Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Final Post!

My first post relevant to my topic of Gender and Desperate Housewives was post 3 in which I explained to the reader what generated my interest in this topic and why I thought it would be an accurate site of analysis of popular culture. I clearly stated that I was a fan of the show and didn’t analyze the traits of gender, race, class, or sexuality in the characters until I started this project. This was the first shift in my topic when I had to push aside my perceptions of the show as a viewer of entertainment and begin taking into account the inequalities produced through the reinforcement of prevailing societal values and norms. When I began analyzing the messages conveyed by the characters I quickly became aware of the hegemonic norms being reinforced through the show.

There is little diversity in the all of the characters race, class, and sexuality. The main characters are all straight, middle to upper class Caucasian women in their late 30’s, early 40’s. There is the exception of the Latino, ex-model, Gabrielle however her ethnicity and background as a Latino never truly surfaces on the show, in that she never embraces her diversity or uses it in the context of the show. The only indication that she is in fact from a Latino descent is the accent in her husbands’ voice when he pronounces her name. As I also mentioned in post 3, the Applewhite’s consisting of a mother and her two sons were the only African American family to EVER appear on the show! They failed to return the next season because one of the sons was a murderous rapist who was shot and the other who was mentally ill was blamed for his brothers’ murder. Bree’s son came out as the only gay character that holds a prominent position throughout the series. However Bree abandons him after she can no longer put up with his malicious attitude and finds him in bed with her boyfriend (her alcohol counselor).

Being a teenage, middle class, female who watched Desperate Housewives as a source of entertainment on Sunday nights, these examples of hegemonic values and norms portrayed by the show were invisible to me until I began watching through the lens of normative popular culture with gender inequalities in mind. I was so entertained and transfixed to the plot turns and deception amongst the characters that these subliminal messages were so implicit to me. Maybe if I was an African American teenage girl from a low class family I would’ve been aware from the first couple of episodes of the social norms produced by the show. To me these norms were disseminated on the covert level but that probably isn’t the case for viewers with race, sexuality, and class, opposite to the prevalent and hegemonic characteristics of the characters on the show. If you’re a viewer looking for support in hegemonic norms through the context of a TV show, Desperate Housewives is the place to find it.

The next shift in my topic is when I related gender, class, race, and sexuality to motherhood and the emphasis on idealistic families in Desperate Housewives. Every female character on Desperate Housewives struggles with the attempt of obtaining that perfect, idealistic picture of a family throughout the series. This struggle is intentionally portrayed to serve as a source of comfort to the audience of mothers who are also trying to achieve idealistic families, although it’s impossible. The producers could make the show resemble idealistic families but then no one would want to watch it because no one can relate to having an idealistic family. People find comfort in knowing that they aren’t the only ones struggling and they find satisfaction in seeing that other people also have problems and that some are more extreme then their own, even if its only on TV. Hegemonic norms are being reproduced through this depiction. Stay at home moms and women in general are being reassured through this series that the idealistic family is also unattainable to beautiful women living in beautiful houses on TV.

I think that Desperate Housewives gives a very empowering representation of motherhood. However this representation is sometimes concealed by the scandals and drama unfolding by the women. There is an obvious bond between the mothers and their children apparent to the viewer when the show strays away from the murders and the lies and reinforces the hegemonic motherly role most women and mothers can identify with. The role of women as a primary caregiver is a perfect example of “Hegemony that requires ideological assertion becomes self-evident cultural assumptions” (Lull). In our culture, it is an assumption that the female takes on the loving, and caring role in a child’s life. The only time a character was portrayed as a “bad mother” was when Bree deserted her son. However Bree isn’t portrayed as having the most stable state of mind either. I think mothers and women in general can associate with this bond whether they think of their own mother or their own children. Behind all of the drama displayed in the show and the chaos in their own lives, female viewers can associate with this emotional bond between mother and child.

I also found that the show did in some ways disrupt prevailing norms, for example through the most obvious and bold display of its name, Desperate Housewives. I don’t think any woman wants the word “desperate” as a title which is why it draws my attention. Many overwhelmed and underappreciated mothers and wives may in fact feel desperate at some points in their lives. They may feel desperate for help, attention, appreciation, love, and respect, which is why I think so many women have found this show compelling. It takes four everyday women living on a picture perfect street and transforms them into sexy, mischievous, and desirable females who like the viewer, has problems too. Desperate Housewives empowers women who may feel that their young days have passed and that they are now at the mercy of their husband and children. It demonstrates strength in women and serves as an outlet to exhausted mothers.

The messages conveyed by the characters in the show became very clear to me through my analysis and the feedback I received throughout the semester. I understand my topic differently in that although the show might empower women it also reinforces stereotypical norms. Using gender as the primary source of analysis as well as race, class, and sexuality and relating them not only to the way the characters are portrayed but also to the portrayal of motherhood and families, really helped my understanding of the topic.

Lull, James. “Hegemony”. Dines, Gail. Gender, Race, and Class in Media, 62.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Blog buddy work with Liz, Author of Desperate for Desperate Housewives

Where has your Blog buddy shown strong analytical work (be specific—is it a particular post, a type of analysis, a site for analysis that seemed to click more so than others, etc)?

I believe that blog post #3 was very strong analytical work. The blog post was very concise and to the point. I definitely got an understanding how “Desperate Housewives” enforces both hegemonic and counterhegemonic norms. I especially loved the way the quotes were used. The quote about black men being sexual monsters is extremely relevant, for it enforces the point my blog buddy was trying to make about the black characters being portrayed on the show in a negative light.

How could your Blog buddy use this strength for the final Blog post and presentation?

The quotes being used to answer the assignments so far have been really relevant. It’s definitely more important to have a few quotes that are relevant from one source than a lot of quotes from many sources. Continue to use 1-2 sources and only use quotes that are applicable to the assignment, even if that means only 1-2 quotes are used. A couple of really good quotes will show you have a grasp of the material and give you plenty of room to give your own analysis. I think the analysis you did on idealistic families is great! Perhaps you can quotes about the family and talk about idealistic families in your final blog post if possible.

Think about the following statements in relation to your Blog buddy’s Blog and then provide feedback on each area (constructive praise/criticism):

The Blog is on a topic that has been clearly evident in the Blog posts throughout the semester

With the exception of the first blog post and the extra credit assignment, every single blog post has been analyzing “Desperate Housewives.” Every single post about “Desperate Housewives” mentions some sort of gender message given by the show. In addition, my blog buddy mentions other issues that intersect with gender, such as race, class and sexuality.

The Blog is on a topic that seems to interest my Blog buddy

My blog buddy definitely seems to be interested in her topic. She gives tons of examples from “Desperate Housewives,” proving that she must watch the show. She even admits to being an “avid viewer” of the show since it first aired! She found lots of great articles!
My Blog buddy’s topic is one that has produced a good set of posts that were analytical used gender as a primary category of analysis

The posts make analytical arguments.

Each post mentions gender as the primary category of analysis. Other issues such as race and class are mentioned as well, but she makes sure to link these issues to gender. She makes sure to steer away from her opinion as much as possible, and notes that it is a difficult thing to do. Each post answered the question at hand and usually stayed on topic.

The posts are understandable and each post logically outlines and supports the argument presented.

My blog buddy mentions how she originally did not analyze what “Desperate Housewives” says about pop culture. By stating this and then analyzing the many things the show does say about pop culture, she shows that she now can see that it’s more than just a T.V. show. Her posts discuss idealistic families, motherhood, race, working women, etc. She does not psychoanalyze the individual character, but rather points out what the actions of the characters say about popular culture.

The posts were clear, provided insight, evidence, and analysis to connect the topic with the assignment for each of the posts

The posts are short, sweet, and to the point. This makes the posts relatively easy to understand. They are logical and each paragraph tends to stick to one particular point rather than jumping from point to point all over the place.

The sources cited in each post are relevant to the topic and help to aid the understanding of the argument and/or assisted in proving the argument.

The posts always answered the question asked. There were plenty of examples given from the show that proved the point my blog buddy was trying to make. My partner made sure not to give opinions. She kept herself distanced enough from what she was writing to simply analyze and not judge. The points made applied with the topic she was addressing.

The quotes used illustrate a broad range of course readings throughout the semester.

The posts did not exceed the 1-2 sources recommended per post. Not that many quotes were used, which helped my partner find more effective quotes (quality over quantity). The quotes showed that my blog buddy had a grasp on the readings and how they applied to her topic.

The quotes were clear and succinct; additionally, the material was presented so that I could differentiate the Blog buddy’s ideas from that of the author cited.

My blog buddy used quotes from the King Kong article, the Kilbourne article, two chapters in the “Gender, Race, and Media book, and the Courtney Love article. This was definitely a wide enough range of articles for the assignment. The topics ranged from black men and porn to motherhood, which really gives the blog a lot of variety and covers a lot of important points about gender and pop culture.

I thought it was great when you...

I thought it was great when you brought up race issues several times in your blog posts. I think the fact that the only black characters on the show were portrayed as violent gives the viewer a huge message about race. It’s also important that you mention how the black son has a mental disability. The few depictions of African Americans on the show are being depicted as defective in some way, which is giving the viewer an extremely powerful message.

I found it confusing when you…

I was a little confused when my blog buddy referred to “the normative perception of a ‘housewife’ in U.S. society. What is this perception? I think more detail needs to be given about what a housewife is perceived in order to make that point valid. Try to be specific and not use broad terms such as society if possible.

You’re really great at…

My blog buddy is great at using relevant quotes in the assignments that pertain to the point they are trying to make in their blog posts. The quotes are always blended into sentences and never sound choppy and awkward. They are very concise and to the point.

I wish you could focus (more) on/alter/edit/explain/expand on/etc these three things…

I think you should focus more on how sexuality is portrayed on “Desperate Housewives.” It is mentioned briefly in a post about one of the housewife’s sons, but I think the sexuality about the actual housewives needs to be discussed.More should be said aboutPerhaps you can focus more on how the show serves as a outlet to overwhelmed and underappreciated wives and mothers.I think you can also focus more on how economics and social class plays a role in the amount of power the housewives on the show have.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Desperate Housewives and Motherhood

In today’s world Motherhood is a term that appears to hold little meaning to many celebrities whose pictures we see plastered on tabloids and on the news, performing some public display of irresponsibility. We’ve seen some holding their babies off of balconies and others driving with their children on their laps. TV shows seem to challenge these outward displays of misconduct by creating strong emotional bonds between mothers and children in numerous series, including Desperate Housewives. Although Desperate Housewives doesn’t portray idealistic families, it accurately depicts compassionate mothers with apparent love towards their children.

It appears that the character Lynette Scavo played by Felicity Huffman, seems to have the closest grasp to an idealistic family out of the four main women of Desperate Housewives. Although she does not represent the idealistic “most extreme conclusion that Mother should stay at home all of the time, providing a stable and safe haven for her child, and embodiment of conservative family values” (Ladd-Taylor, Umansky). She is a mother of four and has a loving and trustworthy husband named Tom. She put her career on hold to care for her family as Tom continued working. However tensions rose between Tom and Lynette when Lynette decided to get back into the workplace and began working at the same company as Tom. Their kids were placed in the daycare facility for working parents at their company, an idea becoming more popular as companies and businesses jump on the “mommy track” and become family friendly workplaces. Lynette was promoted making her Tom’s boss, an event which led to him quitting the company. Tom lost power at the workplace and felt subjected to his wife as she gained authority over him. Tom stayed home with the kids while his wife went to work, allowing him to create the type bond with his children that Lynette has.

Lynette took on her role in motherhood by providing for her family financially while at the same time maintaining her motherly role as a caregiver. In this case there is no “primary” caregiver which is usually associated with the mother. Tom decides to open a pizzeria, an idea which he only dreamt about before quitting his job. Lynette is very concerned about this risky endeavor and the effect it could have on their family’s future financial stability. Tom acts carelessly and seems unconcerned about the risk he is about to take while Lynette raises awareness about paying for their children to go to college. Lynette’s natural instinct as a mother is apparent in her concern for her children’s future well being.

Lynette decides to support her husband and quits her job to be there for him and their family. She feels she can’t stop him from following his dream so she gives up her job to make sure he does it right and to protect their money. By quitting her job she’s losing power and is falling into the stereotype of women being controlled by their husbands. She had a successful profession and she threw it away protect her children’s future due to the selfishness of their father. I think Lynette takes motherhood to an entire different level through maintaining a career and a family and especially through sacrificing her career for the benefit of her children.

Ladd-Taylor, Molly and Umansky, Lauri. “Bad” Mothers. The Politics of Blame in Twentieth-Century America. 1998.