that she was exposed to were the radio and newspaper.

My mom was constantly reminded by her parents, rather than the media, how to behave like a woman. My grandma would teach her on an almost daily basis how to eat, clean, cook and wash dishes like a woman. My mom had to be in the house before sunset. My grandpa explained to her that her occupational options were to be a nurse or a teacher so that when she got married she wouldn’t be completely dependent on her husband, but he impressed that she only had two options.

My grandparents were extremely strict with my mom in regards to academics, so she hardly had time to listen to the radio. As a young girl her daily routine was to go to school, go to the beach to play with friends, and then come back home to study and eat dinner. When she listened to the radio, she remembers, one man in particular stood out to her. His name was Nam Jin.namjin When I asked her if she could think of any female singers that she was interested in, she responded that she was a fan of a couple of female singers but she mostly listened to men. Similar to the  article “We Didn’t Have Any Hannah Montana’s,” my mom explained that back in the 1960s and 1970s there weren’t young female singers in Korea that she could relate to. Most of the female singers were at least 30 years old, which made it hard to relate to their songs of adult romance. Nam Jin mostly sang of innocence and young love, and that drew my mom in.

My mom would listen to Korean dramas on the radio only on the weekends. She said it wasn’t something that her family did often, but when they did they listened to a classic Korean drama that was set in the 1800s. photo145704The picture on the left exemplifies the time frame in which these dramas were set in: old, traditional, and male dominated. To give some context of the radio show my mom listened to, the video below is a modern day drama that is set in the same style and time frame. The dramas that she listened to was narrated by a male voice. The basic story is about the journey of great men traveling across the country and discovering the different parts of Korea.

The dramas that she listened to hardly featured women and when they did they were always inferior characters to the men. The women’s primary role was to take care of the children and cook for their husbands, which was very similar to the lifestyle my mom grew up in. The dynamic between the men and women in the drama coincides with Gauntlett’s observation of United States media during the 1970’s. Men were much more “adventurous and active whereas women were more frequently shown as weak ineffectual and merely token females” (Gauntlett 47).

At first this struck me as an overtly masculine radio station to listen to, but when I asked why she was interested in listening to these stories, she saw nothing wrong with her taste. “Quite frankly I didn’t even think about why I was listening to it. I listened to it because my dad and brothers were interested in it. At those times I didn’t think about gender roles and how that affected my life, I didn’t have time. I had to study, work, clean, and eat,” she said. On the weekends my mom’s family would all circle around the radio and listen to the drama much like Hains highlights media use was “family centered” around shows such as The Shadow and The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show (Hains 119).

Music didn’t play a huge role in my mom’s life because she was so focused on academics, but she did mention what other girls her age were doing at that time. In high school she explained some of the “rebel” students would go into the city with fake I.D.s and go clubbing and dance to disco, in particular the Bee Gee’s “Stayin’ Alive”. My mom saw that as a waste of time and would get in the way of her studying.

My mom hardly watched any television or listened to the radio because she was taught from a young age that academics was priority number one. When she did listen to the media, however, it was dominated by men. My mom had no sense of revolt, nor did she question why the Korean media was male dominated. She saw male-dominated media as the norm because that was the way she was raised.