Monday, March 27, 2017

Core Response: TV + Post Feminism

Sarah Banet-Weiser presents an interesting argument about the ambiguity in the representation of race in order to create façade of faux diversity. Specifically, with Nickelodeon’s Children’s television. It made me think about Nickelodeon’s Rocket Power which ran from 1999-2004, around the same time as Dora the Explorer. Otto and Reggie Rocket are two protagonists whose ethnicity is so ambiguous that you never feel secure with any guess, which is kind of next level on the marketing of ambiguous race. Even though their friend “Twister”, much like Dora, plays an ambiguous Latino character and Sam plays a generalized “lame-o” (non-urban?) character, Reggie and Otto are not as easily stereo-typed. Reggie has purple hair, Otto has what appears to be dreadlocks, their father is white with blonde hair, so they presumably have multiple ethnicities. Or, according to fan theory, they have a different father altogether. But that’s beside the point. Their dark skin ambiguity has led fans to connecting with characters who (sort of, a little bit) “are just like them”. And much to the way Banet-Weiser highlights, it is their “urban-ness”, their “cool” as street sport junkies that makes them attractive, especially in stark contrast to their un-athletic white friend “Squid”. More than just a Latino audience, their hyper-ambiguity can attract Blacks, Asians, Pacific Islanders, Native Americans, etc. Though an ambiguous identity fronts a level of diversity, there’s no denial that the marketing worked in its time. I’m not sure how much we buy it now.

As for the topic of Post Feminism, I felt that Angela McRobbie did well to concisely state Post Feminism as the acceptance of Feminism as passed, undealt with anymore, no longer needed and the necessity of re-acknowledging it and therefore re-inventing of it. I watched Sex and the City in its entirety for the first time when I was nine-teen and still experiencing my first Feminist Theory class; I recently re-watched the series along with the films eight years later. My experience and reading of the show has changed dramatically and I feel like McRobbie’s article has led me to a clear understanding of why—I was under the impression that we were living in a Post Feminist world and at nine-teen I was an impressionable viewer. In retrospect, I think their characters are better dealt with in the films because we’re shown the aftermath of the freedom of their sexualities and their personal choices. We see that it’s still not a happily ever after, you still don’t get what you want or that you’re unhappy when you get it, and life is much more circular than chains to freedom.

Further, Jess Butler’s For White Girls Only? Highlights, for me, my own appropriation of both Reggie Rocket and Carrie Bradshaw as a woman of color. Butler argues for Nicki Minaj as a “potential to unsettle our assumptions about race, gender, and sexuality in postfeminist popular culture” but also asks if this is achievable for “real” girls. I think this question is important when appropriation is inherent in the consumption of popular culture. Though Minaj disrupts generalizations of race, gender, and sexuality, her fame and success protect her from scrutiny that everyday people would endure. And on a separate note, Butler also references the idea that non-white characters on the screen “reproduce hierarchies of difference and dominance”, something that always “joking, not joking” among my friends. The hierarchy of colors: Whites, Blacks, Asians, Latinos, other. Not always necessarily in that order but Whites always first and then it becomes a minority battle. Blackish came before Fresh off the Boat, but there hasn’t an all Asian television shows since American Girl in the 90s. Is there every going to be an all Filipino show? The homogenous nature of Feminism feels like a waiting game and everyone needs to take a number. Not to be a negative Nancy, I’m on the side of Banet-Weiser in that Feminism needs to be reinvented…re-acknowledged, re-allocated, re-alized—but dang there’s so much and it’s exhausting.

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