Before you view:

 

The Batman franchise, in particular the newest Dark Knight Trilogy, sells itself with hyper masculinity to the point of ridiculousness. For this reason, I have decided to take two of the series’ most masculine characters, Bane (Tom Hardy) from The Dark Knight Rises and Batman (Christian Bale), and provide an alternative reading to their relationship by “shipping” them together. Also, as you watch, try to pay attention to the role Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) has in this vid.

 

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MtMZtTLr0Y4

 

Post-viewing:

 

The effectiveness of this vid relies heavily upon eyeline matching. Put differently, while making my project, I paid special attention to the implications Batman’s, Bane’s, and Catwoman’s gazes could have by cutting various scenes from The Dark Knight Rises and splicing them together. For instance, when the song goes into the guitar solo, I used that break to explore the various gazes Batman and Bane have with each other throughout the film. I also used shots that were out of context in the same fashion.

My choice in music also played a huge role in how I approached the vid. I used Florence + The Machine’s Kiss With a Fist. While Florence is indeed a woman, her voice and this song are by no means feminine. I used the violent lyrics of the song – for example the chorus begins with, “You hit me once/I hit you back/You gave a kick/I gave a slap” – to posit a queer reading of the Batman/Bane relationship in which the characters are trapped in an abusive yet passionate relationship. I thought that this song choice fit particularly well with the almost ludicrously masculine exchanges between Batman and Bane.

Most of all, I hope you enjoy the vid. If anything, my goal in creating it was to poke fun at a serious movie while at the same time creating a space for a different – and potentially more compelling – reading.

Queer Punk Rage

The title consists of the first three words that come to mind when I try to describe the zine I found. This zine, entitled “Abrupt Lane Edge,” seems to deal with the intersection of queerness as it relates to alienation, the ‘90s punk scene, and a strong argument against religious influence. The result is a scattered conglomeration of satirical rants, a page about mail-order boyfriends, and the subversive punk rewriting of Christian-themed articles. I understand the purpose of this zine – if there is a purpose at all – to be a queer reading (as in, homosexual and punk) of mainstream, religious, heterosexual culture. Moreover, the author is not afraid to express his feelings or his sexuality.  He in fact seems to do so as a means of articulating his dissatisfaction with a culture that uses “rigidly defined, religiously based ideas” to govern “love and sexual intimacy between human beings.” And why is this zine so awesome? I think the concept of a mail-order boyfriend is pretty great, especially if one of the options is a lover who writes “Gossipy letters about whose [sic] fucking whom & the scene at all the fabulous clubs in a highly metropolitan area at least a thousand miles away from where you live,” says it all.

Some of my favorite pages:

The “this is what this zine is about” page:

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The author’s take on a baptism form (is that what you call it?):

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Potentially my favorite part of the zine:

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The zine’s cover:

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Another instance in which the author rewrites Christian messages:

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Source: http://qzap.org/v5/index.php?option=com_gallery2&Itemid=28&g2_itemId=97

Which is it?

TheMindyProject_MIN101_2500_640x360_33839840

 

Mindy Lahiri, the protagonist of Fox’s The Mindy Project, seems to have a lot going for her: she has a high-powered career as a gynecologist, appears confident in her womanhood, and has achieved a state of economic and emotional independence rarely depicted in popular media. These three traits combine to present an image of the ideal modernized woman. Moreover, not only is Mindy confident in her persona, but she also knows what she wants – that is, sex-focused relationships with attractive yet emotionally unavailable men at the same time as she searches for a soulmate. Holy L. Derr of Ms. Magazine aptly articulates the tension inherent in such a character. In her article, “’The Mindy Project’ – Comedy and Contradiction,” she calls into question the sustainability of a show that has “too much cognitive dissonance to resolve.” Indeed, it is “hard to reconcile the notion that a woman…. Manages to do all those things.” Yet, the article points out, it is precisely this impracticality that makes the show attractive. If anything, the show functions as a beacon of hope for the typical middle-class woman: It is possible to have it “all” without compromising happiness.

Mindy’s character markets a unique type of postfeminism for the very reasons certain aspects of her persona contradict with that of the typical postfeminist in that she does in fact seem to do it “all” and on her own terms. A compelling example of this atypicality exists in Mindy’s confidence in her not-egregiously-thin body. Martin Roberts’ “The Fashion Police: Governing the Self in What Not to Wear” enumerates “flaunt[ing] your natural ‘assets’ and hid[ing] your ‘defects’” as a symptom of conformity to standard definitions of beauty. This idealized image is one of the hyper-skinny woman who is insecure about her body because appearance in this society is an outward manifestation of a person’s character strengths and weaknesses. Additionally, success in maintaining this image has been appropriated to reflect the degree to which a woman has control in her life.

While whether or not Mindy exercises full agency in her personal life is debatable, it is an indisputable fact that she is confident in her body. This confidence is evident in Mindy’s choice of dress for her date with David. She does not seek to hide her “defects” (for instance, relatively small breasts and strong instead of skinny legs); instead, her dress shamelessly and beautifully accentuates those features. (It is also important to note that the color of the dress – red – communicates sexiness and sexual confidence). Thus, Mindy performs her own type of postfemininity insofar as she is the arbiter of her own sexual capital, capital which does not necessarily conform to the rigid structures and bodily impositions of “perfect” female beauty.

The Mindy Project seems to negotiate a space that neither completely conforms to postfemininity nor directly challenges it. While certain aspects of Mindy’s character – for example, Mindy’s comfortableness with her not super-model skinny body – provide glimmers of hope for a fan base not focused on depictions of unobtainable beauty, there are other traits that may cause that same hopeful reader to question the effectiveness of her character in regard to a groundbreaking challenge to the marginalized and objectified woman. Such discrepancies include Mindy’s new focus on finding the perfect man as a way of redoing her persona despite the fact that she espouses independence and self-sufficiency.

Shortcomings aside, The Mindy Project provides a fascinating text for analysis because of the tensions it presents between conformity to the “need” to find a man and the rejection of those same principles (as far as independence is concerned). To that end, perhaps this series can and will provide insight into a new dynamic within postfemininity: one that wavers between acceptance and questioning. Perhaps the show, and women in general, will eventually move toward with the latter.

Secondary reading hyperlink: http://msmagazine.com/blog/2012/10/02/the-mindy-project-comedy-and-contradiction/

“I was told there was going to be a large-breasted woman!” “Me too!”

As Becker’s points out, bromances pervade media culture. They are unique because they underline the platonic love between two men without writing either of the characters as gay. This fine line between straight-love and queer-love reaffirms and legitimizes close same-sex (re: male) relationships while it further marginalizes the gay male from “bromance “culture while preventing him from holdingthese types of platonic relationships.

Let us consider Mac and Dennis’ relationship in It’s Always Sunny. Mac assumes the more passive role as the worrier and the caretaker, while Dennis seems to be more of the provider (Dennis goes out and gets the DVDs and groceries while Mac stays at home calling Dennis to make sure that he’s okay). Lest the reader overlays his/her own homoerotic fantasies onto these characters’ relationship – after all, two attractive white men living together and well into their 30s is begging to be read in a queer fashion – the show makes their heterosexuality abundantly clear. When Mac and Dennis fight, the two only meet by promise of a “large breasted woman.” Mac and Dennis may be close and live together, but because they are constantly in pursuit of a heterosexual relationship, any alternate readings are immediately dismissed as incongruent with the very nature of the two characters.

This obvious heteronormalizing of both characters quite literally sets the viewer straight on the nature of Mac and Dennis’ “bromance.” The writers are then free to explore, and play for laughs, the love between these two men. There are almost infinitely many examples of this phenomenon. Barney and Ted on How I Met Your Mother, Pete and Clark on The Office, and Brennan and Dale from Step Brothers are a few examples.

That these portrayals of “bromantic” relationships are dominant and occupy the vast majority of male-male friendships renders impossible the inclusion of an openly gay male in such a televised relationship. It is not so much that current media culture rejects the gay male – in fact, one would argue that it embraces it. Rather, this exclusion stems from the universal necessity for each show or movie to all but say, “Don’t worry. There’s nothing romantic here.” There is simply no room for a gay man in this dynamic insofar as the mentioning of a male character’s gayness (or even the not mentioning of his straightness) undermines the entire foundation of the “bromance.” Thus, gay men are “exclude[d] from the privileges of hegemonic masculinity by reinscribing certain rigid gender norms” (Becker, 10) to the extent that they are unable toparticipate in “bromantic” relationships without fear of jeopardizing the premise of the “bromance” – that is, as something so heterosexual that a queer reading is impossible.

bromontage

For added fun, I have included a hastily-made “bromontage.”

Camp Buffy

I chose this video because I was describing the idea of “campy” to friends and their first response was, “Oh, like Buffy the Vampire Slayer?” and I was reminded of the quote from Dyer’s article, when straights take over camp, “it looses… its identification with the gay experience, its distance from the straight sexual world-view” (60). Buffy is over-the-top campy in the traditional sense, but not necessarily or completely in an only-read-from-non-dominant/privileged-points-of-view-way.

That Certain Night

I had a difficult wading through the dense universe that is fan fiction. This is what I came up with (source: http://archiveofourown.org/works/285113):

The narrow street on which John lived was dark and silent. John and Sherlock had walked the remaining half a mile to John’s flat together, Sherlock informing John about the science of deduction and how he applied it to the solving of crimes for his work. John had been an attentive and eager listener, only occasionally interjecting with the odd ‘brilliant!’ and ‘but that’s marvellous!’

The two men came to a stop outside a front door that looked as though it could do with a good lick of paint.

‘Chez Watson?’ Sherlock asked, drawing himself up.

‘Ah… yes,’ John said with a nod. ‘I– this has… uh…’ he trailed off and grabbed the back of his neck. ‘Listen, how about that light? And a cup of tea, maybe?’

‘Tea?’ Sherlock said, rocking up onto his tiptoes, his eyebrows lifting. ‘Alright then.’

John grinned and opened the front door. ‘You’ll have to excuse the mess, I’m afraid,’ he said as they both stepped into the dingy hallway. ‘My work doesn’t leave much time for keeping house.’

‘That’s quite alright, John, neither does mine,’ Sherlock said, following John up the wooden stairs. ‘I’m positive I shall feel right at home.’

John laughed quietly as he unlocked the door to his own flat. ‘Um, let me take your coat?’ he said, taking in a surprised breath when he turned to face Sherlock and found him much closer than was usually considered decent.

‘Thank you, John,’ Sherlock said, removing his gloves and scarf, putting them in one of his huge pockets. He maintained his proximity as he took his hat off and handed his heavy coat off to John. Underneath, he wore a sharp three-piece suit with a light tweed pattern in dark grey, a plum-coloured tie fastened around his neck. The top couple of buttons of his shirt were undone, revealing a long white neck that was almost too long. John’s eyes flickered over Sherlock’s skin before he came to himself.

‘Right,’ he muttered, hanging Sherlock’s coat and hat and then his own, taking his suit jacket off so he was just in his practical brown waistcoat and shirt. He unfastened his cuffs and rolled his sleeves up. ‘I’ll go and see to the tea, you…’ he turned around and noticed that Sherlock had disappeared from the tiny hallway and was seated at one end of the lumpy sofa, his legs elegantly crossed, his smirk still in place. ‘…make yourself at home,’ he finished lamely.

The Magic of Males?

In addition to the glorification of the built male body, Magic Mike posits stripping as a profession, as something one can “have fun, [and] make safe choices” (from: (Un)feminist guilty pleasure: I don’t want to critique Magic Mike) doing. These men take agency of their sexual potency and capitalize off of their virility. Would this same strategy work with a movie centered around female strippers? How might it be different? The same?

Dragon Ball Z: An Exercise in Extrapolation

Dragon Ball Z is a typical action cartoon. Goku (the protagonist) essentially a humanoid alien with superhuman strength a planet of which he is one of the very few survivors. What Goku does with his abilities, as well as his relationship to them, is key: He shows mercy to his enemies, even when they threaten or kill his friends and family (it should also be noted that he has a wife and a son, two facts which secure his heterosexuality). More importantly, Goku retains a “pure heart” (http://dragonball.wikia.com/wiki/Flying_Nimbus). Therefore, he demonstrates unquestionable strength of character. Dragon Ball Z, then, seems to be about doing the right thing even when it’s hard in actively protecting whatever one deems important.

While I agree with this statement, I feel as if Dragon Ball Z does even more than that. Sean Griffin’s analysis of Davy Crocket in his piece, Davy Crockett and Children’s Space, aptly applies to Dragon Ball Z on what I believe to be a fundamental and potentially frequently overlooked level. He asserts that Davy Crocket is a “preserver of childhood innocence” (Griffin, 112), a label I believe also applies to Dragon Ball Z’s main character. Indeed, Goku retains a childlike demeanor throughout the series. His innocence is further evidenced by his unwavering faith in all people.

From the perspective of a parent, then, while Dragon Ball Z is relatively violent, it nevertheless sends several positive messages: That good wins out over evil, hard work is more important than privilege (Goku works hard for his strength despite not being of a particularly physically powerful lineage), and innocence can be retained even when the world has been completely annihilated by a power-hungry cyborg. Dragon Ball Z is also a reasonable safe show in that it depicts the frontier (in the form of alien planets) as a space that “idealize[s] and romanticize[s] the individual” (Griffin 106) that is nevertheless unreachable. It thus gives children an imaginary space in which to play while keeping them confined to the comforts of their home and glued to their TV sets. The underlying message seems to be that there are literally hundreds of worlds to explore, but almost all of them are dangerous, and all the hero wants to do is go home. These alternate worlds (and even universes) have resonances with the Western frontier of Davy Crockett insofar as each product romanticized the untamed wild at the same time as it ensured that said spaces were only accessible through the television and that the comforts of the home (world) always won out in the end.

When I was a child, I raced to our TV to watch the newest episode of Dragon Ball Z every Wednesday night. My long-lasting relationship was the show was comprised of more than fandom, however. Yes, I did integrate the aforementioned messages into my own set of values. Yet I took those values a step further: I used them as a means of self-regulation. I feared that thinking negatively or acting out would result in an inability to obtain a “pure heart.” For me, then, Dragon Ball Z was not really a way for me to “break out of [my] engendered roles and spaces” (Griffin, 115) (I felt as if my parents created a home in which I could do that with relative safety). Instead, the show took on a more personal meaning. The messaged seemed to be that happiness and friends come from the ability to remain innocent, honest, and generally a good person. On some level, this message is in line with that which is most likely intended by Dragon Ball Z’s producers: I adopted the values of virtuousness and strength just like I was supposed to. On the other hand, my interpretation was extreme and literal. It therefore challenged the traditional, intended reading of the text because children shows are meant to teach a moral, not preach a way of life. I extrapolated from what was in front of me and rewrote the meaning of the show so it suited the context of my personal life. My use of Dragon Ball Z was thus nontraditional and deviated from the original purpose of the media, which is to a large extent entertainment and the communication of a set of morals deemed acceptable by society.

From Fernando Lamas to Roy Rogers: Media Consumption in the ’50s

Jan Aichele, a part-time receptionist at the Walla Walla Odd Fellows Home, smiles as she timidly accepts our (Natasha Hibgee and I co-interviewed her) request to ask her about her childhood. You see, Jan is a child of the ‘50s. She was born and raised in Walla Walla and grew up on a home on 1st Street. Jan lived with her older brother, Bob, who was five years her senior, as well as with her mother and father. Both of her parents worked, and so Jan had every weekday afternoon and Saturday to herself. The focus of this interview is primarily what Jan did with her free time and what those choices say about the era in which she grew up.

For Jan, the ‘50s – her teenage years and early 20s – were the best years of her life. To romanticize them, they were the days of the cowboy (for an apt ambiance, listen to the attached Lone Ranger Theme Song YouTube video), Elvis Presley, and the comic book. When asked, Jan believed that she was “absolutely one of the boys.” This statement aligned with Sean Griffen’s article, Kings of the Wild Backyard: Davy Crockett and Children’s Space, who noted, “female children seemed to be using the ‘Crocket Craze’ to break out of their engendered roles and spaces” (115). She also loved Howdy Doody and the Mickey Mouse Club and looked forward to watching them every day after school. Yet Jan’s media consumption in the ‘50s extended way beyond television. It included comic books such as Superman, Dick Tracey, and Richie, Veronica, and Jughead. Moreover, Jan, her brother, and her parents spent their evenings listening to the radio, in particular the programs The Shadow and 20 Questions. (It is noteworthy that neither of these programs had a lead female character.) Jan doesn’t really remember commercials, nor did she read magazines because there were no books in the house.

Jan’s relationship with the media speaks both to aspects of her personal life as well as to those of white, middle-to-lower-class 1950s America. On an individual level, the media provided a topic of socialization. For instance, the day after watching the Red Skelton Show, Jan and her friends talked about nothing else. More importantly, Jan seemed to look to these outlets as a means of escape. Her parents were extremely strict. Her father was violent and her mother was passive, complacent, and docile. Both of them drank and fought frequently. Not surprisingly, Jan preferred to talk about her favorite shows, movies, games, and comic books. The message is subtle: For teenagers of the 1950s, means self-identification no longer had to come from immediate peers; they could also be derived from the personas on TV or the radio.

On a broader level, the media boom of the ‘50s provided the people of Jan’s generation with a sense of adventure and individuality that, based upon Jan’s description of her everyday life, was distinctly lacking. As Griffen explained, the post-WWII ‘50s emphasized the protection of innocence, and with that mass-paranoia came a nation-wide effort to monitor and restrict children. Games such as Cowboys and Indians were a way to temporarily disregard that mentality. This media also partially reoriented Jan’s peers’ future aspirations: Instead of becoming housewives, they wanted to be movie stars and marry actors such as Fernando Lamas. That women were restricted to passive and secondary roles did not seem to bother Jan. When asked about this striking discrepancy, one Jan openly acknowledged, she replied, “let them take care of me!” This mindset is of particular interest and warrants further investigation.

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[Fernando Lamas was an Argentinian actor who generally played “Latin Lover” roles.]

At the same time as the media revolutionized the younger generations by making popular culture more accessible and personal, it reinscribed traditional gender roles. Thanks to television and the radio, affirmation of women’s docility was available not only in everyday life, but also via roles such as Dale Evans, Roy Rogers’ wife and faithful sidekick. This messaging was equally present in the distinct absence of strong lead, independent female characters. While Evans’ character did indeed go adventuring, she only did so as a companion to Rogers. Her existence in the show, then, was contingent upon her husband’s presence and heroism. If anything, Evans’ role seemed to be to get trapped and then rescued by her husband. After all, it was called the Roy Rogers Show, not the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Show.

As a final note, it is important to remember that the consumers dictated which products were successful and which ones flopped. Although the choices were limited compared to today, they nevertheless existed. Therefore, while such media did not necessarily advocate for the restructuring of gendered society, they provided teenage girls such as Jan with a voice, albeit a relatively small one. Such a facet of empowerment in an otherwise comparatively (compared to modern day) and openly oppressive society allowed teenagers such as Jan to escape home lives that might border on abusive and enter an environment in which they were on an equal playing fields to their male counterparts. The contribution that the media made to this effort is frequently overlooked.