Archive by Author

Media’s Obsession with Physical Beauty

6 Nov

Group:  Teenage Girls

 

Summary: 

I watched the “Hair Today, Goon Tomorrow” episode of Boy Meets World.  In an effort to show her boyfriend, Cory, that physical appearance is secondary to inner beauty, Topanga decides to chop off her long hair with a pair of school scissors.  She is horrified at her new, messy hair.  Topanga thought that she really didn’t care about physical appearance or what others thought of her external looks, but in reality, her contentment with her physical appearance allowed her to believe that she really didn’t care what others thought.  Topanga goes to a salon after school to get her hair fixed, and her stylist gives her a new look (i.e. – a modern haircut, full make-up look, and a manicure and pedicure).  In the eyes of her friend, Shawn, this new look causes Topanga to begin acting in a more superficial way:  constantly looking in the mirror and fixing her makeup and hair, going shopping at the mall more often, focusing less on expressing her intellect and ideals, etc.  Shawn stages an “intervention” and tells Topanga how worried he is about her new habits and her new obsession with her appearance.  Once Topanga realizes that she has changed for the worse, she ruins her beautiful look (by soaking her hair and messing up her makeup and new clothes) and runs to find Cory to tell him about her revelation.

 

Analysis / Application:

In this episode, the aspect of reality that is being defined as the most real, visible, and common comes from teenage girls.  We know this, because the main storyline directly speaks to teenage girls who are struggling with forming their own opinions about inner and physical beauty.  This reality is defined as most real, visible, and common, because in the beginning of the episode, Topanga is described to be the exception to other girls when it comes to views and habits concerning physical beauty.  All of the other girls in school wear makeup and constantly check their appearance.  As Topanga says, “They all have mirrors in their lockers.”  On the other hand, Topanga does not style her hair, wears no makeup, and does not dress in an ultra trendy or revealing manner.  The reality of teenage girls is defined as most real, visible, and common, because all of this group’s struggles around thoughts on physical beauty as well as developing confidence through belief in inner beauty are laid out in this episode.  The media’s aspect of reality is being defined as most powerful.  In this instance, the media includes visual entertainment and communication (television shows, films, commercials, advertisements, etc.), celebrity culture, popular music, and fashion and beauty companies.  The media is defined as most powerful, because it dictates beauty ideals, as well as the high level of importance to be placed on physical beauty, to the entire population.  Whether through celebrities that we admire or through beautiful people in ads, the media has demonstrated their ability to convince audiences to look a certain way and buy certain products to help them look that way.

 

This representation benefits teenage girls.  When Topanga realizes that she has abandoned her more important inner beauty ideals for the superficial physical beauty ideals, she decides to ruin her new look.  Even in looking a mess, Cory tells her that he loves her just the way she is.  Shawn also tells Topanga that he preferred how she was before the change, not caring about amplifying her natural external beauty.  Because of Cory and Shawn’s support of Topanga going against society’s ideals, this sends the message to teenage girls that their friends and family will love them just the way they are.  They don’t need to adhere to society’s beauty ideals to be loved and accepted.

 

This episode can be interpreted in a number of ways.  First as we learned in class, this episode can be classified as a type of edutainment.  Because we also learned in class that teens are immune to pro-social media, it makes sense to use edutainment for this audience.  (In this type of media, the pro-social message is not made as blatant or obvious.  Teens will not take a blatant pro-social message seriously.)  By embedding the message in the storyline with Topanga and her friends coming to the conclusion on their own that physical beauty is less important than inner beauty, the effort / message seems more genuine.  Also, this episode can be analyzed through Social Contact Theory.  This theory states that the more we are exposed to mediated characters, the more we develop friendships with them, and the more they help us with our lives and struggles.  Because the audience looks up to and feels like they are friends with Cory, Shawn, and Topanga, they value and support what the characters think.  If the characters realize that they are happier going against the media’s beauty ideals, we will support their decision and incorporate that thinking into our own lives, if it helps us deal with our own struggles with society’s physical beauty ideals.  Next, the episode can be analyzed with the Social Cognitive Theory.  Characters are said to be modeled by audience members if they are realistic, similar to the audience, receive positive reinforcement for their actions / beliefs, and if their actions can be imitated.  Boy Meets World is a great avenue for including pro-social messages, because according to this theory, its characters can be modeled.  The characters are realistic and similar to the audience, because they are typical high school students shown in typical school, family, and social settings.  Topanga receives positive reinforcement from Shawn and Cory (mentioned in the paragraph above) for ruining her new look, and Topanga’s decision not to wear makeup, excessively style her hair, or wear revealing clothes can easily be imitated.

 

In determining whether the representations in this episode conform or do not conform to dominant ideologies, we must determine in which time period to analyze the show.  For example, when this episode aired in 1996, it was much less common for a teenage character to blatantly defy society’s beauty ideals.  The mid-1990s was the age of the supermodel and extreme thinness.  At that time, the episode did not conform to dominant ideologies.  Reruns are still aired, though.  In 2013, the analysis might be a bit different.  While the backlash against society’s beauty ideals is still considered “not conforming to dominant ideologies,” there is much more pro-social content being produced that defies society’s limited definition of external beauty (i.e. – Dove’s Real Women Campaign, increase in fashion’s use of plus-size models, etc.).  So in today’s terms, the episode’s message is still considered to be “not conforming,” but the message is much more socially accepted today.  While this episode is still very beneficial for teenage girls, I still see one flaw.  It is the male characters in this show, Cory and Shawn, who bring Topanga to the realization that she is heading down the wrong path.  It is also the male characters who positively reinforce Topanga’s decision to go back to her old self.  Basically, even though this episode is making an important statement about beauty ideals, it is still following the archaic, yet dominant, ideology of having men influence, and even dictate, a female’s choices as it pertains to physical beauty (i.e. – choices in hair style, makeup, clothing, etc.).

 

I believe pro-social content is extremely useful, especially for children, pre-teens, and teens.  There are so many media channels that try to influence us to act a certain way or buy a certain product, and as children or teens, we really have no idea what long-term effects these messages are having on us (until a negative outcome manifests itself).  Because society has become so media saturated, specifically due to the increase of mobile technology, and technology in our lives, in general, it is important that we expose the most malleable minds early on in their lives to messages that set them up to lead successful, respectful, and non-deviant lives.  It is also important to expose teens to pro-social messages through edutainment, because they are at the age when they need guidance to help them sort through all of the issues that they are being faced with (i.e. – bullying, stress, etc.).  Not all kids and teens have positive adult influences in their lives, so by having pro-social content in the media, at least society is doing a service to its future generations.  Also, even for children and teens who are learning pro-social messages in their everyday lives from adults around them, pro-social media serves as a way to further reinforce those messages. 

 

Conclusion:  This episode suggests that teenage girls do not need to conform to society’s physical beauty ideals in order to lead happy and successful lives.

Tim Wise – Seeing White Privilege for the First Time

24 Oct

As expected, Tim Wise gave quite the thought-provoking talk tonight.  The effects of white privilege on American society run far deeper than I ever imagined, and he illustrated this with a number of points that I found particularly interesting.

 

Dependency on Government Assistance

As part of President Roosevelt’s New Deal, the government created a number of programs and policies, like FHA loans and the Homestead Act, that mainly gave financial assistance to white Americans.  Because the policies were aiding the majority, there were no complaints.  As the years passed and as these policies began to assist minorities, the idea emerged that these programs should be gotten rid of, because they were causing people to become dependent on the government.  As long as the government helps the majority, everything is fine.  As soon as the government begins helping minorities, society unfairly characterizes the aid recipients as lazy and undeserving of assistance.

 

Male Salaries

Tim Wise stated that the average 25-29 year old, white male’s salary is equal to the average salary of a black man with 25 more years of experience; this simply makes no sense.  This piece of information states that our American society deems white individuals as “more desirable” for jobs and that a black man’s work experience does not translate into as high of a pay premium as it does for a white man’s work experience.

 

Stop and Frisk Program

Of the individuals stopped as part of the Stop and Frisk Program, only two-tenths of one percent of the individuals actually were carrying a weapon.  This program is not focused on promoting gun control as the New York City government says, because if it was, the police would have developed a more effective way of increasing their percentage of interactions where weapons were found on the individual.  It seems as if this program is just a ploy to keep the city thinking that the government is working to make progress on gun control, when it actually is not.

 

1960s Racial Equality Poll

I still can’t believe that in the early 1960s, when whites were asked if they believed that blacks were considered less equal or considered disadvantaged as compared to whites, most white individuals replied that they sensed no inequality or disadvantage.  This is a scary thought, because people would respond similarly to that question today.  Even though we have made some progress along the lines of racial equality, it seems as if whites still have a limited, or even lack of, knowledge concerning how their white privilege interferes with their ability to accurately assess the state of racial inequality in America.

 

No One Wants to Talk About It

Tim Wise mentioned that one of the reasons why whites today don’t want to talk about racial inequality is because they think talking about it will make the problem worse.  While I think this is a valid point, I think an even bigger reason why whites don’t talk about this issue is because if they talk about it, they will be expected to take action to begin to fix the issue.  Ultimately, no one seems to want to take action to fix our society’s problems.  This problem is very much the same with the topics of mental health and gun violence / restrictions.  Because there is no easy solution, very few people want to commit themselves to a journey that will be riddled with setbacks and stress. 

 

Tim’s talk really opened my eyes to how much privilege I have taken for granted in my life.  I have grown up knowing that racial inequality exists, but I realize that I have been sheltered from understanding what racial inequality means in an individual’s everyday life.  I now know that racial inequality has fostered institutional processes that discriminate against minorities.  Because of my racial privilege, I have not been able to see this before, but now, I am determined to do some catch-up work and continue learning where these injustices lie.

Being (Seen As) White in Saved By The Bell

2 Oct

Group:  Whites

Summary:

I watched the “Running Zack” episode of Saved By The Bell.  In this episode, Zack and his friends are given an assignment by their history teacher to research their ancestors and give a three-minute speech on what they have found.  Lisa discovers that her ancestors were slaves, and after escaping to freedom, they helped others escape along the Underground Railroad.  Jessie discovers that her ancestors were slave traders, and Slater discovers that his ancestors were bullfighters.  Screech’s ancestors were Italian spies.  Zack discovers that his ancestors were Native Americans, but after not taking his first presentation seriously, Zack is told by his teacher that without a good grade on his second attempt at presenting, he will not be able to run in the upcoming track meet.  Zack’s teacher sends him to a Native American historian, Chief Henry, to help him learn more about his background.  During his interactions with Chief Henry, Zack learns to further appreciate his heritage, and he gives a much more respectful and informative second presentation.

Analysis / Application:

In this episode, the American who possesses stereotypically white characteristics is whose reality is being defined as most real, visible, common, and powerful.  I say “the American who possesses stereotypically white characteristics” vs. “the White American” for a reason.  As we discussed in class, white audiences relate better to white characters, and the white audience is the most profitable audience.  Knowing this, I would assume that producers would not want to alienate the white audience, but at the same time, they would need to include “token minorities” in the show, in order to be politically correct.  I believe that Lisa Turtle, a black teen on the show, has stereotypically white traits that allow her to be better accepted by a white audience.  Lisa comes from a wealthy family, is articulate and popular, enjoys school and works hard for high grades, loves to shop, never talks about her heritage (except in this episode), and never associates with any other black teens in the high school.  All of her friends (Zack, Jessie, Kelly, and Screech) are white, except for Slater, who is Hispanic.

This reality is being defined as most real, visible and common, because stereotypically, whites do not wear their ethnicity on their sleeves.  When many whites are asked to identify their race, they refer to themselves as white.  If whites were more active in embracing their heritage, we would have a country full of white individuals who refer to themselves as Scandinavian, Polish, Czech, etc. and who embraced their heritage via dress, customs, etc. in their daily lives.  But this is not the case.  (On the other hand, many minorities do choose to keep their heritage part of their everyday lives.)  In the show, the stereotypically white characters never address their heritage until this episode, making these characters seem more relatable, and therefore, more real. This reality is being defined as most visible and common, because all but two of the main characters on this show fit into this “stereotypically white” category.  These characters’ thoughts and behaviors are considered normal, meaning that they aren’t questioned by others on the show.

This reality is being defined as most powerful, because these characters tease the minority characters on the show for their discoveries about or presentations of their heritage.  Just as how in Friends the stereotypically white characters tease Joey, “the only regular cast member to display any clear racial/ethnic characteristics,” the stereotypically white characters in Saved By The Bell do the same to Slater and Screech.  In the “May the Circle Stay Unbroken” article, Chidester states that “Joey’s character serves as a visible boundary between what is white and what is not quite white, between what is acceptable to the in-group and what must be ultimately rejected in order to maintain the purity of what lies within.”  When Slater tells Jessie that his ancestors were bullfighters, Jessie tells him that bullfighting is barbaric.  (Jessie’s ancestors were slave traders – is this not considered barbaric as well?  Because bullfighting is/was not common in America, or common among whites, this may seem barbaric to a stereotypically white individual.)  Also, each time Slater makes comments about liking to see the Bayside girls in short skirts and tight dresses, an example of how Hispanics are portrayed as more sexual in the media than other races, the friend group lets him know of their rejection of his statements through disapproving looks.  Just as the Friends article states, this type of character “is always on the verge of being turned away by the cluster of friends.  His is a constant cycle of transgression and punishment, of learning to tame his natural tendencies to behave inappropriately based on his own racial impurities.”

This stereotypically white representation benefits the White American population.  By having the stereotypically white characters mimic white behaviors regarding race in American society, like seemingly harmless teasing about a minority’s heritage, it makes white individuals feel better about, and ultimately rationalize, their own thoughts and beliefs about race.  If they are seeing their own thoughts and behaviors on television, they must be considered acceptable and normal.  On the other hand, this representation could be doing a disservice to whites by perpetuating flawed and inappropriate ways in which to interact with race.  For example, when Zack initially meets with Chief Henry to learn about his Native American heritage, Chief Henry asks Zack what kind of research he needs.  Zack states that he only needs enough to fill a three-minute speech.  This gives voice to the idea in the “Themes of Whiteness in Bulletproof Monk, Kill Bill, and The Last Samurai” article that “what is absorbed and retained is what matches the needs of the receiving culture at a given time.”  The fact that Zack also seemed a bit nervous to meet Chief Henry related to the Friends article assertion that there is “unease at suddenly being forced to make contact with those outside the closed circle.”

Audiences can interpret this episode in a number of ways.  First, the Friends idea of the “closed circle” applies here as well.  The friend group, composed of Zack, Kelly, Jessie, Slater, Lisa, and Screech, frequent the same booth at a local diner called The Max.  Just as in the Friends article, the camera is positioned so that the audience feels like they are sitting at one end of the table with the group; the other end of the booth, though, is open for visitors to stop by.  This is symbolic of the idea that while visitors, or the Other, can mingle with the group temporarily, the Other will never have a permanent position within the group.  Also like in the Friends article, the group converts a public space, The Max, into their own private space.  This is representative of the group’s privilege in society; according to the article, it would not be considered socially acceptable for the Other to make the same kind of conversion.  Then, as soon as Jessie discovers that her ancestors were slave traders, she feels extremely guilty, fitting in line with William Cross’s Stages of Identity Development for White Racial Identity, specifically under the stage of Disintegration (where one feels guilt and shame for their race’s privilege).  Lastly, just as Mr. Miyagi, the minority, helped the main character in The Karate Kid, a white teen, develop his skills, Chief Henry did the same for Zack by providing him with information about the Nez Perce tribe.  This idea from the “Themes of Whiteness” article, the conferring of valuable information from the minority to the white individual, helps perpetuate the idea of the dominant white person’s ability to “master” other cultures’ customs.

The representations of the stereotypically white American in this episode conform to dominant and socially accepted ideologies.  For example, when many individuals think of Native Americans, they think of tribes, warriors, spirituality, poor English-speaking abilities, unique dress, etc.  When discussed alone, these elements give a superficial picture of the Native American people.  Unfortunately, because of Zack’s lack of desire to learn about his heritage, a characteristic stemming from his white privilege, Zack’s presentation only consisted of these elements.  He put warrior-style face paint on Screech, gave him a traditional Native American weapon to hold, and instructed him to speak in poor English.  With this presentation, Zack gave voice to “a colonial attitude that values the objects of a culture while dismissing the artists and the cultures that have created them,” an idea from the “Themes of Whiteness” article.  By the end of the episode, Zack has gained a greater appreciation for his heritage and a greater interest in learning about the struggles that his ancestors endured.  For his second-chance at presenting, Zack dressed in full Native American tribal garb and recounted the story of the Nez Perce tribe; his efforts seemed much more genuine and prepared this time around.  Zack’s newfound relationship with the Native American people does raise some questions about white entitlement.  For example, the “Themes of Whiteness” article states that cultural appropriation by whites “shows how the unquestioned invisibility of whiteness rationalizes the adoption or appropriation of the Others’ cultural activities as an expression of a universal human impulse or right.”  Zack’s teacher and fellow classmates were very excited to see Zack embracing his background, yet none voiced any surprise or concern to the high degree and rapid nature in which he internalized his recently discovered heritage.  Lastly, with Zack’s commitment to continue acknowledging and investigating the Native American people, we see the salvage paradigm at work.  The salvage paradigm, according to the “Themes of Whiteness” article, is “Whites’ often self-appointed role as curator and protector of vanishing or dead traditions of Native American culture or spirituality.”  Because Zack has Native American blood, other whites do not question his desire to suddenly begin keeping traditions from his heritage alive.

Conclusion:  White Americans have learned to unconsciously live their lives with a sense of entitlement and knowledge of their power over minorities.

Working Class Portrayals in Grey’s Anatomy

23 Sep

Group:  Working Class

 

Summary: 

I watched Grey’s Anatomy at 9:00 PM on ABC.  While taking care of a pregnant teen, the audience learns that Izzie grew up in a trailer park, became pregnant at the age of sixteen, and ultimately gave her baby up for adoption.  The pregnant teen, Cheyenne, lives in a trailer park that is close to the one that Izzie grew up in.  In order to fight for better working conditions, the hospital nurses go on strike, and because he understands where the nurses are coming from, George decides to strike with them.   Christina gets in trouble for second-guessing a doctor’s decision in the operating room, and Meredith accidentally puts a DNR (do not resuscitate) patient on life support.

 

Analysis / Application:

In this episode, the working class individual is whose reality is being defined as most real, visible, and common.  This viewpoint is seen as the most real, because the working class characters, like Cheyenne, her mother, and the striking nurses, are the characters that the audience can most easily relate to.  These characters divulge their feelings about being overworked and struggling to “make ends meet,” and these are issues that many members of society deal with.  The working class characters have relatable struggles that deal with providing for a family and figuring out how to be happy in life, while the doctors, or the more upper-class characters’ struggles focus solely around their patients or their professional relationships with the other doctors.  (Physician-related struggles are not as common or as easy for an audience to relate to.)  The working class viewpoint is seen as most visible, because this episode spends the most time focusing on these characters, as opposed to focusing on the doctors.  The working class viewpoint is seen as the most common, because in addition to showing the patients and the nurses as working class individuals, the plot allows the audience to discover that two of the medical interns, George and Izzie, have working class families and backgrounds.  By showing that even some of the doctors, or the traditionally upper-class individuals, have connections to working class lives, the working class viewpoint becomes more common.  The doctors’ / upper class aspect of reality is being defined as most powerful.  The doctors essentially “control” the patients, because they are in charge of determining and administering the patients’ course of treatment.  The patients’ lives are literally in the doctors’ hands.  Also, it is Dr. Weber, the chief of surgery, who controls how many hours the nurses work and how much they get paid. 

 

The representation of the working class in this episode can benefit children and teens who are in a lower socioeconomic class.  When Izzie reveals that she used to live in a trailer park growing up and that she became pregnant at the age of sixteen, working class viewers are being given the message that if you work hard enough, you can overcome your current situation.  (Because Izzie worked hard enough, she was able to go to college, get into medical school, and become a doctor.)  This part of the episode rolls the Horatio Alger “rags to riches,” Rugged Individualism, and Protestant Work Ethic concepts all into one character’s story.  Izzie’s single mother couldn’t help her succeed, so Izzie knew that she needed to take her future into her own hands by studying hard and financially putting herself through college and medical school.

 

Audiences can interpret this “you can succeed if you work hard” message as valuable, or they can see that it has a few flaws.  This message is reminiscent of one concept mentioned in the “Institutions That Fail, Narratives That Succeed” article by Jeffrey P. Jones.  Here, Jones references the movie, Freedom Writers.  In the movie, Hilary Swank’s character sends the message to her students that “all [that] they need to do to overcome the pain and suffering in their lives is to believe in themselves… and when they do, all the violence, drugs, racism… will disappear.”  And “in the end, the audience learns society, institutions, family, and community don’t really matter – only the will of the individual.”  By lessening the actual impact of external influences and inflating the power of inner drive, Izzie’s own story and her message to Cheyenne may lead viewers to believe that moving out of similar working class situations will be easier than it actually is.  Also, Izzie tells Cheyenne that she may be able to have a more successful life, and to give a more successful life to her baby, if she puts the baby up for adoption, just like Izzie did.  Izzie even tells Cheyenne’s mother that “[Cheyenne] can have more than a trailer park and a graveyard shift at a truck stop diner.  Don’t you want that for her?”  Just as was discussed in the Class Dismissed video, Izzie is alluding to the fact that our society deems being a part of the working class as a failure.

 

Another interesting portrayal includes the nurses picketing outside the hospital.  The nurses are on strike in order to acquire better working conditions.  They yell, “fair wages, fair hours!” and throw eggs at doctors and strikebreakers who enter the hospital.  These images portray the working class as malicious, or as the enemy, for simply trying to improve their working conditions. 

 

Some of the representations of the working class in the episode, like pregnant teen girls, characters who live in trailer parks, characters who are, or are dependent on, single mothers, individuals in low-paying jobs, and fathers who are truck drivers, seem to conform to dominant ideologies about this group.  Cheyenne’s mother gives voice to the struggles of being a single mother who works long hours for a small hourly wage by stating that she “can’t afford to miss another shift” by staying at the hospital with her daughter.  On the other hand, there are some representations of the working class that do not conform to dominant ideologies about this group.  Cheyenne and Izzie are both very well spoken and articulate.  Cheyenne reads Shakespeare to her unborn baby and loves school, and Izzie, a doctor, dresses in a crisp, sophisticated manner (i.e. – collared shirts, argyle sweaters, etc.).  These portrayals are in contrast to the dominant ideologies of working class individuals being unintelligent, lacking taste, dressing / acting sloppy, etc.  Unfortunately, as Laura Portwood-Stacer mentions in the “Consuming Trash” article, by representing a marginalized group in a positive light, the show makes Cheyenne and Izzie exceptions to the rule, therefore reinforcing the stereotypes of the working class. 

 

Conclusion: 

This episode suggests that working class members can overcome their current situation, but they are more likely to succeed if they do not fit the typical working class stereotypes.

Blog Post 1: Glee

10 Sep

Focus

Femininity & Sexuality

 

Summary

I watched Glee on FOX at 9:00 PM.  Rachel seriously considers getting a nose job in the hopes of making herself look and feel more beautiful.  Mr. Schuester tries to get the Glee Club kids to accept and embrace their own imperfections by asking them to perform songs that express something about themselves about which they feel self-conscious.  Quinn and Lauren vie for the title of Homecoming Queen, and in the process, Lauren exposes unattractive middle school photos of Quinn.  Santana and David begin dating to each hide their own homosexuality, and Kurt permanently returns to McKinley High School.  (David bullied and threatened Kurt so intensely that Kurt was forced to transfer schools.)  Mr. Schuester tries to help Ms. Pillsbury deal with her OCD.

 

Analysis / Application

In this episode, females as well as those who identify as homosexual are the two groups whose realities we see being defined as most real and visible.

 

Femininity

In this episode, we see the effects of the pressure that society puts on females to look perfect and beautiful.  Together, Rachel and Quinn sing a mash-up of the songs “Unpretty” by TLC and “I Feel Pretty” from West Side Story; please feel free to watch the clip of this performance at the bottom of the post .  We hear the song in the background as Rachel goes to the plastic surgeon for some pre-surgery photos, bringing Quinn with her to serve as an example as the kind of nose she wants.  Rachel talks to the Glee Club about how the size of her nose makes her feel less than beautiful, and when Lauren exposes unattractive photos of Quinn to the entire school, Quinn breaks down in embarrassment.  Quinn later admits that she got a nose job, lost weight, and dyed her hair blonde, all to feel beautiful.  Feeling guilty, Lauren discusses that the last time she wore a crown on her head was when she won a beauty pageant as a child.  All of this shows us that females in society establish a large part of their self-worth on how beautiful their outward appearance is.  Ultimately, the episode tries to show viewers that the characters come to love and accept who they are, but there are two aspects of the characters’ journeys to this endpoint that I take issue with.  First, the episode only shows the female characters suffering as a result of their internal struggles, Rachel and Quinn with appearances and Ms. Pillsbury with her OCD.  The male characters easily accept their flaws (i.e. – Finn’s inability to dance), alluding to the fact that men are emotionally stronger and better at warding off society’s pressures than women are.  Second, the episode even hints at the fact that women actually need men to help them get over their problems.  It takes an entire episode of Mr. Schuester’s constant convincing for Ms. Pillsbury to finally admit that she has a serious OCD disorder and decide to get professional help.  The only time Rachel begins to consider not getting a nose job anymore is when Finn tells her that she is beautiful just the way she is.  Puck tells Rachel that she shouldn’t get the nose job, because all of the girls at his temple look “less hot” after they get theirs.  Finn replaces the usual picture of Quinn in his wallet with the unflattering photo, telling her that he likes the unflattering photo more.  These instances also imply that for females, the highest or most important forms of validation or approval come from persons of the opposite sex, or possibly persons who we are attracted to.  Lastly, the main example of gender display for femininity in the show is clothing.  The more girly or traditionally beautiful characters are consistently dressed in skirts or dresses, just as we learned is also common for women featured on video rental jackets in violent film genres.  The less feminine students as well as the overweight female students usually wear pants, a sign that society prefers that females who do not fit into the stereotypical view of beauty should cover up.  Also, as is common for homosexual characters in the media, Kurt is given a more feminine persona.  Kurt dresses in very fashionable and tight-fighting clothing, full of bright colors and embellishments.  In contrast, the straight, male characters on the show consistently wear collared or flannel shirts in drab colors under 1950s-style, stereotypical macho-male letterman’s jackets.

 

Sexuality

This episode highlights the fact that in society, we see homosexuality as a problem and as deviant from the norm, just like Battles and Hilton-Morrow mention in the article we read in class about Will and Grace.  Santana and David begin dating to each hide their own homosexuality, and in an earlier episode, Kurt is forced to transfer schools because of David’s homophobic bullying and threats.  (In this episode, Kurt permanently returns to McKinley High School.)  Also, in contrast to Will and Grace, Glee shows how homosexuality fits into interpersonal relationships (i.e. – between Kurt and his friends in the Glee Club) as well as into society at large (i.e. – Kurt receiving threats from students after coming out).  Battles and Hilton-Morrow suggested that Will and Grace showcased homosexuality’s role in interpersonal relationships but not in society at large, as is evident when “Matt’s decision not to come out on the job is similarly treated as a personal failure rather than as a painful decision reflecting the realities of our heteronormative culture.”  Lastly, even though viewers are told that Artie, a Glee Club member who is confined to a wheelchair, is heterosexual, his character can be interpreted as androgynous.  Artie does not dress similarly to the other straight male characters, but he does not dress in a feminine or ultra-fashionably manner either.  Most of the heterosexual and homosexual characters on the show have partners, but Artie does not.  The show could be alluding to the fact that it is difficult for society to see past a person’s disability and recognize that these individuals are, in fact, sexual beings just like everyone else.

 

Any teenage girl who feels different from those around her or who feels at odds with her environment is whose aspect of reality is being defined as most common.  We see examples of this through Rachel’s insecurity with her nose and Santana’s insecurity with her homosexuality. Each character on the show has a personality trait or physical characteristic that makes them feel self-conscious or causes them to be teased, therefore, making this situation the norm on the show. The characters on the show who are the most powerful are the school bullies, male and female.  Coach Sylvester as well as the jocks who beat up gay students have the control to make the lives of the students more difficult by causing them fear, anger, frustration, or sadness (through insults, harsh school policies, etc.).

 

The representations of females who struggle with their outward appearance as well as individuals who struggle with their sexuality benefit teenagers in real life who are dealing with these issues. It gives actual teens characters to relate to, and when the characters triumph over their issues or bullies, this provides real teens with inspiration to do the same in their own situations.

 

We can look at how the audience might interpret this episode in two ways.  In following the transmission paradigm, the concrete message could be that you should accept and love yourself for who you are, especially the parts of yourself about which you may be self-conscious.  You are awesome, and you are strong enough to overcome any criticism that comes your way.  (This is an upbeat kind of message.)  In following the ritual paradigm, the audience might conclude that you should accept and love yourself, because others recognize your imperfections and will give you hard time for not conforming to society’s norms and ideals.  This is a more somber message.  The feelings of anger and sadness that the characters feel for not being able to conform to society’s norms is heartbreaking, and in real life, many individuals do not have the thick skin to overcome the constant criticism that the characters in the show do.

 

Glee conforms to dominant / socially accepted ideologies by showing homosexual characters, Kurt and Santana, being bullied by David (showing that homosexuality is not completely accepted in society), showing female characters, Rachel and Quinn, who are self-conscious about their “less than perfect” appearances, and showing how individuals constantly compare themselves to others who they deem are “better” (as Rachel does with Quinn, in terms of beauty), in congruence with the social comparison aspect of social identity theory.  Glee also does not conform to dominant / socially accepted ideologies, therefore following Stuart Hall’s Oppositional Interpretive Code, by breaking traditional high school stereotypes:  showing jocks who sing and dance, school bullies who abandon their scare tactics in order to become better people, and a macho, small town father who, with no internal struggle, immediately accepts his son’s homosexuality.

 

Conclusion

This episode suggests that people who do not fit into society’s norms and ideals (i.e. – heterosexual, beautiful, etc.) will experience hardship from the outside world because of these aspects that make them different.