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:
But considering that K & I don’t add much to the books, I doubt Continue reading
Posted in blake lively, cecily von ziegesar, celebrities, consumerism, gossip girl, josh schwartz, kirsten bell, leighton meester, multiculturalism, pretty people, teen stars, the cw, the o.c., tokenism, tween, upper east side, veronica mars, wasp
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?
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
Posted in advertising, body image, capitalism, celebrities, child sexuality, childhood, choice, christian right, colleen carroll campbell, consumer culture, eating disorders, girlhood, lindsay lohan, marketing, modesty movement, nicole richie, paris hilton, preteens, raunch culture, sexuality, sexualization of children, teen pregnancy, teen sexuality, teen stars, teenage girls, tween
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
Posted in adrienne bailon, beauty, body image, capitalism, cheetah girls, cheetah sisters, consumer culture, consumerism, culture industry, disney, disney channel, dolls, girl power, hilary duff, kiely williams, marketing, movies, pussycat dolls, race, raven, raven-symone, sabrina bryan, sexualization of children, teen stars, that's so raven, tween, women of color
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
Posted in child sexuality, dakota fanning, jailbait, mary-kate and ashley, olsen twins, preteen stars, rape, sexuality, sexualization of children, teen stars, tween
There was a post over at the main blog about Keisha Castle-Hughes’ now being a mother! I talked briefly about the issue in a previous post in which I wondered what ramifications this would have on ‘girl power’ and young girls who look up to either Castle-Hughes or her character in Whale Rider.
The post on the main blog brings up how teen pregnancy is usually brought up in the media, though–as a ‘problem’ in poor Black & Latino communities. So far I haven’t addressed race on this blog, and I think this is a grey issue that relates to some of the other themes of cultural studies. Obviously, we don’t want babies to be born into the world unwanted. So why not celebrate pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood? However, there’s also the fact that a lot of these babies are born into poverty, and that possibly if the parents had received the same opportunities that people in wealthier communities receive–namely, access to the same standard of education and being put on the track to college–they wouldn’t have had the babies. It’s that question again–can you really be empowered when your options are limited by society? In the case of the ‘problem’ of teen pregnancy, it definitely seems good that people try to create their own narratives within the system by celebrating pregnancy and making it something worthwhile, even if it’s just for lack of a better option.
The case of Keisha Castle-Hughes, though, is a strange one. Continue reading
Posted in cultural studies, keisha castle-hughes, maori, motherhood, people magazine, preteen stars, race, sexuality, tabloid, tabloids, teen pregnancy, teen stars, tween, whale rider
Robyn pointed me toward the following Disney Channel video, filled with Disney Channel teen stars:
The song is a remix of a song from Cinderella in which Cinderella tells her animal friends to never stop dreaming–which is a recurring theme not only in Cinderella, but in many other Disney movies, especially ones geared toward young girls. This makes me wonder about the wider cultural effects of such messages. Isn’t it basically telling young girls Continue reading
Posted in aly & AJ, anneliese van der pol, brenda song, cinderella, cole sprouse, disney, disney channel, dylan sprouse, orlando brown, phil of the future, raven-symone, ricky ullman, teen stars, that's so raven, the suite life of zack & cody, tween
In class last week, we had a discussion about tweens and how young girls are being sexualized earlier and earlier, especially through marketing. One of the points that someone brought up was how as the perennial Disney stars grew up, so did their fan base. To qualify that: while the teen stars actually aged, their fan bases, while remaining the same age (not the same individual girls as before), have grown up with them.
One thing I am reminded of is the ever-creepy countdown to the Olsen twins’ 18th birthday (them being finally ‘legal’), and bets on who would pose for Playboy, Maxim, etc., first. I found a website counting down to their 21st birthdays; it has a timer and everything, just like there was for their 18th birthdays. I have to wonder, if websites like this are so widely profilerated all over the Internet, and Continue reading
Posted in body image, disney, drug abuse, eating disorders, jailbait, mary-kate and ashley, olsen twins, sexuality, tabloids, teen stars, tween