Both graduate and undergraduate students post comments.
I can concur with Guzman and Valdivia in their conclusion that Latina women are situated in a liminal space and exist as an alluring threat to the status quo. However, I wonder how that distinction will shift as more Latino culture integrates into the pattern of United States life. The Hispanic population now represents the largest minority in this country, having just surpassed the black community in numbers in the U.S. This should shift artistic dismissal and subjugation of Latina characters in film, or so one would think.
As more of the population learns to speak Spanish and comes to embrace Latin influence will this not alter typical artistic renderings of these characters? Also it must be considered that these renderings, while leaning toward stereotyping are not wholly negative. Most of the Latina characters presented in sitcoms and TV dramas are strong female characters who are unafraid to speak their minds. Because of this type of discussion causing awareness as to how we as media makers present our character, this culture is hopefully progressing to one interested in fairer presentations of minorities and gender.
I know that in class yesterday we touched on the fact that many of the theories that we read about depend on a binary to work properly, and while looking through the Edgar reading I was noticed that Edgar seems to challenge this idea while showing how relying on a binary does more harm than good. While I was reading I was struck with how Edgar seems to write about the masculinity and femininity of the drag queen as if the two were at war with each other. That for one to really come through, the other had to be beaten down or hidden. This always seemed to be at the detriment to the drag queen in question. For example, when the judges are able to see Jade’s penis during her performance she’s told that she need to work harder at hiding it so that she can pass as a woman more easily. Jade is clearly bothered and embarrassed by their comments, as she’s unable to hide how her body naturally looks. Similarly, Nina is told that she needs to look more like a woman to properly perform despite the fact that her specialty is a more androgynous look. Nina’s middle ground between the feminine and masculine wasn’t deemed acceptable, even though it was her chosen method of performance and what made her different enough to be chosen for the show. This reading, unlike past readings, then gives a third option, an option that it deems as the most freeing. Drag king Mo B Dick blends his masculinity and femininity to show how he really feels, and is treated as a much healthier alternative than forcing yourself to try and completely conform to one end of the spectrum over another. It was a nice change of pace from some of the other things we’ve read in class.
In the Mass Effect series there are several different alien races that populate the universe. One of these races are the Asari, a race of what are essentially blue women. They are able to reproduce with any gender of any species giving them the nickname of “blue lesbians” since a female player character was able to enter a romance with an Asari when any other homosexual option was not available until the final game. They have been a source of contention for fans of the series. On one hand they are a race women who hold a place of power within the galaxy and allow for a non-heterosexual gaming experience which is still rare to find. However they’re also highly sexualized, and the vast majority of prostitutes and strippers you find in the game are Asari. There were also accusations that the Asari were used to sexualize lesbian relationships since the game allows for a female character to romance an Asari while a male character cannot enter into a romance with another man until very late in the series. In my personal opinion I think that they’re really interesting since they are technically neither man or woman but mono-gendered. They’re seen as women but other species but they only ever represent themselves as Asari. In their culture if they have a child but don’t birth it themselves they are considered the father, which we only ever use with a man. While they can be problematic, I still think that they offer an interesting alternative view on gender.
I really enjoyed the readings for this week. Edgar’s piece is interesting because it addresses dressing in drag. The article focuses on RuPaul’s Drag Race in how the contestants are competing to be the best Drag Queen by expressing ideal means of femininity without showing masculinity. Not only that, the judges question the contestants and if they are dressing for show or do they have a ulterior goal that best represents an attitude of a woman and her needs. The show demonstrates what it means to perform and transform into being a woman not only by makeup, clothing, or hair, but her figure as well. A contestant fails if she shows her “junk.” Implying that you may act the part, but your sex gives you away therefore you are unable to conform to gender norm. As a comparison, RuPaul’s show is similar to Queer Eye for the Straight Guy because both shows are unrealistic and do not address the queer or gay community but how they best represent heterosexuals.
I have a couple of artists that come to mind that address not only gender and identity in their work but their race or ethnicity. Japanese artist, Yasumasa Morimura takes all these famous paintings and photographs and recreates them by replacing his body or face into the scene. One of these works that he creates just happens to be one of Frida Kahlos’ self-portraits. He is expressing performance through his series.
Korean artist/photographer, Nikki Lee did a series called “Projects” where she hung out with people (in America) in many different social and ethnic groups and took photos as a means of documenting her experience during her time spent with each group. As part of hanging out with these groups she transformed herself to fit in by means of clothing, hair style, tanning, and behavior. During this time she explored groups such as drag queens, punks, swing dancers, senior citizens, Latinos, hip-hop musicians, and lesbians, etc.
When reading “Brain, Brow, and Booty”, I felt like the article could have been pushed further. For one, it makes sense that Jennifer Lopez and Salma Hayek both played parts in movies that were about famous Latina women. It makes sense to have Lopez play Selena because they look alike, have the same figure, an sound alike. It wouldn’t be right to bring a white or black person into the scene when it is about a famous Latina woman. Same goes for Salma Hayek playing Frida Kahlo. Frida Kahlo wasn’t some fabricated character, she actually lived the way she did and she was Latina. This article could have been more informative. This idea of Latin lovers actually says a lot about Kahlo’s relationship with Diego because they were both unfaithful to each other. Kahlo herself was a very sexual woman and at times she enjoyed dressing like a man and seducing women. Kahlo was in a serious accident that left part of her back region mangled and she also suffered from miscarriages. The woman was in excruciating pain and at times she was bed-ridden for months. So she painted about her pain through self-portraits. Her work was surreal and that’s why she is famous. Salma Hayek, again looked like Frida Kahlo and she represented her lifestyle well though acting.
The article I found most interesting this week was “Drag Representation and Articulation in RuPaul’s Drag Race”. “Drag” is something that I have never really seen or heard much about even, so there were many points throughout the article that stuck out and overall everything was quite new to me. Before reading this, I knew what drag was but that’s about it. On page 140 and 141 there was a particular emphasis on how drag is a show, performance, and characters that these men come up with to complete transform their lives. Contestant Nina Flowers comments on how with each step she takes to further go into her “drag form”, its like a new person begins to come out until an entirely different persona comes out. It seems to me that most everyone who dresses in drag throughout the article view it as an art form, and they all want to be the most convincing that they can. I found it slightly humorous at the beginning of the article when contestant Jade’s tuck job wasn’t done well enough, and was embarrassed about the size of her (his) penis. Stereotypically this is something that a man would be proud of, and here it flips that view on its head. I couldn’t grasp from the article as to if drag was something that you could actually make a living from doing or not, but everyone is so passionate about it in the article that it almost seems as if they could if they become successful enough. Overall, I just found the article very interesting, and the extreme struggle with appearance that is faced when dressing in drag. I know that fairly often there are drag competitions held in or very near carbondale, and I think it could be very interesting to watch one of the shows as a new experience.
Eir-Anne Edgar’s article provides an interesting dissection of drag culture. Using RuPaul’s Drag Race as a kind of pop culture case study, she argues that the drag “hinges upon the performer’s ability to deploy stereotypical notions of femininity through performances of gendered norms.” While drag culture successfully creates gender problems by allowing a person to assume the role of their gender opposite, it embraces the idea of the gender binary. Boys are expected to dress up as girls and vice versa. There’s no room for in betweens. Furthermore, stereotypes are embraced and even heightened. Drag queens are expected to cake themselves in makeup and sexualize themselves through their performance and dress.
I find myself agreeing with Edgar, but I do not dismiss drag culture as a wholly negative experience (not that Edgar necessarily does either). Drag culture critiques gender by exposing it as a performance and social construct. It allows people to free themselves from that which was prescribed to them from birth by culture. However, in showing the complexity and nuance of gender is does fall short. Drag culture embraces the binary and mutes the gender spectrum–the idea that gender is fluid and that there are many different versions of masculinity and femininity and spaces in between.
This past weekend I saw Joseph Gordon Levitt’s “Don Jon” which was an interesting examination of gender. His character, Jon, and Scarlett Johansson’s Barbara are both performing their genders based on ideals presented to them by the media (for Jon it’s pornography, for Barbara it’s romantic cinema). They also have formed their expectations of what a man and women are based on the same media types. There’s an interesting scene where Barbara expresses her disgust of Jon’s enjoyment of cleaning his apartment, as she considers it not-manly. Jon perhaps considers it an extension of his masculinity, as he enjoys cleaning and taking ownership of his space–his bachelor pad–or perhaps he doesn’t find it relevant; it’s just something he enjoys doing. I thought that presented an interesting disparity within notions of masculinity, problematizing the idea that gender is a fixed, inflexible, or binary thing.
Sturken examines the gaze with brilliance. She understands that the gaze gives other power emotionally, intellectually, and physically. When an image is frozen upon, it allows us to indulge in the emotions it stirs. It also lets are mind ponder everything it shows what it represents. We also get a physical power, in that it can do nothing while we can do everything, such as judging, understanding, hating, loving destroying, and preserving. Overtime, the power of the gaze has been perverted to help objectify the world in motion. We constantly use women as objects of the gaze sexually such as in films and magazines, or even condemningly, such as Alberct Durer has. The fact that the way we objectify women in appearance changes, now seeing very thin girls like Miley Cyrus as the standard of beauty as opposed to Marlyn Monroe, shows how we and arbitrary this objectification is. SO does the fac that while we try to maintain a standard of beauty, there are tases that contradict it, such as men who like plus sized girls, or differing sexualities.
Bartky’s work elaborates on this. She shows other examples of how stillness is seen as weakness, such as when the student is expected to sit as the teacher can stand in move,. It represents that the teacher is in charge. She also expands on the products used to mold women into these definitions of beauty. Weightwatchers meals are example of the shape we expect them to maintain. A scary example of the skin we expect them to maintain is “fading cream” for black women, which is something to be noted for people that don’t think racism is a thing.
Williams goes to some disturbing depth on how the bodies are used in film. She uses “gross” to examine the overabundance in bodily functions and(or) fluids, and as General Jack Ripper will tell us, we can’t lose those. It also exposes how women, while not the only ones, are particularly violated. In horror films we have bodies torn apart with blood gushing particularly female bodies, which is a form of punishment for being sexually active to soon, considering they are sexually active at a time when it is taboo. Pornography is nothing but sex which shoes they are on time, and the reward for that is…just being used as a sexual object with nothing else to gain or loose. Yay. And finally, we got emotionally gushy, melodramatic chick flicks, which is about being to late and thus being out of power. This goes hand in hand with weeping being a sign of weakness and further elaborates on how weak women are seen.
Now lets categorize those women by race, and what do we get? According to Guzman, women of race objectified as a taboo, sexual, plaything, that are seen as not much more than pornographic novelty, and have to make sacrifices to be other than that. J-Lo is so sexually objectified she has booty insurance. Frida had to die to get attention, and even then it’s somewhat novelty, she being that “Latina painter with the brow”. Selma Hayek is artistically recognized for playing Frida beyond that notion, however has had to “whiten up” for mainstream Hollywood, straightening her hair and getting rid of her “exotic” curls.
Hansen acknowledges that there is some of this gaze material for women, but for the husband’s sake, it has to be “safe”. She acknowledges Mulvey’s statement that woman is made into a transvestite to enjoy the film, but builds on it, and notices that Mulvey has as well. Valentino is an example of the female gaze getting some action. However he is to “pretty” to be a real man, and thus safe, and the transvestite concept is still a little at play. He is also another race, making it more novelty and less possible. He is also “whitened up” at the end of The Shiek to make it okay. In other words, white patriarchy makes complete mess out of the female gaze.
There is progress however, though still problematic. Edgar gives notice to RuPaul’s Drag Race. She doesn’t find it subversive or empowering, being it is a male being shown with the feminine gender, a step up, but it is still a traditional notion of female gender. I think the difference in what society has deemed okay over the years keeps it progressive.
Also, Marchetti points out films like Sayonara which in a romantic light portrays Marlon Brando with Miiko Tako. That is a BIG American icon with a woman of another race. Again though, women are expected to say in “their place” in the film. We are progressing, but there is still much work to do.
My favourite reading this week was ‘Xtravaganza!: Drag Representation and Articulation in RuPaul’s Drag Race’ by Eir-Anne Edgar.
The article mentions what channel it was originally aired on, ‘LOGO’, which is described as; ‘The “channel for Gay America” is a deluxe cable channel.’ (pg. 134). I don’t know much about how cable T.V. channels work here, but by describing it as a ‘deluxe cable channel’, my understanding is that one must pay extra to watch this channel, and so it isn’t included in a standard T.V. package/ licence. This implies that the gender issues raised in this show are not a concern of the masses, and I think remarks on societies acceptance of current gender roles and performance within society. If it had been aired on ‘mainstream’ television, the issues raised would be accessible to all viewers, and would force individuals to consider gender as a performance and gender roles within 21st century society.
I found the event described as ‘Jades tuck and fail’ really interesting. As the Queens are born male, they must hide their penis in order to ‘pass’ as a female. In this incident, Jades penis was visible to RuPaul, and she remarks on it after Jades performance. In response to the remark, Jade says: “Obviously, when you’re dressed as a woman, you don’t want to be asked questions about your penis. It’s very embarrassing.”. This incident highlights the restrictions of the male body in gender performance; the penis must be ‘tucked’ successfully in order for a male to pass as female. This seems to subvert the typical gender hierarchies; individuals performing as women that highlight failings in the male body (trying to pass as female).
It is impossible not to be intrigued with Edgar’s (2011) deconstruction of drag representation within RuPaul’s Drag Race. The author offers an excellent analysis of the series, using three specific questions to guide her examination of drag performance and culture. One of those questions is “does gender articulation become freed up through the activity of drag performances?” (2011, p. 34) which is an interesting angle because drag performers exist in such a unique and seemingly liberating space.
Drag performers – like RuPaul – are often heterosexual, cis-gender men that use drag to highlight a specific aspect of their personalities. In essence, drag is literally a costume that many performers remove once they leave the stage – or in this case, the catwalk. Since that space is so liminal, it’s easy to presume that it isn’t permeated by the larger homophobic, transphobic, heterosexist culture that dictates that sexuality and gender identity must exist on a binary. However, Edgar’s (2011) piece completely demolishes that notion by interrogating a show that reinforces gender normative ideals of femininity within the drag space.
Edgar (2011) specifically examines the three winners – Bebe Zahara, Nina Flowers, and Rebecca Glasscock – to highlight how their drag performances were reimagined in order to fit into dominant ideals of femininity. Flowers’ tattoos – which Edgar (2011) labels as traditionally masculine markings – are concealed under heavy makeup when she performs on Drag Race. Zahara is a coveted favorite on the show because she has the “ideal” hourglass figure and suits a traditional construction of feminine beauty.
Though I am appalled that RuPaul and her team of judges would reproduce discrimination, I am not surprised. No person is immune to reproducing dominant ideologies. We are raised in a culture that creates specific ideals of womanhood, and if we’re not conscious, we will reproduce what’s been instilled in us. It is disappointing that progressive programming on networks designed to target underrepresented communities e.g. Logo can reproduce dominant constructions of gender, but it’s the reality.
“He’s Just Not That Into You” has been credited with reviving the ensemble romantic comedy. The popular film highlights an interwoven group of men and women attempting to stumble their way toward a happy ending. One of the characters featured is Gigi, portrayed by actress Ginnifer Goodwin. She is a hopeless romantic that spends all of her time analyzing what went wrong in previous relationships. She misinterprets her dates’ actions and comments and thinks that the littlest gesture in a sign of romantic interest. Gigi is constructed within the film as a lost, hopeless ditz that’s impossible of balancing emotion and logic. Essentially, she’s portrayed as the stereotypical single woman.
So, I’m horrible and posted this blog post in the Week 4 section. I left it there as proof that I did post on time, but I’m reposting it here.
Edgar’s piece on “RuPaul’s Drag Race” is interesting because this program does deliver to an audience otherwise not catered to on television. Sure, “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” was a big show while it was on Bravo, and shows like “Modern Family” and “Glee” have become mainstream hits. I’ve only seen a few episodes of “Modern Family,” so please correct me if I’m wrong, but even though it does boast a homosexual couple in an ensemble cast, it appears to be a pretty tame interpretation of the gay lifestyle, just like “In and Out,” where the most controversial thing was a brief kiss that could’ve even been played for laughs.
So we have an audience that now has LOGO, a channel which dedicates itself to providing programming for “gay America,” as Edgar notes the website describes the channel as. About the only exposure I’ve had to “RuPaul’s Drag Race” is through E!’s “The Soup,” a show which mocks pop culture, albeit lovingly. Host Joel McHale frequently has RuPaul on as a guest commentator.
Yes, the show allows Queens to be who they are, even though they’re being judged just like any other reality show. But Edgar notes in the piece that these women are forced to conform themselves to the norms of drag. The interesting part of this to me is how this show is also a commentary on what we define “femininity” as. Just like my post two weeks ago concerning Jennifer Aniston in “We’re the Millers,” pop culture has taken to critique what it really means to be a woman. Nina is told she must cover up her tattoos to move away from androgyny. Would you consider this form of critique mocking of the idea of a woman? It seems to me that these men enjoy taking on the tropes of what we accept as “woman,” but I’m certainly no expert on drag. I think this would be a pretty interesting discussion.
My popular culture topic for the week is “Gravity,” the new film starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. Because the film only involves four characters, one of whom doesn’t get to stick around very long and another who is just a voice over a radio, the film is stripped pretty barren and forces the audience to focus on the performances. Director Alfonso Cuaron allows shots to run for up to 14 minutes at a time, often placing the audience right in Bullock’s face. It’s a cool effect, but one for discussion in an entirely different post. This post contains SPOILERS.
Really this is Bullock’s film. For reasons I won’t divulge here Clooney doesn’t have a whole lot of screen time, so Bullock is left to fend for herself. The two play astronauts on a routine (isn’t it always?) mission outside of a space station. A Russian satellite explodes and hurls debris toward the duo. The two survive the initial impact but must make their way from space station to space station to try to get back to Earth.
Once the movie become Bullock’s, she owns it — in fact, as Entertainment Weekly noted in their review, she’s just as confident as Sigourney Weaver in “Alien.” She’s thrown into a fight for survival we often see men dealing with in disaster movies; every time she think she’s safe she must deal with another problem. She’s either running out of oxygen or dealing with a fire on a station. But she’s always smart enough to get out alive.
That’s why one scene in particular gives me pause. I can’t warn SPOILERS enough.
Bullock is in a shuttle that has stalled. She’s certain she’s going to die until Clooney, who floated off into space earlier on, shows up at her window. She has a discussion with him that encourages her to press on, but before she talks to him she’s given up. It’s revealed that the entire conversation was a hallucination, but it gives her enough courage to fight her way back to Earth. And we finally get to see her stand tall after she makes it back — the first time she stands up on dry land is when the camera cuts to black.
Is the scene empowerment or just a way to give the audience closure? Bullock manages to survive on her own for quite some time before she has the hallucination. You could argue that we all need a little push occasionally. But I’m disappointed in “Gravity” that it seems as if the writers thought America wanted to see Clooney come to Bullock’s rescue, even if it wasn’t real. He’s cool and calm when he comes to talk to her, exuding that leading man charm. Maybe the writers just wanted to give him some closure. I find it hard to believe that the writers would cave on this point in what is otherwise a pretty progressive movie, but you can never underestimate the power of Hollywood to pander.
This weeks readings were fascinating, especially Edgar’s writings on issues of dressing in drag. By examining such a show as RuPaul’s “Drag Race”, Edgar dives into the discussion of masculinity and feminity. This is both interesting and problematic. it’s interesting because it manages to depict individuals as they try to transform into their ideas of what it is to be the perfect woman. This is problematic though, because those individuals are then judged by a panel. They are then met with criticism for their transformation.
The show is great because it’s helping to break down barriers, but at the same time doesn’t really depict the gay community in an acurate way. One must ask themselves after viewing, “how much of this was real?”
The article “Brain, Brow, and Booty” was good as well. Jennifer Lopez and Salma Hayek are two incredible and marketable actresses, who also happen to be latina. They both respectfully portrayed the famouse figures Selena and Frida. What’s interesting about these actresses is that they’re also highly sexualized women, despite the fact that they aren’t your typical light-skinned leading lady.
For this response I wanted to write about an experience that happened to me over the summer. I met Paula Jay Parker, who starred in movies such as “Friday” and “Hustle and Flow”. Paula was a delight to be around and we became good friends. One day, during lunch break, she was discussing with another actress about how her agent was telling her how she needed to do roles that seemed “more white”, to ubdue some of her more rough and black image.
The other actress asked, “What does more white roles even mean?” Paula said it was roles like doctors, therapists, government officials. Anyone with creditability to their name. The other actress was shocked and it got me thinking too. That’s ridiculuous but must happen all the time in the industry; straying from any negative connotations your race may bring.
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