gossip girl attempts to bring some color to the CW

One of the guilty pleasures of the girls in my high school (including me) was the gossip girl book series, written by ‘Cecily von Ziegesar’. The series follows the lives of rich, white, pretty kids in the posh Upper East Side neighborhood of New York City, as they go about their days in elite private high schools or modeling for some famous photographer or taking cabs downtown to drink margaritas. My own high school (public, competitive, ‘elite’ in terms of selectivity and academics but with a threadbare WASP presence) was on the Upper East Side as well; I remember spending lunch periods during the 9th or 10th grade wondering which of the surrounding elite private schools Blair, Serena, Nate, and their friends went to. Always present, though, was the notion that the books were silly and over-the-top, and therefore the cattiness and melodrama were not to be taken seriously.

The books, though, are marketed to the tween demographic in the first place. And I’m not sure what they make of it; even though the narrator (the invisible, omnipresent, omniscient Gossip Girl) has a somewhat facetious tone, I’m willing to bet that they take the books more seriously than they are intended to be. There is a whole lot of product placement–Serena’s latest purse or Blair’s latest perfume or Jenny’s trip to Bergdorf Goodman–and I wouldn’t be surprised if some tweens insist on emulating their favorite characters by having their parents buy certain things for them.

But the point is: the CW (home to pretty white kids with problems) is making a TV series based on the books, to debut this fall. I will probably tune in to the first episode, then finish the semester and watch the rest online during Winter Break. You can watch three clips here. Something interesting I noticed in the clips is that Kati and Isabel–Blair’s two sidekicks/cronies/lackeys in the books–are played by an Asian-American actress and an African-American actress. I don’t recall there being a description of what K & I (as Gossip Girl would refer to them as) look like in the books, so it seems like the CW is trying to ‘diversify’ the very white world of the gossip girl books. Then again, the cover of the first book does depict someone with darker-than-tan skin:

gossip girl cover

But considering that K & I don’t add much to the books, I doubt Continue reading

the modesty movement

Girlpower1 links us to this article about the budding ‘modesty movement’ in America, aimed at the same young girls who are being targeted and/or influenced by marketers and popular culture to participate in the ‘raunch culture’ instead of a more innocent, non-sexualized childhood. The author uses celebrities who are constantly in the media and in the tabloids, and the recent Paris Hilton-goes-to-jail debacle, as a starting-off point for her conversation–Lindsay Lohan, Nicole Richie, etc. She points to their ‘vulgarity’ and asks, are these the role models we want for our young girls?

linday lohan in a sexy halloween costume

 

The author, Colleen Carroll Campbell, gets so much right:

Today’s pop culture tells women that sexual power is the kind that counts most and they can achieve it by showing skin. That message has trickled down to girls, forcing them to trade carefree childhood pleasures for sexual competition.

You can see them in the mall, tugging nervously at their skimpy shorts and halter tops, straining to see how men react to their little bellies flouncing out of low-slung jeans. They look more exploited than empowered as they fuss and cringe, adjust and squirm. How odd that in an age when girls have more athletic and academic opportunities than ever, girlhood has become a high-pressure dress-rehearsal for adult mating games.

This is no doubt, disturbing. As are the following conclusions: Continue reading

model mother?

cindy + kaya 

Supermodel Cindy Crawford caused controversy last September by allowing her 5-year-old daughter, Kaya Jordan Gerber, to pose for Melissa Odabash‘s children’s swimwear campaign last summer. It seems like it wouldn’t be a big deal, since it’s for a children’s swimwear campaign, right? Well, the pictures caused controversy because Kaya was wearing a bikini and standing in the typical risque poses that adult models use, not to mention she had a tattoo on her lower back and was posing topless. Continue reading

bratz . . . 4 real!

Bratz

 Thanks to Robyn for bringing to my attention the trailer for Bratz the Movie, the first live-action film of the Bratz dolls enterprise.  Er, actually, maybe I shouldn’t be thanking you for this?  But either way, here’s the trailer:

Considering that this movie ‘brings to life’ the Bratz dolls that many young girls buy and play with, it’s definitely marketed at least in part (a huge part) to the tween demographic.  Aside from all the pink glittery-ness, it contains so many of the same elements that I mentioned in my post about the Cheetah Girls: diversity, not only of race, but also of image (though the blonde girl does seem to take precedence, based on the trailer); a ‘we will overcome’ attitude; and a message of strength found through unity.  It’s interesting to see that these sentiments expressed Continue reading

the cheetah girls

Cheetah Girls

There’s a post over at the main blog about the Cheetah Girls as a symbol of the Girl Power movement.  As a Disney Channel creation–a made-for-TV-movie based on a book series spawned the real girl group and various merchandise–they’re definitely relevant to the tween market right now.  There’s a lot to positively acknowledge here–they’re closer in age to their market than a lot of other girl groups (such as the Pussycat Dolls) are, they present themselves more age-appropriately while still being ‘cool’ and fashionable, they have a ‘sisterhood’ message as opposed to girls being pitted against each other for men’s attention (again, look to the Pussycat Dolls’ breakout single, ‘Don’t Cha (wish your girlfriend was hot like me)’, and most importantly I think (especially in light of my recent post about tweens and race), they’re diverse–racially, body shape, ‘image,’ etc.

Here is a song/movie clip from the first Cheetah Girls movie, “Cheetah Sisters”:

I think this song has a really great message for young girls who are at an age when they probably start feeling like they need to compete with their friends for boys and popularity.  It emphasizes unity, no matter how different girls are from each other: Cuz we are sisters we stand together / we make up one big family though we don’t look the same our spots are different / different colors we make stronger, that ain’t ever gonna change, and it even emphasizes global unity with We’re from everywhere all around the world.  Furthermore, I think the fact that the girls are fashionable and show off their dancing skills without being sexualized is really important–it’s letting girls have fun without introducing them to things that they’re not ready for yet.  And astonishingly enough, all of the girls seem to matter in the group, with their own personalities–everyone brings something to the table, and everyone has something that makes them special.  In this way, the song teaches girls to trust in themselves more: Got the brains got the power and we speak the truth.

So what problem do I have with “Cheetah Sisters”?  Well, I wonder if it doesn’t emphasize unity a little bit too much.  The girls don’t just benefit from having each other around, they depend on each other for the strength to follow their dreams: There’s a time when we all choose / To either quit, or follow through / To just loose faith, or trust your heart somehow to lead you through the dark / We’re not the only one who’s dreamin’ / Who needs help to carry on / We might geet lonely but we’re not alone.  Saying that the girls need help to carry on departs so shockingly from the other Girl Power narrative we’ve been looking at this semester: the one of the individual woman, underestimated by society, who fights her hardest and maintains her composure, in order to be accepted in a (traditionally male) position of power, e.g. G.I. Jane.

However, the individualistic narrative of ‘girl power’ can be troublesome too, because it so often involves a woman fighting for her own right to occupy a traditionally male role of power, almost always without regard for other women, and often even at their expense.  So the ‘sisterhood’ message of “Cheetah Sisters” seems pretty great for what it is.  I actually wonder if the unity message isn’t so strong precisely because Continue reading

dakota fanning is really just a kid

dakota fanning

Ew. (No, not at the picture of Dakota, but at what I’m about to write about).

I mentioned the countdown clock to the Olsen twins’ 18th birthday in a previous post (which is now counting down to their 21st birthdays–which I don’t really understand, because once you’ve been in rehab for a cocaine addiction, does it really matter when you can legally buy alcohol?).  But I wasn’t prepared to find a similar countdown clock to Dakota Fanning’s 18th birthday.  It’s really obscene, juxtaposing a very childlike layout (the color pink, hearts, stars, a picture of Dakota smiling all child-like) with the desire for her to become an adult–why?  So she can legally pose nude and sick people can enjoy their jailbait.

I shouldn’t really be surprised, though.  Continue reading