Posts Tagged ‘Sexuality’

In class during the week of April 25th, we viewed episodes from two programs that are able to take on more social issues with a direct approach.  Both Sex and the City and Weeds show the main characters doing whatever they can do get where they need to be in life.  Whether it be for personal gain or just maintaining the standard of living for their family, these women do whatever it takes to get where they need to be.

Sex and the City is a very unique show by having its four main characters represent very different types of feminists.  By having this show air on HBO, “the expanding narrative universe of pay cable” could put the main characters in more real situations to address issues.  In the episode “The Power of Female Sex,” each of the characters either references or encounters the same issue.  In the episode, Samantha and Carrie await eagerly outside a New York hotspot, Balzac’s, hoping to get in for lunch.  They encounter a female hostess who abruptly refuses to let the two in.  Samantha states that if the hostess were a man, they would be inside eating right now: referencing the power of sex that women have over men.  Later in the episode, Carrie meets up with an old friend while shoe shopping and is later introduced to a man that ends up paying her for sex.  In this episode, Miranda’s boyfriend Skipper admits to Carrie that he has become “hooked” on Miranda and that she is all he can think about.  Meanwhile, Charlotte’s attempt to get an artist to be featured at her gallery ends up with her posing for his latest piece.  Charlotte is not posing for a “normal” painting, she is posing for what the artist calls “the single most powerful thing in the universe.”  By this he means a woman’s vagina and has multiple paintings of vaginas throughout his studio.  This is not something that can normally be associated with the mild and modest manner of Charlotte, who seems slightly uncomfortable with the idea of posing, but willing to use whatever she has to get the artist’s work in her gallery.  The overall image presented by this show is ironic, because all of the characters encounter a situation that is normally suited for Samantha, with all three of the remaining characters using their “power” over men in the episode for various reasons, whether intentional or not.  Hilmes sums up this show perfectly, by saying that “Sex and the City provided a full and frank look at female sexuality, and it captivated its audience of both men and women.”

Weeds is a program, much like Sex and the City, that is aired on a pay cable network and is able to address issues that network television does not allow.  In the episode “You Can’t Miss the Bear,” Nancy Botwin is proven to be different from the typical soccer mom portrayed in movies and television today.  Much like the girls in Sex and the City, Nancy uses what she’s got to get herself where she needs to be in life.  In this case, Nancy sells pot to a variety of people throughout the community in order to make ends meet due to the untimely death of her husband.  Nancy is often seen struggling with the ideals of the typical mother with those of the drug dealer, especially in the scenes where she interacts with another local pot dealer.  In her interactions, she supplies marijuana to the younger dealer, but with a catch: he is not to sell to any kids.  When Nancy finds out that the young dealer has been selling to children that are her younger son’s age, she becomes enraged and lets her voice be heard to the kid.  Nancy isn’t seen as a bad person to viewers, mainly because of the situation she’s been dealt.  She is just attempting to bridge the gap between the income and lifestyle she once had and the one she is now dealing with in an effort to restore some kind of normalcy for her two children.  Nancy puts it all on the line in this show by using her car and what appears to be her wedding ring as collateral with her supplier so she can come up with the money to pay the bills.  Nancy appears to be a true “supermom” displaying her ability to maintain as much control over her household as she can while attempting to come up with the funds to continue her family’s way of life.

Both of these shows portray women doing whatever they can to get where they need to be in life.  Whether it be getting into the latest hotspot, having a famous artist’s work featured in your gallery, or simply maintaining the standard of living for your family; all of these women do whatever is necessary to get what they want.

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During class on the week of April 11th, we viewed episodes from two fairly recent sitcoms: Roseanne and Ellen.  These shows are essentially nothing alike, other than the overall makeup of the scenery within the programs.  Both programs take on, and in some cases mock, traditional beliefs of females in an attempt to alter what is considered to be the norm.

The episode of Roseanne that we viewed in class was “The Clip Show: All About Rosey.”  Roseanne, the main character of the show, is played by Roseanne Barr.  Barr uses her comedic background as the foundation of the show and according to Hilmes’ book, “Roseanne sparked a genre of comedies based around stand-up comedians.”  Douglas is quoted in her book saying that “[Roseanne] spoke to women who had seen through June Cleaver and Donna Reed years ago, and were struggling to see through the supermom image now.”  This is both a figurative and literal reference in this episode of the program, because towards the end the typical pearl-wearing “supermoms,” as Douglas would put it appear at Roseanne’s kitchen table to discuss the differences between her show and the shows from the past.  This show effectively escapes the image previously established in television and is representative not of what the typical “perfect” household in America should be, but of what the majority of households in America actually are:  blue collar.  Throughout the running of Roseanne’s show, Rosey holds a various amount of jobs ranging from working in a factory to working as a waitress at a local diner.  The show’s success is not a result of having a set of loyal viewers tuning in to the program to see the ideal household; it is a result of having a program that a vast majority of families can relate to.  What happens in these episodes is not a manual of “what-to-do” when raising a family, but more of poking fun at situations that almost everyone encounters at one point in their lives.  This show not only combats the previous image established by shows like The Donna Reed Show and Leave it to Beaver, but it mocks everything that these shows represent.  Roseanne is an equal partner in her marriage to Dan and while the two aren’t perfect, they work together in their joint struggle to raise their family.

“The Puppy Episode: Parts I & II” of the show Ellen proved to be extremely controversial, due to Ellen DeGeneres’ “coming out of the closet” on national television.  While the framework of the show appears to be very similar to that of Roseanne, consisting of main scenes set in either Ellen’s home or workplace, the message and struggles the program portrays send a message from a different perspective to viewers.  Ellen is single and living by herself.  These two episodes, in particular, present the viewers with an internal struggle that had never been seen before.  Hilmes says in her book that “Ellen DeGeneres made history by coming out as gay, both in real life and in character, before millions, in a funny and controversial lesbian storyline that the show explored in its last two seasons.”  Hilmes is not suggesting that the fact that Ellen came out was something to laugh at, but the way she did it was certainly entertaining to viewers.  Ellen was at an airport and accidentally stated that she was gay into a microphone for everyone within an earshot to hear.  Ellen uses comedy in her program to address a very important issue in society:  the acceptance of everyone for who they are without prejudice.  Ellen effectively changed the way women are viewed and used television to show that not all women fall into the “cookie-cutter” image of what a woman should be that programs of the past presented.  This show not only rejects the single-minded image of what a woman should be, but also paved the way for other programs that have gay lead characters.

Both of these programs address important issues within themselves and their lifestyles in an attempt to change the mold of what a woman should be.  These women stand on the shoulders of pioneers before them in an attempt to forever change the cookie cutter mold that is a woman’s image and to cause people to believe, and accept, that there are different types of people out there and there is not one specific way that every woman should live her life.