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.

Some clips from "The Outing"