I’ve seen a couple things on TV & in the movies lately that I would really like the chance to address. I’m hoping by starting this series I can inspire people to think a little about what we’re taking in and what it causes us to believe about our role in the world around us.
Please use these points to start discussions about the media presented as well, especially if you have children who have seen these things (since kids tend to be more susceptible to the subconscious messages the media can send).
1) Marley & Me
Although I cannot at this moment find transcript there is a scene, towards the middle of the film, where Jen expresses a deep dissatisfaction with all that she gave up to stay home and raise her children. So acknowledges that she loved motherhood and her children, and yet she still expressed this pain – and called herself a horrible mother (or person I can’t remember which) for feeling this. [Thanks to Kim I can now tell you that the quote I was recalling is, “I’ve given up so much of who I am, but I’m a very bad person if I say that.”] I spent the next few minutes waiting for John to comfort and correct her, and yet he never told her that those feelings were normal, never even admonished her for calling herself a bad person! I find it deplorable that this moment was allowed to exist.
The truth is, of course, that many women are pressured by society to give up their careers and be stay at home mothers, just as many men are pressured to stay at work. This movie almost made a subtle comment about these unnecessary gender roles quite easily, as both characters spent a great percentage of the movie unhappy with their roles (Jen missed work, John rarely seemed to enjoy his writing assignments), however I really feel that this exchange did great harm to that message as it allowed the guilt (imposed by society) to go unchallenged.
The idea that mothers are the ones who have an obligation to raise their children before all else is harmful to society in so many ways. It harms women who are not completely fulfilled by being housewives and stay at home moms, it harms stay at home fathers who are viewed as deficient because they don’t have “real jobs”, mothers who pursue careers for “neglecting” their children, and it hurts fathers who feel forced to be the family’s breadwinner just because society tells them to. These gender roles also keep many young girls from aspiring towards other goals because they are socialized to believe that they all have an obligation to be “mommies” and young boys who might want to be stay at home parents but are ridiculed for aspiring to that. This view is just harmful overall and should not be perpetuated by the media any longer.
What SHOULD have been conveyed: Owen Wilson’s character should have said something to comfort his wife about her guilt, something to let her know that these feelings are normal and deserving of respect. I understand that it had to stay true to the book (can someone tell me if/how this exchange took place in the book? I haven’t gotten to read it yet) so there is no way she could have been allowed to work from home or split the parenting part with her husband but even just a little line that points out how unnecessary her guilt was, a line that told her she wasn’t a horrible mother would have conveyed the right message instead to reinforcing a restricting gender stereotype.
I also wish Marley didn’t have to die, he was by far the most dynamic and lovable character in this movie but at least he passed on knowing he wasn’t a horrible dog. (Yes, John actually reassures the dog of this in their final, touching scene together. He can say it to the dog but not his wife?)
2) American Idol: Bikini Girl
As Travis explains,
Katrina Darrell arrived for her audition in a skimpy orange bikini and proceeded to perform a mediocre version of Mariah Carey’s “Vision of Love”. Before she had even finished the song Simon Cowell was saying, “Beautiful, beautiful,” (Whether or not he was referring to her half-naked body or her voice is beyond me) a sort of praise I have rarely seen him bestow upon actually talented singers. I was thankful that new judge Kara DioGuardi stepped in and told Darrell, “Honestly, you don’t have the chops to sing that song, sweetie,” and along with Paula Abdul called her singing “terrible.” To my utter surprise, Darrell was allowed to move on to the next part of the competition, even after insulting both female judges in response to their professional criticism.
This moment was wrong on so many levels. First of all I have seen Idol turn down many a ‘just decent’ singer, telling them they were not good enough for this competition. It appears obvious to me that Katrina was pushed through simply based on her looks. Furthermore, the attention that the male judges and Ryan himself gave Katrina was ridiculously over the top and, in my opinion, not amusing. But why do I care? Contrary to what some may believe this is not a case of jealousy; I do not fault Katrina for being proud of her body. In fact, I respect her and her right to display her body however she chooses but I am disappointed in Idol for pushing Katrina through, not on singing ability, but on looks (and the fact that both female judges had legitimate criticism about her voice is evidence that she was chosen on looks alone.)
The message that this decision sends to idols viewers, especially young teenaged girls, is that looks are more important that talent. Essentially Idol is telling these young girls that being as thin as Katrina and flaunting their body excessively will bring them success; not exactly a message I support. I believe Katrina could be quite successful in a modeling competition or a beauty pageant, but a singing competition? Not without some serious voice lessons – and that, is what Simon and Randy should have expressed.
What SHOULD have been conveyed: Be proud of yourself, regardless of whether you fit mainstream beauty ideals because conventional beauty is not everything in life. You will find your niche one day and, if you work hard you will achieve success and happiness – don’t let judgements on your apperance get you down because the people who truly matter will see the beauty in you, no matter what.
Have you seen anything lately that you think missed the mark? Speak out in the comments!