Homoeroticism and Queer Interpretations of Masculinity

http://pinterest.com/taborsinterests/

For my DIY Project, I chose to make a Pinterest account about homoeroticism and Queer Interpretations of masculinity. I came up with this idea based primarily on my essay about queer culture in sports and how many people still view queerness and sports as two separate entities when in reality they are very much intersected. Secondly, I wanted to further pursue and elaborate on a topic that we mentioned briefly earlier in the semester; “queer reading” (Doty).  In the article that we read about it, the author Alexander Doty discusses how queer readings of texts “aren’t ‘alternative’ readings, wishful or willful misreading, or ‘reading too much into things’ readings. They result from the recognition and articulation of the complex range of queerness that has been in popular culture texts and their audiences all along” (Doty, 345).  I wanted to do two things with Doty’s theory: 1) to combine it with my idea of a legitimate queer presence in sports, and 2) to prove that “queer readings do not only apply to contemporary texts but also historical texts as well. I also wanted to illustrate Alison Piepmeier’s point that “Origin stories are important because they tell us where to look and what patterns to watch for. The ‘wrong’ stories can give us a distorted or diminished of the past, and by extension, the present moment” (Piepmeier, 26) I thought that Pinterest would be the best and most obvious way for me to prove Doty’s theory and apply it to sports as well because photos allow for individual interpretation.

The first part of my project was to look on Pinterest, which I considered to be a fairly progressive site, and see if I could find any boards or ‘pins’ of homoeroticism/ queerness in sports,  and if I could find any historical photos of “queer readings”. After a few extensive searches, I only came up with two or three photos of which I used one for the boards. Since there was a virtually non-existent presence of historical homoerotic photos or queer readings of sports photos on Pinterest, I began the next phase of my project, which involved exploring the web for appropriate and relevant photos to ‘pin’ on my boards. This was a more time consuming process than I had anticipated because I wanted to try and find a variety of photos so as to have the most inclusive boards. For instance, I wanted to find queer interpretations of photos in as many sports as I could, and at least one or two women’s sports (I found one that I thought fit particularly well). In addition, I wanted to find historically homoerotic photos not just of white men, but also other minorities (I found a few photos of black men). Lastly, I wanted to make sure that I included a few contemporary photos of homoeroticism and queer readings of traditionally masculine activities.

I am pleased with the amount and quality of photos that I found, and realized that it is fairly easy to put a “queer reading” onto a text, especially photographs. I think Pinterest was a perfect medium of choice, especially for sports photos, because I think it is evident from looking at the photos that “queer readings” are just as legitimate a way to interpret a text or activity as a heterosexual reading. Furthermore, I was pleased that I could find so many historical photos of homoeroticism or queer interpretations. I think my Pinterest boards help to demonstrate and legitimize “queer readings” of texts and although my boards will not get the same attention as a mainstream media product, I did pin 63 new items to Pinterest for others in the future to use and see, and I plan on continuing to pin more relevant photos to my post. Even though, the Pinterest account that I made, isn’t one that I would use for recreational use, it is one that I plan on periodically updating and adding to because “queer readings” are something that  I want more people to become familiar and comfortable with.

Works Cited:

Doty, Alexander. “There’s Something Queer Here” pgs. 338-345. n.d. Print.

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. 26. Print.

 

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OTM- is the cat’s meow

http://otmzine.com/page/1

The Zine that I chose Is called OTM Zine: (Off the Map). 

Why I chose it/ why it’s awesome: To be honest, I had never heard of a zine before the Piepmeier article and even as I was reading it, I was still confused. And then all of the sudden it occured to me that the name ‘Zine’ was just cut off of MagaZINE. With that in mind, I looked up travel zine and found a pretty awesome one based in Toronto, called OTM. It’s essentially a zine that focuses on the endeavors, adventures, and interests of local Toronto artists. Each issues focuses on selected illustrations, photos, fashion pictures, and interviews that are entertaining and funny. I get the feeling from reading through even just one of the issues, that any of the artists profiled could have their work one day go big. The zine is a perfect online platform for emerging Canadian artists, and although I am not Canadian, if I were, I would very much appreciate a sight like this to show my work and hopefully expand from there. One of OTM’s taglines “we celebrate the individual on our own terms” especially speaks to me because it focuses its attention on individuals in a supportive and engaging way. 

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Zooey Deschanel and her challenging feminism

Zooey Deschanel is a complex person. Although I am not her biggest fan mostly because  I do not appreciate her humor, daintiness, looks, and so on, I will say that I do think she is popular and mostly very well liked because she brings a unique dynamic to her characters and overall image.  I have many friends that have told me how Deschanel’s “Adorkable” starlet persona, is the perfect representation of a post-feministic woman, or a modern woman. That is to say, that she delicately balances a playful, happy -go -lucky girl image, while simultaneously upholding an independent, almost fiercely individualistic façade.

      New Girl is a great example of how Zooey Deschanel is able to balance, and sometimes challenge her dynamic, post-feministic persona. In the episode we watched, she adheres to some of the qualities that are generally regarded as post-feministic, but there is also a few times where she clearly disputes that image as well. For instance, after her character Jess gets laid off from her job as a teacher, she goes back to her apartment where she reveals to her three guy friends that she got laid off, but did not want their sympathy or pity. In fact, she specifically asked for Nick to be mean to her. In this way, Jess is able to stay, at least by appearance, resilient to the need for reassurance and comfort from her male counterparts and thus exudes womanly independence. Yet, later in the scene she is offended when Nick tells her that she is “not the right kind of hot” girl to be a shot girl. She is so insulted that she takes it upon herself to show up at the party that night and prove to the guys that she can be a hot, slutty, stupid “shot girl”.  It is promising to see Jess confront her male friends and tell them that she doesn’t need their pity and that she is fully capable of moving past her job layoff as an independent person and woman. Yet, it does not take long before the viewers see Jess’s need to be praised and approved of physically by her male counterparts, thus making her dependant on them to a degree.

   In the party scene, Jess dances with another shot girl on the table before realizing that she does not want to use her body as a means of approval but instead wants to go back to being a teacher again. This too, complicates her character. In one sense, Jess shows post-feministic qualities by realizing that she has the choice and ability to have the career that she wants. On the other hand, despite realizing that she can do and be what she wants to be, she still feels that being a teacher is right for her because in her words, “it’s who I am”, implying that she is drawn to being a teacher whether or not she wants to be a teacher. Another interesting factor is that teaching, at least in the elementary levels is traditionally a women dominated field. Despite being laid off in it, possibly because she was a woman, Jess still yearns to go back to it which is another aspect of Jess challenging post-feminism.

    The additional article I read about Zooey Deschanel, was by a woman who praised Zooey’s role in New Girl, saying that although she “understands why people find her unappealing” because of her “Manic pixie dream girl-esque career choices and persona” Zooey D has a big post-feministic fan base because she is still “outspoken about feminism and unapologetic about her love for girly things”. Without having seen enough of New Girl to make an informed comment, I will say that even in the one episode that we watched, I saw glimpses of her character that although wasn’t entirely post-feministic, was striving to move in that direction. 

http://funnyfeminist.com/2013/03/10/formative-performances-zooey-deschanel-in-new-girl/

Bromosexual Tendencies

Overall, I would say that Becker’s quote is accurate, but there are a few cases where her claim that excluding “gay men from the privileges of hegemonic masculinity by reinscribing certain rigid gender norms” can be challenged. Although the examples that I can think of are not necessarily explicitly stated, they are strongly suggested and implied. At the very least, just like the Volleyball scene in Top Gun can be looked at through a correct queer lens, these examples can be looked at through an accurately queer interpretation.  The first example from the screenings that comes to mind is when Mac tells Frank in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia  that he cleaned out the close so there was enough room to put in a mattress. This meant that Frank and Charlie didn’t have to sleep together anymore, which to Rob (who completely embodies the stereotypical and “proper” bromance partner) seemed like a good thing. However, Frank looks disappointed and complains that both he and Charlie “like the arrangement” of sleeping together; something that visibly strikes Mac as odd or maybe even wrong. Becker alludes to the stereotype that male solidarity is not sought-after, but rather there is a stereotype that men need homosocial bonding with other men and how  “Intimate relationships with other men are highly desirable, promising access to patriarchal privileges. At the same time, such intimacy can draw men’s heterosexuality into question, threatening their access to those privileges” (3). We see a more accepted form of bromance with Mac and  Dennis and they even make jokes about how they are disappointed with seeing eac hother at dinner after being promised a big breasted woman. Charlie and Frank on the other hand, never mention anyone other than each other, and blur the bromance line for Mac when it is revealed that they like to sleep together.

Another example is in Workaholics with the boner scene. It is obvious that touching each other makes them turned on and horny even though they don’t think of it as gay. Becker would argue that because they don’t see it as gay that it isn’t, because they acknowledge the situation and clarify that it is only because of what they are talking about and their bodies that are turning them on, but it’s not a conscious decision, which in a way reinforces “certain rigid gender norms” like the masculinity of being straight-forward. Yet, the fact remains that whether they wanted to or not, they were turned on by each other, and therefore broke some implicit Bromance codes, which is why their scuffle kept having to be broken up until neither was turned on by the other. I will admit that, as Becker States, gay men would be excluded from this particular situation as the three bromosexual friends are obvious homophobic to each other and don’t want to come to terms with the fact that they might be homo or bisexual.

Poor Nicolas Cage…

I think this speaks for itself but I will say there seems to be a societal/cultural obsession with associating a Nicolas Cage movie with cheesy-ness or describing it as “camp”. It is somewhat ironic (and even more hilarious to many people) because although Nicolas Cage appears to take himself and his films seriously, it is generally understood by others that he and his movies are very campy. Also this clip is ridiculous FYI

Poster Boys!

Poster Boys

Summary:

Greg Lestrade finds himself unable to resist the lure of teaching Sherlock and John a thing or two.

“Will I what?”

“Teach us.” Sherlock’s look of guileless innocence did not fool Lestrade for even a second.

Notes:

Yes, more porn. Ha! It’s not like i’m procrastinating, or have loads of actual work to do or anything, clearly.

Lestrade is 30 here, John and Sherlock around 16.

Work Text:

There were, as a rule, two breeds of teenager enlisted in Broughton Military Summer Camp, and they got on about as well as cats and dogs. The first, troubled teens who’d been expelled from school enough times to count on both hands; the second, military brats who had practically been bred to shoot things and take orders.

Sherlock Holmes was a poster boy for the former. He was sullen, rude and unwilling to consider for a second that this might be something that would benefit him. He’d managed to smuggle drugs into his cabin twice in the first week, had exploded the kitchen once (“it was an experiment, you idiots!”) and generally managed to piss off the entire staff and most of the other boys within an hour or so of his arrival.

These were all reasons why, when Sherlock started causing mayhem with an accomplice, the last person Lestrade was expecting to see trailing behind him into his office was polite, deferent golden boy for the army brats, John Watson.

Watson?”

“Mr. Lestrade.” He didn’t even have the decency to look particularly sheepish. Too busy making enormous moony eyes at Sherlock. For God’s sake.

How–no, nevermind,” he turned to Sherlock, “what on earth have you done now, Holmes? One of the new leaders has had to be sent home forstress.”

Sherlock looked unrepentant.

“She’s had a nervous breakdown within a day of starting, Sherlock.”

Sherlock scoffed. “It was only a couple of frogs. Completely sterile. Lestrade, I am so bored my brain is going to rot out of my skull. Can’t you see I need something to do?”

Inexplicably, Watson blushed.

“And if you’re going to keep me from doing experiments…” He trailed off, sharp eyes suddenly darting to Watson.

Lestrade raked a tired hand through his hair and rubbed his eyes.

“Right. You,” he pointed at Sherlock, “are in disciplinary for another week, don’t argue with me,” he held up a silencing hand as Sherlock opened his mouth, “you knew this would happen.” Sherlock slumped back into his seat with a huff.

“And you,” he turned to Watson, “I expect better from you, Watson. Disciplinary for three days. Now get out of my office, both of you.”

Sherlock seized Watson’s hand and pulled him out of the door, whispering in his ear. Lestrade rolled his eyes. God, he needed a coffee.

In the evenings, Lestrade liked to take walks through the acres of forest that surrounded the camp. The lodge that housed the kitchen and dining hall looked out onto a small but perfectly formed lake, which was circled by a picturesque sandy path. During free time, the boys were allowed to swim in the lake, but at this time of day it should have been empty. He sighed wearily at the sight of two figures splashing each other near one of the beaches on the other shore, and began to trudge towards them.

Because he was slightly hidden by the trees, the boys didn’t notice him as he approached. By the time he recognised who it was, he was only about thirty feet away. He leaned on a tree and cupped his ear to listen to what they were saying, confident that Sherlock would notice him fairly soon. That boy was ridiculously observant.

“–dust accumulation,” Sherlock was saying. “These things sound boring, but it’s knowledge, John.”

“Nothing sounds boring when you talk about it,” Watson splashed him playfully. “Even dust.”

Sherlock smiled a slow smile and ducked into the water; seconds later Watson was pulled under with a high-pitched squeal. They surfaced, spluttering and laughing, and Lestrade was just about to step out from his tree and scold them into returning to the camp when Sherlock splashed towards Watson, slid a hand slowly up the side of his neck and pressed their mouths hotly together.

Lestrade stopped breathing for several seconds.

The kiss, open and wet to begin with, became suddenly downright filthy; Sherlock pulled Watson flush to him and God he could see the way they were moving slowly together, could hear Watson’s breathy moaning as Sherlock dragged his mouth over his jaw down his neck. Sherlock was thumbing softly at one of Watson’s nipples.

Lestrade came to his senses, suddenly, and cleared his throat loudly. They sprang apart, Watson turning bright red. Sherlock just licked his swollen lips, breathing heavily.

“You two,” said Lestrade, stepping out from under the shadow of the tree, “are not supposed to be here.” His voice was blessedly even, but he could feel the way heat was trickling up his spine.

Sherlock gave him a sharp look up and down, and then, amazingly, did as he was told. Lestrade escorted them both back to their cabins, pointedly not looking at the red circular mark on the side of Watson’s neck.

Shit.

He tried. He really did try, but that night he shifted restlessly in bed, feeling every drag and slide of the sheets against his sensitised skin. The longer he went on the less he could resist until he just gave in and wrapped a trembling hand around his cock with an agonised breathy moan.Fuck. He came all over his hand thinking of Sherlock suckling at Watson’s tiny pink nipples until they were red and swollen.

Fuck, fucking fuck.

“Will I what?”

“Teach us.” Sherlock’s look of guileless innocence did not fool Lestrade for even a second. Watson was biting his lip, scuffing his trainers against the floor and blushing madly, almost red enough to disguise the mark still on his throat.

“No. No. Absolutely not. I’m your guardian just now, Sherlock. Jesus.” He resolutely ignored the hot pulse of want that went directly to his cock.

“But–”

“The answer is no. Now go away, and for God’s sake, stay out of trouble.”

Which was, obviously, how he found himself holding Watson’s hips down and giving Sherlock gentle encouragement as he tentatively deep-throated him. Fuck. He was going to hell. He was watching a sixteen-year-old boy sucking his sixteen-year-old boyfriend’s cock and it was the hottest thing he’d ever done.

Sherlock moaned around his mouthful of cock; Watson’s hand tightened on Lestrade’s arm.

“That’s it, swallow a little. Gorgeous, you’re doing so well.” He stroked Sherlock’s sweaty curls back from his face, breath going out a little as Sherlock gazed up at him, wide eyed. God, he looked beautiful with his mouth full.

Later, after he’d spent almost an hour gently fingering Sherlock into a writhing mess and helped him sink slowly down onto John’s cock, he found himself unable to stop touching where they were joined, where John was twitching and Sherlock was slick and grasping. He slipped the very tip of his finger in; Sherlock choked.

“Oh, fuck.”

It was the first time Lestrade had heard him sounding anything less than composed. In fact, he sounded wrecked. His voice was hoarse, low and his breathing harsh. He squirmed against Lestrade’s fingers.

“More.”

He slowly slid two fingers alongside John’s cock and Sherlock was whining, writhing. John just lay gasping on the bed, eyes half shut as he watched Sherlock fucking himself on his cock and Lestrade’s fingers.

“More, more, fuck, fuck Lestrade.”

“I can’t, Sherlock, God I–”

Fuck me.

“Oh, fuck,” he scissored his fingers a little.

“Please, please, I want it. Fuck me, oh, please.”

“But–”

“I can take it. I can take you. Do it, oh God.

God, the little shit always got what he wanted.

He pulled his fingers out, poured most of the rest of the bottle of lube onto them and slipped them easily back inside, feeling John’s cock twitch against them. Sherlock rolled his hips, pushing John deeper and they both moaned, Sherlock leaning down to give him a lazy open mouthed kiss. Lestrade used the rest of the lube to slick himself up, pulled his fingers out, and ever so gently pushed the head of his cock up against Sherlock’s hole.

“Oh, Jesus fucking Christ,” said Sherlock, “oh my God.”

“Relax,” he murmured, spreading Sherlock’s thighs further apart and feeling like the worst person in existence. His cock jerked a little in his grip.

He pressed slowly, oh so slowly until the head of him slipped just inside and Sherlock was panting and swearing and oh, coming with a helpless little cry all over John Watson’s chest and stomach. John looked like he’d been hit over the head with something heavy. He spoke for the first time since they’d started.

“I can feel you, oh my God. Oh, fuck,” and then he was gripping onto Sherlock’s hips, head thrown back onto the pillow, and Lestrade felt him pulsing, jerking slickly against his cock with a low groan. Sherlock collapsed forward onto him and they kissed desperately, smearing open mouths against each other as Lestrade began to jerk his hips forward with shallow, quick strokes. He bit the back of Sherlock’s neck as he came to stop himself from shouting loud enough to wake the entire camp.

The rest of night he spent watching them kiss, holding John’s thighs apart while Sherlock pushed long fingers inside him, fucking Sherlock with his tongue while John watched open-mouthed, and finally watching as Sherlock reverently slid himself inside John and they fucked slowly, heatedly, John eventually coming completely untouched with a wrenching sob against Sherlock’s mouth.

He was so, so fucked.

He called in sick the next day, trying desperately to feel the guilt and shame he deserved, but all he could think about were the desperate noises Sherlock had made has he and John had been inside him at the same time. He got two texts later that afternoon, while he was pouring a cup of tea.

I just fingered John and sucked him until he came down my throat.

Pity you weren’t there to watch.

He came twice in the shower; the second time left him kneeling, gasping, forehead against the tile as he watched come drip down the glass.

He had no idea how Sherlock had even got his number.

A picture message came while he was catching up on some paperwork alongside two of the younger volunteers. He really, really should have known better than to check it. The image was blurry, but nonetheless clearly showed Sherlock’s long, long legs spread out on one of the camp beds, one hand wrapped around a flushed red cock. He closed the message hurriedly, and thought about football until his erection went away. Bloody, bloody Sherlock.

What really took the biscuit though, was arriving at his cabin after a twelve-hour day, ready to just have a beer and some food and collapse, to find two teenaged boys fucking on his bed.

“Jesus Christ, you two.”

“Lestrade,” Sherlock rasped, pushing his hips forward jerkily and making John gasp and grip the sheets, “you’re late.”

“I–what?”

“You’re late. John’s getting desperate.”

John whimpered, head thrown back. He looked completely wrecked, his hair soaked with sweat, lips bitten red and swollen.

“How long have you been–?”

“Almost two hours, ah, we were waiting for you.”

“Jesus,” he said, sitting on the edge of the bed before his knees decided to give out and running a tentative hand down Sherlock’s hot damp back. Sherlock arched up into the touch; John swore and his hands came up to grip onto Sherlock’s hips.

“Oh, Sherlock, let me come. God, fuck, you bastard. Please.”

“Ask Lestrade to suck you with that pretty mouth of his.”

“Ungh, Mr. Lestrade. Please, make me come.”

How is this my life? Lestrade let out a shuddering breath and leaned over, gently easing Sherlock off John, making them both whine.

“Sherlock, on your back. John, face me. There you go.” He watched, dry mouthed as John lowered himself back onto Sherlock’s cock, and gently pushed him backwards until he was lying on top of Sherlock, back pressed to his chest. God, the view. Sherlock rolled his hips slowly.

Lestrade made sure to keep his eyes on John’s face as he wet his lips and slid his mouth over the slippery glans. He sucked softly, tasting bitter precome, felt Sherlock move underneath him and John drew in a massive shaking breath, moaning helplessly.

“Oh god, your mouth. I’m gonna come. More, fuck, more.”

Lestrade sucked a little harder, flicking over the slit and over the fat head, feeling as John began to pulse a little under his tongue.

“Oh, I’m coming. Sherlock, fuck, fuck, fuck me, oh, oh, oh–”

There was a burst of hot come at the back of his throat and he swallowed greedily, listening to the sounds of Sherlock shaking apart beneath them both. As soon as John was spent, he pulled off wetly, drinking in the sight of the two of them collapsed on his bed, sweaty and sated. It took less than ten strokes of his hand with Sherlock watching him dark-eyed before he came, groaning, onto John’s soft cock. Sherlock shuffled down John’s body and licked it off like a cat lapping up milk. Lestrade felt his cock give a half-hearted twitch.

“You two are going to give me a heart attack. I’m too old for this. Also it’s really, really illegal. Fuck.” He flopped backwards onto the bed and covered his face with his hands. When he looked back up, the two of them were kissing deeply. He shut his eyes, half hoping and half dreading that if he squeezed them hard enough he would somehow wake up to find that this had all been a dream. A soft moan sounded from the end of the bed. No such luck.

He realised that weekend that he was more fucked than he’d thought when he was balls deep in a gorgeous redhead and couldn’t stop thinking about John Watson’s lovely little mouth. He came, eyes closed, thinking about rubbing Sherlock’s come onto it. The gorgeous redhead let himself out in the morning; they didn’t exchange numbers.

The camp finished in three days.

He tried to ignore both the wrench in his chest that told him he’d never see either of them again, and the stabbing in his gut when he thought about what he’d been doing. Fucking two of the boys he was supposed to be teaching oh, Jesus. The thought of someone finding out made him feel sick. The thought of never watching John and Sherlock kissing so beautifully again made him feel sicker.

He didn’t see either of them off, wasn’t sure what he might do. He walked around the lake until after midnight, intending to flop straight into bed as soon as he got back to the cabin. He brushed his teeth listlessly, looking at himself in the mirror. His hair was starting to really go grey. At thirty. He scowled at his reflection.

When he pushed the door to his bedroom open, he stopped dead. He’d made the bed with clean sheets that morning, but the sheets were rumpled, duvet flung to the floor, the scent of sex and sweat clinging to them. On the pillow, there was a note.

221b Baker Street, London. August onwards. Call ahead.

It was signed in an elegant script, Sherlock Holmes.

He fell asleep, finally, nose pressed into the pillow, paper crumpled in his fist and a small smile on his face.

Magic Mike: Member’s Only

“And while mainstream male nudity may not be as common as mainstream female nudity, it does seem like women gazing upon men purely as sexual objects — from the Old Spice man to the ripped vampires in True Blood and the asses of Magic Mike — is becoming more common, more accepted. Maybe if full-frontal wasn’t so rare, women wouldn’t need to get ridiculously giddy over a few peeks at buttcheeks”. With this in mind, do you think Magic Mike has/will start breaking down barriers (so to speak) and eventually lead to more frontal views of nude men and possibly even make the projection of full-frontal male views popular in mass media? 

Pellet-Filled Fun

        Beanie Babies took the toy world by storm in the 90’s. When I asked my mom about them she said that “It seemed like nearly every child owned at least one, whether they wanted it or not”. They became an instant popular collectible all over. They were an innocuous stuffed animal toy whose use or functionality as a toy is questionable at best. In large part, they were purchased and popular because they had names, facts about them, and even dates of births on their name tags that could be memorized and collected until a child had enough beanie babies to forget about how fun real toys used to be before beanie babies.  My family was no exception to this fad. From the time I was three years old, until last year when I left for college, my grandparents would buy me a Beanie Baby for any occasion that they could find a legitimate excuse for. They also happened to do the same thing for my two  younger brothers and sister. They loved giving them to us and we loved receiving them as gifts. But my siblings and my love for  beanie babies was rooted in a much different passion than my grandparent’s love for them. My grandparents loved the cuteness of the designs, the variability in their colors and features, their adorable names and lil’ factoids that could be found on the heart shaped tags attached to every lovable animal. On the other hand, my siblings and I loved the weight, girth, and abundance of different satisfying positions in which one could comfortably hold a beanie baby in your throwing hand. That’s right. Beanie babies were our favorite and most valued presents because of how lethal and functional they were as throwing ammunition in our daily, perennial sibling “war” of “let’s use beanie babies as a means to evaluate once and for all which sibling is the most superior” that lasted from around 1999-2010. Part of the reason beanie babies became so popular in society, was because of the novel idea of stuffing the toys with “pellets” or “beans” rather than the conventional stuffing of fluff or other things that couldn’t cause pain no matter how hard they were thrown. My siblings and I were also fascinated with the novel idea of pellet-filled stuffed animals as it was a game-changer. They were so much more satisfying to throw at someone than a cotton-stuffed doll. Just like the rest of America, my siblings and I began to amass our own beanie baby collections, completely separate from one another. Some “models” were clearly more valuable than others because of their weight and design (e.g. being nailed by Pinchers the Lobster  hurt much worse than getting hit by Legs the Frog, but If one was skilled enough to be able to accurately throw Legs the Frog by one of his limbs, then a much faster hit could be delivered to the less-fortunate or skilled sibling). It came to be that opening my grandparents’ gift for Christmas or our birthdays became one of the most anticipated and simultaneously dreadful moments of those special occasions. A good beanie baby was like gold to us, and even better, it made our grandparents so happy. Although we didn’t use beanie babies for their original intentions, we could not be happier with having  them for our own use. We derived our own value and meaning of what a beanie baby’s function was ,and to us it was just as valid as the creators’ intent. We were doing exactly what Griffin describes in her article as “poaching”.  As she explains it, “Children draw upon prefabricated characters and situations of popular culture to make their own social experience, reworking them to satisfy their own needs and desires. Children take what they can and make their own culture with it” (104).  Our grandparents bought us beanie babies in hopes that we would enjoy placing them on shelves to look at and not for vehicles of violence, but we did just that, because as Griffin talks about, “Childhood is a concept of innocence, which has often little relation to the material experience of actual children” (103). Similar to how children found a way or excuse to conform to the “Davey Crocket Craze” by finding their own meaning in it, my siblings and I were able to conform to the popularity of beanie babies by finding our own value and meaning for them. 

The Impact of Nana’s Media Restrictions

I decided to interview my grandmother Nana, from my father’s side of the family. She is 73 years old and was born and raised in Northern California. She grew up in a family with 5 sisters and a stay at home mother. Her father was a well-known and respected doctor who provided his family with a pleasant lifestyle. My grandma attended a private all-girls high school and was not around boys on a regular basis.

During her teenage years, Nana’s family did not own a television, listen to the radio, or consume much media at all. It wasn’t until she was eighteen years old, when they finally acquired a small television as a gift. It was “placed in the back sewing room and not utilized very often”.  When her family did watch television it was mostly westerns, because that is what “father always preferred or permitted” and not much else.  Occasionally though, she and her sisters would watch something else when their father wasn’t home. Nana’s favorites included Anastasia, 7 Brides for 7 Brothers,  and The King and I. When I asked her about idols or celebrities she enjoyed, she mentioned many of the same ones as from the readings, (John Wayne and other cowboys, Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, etc) but could not recall a single female actress or celebrity. “They just weren’t as prominent back then, or memorable”.  Some of this might have to do in part to the lack of  emphasis placed on the value of watching television in her family. .  Going to the movies was another restriction, because her mother was scared that “ my sisters and I would catch some bugs at the theatres and come home with them and die”.  Similar to many of the girls in the Hains et al study,  she “much preferred to read, or play outside” than watch something on television or even go to the movies.

Nana did love to read and consume books but preferred classics such as Caddie Woodlawn, Robison Crusoe, and  “anything by Charles Dickens”.  Another important part of her teenage years included music, just like many of the girls from the Hains et al Study. However, Nana’s interest in music was a little different. Her mother was a chamber choir instructor for some of the best choirs in the country and would travel in competitions with them. Naturally, Nana was a classically trained singer but that did not stop her from enjoying pop music as well.  With her strict parents, it was difficult to find a time and place for listening to music but she and her best friend managed to sneak out and buy a record of Elvis Presley, “whom we both adored but only admitted to each other” . Like Leslie and Elizabeth from the study, Nana and her friend enjoyed his music and his “looks” but did not appreciate how other girls Lusted over him”. Interestingly, although she was a classically trained musician,  Nana “loved rock”  and Elvis, but again, was almost confused when I asked her about female musicians and vocalists and said “there were none that I recall listening to with my girl-friends”.

Overall, Nana experienced the teenage years with relatively little interactions with media. When she did consume it, it was either with her sisters or her schoolmate girl-friends. She spoke about how she doesn’t regret any of media experiences or lack thereof and looks at the time of her life “rather fondly”.  When I asked her how she felt about the general gender roles and representations in media around that time, she keenly noted that since she did not “indulge in media often, it was easy to see that everything in it was just a perception and nothing more”. When I asked her to elaborate she explained how although it bugged her that women were  “unfairly, unrealistically, and under-represented” in media, it didn’t particularly anger her because she knew that the media world, existed apart from “her world”, which she viewed more positively. She also mentioned that “boys on television and film were nothing like the boys I had met and knew in my life” as proof that the media world and her world  were clearly different. Nana recognized the male and female discrepancies in media but remained a passive acceptor  or consumer of it none the less. Today she still only watches westerns and films from the 50’s and 60’s, reads classic novels, and listens to music from the 60’s, mostly performed by men.

After talking to my grandma, I recognized the many similarities between her and other women in the Hains et al study. The most startling and perhaps disturbing trend I noticed was the passive acceptance of male dominated media. They seemed to be dimly aware that there was something not quite right and fair about it, but found ways to enjoy it none-the-less.  I surprised to learn this from my grandmother who I had previously perceived or guessed would have been more actively or fiercely passionate about her gender having more opportunities and roles in the media world. Yet maybe she was still a competent and non- dainty woman because  she didn’t consume very much media. In this way, she was able to clearly differentiate from the media world and her own and thus not be as influenced by media as other women were. Perhaps because of her upbringing, she was not as susceptible  or accepting of passive,  and traditional roles for women in society that media mostly re-enforced. After all, she did go to Cal Berkeley and eventually become a veterinarian. My conclusions are that, overall, media from the 1950’s significantly impacted gender roles and identity in society.