Archive for the 'Pop Culture' Category

Happy Spring!

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I am fortunate to have a really fun and full schedule from now through the beginning of May.  Shall we?

  • Every Week: Beginner Yoga Class!  Last week was my first experience taking a yoga class in person, not just popping in a DVD.  I was referred to Breathing Time Yoga in Pawtucket and I had a phenomenal experience.  Please do not think, like I did for the past 5+ years, that a yoga DVD is anything like the real live experience…it is 1000x better. 
  • 3/28 and 3/29: WAM! for a third year in a row.  I am excited about the workshops lined up for this year and I have to admit that I am most excited about Saturday night’s speaker/presenter Sarah Haskins.  Seriously, if you haven’t witnessed the brilliance that is Sarah Haskins, please click here, here, and here. 
  • Sometime in April: For my Capstone project, I have an awesome opportunity to present a series of workshops to queer youth at an organization called Youth Pride.  My workshops will be focused on discussing queer pop culture and working with youth to create our own media.  I cannot wait to start!
  • 4/24-5/3: Best friend visiting from far, far away (yay!) and week-long vacation from work (double yay!). 
  • 4/25 and 4/26: Camping trip with friends.  This is the first time I will be using a sleeping bag in over 15 years and possibly my first experience sleeping in a tent, depending on if I chicken out and use the cabin.
  • 5/2: Dalai Lama at Gillette Stadium.  Whoa, so excited.  His Holiness will be presenting two lectures—“Introduction to Buddhism: The Four Noble Truths” and “The Path to Peace and Acceptance.”  At the home of the Patriots.  Pure bliss. 
  • 5/8: Turn in my LAST term paper, thus finishing my LAST class as a graduate student.  At this point, the only thing standing in the way of my degree is my Capstone project.

PUBLISHED! Feminist Review

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Masculinity, Psychoanalysis, Straight Queer Theory: Essays on Abjection in Literature, Mass Culture, and Film

Burst Your Bubble: Bitch Needs Our Help!

Burst Your Bubble, Gender, Media, Pop Culture, Race, Sex & Sexuality, Writing No Comments »

As a hardcore Bitch groupie and lover of independent media in general, I am absolutely devastated after watching this video. 

 

I first picked up an issue of Bitch in 2000 during a visit to the Borders at Providence Place Mall.  I was browsing what I call the “outcast” section of magazines—independent publications for GLBT readers, writers, left-leaning politicos, artists, photographers, and women who don’t want to read Cosmo.  I admit that the name of the magazine caught my eye, but it was the tag line that had me really excited—“Feminist Response to Pop Culture.”  At the time I was a sophomore in college studying media theory and women’s studies.  I was beginning to identify myself as a feminist and starting to question the misogynistic messages I was finding on television, in movies and music.  I devoured my first issue, page by page, and I haven’t stopped in over 8 years. 

 

As a magazine junkie, I can easily blow through a publication and place it in the recycling bin before you can bat an eye.  But Bitch is different.  I have honestly enjoyed reading (and re-reading) every article.  Even the advertisements make me think.  I have recycled hundreds, possibly thousands, of magazines over the years but I have never discarded an issue of Bitch.  I can’t imagine ever finding a more suitable publication for me, unless there’s a magazine out there for gluten-free feminist freelance writers from New England who love artichoke hearts and higher education…anyone?  Bueller? 

 

Bitch has opened up an entire world to me, fully of like-minded people who have smart things to say about our culture.  Although the magazine is a quarterly publication, their articles are often timely and provide me with media analysis about pop culture trends I have missed.  I first learned about the Center for New Words and their fabulous annual conference through Bitch.  I even had the chance to meet the co-founders at a Center for New Words event.  I have discovered dozens of my favorite musicians (Girlyman!), authors (Liza Featherstone!) and products through Bitch.  Most importantly, Bitch confirmed to me that it is possible to create an entire career out of studying popular culture and its messages in regards to class, gender, race, and sexuality…and that this work is important and valuable.  I started my Masters Degree in 2006 in Gender/Cultural Studies and made a point to take courses and writer papers exclusively about these issues.  My writing has the same focus. 

 

My first professionally published work, about the thankfully short-lived imaginary girlfriends trend, appeared in Bitch’s Fall 2004 Fake Issue.  When I received my acceptance e-mail from Andi Zeisler, the Editorial Director and Bitch Co-Founder, I danced around my apartment a la Risky Business (but with my pants on).  I called everyone I knew with the good news, and fielded many uneasy questions from my family (“is Bitch some sort of sex magazine?!”).  As the publication date grew nearer, I scoured every corner of Rhode Island in search of the Fake Issue until I found it at a Newbury Comics in Massachusetts.  Then I bought every copy they had in stock…whoops.  As a gift, my partner had the article professionally framed and mounted above my desk.  During times of extreme writers block or lack of schoolwork motivation, I look at the article and it puts me back on track.

 

Two years later, after more of my writing was published in other media, I wrote another Love It/Shove It article for Bitch and you know what?  It felt just as uplifting as the first time.  There is an enormous difference between writing for a publication for the purpose of getting paid and writing for a publication because you truly believe in the mission.

 

I beg all of you to please visit Bitch online to donate towards their goal of raising $40,000.  Please don’t let yet another independent publication go under.  Please don’t let our culture continue down the path of conglomeration to the point where only a few companies control the message across all media.  Please support this vibrant, intelligent voice that stands a head above 99% of the magazines on the market. 

Burst Your Bubble: BK Burger Shots

Burst Your Bubble, Gender, Pop Culture, Sex & Sexuality 15 Comments »

Burger Shots Commercial

Update:  I found the video!

In their years-long quest to piss off every female on the planet, Burger King has unveiled a new incredibly offensive advertisement for their burger shots–mini hamburgers that come in packs of two or six. 

Unfortunately, after an hour of internet research, I figured out that these burger shots are currently only available in select markets like Providence and Denver so not many people know about the burgers or the ads yet.  I cannot find a video clip anywhere, but if you visit this website you can see screen shots of the stupidity.  On a related note, as I was searching the web for “burger shots” I found out that the phrase is a derogatory term for photos of female genitalia and/or the act of punching a woman in the vaginal area.   Way to go, Burger King.  You might want to rethink the name before unveiling these globally. 

Anyway, here’s the lowdown on the ad:  Two average guys are sitting on a bench, one eating a large BK burger and one who cracks open a package of two small burger shots.  Immediately, a beautiful woman (with cleavage aplenty!) appears and starts cooing over the burgers.  As the camera pans back and forth between the man and woman, more women keep popping up until he’s surrounded by seven women who are very excited about his burgers.  At first, I thought the ad was poking fun at the played out scenario of women fawning over men with babies because one of the women exclaims “ooo! Look at the little burgers.”  But there’s a ton of sexual innuendo too that makes the ad even more creepy and stupid.  Besides the cleavage, many of the women are borderline moaning in this ad and some reach out to touch the guy’s lap.  Another woman says “I just wanna squeeze them” as the average Joe holds his pair of burgers proudly in the air.  As this ad plays over and over on TV, I’m beginning to think of this guy’s burger shots as little beefy testicles…shudder. 

 I will post a link to the video, if it ever makes it online.

Burst Your Bubble: Moment of Truth

Burst Your Bubble, Gender, Pop Culture 2 Comments »

I made the mistake of turning on the TV Tuesday night and catching a glimpse at one of the most soulless reality/game shows ever created–Fox’s The Moment of Truth.  For those unfamiliar with the format, thank your lucky stars as I try to recap. Contestants are put through lie detector testing prior to being on the show.  They are asked all sorts of awful and intruding questions, about secret desires, family hardships, true feelings about awkward situations, etc.  The contestant is then interrogated on stage in front of an audience and a few of the contestant’s closest friends and family.  The whole purpose of the show is to humiliate the contestant as they respond to questions for money.  The higher the stakes, the tougher the questions.  The host, Mark L. Wahlberg (from the equally intelligent show Temptation Island), adds more drama by constanly evaluating the seriousness of the questions and telling the contestant that they can walk away at any time with the money that they have already earned.   The lovely episode that I caught on Tuesday included questions such as “As a waitress at Hooters, did you ever have sex with a customer?”  YES.  “Were you ever hospitalized for an eating disorder?”  YES.  The contestant also crushed the soul of her best friend, who was live on stage, when asked “Do you think your best friend will ever be a professional musician?”  The answer was NO.  The audience gasped collectively as the camera zoomed into a shot of the best friend’s face.  I turned it off before they reached the $25,000 round.

Reality TV Asshat of the Season

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I have an awful addiction to reality television, which is usually kept under control because I don’t have cable and I’m often not home to watch TV.  But FOX’s Hell’s Kitchen has caught my attention again this season.  Every Tuesday night, I watch Chef Gordon Ramsay yell, throw food, and insult a dwindling number of aspiring chefs who all desperately want a job at one of Ramsay’s famous restaurants.  I know that these shows are completely scripted (so I’m not sure who to blame–the “aspiring chef” or the producers), but there was a particularly vile character on the show this season.

Jason Underwood, a sous chef from Las Vegas, was the third chef kicked out of Hell’s Kitchen.  Althought he completely botched his tasks night after night, Jason found the time to serve up boat loads of misogyny along the way.  His rants were completely ridiculous, unprovoked, and provided nothing of substance in terms of entertainment.  He was like a broken record, repeating boring, stereotypical anti-female schtick over and over again. 

When he is chastized for not memorizing the dessert menu, his excuse is:  “I hate desserts.  They’re tedious.  Women can make desserts.  They’re not my thing.” 

During a competition between the two teams (men vs. women), Jason is sure that the men will win because Hell’s Kitchen is a cooking competition, not a housekeeping contest. 

When kicked off the show, he had this lovely response: “You know, the last girls that got put up on the block, they start crying.  Well maybe if I would have cried like some pansy, some chick, maybe I’d be back upstairs chilling right now.  But I can’t do that.  I’m a man.”

If you see this man on the street, please let him know how you feel about his antics.  I don’t care if he was told to act that way or not; there is not a big enough paycheck in this world to risk ruining your reputation for life.

WAM!

Gender, Media, Pop Culture, Race, Writing 1 Comment »

This entry was started while working on my iPhone, how sweet is that? Unfortunately there have been some technological glitches, having nothing to do with the phone, that have caused this (yet again) to not be a live blog. I didn’t want to give up, so today I dragged Synergy (my 800 lb. beast of a laptop) to the conference today only to find out that the WiFi connection is not working here in the Stata Center. Le sigh. I guess I’ll try again next year!

Anyway, the conference was just as great as last year–inspirational, educational, fun.  Like last time, I am full of energy and ideas about my work.  Let’s see how far I take it during the next 364 days…

Haifa Zangana gave an educational and heart-wrenching keynote address about the current plight of women in Iraq. According to the speaker, the climate in Iraq is much worse than during Sadaam’s regime. 91% of Iraqi casualties are men, which leaves women bearing the sole burden of employment and raising children. She gave startling examples of issues that do not reach us through American media:

There are currently over one million widows and five million orphans. Iraqi women and male clerics are raped as tools of military domination and familial/religious shame. The word “democracy” has become the butt of jokes as well as a threatening word that is used against unruly children. Only 28% of Iraqi children attended school last year. Women are being preemptively imprisoned for being “potential suicide bombers.” The Iraqi government and military are both poorly prepared and not adequately representing or protecting its own people. American spending on the war has now reached $3 trillion—about $10,000 per U.S. family.

“Stereotyping and Typecasting in Reality Television” was a fun and interactive workshop presented by Bitch‘s Andi Zeisler and TV Producer Terra Renton.  I got to catch up on the past few years of reality TV (without the benefit of having cable telelvision) and I have to say that I didn’t miss much.  I do want to watch the entire season of that MTV dating show with Tia Tequila–THAT looked crazy.

The most helpful workshop I attended was Christine Cupaiuolo’s “Everything You Wanted to Know (and Didn’t Know You Needed to Know) about Blogs and Blogging.”  I finally understand the inner workings of RSS feeds, Digg, Feed Burner, etc.  I have enough new resources about blogging to last me for a month–hopefully I can find the time to apply many of them here.  I’m really optimistic about creating a better blog and bringing more traffic to my site through the lessons I learned in this workshop.

A leeeetle update:

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  • This is Day Two of daily trips to a local coffeeshop to force myself to finish schoolwork and to write–so far, so good!  However, I find myself getting awfully distracted by the people watching.  Yesterday, I had the pleasure of sitting next to a man who (in the course of five minutes) blew his nose, ate a bagel with his mouth open, and adjusted his crotch a few times.  Tonight I’ve been blessed with I’m-here-to-purchase-nothing-and-talk-loudly-on-my-cellphone-man.  The good news is that nothing is more distracting than being at home with a flat screen tv, lots of great movies to watch over and over again, lots of not-so-great reality tv programming, pajamas, snacks, magazines, a bunny that wants constant attention, lint–you know, the important stuff. 
  • On a random note, remember my post about my exercise ball/desk chair and how I hoped to not suffer the same fate as Dwight from The Office?  Well I did!  I had some concerns about the ball because I noticed one weak spot in the plastic, but I eventually learned to ignore it.  One day I was sitting on the ball, reading some e-mails when BOOM! I was flat on my back on the hardwood floor with pieces of green plastic strewn about me.  At least my fall wasn’t the result of an angry co-worker or partner!
  • My current class (Sex, Gender and Literary Tradition) is totally kicking my ass.  I have read more literature and theory over the past seven weeks than most semesters as a whole and I have to say that studying literature is NOT my thing.  Most of the books have made me say “meh,” but I’ve enjoyed most of the theory.  I miss evaluating television and film and just plain theory in the context of everyday life. 
  • For the second year in a row, I will be attending WAM! and I couldn’t be more excited!  Some of the workshops that are of particular interest to me include: Blogging 101, Writing a Book Proposal that Sells, Stereotyping and Typecasting in Reality Television, What’s the Future of Indie Publishing?, and How to Get Heard: The Art of Strategic Communication with Editors. 
  • I thought that I completed the mother-of-all binges on Netflix’s “Watch Instantly” site last week because I watched the entire 4th season of The L Word (twelve episodes) over the course of four nights, but I was wrong!  Dan polished off the entire season in a little more than twelve hours yesterday, including a two hour break to play around on his computer.  I still can’t decide if I prefer to watch television shows over time, with the buildup of plot points and character development, or if I’m okay with consuming it all at once.  Either way, Jenny is one of the greatest psychopaths ever portrayed on television and I cannot wait for her (hopefully) untimely death.   
  • Speaking of The L Word, I read that Season Six will be the final season for the show and that the producers will be using audience feedback to tie up all of the loose ends within eight episodes.  I would like to see any or all of the following:  Jenny’s death (see above), realistic dialogue, more trans characters, more celebrity cameos, and more Alice.  Dan’s request?  More breasts, please!

Whaaaaaat?

Gender, Pop Culture, Sex & Sexuality 1 Comment »

I consider myself to be a very open and understanding person when it comes to sex and sexuality–if it makes you feel good, makes you happy, and doesn’t degrade or hurt anyone, go for it!  However, I’ve been noticing a trend lately that has me saying “whaaaaaat?”–the portrayal of children and sex in popular culture.   

I know that this is nothing new.  Short shorts and tight t-shrits with sexy sayings have become a mainstay in girls clothing departments everywhere.  Comapnies like Club Libby Lu promote make-up, manicures, and modeling to girls as young as 5.  Many people feel free to comment on the sexual appeal of underage celebrities (Britney Spears, the Olsen twins, even 15-year-old Miley Cyrus).  But this “subtle” connection between children and sex seems to increasing, becoming stronger. 

I recently watched the movie Good Luck Chuck (please don’t waste your time–the film deserves every Razzie it is nominated for!), which opens with kids playing a game of Spin the Bottle that leads to Seven Minutes in Heaven in the closet.  Chuck, the main character, spins himself into makeout time with a goth girl who tears off his shirt, scratches her black-painted nails down his chest, and rips off her own shirt to reveal a black leather training bra.  The actress who played the part, Sasha Pieterse, was only 10-11 years old at the time of the film’s production.  Despite the film’s other faults (extremely disgusting humor, for one), I was most bothered by this young girl and her “kinky” character. 

The film Smoking Aces, a shoot-em up mafia/casino action flick, includes a young boy with ADHD who gets an erection next to a criminal who is bathing in a tub.  Especially since this entire storyline and character bears no significance to the movie, why include it?

I know that many teenage relationships and pregnancies are the result of sex with men over the age of 18 (some well over the age of 18).  This failed ad campaign (below) is disturbing for two reasons–that there is such an issue with statutory rape that we need public service announcements to address the problem and that the ad designers thought that objectifying young girls as busty women was a good idea.

underagegirl2.jpg

I can’t help but ponder–did pop culture start potraying underage children as sexual beings first, or is pop culture just a reflection of a growing issue within our culture?

PUBLISHED! EDGE Providence

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Ani DiFranco at Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel