As Disney continues to sell their princesses (and make no mistake, they're selling a brand, not just characters), they continue to show us that people will eat up these negative messages as long as they're packaged in an appealing way—in this case, in pinks and purples and lots of sparkle. It's amazing how far they will actually push it.
Let's use Disney as an example (since they're one of the biggest offenders when it comes to branding). Sure, you might expect familiar Disney faces to pop up in places like mylar balloons in the florist department, on band-aids, shampoo, toothpaste, and tooth brushes in the health aisle, or on paper goods like plates, napkins, and cups. But would you expect those sneaky princesses to pop up in the produce section?
Fighting for social justice doesn't need to stop when you give birth. In fact, in my opinion, we should fight even harder if we have to raise a kid or two in this world. Also, by continuing our activism postpartum, we'll set kick-ass examples for our children. It's win-win all around.
Welcome to the twenty-first century. Are either of these films accurate or comprehensive portrayals of their time? Not even remotely. But they reflect cultural attitudes surrounding women, motherhood, and work, and the putrefied trope of Heigl's character didn't exist in 1987. Heigl and Keaton's characters are analogous as white-controlling-educated-women-who-have-careers-plus-family, and the evolution of this character is telling. Where Baby Boom gave hope, Life as We Know It brings despair.
Halloween is a time to bust out that creativity, play into the fantasy, and eat a ton of candy. It's not a time to push adult sexuality or hyped up ideas of ideal bodies onto young kids. I'd rather by scared on Halloween by ghosts and goblins than by thoughts of little kids running amok in overly sexualized costumes.
Whether in the form of advertisements, cartoons, books, food, or toys, pop culture is out there and is feeding a host of tropes and stereotypes that can heavily impact a developing mind. This series will take a look at where pop culture, parenting and feminism meet, as we explore the affects (whether outright & obvious or much more subtle) of media & marketing on children, and their families. I'll also take a look at how pop culture promotes certain stereotypes of families, especially in so-called "reality" shows.
I just finished watching the new NBC comedy Up All Night, and though repeat viewings might reveal plot holes and problematic jokes (it is a network sitcom, after all), I absolutely loved it. Will Arnett and Christina Applegate are terrific as Reagan and Chris, a completely charming married couple who support one another but aren't too sappy or perfect, and Maya Rudolph is hysterical as Reagan's boss Ava, the Oprah-esque talk show host with a flair for the dramatic. I may be speaking a bit too soon since I've only seen one episode, but color me psyched about this show. (Yep, I said color me psyched. That's how psyched I am.)
One particularly interesting, troubling, and recurrent depiction of mental illness in pop culture comes up in the handling of of mentally ill or cognitively impaired parents, where the traditional parent/child roles are reversed to advance a storyline. It is notable that this often involves a mentally ill mother, to underscore the idea that the parent is somehow failing at social obligations as a result of mental illness—mothers are for mothering, not for being ill, after all.
So many works of pop culture include some variation of this storyline; mother slips with a knife in the kitchen, mother lies in bed and won't move, mother becomes irrational and erratic, sometimes, in an extreme case, mother succeeds at a suicide attempt or kills a child. Father carts her off to the hospital and there is much somber discussion before he returns, alone. Visits are promised but never occur. Sometimes mother is ushered offstage at this point, never to appear again. Sometimes she comes back after her time away, a fragile version of herself whom everyone must tiptoe around.
Abusive parents are a real problem in the real world. I know more than a few people who upon seeing this movie connected Goethel's behavior with that of their own parents, and took it as a cue to reassess their relationships. And because of that I think that this film, despite its flaws, has accomplished something good. It represented a real issue in a way that doesn't soft-pedal it, which is more than a lot of children's media dare to do. So hats off to Tangled, a fitting coda to an impressive media legacy.