Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Analyzing "The Girls Next Door"

For this post I chose to blog about the concepts of masculinity and femininity as found in the reality television show “The Girls Next Door.” “The Girls Next Door” is a show about “Playboy” founder Hugh Hefner and his three main girlfriends Holly, Bridget, and Kendra. Although each and every episode of this series does nothing but reinforce normative roles and concepts related to masculinity and femininity, I chose to look at one particular episode. This episode deals with the three women getting prepared for a big birthday celebration for Hefner. Within it, the women are constantly worried about their self-image and body weight so that they can “look their best for Hef” and are at no time portrayed as intellectual.

To start, the first concept of the show that is blatantly obvious because of the particular episodes topic is the representation of the “Barbie-girl” image. Since in this episode the women are preparing for Hefner’s birthday party, each are adamantly concerned about their appearance, and what they will be wearing to the party. In one particular part, Bridget is having a meal with her parents and only eats vegetables because she’s on a diet. Only eating a few pieces of vegetables is definitely not a sufficient way of nourishing oneself and Bridget sees it necessary so that she can look her best for Hefner. This sends a terrible message to younger women, and especially teenage girls. Meanwhile, during the same meal, Bridget’s dad is shown numerous times while eating his meal, making it very obvious that he is eating as much as he wants and is enjoying it. This work by the producers to show that Bridget is overly concerned with what she is eating while her father chows down on his meal reinforces social norms that it is commonly accepted for men to eat disregarding their body and for women to do the complete opposite.

Furthermore, the very beginning of each episode begins with the show’s theme song that includes the three girlfriends shown as cartoon characters. This immediately depicts an image of each woman as childish due to the fact that cartoons are obviously attributed to children and the immature characters associated with them. Also, throughout the mini-interviews done during the show the women are often seen acting and speaking in the same manner. The show does nothing to hide this either, making sure to include each clip in which they slip-up or do something clumsy and then reinforcing the ridiculousness of the act by adding some demeaning music. The producers are clearly guilty of reinforcing normative definitions of femininity.

If these women were acting as themselves it would not differ from other shows. However, because it seems to me that these women are putting on an act it makes it much worse. As is guilty of most reality television, Holly, Bridget, and Kendra do not seem to be acting as they would if the cameras were not around. It is hard for me to believe that these women are not actually much more intelligent than they are letting on. All three women have received some form of higher education with Holly and Bridget attending Universities, and Bridget even possessing a master’s degree in communication. Despite their intellect, the women always seem to act silly and childish, and does anyone else think it’s odd that each of them has the cliché bleach-blonde hair to go along with their acts? These women are just as much to blame for our society’s view on women because younger girls or teenagers who watch the show “are even more powerfully attuned to images of women, because they learn from these images what is expected of them, what they are to become” (Kilbourne).

Anyway, not only are the producers of “The Girls Next Door” to blame, but Holly, Bridget, and Kendra themselves are guilty as well for doing nothing but reinforcing the view that a “Playboy” playmate or “the perfect woman” should act and is intellectually inferior to Hefner, or the male. It is important to keep this notion in mind when analyzing concepts of masculinity and femininity because we need to realize that these normative definitions are coming from all aspects of our society.

Kilbourne, Jean. "The More You Subtract, The More You Add". Gender, Race, and Class In Media. Sage Publications, Inc. Thousand Oaks, California. 2003.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Some other "Seinfeld" related pop culture sites for your enjoyment....

A lot of the sites I came across when "researching" Seinfeld related info were obviously more fan-related articles, but I did manage to find some stuff that has begun to analyze some of the major pop culture influences the show had. I found it interesting to see how many conflicting views that people had. Here are some links to those sites....

Here's a good one that discusses gender identity and masculine power in one particular episode of the show:

This site seems to be in the preliminary stages, but it does have some good info including some books in the bibliography that I want to get around to checking out:

This article discusses the show's influence on many aspects of American culture...

A site dealing more specifically with religion issues in Seinfeld:

more to come...

Monday, February 5, 2007

Blogging in College: The Gender & Pop Culture Blog Experiment

The Professor's Page! The ringleader of this crazy project! My 28 students and I will be blogging all Spring Semester 2007 on many forms of pop culture. This site will link to all of their sites, and provide the evolving dialogue we will consciously be intervening in via the technology of the blog and through critical analysis. Please visit often as it will change rapidly! Provide links, feedback, anything is fair game right now...

Some clips from "The Outing"