“The Greatest Western”

           Newman/Levine’s chapter “The Showrunner As Auteur” acknowledges the rising role of the showrunner as the primary author, or mastermind of a show, and how the elevation to showrunner legitimizes television as “quality TV”.  By filling the role of “story-teller in chief” and “original creator” (39), the showrunner promotes him or herself to status of the film director—only, a film director for the small screen artsy realm(40). Like film culture, the showrunner as auteur puts effort into visual aesthetics, deep narratives, historic accuracy, and consistent motifs (50). He or she is also credited to adding a “personal touch” to the storyline, which makes the oeuvre more identifiable and distinct. (51). By integrating personal motifs, using either consistent or recognizable “aesthetic integrity” (40), and using historic accurate information to propel plots and storylines, the showrunners program is considered legitimate and quality TV because the content challenges its viewers to “brood over and analyze” what is going on in the episode. There is something to chew on rather than blissfully watching a show.

            In addition, these types of hour-long shows (or mini movies) allows the showrunner to express originality through personal decisions, personal ideas, thus making what society considers, quality TV.  Furthermore, the showrunner is called a showrunner for a reason—because he or she is the boss. Although television shows are undoubtedly a collaborative work, by assigning a showrunner, or in film terms, a director, to run the show equates showrunner (TV) and director (film), thus legitimizing a television show as quality TV, and also raising its commercial status.

            David Milch, the showrunner of Deadwood, shows signs of filling Newman/Levin’s analysis of the showrunner as auteur. The article I found was in Esquire from 2011 and began with a reference to the Cohen brother’s True Grit (2011) and how there will be more Westerns following True Grit. Right after that prediction, the article introduced David Milch with, “To get a sense of what those movies might look like, we got up with the creator of the last great Western, Deadwood, which—like too many great genre masterpieces of the last decade—was actually on TV” (Sanction).         

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        First, by linking David Milch with the Cohen brother movie True Grit, elevates David Milch on similar cinematic levels as the Cohen brothers. Instead of opting to link the Cohen brothers with another Western film director, Esquire chose to compare a film to a showrunner’s production: Deadwood. Second, Esquire considers Milch’s Deadwood the “last great Western”. This again supports the notion that not only is David Milch is equivalent to a film director, but his show Deadwood is considered a “great Western” as if it were a movie. This demonstrates how much power and praise television showrunners are receiving like any filmmaker might get. Third, Esquire recognizes that David Milch is the creator of Deadwood thus legitimizes Milch as the showrunner, and also legitimizes his show as quality based on the line” last great Western”.

            Furthermore, on the topic of writing stories Milch says, “I try to do the story the way I feel the story should be done, and how that folds in to whatever larger sorts of categories or questions is non of my business”. In this last comment Milch asserts himself as the primary storywriter who not only runs but is the show (40).  

            Down the page, Esquire shifts from Deadwood to Luck, Milch and Hoffman’s newer production about horse racing. The article mentions that Milch is very familier with Luck’s setting: “a world of horse racing” (Sanction). He says, “When I was a kid…my dad used to take me out to the race track and so many formative experiences have to do with associations like that” (Sanction). Milch’s personal history with horses gives Luck the “personal touch” that Newman and Levine reference to as “boutique television”, television that uniquely created and is not part of the standard “assembly-line fashion of the usual programming” (45). The personal touch of a TV show again, is another way for showrunners to legitimize their show, legitimize themselves, and thus derive commercial and capital benefits.

            David Milch fits Newman and Levine’s mold of the showrunner as auteur.  He is considered the creator of a great Western by Esquire, he considers himself the creator of Deadwood, and he integrates pieces of his personal history to give his shows a uniqueness, and quality to them so audiences can chew on the content of the small cinematic medium we now call quality television. David Milch is amongst a host of showrunner titans who are currently redefining what exactly, quality television entails.

 

http://www.esquire.com/the-side/qa/david-milch-luck-interview-011411

 

 

Outside Sources:

 Sanction, Julian. “David Milch Does Not Believe in Genre”. Esquire. 14, Jan. 2011. Online. 19, April. 2014

The First Pinterest

            For my DIY project, I was inspired by the Pinterest set-up and culture: pinning Internet clippings onto a personal “board”. However, instead of creating my own Pinterest, I wanted to explore a more “original” version of Pinterest that involves the actual act of “pinning” a clipping—whether that be a picture, or a card—to a board. For this project I went around the Jewett Residence Hall floors and took fifty-six pictures of first-year corkboards. (With the permission of the residences). I took nine pictures in each single sex hall, and ten pictures in each co-ed floor. (For example: five girl boards, and five boy boards for Four East and Four West, both co-ed halls). This meant I had twenty-eight pictures of boards decorated by females, and twenty-eight boards decorated by men. I was interested in seeing what kinds of items Whitman first-years put on their boards. Who are the people in the pictures and how are they related? Which musical or visual artists influence them? What do the colors and the design of the board have to say?

            What I found during my project is that yes, many more female residence members had a lot more pictures, colors, and “girly” aspects. The women of Jewett tended to have more arts and crafty type of items that were pinned onto the board. Further, what was interesting was most of the big posters that the first-year women hung up were of white male men. (If you look you’ll see some Bob Dylan, John F. Kennedy, a Friends poster etc…) The other larger posters included animals, or nature pictures, and if you look closely you can see Audrey Hepburn on one board.

            For the first-year men of Jewett, the corkboards were not as heavily decorated, but displayed a lot of stereotypical masculine interests such as sports, hardcore science posters, action movie posters, and women. However like the women of Jewett, there were definitely exceptions and in fact, there are a handful of male corkboards that did not present themselves as “overly masculine.”  (One has a couple of crafty cards dangling from it). The male corkboards were much less busy, and there was not as much color, but interestingly color was easier to see because the boards were not as busy. I saw a lot of flags, music posters, (Bob Marley is pretty popular) and maps. I think it is important to highlight that both men and women’s corkboards were, for the most part, pretty organized. The difference was the amount of stuff pinned to the boards.

            As I thought about my project more and more, I decided that a corkboard is like the Pinterest board except physical. Boards are personal, and often people pin up items that express who they are, their personal opinions, (politically, musically, artistically…i.e the 2012 Obama signs) as well as the people that influence them. Looking back at the corkboards decorated by women, the creative designs gave a lot of information about the “in” styles.  A number of the boards had a “hipster” vibe to them (like nature pictures, Nols stickers, crafty items), but for the most part organized, and loosely collected. Others were more “girly”. Granted, some boards were much more busier than others, and to go against the stereotype there were at least three boards that had barely anything on them.

            However, I would also argue that these corkboards are like scrapbooks as well. The women of Jewett pinned special cards, memorable pictures, and clippings onto their boards. One girl’s board had everything from cards, pictures to candy wrappers. Like a scrapbook, corkboards collect memorabilia, but instead of being bounded by a spine, the “scrapboard” is open to anyone who walks into the room.

            Unlike a zine, I did not see a lot of “resistance” against what was on these women’s boards, or “talk back” which why the “scrapboard” resembles a Pinterest board. Similar to a scrapbook in which, “girls and women would place cards they had collected…while allowing space for personal expression…” conveying, “a more colonizing interest in incorporating people into a commodity marketplace rather than providing a site for resisting that marketplace.” (Piepmier, 32).  Most people do not “pin” images on their Pinterest (or their personal corkboards for this matter) that they resist. However, I would like to “talk back” to these corkboards and point out that despite the aesthetic look of most of these women’s boards, they are representations of status and mainstream culture. (In this case, first-year college dorm culture). Because there are so many books and sites on “how to decorate your college dorm room” there is a push to decorate your dorm room and of the women and men of the Jewett Residence Hall who did not have as many items on their boards, apologized or warned me that their board was not very interesting. Some even felt bad about it. One girl commented, “Sorry, mine kinda looks like a guy’s board.”  

            As a result of these comments and reactions, it proves that media influences everything from the clothes you where to how much a college student should decorate his or her dorm room and how. A dorm room corkboard should not wholly define a person; yet apparently in the Jewett Residence Hall students still feel slightly “outside” of the conventional college corkboard designs. Not only does media influence different genders on appearance, the professional fields to excel in, and something as simple as what to put on a corkboard, but also the pressure to decorate one’s board for the sake of being a) a person who has “unique” yet “common” interests like everyone else and b) to prove that your corkboard or Pinterest, or scrapbook is à la mode depending on your gender.

Cork-boards decorated by women:

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Cork-boards decorated by men:

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Piepmeir, Alison. “If I Didn’t Write These Things No On Else Would Either: The Feminist Legacy of Grrrl Zines and the Origin of the Third Wave.” Girl Zines: Making Media Doing Feminism. New York: New York UP, 2009. 32. Print.

Cowgirls

This Swedish comic zine tells the stories of cowgirls in a wild west setting sans biological men, meaning that the characters are either “queer, lesbian, or cowgirls”. The zine comics are created by Karolina Bang who explores topics such as queerness, sexuality, gender roles, and erotics in her zines. In her comics, she challenges gender roles in a western world where there’s lots of dancing, banjo playing, freight trains, and a kind of utopian air about the place. She also confronts the world’s bigotry and bias of today’s physical world such. (i.e. women are supposed to look like this, or men are supposed to be in this position). Imagine a world where there are no cowboys. What’s erotic is not some hunky man on a horse riding off into the distance, instead it’s a women (queer, lesbian, other another gender identity) watching the western sunset sitting atop of horse with a lasso. 

I found these comics really interesting because Bang take the iconic western image of cowboys in the wild west and replaces the cowboys with cowgirls. But not just the stereotypical sexy, passive cowgirl, but a cowgirl who knows how to shoot a gun, rob a bank, have rough sex, and doesn’t need a man to rescue her. She does the rescuing. She’s the active character.  No more Jesse James, it’s Jessie James who plays the banjo, rides the freight trains, and robs the banks. (Though, I’m not sure if there’s bank robbing in these comics. They’re in Swedish and I couldn’t find them online…I think you have to buy them). The comics are full of sex, lust, and desire between women. 

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I also think that this zine is interesting because it’s a Swedish woman’s perception of the “wild west” with a flavored twist not just for creativity, but also to illustrate (literally) her activism. Here’s a link to her blog. 

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http://karolinabang.blogspot.co.at/

 

To Be or Not to Be

Unlike the character Mindy in the TV series The Mindy Project, Jess in the Fox series New Girl is a little harder to view as a successful and independent woman of the 21st century. As an earlier post indicated, Mindy’s apparent issue is finding the right guy. Other than that, Mindy’s a white collar, self-sufficient  young woman who is professional and chic.

In season 2 episode 1 of New Girl Jess is a middle class white female who just lost her job as an elementary school teacher. In some ways she represents a woman of the postfeminist era, but in other ways her character regresses from today’s image of a self-governing, prosperous woman. Jess initially started off with a job, and apart from sharing the rent of the apartment with her three other roommates, who are all male, she seems to have some authority over them. (“Mother of the household” kind of situation). For instance, when Schmidt asks her to scratch an itch he has on his undercarriage first she says no, and later reminds him of a talk they had about how he wasn’t supposed to wear his shower diaper in the kitchen. It gets to the point where Schmidt has to beg her and she finally gives in, but clearly isn’t amused. Her urge to get out and get to her job is a sign that she’s busy, and has a preoccupation that’s important.

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Her quirky, colorful style isn’t very revealing, but playful and girly even though she has a job as a teacher. As Tasker and Negra put it, she manages to “maintain a youthful appearance and attitude” in life. She’s a picture perfect young woman of the postfeminist era who enjoys her job and won’t be intimidated by her male roommates.

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However, I got the impression that despite her job title (for now), Jess is a little disorganized. For one thing, she’s late to her meeting because she overslept, and scrambles to get together her belongings before she leaves. Interestingly, even though she’s late, she makes time to scratch her roommate’s undercarriage before leaving. Why not just leave right then and there? Then she does lose the job, and expresses her disappointment by putting on a silly hat and self-pitying herself. Nevertheless, when she gets back to the apartment, she maintains herself, and does not want pity from her roommates, which shows at first, she is not an “emotionally unstable” person Schmidt assumes she is after denying her the job at his bar. (But then he gives in). Jess shows her fierce side when she is set on proving to her roommates that she’s “going to be “the best shot girl in the world” but as we know, things don’t go exactly the way she hoped. Instead of being the “hot” and “sexy” bar girl despite her tight outfit, Jess shows off some cute dance moves that are amusing, but nothing “dangerous”. Jess is hurt, pities herself, and does cry after she realizes teaching is her real passion. By realizing her true passion, she shows some more bold, independent characteristics of a postfeminist gal who wants to get back to doing what she really loves: teaching.

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Interestingly, the article I attached is about how Deschanel considers herself a feminist. The character Jess reflects Deschanel because of her determination to meet challenges, but does so in an “adorkable” fashion. She is, as the article states, “like a fluffy kitten” but inside there’s a “lioness”. Deschanel explains that she’s being herself and doesn’t mind mixing a tiara with a Peter-Pan collar—who cares what other people think? The article seemed to convey the message that you can be a feminist and be cute at the same time, but can’t you also be a feminist and not have to dress so cutsie? I wasn’t sure after reading the article if that was accepted.

http://www.salon.com/2013/01/04/zooey_deschanel_declares_her_feminism/

No Homosexuality Allowed

In the episode of Workaholics Muscle I’d Like to Flex I saw more aggression against homosexuality, and more moments that were meant to reassure the audience the characters were not gay. At a first glance, one could read Adam, Blake, and Ander’s relationship as bromosexual because in this situation there are three male college graduates living together in an intimate setting and dressing up as wizards while testing out their rap skills. However, there are many moments that deflect the thought that these three dudes have something beyond an even bromance. For some examples, Adam ripping his shirt off in the begining and showing his chest to promote quote, “the madness that is my upper torso” is a hint to the audience that despite the geeky wizard costume, there’s a “real man” behind the robes. To add on, there’s a huge picture of highly sexualized woman in a red bikini on the mantle again, reassuring audience that this is a straight household. Not to mention, during the squabble Adam gets excited about the fact the “adult nerds” out in the audience have “huge adult boobs” and then proceeds to reminisce about the “high school drama nerds” who had “some big ol’ boobs”. It’s as if the roomates are saying, “We may look like a bunch of bromantic bros, but really, we’re straight”. Although this show started in 2011, it’s reminds me more of Becker’s interpretation of the 1990’s gay humor of the “mistaken sexual identity”.

 

Any intimate contact or almost contact between the bros is immediately shot down, or turned into comic relief. For example, when Adam is showing Blake the bedroom where “magic happened”, Blake lays down on the comfy bed, but has to move because Adam wants on. In fact Adam even waves Blake off the bed. Two men lying on a bed together could be read as two gay guys, and of course Adam, Blake, and Anders are not gay right?

 

When Adam and Anders are about to fight it out at the pool, Anders has an erection and the fight is postponed because “it’s an unwritten rule warriors cannot collide while erect”. This happens several times and is an example of how the two shoot down homosexuality because fighting is not something that is supposed to turn you on. Supposedly, it’s gay to be turned on by another guy. The two stop and wait until they’re straight again to fight. What’s ironic about this situation is clearly, the two men are getting pleasure out of it, but deny it based off some ancient rule and find other ways to prove their heterosexuality, and they never fight without an erection, so Adam and Blake just leave. The whole time during that scene, and the episode in general I got the message that there’s something wrong with being homosexual because of how many times the guys focused on fixing a suggestive gay situation like the pool scene.

 

Workaholics isn’t exploiting homosexuality, but rather straight up making fun of it, and turning it into something hysterical. Becker writes that today’s “bromance relies on the cultural awareness of and general positive associations connected to gay love to reframe straight masculinity and male homosocial relations” (9), but I didn’t see any of that in Workaholics.

Camp Celebs

I picked Ryan Gosling and Katy Perry as two examples of people who express themselves in campy ways. Although Gosling is a beautiful man, heartthrob of Americans, and has an incredible toned body, he does not embody the stereotypical ultra masculine male. He has “feminine” qualities about him, through the characters he plays, the clothes he wears, and his own graceful and charming mannerisms. Sontag says, “What is the most beautiful in virile men is something feminine.” Likewise, he continues to say “and what is most beautiful in feminine women is something masculine”. I picked Katy Perry because although a lot of her movies are overly exaggerated with female stereotypes (for example look at her “California Girls” music video that portrays women as pieces of candy, and then there’s Snoop Dog surrounded by all the “delicious” girls. Further, Katy Perry’s boobs that spray white stuff is hyper sexual) she also explores sexual fantasies with the same sex (“I Kissed A Girl”) and takes typical masculine positions and puts females in them. (“Part of Me” music video, she goes off to boot camp to fight in the Marines). I’m not saying that women do not go into the marines because they’re women, but I won’t deny that there’s still a lot of people who believe that women should not be at war because “it’s a man’s place”. She performs hyperfeminine, but also explores the hyper masculine, and meshes those two styles together and creates her own. I don’t think Gosling exaggerates anything, but I think he is comfortable with performing feminine as well as performing masculine.

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History is Coming Back!

From the article Glee: The Countertenor and the Crooner” pt. 1:

“Attractive young men in collegiate attire, sporting ukuleles or megaphones, singing to each other and to their adoring publics in high-pitched voices was a mainstay of 1920s American popular culture, then vanished during the Depression. Even the easy homoeroticism of a boy positioned between another boy’s legs dates back to popular images of the 1920s. In the early 1930s, a combination of greater media nationalization and censorship, increasing homophobia, and panic regarding the emasculating effects of male unemployment formed the context for the first national public attack on male popular singers as effeminate and as cultural degenerates.”

This passage is more historical, but I think history can be used to explain the present in a lot of ways. It intrigued me because I hadn’t known that the high-pitched male singers were very popular in the 1920’s, and then just as the depression crashed the economy, it also crashed the American culture of the 1920’s. I think it’s amazing how the style has been resurrected again after a lot of struggle. Just to say, it’s a lot more fun to hear Kurt and Blaine working the vocal chords than Mr. Bing Crosby. He’s cool too, but…

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The second passage that stuck out to me was from part 3 of the Glee articles. It was the last part of the article that talked a lot about the character Blaine (Darren Criss) and himself outside of Glee.

“Part of the reason Blaine is so beloved is because of the young man who plays him. Darren Criss himself occupies queer cultural space in that he identifies as straight but plays gay, champions the mass culture associated most with women and children (like Disney songs), and is more than happy to be an erotic object for both sexes (see, for example, his spread in Out magazine). Perhaps most unusual of all, Criss writes and performs songs from a female point of view even outside of the Blaine character. Criss composed the song “The Coolest Girl,” for the character of Hermione in a musical adaptation of Harry Potter. In concert, he often performs the song, asking the largely female audience to join in, since “I am not a girl, although I try to be sometimes.”

and at the end… :

“Just as Colfer provides a model for queer kids who have not yet been represented, so Criss provides an equally significant alternative model for queer straightness. Both performers, through Glee and beyond it, give voice to radically fluid adolescent masculinities that do indeed offer their audiences new ways to dream.”

I think this passage goes back to Monday when we discussed how you could identify as being male or female, but perform masculine or feminine. I think he’s a solid representation of what it means to perform gender.

What’s Wrong With Penises On Screen?

In the article ‘Magic Mike,’ Junk in the Face and Female Gaze written by Don Stewart, author Tracy Clark-Flory points out “how little junk we see” in the film Magic Mike (2012) and in other pornographic screenings as well. She states, “That seeing male strippers is seen as something ‘naughty’ – like eating ice cream right out of the carton,” and calls watching naked men on screen “taboo”. Stewart credits history as the reason why Western Culture has concealed male sexual pleasure from the mainstream media because it was too much for the female mind. Do you think, after seeing Magic Mike society will eventually accept revealing the male “junk” more often, or is Magic Mike just one of few exceptions? To add, would you call Magic Mike progress concerning gender and sexuality?

All for Animals

I was a bit of weird kid, maybe even a rebel as a child because I didn’t like to conform to the typical girl roles. Even as an elementary student, I never liked wearing jumpers, skirts, or “girlie” barrettes in my hair. I preferred tennis shoes over sandals, and plastic swords over Barbie dolls. True, I did have a Disney princess phase for a while, and I loved watching Disney movies as a kid, but most of the time I looked up to the strong, powerful, heroic male figure coming to save the day. Honestly, I’d rather be Davy Crockett than his wife Polly. I like the idea of being a lone ranger, doing whatever you want, out in the wild open spaces and independent of society. So yes, it looks like media got the better of me and seduced me into thinking that the male roles were the best-because most of the time they were. Griffin is right on when he said, “[children’s] play may and often does reinforce parental values but it also contains a counter social potential; it may be used to express a child’s feelings of outrage over the expectations imposed upon him or her by the social formation, over the pressure to conform to rules that constrain instinctual life, and frustrate personal desire”. (117). Looking back, my parents never pressured me into being any one particular person or type of person, but I think it was outside of the home, you know, society, that was the bigger pressure. I wasn’t outraged, I think that’s too strong of a word, but I was bothered by the expectation that a lot of my girlfriends preferred the princesses over the princes, the Polly Pockets over the Legos, and if I wasn’t interested in that sort of stuff, I was out of the loop. But these feelings I had obviously weren’t the first for girls. From what Griffin says, it looks likes the coonskin caps were popular with the young girls, in fact preferred over the “Miss Davy Crockett Snow White Bunny Fur” caps. He says, “…certain girls resisted the redirection of the advertisements. Life’s essay on the Crockett phenomenon included a photo of a young girl in a coonskin cap brandishing a rifle. Clearly, at least some girls were ignoring how the adult world would have preferred them to use Davy’s image”. (116). Maybe he’s being a bit sarcastic here, I’m not sure, but I still believe that there were definitely girls that rebelled against societal conforms.

 

I think, as I sit here and reflect my childhood, the lack of strong female characters in media wasn’t the biggest issue for me. In general, the gender boundaries were not the issue at front as a child. What I surrounded myself with was not so much prince and princesses but adventures about animals, or at least animal companions. I was really into Winnie the Poo, the book series Henry and Mudge, and Warriors (about a clan of cats), and other novels like Shilo, Where the Red Fern Grows, Brighty of the Grand Canyon, and My Side of the Mountain. My favorite Disney movie was Lion King (1994) and the Disney Channel original move Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993). Like most people of color, I had another barrier besides gender roles, and that was race. The only Asian “princess” (she’s not even a princess) is Mulan, and as much as I admire her strong female characteristics, it bothered me that whenever my friends and I played Disney princess games I was always Mulan. (Okay, she’s pretty badass, but it is hard being automatically given a part because of one’s race). Even the strong female characters in today’s media are predominantly white and as a kid I felt awkward telling other people how I’d love to be Meredith in the Indiana Jones series because I was afraid of getting comments like, “you can’t because you’re not white”.

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As a grew up, I grew out of that fear and learned that stuff like that isn’t worth fussing and worrying over because a human being is more than just the color of their skin, but if you can imagine as a child and not having that confidence, it was tough. I think that’s why I preferred hearing stories about Clifford, watching The Aristocats (1970) over The Little Mermaid (1989). As Griffin points out, “…one question yet to be answered is how nonewhite children related to the figure of Davy Crocket-neither the contemporary press, nor Margaret J. King’s work on fad seems to acknowledge that children who existed were outside the white, middle-class, suburban paradigm” (114). Truth be told, I didn’t have a lot in common with Davy Crockett except his thirst for adventure and independence, which today, I look at myself and say, “hey, that matters a lot more than looking like him”. (But it mattered twenty years ago).

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 I think because of the race barrier pertaining to media, I connected with animals who were identified by species, and did not depend on skin color, but rather fur which is hidden under skin. Wanting to be or play an animal wasn’t as limitless as wanting to be or play a human character.

 

 

Media with My Aunt

I interviewed my Aunt Anne, who is the sister of my mother. She grew up in a household of six, two sisters, a brother, both parents, and herself in Minneapolis Minnesota. After the interview, I concluded that my aunt must have been quite ahead of her time for a girl growing up in the 50’s-70’s based off her answers to many of my questions. I picked up that my aunt was, and still is personally independent of the media. When I asked her if she had a female role model to aspire after, she said there was no one person she wanted to be like. She responded, “There wasn’t any one person that I wanted to say, ‘hey I want to be like her’. What I think I wanted was the opportunity to choose what I wanted. Instead of having the option to be an engineer, I wanted all the chances to be an engineer… I was well aware of stereotyping and what was assumed appropriate, and I was well aware that I did not want to match that. I didn’t want to focus on anything in particular.”  When I asked her about TV shows and movies, I found out that my aunt did not watch a lot of TV and going to the movies was not a frequent activity.

“We didn’t have a TV until I was ten and then there was only one in my parent’s room so pretty much everyone watched the same shows. The only show I watched was Mission Impossible. That was the time of variety shows. I also watched Star Trek. I remember women being active characters in Star Trek, but they weren’t in a command position very often. They might be a communications person, but not a navigator. Unsurprisingly, they played secondary roles.” She continued, “When I was growing up women were pretty much barbie dolls when I was a kid. On TV they were housewives, like in the TV series Father Knows Best (1954-1960) and also played nannies like in, The Sound of Music (1959) and nurses. Rarely did you see a movie with a woman as an engineer or plane pilot or anything like that. The whole idea as a little girl, up to the age of twelve, is that women were to be beautiful and take care of men, and be in the professions that are caretakers and teachers. When I got into my teens, that was the beginning of the feminine era with Gloria Steinem, Betty Freidman and civil rights. Then things began to change.”

imgres-1<—1960’s cast

There was definitely change in women’s roles on TV and in the movies as my aunt points out as well as Guantlett. In the 50’s men were the main focus of the films who “made the decisions which led the story, and were assertive, confident and dominant. Women had important in roles in many films but were far more likely than men to be shown frightened, in need of protection and direction, and offering love and support to the male lead character(s)”. (50, Guantlett).  Well, if you were aspiring to be barbie, then for sure you needed a lot of help, and a lot of protection.

The 60’s were not much different with little change. Interestingly, in the 70’s women had noticeably bigger roles and kept getting bigger and more noticeably stronger than before. (However, he does mention that in the early 70’s and 80’s no matter how big the role women played and no matter how action packed, women still had to be saved and protected. ex: Princess Leia in Star Wars (1977). ) So yes, there was change, but tradition still held on tight in the media.

So what did my aunt like? “Books” was her answer, especially old mystery series like Nero Wolf  and Nancy Drew. My aunt noted that there has been some improvement of the female roles in the mystery books she’s read over the years like more female detectives and head detectives. Because of the little TV, and the absence of feminine magazines, books dominated much of her time. My aunt pointed out that her family didn’t follow the current pop culture however, it’s not like it was completely out of her life. “My mom was never a leading fashion woman and the rest of us (my siblings and I) never picked it up either. It was something that required too much energy that could have been spent elsewhere. The media never had a huge influence on me even though I went to an all-girls school, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t surrounded by it. I do remember classmates who read Seventeen magazine, priming their eyebrows and wearing certain makeup styles to mimic the ones in the magazine. I was part of the hippie culture where we kind of ignored that stuff. When we got out of uniform, I had 2 pair of pants, blue chords, and 2 brown cords. For me there was no emphasis on what you wore, just as long as you were covered.”.

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My aunt lived a privilege life in terms of education. Her father was a doctor, who supported four children that all went to private school in the twin cities and respectable universities afterwards. But it meant there wasn’t a lot left over to spend on clothes, music, and up to date accessories.. “Even though our family looked like a typical nuclear family with a dad in work and a stay at home mom, my dad made sure all of us got a good education” said my aunt. This remark reminded me of the Leslie’s recollection of her father in the chapter “We Didn’t Have Any Hannah Montanas”: Girlhood, Popular Culture and Mass Media in the 1940’s and 50’s. Leslie recollects, “My dad was way ahead of his time…he wanted his four daughters to be able to take care of themselves and not have to be dependent on a man. And I thank him for that”. (123). Doesn’t look like all men of the late twentieth century expected women to wear high heels and skirts for the rest of their lives.

Although my aunt seemed to pay less attention to the female roles molded for her by media, she still had her favorite movies, and books she enjoyed. When I asked her what her favorite movie was and why she responded “Probably The Sound of Music because I like music, and the mountains, and it’s kind of a cool story about escaping from the Germans during World War II. Yes, Maria was a nanny, but she was strong. She had to wake up every morning, was in control of seven children, and was (in the story) a major influence getting them out of Germany. Maria was not a doormat, but at the same time I don’t ever remember thinking I wanted to be like her. I don’t remember any movie where I want to be just like some character.”

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In a way, just because a lot of movies might follow the stereotypical gender roles, doesn’t mean a person who watches them hopes to fit into those positions. Author Janice Winship supported this from her novel Inside Women’s Magazines (1987): “I felt that to simply dismiss women’s magazines was also to dismiss the lives of millions of women who read and enjoyed them each week”. (54, Gauntlett) Similarly, by bashing movies that featured stereotypical women’s roles could be seen as laying off the women who watch them for fun. I believe it’s important to understand that difference, even though at first it might seem backwards.

Women’s profiles in the media have changed, whether it be in movies, music, theatre, advertisements, clothing etc…Although my aunt didn’t familiarize herself with a lot of popular culture of her time and today’s, one thing I thought worth pointing out in her last remark about the changing roles of women in media, was on the Minnesota Orchestra which is something she has enjoyed for much of her life. “The Minnesota Orchestra used to have auditions for places where applicants played for the judges, but now they do a blind auditions, so judges don’t know if its a man or woman playing. When they started doing that more women made up the orchestra. When you think about a blind auditions, there are very few professions where you can display your competence without them seeing your face, or indicating your gender. If you look at the violin section now, there are so many women there and same with the cello section. There are still instrument sections that are mainly dominated by men (the brass for instance) but there’s a lot more women in the orchestra than when I first started.” The funny thing is, I don’t think twice about whether the soloist on the radio is a female or male, all that matters is how well they play and not the gender which I believe is how it should be. Times have definitely changed.

 

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Look at all the female faces!

Even though a lot of the media requires gender identity for their entertainment, (like role casting etc…) I think the orchestra observation is a small example of how women are filtering the workforce more and more. It’s a small step in a big staircase but still significant. More women in the orchestra gives them a bigger shot at getting a solo, and maybe someday becoming a conductor. In the film industry, the more women in powerful leading roles, the more society will have to recognize women are just as capable as men in many of the traditional male positions from the past. In the past forty years women have seen a lot of role change, and I would also like to add men too, especially in the twenty-first century. Today, it’s not certain that superman will always be the one to save the day.