Thursday, March 29, 2007
This collage shows the very sexual and provocative lifestyles of the girlfriends. The girls are depicted as the epitome of sexuality in their racy and barely-there outfits flaunting their large breasts and slim figures every chance they can. But what does this behavior, which some would ostracize as self-degrading and disrespectful, do for these blondes? It provides a medium for them to be recognized and to gain attention, particularly from the male audience. "Sexuality provides a resource that can be used to get attention and communicate instantly." 1
If these ladies wore blazers revealing little skin with other conservative apparel, they would not be considered "sex icons" and therefore would not gain as much attention or have the reputation they have today. Ultimately, this collage proves that sex, sin and skin sells in modern society when it comes to females gaining attention, popularity, and fame.
1. Gender, Race, and Class in the Media.Image-Based Culture.p.253.
In "Inventing the Cosmo Girl", the author identifies the hegemonic norm that "single women are depicted as shrews or 'gold diggers' while bachelors are advised to pursue sex on a casual basis to avoid getting snared in a 'long term contract.'"1 This norm is presented in "The Girls Next Door" through the girls and Hef. The girls receive whatever they want (whether its going on shopping sprees, throwing lavishing parties, or being in Playboy) as long as they keep Hef pleased. This provides much motivation for the girls to pursue sex and a relationship with the 80 year old and allows them to portrayed as "gold diggers" by the media.
The girls also represent the hegemonic norm regarding women and their status. In society, women are seen as gentle, childlike, attention graving, and inferior, and that their only purpose in life is to please their man and look pretty. On the show, the girls act more like little girls than mature women. They dance around the Playboy mansion playing and giggling deprived of any responsibility. Their only demand is to provide a "pretty" and "sexy" persona, but never to appear over-bearing or controlling.
On the episode, "Calender Girls" Holly, Bridget, and Kendra are posing in their own Playboy calender. The girls obsess about their appearance trying to look perfect for Hef. "I just want Hef to like it. I'm doing this all for him." said Kendra after photoshooting the month of June which resembles that of Christina Aguilera's "Dirrrty" video in the boxing ring. The girls constantly critique their appearance, questioning whether they look just sexy and sweet enough for Hef. This encourages the norm that women are expected to look attractive all the time in order to impress their man and remain on top.
Therefore, the girls display some hegemonic norms of society pertaining to the role of feminine characters. In the media, women lack authority and are seen more as objects who obsess about their appearance than as strong figures with confidence and power. The girls encourage this view and send out a powerful message to its viewers about femininity- that women are meant to be beautiful and keep the dominant males in their lives satisfied even if it means excessive dieting, spending long hours in the beauty salon, or being overtly sexual behavior.
1. Gender, Race, and Class in the Media. Inventing the Cosmo Girl. p.120
Monday, March 12, 2007
The Girls Next Door
The show has such a weird dynamic, with Hef seeming more like an overindulgent father than a co-equal boyfriend. And this girlfriend-as-child trope is definitely what bothers Alice, with good reason, obviously. So I have come to hold her position. The show is just gross. There is a book about girls like the ones on the show and it definitely applies here. I heard the author on NPR, and I'm not sure I agree with all her analysis, but for the Girls Next Door, her point definitely stands. It doesn't really seem to me like the Girls Next Door are empowered feminists, who manipulate men with sex appeal to increase the scope of their freedom. They are just sex objects.
Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture is a 2005 book by Ariel Levy.
Levy takes issue with two breeds of feminists: "lipstick feminists" and "loophole women." According to Levy, lipstick feminists believe, for example, that stripping is empowering and that putting on a show to attract men (be it through makeup, clothing, or girl-on-girl gyration) is not contrary to the goals and ideals of feminism. Levy disagrees with this view.
On the other end of the spectrum, Levy takes issue with women who make their way in a man's world by playing by men's rules. Sometimes, she argues, these women even make their fame and fortune by objectifying other women; for example, Levy finds it interesting that Playboy is currently run by a woman. Even to those women who make their way in their field legitimately, but shy away from feminism, Levy protests: "But if you are the exception that proves the rule, and the rule is that women are inferior, you haven't made any progress." (p. 117) From Wikipedia
Recently, I created a blog on The Girls Next Door for my gender and popular culture class. I noticed your opinion about the Girls Next Door that the girls are just sex objects and that they are not empowering feminist, who manipulate men for money and freedom. I think that a further analysis must be done in order to make this assumption clear.
The girls are obviously portrayed in the show as being "sex objects". Their over the top sexy appearance- wearing barely anything- is apparent in the show. And it may seem as though they are Hugh Hefner's property, his girlfriends, who he protects and provides for on a daily basis. However, these girls may not be as ditzy or stupid as they are portrayed in the show. This may as well be an act to get what they want. Why else would three beautiful young girls drool over an 80 year old man? These women know what they are doing, and if they weren't satisfied then why would they continue to produce a show and be a girlfriend?
In society, women are encouraged to put on a ditzy persona and be very sexually appealing in order to climb the ladder of success. This makes them look weak and needy, which in return, encourages the "dominant" males - strong with potential- to help them. Holly, Kendra, and Bridget are embracing this hegemonic norm and it seems to be working in their favor.
There is much to be analyzed in terms of gender, race, and class in this show which could bring light to the hegemonic norms and messages that are being fulfilled by the girls. Feel free to comment.
Saturday, March 3, 2007
"The Girls Next Door" is a reality TV show that depicts the everyday life of billionaire Hugh Hefner and his girlfriends who live and play in the infamous Playboy Mansion. In the first season's episode, "80 is the New 40" Hef is turning the big 8-0 and the girls are determined to make it his best yet. The show demonstrates many concepts of masculinity and femininity to its viewers through Hef and his three favorite Playboy bunnies.
The main stars of the show are Hef's favorite girlfriends, Holly, Bridget, and Kendra. Through these girls, we can see how the concepts of femininity are expressed in the media to the show's viewers. The girls all share the same physical appearance- bleached blond hair, bronzed skin, skinny waists and voluptuous breasts. Each girl has a unique personality apart from the whole "ditzy", very materialistic, and over-sexed side. For example, Holly is the cheerleader, Bridget is the nerd with a M.D., and Kendra is the sports-loving tom boy.
On the show, femininity is seen as being very sexual. The girls are all very open and comfortable with their sexuality and bearing a lot of skin. Kendra dances around in front of the mirror with only underwear and a bra on, while Bridget performs Hef's birthday strip tease for her mother and father with only a string thong on and flower-shaped pasties covering her nipples. "Sexuality provides a resource that can be used to get attention and communicate instantly." 1. Thus, women are assumed to use their physical assests to gain attention and be admired.
The girlfriends portray American women as being desperate "gold diggers" hungry for money, status and fame. They spend their lives trying to please a man that is well "over the hill" in order to live comfortably in his mansion and gather the perks that come along with his status and power. For Hef's birthday, Holly, Bridget, Kendra are stressed about buying Hef a remarkable birthday present(with his money, of course). Bridget worries about how her body will look during the strip tease, and eats almost nothing (with a beer) for dinner in hopes to look flawless for Hef. Thus, in society "single women are depicted as shrews or 'gold diggers' while bachelors are advised to pursue sex on a casual basis to avoid getting snared in a 'long term contract.'" 2.
It is evident that Hef as the masculine figure has superiority over his girlfriends. Their relationships resemble more of a father-daughter one than one of an intimate nature. Hef only gives affection to his girls in the form of a hug or peck on the cheeks or lips. Everything they do is to please him. Obviously, his money and status show his power over the girls and displays them as weak and inferior. Without Hef's political power and wealth to support the girls, it would be nearly impossible for them to achieve the status they have today.
Ultimately, "The Girls Next Door" is an example of how the concepts of masculinity such as power, strength, and status, and those of femininity- inferiority, sexuality, and desperation, are portrayed in the media. The show relates femininity with big breasts, skinny bodies, and blond hair accompanied by "ditzy" thoughts and very sexual behaviors. In constrast, masculinity is shown through being wealthy, successful and a life-time bachelor.
1. Gender, Race, and Class in the Media.Image-Based Culture.p.253.
2. Gender, Race, and Class in the Media. Inventing the Cosmo Girl. p.120