Friday, February 20, 2009

Gendering sexless products

This is probably going to be the first of many posts about advertisements. I'm certainly not pointing out anything anyone else hasn't pointed out yet, but it's irritating and needs to be pointed out as many times as possible.

While watching t.v. at any given time, it is easy to see how products are given a gender based on who advertisers think will buy the product, and the result is this huge division between men and women (predominately white straight men and white straight women). Other groups don't seem to exist in commercials or ads.

One thing I learned is that beer is masculine, and is usually synonymous with watching sports (also masculine). Googling "beer ads" in an image search leads you to an array of print advertisements for beer, many of which portray airbrushed women (obviously for the straight male gaze). There's one that baffles me:
What we see here is a flat-chested woman exploiting the chest of the other woman. It isn't the large-chested woman shading her own beer, nor is it a man, which one would argue makes it not sexist. But this is still for a male gaze because it is invoking some perhaps not-so-subtle girl-on-girl action. Just look at how the woman is checking out the beer-shades.

Ad after ad shows hot women posing with beer to attract their male consumers. What this tells me is that beer isn't really for me. If I drink it, it's for the viewing of some man. Which sucks, because my beer-drinking is not supposed to be an exposition.

I also learned how for a woman, shampooing your hair is like some sort of sexual release. I can't think of any time where I shampooed my hair, and felt like this:
Energy drinks are male, and apparently will make something bigger?Chocolate is for women. Eat this and masturbate!
Except Twix, which supposedly allows men to be pigs, and still somehow get the lady:

Speaking of chocolate, here's a familiar Axe ad:

Since women find chocolate irresistible, you should smell like chocolate! Creepy and misleading? Of course it is! Check out any Axe commercial. It's all about getting teh ladiez. Therefore, if you're gay, Axe isn't for you. This whole getting "girl approved" shit alienates a whole demographic of men who are not into ladies...

Burgers are for the male gaze, and sometimes invokes some pretty violent imagery:

So male they're actually testicles:I was also hoping to find video of the new Stacker 2 commercial, which heavily relies on the assumption that the dude is masturbating just before the hot woman enters his office, but I can't seem to find it anywhere just yet. I change the channel every time that commercial comes on.

What this all boils down to is that the ads that permeate our magazines and television is prevalently white and sexist. I didn't bother writing about the ads for children's toys, since that's a whole other argument. So I'll leave it up to Jared Logan:

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Race and Gender in Coraline

I would like to start out this post by stating that I absolutely loved Coraline, and if you haven't seen it yet I would highly recommend that you do. Everything about it is beautiful, the animation, the storyline, etc. I cannot admit that I am a fan of Neil Gaiman's stories, but I think as movies they are amazing. I admit, I tried to read his Neverwhere and got about halfway through before I gave up. I apologize to any Gaiman fans, but it's just not for me. The whole novel seemed like "HEY, look, it's a world completely different than what you're used to, so WOW, look at all the strange things in it!" I know it doesn't make sense that I enjoy movies based on Gaiman's work, and not have any desire to read the stories they're based on, but something about his style of writing frustrates me. I guess Mieville gave me higher standards--when he describes all the strange things it's nonchalant, like we should already know about these things because we are in the world. More evidence of its reality. But I digress.

Coraline was a beautiful film, and it was awesomely creepy. Stop-motion animation isn't used as often as it should, which is a shame, since the results (when done well) are amazing. Also, being from Michigan, I was thrilled that Coraline was from Pontiac (that's where I was born!) and that the snow globe of the Detroit Zoo fountain played an important role (I've always loved that fountain).

There were some gendered things I couldn't help but notice while watching the movie (that's what feminism does, I guess), like how Coraline made an issue out of how her mother (her real mother) never cooked, and the father did. I found it sort of strange that the child was trying to enforce this gender role, since it's usually the parents that do this, but it's sort of evidence of how society has built these roles that Coraline wishes her parents would obey, mirroring the "perfect family."

The "other" mother is a highly gendered character in that she completely embodies the feminine role as caretaker and homemaker. Contrasting the real world to entice Coraline to stay, the "other" mother was heavily made-up, dressing up in some cases, and even wearing an apron; she also cooked, and offered love to Coraline, nurturing her. Her spies are dolls which she makes. She also made Coraline a new outfit. As if these weren't obvious enough, when the mother transforms, her hands are SEWING NEEDLES. She is the domesticated female. Although, the insect-furniture still baffles me. Maybe she just likes bugs, since she wanted to be unlike the real mother, liking dirt and gardening and rain. And bugs. Giant fucking bugs.

Also, her whole identity is based on being Coraline's "other mother." She provides what Coraline desires, which amounts to what Coraline thinks a mother should provide.

Conversely, Coraline doesn't really try to place her father into traditional roles. She only points out that her mother should do the cooking, which does imply that the father shouldn't, but that's about it. In the real world, both parents are working, typing on computers, hard at work. In the other world, while the mother is cooking, the father is active (this is never explicitly desired by Coraline, but it does occur). He's composing catchy songs honoring his daughter (or is made to), or he's out in the garden working on growing things in Coraline's likeness. Men work outside; women inside.

Now, a brief rant on race. This sort of stems from message boards on Wybie being the only black kid in the movie and how I was disturbed that he (well, the other Wybie) was silenced by the white woman (the other mother). Plus, he's an eccentric kid, catching slugs and racing around on that bike and wearing the freaky helmet. We don't know much about his upbringing, but his posture seems to suggest a shyness, and every time his grandmother hollers for him he's quick to obey.

What struck me as odd, however, is that not many people noticed Wybie's ethnicity until it had been pointed out to them. I mean, we all noticed that Coraline is white, so why are so many people not noticing that Wybie, a dark-skinned character, is black? Maybe it's just me. Maybe it is because Wybie does not embody any sort of overt stereotypes that white people associate with "blackness." Or maybe that it's Wybie can almost pass for white, in that he wears skeleton gloves, and likes to catch slugs, or knows what poison oak is (please note the heavy sarcasm here). Here are some of the comments I found on Wybie:

  • I think Wybie is biracial. His facial features looked white (except his hair, I suppose).
  • I'm sorry, but I didn't think Wybie was black.
  • Uhhh for all you know I could be black. I guess I just don't think about things like that. Not all black people have dread locks and not all people that have dread locks are black.
  • wybie was black??
    i was so condused when his grandma as[sic] black...i totally didnt get that he was...
And this one really struck me:
  • Well...judging from the fact that Coraline had BLUE hair and acknowledged that the doll had BLUE hair like her...its not that much of a stretch that Wybie was a funky looking white kid lol.
I can't help but think that since most of these people were so shocked to discover that Wybie is black that they assumed he was white. So, here's my question to everyone else: if you perceived Wybie to be of another ethnicity, what ethnicity did you assume he was? It was obvious to me that he was black, but maybe that is just me. Let me know in the comments. Also, I was talking to a friend of mine about Wybie, and he said that he didn't realize Wybie was black because he had thin lips. I won't go into the details of my reaction to that statement, but let's just say that I wasn't aware that him being black couldn't be a possibility unless you add full lips to his dark skin.

Overall, the movie Coraline is just beautiful. Go see it. But also be aware of how its gendered. And all the stuff about Wybie (who I actually felt more sympathy toward, rather than Coraline, who was okay for a heroine, but was a bit on the whiny side; I wanted to see more of Wybie). I would love to know what others think.

Friday, February 6, 2009

I'm not going to make it

I'm halfway through Iron Council now, and I can't stop reading it. I had hoped that it would last long enough to hold me over until May, when Mieville's The City and the City is released. But it's not going to happen. What am I supposed to do until May? I guess I'll have to read King Rat for the tenth time...

I would like to write something regarding race and gender in Mieville's stories, though I am finding it to be a difficult endeavor, since many races are not human, and gender is just as fluid as race in his novels. I guess this is a good thing, and is refreshing considering the other literature I have been exposed to recently, but I'm wondering if these issues are still present in Mieville's works, just more hidden.

Anyway, I'll be counting down the days until I claim my copy of The City and the City, and I'm sure I'm not the only one. I only wish that Mieville would write faster.