Monday, November 30, 2009
1. The Institute for Applied Autonomy, iSee
For this project, the (h)activist group created an interactive map of all the known (and in many cases unknown) CCTV surveillance systems in place throughout Manhattan. The software included with the map allowed users to chart out "the path of least resistance" (the route containing the fewest number/ or no surveillance footage. This project, understandably generated much controversy both for its potential as a tool for criminal activity and (from the left) for their condemnation rather than re purposing or democratization of surveillance technologies.
2. Jill Magid, System Azure
A more whimsical approach taken by the Amercian artist Jill Magid, who was able to convince Dutch officials to contract her fake company (System Azure) to decorate the the city's surveillance systems with rhinestones. Though this project was more symbolic than utilitarian, it was successful (for better or worse) at defusing the symbolic authority that the image of the surveillance camera holds.
3. David Brin, The Transparent Society
Lastly, the most explicit argument for the repurposing of surveillance technology can be found in Science fiction writer David Brim's novel The Transparent Society. Though more than twenty years old, the novel predicts much of the surveillance society in effect today. The book, set twenty years in the future, imagines a city (much like ours) where surveillance is ubiquitous. But rather than being monitored by an authoritative body "every citizen could access an image of every street corner." Brin goes on to address issues of privacy by proposing "cameras, both individual and state owned would be banned in certain public (and private) places, but not in the police stations where they would be ever pointed inwards." Brin's city is one built on trust rather than control and while its implementation is strictly utopian, it provides insight into the potential usage of certain technologies.
The Sturken and Cartwright chapter titled, Modernity: Spectatorship, Power, and Knowledge, focuses on the concept of “gaze.” Gaze is defined as, “a field”, or “a world of meaning” (103). These gazes, Sturken and Cartwright explain, adhere and reinforce dominant ideologies and hegemonies. However, more recently, these gazes have been challenged and have been turned on their head.
The original concept of gaze is built upon the notion of the women as “objects of the male gaze” (123). However, like in the movie, Thelma & Louis, females have become more and more in control of the camera, “belying the dominant view that women are objects, not subjects, of the gaze” (130).
This Thelma & Louis structured gaze is also evident in the newly released movie, New Moon. The movie features Taylor Lautner (Jacob Black) as an extremely buff werewolf with a nasty six-pack. Prior to the opening on the movie, tabloids and entertainment shows hyped up the actor’s body so much, that it became a major reason for viewers (mainly teenage girls) to buy tickets. By doing this, Summit Entertainment effectively challenges the old idea of a male-dominated gaze and reinvents it to attract its female viewers.
I'm sure you're all familiar with the stereotype that girls don't read comics and how totally inaccurate it is. So if girls are reading comics just as much as boys, then why is that the majority of comic book writer and illustrators are still writing/drawing comics according to the male gaze. In Practices of Looking, Sturken and Cartwright speak of the male gaze (first introduced by Laura Mulvey in 1975). The male gaze is described as "the patriarachal unconcious, positioning women represented in films as objects (124). The male gaze is one of power and works to "disempower those before its look" (125). When applied to comic books, the artist makes the assumption, consciously or not, that everyone looking at the image is a heterosexual man,who objectifies women just like him. So, what we see in comics is presented through the man's view.
Frank Miller and Jim Lee's All Star Batman and Robin is the perfect example. Here's the cover of the third issue, showing how Batman is seen and how Black Canary is seen:
In another issue of the comic, we are graced with the lovely presence of Vikki Vale's butt:
Looking at this image and the script Frank Miller sent to co-writer Jim Lee (see below) it's easy to see how the male gaze is employed in comics.
When Frank Miller says, “We can’t take our eyes off her” he is speaking directly of an audience that he presumes to be male, and the following “Especially since she’s got one fine ass” says loud and clear that her sexualized portrayal is for the pleasure of that heterosexual male viewer. Viki Vale is the quintessential example of being watched by male watchers: the writer/director (Frank Miller), his artist, and the presumed male audience that buys the book.
Foucault's concept can be applied to many instances across our society: surveillance cameras are just one of the many examples. It is interesting to see the difference in people's actions when they know they are being watched versus when they think they are not watched.
But the entire debate reminded me of my favorite book from high school that we read one time. I'm talking about George Orwell's "1984" of course. The book is a brilliant dystopian fiction that tells a story of a man named Winston Smith who works for The Party that controls the lives of all the people living in Oceania, through the use of constant surveillance in the form of telescreens that constantly show the face of the ultimate ruler, The Big Brother. I absolutely love the book, and I think that it is a great fictional novel to read for all those of you who still haven't. It tells a crazy story with a crazy and unexpected ending, and it leaves you wanting more. Below, I allowed myself to paste a trailer for the 1984 movie that came out in ... 1984. :) Hope you enjoy.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Will's storyline is less focused on his identity as a homosexual individual and in fact, the gayest character on the show is seen through Karen Walker, an over-the-top rich socialite. The relationship between Will and Grace also seems heterosexual because it satsfies narrative and social conventions. Although their relationship is queer or gay, the writers make it seem like it is heterosexual.
Will and Jack are extreme opposites in terms of how gay men are represented on television. By making the character of Will sexually mbiguous, the producers of Will and Grace are not overusing the gay agenda and succeeds in appeaing to differends kinds of audiences.
The film Three To Tango exploits many of the elements of the gay man/straight woman relationship that Shugart points out. In the movie, Matthew Perry is Oscar, who is mistakenly identified as gay by his boss. His boss then asks him to spy on his girlfriend Amy (played by Neve Campbell)by befriending him. Oscar instantly falls in love with Amy, but is unable to reveal his true identity because of his professional goals. Therefore, Oscar and Amy begin hanging out and take on many of the qualities of the gay man/straight woman relationship.
Because Oscar isn't really gay, their relationship especially exemplifies a texts that "satisfy heteronormative desires that posit heterosexuality as unambiguous and constant, and homosexuality thus becomes the discursive practice by which heterosexuality is renormalized" (76).
When reading Shugart’s piece I found myself to be very familiar with many of the popular film and television titles referred too, especially the films. The majority of the movies used as examples of relationships between homosexual men and heterosexual woman are romantic comedies. This is interesting to consider due to the fact that you expect when this genre comes up to have the main characters both be heterosexual and tell a story about their relationship. However, Shugart points out that the stories between homosexual men and heterosexual women demonstrate similar stories because the gay male role is generally portrayed in a heterosexual light. One of my all time favorite movies is My Best Friends Wedding. Julia Roberts plays the heterosexual lead, Jules while Rupert Everett plays the homosexual male, George. The film creates a romantic storyline for Jules and George in an attempt for Jules to win back the man she actually loves. What’s interesting is in my opinion even when George is seen as her fiancé, he still carries a lot of the homosexual tendencies for me and in my opinion it really feels like he is playing the act of the homosexual man as intended as opposed to other films mentioned such as Object of My Affection or shows like Will & Grace. Shugart claims that even if they gay men are involved in homosexual relationships, they are not as successful as their relationships with the heterosexual women indicated that their “gay identities are ambiguous and potentially pliable,” (p.76). Also, these roles “satisfy heteronormative desires.”
Monday, November 23, 2009
Take Project Runway for example. And to be honest, I didn't even know Tim Gunn was gay until maybe the second season. He definitely fit the gay man that is portrayed by mainstream media. First of all, he exhibits traits that are given to male leads, such as being "handsome, ... and physically fit" (74). Furthermore, Gunn serves as the "wise gay man" as he is the guru that gives advice to all the contestants of the show (83). They need his advice for the show's plot to be driven forward. His comments are important in helping the viewer negotiate the outcome of each episode. Also, Tim fits under the criteria of the gay serving "as straight enlightenment" (70). Again, he is the guiding light to all the sometimes clueless contestants on the show. It also seems like his only purpose on the show as well.
Here is a photo of Tim Gunn in a comic!
Boys Don't Cry (1999)
Our Song (2000)
Link to Trailer (couldn't figure out how to embed)
Maria Full of Grace (2004)
City of God (Cidade de Deus) (2002)
All movies are at Avery Fisher / Bobst.
Shugart’s article rendered that the media employ gay characters to legitimize and stabilize male heteronormative ideologies. On of the ways they successfully do this is through the common coupling of the straight female and the homosexual male.
This straight female, gay male pairing is depicted in the ever-expanding and popular series, The Real Housewives. In the Real Housewives of New York City, housewife Jill relies on the help and advice of “gay boyfriend,” Brad. The relationship that the two characters have is comedic as Brad assumes many of the roles that a traditional, heterosexual husband would minus the physical attraction. In calling Brad the “gay husband,” Jill reinforces Shugart’s claim that the homosexual, “function[s] as foils against which the leading men emerge as more traditionally masculine and, thus, more consistent with mainstream tropes of hetereosexuality. (72)”
Positioning Brad in this way not only strengthens the masculinity of all the other heterosexual male characters on the show, but also further downplays Brad’s expression of gayness. The fact that he is never pictured as coupled with another male and is only ever seen when next to Jill reveals a sense that his homosexual relationships are “lacking in comparison to the easy simpatico characterizing their primary relationships with [Jill]- these depictions render the male characters’ gay identities as ambiguous and potentially pliable. (76)” This again, renormalizes heterosexuality.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Have you guys seen Adam Lambert's 2009 AMA's Performance?
Lambert is openly gay. He came out after the season of American idol ended.
now.. there's a ton of different sexual and (for that matter) queer references in this video. But I was SHOCKED when 0:32 came up... Really Adam Lambert?!
What do you guys think?
The Latest Show on Earth - 02/19/08 - Part 2 - Watch a funny movie here
Ciasullo talks about two predominant lesbian images that are evident throughout the mainstream media. She mentions the "butch" and the "femme." The former, she argues, is the stereotypical image of a lesbian, wearing male clothing, no make-up, and erasing all traces of being a female. She appears to be tough, strong, almost like a male. The latter description, Ciasullo argues, represents lesbian identity in a different form. it "normalizes the heterosexual" image of what it means to be a female, and even though a woman is a lesbian, she looks like a woman, and there is no correlation with being the stereotypical "butch."
So I was looking through many ad campaigns for designers, and I came across couple of images that might be interpreted in a similar way that the ads we analyzed on Thursday did.
The Versace Fall-Winter '08 Campaign
And here is the Marc Jacobs Fall-Winter '08 Campaign.
(it is actually worth noting that this campaign used the two singers from the group called TATU, who made their career by making their lesbian relationship public, and a part of their group).
Friday, November 20, 2009
Sorry for the multiple posts, here's a really fascinating article about trans-gendered students that was in the New York Times Magazine last year (accompanied by a series of beautiful portraits.) The article not unlike the Sundance series we watched in class follows the lives of a number of trans-gendered students, but while the television show looks at a range trans-gender students, this article is specifically focuses on FTM trans-students at women's colleges and some of the issues they present (social, emotional and bureaucratic)
Here's some info on the show I brought up in class yesterday. The exhibition, Hard Targets, which was on view earlier this year at The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and explored images of masculinity (and homoeroticism) in profession sports. Here's the exhibition statement (courtesy of LACMA) and the picture above (Shaun El C. Leonard's Self Portrait (Promotional) courtesy of the artist), if you're interested there's more information and a wonderful essay by Christopher Bedford here:
Mark Bradford, Harun Farocki, Brian Jungen, Shaun Leonardo, Collier Schorr, and Joe Sola—the six artists included in Contemporary Projects 11: Hard Targets-Masculinity and Sport —all work to revise the time-honored archetype of the male athlete as an aggressive, overtly heterosexual, hyper-competitive, and emotionally remote subject. Instead, they offer opposing views of masculinity and sport, and of the entire theatre of athletic play, including the rituals and accoutrements that surround this intimate, male dominated world. Each examines the way masculinity is characterized and performed in a sporting context, and each suggests the existence of complex systems of desire and identification that accompany the way we view and consume athletes and sporting events
However, even though the media has made a huge leap in its representation of homosexuals in the media, it definitely still has its limitations. For instance, Tila ultimately chooses a male over the lesbian in the final round, succumbing to the more conventional form of heterosexual relationships. I’m not sure if she really did like the male contestant more (doubtful), but I think the producers must have told her to pick the male as it might have been too controversial if she picked the female contestant. Furthermore, recently there has been controversy regarding Adam Lambert’s portrayal in the media. In a recent magazine interview he had with Out Magazine, his own publicist actually told the editor of Out magazine not to make the interview come across as too gay, even though Out magazine is specifically catered to a gay audience! Lambert on the cover of Out Magazine:
Thursday, November 19, 2009
However, Doty, in his book, does use the word queerness to relate to “any expression that can be marked as contra-, non-, or anti-straight.” What is interesting to me is his exploration in the shift of how gay men view the (idolized) women in their lives. Throughout history, feminine gay men had idolized women star and Doty refutes that this is because of “envy, jealousy, misogyny, and cruelty” (qtd. in Doty). He asserts that as we moved into the 80s, Madonna becomes a gay icon and she is not like past idolized starlets because she is “not a vulnerable toy.” I don’t want to start any controversy by saying that Lady Gaga is the new Madonna. But I can associate Lady Gaga with the idea that she too is not vulnerable. Furthermore, while Perez Hilton is not really a effeminate gay (well, I guess I have seen photos of him in a dress, does that count?), he is at the forefront of the gay community in his support for Lady Gaga, who he calls his “wifey.” From his blog posts, you can tell that he truly appreciates her work and his invested a lot of his time promoting her (whether out of love or of business opportunities, I don’t know). My point is, he is quite obsessed with her.
Here is a photo of him dressed up as her for Halloween:
Further, Doty expresses that gays are now “directly expressing desire for male images on screen.” This is a shift from previously expressing desire through women stars. Perez Hilton, on his blog, also exemplifies this point. He always write blog posts about the up-and-coming male stars who he deems as “cute” or “hot” and expressing his wish for them to be his “boy toy.” For example, one of his current “boy toy” obsession is Zac Effron.
Perez likes to draw hearts around Zac Effron and pronounces that he is "seksi:"
I should preface this by saying I know little about video games and even less about the Grand Theft Auto franchise, but still this commercial (which has been in heavy network and cable circulation this fall) struck me as a little odd.
The latest installment of the successful series follows the rise (and fall) of a prominent nightclub owner Anthony Prince better known as "Gay Tony." Despite his overt homosexuality, Tony is widely considered the king of Liberty City, both feared and envied by his competitors and enemies.
From what I have encountered, videogames are rarely progressive and characteristically limited, so this new installment caught me as quite a surprise. Especially GTA, which has been characterized since its inception for its poor representations (beating up hookers, ect.) Given the games controversial history and questionable ethics, I'm not sure what to make of a central character like Gay Tony (for whom the latest game is named.)
While Doty's constructs his analysis using television sitcoms, I found that this argument is relevant in other areas of mass media. It seems that many contemporary lesbian narratives use comedy in order to downplay criticism received from shows such as I Love Lucy. In one example, the film Baby Mama involves two strong female leads. Similar to the sitcoms that Doty analyzes, the movie "finds its happy ending in the work, friendship, and love between two women" (40), which is a key aspect of the lesbian narrative. The "lesbian" jokes in the film seemingly put the viewer at ease as they are simply able to laugh off the tension.
I also believe that Doty's aforementioned theory can be expanded to include public figures. There have been many powerful, smart, and successful women that have been in the public eye that are often depicted as lesbians in the media - Doty himself states that "these misogynistic and homophobic public discursive and media tactics are nothing new, of course" (41). It can be argued that our patriarchal society is threatened by these women who exert these "masculine" qualities, and must therefore justify or inhibit their existence by critiquing them in this way.
Overall, both Doty and Jagose present definitions of "queerness" that go beyond the general use of the term. It will be interesting to see if in the future their inclusive definitions will be accepted by the general population.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
The Queer Theory, as explained by both Jagose and Doty, actually does not define "queer" as synonymous to "gay" or "lesbian." Rather, it is the larger idea that it is "an attitude, a way of responding, that begins in a place not concerned with, or limited by, notions of binary opposition of male and female or the homo versus hetero paradigm usually articulated" (Doty). Like others have pointed out, many gay and lesbian couples are on TV shows now, and aren't always clearly defined in a stereotype. I find it interesting that "queer erotics" are necessary contructs which "define the heterosexual and the straight (as 'not queer')" because the reciprocal doesn't really work that way (Doty 3).
Through the readings, Queer theory is defined as "an umbrella term for a coalition of culturally marginal sexual self-identifications [as well as used to] describe a nascent theoretical model which has developed out of more traditional lesbian and gay studies" (Jagose) While queer is, of course, concerned with sexuality and sexual identity, it challenges the notions that these are fixed and argues for the justification of unstable constructs of sexuality and gender, which Alexander Doty refers to as ‘a place not concerned with, or limited by, notions of a binary opposition of male and female or the homo versus hetero paradigm'. Queerness is certainly inclusive of lesbians and gays, but it is also concerned with alternative expressions of sexuality that, according to Jagose, include "cross dressing, hermaphrodotism, gender ambiguity and gender-corrective surgery." So all in all, it can be understood that queerness is about destabilizing conventional categories, and subverting the identities derived from and normalized by our hegemonic culture.
Using this definition of queer, along with Doty's assertions that many of society's historical texts and television shows/ characters it can be said that cartoon characters such as Spongebob and Patrick (Spongebob Sqaurepants), Rocko and Heifer (Rocko's Modern Life) and of course, Bert and Ernie (Sesame Street) are the ultimate examples of queerness. These characters are certainly not limitied in their identies and are often seen move between those "notions of binary opposition" or ignoring them completely. Not only do they challenge the conventional divisions of human / animal, child / adult, and male / female, all also express the same readings of same-sex identity, behavior, and desire as the films and TV shows described by Doty. These cartoon characters are so succesful in subverting conventional identities and behavior that they may just be the truest illustration (pun intended) of "queer".
I feel like the definition of “queer” in Jagose’s piece Queer Theory, was incredibly broad as it is “associated prominently with lesbian and gay subjects, but its analytic framework also includes such topics as cross-dressing, hermaphroditism, gender ambiguity and gender-corrective surgery”. I guess it pretty much encompasses everything that is not straight. However, in my opinion, I really feel like “queer” is too broad a theory and should be broken down in smaller categories. I feel like hermaphrodites is a much more complicated category and shouldn’t be grouped in the same category as lesbians and gays as it is an actual physical problem where one is born with both female and male genitalia; I feel like hermaphrodites differ from lesbians and gays as having both male and female genitalia might not necessarily affect their sexuality.
For instance, there was a lot of news sensation regarding, Semeya, one of South Africa’s champion runners, and the fact that she was a hermaphrodite. Apparently, she was born with internal testes instead of ovaries and no uterus; however these physical problems didn’t change her sexuality or the fact that she considered herself a woman and ran in the women’s sector. I feel like it is increasingly hard to define gender, should it be based on external or internal qualities? Is one considered female because she has female genitalia or can one be considered female because she feels like she is meant to be female (such as transgenders)? I don’t know if I’m explaining myself clearly, this topic is quite complicated.
I feel as though society has adopted such a casual stance towards the idea of “queers”, and that it has now become a term that is thrown around so casually. For instance, recently there were rumors accusing Lady Gaga of being a hermaphrodite, and she was quoted that, “I have both male and female genitalia, but I consider myself female. It’s just a little bit of a penis and doesn’t interfere much with my life." I’m not sure if this is true, and really don’t think it’s true and that it was just a publicity stunt, however, I feel like queers should be taken more seriously and shouldn’t be left to the media to mock.
A pretty offensive stunt (if it is really not true):
Queer theory, described by Doty in Making Things Perfectly Queer, encompasses a people greater than those of just lesbians and gays. It includes a group that is “politically radical and ‘in your face’: to paradoxically demand recognition by straight culture while at the same time rejecting this culture.” Therefore, claiming something to be “queer,” is claiming it to be anything against the dominant opinion or non-straight.
In rejecting the dominant opinion, something that embodies queerness, Doty explains, is something that exists within, “a flexible space for the expressions of all aspects non (anti, contra-) straight cultural production and reception.”
An example of this kind of queerness is found within the movie highlighted last week, “Bring It On”. The male cheerleader on the Toros cheerleading squad, Jan, is an identifiably heterosexual male who takes queer enjoyment in cheerleading. Although knowingly straight, Jan faces numerous situations where his sexuality is questioned based on the hobby that he enjoys.
When placed in these situations (often interactions with members of the football team), Jan defends himself and his passion for cheering. By standing up for himself and embracing his “queerness,” Jan’s character actively rejects society’s character profile of a heterosexual male. In doing this, Jan does creates the flexible space that Doty says Queer Theory calls for to express aspects of non-straight cultural production.
In Doty's chapter, "I Love Laverne and Shirley," he talks about how the "media and public interest in women-centered series is focused upon potential dissention among the actors." I found this point very interesting, especially as he gave the example of George Cukor's film, "The Women," which was cast with 135 women. Of course the media took fire at this, stereotyping women as catty, jealous, and constantly feuding with each other. Stories depicted the production of the film as "fraught with jealousy and temperament." Cukor negated this statement by saying that in reality, the actors were very professional and "a rather jolly bunch." This brings to light the justification media must make on women-centered shows or films.
This topic reminded me of the feuds that have circulated throughout the entire series of Sex and The City. This show depicts a pride in womanhood, lesbianism, and constructs "narratives that connect an audience's pleasure to the activities and relationships of women-which results in situating most male characters as potential threats to the spectators narrative pleasure." All of this causes the media to counter this empowerment by looking for news that portrays the actors as having problems with each other. I found an article on a gossip column about the Sex and the City feuds that made me feel as though I was reading about a high school cat fight. "While the cast is all smiles on the outside, the level of dislike is unbelievable. No-one is having a good time on this shoot. Kim has been taking every chance to snipe. You could cut the tension with a knife." Sarah Jessica Parker the refuted the issue saying, "I don’t think anybody wants to believe that I love Kim. I adore her. I wouldn’t have done the movie without her. Didn’t and wouldn’t." I found another article that said that there was tension rising over the outfits of the four Sex and the City cast members. This led them to not arrive at the premiere together in their limo but to take separate cars instead, further stating that "they are determined not to be outdone by each other." Is there really nothing else to write about? These articles portray the four actresses as extremely childish and jealous women, which is contrary to their characters on the show. According to Doty, "considering the interests of patriarchal heterosexual culture, it is not surprising most of its media should want to devalue any potential site of woman-centered pleasures in mass cultures, especially when these pleasures fundamentally rely on viewers assuming queer positions." These rumors may or may not be true but you don't see these types of stories circulating around male-centered television shows.
It is funny to see that in general, when people hear the term "queer Theory" they think of homosexuality and being a gay or a lesbian. But in reality, it includes much more than that. As Jagose pointed out in her article, Queer "describes those gestures or analytical models which dramatize inconherencies in the allegedly stable relations between chromosomal sex, gender, and sexual desire."
When I read this definition, a specific media identity comes to my mind; that is Jack from "Will and Grace." He is super-gay, and definitely reflects what it means not to be a heterosexual man.
But the other example that comes to my mind is the show called "The Queer eye for the Straight Guy." It is a show about a group of 5 gay men who are trying to style heterosexual men in order to improve their lives.
Below is a clip. What do you guys think? I think that shows like this, although comical, further the stereotype of what it means to be a homosexual.