Television shows, movies, and other forms of showbiz are crucial parts of conversations about race and sex in our society. But ironically, the dynamics of what happens behind the scenes in the entertainment industry is not so well-known. As a feminist model and writer in eternally sunny Los Angeles, I'll be exploring issues of race, sexuality, and gender within the entertainment industry over the next two months with this guest blog.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars in his directorial debut, Don Jon, which centers on the life of a "porn addict" Jersey guido named Jon Martello.Though plenty of people will likely flock to a film that centers on two sexy stars and a porn addiction, Don Jon attempts to deconstruct the ways in which rigid notions of masculinity and femininity are damaging.
I used to love My Two Dads. To recap, or in case you (shocked face) never saw it: the show was about two single, straight Manhattan bachelors who were given joint custody of 12-year old Nicole after her mom/their joint ex-girlfriend died. Living with just one mom, I was fascinated by a show that centered around a girl's relationship with her two fathers. Except I re-watched some of it recently, and it's not about that at all.
I don't have exact stats, but it seems like the vast majority of shows and movies about single and stay-at-home dads feature a father-daughter dynamic. This could lead to some interesting explorations of what it means to parent a child with a different gender to your own in our patriarchal society. But most often, it's a way to reinforce society's discomfort with young women's sexuality.
This tepid installation of the longest-running movie franchise in history still peddles woman's bodies as disposable, continues the tradition of white-valued imperialism, and features a mark of homophobia. Shocked? You shouldn't be.
Today marks the end of my time as a guest blogger for Bitch. Eight weeks and 24 posts later, I've learned a lot from the editors (thank you, Kelsey!) and readers about writing and politics. And the politics of writing. Rather than end off by talking specifically about a particular topic at the intersection of youth, sexuality, and education, I want to reflect on the nature of doing analytical writing at this political nexus.
Apparently, we have to get an education in some land of make-believe shot through a vaseline-covered lens in order to get a "real" job, and then endure the "real world" where we won't have it so easy, and then, at some undisclosed point in the future, "it gets better"? If we don't expect the level of community and political engagement that is growing all the time at all educational levels to translate into "real life," then how are things going to get better? Are people suddenly going to start taking seriously the labor laws that compel companies to give perfunctory seminars on how not to sexually harass your coworkers? Probably not. I think it's going to involve breaking down some of the boundaries between "school" and "work" that treat theorizing and activism and even a little naïve enthusiasm as immaterial to the way the rest of the world works.
We're elaborately taught how to relate to ourselves as gendered beings. It's been a long time that people have been building on the critical observation that there's no natural connection between pink/girl or boy/blue, yet kids continue to be the targets of aggressive marketing that creates profitable niche interests—a collection of stereotypes from which gender binarized consumers are "free" to choose—and of subtler gender conditioning (as my friend Ember is finding out, swaddled babies, though indistinguishable, are praised as pretty or strongdepending on how parents advertise their sex). I've mentioned how a lot of kids are skipping the closet and, consequently, finding themselves at the forefront of advocating respect toward sexual difference. What about trans youth? There's been increasing attention to "gender creative" or "gender independent" kids as social space opens up in which to discuss, rather than repress, their behavior. Could these terms reflect a reluctance to apply the concept of transgender to youth of a certain age because of its association with sexual identity (I am thinking specifically here of the historical, medical roots of trans-related descriptors in the West that have stemmed from the word "transsexualism" coined as "transsexualismus" in the early 1900s by Magnus Hirschfeld and later "trans-sexual" by Harry Benjamin in the 1960s)? Conversely, does the usage of the trans label problematically continue to lump the T in with the LGB? (Not that the B gets much visibility, either).
So I was watching Glee the other night, waiting desperately to see if Brittany and Santana would show some sign that they were still together. As I tried to peer into the minds of Glee's creators and discover their subversive intent in having the lesbian character Santana dance to a song with romantic lyrics about boy/girl love with the gay-in-real-life Ricky Martin, it hit me: TV is not activism. I mean, critiquing TV can be activism, but TV programming itself exists, by and large, in the service of profit, not activism. In recognition of TV's persuasive powers over "impressionable youth," there is a long history of the "after school special" and the "very special episode" of family sitcoms. But the structural inequalities and relations of rule responsible for the most urgent cultural problems of our time run way deeper than the politics of media representation.
Designer Tom Ford once told Details magazine: "There's one indulgence every man should try in his lifetime. If you're straight, sleep with a man at least once, and if you're gay, don't go through life without sleeping with a woman."
Gucci's sartorial savant could—pardon the following phrase—"get away with" that—pardon the following adjective—"edgy" quote since he's an out gay man. Having already wandered away from the heteronormative fold, of course it's fine for him to explore both male and female physical contact. A straight guy saying that? Whoa, buddy, you've gotta be gay. Because male bisexuality doesn't exist, right? Oh, wait.