In 2006, The Walt Disney Company bought the computer-animated feature film powerhouse Pixar. This makes the lead of their most recent movie, Brave (2012), not just a princess, but a Disney Princess. Merida is having a royal coronation at the Magic Kingdom this morning.
For her coronation, the princess has gotten a good ol’ Disney makeover. On the left is the new Merida (“after”) and on the right is the old Merida (“before”). Notice any differences?
Here are the ones that I see:
Sleeker, longer hair with more body
Larger eyes and more arched eyebrows
A thinner waist
More obvious breasts
An overall more adult and less adolescent appearance
Lighter colored and more ornate gown
A lower cut neckline that also shows more shoulder
Perhaps most symbolically, her bow and arrows have disappeared in favor of a fashionable belt
Some of you may know that there is a wave of colleges and universities filing complaints with the Office for Civil Rights, claiming that their institutions are failing to protect women from sexual assault. This (first) wave includes Amherst, Yale, the University of North Carolina, Swarthmore, and Occidental among others.
Well, last night many of the details of the stories of the students whose cases have been mishandled — right down to exact quotes from their lives — found themselves in an episode of Law&Order SVU. They didn’t ask for permission, offer a “consulting” fee, or even warn them that it was coming.
This just leaves a this-is-so-wrong-I-don’t-even-know icky feeling in the pit of my gut. I know that Law & Order has been ripping stories from the headlines for three decades, but it stuns me that it can claim to be fiction and not compensate the real women who’s lives are clearly and unequivocally depicted in this show.
Let me put this in stark terms: Law & Order is brazenly capitalizing on the pain and trauma of young women and not only failing to compensate them for stealing their stories, but actually denying that they exist by claiming that the “story is fictional and does not depict any actual person or event.” Stunning.
Alexandra Brodsky, a survivor who filed the complaints against Yale, told Jezebel:
The SVU episode strikes me as an extreme example of the risk of going public as a survivor: your story is no longer your own.
I’ve not seen a more obvious example of this fact.
The teaser for the episode, plus a list of 15 ways the episode copied real life, collected by Katie J.M. Baker at Jezebel, is after the jump.
Re-posted in honor of Roger Ebert’s passing. Cross-posted at BlogHer.
University of Minnesota doctoral candidate Chris Miller sent in a fascinating episode of Siskel and Ebert, a long-lasting TV show devoted to reviewing movies. What is amazing about this episode is the frankness with which the movie critics — Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert — articulate a feminist analysis of a group of slasher movies.
The year? 1980.
First they describe the typical movie:
A woman or young girl is shown alone and isolated and defenseless… a crazy killer springs out of the shadows and attacks her and frequently the killer sadistically threatens the victims before he strikes.
They pull no punches in talking about the problem with the films:
These films hate women.
They go on to suggest that the films are a backlash against the women’s movement:
I’m convinced it has to do with the growth of the woman’s movement in America in the last decade. I think that these films are some sort of primordial response by some very sick people… of men saying “get back in your place, women.”
One thing that most of the victims have in common is that they do act independently… They are liberated women who act on their own. When a woman makes a decision for herself, you can almost bet she will pay with her life.
They note, too, that the violence is sexualized:
The nudity is always gratuitous. It is put in to titillate the audience and women who dress this way or merely uncover their bodies are somehow asking for trouble and somehow deserve the trouble they get. That’s a sick idea.
And they’re not just being anti-horror movie. They conclude:
[There are] good old fashioned horror films… [but] there is a difference between good and scary movies and movies that systematically demean half the human race.
It’s refreshing to hear a straightforward unapologetic feminist analysis outside of a feminist space. Their analysis, however, isn’t as sophisticated as it could be.
Clover admitted that most horror films of the time sexualized violence against women — meditating on the torture and terrorizing of beautiful female victims — but she also pointed out that the person who ultimately vanquished the murderer was almost always also female. She called this person the ”final girl.”
The final girl was different than the rest of the women in the film: she was less sexually active, more androgynous, and smarter. You could pick her out, Clover argued, from the very beginning of the movie. She was always the first to notice that something frightening might be going on.
Boys and men watching horror films, then (and that is the main audience for this genre), were encouraged to “get off” on the murder of women, but they were also encouraged to identify with a female heroine in the end. How many other genres routinely ask men to identify with a female character? Almost none.
In this sense, Clover argues, horror films don’t “hate women.” Instead, they hate a particular kind of woman. They reproduce a Madonna/whore dichotomy in which the whores are dispatched with pleasure, but the Madonna rises to save us all in the end.
Re-posted to add to the discussion about sexual assault in the aftermath of the Steubenville rape trial, the Senate hearing on rape and harassment in the military, and the controversy at Occidental College. The other day I came upon a post by Margaret Lyons at Vulture pointing out the frequent use of rape jokes in sitcoms this season. A number of sitcoms, especially Two Broke Girls, Whitney, and Work It included scenes where rape served as a punchline. Lyons explains what particularly bothers her about this is that references to rape are being used simply as a “shorthand for outrageousness,” a way to cue the audience that they’re watching a show that is bold and daring, that will say anything!
The post includes a video of clips of a lot of these rape-joke scenes from this season, showing how frequently and casually they’re included. Clearly, these could be particularly upsetting for some readers:
I’ve been thinking about posting the video for a couple of days, but then Jeremiah J. sent in a link to a post that captures what I find problematic about how rape is used in TV and movies so much better than I ever could. Film critic and screenwriter Drew McWeeny posted a lengthy article at HitFix about reaching the breaking point in his ability to watch gratuitous rape scenes in movies. McWeeny explains,
It seems to me that somewhere along the way, it was decided that the easiest way to make an audience uncomfortable was to have someone rape a character onscreen. I must see 30 films a year where somebody needs to have “something bad” happen, and the go-to impulse in almost every case is rape. It is guaranteed to cause a visceral reaction, even when the scenes are badly staged and lazy, which most of them are.
…the point has been more than made on film that rape is a terrible thing, and at this point, if you’re not contributing some new idea to the conversation, then you are literally just using it as a button, something you push to get a response, and that unnerves me.
I think McWeeny’s points are relevant to a discussion of sitcoms’ use of rape jokes as well, because in both cases rape is often being used as a “button,” a lazy, predictable way to get a reaction from an audience and mark the show or movie as one that’s audacious and pushes boundaries. You really must read McWeeny’s full original post, as he eloquently explains why this matters.
Gwen Sharp is an associate professor of sociology at Nevada State College. You can follow her on Twitter at @gwensharpnv.
To get a sense of how men and women are portrayed on the large and small screen, researchers analyzed 11,927 speaking parts from three sources: 129 top-grossing family films (rated PG-13 or lower) released from 2006 to 2011, 275 prime-time programs from 2012 (from 10 broadcast and cable channels), and 36 kids’ programs that aired on PBS, Nickelodeon, or Disney in 2011. The analysis indicated that women are underrepresented as characters in speaking roles, as well as narrators:
However, gender differences in representation aren’t just about who is on the screen; it matters how they’re depicted, too. Female characters in the sample were more likely to be sexualized, including factors such as sexy clothing, exposed skin, and having their attractiveness specifically referenced by another character:
Men and women were also depicted differently in the workplace. In the sample, few female characters were presented in high-level positions within their occupations:
What about behind the scenes? Researchers associated with the institute looked at the gender breakdown of those employed in behind-the-scenes jobs (writers, directors, producers, etc.) in Hollywood as well. Unsurprisingly, the results indicate that women remain significantly underrepresented in these positions.
Again we see wide variation in the different behind-the-scenes jobs. Women are much more likely to be producers than directors in the sampled episodes, and only 4% of directors of photography were women. And while the percent of female creators and writers for prime time TV shows jumped in 2011-2012, less than a third of either position was held by women:
In “Televised Sport and the (Anti)Sociological Imagination,” Dan C. Hilliard discusses the rigid segmentation of televised sports programs, a schedule that in some cases requires “television timeouts”–that is, timeouts in the game due primarily to the need to break up the broadcast for commercials. Televised sports programs and advertising have become increasingly intertwined, such that they’re often nearly indistinguishable, what with the frequent mention of sponsors’ products by sports commentators.
In this video from the Wall Street Journal, a journalist talks about the results of a study he completed in which he timed every element of a large number of televised football (as in American football, not soccer) games. The results? In a typical 3-hour broadcast, barely over 10 minutes shows action on the field. What makes up the rest? Well, advertising, of course, but even aside from that, most of the game coverage is made up of replays, players standing around or huddling before plays, shots of coaches or the crowd, and about 3 seconds of cheerleaders:
A breakdown of game coverage:
Here’s a breakdown of the amount of time spent on each element for a bunch of specific games.
Of course, in some cases these breaks in the action are an integral part of the game. But as things such as television timeouts show, games may also be intentionally slowed down to be sure the game fills the allotted time slot… and provides plenty of time for all the advertising they sold during it.
Gwen Sharp is an associate professor of sociology at Nevada State College. You can follow her on Twitter at @gwensharpnv.
“Silver Linings Playbook,” the new David O. Russell movie, starts off by making the audience uncomfortable. We want to like Pat (Bradley Cooper). We root for him to overcome the internal demons that landed him in a mental hospital for eight months. We do like him. But he keeps doing things we don’t like. He is socially insensitive and often offensive, utterly absorbed in his own deluded ideas and obsessions, and although we know that these emanate from his psychiatric condition, it’s impossible to separate the personal from the psychiatric. He is his mental illness, and it’s often not pretty. We’re actually glad to see the cop who shows up to enforce the restraining order. (Usually in American films, when a uniformed cop restrains the hero, the moral question is so clear the cop might as well be wearing a Nazi uniform.)
At some point, the film takes a turn away from the complicated and difficult. It calls on a smooth, familiar recipe and gives us comfort food — sweet chocolate pudding, spoonful after spoonful. It’s made from good chocolate, but it’s predictable pudding nonetheless.
It all leads up to a climactic scene that we all know from countless other movies. In this case, it’s a ballroom dancing competition:
The movie plays on one long-standing idea in American movies and TV: all moral questions, all questions of character, can be settled in a contest. Typically, the story sets out some difficulties for the hero — conflicts with the society, conflicts with some other person or organization, conflicts within himself. It all leads up to some climactic contest. Usually the hero wins, occasionally he loses. But the outcome doesn’t matter so much as the nobility of the fight, for win or lose, the hero has fought, and that seems to resolve all issues. Rocky is the obvious example…
That’s from six years ago in one of the first posts on this blog. (I’ve edited it lightly.) That post was about the first episode of Friday Night Lights. But it could have been about “Silver Linings Playbook” — “Rocky” meets “Dancing With the Stars.”
For a nearly complete plot summary, watch the trailer.
The contest seems to melt all problems no matter how complicated, no matter how seemingly unrelated to the competition itself – problems between a man and a woman, a son and father, friend and friend.
“Silver Linings Playbook” hits all three of those plus husband and wife, brother and brother, and maybe some others. Other seemingly insoluble problems – from Pat’s obsession with his estranged wife to the side effects of medications – vanish. And in case the pudding wasn’t already sweet enough, there’s an added Hollywood-ending bonus involving a large bet on the Cowboys-Eagles game, an outcome so predictable I’m not even putting in a spoiler warning.
And they all live happily ever after.
These themes are not inherent in movie contests. In British films of the sixties – “The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner” or “This Sporting Life” for example – athletic contests bring a heightened consciousness of the class system. But in American movies, regardless of the setting – the boxing ring, the pool hall, the poker game, the karate dojo, the dance floor, etc. – competition works its magic and allows the heroes to overcome all personal and interpersonal problems.
In a fun five minutes, Mike Rugnetta manages to invoke John Stewart Mill and Judith Butler, plus discuss how “bronies” — male fans of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic — challenge rigid rules of masculinity.