Sexualized Saturdays: The Life-Changing Magic of Being Not Like Other Girls

As I recently read S. Jae-Jones’s YA novel Wintersong, I noticed something troubling. The book seemed designed to appeal to me: it was a fantasy romance with strong (really strong) inspiration from both the movie Labyrinth and my favorite poem, Christina Rosetti’s Goblin Market. However, something about Liesl, the main character, bugged me, and it took me a while to figure it out. Not because it wasn’t obvious, but because I thought that, in this, the Year of Our Lord 2017, we had done away with the “not like other girls” trope.

It’s a tale as old as time: a girl who’s just ~not like~ the other girls around her, against all odds, wins the day. These stories are appealing to us because these girls are framed as the outcasts; we can relate to their being bookish or plain or unpopular. But a problem that uniquely affects the female characters who fit these roles is that they often succeed or achieve victory at the expense of other women and girls, or by denigrating traditional femininity (or both). Liesl is an on-the-nose example of this trope: she is terribly jealous of her sister’s physical beauty, a trait Liesl lacks and constantly laments. Liesl is a genius composer, but her skills are downplayed or overlooked because of her gender. Meanwhile, it feels like her gorgeous sister is set up to be resented, as she at least can win men’s attention with her looks.

The cup of a carpenter is not like those frilly other cups. (via indygear)

However, when offered a beautiful fae gown by the servants of the Goblin King, Liesl instead chooses a plain dress, and this is played like Indiana Jones correctly picking the right Holy Grail. But instead of just rejecting the wealth and majesty of the other dresses, it reads as though Liesl is casting a value judgment on the majority of the other women in the book, who did choose to wear frills and finery.

This is just the latest example of this issue, rather than the only one. Pop culture has a long and varied history of celebrating these not-like-other-girls, from formative Disney flicks all the way up to watch-at-your-own-risk premium television like Game of Thrones. These portrayals enforce a terrible message: that there’s only one right way to be a girl, and that it’s totally acceptable to tear down other girls who don’t meet those standards. Continue reading

Throwback Thursdays: Disney’s Mulan and Representation

This October, Disney announced that it would soon be making a live-action remake of its 1998 movie Mulan, thus continuing 2016 as the Year of the Remake. Like most remakes, this one was immediately engulfed in controversy. There were rumors, later confirmed, that Disney was planning on inserting a white male love interest for Mulan who falls in love with her and saves China for her, thus proving that everything Hollywood touches turns to the opposite of gold. Fortunately, Disney has now said that everyone of note in the movie will be Chinese, but given Hollywood’s past missteps with this and other movies, I’m not entirely convinced of their sincerity. Yet it’s frustrating to me that Disney is already failing at basic representation when there are so many other ways they could mess up this remake that they haven’t yet addressed. So let’s take a look back at the original Disney movie and try and figure out what kind of story the remake might be.

(via Bustle)

(via Bustle)

Continue reading

Sexualized Saturdays: Weaponized Femininity

peggy carter lipstickOne of the very first in-depth conversations I ever had with my college roommate was about Legally Blonde. We’d both seen the movie before, so when it came up when we were flipping through channels, it was something we were both willing to procrastinate our homework over. Elle went to Harvard and won her case, and at the end of it all I turned to my roommate and said, “I always hated that Elle won her case because of some hair care thing.”

“Really?” she said back. “I always liked it because of that—I liked that she didn’t have to entirely change who she was in order to succeed.”

Fast forward many years, and I’ve come around to my roommate’s way of thinking. We often think of badass ladies as ladies who succeed, in some way, in a masculine field—the only woman in the cast of an action movie, or the only female scientist, or so on and so forth. These ladies succeed because they’ve proven themselves the best, or at least competent, in a field that is held in high esteem by men. When a woman succeeds because of her gender or gender expression, it’s more a form of weaponized sexuality—a woman is able to seduce a man or confound him in some way with flirtatious behavior.

However, it’s rarer that we ever see a woman succeed because of her life experience as a woman. Though all genders can use products marketed to women, it’s often women or people assigned female at birth who grow up with the societal obligation to not only use things like cosmetics or hair care products, but also to become excellent at using them as a form of gender expression. In other words, using these products proves that one is truly “a woman”. Women are constantly told that they should aim to be the “after” photo in the makeover story, but are constantly shamed for their knowledge—women who use lots of makeup are deemed “high-maintenance” or “spoiled”. Yet women who don’t use makeup are seen as not caring about their appearances. It’s basically a lose-lose situation.

So that gets us into something that we usually don’t see in media—weaponized femininity. This differs from weaponized sexuality—a woman is not confounding her enemy with sensuality, but rather, is using the tools of her societal-prescribed gender expression—cosmetics and the like—to win battles.

Continue reading

Sexualized Saturdays: Fathers Raise Sons, but Only Protect Daughters

liam neeson takenFathers have a long and storied history in our media. Unlike mothers, who are only sometimes around in our hero’s stories, fathers are usually the rock of the family and play a large part in our protagonist’s character development. At least, that’s true if the protagonist is a guy. If the protagonist is a girl, however, fathers exist more often to protect their daughters than to raise them, giving rise to omnipresent tropes like the Overprotective Dad and the Papa Wolf. As Taken’s Liam Neeson says, if you hurt his daughter, he will look for you, find you, and kill you.

Continue reading

Disney Princesses and Feminist Femininity

Disney PrincessesThe first thing to know about feminism is that it’s concerned with women’s well-being, and the well-being of all. The second thing to know about feminism is that it’s incredibly complicated. There are many, many forms of feminism, including ones that directly conflict with one another. One of the things that all feminists can agree on is that we need good role models for young girls. But what kinds of role models are we talking about? Disney Princesses are a source of love and contention for many feminists. We can’t seem to agree on which princesses are the best; these two different rankings both claim to be done through a feminist lens, yet they’re completely different. In one, Mulan is at the top, the other she’s near the bottom.

On one hand, we see lots of little girls so excited (excited is putting it mildly) to watch Disney Princess movies, wear Disney Princess costumes, meet Disney Princesses at theme parks, and pretend to be Disney Princesses. Many of the popular Disney Princesses exemplify traditional Western standards of feminine perfection, and what’s wrong with wanting to be feminine? On the other hand, some of the Princesses are treated like objects instead of people; their agency is limited to going about their lives until a man (usually a Prince, but not always) swoops in to rescue them. They’re also drawn as unrealistically skinny, and I’m certain that barring a few height differences, every single one could swap outfits with each other. It’s a bad message to send to girls who are already subjected to a lot of body image issues. Other more modern Disney Princesses do have strong personalities and dreams of their own, and send good messages to kids. So which ones really are the good princesses, and are there any redeeming qualities to the seemingly not-so-feminist ones?

Continue reading

Sexualized Saturdays: Queer Stories are Tragic Stories

Popular media is making teensy tiny strides in queer representation, but it’s still light years behind where it should be. One of the many issues in today’s portrayal of LGBTQ+ people in media is that their stories are often tragic. Queer characters may exist in a universe, but in all likelihood their relationships, if they’re lucky enough to initiate them, will fail, and they themselves may very well die or disappear.

The ubiquity of this trope occurred to me recently when I was listening to Part 2 of Welcome to Night Vale’s 2nd Anniversary episode. As part of the conclusion of the episode, which wrapped up the recent Strexcorp invasion storyline, everyone and everything that wasn’t from Night Vale was ejected from the town. Unfortunately, this included Carlos, Cecil’s boyfriend, who’s now trapped in an alternate dimension. Their relationship has mostly been smooth sailing up to this point, and I can’t fault the WtNV writers for introducing some new conflict into the storyline now that Strex is gone and a mayor has been elected. But still, I was kind of sad because Cecil and Carlos’s problem-free relationship, while somewhat unrealistic for any humans, queer or not, was a safe space of angst-free queer love. I certainly haven’t found anything like that in other media; in other media being queer is apparently the equivalent of using a black cat to break a mirror underneath a ladder on Friday the 13th.

Continue reading

Once Upon A Time Season 3 Was Less than Magical

Oh man, oh man, oh man. I have been putting this review off for as long as possible because I just have so few positive opinions about this season and I don’t want to have to recap the weird and awkward mess that was the plot. But I guess that’s what they pay me the boonbucks to do, so here we go.

sarcasm (n): the implication that I am paid in more than Lady Geek Girl's undending devotion.

Sarcasm (n): the implication that I am paid in more than Lady Geek Girl’s unending devotion.

Spoilers for the whole season below the jump.

Continue reading