Category Archives: consumerism

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

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

ha! aka, mattel does india

After writing the last post about young girls of color and which dolls they prefer, I was bothered by the fact that I couldn’t remember what the Indian Barbie doll I had when I was little looked like (maybe when I get home once the semester is done, I’ll look through all the closets in the house for it…).  So I did some research on Mattel’s history of releasing South Asia-related Barbie dolls, and found these two:

India Barbie – released in 1982, as a Special Edition, part of the ‘Dolls of the World – Asia’ line

India Barbie

India Barbie 2nd Edition, released in 1996, as part of the Collector Edition for the same ‘Dolls of the World’ line:

India Barbie 2nd Edition

Is it just me, or is Continue reading

dumbing down movies for tweens

There was an article in the NY Times recently about the lack of female executives behind the scenes in studios, and it prompted an interesting discussion over at the main blog about how the movies that are greenlighted are the ones that make the most money.  As a result, a lot of movies end up being ‘dumbed down’ or ‘cleaned up’ to a certain degree such that they’re rated PG-13, so that tweens (a large market, presumably the ones with the most buying power in the modern U.S. economy, as I talked about in an earlier post) are able to see them on the weekends.  This makes a lot of sense; I’m sure lots of people have heard of the phrase ‘kiss of death’ used to refer to an X rating for a movie.

It must be true that the tween demographic makes up a significant portion of moviegoers if studios cater to them so much, but I have to wonder if Continue reading

tweens and consumerism

I found this 2005 article from BusinessWeek that not only said a lot of interesting things about companies marketing toward tweens, but also reflected a lot of interesting dilemmas in our society that are related to some of the theory we’ve read in class.  To start off with, the article talks about how though tweens have a lot of purchasing power, it is only because they’re permitted to have it by their parents that this is so.  This makes me wonder, does this reflect Continue reading