Hello fellow bloggers and welcome! I am excited to journey through this quest of questions and hope you will join me in dissecting and discovering the intricate facets of American culture. Does media influence our identities? Has advertising played a major role in determining the status of women in our culture?
I don’t know, let’s find out.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

I'm Just too Bootylicious for Ya

Beyonce Knowles. Yes, this post is about the singer/actress/pop culture phenomenon. If you know me, you're eyebrows are up in the air and you might be looking around "did I just enter an alternate universe?". No friends, seriously. I am not a person who is in "the know". I don't know which celebrity is sleeping with what, I don't listen to pop music or watch E!, I'm at a complete loss when it comes to what's hot and what's lame. But, I don't live under a rock either. I do know names and faces and eventually run into the really popular stuff.

So I ran into Beyonce the other day and thought, hmm, yeah, I think she's alright.

This isn't an extensive study on her because I don't know enough and to be honest, I don't want to get sucked into the hype. Instead, this is a nod to her and what I believe she has done for women.

Although I do keep my head occupied with the underground music scene, back in '99 I remember jamming out to Destiny Child's "Bills Bills Bills", "Say My Name" and later "Survivor", "Independent Women" and of course, "Bootylicious". What I didn't realize at the time was that the lyrics were all about maintaining power and staying strong as women.

So, the other day I listened to one of her newest hits "Single Ladies" and was at first dismissive, but fine I admit, the beat was catchy so I gave it another chance and found that the lyrics are, empowering?

She uses the word "it" to refer to, what? Herself? Her body? Well, then she's objectifying herself and that's no good. But, being an artist (a totally different kind but we're all makin' art so we're related) I'll give artistic license and say okay. The message of "I don't need you fool" is poignant enough that the word "it" gets lost...for the most part.

Besides her Women Power! I love that Beyonce truly is bootylicious. Just the fact that she has enough weight to have a booty is cool. I've seen these other celebrities, I should say, I've seen their rib cages, and can't believe they are the figures that are representing our society. I personally don't know that many women that weigh less than my handbag so I wonder why there isn't more females walking around supporting the most beautiful thing, curves.

Though being a diva or another Sasha Fierce isn't my personal thing, I still think Beyonce is a positive influence for women. She isn't the ideal role model, but then again, who is and what qualifies them to be so?

Three cheers for Beyonce's attempts at empowering women and representing another side of beauty!!!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

I Heart Things in Mini

This post must start with a WHOA.


I wanted to talk about one Burger King commercial I saw a couple nights ago but while searching for it online I came across many other BK ads that blew my mind.
Really Burger King? Is that how you do?

It’s all about the MEAT! Sure a fast food joint is going to advertise their product, that’s cool- but, why is the MEAT! all about the men? So many of these ads were all about beef=manpower. What first surprised me was that I began recognizing some of the commercials. I’d seen them and might’ve thought, that’s degrading, but it was a fleeting reflection. I never stopped to really see what I was watching. Why would I? They’re funny.
I see it now.

Although it’s tempting to want to rip apart each one of these commercials, I will stick with the one since it’s established on the same concept as the others and is the most recent.

Burger King is debuting their new food item…what better way to get the men to want the MEAT! than to throw some hot girls in the mix. This commercial is also especially clever since, as the it clearly shows, girls love itty-bitty burgers (they are soooooo cuuuttteeeeee).
As their other ads have shown, the men who eat at BK want big beef, therefore, in order to contradict themselves they have to appeal to men in another way. Hey fellas, the ladies love the cuteness so eat this and they will be crawling all over you.

I understand the tactic. Understand that girls going silly over little things is something that is customary, a common quality many females possess. Although the commercial is obviously exaggerating, what seems to underlie the message is this very notion that women will in fact get silly over small things. I am a woman. I like small things. However, I don’t shriek- even when faced with ridiculous cuteness. I don’t want to squeeze tiny meals or pant at something adorable like the women in the commercial.

Why is this concept unquestionably accepted? As always, I can’t give a definite answer, I’m only one person. Yet, I think some aspects are relatively clear.

It’s like this, girls in American culture are supposed to be “girlie”- we shriek, fawn, and combine our own feminine cuteness with sex (like the girls shown in the commercial). Women, like the mini burger, are things to be used for consumption. Just as the downsized item of food, our reason is also downsized when we are presented with something attractive, like the food meant to be taken by a man. We see the thing (whatever is small apparently) and are made senseless by it, thus creating an avenue to our sexuality that a man can use.

What I see when I look at this commercial is the ever present notion of women’s weakness in the presence of man, because remember, beef=manpower. A woman is susceptible to losing her rationality over a product that is geared for men, since the product makes the man more manly and of then of course he becomes simply irresistible. The men hold the meat while the women .

There is a scandal about another BK ad campaign. It’s “virgin” themed- they are taking their burgers to small foreign villages and taste testing with BK virgins. People have a problem with the idea that this fast food monster is going to improvised villages and corrupting the people when they should be donating the ad money to the actual hungry.
I agree with the protesters, there are several ethical values that are being manipulated in the name of advertising. But where is the anger about the mini burger crazed girls?

Yes, it’s meant to be a lighthearted ad and there is no going to impoverished towns to raise controversy. The girls are fully dressed and there is no overt sexuality. Nevertheless, the ad plays on what we as Americans consider normal and okay. What we are really doing in this commercial is allowing this perception of women to live on. And that, no matter how comical, is not normal or okay.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Up! Up! And...Nowhere!

Presenting the amazing, the spectacular, the one and only...Non-Existent Woman!!!

You don’t see her in blockbuster movies; she’s absent on T.V.; no sight of her in comic books (or graphic novels). Yes people, we most definitely have a superbly Non-Existent Woman!

I watch cartoons. A lot. I’m not embarrassed. I think they're awesome and from a sociological standpoint, extremely revealing as to what is going on in society at the time it was produced. For serious amazingness I turn to Batman, Spiderman and Superman (cliche, right? I’ll get to that later). For ultimate cheesy deliciousness I look to Birdman! Plastic Man! And, Aquaman!

And then I started to think. Man man man man man man. Seriously? Have I been watching cartoons all my life without even noticing that these superheroes I cherish are all men?

No, it isn’t terrible, but it means something.

One morning I was eating breakfast and what compliments cereal better than cartoons? Nothing. So I turned on the tube and went to a favored channel, Boomerang (for all its classic wonder) and was excited to see the next show to play starred a woman.
The Perils of Penelope Pitstop
I didn’t think of the title (which should have sent up a red flag) but focused on Penelope. Yay! Finally, a superheroine.

Penelope Pitstop is not a superheroine (or super villian) but a southern damsel in distress whose makeup madness and need of rescuing outweigh the positive qualities she possesses (and she does possess some).
After just the introductory theme song I knew what I was in for, but it was still painful.

The show was cancelled after one season (surprise!) and her character forgotten except when used for a cheap commodity.

Why was Penelope a flop? The answer lies in Batman, Spiderman and Superman: These men were given a history, a strongly founded background that underlies their magnificence. None of their stories are a joke- they are serious and deep with family histories, traumas and love- which is why they last. We can relate, sympathize, admire, love or hate but they are capable of evoking strong emotions from us because they are not two-dimensional in personality as they are on screen or print.

This can’t be said for Penelope. This can’t be said for the flops Catwoman and Elektra. Is it only coincidence that the two blockbusters that were recently produced starring women flopped terribly? Both are considered some of the worst movies ever. And why? Because these women have never been taken seriously.
There is a new version of Batman and Superman being produced continually but what about Batgirl, SuperGirl and Wonder Woman? Where is Wonder Woman's individual Saturday morning cartoon? (there are straight-to-video movies coming out based on her and possibly a feature film in 2011- we'll have to wait and see if it's a good or bad thing).

All this leads me to question how this affects people in society. Sure, this isn’t an advertisement for a specific product, but in a sense it is an advertisement for how women should perceive themselves in terms of power...

First, let's attempt to look anatomically perfect, then after 20 hours at the gym (and cosmetic surgery) let's be a villainous femme fatal since that's sexy. Let's be in distress and need saving. Let's be cunningly deceitful...but fickle.

Most importantly, let us be a small part to the real superheros. The Lois Lanes, the Mary Jane Watson's or one of the Bat's romances.

Do I now renounce cartoons and comic books forever? No. They are still rich in story and meaning. We don’t live in female-only world. A man's perspective is a wonderful and necessary thing.
But when are we going to see more of the wonderful and necessary woman's perspective outside of talk shows and chick flicks? I want to turn on the tellie with a grand bowl of sugary goodness and watch a woman put on a costume that is useful and not meant to show off her assets. I want to hear her story and admire her for her strength and diligence. My heart will skip a beat when she meets her nemesis, (one who isn’t a gag but a real threat). When she fails, I will worry, when she triumphs I will cheer.
So, what is my Utopian dream? I want gender to stop getting in the way of being a hero. Ultimately it isn’t the costumes and superpowers we admire about our super men;

It’s their strength of character. And we are all capable of that.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Confessions of a Frustrated Woman

Wise words from Cher Horowitz:
Do you prefer
"fashion victim" or "ensembly challenged"?

Do you remember good ol’ Cher from the ultimate 1995 chick flick Clueless?
She and her fashion cronies took over 90’s pop culture and we have never been the same.

Of course, before this productive film there were other “chick flicks” and influential females like Molly Ringwald in 1984’s “Sixteen Candles”. While Molly made girls want to cut their hair and dye it red, Cher made them want to like totally go to the mall and spend daddy’s money on like clothes and stuff.

I say this so there is no confusion.
I am not against shopping and dressing however you want. I buy clothes, I wear cool things (I think), and at times I like shoes and purses. When I dress (most of the times) I do so in the hopes that I look okay- mighty fine when the occasion calls for it. What I am questioning here is the OBSESSION. The NEED, not desire, for women to look like they just stepped out of a
Macy’s Ad.

How do women bond with each other?
What do women do when they need a pick me up?
And what do women overspend and kill their credit over? You know it,

These are stereotypical statements that don’t hold true for many women.

But it’s a stereotype for a reason.

My inspiration to start this blog came from a movie poster on the side of a bus stop.

I looked. I wondered. I laughed. I disbelieved. I shook my head. I laughed again nervously. I asked aloud to no one in particular, “Seriously?”


Coming out this February in a theater near you, “Confessions of a Shopaholic”. Burn your brain cells and decrease your self-confidence in a little over two hours!
The movies slogan is, “All she ever wanted was a little credit”- how clever. How amazingly witty. They played with words. I haven’t seen the film but based on the trailer, that’s as good as it gets. Unless you think “you speak Prada?” is just as

Some one might say, "Hey Cris, shut up because this is based on a best selling novel!"

To that person I have nothing to say. But I would give the same vacant/OMG I- can't-think-because-I'm-a-girl expression that is shown on the movie poster.

Whether you know it or not, this is what is happening in our brains ladies:
The Result of watching Confessions.
This is what girls of all ages are watching. The women who can’t afford Gucci so instead buy knockoffs and lower their gaze when they see somebody staring at
it. These are women who put designer sunglasses on their over-charged credit card and sigh when a new pair comes into fashion the next month.

And what about the young ones? Is this what they have to aspire to?

So a movie like Confessions is appealing because the girl has fallen into the same financial hole many women find themselves in and she needs to rise above. Will she succeed? Obviously, it’s a feel good crap movie meant to dazzle your eyes with lots of pink and quick quips that make you laugh-out-loud- “yeah I totally relate”.

No! You can not relate! It’s a movie. A fantasy. An
evil scheme? Well someone has got to keep this economy going.

My friends, the situation is getting ugly. And the ugliness is oozing out of our collective belief that fashion (which is superficial, fickle and costly) is the life purpose to aim for. Ultimately the labels we brand ourselves with serve as the band-aid with which we cover our insecurities.

But like a band-aid, they can only be worn for so long until they must be peeled off and reveal what lies underneath.

What will you see when the bandage comes off?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Let Them Eat Cake!

My later posts will likely discuss a particular ad concerning women, but I thought I'd start with...

WEDDINGS! Movies, magazines, reality T.V., all media resources dedicate themselves at some point to WEDDINGS!

Every little girl dreams of their own magical day and every woman plans one. I too once dreamt of a white wedding while I still played with Barbie’s. But, as I got older, I began to see it as a narcissistic circus. The celebration of matrimony has become a glittery thread in America’s fabric…But why? Why the fuss and necessity to proclaim “we love each other soooo much we’re going to stay together forever and you should witness this”? Pretty bold considering the divorce rate.

I began to investigate what I believed was the source. What gets in your head better than…

  • Advertising

    My theory is: Advertising perpetuates wedding mania, causing women to go into a frenzy over dresses and decorations. Underneath our media’s shiny veneer, ads are manipulating women’s childhood fantasies and the desire to fit in.

    Naturally the oh-so-wise media magicians prey on this traditionally Westernized notion of gowns and cake, since who doesn’t love cake and feeling like a princess? These ladies will consume anything bridal, explaining the mass amount of successful wedding-day advertisements. Okay sure, feeling like a princess (what does that really mean anyway?) isn’t my thing, which is probably why I began questioning the logic behind the growing nuptial madness.

After a long talk with a former "Bridezilla", I realized that yes- media does grease the bride machine- but it only greases…what’s the machine?

  • La Familia

    Before there were bridal magazines or reality T.V. shows, there was tradition. These stem from social “norms” and its enforcers are family (where I’m from, La Familia…and it can be scary). Weddings have become an almost unspoken ritual. You just do it. Like mama says.

    Customarily, weddings are pretty much the same; white gown, flowers, first Corinthians 13:4 “Love is gentle, Love is kind”, photographs and flower girls. Most women share similar ideas because ultimately it’s a celebration of the bride. Sorry men.

    This is the way my cousin did it, and then her friend, then her sisters and mother and grandmother and you get my point. You do a wedding because it’s expected. You create a celebration in your honor, if you know what’s good for ya.

    So, I’ve observed that family (socially bound to integrated traditions) is the machine, which leaves the question. Who runs it?

  • Fairy Tales

    Yes, I blame it on fairy tales. Not Grimm’s but Disney’s sugary processed versions. Yeah, I mean you Cinderella, Belle, Sleeping Beauty and every other anatomically perfect princess.

    Oh Disney, you and your winning formula: A villain torments a princess and her only savior is a dashing prince. She’s saved! He’s handsome! What do you get? A lavish wedding! It always ends with a wedding. What happens after? They live happily ever after that’s what.

    And, as we turn into women, we watch movies like the upcoming Bride Wars, still dreaming of the perfect day we’ll marry a prince and then the sun will shine on us alone, if only that one time.
Time for some perspective...

All these ideas explored bother me. Why has this tradition reduced itself into a trendy habit?

The answer hit me like an ice cream brain-frezze...

  • Material extravagance

Weddings can be glorious and exceptionally meaningful to some women. For that I say cheers. However I can’t escape my belief that modern weddings are a representation of America’s need for idealized extravagance.

Why must women wait (or hope) for a remarkable wedding to feel magical? I want to feel magical right now. So, I’m going to read a book- not because I’ll be wearing a tiara, but because that’s what makes me feel great. Like so many other women, it’s my special thing and when I read, a sun shines on me. Now that’s something.

This is the modern day madness that I'm talking about.
This event happens all over the Country at Filene's Basement annual wedding dress sale...scary!