Thursday, March 1, 2007

Masculinity and Femininity as Portrayed on "The Girls Next Door"- Part II

In this, and probably every episode of “The Girls Next Door,” Holly, Kendra, and Bridget all portray perfect examples of a feminine figure as portrayed by the media. Women are supposed to have a certain appearance. The three girls are all slim, with dyed blonde hair and large, fake breasts. For the individual shoots that they are doing for an upcoming magazine they all choose very feminine roles. Holly is a Marilyn Monroe-type movie star, Bridget sits in the clutches of King Kong’s giant hand, and Kendra is a football player in a cut-off jersey. Although Kendra’s may not be the most feminine role, she has the other two girls dressed as cheerleaders to accompany her. Women are also supposed to be submissive to men. In an industry where they are already objectifying themselves for the pleasure of men, they work for the approval of Hef instead of for their own personal growth as professional models.

The trait that is missing from the portrayal of these idealistic women is the depiction of any sort of thought that would show that they are intelligent human beings. Although in this episode they are all planning their own photo shoots, including sets and costumes, the focus is instead on the actual shoots themselves, which more or less involve them simply standing around naked.

This episode is a clear example of how the normative definitions of masculinity and femininity are portrayed by the media. Masculinity, as seen through the role of Hugh Hefner, is embodied by dominance and control and lacking in any sort of emotion. Femininity, as seen through the roles of Holly, Kendra, and Bridget, is characterized by submissiveness and an appearance that is appealing to men. What is lacking is the depiction of any kind of thought that would show their intelligence.

These ideals of masculinity and femininity are perpetuated in popular media by shows like “The Girls Next Door,” because people watch these shows and look up to and idealize the main characters. “The problem isn’t society and it isn’t us. It’s the relationship between the two that we have to understand, the nature of the thing we participate in and how we choose to participate in it and how both are shaped in the process” (Johnson, 97). We all participate in the media and pop-culture, and we need to understand that we have a choice about how much and what way we participate in it.


Johnson, Alan G. (1997). “Patriarchy, the System. An it, Not a He, a Them, or an Us. The Gender Knot: Unraveling Our Patriarchal Legacy. Temple University Press.


Jessie said...

Spencer- I think you were wise to watch multiple episodes of the show before writing and your intro is a solid beginning to your blog entry. I'm not sure exactly what happened in the paragraph below:
"On this show, Hugh Hefner is a perfect example of the view of masculinity that is portrayed in today’s media. According to this view, men are supposed to be the dominant figure in a household. Although they are his girlfriends, one gets from watching this show the feeling that Holly, Kendra, and Bridget are merely renting rooms in Hef’s house."
It seems to be out of context with the paragraphs before and after it, has a lot of possible topics for analysis, but then these topics really don't relate to each other. Perhaps this paragraph would be better off's odd to characterize Hef (individually at least) as a perfect example of the way masculinity is portrayed in the media b/c there are so many ways in which he deviates from the norms. You're quite right about the issues of control, approval, dominance, etc. but the part where he deviates from the norm is also highly relevant material for analysis...i.e. 3 20-something year old girlfriends, he's 80, etc. How do the non-normative messages about masc. and fem. serve to reinforce or contradict/challenge these norms?
The second part also contains a slightly problematic generalization where you begin the writing: "In this, and probably every episode of “The Girls Next Door,” Holly, Kendra, and Bridget all portray perfect examples of a feminine figure as portrayed by the media." Don't make gross generalizations if you have to state "probably" (there are multiple examples even in the episodes you're familiar with that don't adhere to this perfect feminine figure...Brigitte & Dad, Kendra & Sports, Holly and wanting commitment out of Hef but still involved in the trio of girlfriends, etc).
You chose to include the pictorial topics--how about the reading on King Kong and hustler as an interesting way to bridge reality TV, porn, and the coursework (particularly b/c it's intriguing when you mention King Kong as the theme of one of the photo shoots)--however, the Johnson quote you chose to use was great, it's just in need of integration into the paragraph/sentence.
For the next blog assignment, use the topic you chose and focus on one thread of commonality to analyze it as a site of production of gender norms. Don't overlook the competing/contradictory messages that affirm and subvert these norms (even in this episode, the girls aren't consistently identifying with the norms or adhering to the gendered ideal).

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