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.


Jessie said...

I really like the inclusion of the post here w/ the article from the HuffingtonPost. The piece works well for the post that follows comparing the violent crime-scene episode with the drag episode.

Additionally, this piece was a particularly good find to illustrate the not-so-fluffy nature of the "guilty pleasures" that pervade the mainstream media.

Nice job!

Chomskyite said...

I just stumbled upon this blog, and I wanted to let you know that I think you're doing a great job. As someone who considers popular entertainment to be politically important, I don't think you have to apologize for analyzing "fluff" in a serious, political way. In fact, I think popular entertainment might be one of the most important ways that negative stereotypes and attitudes are perpetuated. It should not be ignored.

The only disagreement I have with anything you've written on this blog is the assertion that anything insightful is written at the ANTM forums (or any forums) at TWoP. In fact, I think a lot of what goes on there is very much anti-female. Consider the regular negative comments about the "plus-sized" models. The recent dismissal of one of the plus-sized girls this season was greeted with calls to get rid of the other "fatty" so the season could really get started. Every time I venture back onto that site, I am quickly reminded of why I find it so offensive. Someday the lesson will stick in my head.