Friday, March 30, 2007

Post #4 Women's Source of Power

“Raisins”, an episode of South Park in which Wendy breaks up with Stan and the boys take him to Raisins, a restaurant similar to Hooters, to try and forget about her, portrays the type of hegemony women have over men. The Raisin girls have power over their male customers because they are attractive, wearing next to nothing, and they pretend to be interested in the males to get bigger tips. According to James Lull, “Hegemony implies willing agreement by people to be governed by principles, rules and laws they believe to operate in their best interests…,” (63). The male customers are agreeing to be overpowered by the attractive women’s bodies. The majority of hegemony issues in social settings dealing with masculinity and femininity award men the power; however, most men’s sexual desire for women give women a source of power. The downfall: when this source of power is used it portrays women in a negative light. Why must some women feel the need to exert power over men though their looks?
Work Cited:

Post #3 Stupid Spoiled Whore

South Park is a popular show that incorporates current events into the storylines of episodes. Often times, people who do not find this vulgar humor amusing, are offended by it. South Park’s writers, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, are starting to tie their personal views in with current events talked about in episodes of the last few seasons. As discussed in my post entitled, The “Right” Side of Trey Parker and Matt Stone, these personal views have started to lean right. Whether or not one agrees with the view embedded in the storyline, is of little relevance. This show is a good source of analysis for gender and pop culture because it is extremely popular and it only further promotes the issues it addresses by ridiculing them in such a grotesque way.

For this post, I have chosen to analyze the episode entitled, “Stupid Spoiled Whore Video Playset.” This episode articulates how female celebrities influence young girls to be flirtatious, trendy and sexually provocative. Paris Hilton guest stars as the spokes model for her new store that sells all the things girls need to become “stupid spoiled whores”. In the end, Wendy, a member of the “out crowd”, learns from Mr. Slave, the children’s gay teacher’s boyfriend, that being a whore is a bad thing. The parents, who are usually portrayed as brainless, are also enlightened by Mr. Slave that they should teach their daughters that these ideals are wrong. In this particular episode, the writers have a valid point: young girls shouldn’t idolize celebrities like Paris Hilton and Brittany Spears because they have poor values. However, the way the show mocks the how parents actually do overlook the fact that their young daughters are mimicking the actions of these sexually provocative celebrities only feeds the fire.

When young girls watch this episode they are further confused as to their role in social settings. In one scene of this episode, the popular girls throw a “sex party” that Wendy is not invited to. This makes the female viewer think about the pressures they experience in their own social settings and enhances the thought that they must conform to these pressures to be considered popular. The supposed “moral” of the story attempts to contradict this social pressure by imposing that being a whore is wrong. However, young girls don’t see these celebrities as whores, and they discard the “moral” to concentrate on what might make them more popular.

Jean Kilbourne discusses how the media and advertising reinforces social pressures on young girls in her article, “The More You Subtract, The More You Add.” This episode of South Park brings to the table the exact type of advertising that Kilbourne is referring to: the kind that promotes girls to be someone else. By ridiculing this type of advertising in their storylines, the writers are adding another piece of media that confuses young girls to the picture.

Even though the writers try to justify the episode by expressing that girls should not want to be whores, the humor factor desensitizes the justification and the popular crowd still comes out looking correct. Young girls find these messages contradicting and their roles as females in society become unclear. As Kilbourne notes, “The culture, both reflected and reinforced by advertising, urges girls to adopt a false self, to bury alive their real selves…” (259). Although this episode articulates a type of advertising that is a bit of a twist of Killbourne’s vision of what society pushes girls to be, the fact that the girls are pushed to be someone they aren’t is still evident.

Would it not be beneficial to young girls not to be further exposed to these pressures though shows like South Park? Yes, the show is popular and the writers are intelligent, but it is not intended for young audiences even though it is so easily accessible and entertaining to them. This episode, though it may seem justifiable to the mature audience, is further bolstering the idea to young girls that they should idolize celebrities because they are sexy and in style, which in turn adds to the social pressures they experience from peers and other media. The vulgar humor that this episode contains was not mentioned because of its severity, however; it is the reason that girls miss the “moral” of the story and are left to contemplate conforming to social norms.


Work Cited:
Kilbourne, Jean. Gender, Race, and Class in Media: "The More You Subtract, The More You Add". Second. Ed. Gail Dines and Jean M. Humez. California: Sage Publications, Inc., 2003.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Going Back Down to South Park...

In light of assignment #2 of the "The Gender & Pop Culture Blog Experiment" (earliest post), I am returning to my original topic of South Park. The following post analyzes a post written by Lonnie Harris, entitled "Is South Park Right?" Enjoy...

Post #2 The “Right Side” of Trey Parker and Matt Stone

Is South Park Right?
By: Lonnie Harris

In his post, “Is South Park Right?”, Harris opens with comments about Parker and Stone’s “narcissistic apathy” for political issues of extreme importance to most Americans. He points out that Parker and Stone have, for the most part, portrayed a centrist point of view in the first seven seasons.
It definitely was difficult to descry the true opinions of the writers when they kept playing the neutral card. However, as the post points out, the release of the South Park movie, “Team America,” and the following eighth season, shows convincing evidence that Parker and Stone are leaning right.
You would think that the writers of a show like South Park, which satirizes any and everything, would have taken the opportunity to ridicule the Bush Administration in their movie about the War on Iraq, at least if they were trying to be impartial. But they didn’t. Instead they saved their best parodies for the liberal figures who are opposed to the War on Iraq and other liberal views.
The post goes on to point out the blow against transsexuals in another episode of the eighth season. It was a somewhat veiled opinion that Parker and Stone intertwined into their writing. Nonetheless, the message was clear to those whom it may have offended: being a transsexual is wrong and having an operation that alters one’s sex, in the attempt to make one more satisfied with oneself, is profane.
These two attempts to poke fun of these social issues are more personally offensive than jokes in the first seven seasons. Why Parker and Stone decided to start offering their personal opinions now, despite possibly offending a portion of their fan base, is pending. Possibly, they have grown to such an extreme state of unconcern for the opinions and emotions of their viewers that they just don’t care to find that middle ground anymore. Or, maybe, as Harris points out, since Parker and Stone see the end of South Park in sight they feel more open to share their views, even if the entertainment value of the show lags.
So, it can be stipulated that Parker and Stone have revealed their right-sided inclinations, for whatever reason. But, I pose this question: does it really matter? There are obviously two main sides to most social issues, left and right, and they will never become the same. Although I do disagree with them, the argument here shouldn’t be about Parker and Stone’s personal opinions about the War on Iraq or transsexuals. Who cares what these distasteful, shameless writers’ ideals are?
The greatest concerns about South Park should be the racist, sexist, dirty, foul, immoral content in each and every episode, and that they are played on network television. The people that enjoy this raunchy humor, which is offensive to many races, classes and genders, should have to pay to see it. HBO or some other “pay per view” channel would be a more suitable place for this show, not to mention all the other offensive shows out there. At least then, younger generations would have less of a chance to be molded by the filthy, discriminatory humor Americans seem to find so necessary.