Pretty Little Johanna

I chose to create a vid examining gender and power through the character of Johanna in Tim Burton’s horror-musical Sweeney Todd. Set in Victorian England, the women in this film are perpetually under the control of men. Lucy is sexually abused, and both Lucy and her daughter Johanna are ceaselessly passed between different men who seek to control them. Mrs. Lovett, the sole other female character, breaks this mold; however, at the end of the film, she is killed by the man she loves.

This video isolates the character of Johanna, commenting on the way men in her life objectify and covet her. I titled the vid “Pretty Little Johanna,” a reference to Mrs. Lovett’s envy-tinged description of the young girl. Despite Mrs. Lovetts jealousy, it is beauty that has Johanna trapped. Without her beauty, she would be free from the desires of Judge Turpin and perhaps be in control of her own life as Mrs. Lovett is. “Pretty Little Johanna” also references the fact that the men in her life consider her delicate, pure, and therefore infantilized and devoid of agency. She is not granted personhood besides what little character is projected by her delicate appearance and sweet singing voice.

While Judge Turpin’s objectification of Johanna is portrayed negatively, Antony is also guilty of this overprotective, possessive objectification. Antony is Johanna’s love interest and savior, and the film constructs him as loving, pure, and guileless. However, without the lens of romance, his actions are as unsettling as the lecherous gaze of Judge Turpin. I determined that the redemptive nature of ‘romance’ rested in the mutual affection between Johanna and Antony. After removing the few indications of Johanna’s eventual affection for Antony, his immediate vow to “steal” her for his own becomes more sinister. From the instant he glimpses her through her window, Anton becomes an obsessive youth who stalks Johanna relentlessly. He rescues her from the madhouse, but it now appears as a selfish gesture — he is stealing her for himself, not rescuing her so much as changing. It takes the most minor of alterations to expose how unacceptable many of his actions are.
In this altered reading of the film, Johanna lacks a savior hero. This absence leads to the fate of continued entrapment, making Johanna’s complete lack of power more tragic and therefore more visible.

DIY media is the ideal way to discuss and critique a movie because of the accessibility: a vid has the potential to reach the movie’s fanbase rather than circulating among academics as many texts might. Furthermore, DIY media is necessary to “articulate alternate perspectives, particularly in terms of gender and sexuality” that The Media rarely addresses (Coppa, 25). Vidding and DIY media in general allows fans to proactively take control and create a media that is truly representative of the fanbase instead of representing the elite white males that generally have power in the media.

Coppa, Francesca. “Women, Star Trek, and the early development of fannish vidding.” Transformative Works and Cultures, 1 (2008). Print.


The Bent Pentacle

         Queer Paganism.  Who knew that that was a ‘thing,’ an issue, a community?  I certainly didn’t aside from a vague recollection that the one drag queen I know back home might be Wiccan.  Editor Kris Wombat of The Bent Pentacle writes that she intends this zine as a place to build the community for those of a Queer Pagan mentality, and the zine reveals that there is a definite, if small, community there.  One entry tells of the author’s experience at the world’s only Queer Pagan Camp.  Others focus on the connection between pagan spirituality and a queer mentality, personal stories of discovering paganism in the UK, and the problematic gender role assignment in some pagan communities.

                   I love the fact that this Zine exists because it takes the ideology and issues of a small number of people and puts them together in a sort of meeting place of ideas, a niche community where people of a specific core identity can share ideas with others of a similar belief system.  Furthermore, the mere existence of The Bent Pentacle brings this community to light and invites the world at large to explore these ideas and issues.

Bon Iver is your Manic Pixie Farm Boy

Bon Iver is your Manic Pixie Farm Boy

The ‘Bon Iver Erotic Stories’ tumblr.  I’ve already done a blog post, but this is so perfect I couldn’t resist.

Excerpt: “Bon Iver warms the house with baking today. He visits me in my workroom with a heart-shaped sour cherry hand pie made from our preserves. We eat it standing up. It tastes like sunny summer. Our mouths are stained red and the floor is carpeted with flakes of his good buttery crust.
‘This pie is like our love,’ he muses.
I laugh and pluck a bit of pie out of his beard. ‘Tell me more,’ I say, kissing him.
He sighs happily and rubs his belly. ‘It’s warm, and we both like it.’
And as usual, I marvel at the power and simplicity of his words.

                  While never actually erotic, these short blurbs paint Bon Iver as the epitome of Manic-Pixie-Dream boy.  Rather than leaning toward the nerdy, as Parks & Rec’s MPD boy does, Bon Iver is painted as an emotional, sensitive artist whose  ‘nerdiness’ is perhaps his quirky and sweet love of nature and farming.  This imaginary Bon Iver is, of course, kind, gentle, entirely devoted to taking care of you (the love interest) and aware of your every need before you are.  What’s more, he’s just as devoted to all of the fuzzy little bunnies and cutesy farm animals that you two, of course, have in abundance.  He’s so sensitive, artistic, and earnestly caring that he needs you 


“The valley below is full of good Christmas tree prospects, but Bon Iver must inspect them all. His footprints zig and zag from pine to spruce, and he fingers the greenery, sniffs the trunks and performs careful (unscientific) triangulation calculations to determine height and breadth.
My thermos of peppermint cocoa is dangerously low, and my feet are cold.
‘They all seem like good candidates,’ I say, somewhat exasperatedly. But his frustration appears to be worse than mine.

‘That’s the problem!” he says. ‘I want to give them all a home!’

“‘Do you think you might come out today?’ I ask. I reach for the curtains and pull them open to show Bon Iver that the day outside is brilliant.
He removes his headphones and squints into the light pouring through the window, illuminating millions of dust particles. He shakes his head.
I take some sandwich dishes and begin to retreat, but he captures my by the wrist.
‘Baby,’ he says, and his voice is broken but warm. ‘I know it’s hard for you when I have to stay in here, but I have to stay until I’ve written a song that’s worthy of the light that warms the earth out there, that’s worthy of the lighted earth that you walk on, my angel.’
And he picks up his kazoo and honks a tune that I think, privately, may not yet be worthy of the sun and earth.”

Zooey Deschanel: A F*cking Feminist?

            At first glance, Zooey Deschanel, in New Girl and in real life, seems to fit right in with postfeminist culture.  What with her consistently quirky and adorable ultra-feminine clothing, including, as Jessica pointed out in her post, dresses that frequently harkens to the 50s housewife, the image of Zooey Deschanel is general cutesy, young, and playful—the “Fun Girl.”  The intro to New Girl adds to this image, showing Zooey strolling carefree through a set as the boys around her arrange it, and ending with Zooey putting herself in a picture frame. 


               But this vacuously adorable image is not actually all that there is, to Zooey or to the show.  Zooey, it turns out, is a declared feminist.  (Kat Stoeffel writes about it here  This disagreement with backlash feminism is rare enough among female icons these days (Katy Perry’s “I’m not a feminist, but…” statement), but Zooey also “pushes back on interviewer Logan Hill’s gendered line of questioning in an awesome way.”

Glamour: Do you want to have kids?

ZD: That is so personal, and it’s my pet peeve when people press you on it. And it’s always women who get asked! Is anybody saying that to George Clooney?

Zooey Deschanel also appears indignant about the fact that people have criticized her for her cutesy style.  She argues that

“I’m just being myself. There is not an ounce of me that believes any of that crap that they say. We can’t be feminine and be feminists and be successful? I want to be a f–king feminist and wear a f–king Peter Pan collar. So f–king what?”

While Zooey Deschanel definitely fits the vital, youthful, playful aspect of postfeminism, she argues that this is her personality and shouldn’t be in conflict with feminism.  While she doesn’t exactly burst any gender bubbles, this acceptance of Feminism is rare enough among young celebrities that I am behind her one hundred percent. 

This my-cute-clothing-doesn’t-define-me attitude can be found in New Girl as well. 

Stoeffel quotes a scene in which the character of Jess argues that yes, she teaches small children and loves cute animals, yes, she wears ruffles and ribbons and polk-a-dots, but “that doesn’t mean I’m not smart and tough and strong.” 

This is played out more subtly in the episode we watched.   Her unique clothing style, and her flatmates’ ridicule of it, seems to be a large factor in expressing to the audience that Jess is a weird and quirky misfit, rather than just another attractive love interest.  While this could be read as self-definition through consuming, we don’t see Jess discussing her clothing, showing pride and claiming it means something, or actually engaging in acts of consumerism.  Furthermore, consumerism and appearance are not represented as hugely important parts of her life.  Jess does not engage in consumerism as an emotional act, and unlike Kim in Keeping up With the Kardashians, she doesn’t measure her state of well-being by whether she has taken the time to put make-up on. 

While Jess does wear unique clothes, her job is what is truly important to her, and it is how she defines herself at the end of the show.

No Homo in Workaholics

In agreement with Becker’s argument, the discourse in Workaholics is pretty heterosexual in a way that excludes possible homosexuality from this type of bromance.  

First of all, in Workaholics, heterosexuality is a way of asserting masculinity.  A lot of the humor in this show happens when the three oddball characters try to assert hypermasculinity and fail miserably.


            Adam does this by talking waaaay too much about how much sex he’s having with his ‘milf,’ and Anders does this by putting on a strut and saying he’s going to “go Old Norse” (how manly!) and seduce Adam’s girlfriend.  Blake expresses jealousy, re-affirming that heterosexuality is cool and desireable.  In addition, the guys talk about boobs and objectify women together.  While this isn’t homophobic, it is so heterosexual that a gay man might feel uncomfortably out of place hanging out with these bros, like Michael in Bromance

In contrast to Becker’s idea of the modern bromance, Workaholics gives the idea that gayness may not actually be okay.  Adam makes this clear when he uses gayness as an insult in the episode’s most emotional conflict, saying he doesn’t want to be a “fairy wizard” with Anders and Blake. This is obviously pretty bad- Anders and Blake are hurt and angry, saying “it didn’t have to go like this.” 

Considering this, the embarrased lack of acknowledgement of the homoeroticism within the bromance is clearly not because gay love is acceptable enough that they wouldn’t joke about it.  Instead, in the context of the ‘fairy’ insult, you can conclude that they don’t more frequently acknowledge homoeroticism because it is too offensive to imply of a friend.  But the homoeroticism is there- it’s a running gag in the episode that Anders and Adam get erections when they’re wrestling or hugging.  They laugh this off and explain that it’s “contagious,” or because Adam used a good-smelling lotion, but there is absolutely no mention of the inherent homosexuality.  The awkwardness of the situation is  made clear by the guys repeating how ‘weird’ it is.  The fact that this scene exists and is played for laughs shows how unacceptable homosexuality is in the bromance, because the audience is supposed to find the homoeroticism in this bromance hilarious and absurd.  It’s basically a built-in gay joke.  Image

Workaholics expresses the same idea in the jacuzzi scene.  While three dudes in a hot tub is a normal bromance thing, two guys in a hot tub is awkward and ‘doesn’t work’ because it implies homoeroticism. 

While this bromance could appear more accepting of gay love than the overtly homophobic bromances of the past,  homophobia is still frequently implied and even vocalized. 

Amanda Palmer’s Offensive Camp

This video of Amanda Palmer’s takes an incredibly serious issue and, heavily utilizing theatricality and style, is “frivolous about the serious” (Sontag 10). Watching it, one feels that it is just “too much,” too exaggeratedly ridiculous for the subject matter. The characters shown are all exaggerated too, and the main girl is presented as being “one thing”- . However, because it is an intentionally tongue-in-cheek piece, it cannot be perceived as Sontag’s true camp, but rather as ‘camping’.

Overall, Amanda Palmer as a figure exudes camp. Highly theatrical with a strong focus on style, she has a flare for the ridiculous and absurd which defies the idea that art is serious business.

The Road Less Traveled

“You’re going to lose him, you know.”

I lowered the violin I had been plucking and glared up at my unwelcome and uninvited brother.

“Mycroft, could your observations possibly be any less helpful?” I demanded. “Either make your statements in some way meaningful or, preferably, remain silent. In fact, please don’t feel obliged to remain here at all – I’ll be sure to pass on your regards to John as soon as he returns, and congratulate him on his exceptionally well timed absence.”

“Are you being deliberately obtuse, or are you really this blinkered, Sherlock?”

I bristled. “Either be clear or be gone, Mycroft,” I snapped, my patience, always minimal, abruptly running out.

“Sherlock, Sherlock,” he sighed, in an inappropriately long-suffering manner, shaking his head for good measure. “Where is the good Doctor, anyway?”

“As if you didn’t know,” I retorted in disgust. “Really, your minions are woefully inadequate when it comes to subterfuge – it’s painfully obvious that you have us both under observation, although what you hope to gain from sticking your over-large nose into our business is beyond me.”

“Very well,” Mycroft replied, clearly realising I was not going to rise to his bait. “John is currently out on his third date with Jane, who he met in a queue at the Chinese takeaway down the road. This would be the fourth woman he’s been out with since moving in to your flat, and indications thus far would seem to suggest that the relationship will become intimate either tonight, or in the very near future.” He paused, regarding me caustically. I raised my eyebrows, wondering where on earth he was going with this stream of irrelevant information.

“Sherlock, don’t you see?” he demanded, leaning forward in his chair. “John is looking for something and sooner or later he’s going to find it. It wasn’t Sarah, Rachel or Alice and it may not be Jane, but eventually he will find a woman who is willing to put up with his dashing off whenever you text him, who will accept the part of himself he is offering, and give him what he needs in return – and at that point, my dear brother, he will be gone, married and settled and you will be alone again, without the one person who complements and completes you.”

Long after Mycroft had finally departed, I lay on the sofa, gazing up at the ceiling and pondering on what he had said. Much as I hated to admit that Mycroft could be right about anything at all, it was clear to me that he did have a point.

I did not want to go back to working alone – everything went so much better when John was with me; he kept the more annoying specimens of humanity at bay, he was absolutely loyal to me and completely reliable, not to mention surprisingly handy in dangerous situations. His intelligence, obviously, was not in my league, and his deductions, if you could call them that, were almost inevitably wrong. However, his wrongness often seemed to clear the way for my own insights, and he was refreshingly appreciative of my abilities. Really, he was the perfect partner for me, in every way.Image

Unfortunately, as my irritating brother had pointed out, John himself obviously had needs which were not being met within the bounds of our existing relationship. He was seeking to fulfil these needs elsewhere and therein lay the risk… As Mycroft had so annoyingly made clear, eventually some Joan, Ruth or Mary was going to come along and take John away from me – the strictures of traditional relationships would prevail and he would end up married and, inevitably, move out of my flat and, to an unacceptable level, out of my life.

So, having acknowledged the potential problem, I turned my tremendous brain power to determine the solution. Did John actually want to get married, settle down, have a family? On balance, I thought not… he revelled in the excitement and danger our current lifestyle provided and this was not in accordance with the traditional domestic setting. He was tolerant of children, but did not seem particularly comfortable with them and had never expressed any interest in adding to the global over-population problem.

Therefore, it was presumably a more basic drive which forced him to spend time with a stream of tedious and uninteresting women, whose company he could not possibly prefer to mine.

Deduction: John wanted sex and took a traditional approach to obtaining it.

Supplementary deduction: Possible additional need for more generalised physical affection.

Summary: To avert the potential crisis of John getting married, these additional requirements must be included in his relationship with me, thus making third party involvement unnecessary in John’s life.

Conclusion: I need to make John Watson fall in love with me.


The Gazed and the Gazed-Upon

Mulvey presents the idea of the trope of an openly sexualized woman-on-display, receiver of the voyeuristic libido-controlled gaze, who loses this glamour and show-girl appeal as she becomes the male character’s property.  This still allows her to receive a different kind of male gaze, as  the viewer wants to identify with this male who has sole access and control of the woman’s eroticism.   

It could be argued that Magic Mike follows this trajectory, leaving the eroticized life of the stripper and ending as the sole partner of the film’s strongest female character.  Is this the case, or does the Magic Mike’s representation as independent/active in this scenario negate that association?

  With our societies assumptions about gender characteristics, if one were to create a piece of film which reversed the sexes of the gazer and the gazed-upon, would it be possible to maintain the power dynamics between gazer and gaze-receiver?

Lorena’s 1960s: Fake Families and Breaking (too few) Norms

For my interview I spoke with with Lorena Welch, my feisty feminist grandmother-in-law from coastal Washington.  The eldest of four children, Lorena was born in Seattle but moved to Whidbey Island, WA, in 1964 as a freshman in high school.

During her young girlhood in the late 50s, Lorena recalls watching the occasional Saturday morning cartoon and watching TV during dinner now and then, as a special treat.  But, like the women interviewed by Hains, Stern, and Mazzarella, Lorena and her friends spent most of their childhood outside playing, and much less time watching television or interacting with media.  It wasn’t until junior high and high school that television became a large part of her social life.        

            “In high school there was this show Dark Shadows, a soap, that was on right after school.  My friends and I would all go over to each others’ houses after school to watch it together.”


60s girls were also into vampires with weird hair

The other big social show for Lorena was American Bandstand. “We would watch it together and trying to dance and fix each other’s hair like the hip girls on the show.”  Other than the one show, Lorena can’t recall consciously trying to look, dress or act like any girls on television—likely due to the lack of both girl culture and realistic females in television, which Hains, Stern, and Mazzarella point out.

Imagespeaking of weird hair…some truly impressive Bandstand do’s


    Again like the women interviewed by Hain, Stern, and Mazzarella, there were very few  female role models that she looked up to and identified strongly with as a girl.  “I loved Carol Burnett,” Lorena told me, who she could occasionally manage to watch if she was babysitting and her parents were out late.  “She was so funny,” Lorena remembers, and when it came to society’s rules, “she tore all those down.”  Aside from that, though, she couldn’t think of any actresses, characters, or singers that she loved or admired as a girl. 

                 As for the rest of the women on television, Lorena remembers a highly specific representation of femininity, very much in line with the Hains, Thiel-Stern, and Mazzarella’s observation that “girls were more likely to be portrayed in domestic situations only” (116).  The only role portrayed by women, Lorena says, was the mother figure.  “She would be a good mother that always acquiesced to the father, always told the children ‘go discuss that with your father’ if they came to her with big questions.”  Even with frequent television watching, Lorena can’t remember ever being exposed to an archetypal “bad” woman until high school when she began watching soap operas.  “They showed very fake families, very fake,” Lorena recalls.Image Women on television, she says, were mostly all like the mother in Leave it to Beaver, a show she watched a lot as a child: “the mother went around in high heels, stockings, and a dress that had a tightly cinched belt and petticoats, every day and all day.”  Lorena told me that in the 50s, keeping up appearances was an incredibly important part of life.  “You had to look, and I say this in quotes, ‘decent.’ There were much stricter rules.” 

            I’m pretty sure everyone in our generation is familiar with this stereotypical 50s image of prim and proper housewives, but I was definitely surprised by how slowly that image apparently changed.  The study Gauntlett cites which “concluded that the women’s movement had been largely ignored by television, with married housewives being the main female role shown,” even well into the 1970s, caught me by surprise.  It surprised me, too, when Lorena reminded me that before college, she could never wear pants to school.  Women couldn’t play sports either, at her high school on Whidbey Island, and when she once led a petition to allow girls to take wood shop, she was refuse by the administration.  “We just accepted this role because it was what was shown all around us,” Lorena reminds me.  “Once I wore a skourt to school and was sent home, and this was well into the 60s.” 

It was different for boys, though.  There were a myriad of roles and figures men occupied on television, reflecting the wider parameters that marked acceptable male behavior in real life.  I asked Lorena for the stereotypical 1950s man depicted on television.

“There were many more options—there was the father, who was always wise even if he got flustered sometimes.  There was the studly guy, and there was the doofus, the guy that was kind of dumb but a funny sidekick to the good guy or the hero.  There were many.”  

            More than television or the occasional movie, high school was all about the music.  “I had my own phonograph, my brother had one too, and we each had our own record collection.  My friends and I talked about music a lot, we shared records and bought each other records as gifts.”  Lorena also played violin and was a part of three different orchestras, but she had to hide her interest in classical music to avoid getting teased.  Unlike television, music was not something the family listened to together; they all had their own tastes, and Lorena, as a teenage girl, was an independent music consumer.   Like most girls in the 60s, she listened to rock, which almost exclusively meant male rock bands.  “Janis Joplin was really the only singer I can remember who broke the mold of gorgeous lounge singer.  Everyone else was like a California beachgirl, or a holleywood starlet.”


       That caught my attention- rock ‘n’ roll, a rebellious, progressive, teen-filled movement…but there were no women?  I asked if Lorena felt that gender roles changed at all during her youth, along with the new social rebelliousness of the 60s, but she didn’t thing so. 

“The gender roles didn’t change, we were defying society, but always within gender roles.  Some women were leaders, but more often they were just there, adoring the men who were leading.  It was still ‘burn your bra! You don’t have to wear your bra anymore’ but you still have to bow down to the guy.”

 In classic counterculture movies of the time, like Easy Rider, Lorena notes it was always “the male rebel doing his thing, not caring very much about the women along the way.”   Not only had the media “masculinized the teenager,” as Hains, Stern & Mazzarella note, but it seems that the youth-lead social rebelliousness of the 60s was masculinized as well. 

ImageEasy Rider: note the strong female leads