Final Report

Over the course of the semester, I’ve learned a lot about successfully analyzing media content, maintaining a blog, organizing my time, and writing in general.   Before this course, the only content I had analyzed was literature.  Analyzing television shows is certainly different from what I have previously experienced, however I found this method to be very entertaining; it was easy for me to get wrapped up in a program and forget I was in class.

This was also my first experience working with a blog.  You may find my blog here: www.kristineklin.wordpress.com.  I found www.WordPress.com to be straightforward to use and relatively user-friendly.  The main challenge of blogging was simply making the time to completely examine each television show or reading and create “mini-essays.”  Although the process seemed time consuming, I am very happy with the work in my blog.   I’m glad I continued to make regular posts and that my posts were up-to-date because it helped me immensely in the Final Screening Blog Post assignment.  I was able to pull content from previous blog posts, refresh my memory of some basic elements of plot summaries, and recognize the plethora of intertextual references between all the shows.  The blog definitely helped me organize my thoughts in a clear manner, which truthfully, probably would not have happened if it had not been required.   I believe my ability to analyze television shows increased throughout the course.  Based on my Learning Journal partner’s comments, I could still use some improvement on incorporating more frequent intertextual references from readings and other television programs.

This course required students to do most of their work outside of class, which led to some lackluster blogs.  I know many students did not like this format, however I liked it because it truly separated the hardworking students from the unmotivated ones.

I loved the main theme of the course: feminism.  The history of the feminist movement combined with the impact of media images is a topic I find very appealing and enjoy reading and studying both it in and out of class.  Due to my interest in feminism, the course was easy for me to like.  One of my favorite pieces of literature is Virginia Woolf’s “A Room of One’s Own,” so unsurprisingly Where the Girls Are is now one of my new favorite books too.

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“Weeds”

On April 27, our class watched an episode of Weeds titled “You Can’t Miss the Bear.”  Nancy Botwin is a newly widowed mother living in the suburban area, Agrestic Luxury Homes, with her two sons, Shane and Silus.  She has just taken up a new “career” as a marijuana dealer, which is stereotypically a male’s job.  Nancy’s neighbor, Celia Hodes, is an excessively critical and image obsessed mother of two girls.  Both Nancy and Celia display warped versions of contemporary motherhood in comparison to the “perfect” mother Donna Reed.   Although Nancy fulfills most of her stereotypical duties as a stay-at-home mom, she is deviant from the norm.

The Botwin Family

The episode begins with Nancy attending a Parents Committee club meeting for Agrestic Elementary School.  At the meeting, Nancy urges the other mothers to ban all soda and unhealthy drinks from the vending machines and instead suggests only allowing bottled water and naturally sweetened fruit juice.  Her attendance at the Parent’s Club meeting shows that she is a stay-at-home mother and involved in her children’s life at school and is relatively health conscious.   Soon, the viewer realizes that Nancy’s involvement in her children’s education and personal life is fairly minimal.  She attempts to use her “job” as a mother to cover up for her involvement in drug trafficking.  Nancy is oftentimes referred to as Ms. B and when her pager goes off she says “it’s a neighborhood watch thing.”  Although Nancy takes on the role of a stay-at-home mom, the family still employs a live-in housekeeper, Lupida.  Heylia, Nancy’s drug provider, recognizes her mother like tendencies and remarks, “What are you rushing around for, Dr. Phil ain’t on ‘til four!”  This comment shows that Heylia assumes that Nancy’s only commitments are to daytime television shows because she has so much free time on her hands.  Nancy displays her ultimate “mom” preparedness when Shane scraps his knee at his soccer game.  She immediately rushes over to help him complete with Band-Aids and Neosporin antibacterial spray.   Behind all of Mrs. B’s stereotypically motherly roles, she is dealing marijuana everyplace she attends.  During Shane’s soccer game and karate class she hands off the drugs in exchange for payment.  Although Nancy physically attends all of her children’s events, she is often mourning her husband’s death mentally or concerned with selling drugs.  As a mother, Nancy is the farthest away from Donna Reed we have reached all semester.  Even though Nancy is a single mother, she still does not share many similarities with Alice from the television show Alice.

This episode also depicts the progression of the discussion of controversial subjects.  The television show obviously discusses drug use but also teenage sex.  During 1950s era television, sex was considered a taboo subject, especially teen sex.  Quinn, Silus’ girlfriend, blatantly asks Nancy, “Can we have sex in your house?”  This obvious statement makes teenage sex seem very main stream in contrast to the 1950s, during Donna Reed’s era.  Quinn also jokingly states, “You seriously thought we were virgins?”  Nancy’s total loss of power is shown when she says, “Nice, Shane gets suspended from school and the two of you ditch school to have sex in my guest room, I am so not in control.”  Progressively, both Shane and Silus’ behavior begins to show their personal issues associated with the loss of their father and their mother’s mentally withdrawn attitude.  Shane and Silus’ actions slowly begin to depict Nancy’s weakening role as a mother.

“One Day at a Time”

In the television show One Day at a Time, Ann Romano, a newly divorced mother, lives with her two young daughters Barbara and Julie in an apartment building.   Ann is a single mother that works for Avon, a cosmetic supply company.  She is a strong independent woman, but her job contradicts her power because she works for a stereotypically feminine company that sells trivial beauty products, so men will be attracted to the woman who use them.   One Day at a Time touches on some important issues regarding second-wave feminism, such as divorce, single motherhood, women in the workplace, and sex.

One Day at a Time cast

Ann faces a predicament as a single parent when her eldest daughter, Julie, would like to go on a co-ed camping trip.  While on the telephone with her friend, Julie remarks, “Ah, look you don’t have to worry about my mom, she’s a liberated woman.”  This shows that Julie recognizes that her mother is a very strong woman and does not rely on anyone but herself.  As soon as her mother arrives home from work, Julie proposes her plan to go on a backpacking trip on the weekend.  Ann is skeptical to say yes because she thinks there will be three young girls alone in the wilderness.  Julie quickly blurts out that “mature Senior boys” will be accompanying the girls too.  Ann immediately says no and declares that her reasoning is due to unpredictable weather.  Julie calls her bluff and says, “You’re worried about sex, aren’t you?!”  Ann is in shock and attempts to cover up her internal distress but Julie continues to beg her to say yes.  Julie concludes that the reason her mother won’t let her go on the trip is because of sex and states, “I’m surprised you don’t want me to wear a chastity belt!”  Ann retorts, “If there’s a sale on them, we’ll get one!

Suddenly, Barb barges into the home and exclaims, “I made the basketball team and I’m the only girl that made the team!”  This shows that Barb is growing up in an era where girls are progressively being allowed on athletic teams other than cheerleading.

Meanwhile, Schneider sneaks into the apartment and claims he “came by to fix the stuck window.”  Ann sarcastically remarks, “I fixed it myself two weeks ago;” this confirms Ann’s physical strength and general independence from men.  She does not need men to support her financially, emotionally, or even to open a tough jar.  Ann totally rejects Schneider’s sexual advances, reminds him that he has a wife, tells him to stop flirting with her, and forces him to leave her apartment.

Moments later, David enters the family’s apartment.  David, Ann’s divorce attorney, confesses his love and begs her to marry him.  Unlike Schneider, David seems to be kind, respectful, and moderately feminine in his communication style.  David comes off as feminine because he actually expresses his true emotions for Ann instead of simply physical desires and constantly pleads Ann to marry him.  David is not opposed to a pursuing a non-traditional relationship with Ann, she is 34 and he is 26.  In this particular scene, David seems to take on a more feminine role and Ann is moderately masculine.  Ann shouts, “get off this marriage kick!” and “stand back and stay out of the way!” as David straightens pictures around the house and continues to declare his love for Ann.  Ann also drinks alcohol, unlike Donna Reed.

Julie demands that her mother make her final decision about the camping trip.  She threatens her mother by saying she will move out and go live with her father if she doesn’t let her go on the trip.  Similar to the characters Flo and Alice, Ann has no trouble “leaving the sugar in the sugar bowl” and proves her strength as an authority figure as she stands up to her daughter.  Instead of simply giving in to her daughter’s request she hands her the bus fair to travel to her father’s house.  However, after Julie storms out of their apartment, Ann regrets her stern disciplinary action and says, “For the first 17 years of my life, my father made all my decisions.  For the next 17 years of my life my husband made all my decisions.  The first time I try to make a decision on my own and I screw it up.”  These statements illustrate Ann’s past experiences with living in a controlling patriarchal society and having relatively few privileges or human rights.  Clearly, men have continuously controlled her and told her that her opinion doesn’t count, simply because she is a woman.  Ann calls her ex-husband and warns him that Julie will be arriving shortly and Ann powerfully states, “I can make it on my own.”  This statement is a direct reference to the theme song lyrics, “you’re gonna make it after all” from the Mary Tyler Moore show.  Like Mary, this is also Ann’s first time living in freedom without the supervision of men or their “male gaze.”

In the end, Ann admits that she was uncertain and scared too when Ed and her got divorced.  She tells Barb and Julie to stick with her and they’ll all learn together.  Ann ultimately allows Julie to go on the backpacking trip even though it makes her feel uncomfortable.  Ann grants her daughter independence by allowing her to do something on her own, just like she did when she divorced her husband.  Ann passes on her feeling of new liberation to Julie.  Julie decides not to go on the trip because realizes she respects her mother’s decision and appreciates her new freedom.

Ann, Julie, and Barbara

Ann’s relationship with her children is very similar to Alice’s from the television show Alice.  Just like Alice and her son Tommy, Ann has a personal connection with her children instead of simply ruling by fear or authority.  Ann recognizes that she doesn’t have all the answers and isn’t right all the time; she is willing to work through issues with her children.  This is also one of the first television shows where it’s been obvious that men are attracted to the lead female but she doesn’t use her sexuality to her benefit.  Ann could have easily asked Schneider or David to do anything she wanted, but instead she rejected their sexual advances and did things on her own.  Just like Julie said, “She’s a rock.”

“Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy”

On April 18, 2011 our class watched an episode of The Simpsons television show titled “Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy.”  This episode tracks Lisa’s purchase of a Malibu Stacy doll, her reactions to the doll, Marge’s response, and the general feedback from society.

As soon as the newest Malibu Stacy dolls are put out for display in the Valley of Dolls, the store clerk is mauled by little girls all fighting for their very own talking Malibu Barbie.  Lisa cautions her mother and says, “I’m warning you, Mom, I may get a little crazy.”  She pushes her peers out of the way and purchases the newest Malibu Stacy doll, just like the hoards of other young girls.  At the beginning, Lisa is just as crazy about the womanizing doll as all of her friends.

Lisa starts to play with Stacy and her other dolls; expecting an authoritative and progressive female to give empowering speeches to her other dolls.  However, Lisa is shocked when the phrases coming out of Stacy’s mouth are the following: “I wish they taught shopping in school, let’s bake some cookies for the boys, thinking too much gives you wrinkles, and don’t ask me, I’m just a girl.”  Lisa is deeply offended by her new toy and Bart comments, “Right on, say it sister” and agrees with Stacy’s degrading statements.  Lisa demonstrates her feminist values when she retorts by saying, “Millions of girls will grow up thinking that this is the right way to act. That they can’t be anymore than vacuous ninnies whose only goal is to look pretty, land a rich husband, spend all day on a boat with their equally vacuous friends talking about how damn terrific it is to look pretty and have a rich husband!”  Clearly, Lisa feels very strongly about women’s empowerment and is willing to go to far lengths to raise awareness of the problem.

Lisa's frustration with Malibu Stacy

Lisa attempts to notify her peers about Malibu Stacy’s horrific representation of women but they giggle at her and don’t take her seriously because she said a “dirty” word.  While at the dinner table, Lisa exclaims, “They cannot keep making dolls like this, something has to be done!” Her family is relatively unsupportive because she continuously gets involved in social and political issues.

Lisa: They cannot keep making dolls like this! Something has to be done!

Marge: Lisa, ordinarily I’d say you should stand up for what you believe in. But you’ve been doing that an awful lot lately!

Bart: Yeah! You made us march in that gay rights parade!

Homer: And we can’t watch Fox because they own those chemical weapons plants in Syria.

Lisa: I can’t believe you’re just going to let your daughter live in a world where this…THIS is their role model.

Marge: I had a Malibu Stacy doll when I was little and I turned out all right. Now let’s forget our troubles with a big bowl of strawberry ice cream.

Malibu Stacy Voice: [Lisa pulls on Malibu Stacy’s string] Now let’s forget our troubles with a big bowl of strawberry ice cream.

Lisa: That’s it I’m calling the company.

Lisa demands to speak with the creator of the Malibu Stacy doll and receive a factory tour.  While on the tour, the sexist inner workings of the company are obvious.  The female tour guide is verbally harassed as her male coworkers holler statements such as, “Hey jiggles, come over here sugar and back that big butt up.”

Lisa returns home unsuccessful after the factory tour and as is complaining about her lack of authority when Homer remarks, “I’m a white male age 18-40, everyone listens to me no matter how dumb my suggestions are!”  Homer’s statement solidifies the viewer’s assumption that white men simply have more power than women.

Next, Lisa ventures to the Stacy Lovell’s home and informs her of the doll’s sexist statements and asks her to help create a new doll.  Lisa suggests that the new doll have “the wit of Gertrude Stein and the down to earth good looks of Eleanor Roosevelt.”  Gertrude Stein was a powerful American-Jewish author of one of the earliest stories about homosexuality.  Eleanor Roosevelt was a contributor to the revolutionary committee that helped start second-wave feminism.  Clearly, Lisa admires strong women and to pass on her love of feminism to other young girls via the new doll.  Lovell agrees to make the doll and Lisa gets to construct the new doll’s statements.  Lisa wants the doll to say things like “if I choose to get married, I’m keeping my own last name” and “trust in yourself and you can achieve anything” which is in sharp contrast to Malibu Stacy’s statements including, “Don’t ask me I’m just a girl.”  The doll is named Lisa Lionheart after Lisa’s courageous feminist ideals.

Malibu Stacy

Lisa Lionheart

The new doll, Lisa Lionheart, ends up failing miserably because of the updated version of Malibu Stacy with a hat.  In the end, Lisa only sells one doll, but she is satisfied knowing she shaped the mind of at least one little girl.

Lisa’s active behavior and strong feminist ideals categorize her as a Third Wave Feminist.  In Where the Girls Are, Douglas states, “American women today are a bundle of contradictions.”  Lisa completely proves this idea through the use of Malibu Stacy.  Malibu Stacy’s only “goal is to look pretty, land a rich husband…and wear make-up so boys will like her.”  The disagreements between Malibu Stacy’s “ideal” lifestyle and Lisa’s are obvious.  Lisa’s goals seem to be along the lines of becoming a politician or influential leader instead of the perfect homemaker that abides to her husband’s rules.  “Douglas demonstrates that much of the confusion about women’s “proper place” and roles in culture are present in mainstream mass media, such as children’s television shows and toys, causing many women to be in a conflicted state, torn between traditional and stereotypical ideas of who and what they ought to be and progressive and liberating concepts of who and what they can be.”’  Douglas states, “The war that has been raging in the media is not a simplistic war against women but a complex struggle between feminism and antifeminism that has reflected, reinforced, and exaggerated our culture’s ambivalence about women’s roles for over thirty-five years.”  Lisa’s struggle with Malibu Stacy’s antifeminist characteristics is not uncommon.  Lisa even demonstrates her struggle with the topic physically by wearing the standard Donna Reed housewife attire: a dress and pearls.  In my personal media history, I even discussed the same issue: the media(advertisements, television, etc.) advise females to be perfect, sexy, “man-pleasing” women but, our own set of morals tell us to be powerful, educated, and equal.

“Roseanne”

On April 12, our class watched the television show Roseanne.  The sitcom Roseanne aired on ABC from 1988 to 1997.  This particular episode was a clip show based off of Roseanne and Jackie’s visit to a fortuneteller.  The fortuneteller shows them their future; I’ve arranged the scenes by flashback sections.  Roseanne, the lead female character, portrays feminist ideas such as “a female-dominated household, a female lead whose likability did not rely on her appearance, relationships between female characters that were cooperative rather than competitive, and females openly expressing themselves without negative consequences.”

Roseanne has strong connections to Lorelai from the Gilmore Girls due to her attitude and parenting style.  I’m also excited to see the similarities in parenting styles between Roseanne and Nancy Botwin from Weeds.  The opening scene shows Roseanne’s husband, Dan, complaining about the dirty dishes and the messy house.  Roseanne immediately retorts, “You think poof the laundry is folded and poof dinner is on the table?!  Oh, honey but, you just fixed dinner three years ago!”  This scene set the tone for the entire episode; Roseanne is a strong and independent woman who won’t tolerate any complaints or criticism from her husband.  In general, Roseanne clearly rejects the Donna Reed stereotype of the perfect wife and more closely relates to Lorelai.  Similar to the Gilmore Girls, Roseanne and her family are shown eating delivery pizza and takeout Chinese food instead of a formal “home cooked” meal.

Soon after, Roseanne and Dan are shown drinking beer at the dinner table and while at the bar.  A stranger walks into the bar and calls Roseanne fat.  Roseanne informs Dan that “it’s okay just this once” and he punches the stranger in the face.  This scene shows that Roseanne is fairly liberal, drinks alcohol, and goes to bars comparable to Lorelai enjoying a cold beer with her male friend, Luke.

Jackie, Roseanne’s sister, is very open about her sexuality and personal freedom.  While she is on a date with a man he asks her a few personal questions about her past relationships:

Man: “How many serious relationships have you been in?”

Jackie: “Just a few.”

Man: “Good, it’s not that I mind if you’ve slept with a lot of guys.”

Jackie: “Oh!! Well, slept with…that’s not what you asked me!  Don’t worry, it’s not that many!  I’d say three a year.”

Man: “Since you were 18?”

Jackie: “Um, sure we’ll go with that.  Three a year for 20 years is 60…I didn’t know all of them.”

This humorous conversation between Jackie and her boyfriend illustrates Jackie’s self-sufficiency from men.  Jackie proves that although she has slept with a lot of men, she still remains in control and she’s not a “tramp.”  In Donna Reed’s era, a woman who slept with numerous men would not have been well-respected and basically considered a prostitute.  In the next scene, Jackie is shown telling her mother she is pregnant.  Jackie does not sugarcoat the unexpected news.

Jackie: “Mom, I’m pregnant.  I went out with a guy I hardly knew and we had sex for hours and now I’m pregnant.  And we’re not getting married.”  Later on in the episode, Jackie is shown talking to Roseanne and says, “you would never let a man tell you what to do.”  Both women are very independent and do not allow men to control their lives in any form.

In the following scene, Roseanne’s daughter Becky asks  for birth control.  Becky utters, “Uh, I was thinking you know…um, that just in case we decide to…that it’s time for me to get some birth control.”  Both Roseanne and Jackie are in complete shock.  The fact that Becky even references contraceptives demonstrates that she has been exposed to sex education and lives in a fairly liberal household that would allow her to talk about sex openly.  Also, this shows that Darlene is not intending to wait to have sex until marriage like the “ideal housewife” would have done.

Next, “the sitcom mom welcome wagon” is shown cleaning Roseanne’s kitchen.  The “perfect housewives” are quite disappointed with Roseanne’s unladylike behavior.  “You see Roseanne, we’ve all worked very hard to promote the image of motherhood and if what we’ve heard about your show is true, we’re about as mad as H-E double hockey sticks! Oh, excuse my French!,” said the housewife.  The housewives prove their totally submissive behavior and 1950s housewife state of mind when they say, “I’m glad I don’t stay up past 9:00pm, we moved on up to get away from people like you, and you’re supposed to teach you children valuable lessons.”  Roseanne responds by saying, “We did have this one episode that the network just loved! It was about reefer.”  Roseanne, Dan, and Jackie are all shown in the bathroom after smoking pot.  Roseanne drinks, smokes illegal substances, and uses inappropriate language; she is the complete opposite of the perfect domestic housewife.  The housewives are in complete shock and state “that’s the wrong image for a t.v. mom!”

Roseanne: “In my house, I yell at the kids and Dan just sits there and looks pretty.”

Housewife: “You mean you’re the boss in your own family?!  They named the show after you, the wife?…I didn’t know they could do that!”

Roseanne: “The important thing is, on my show I’m the boss and father knows squat!”

This is a direct slam to the 1950s television show Father Knows Best.  Clearly, Roseanne is a strong independent woman and does not need the guidance of her husband to make decisions, unlike the females on Father Knows Best that follow whatever a man tells them to do.  Roseanne goes completely against the standard housewife role again when she is shown at a bar kissing a female.

The Roseanne show depicts its era and lifestyle as extremely different from the Donna Reed Show or other 1950s shows.  Roseanne is shown as having an unplanned pregnancy, eating takeout food, being the boss of the family, being self-sufficient, having a lesbian kiss, and drinking alcohol.  In addition, Jackie is shown as sleeping with numerous men, being independent, and becoming pregnant out-of-wedlock.  As a mother, Roseanne has clearly passed on her liberal mindset to her children, especially Becky.  Becky shows a similar way of thinking when she asks her mother for birth control and openly discusses teenage sex.  Overall, the women in the television show Roseanne are strong and independent and, compared to the Donna Reed housewives, do not seek men’s approval before doing anything.

“Alice”

Alice is a single working mother attempting to earn a singing career in Hollywood; however, her plans drastically change when she becomes a waitress at Mel’s Diner in Phoenix, Arizona. The television show Alice aired from 1976-1985.  This episode has three main female characters that all work at Mel’s diner as waitresses: Flo, Vera, and Alice.  Flo is a sassy and man-hungry Southern waitress that effectively uses her sexuality to get anything from a fifty-cent tip or the talk-of-the-town gossip.  At the start of the episode she “gives Bert Jenkins a thrill every time she leans over to check the sugar bowl.”  In contrast to Hazel, Flo has no problem “leaving the sugar in the sugar bowl.”  Vera is depicted as neurotic and scatterbrained.  Alice is a single working mother attempting to pursue a career in singing.

The episode begins in the chaotic diner with Alice hard at work and Tommy eating his breakfast.  Tommy is shown spending many hours at the diner including mealtimes.  This concept is very different compared to the typical Donna Reed type of family meal where all the members of the family sit down together to enjoy a delicious home cooked feast.

While at work, Alice is being chased by a much younger man who attempts to woo her with a pink rose.  Alice blatantly rejects his attempts and states, “I am a widow. I am a babysitter for my twelve-year-old son.”  Alice openly defines herself as a single mother and does not attempt to cover it up.  In contrast to Flo, Alice is not interested in dating; she is focused on her career and raising her son.  Alice’s desperate need to become a singer is proved when she quickly accepts a date after the young man tells her he is a Hollywood agent and willing to “sign” her.  Her opinion about the young man swiftly changes and she remarks, “a little dinner could never hurt.”  Although Alice is not interested in dating or sex she is still more than willing to use her sexuality to develop her singing career.

Alice and Flo both use brash and witty verbal communication while speaking to each other and clients.  Alice’s bold remarks continue as she waits on tables; she jokingly demands that a client “eat up your[their] liver!”  Alice and Flo even “back talk” a bit to Mel when he nags on them to do a better job or work faster.  Flo tells Mel that she’s too much of a lady to tell him what she really thinks about the condition of the diner and commonly uses the phrase “kiss my grits!”

On the day of Alice’s date with the “agent” she realizes that she will never get to show off her singing talent unless she has a piano to sing along with.  Flo surprises Alice and the entire diner when she pushes in a piano.  When Alice asks Flo how she got the piano she states, “I just bought him a few beers, unbuttoned the ol’ top button and made a few promises I don’t intend on keepin’.” Flo uses her captivating sexual powers once again to get what she wants.  Alice’s singing transfixes everyone in the diner.  Alice wore a red and black low-cut v-neck dress for the date and “performance.”

Eventually the date progresses back to Alice’s apartment and Tommy is sitting in the background while Alice and her admirer converse.  I found it odd that Tommy was even present while the two adults were on their date.  Personally, it seemed like this would be a time when a person might call a babysitter instead of spending the first date accompanied by your son. Alice has an in depth conversation with her son while sitting on the couch earlier in the episode.   Alice definitely has a good relationship with her son and she respects and values his opinion about her potential boyfriend.

Finally, Alice realizes that the young man is not a Hollywood agent that he claimed to be.  Within minutes, Flo barges into the apartment and kicks out the lying man.  After the ordeal Alice offers a beer but Flo rejects it because she’s “still got a buzz from drinking with Cleo.”  Alice and Flo are both hardworking women that are not hesitant to discard the young man or enjoy a cold beer.  Alice and Flo clearly consume alcohol regularly and without guilt, similar to Jaime in Bionic Woman and Casey Jones in Decoy.

This episode begins to show an evolution in parenting style.  Alice views Tommy as more of an equal instead of an “immature” twelve-year-old.  She has regular conversations with him and values his viewpoints on issues.  This episode depicts women as using their sexuality and alcohol to get things from men.

“Bionic Woman”

Jamie Somers is an undercover policewoman attempting to stop a pageant from being rigged and prevent a microcomputer circuit from being smuggled into France.  On Monday, March 21 our class watched an episode of Bionic Woman titled “Bionic Beauty.”  The opening scene shows the braless and liberated Jaime Somers carrying an oversize heavy log into her home.  Within minutes, she has already revealed her physical strength and certainly does not need a man’s help for any heavy lifting.  Jaime is persuaded to go under cover as a Miss United States pageant contestant to prevent the contest from being rigged and find a microcomputer circuit that is about to be smuggled out of the country.  At first she opposes the job but Oscar convinces her by saying, “I can’t send a man into this job!”  Jaime reluctantly agrees and puts on the Miss California sash and immediately states, “I hate it.”  Jaime’s hatred for beauty pageants is exemplified by her rejection of the sash.  Jaime is the first character we have encountered in this class that seems to reject the modern standard of beauty.

Jaime rejecting the Miss California sash

Helen poses as her chaperon while she is competing in the pageant.  Upon her arrival, a list of rules is outlined by a supervisor, “No liquor of any kind, no cigarettes, no men, and a bed curfew of 11:00pm.”  Helen responds, “That’s reasonable” and Jamie retorts, “Reasonable?! That’s horrible!”  This statement demonstrates that Jamie, like Casey Jones, Pepper, and Flo, drinks, smokes, and likes men…she is a far stretch from the typical Donna Reed character we saw earlier in the semester.  According to the announcer, Ray Raymond, “The contest will be judged on poise, beauty, and intelligence…the qualities that distinguish an ordinary woman from extraordinary.”  Although the contest claims it judges contestants on intelligence and appearance the only section they even allow the females to speak is during the final question and answer period which lasts about thirty seconds.

Miraculously, Jamie can sing when the talent portion of the competition begins!  She performs “Feelings,” a chart topping song of the 1970s, in a loose-fitting top and pants.  Jaime’s song choice and attire contradict itself.  “Feelings” is thought to be one of the sappiest, “girlish” love songs of all time however, her attire sends off an appearance of a liberated and non-traditional woman.

The supervisor and security guards eventually notice that Jaime is acting suspicious and order her spend the day in her room.  “Next time she steps out of line will be her last time,” said a security guard.  “I think you better spend the rest of the day in your room,” said the supervisor.  This was an interesting scene in the episode because it shows the power that men have to simply whisk her away and confine her to her room.  After her room captivity, the swimsuit competition began.  Jaime expresses discomfort due to her minimal clothing, “I feel like a side of beef.”

Before the final event, Jaime is caught searching for the microcomputer and is knocked unconscious.  Jaime proved her mental and physical strength again when she woke up from her unconscious state, busted out of the room on her own, and still managed to compete in the evening wear competition.

In the end, Jaime finds the microcomputer circuit, wins the title of Miss America, and catches the criminals.  Oscar is impressed and remarks, “And all this time I thought you were just a pretty face.”  Clearly, Oscar is stunned that a woman could be both attractive and brainy.

This episode had many similarities to the year 2000 film, Miss Congeniality, starring Sandra Bullock as a “tom-boy” cop forced to go undercover as Miss New Jersey.  The episode also had many political ties as well.  1968 was a milestone year due to the following events: the Miss America protest, Nixon takes office, Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, war protests, the ongoing Vietnam war, and the hippie movement. In 1968, controversy occurred when women’s rights activists protested the pageant and held up signs saying, “Miss America Cattle Auction,” crowned a live sheep Miss America, and chanted “Atlantic city is a town with class. They raise your morals and judge your ass.”  This episode describes Jaime as both physically attractive and independent.  However, Helen is still depicted as a pushover that will do anything you ask of her.

“Policewoman”

On March 16, 2011 our class viewed a television show called Policewoman that aired in 1974 starring Angie Dickinson as a female cop.  Dickinson’s character, Sgt. “Pepper” Anderson, is a sexy undercover agent with amplified hair for the Los Angeles Police Department.  “In Policewoman, the barrier against women having the title role in a cop show was broken”(Douglas 209).  The opening scene for the episode, “The Beautiful Die Young” combines a series of shots of Pepper’s legs, hair, breasts, and episode specific voiceovers asking, “Have you ever seen a porno?”  Even from the opening scene, I knew this television episode would have the most sexual overtones of all the shows we have watched thus far.

This episode investigates Ted Adrian’s business, Classic Modeling Agency.  Adrian sex trafficks young girls overseas or makes them into porn stars.  Bonnie June, a young girl, is swayed into Adrian’s scam because she truthfully wants to pursue a modeling career.  Within ten minutes of meeting Adrian, he asks her if she’d like do be in a porno film.  Bonnie June, age fifteen, responds by seductively biting her lip.  Later on, Adrian remarks, “Speaking of legs, I’d like to see yours.”  The body language and dialogue between Adrian and the young girl are unbearably awkward to watch.

Meanwhile, Pepper and Crowley visit the Police Academy to find a woman to go undercover and pose as a young model to get close to Adrian’s business.  The Police Academy appeared to have equal amounts of men and women enrolled and working alongside men.  However, this equation does not hold true at Pepper’s police station; she is the only “lady cop.”  The scantily clad undercover cop even makes a reference to feeling “like a piece of meat.”  This comment links to Jamie’s remark from the show Bionic Woman when she says “I feel like a side of beef” before the swimsuit competition.

Pepper also goes undercover to speak with Rex, a stereotypical black “player,” that is also involved in Adrian’s business.  “The gorgeous, blond, and husky-voiced Pepper’s main job as a cop was to go undercover as a prostitute, stripper, gangster’s moll, or aspiring porno queen to set the black widow’s trap.  But she wasn’t the predator, she was the prey”(Douglas 210).  During Pepper’s sexually riddled talk with Rex the camera shot is conveniently centered on her breasts.  The obvious camera placement on Pepper’s breasts is laughable by today’s standards.  The sexual references in Policewoman are certainly not discreet.

While Bonnie June is at Adrian’s house he offers her drugs.  Bonnie suggests, “How about some weed or hash?” but Adrian ups the ante and responds, “Nah, that’s kid stuff, how about something stronger, cocaine.”  Bonnie ends up dying at Adrian’s home from a cocaine overdose and Adrian attempts to cover up the death and hides her body.

In the end, Pepper sneaks into Adrian’s home and attempts to find Bonnie’s body but Adrian catches her and as customary ties her up.  It truly did not even seem like she fought back, it seemed like she simply regressed back to an obedient woman and accepted whatever he planned to do with her.  “So the audience got to fantasize briefly about a woman who dared to do a “man’s job” getting her just deserts…Pepper was invariably found out by the bad guys and always had to be rescued by the white, male cavalry, the real cops”(Douglas 210).  So, of course the episode ends with Pepper as a damsel in distress waiting for two men to come and save her.

This is the first time we have viewed a television show that has references to hard drugs, sex, nudity, rape, and pornography.  As a viewer, I cringed and wanted to shout at the television!…Adrian knowingly plans to sell a fifteen year old girl, blatantly flirts with her, anticipates having sex with her, provides her with cocaine, and then kills her.  Although Policewoman has a strong female lead, there is nothing inspiring about her position in society.  The only true power she has is in utilizing her sex appeal.  While we move forward by featuring lead females, we bring it back to falsely respecting women in hopes of “scoring” with them.

“Decoy” vs. “Hazel”

In the episode, “Night of the Fire,” Casey Jones goes undercover as a “generic” female office worker to investigate a fire that occurred in the warehouse.  “Decoy” is a black and white police show that first aired in 1957 that features “policewoman” Casey Jones. The opening introduction is narrated by a female’s voice compared to the typical “strong” voice of a man.  During the first five minutes of the program, the stress that Jones is a “policewoman” not a “policeman” is very evident.

While Jones’ is working undercover, her female co-workers are secretaries and, as usual, her male colleagues are all in positions of authority.  One of Jones’ female colleagues, Michelle, is supposedly mentally unstable and assumed to be the culprit of fire.  Jones’ furthers her investigation by befriending Michelle and mixing “work and play.”  Jones’ and Michelle are shown doing “girl things,” like shopping and attending an office party.  Jones’ seems to be a fairly progressive woman: she drinks, smokes, dances, and goes to parties; in contrast to Donna Reed who is only shown as washing dishes, cooking dinner, and packing her children’s school lunch.

During the office party, Jones embraces her sexuality and entices Joe into a private room.  Jones realizes that Joe is unable to drink alcohol because he’s diabetic, therefore proving his alibi is fabricated.  Jones confirms Joe is guilty of starting the fire and verifies Michelle’s innocence.  “Leave them with proof, not prejudice,” said Jones.  Jones is the first female we have viewed this semester that is a smart working woman in a “man’s job” and sexually attractive.   In close comparison, Betty in “Father Knows Best” was unable to pursue a career in engineering while still remaining a respected female.

Our second viewing was the 1960s television show “Hazel.”  “Hazel” followed the life of Hazel Burke, an optimistic and friendly live-in maid for the Baxter family.  Hazel’s self-described job title is “domestic engineer,” which relates to Rosalee’s coursework in “domestic science.”  Hazel comments that men have it easier than women when she says, “Us ants[women] have got work to do but you grasshoppers[men] just go ahead and enjoy yourself.”

During the episode “Hazel’s Winning Personality,” Hazel and her friend attend a class about how to be well-liked and develop a “winning personality.”  The class is made-up entirely of women and taught by a man, who presumably already has a wonderful personality.  After the class, Hazel and her friend try out their new personalities by complimenting anyone who crosses their path.  Hazel admires a woman’s hat and soon she is invited over to her home for lunch.  She praises the beauty of her home, which ultimately causes Mrs. Baxter to lose an interior-decorating job.  Mrs. Baxter is angered by Hazel’s “new found sweetness” and remarks, “try to keep the sugar in the sugar bowl.”

In the previous television shows we’ve watched, women have typically been depicted as kind and never angry.  This is the second time we have seen a woman as “too nice.”  For example, Donna Reed’s dinner guest suggested that she wouldn’t be mad even if her husband cheated on her.  Donna Reed, like Hazel, adjusted her personality for a brief period until it eventually caused problems.  Donna changed her personality from “sweet” to more demanding and Hazel amplified her own sweetness by increasing the number and frequency of compliments.  In this episode the differences in gender communication become clear.  The man who Hazel’s friend wants to date communicates in stereotypically male format by using simple remarks such as, “nah and yup.”  On the other hand, Hazel’s friend communicates like a clichéd “chatty” female that often elaborates on irrelevant information.

Hazel’s compliments led to problems and Casey questions Joe’s authority and solves the crime.  Casey Jones and Hazel are both single working women that do not seem concerned with acquiring husbands.

“The Goldbergs” vs. “Betty the Engineer”

Class date: February 23, 2011

The Goldbergs was an American sitcom that aired in the early 1950s. The black and white show follows the life of a Jewish family, the Goldbergs, and their life in the Bronx. Similar to Donna Reed, Gertrude Berg was the creator, principle writer and star of her own weekly show.  Behind the scenes, Gertrude was not the passive woman she played on television, just like Donna Reed.

During the episode “The Singer,” Rosalie displays singing talent and Gertrude wants to enroll her in expensive $25/hour voice lessons.  Rosalie’s entire family, mother, father, uncle, and even neighbor, all become enthralled by her talent and are immediately invested into her future as the next big “singing icon.”

From the beginning, it is clear that Rosalie’s family is more excited about her singing talent than Rosalie is herself.  Her family begins to take excessive precautions to avoid harm to her beautiful voice. At dinner, Gertrude forbids her from eating the fish, “Not that fish, dear, that fish has bones!  For you[Rosalie], a fillet…I wouldn’t want a bone in your lung!”

Gertrude continues to coach her from the sidelines before Rosalie’s vocal “try out.”  After the lesson, Rosalie is told that she truly does not have enough singing talent to move forward.  Rosalie truly isn’t disappointed herself but rather due to her mother and family. Rosalie says, “It’s not myself I feel badly for, it’s my mother.  I just don’t want her to feel bad.”  The family continues to make financial sacrifices even after the singing teacher’s costly recommendation of $75 in voice lessons each week.  Even wealthy Uncle Simon decides to pay a visit to the Goldberg’s and offers to help pay for the voice lessons.  Gertrude’s husband and Simon ask to have a private conversation so, as you would expect all the women quickly retreat to “their natural habitat,” the kitchen.

Dad said, “When you’ve had the opportunity to help other times, you haven’t! But now when you have a chance for positive self-reflection you want it!”

Simon retorts, “You don’t deserve such a gifted child!”

In the end, Rosalie tells her family the truth about her lack of vocal talent and that she truly does not need singing lessons.  The family is only mildly disappointed and with a grin Gertrude tells Rosalie, “You’d better change your curriculum back to domestic science!”

Rosalie’s “career” as a singer is clearly an extremely important family decision, as confirmed by Gertrude’s adjustment of dinner, her coaching, the family’s funds spent on lessons and coaching, and Uncle Simon’s contribution of money.  In general, this episode points out that Rosalie’s two options in life are singing or a career in “domestic science.”  This episode also confirms that family unity is unquestionably the main importance.  “The Singer” reiterates that a woman’s place is in the home, specifically the kitchen, Gertrude and Rosalie confirm this as they flee into the kitchen when asked to leave by the men and through Gertrude’s daily conversations with Daisy through the kitchen window of the house.

 

"Father Knows Best": The family gathered around the father

The 1950s television show Father Knows Best follows the Anderson family’s daily life.  The Anderson family represents the 1950s ideal suburban family in a Midwestern town.  In the episode “Betty the Engineer,” Betty decides she would like to attend an engineering career day to get hands on experience for post high school opportunities.  However, Betty undergoes discrimination even before attending the job.  As she signs up for the engineering career day, a teacher warns her and says, “I suggest you sign up for secretarial work.”  Betty disregards the teacher and remains eager to start her career in engineering.  Betty informs her parents of the decision to be a part of the surveying crew.  Betty’s mother is horrified and attempts to coax her into rejecting the job by showing her a new dress that she purchased for her.  Betty’s father, Jim, is convinced that Betty will forget about the engineering “dream” and move on.  “Oh, she’ll give it up and take up something like crocheting,” said Jim.

On the morning of the job, Betty’s little sister remarks, “Hey, is that your engineering costume? Boy, there’s a mixed up kid.”  At about age 6, Betty’s younger sister already understands that engineering is a male’s job, and simply not for girls.  Betty decides to change her name to B.J. so she isn’t rejected by the surveying crew.  Dark and dreary music plays in the background the moment the surveying crew finds out “B.J.” is a female.  On her first assignment she is harassed by, Doyle Hobbs, who believes that a woman’s place is in the home. Doyle remarks, “You’re a girl and you’ve got an obligation to be one.  A woman’s place is in the home.”

After her first day on the job, Betty is discouraged but continues to read “silly engineering books” all day.  After work, Doyle arrives at the Anderson’s home with chocolates in hand and requests to speak with Betty.  Betty hurries to her room and puts on her brand new dress to greet Doyle.  Doyle explains his reasoning for being impolite to her while on the job, which turns out to be the same reason he declared earlier…she’s a girl.  Doyle defends himself by saying, “It just don’t seem right, a girl engineer.  Who are the guys going to come home to if she’s working?”

Somehow, Doyle’s speech wins over Betty and she giddily accepts his offer for a date on Saturday night and ultimately gives up on her dreams of an engineering career.

Both episodes, “The Singer” and “Betty the Engineer” depict young girls attempting to develop their talents for careers in either singing or engineering.  Both girls give up on their dreams and eventually decide to pursue more “realistic” goals such as “domestic science” and homemaker.  Rosalie and Betty both resemble Donna Reed because they initially “rebel” to pursue more “meaningful” roles. The girls, like Donna Reed, end up returning to their previous submissive ways.  Betty’s mother embodies “sweet” Donna Reed characteristics; she is perfectly dressed with her hair fixed and has an apron on at all times and of course topped with a sugary attitude.