Friday, April 20, 2007

Blog Buddy Work Part 2

Hey Erin!
You've done a really great job on your blog so far. Your last post about motherhood and modeling especially stood out to me. Your analysis was strong, clear, and thought-provoking, and you integrated quotes into your writing very well as evidence to support your claims. I like how you seamlessly use quotes from both the show itself and course readings, so you could try including those in your final presentation.All of your posts have been clearly related to "America's Next Top Model" and it's clear that you're interested in the show. This show was a good choice for your blog topic because you've had plenty to say about femininity, masculinity, hegemony, and other issues related to gender. Your posts are always on topic and they are easy to follow, and your analyses are in-depth and complete. You used different course readings in each post and you also did a great job of finding other outside sources to further support your claims. None of your quotes were repetitive or forced; they all fit perfectly with the theme of the post, especially in your collage post. You explained Linnea Due's point of view, but then you also incorporated your own ideas while referring back to her piece. I thought it was great how you included pictures with your posts because they add interest and give the reader a visual connection to ANTM. You're also great at recapping the episodes you discuss in your posts. I've only seen one or two episodes, but you give enough background information for me (and anyone else) to understand your points. I honestly don't know what you could improve on -- you keep bringing new ideas/analyses to your blog and you're doing a great job!

Blog Buddy Work with Devon M, author of "Beauty and the Geek"

1. Where has your Blog buddy shown strong analytical work (be specific—is it a particular post, a type of analysis, a site for analysis that seemed to click more so than others, etc)?
2. How could your Blog buddy use this strength for the final Blog post and presentation?
3. Think about the following statements in relation to your Blog buddy’s Blog and then provide feedback on each area (constructive praise/criticism):
The Blog is on a topic that has been clearly evident in the Blog posts throughout the semester
The Blog is on a topic that seems to interest my Blog buddy
My Blog buddy’s topic is one that has produced a good set of posts that were analytical used gender as a primary category of analysis
The posts make analytical arguments. The posts are understandable and each post logically outlines and supports the argument presented. The posts were clear, provided insight, evidence, and analysis to connect the topic with the assignment for each of the posts
The sources cited in each post are relevant to the topic and help to aid the understanding of the argument and/or assisted in proving the argument.
The quotes used illustrate a broad range of course readings throughout the semester.
The quotes were clear and succinct; additionally, the material was presented so that I could differentiate the Blog buddy’s ideas from that of the author cited.
4. Finally, complete the following:
I thought it was great when you...
I found it confusing when you…
You’re really great at…
I wish you could focus (more) on/alter/edit/explain/expand on/etc these three things…
(Basically, when you read the Blog posts, what do you wish your buddy had done differently, more of, etc?)

Friday, April 6, 2007

Of Moms and Models

Stereotypical notions of modeling and mothers seem quite opposite. Models are often seen as vain, vapid toothpicks, content to chain-smoke and saunter down a runway every once in a while, while the word "mother" connotates a warm and nurturing woman, one who is perhaps a bit frumpy and sexually neutral in the eyes of the media that create this image.

Therefore, it is easy to understand how the concept of motherhood is met with mixed signals on America's Next Top Model. Almost every season there has been at least one contestant with a child; this season there are at least 3 that have divulged this aspect of their life.

The first reaction these girls receive is what I'd like to call the "MILF" treatment, as they are congratulated and drooled over their sexiness and beauty, traits that are apparently alien to most mothers. Tyra Banks and her judging panel did so with this season's Renee at a judging panel, as they commented on her rock hard abs after having a baby seven months earlier. These subtle comments reinforce the exceptionalism of these women: they are hot moms, able to fit into a size zero or two after giving birth, a concept that seems alien to modern-day schemas of soccer moms in sweatshirts and short hair.

Second, the women on the show who are mothers suffer at the hands of the other, childless women, who often throw barbed comments their way. "Noelle talks constantly about her child, 24/7. Okay. We got it. You have a kid. Next," said Brittany in season 4. Many other contestants follow in the same vein, rolling their eyes and making gagging motions as one of their fellow contestants talks about her child. Many of the women on this show are young, ranging from around 17-25, with the average age of motherhood falling around age 28. It may be that for these young girls, motherhood is still a distant thought, but their judgments regarding the young mothers on the show suggest a deeper and possibly more disturbing animosity, as they often call into question the fitness of the mothers.

"If I had a baby, I'd be home with him, not here," is a common refrain for many of the models, as if mothers had not worked outside the home for years. Granted, a reality TV show is not exactly work, but the aversion to a working mother is very much palpable. As Norma Coates writes in her article "Moms Don't Rock: The Popular Demonization of Courtney Love," "These excerpts also implicitly critique peripatetic mothers, who wander away from a stable home base with or without their children. The most extreme conclusion one may draw from them is that Mother should stay at home all of the time, providing a stable and safe haven for her child, an embodiment of 'conservative' family values" (Coates 9). The models on the show exhibit this viewpoint perfectly as they buy into archetypes of what a "good" mother is, and how she should act. As one of my previous posts points out, the content of this show is not all mindless guilty pleasure silliness. The feelings and viewpoints surrounding motherhood on ANTM are not so far off from what society says as well, requiring a closer scope at what may at first appear to be pure, unadulterated fluff.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

More Than Fluff

I found this blog post, from Jennifer L. Pozner at the Huffington Post blog, and I thought it was a great spin on what we've discussed in class concerning reality TV, and the dismissal of it as mere harmless fluff by many. As Pozner argues, this mindset is dangerous and refuses to acknowledge the reality TV's insidious presence and influence over popular culture. This is just an excerpt, visit the link for the entire post.

The "beautiful corpses" episode of Top Model (a series that traffics in bottom-feeder humiliation, objectification and degradation of women in the name of fashion, fun and beauty for the deep profit of integrated marketers such as Cover Girl and Seventeen magazine) serves as sharp reminder that what millions of reality TV viewers believe is harmless fluff... is anything but. ANTM is less a "guilty pleasure," as TV Guide and infotainment shows have called it, than it is a cynical CW cashcow guilty of making product placers, and Tyra Banks, rich at the expense of not only the self-esteem of the few hungry (in every sense) young strivers appearing in the modeling competition, but of the millions of girls and women, boys and men, who watch the show uncritically, learning that unhealthily underweight, Brazilian-waxed waifs can only achieve the ultimate in beauty when they appear to be erotically, provocatively maimed and murdered (as they were this week), self-abusive (as when models were made to pose as bulimics mid-purge last season), corpses (as they were during a prior season when the challenge involved posing in caskets lowered into open graves in a cemetery).

Some of what deserves deconstruction is subtle -- say, the way adult women in reality TV are constantly infantilized, only called "girls" regardless of age, never referred to as "women" -- but much of what passes for entertainment in this genre couldn't be more a more blatant nexus of the worst of the ad industry's long-held hostility toward women coupled with corporate media's ever-present pursuit of the almighty dollar. This misogyny has been manifesting itself in print for years as advertising's fetishization of images of beautifully beaten, raped, drugged, tortured and murdered girls... today, advertisers are advancing these same backwards notions in 3-D, in the name of "reality," their product placement bucks allowing them to influence and sometimes even control the dialog, sets, themes and plotlines of primetime's most popular "unscripted" programs.