Week 5 – WGSS 224

Part of this weeks homework:


Now share 2 things you have learned about women in Hollywood, TV, media on the discussion board. How does this information connect with what you have read in the textbook? How does intersectionality affect these studies? How does race, class, dis/ability, sexuality, sexual identity, nation of origin, parenting and mothering status, and more, impact the representation we see in our film and TV?

1. New study shows women will turn off a film or TV show if too stereotyped or lacking female characters.

I did not know this. But, it makes total sense. As a woman, let me just say that I don’t watch a whole lot of TV. When I do watch it has a tendency to be fact based, meaning, I keep up on current events, the news, and I like documentaries. I will absolutely seek out shows about women, because I like the encouragement I get from them. I get the “if she can do it, so can I” kind of message from them.

There is really only one story show that I really currently watch on the TV. Law & Order; Special Unit. I like the character of Olivia Benson. I like what the show looks at. It hits home in a big, big way. I am the mother of a survivor, and I am a survivor. But, I am well aware of the fact that Oliva is really good looking compared to 99% of us, and that real cops have an even harder time in real life than on TV. You know, in terms of looks alone, every woman on that show is pretty dog gone good looking. There isn’t a double chin in the group! In terms of realistic mentor type characters for young women coming up the question would be, “really?”

You know it doesn’t matter if it’s a western, a crime show, or sci fi, whatever, if it’s fiction (and even when not) the women characters are usually over board beautiful, 1000% blonde to some degree, a perpetual victim (one wonders how much of all that violence they could actually handle if these stories lines were anything close to real life!), and if they are not a victim or a copy or a hero, and they actually get to shoot a gun… they usually can’t hit a target! I happen to be one of those, and I know that with practice, I can hit a target.

I have a tendency to agree with our former President. The “old white men” not only need to step aside when it comes to politics, they need to step aside when it comes to anything important in life. They’ve run the show for far too long!

As a mom, I have to say, that I tried as much as possible to control what my kids saw on TV. When you are a single mom and have to work that’s a really hard thing to do. So, you try to stay on top of things and temper what the kids see. You do not want your girls growing up thinking that what they see on TV is even close to reality. Nor do you want you boys thinking it either.

In some ways I know I succeeded, and here is a small taste of intersectionality. My girls at least don’t seem to have the issues that I grew up with. I came up in the age of Barbie & Ken. I owned three of those girls and we played dress up a lot! My mother made me a lot of clothes for them. Between Barbie’s and all those perfect girls on tv, and a mother who let us know that she was the best in every category of life, my self-esteem had no chance. Even though I had a very good figure as a young woman, I have never worn a bikini, nor a halter top, and I didn’t wear shorts until I moved to an area where the heat was so bad that environment required cooler dress. Every curve I owned was in my mind, fat packed and not normal, and therefore, needed to be hidden from sight so that the sight would not turn some poor person’s stomach! Who wants their kids to grow up like that?!

One other thought that just crossed my mind. It might be somewhat “old school”. When I was a kid, we played with paper dolls. Once in a blue moon we got a little book with the dolls premade where we just punched them and their clothes out and used the little tabs to hang the clothes on those dolls. But, in my world most of our “dolls” were by and far, mostly ladies cut out of a Sears or Montgomery Wards catalog. Grandma made us paste from flour and water and we glued their clothes on from other pages in the same or similar catalogs. The ladies were not Barbie. But they were still very perfect in terms of body image at least. Not a disabled person in the lot. No imperfection to be found. No 3x size models. Why in the world were they even selling girdles?? Those ladies didn’t need them! I hope that today’s little girls are getting a much more realistic view of what the world is made of in terms of women. But, not just in terms of body image. Real strength and courage are not going to be found at Tiffaney’s, and even those of us who have found a voice, well, we still sometimes succumb to chocolate, and a lot of us over spill the tops of those jeans! And despite the fact that it is human to trip over ourselves, beauty is not just skin deep, it is in the eyes of beholder if even within own eyes, in 99.9% of us, the beauty is really what is on the inside.

The Powerpuff Babies…

2. That sometimes the idea that art reflects reality is just a myth.
On some level, I think we really know this. In this particular case, it is probably something that was just more or less brought home again. I hate to throw a wet blanket on the party!

On the homepage of the Women and Hollywood page, although I realize they are fighting for the rights of women in Hollywood to be creators and tellers of stories as they really happened instead of some old man’s fantasy life, take a look at those pictures. On the whole page, there are a total of two over weight gals. None of them have any outwardly showing scars or dimples. Even the ones with unperfect hair looks perfect on them! I’m sorry, but Hollywood even in this setting, is still Hollywood, and unfortunately, looks still must matter!

Even on the site that is obviously a part of Ms. Geena Davis’s heart there is nothing imperfect about the homepage. I’d accept a missing period (no pun intended) or even a beleaguered comma! Those picture perfect people in the photos, including Ms. Davis herself, I hope do not represent the majority of Hollywood, either in front of or behind the camera!  

I know, I know, in business looks matter. But, if you want to sell your product shouldn’t you make some part of it at least identifiable to the people you are trying to sell it too?

At the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film I admired the very SMALL photos across the top of the homepage. They looked to be real photos of real women working behind the camera on set, obviously doing real jobs. I thought to myself, “At last, a touch of reality!”

I clicked on a random link, it said, “t’s Time for Action, Not Promises, to Get More Women in Filmmaking” I did not see that the link would take me straight to the Variety (magazine) website. I know, I know we can not control all of the outside influences that we um, choose to connect to on the internet. Nor in real life. I mean, I know someone who murdered another person, and knowing this person was through no choice of mine! Not proud…. but, on the other hand, I do not normally go around advertising the fact either. In simpler terms, I don’t link to the guy in anyway, shape or form!

I scroll down the page and I see J. Lo, who just happened to have a butt job at age 15! A link to Weinstein who may have committed more rapes than anyone can imagine–let alone set down on film! Nearly every photo of every person on the page is is.. well, picture perfect! Toward the bottom of the page it was kind of them to throw in a smattering of real life. There is an advertisement for something to do with nail fungus (of the toe variety obviously) and there is a really wrinkly hand, minus nail polish, advertising something to do with the snapping back “of sagging skin.” Could this be more ridiculous? If I had been the editors of the original website, I think I’d asked for permission to copy the text of the article and housed it on my own site where I could control just what messages were aligned with those words!

Want to throw in some real life. What about those Wachowski sisters! Or are they the story of a couple of old white rich guys who had the power to live their fantasy? Alright, lets see someone in a wheel chair who has overcome their disability to become one of the arts most distinguished set or costume artists of all times. What about these guys and gals? Why are they not included? Do you have to be Bruce Jenner to get attention? (ah, sorry, Caitlin, it works with the piece)

Where is the intersectionality here? It is politically correct to throw in people of color, in all shades. But, we are still missing the boat when it comes to disability. How realistic is that? In Oregon where I live nearly, if not all of 25% of the population is disabled in one form or another. One in four! You can not capture depression on film (or can you?) but you can sure talk about it on film! What we see in film probably isn’t even one in one hundred! Let alone this one webpage! The reality is, it all plays a part in what we see, how we grow up, how our minds work, and how we get along in our world!

I am a woman and of course I have saggy skin (and saggy other things too!) and I suppose at some point nail fungus can be a reality of life, but is there anything here that really points to the reality of life when it comes to women and film or just women and life?

Wait, I’m choking on my Doritos! These websites are still missing the point even as they try so hard to make it!!!! I was given hope. But, even it was (misses) dashed.


Note: One thing I learned. I had NO idea that websites or even organizations like these existed. How exciting. I see STEM mentioned over and over again on Ms. Davis’s site. I, myself would have never thought to include anything to do with gendered studies in with STEM stuff. Especially in terms of Hollywood! (But, then my work with STEM is basically about Latin & Greek Word Roots workbooks!) It is exciting to see websites, and better yet, personalities that we know taking on the issues of gender in film and/or the arts. It is encouraging to me as a mother and encouraging to me as a woman. I have to admit that I have admired Geena Davis for years, since seeing Thelma and Louise. The film made me cry! This stuff is just so exciting!!

About PeggyAnn

Professional PC Consultant, Researcher, & avid people watcher, Peggy Ann Rowe started into her genealogical quest at age 15 after watching the mini-series, "Roots" with her parents. This new obsession has fueled her love of history, & study of cultures & societies in every epoch. Today she is 57 years old with four kids who are all grown up (& all have flown the coop). In between her 'gigs' with clients she volunteered at many different non-profits. Former President, Secretary, and Director at Large on the board of the Douglas County Historical Society for 10+ years, and former Secretary at the Cloverdale Historical Society (Sonoma County) for nearly 10 years. This website is an attempt to share the knowledge she has gained about her family ties with others who may be interested in the same things. She does not guarantee 100% accuracy and does hope that you will send corrections. To learn more about her, click the "about" button in the page menu. Thanks! Another goal of this website is to disseminate a message (i.e. education) about domestic violence, child abuse, and all forms of sexual abuse to society at large. The message comes from real experience from the whole spectrum of the violence from sexual abuse by a perpetrator to sexual abuse perpetrated by a husband, to the abuse of children within the family. Peggy has seen it, lived it, and been hurt by it. There will on occasion be details that might be hard for some people to read, and a warning is usually posted at the beginning of the essay so that those who want to turn and not read may do so. The only way to teach and to let others learn what to avoid is to SHARE what happened with every detail necessary to make the point. Thank you.
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