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WIMN’s Voices: A Group Blog on Women, Media, AND…

Damn it. Gossip Girl finally has one great line — but I got there first. (And, last chances to catch WIMN’s fall lecture series.)

jpozners Icon Posted by Jennifer L Pozner

October 27th, 2008

OK, compared to all I’ve complained about related to the media since we founded WIMN’s Voices years ago, what I’m about to gripe about is piddly. But after three years of using this blog to elevate public debate about media, gender and politics, I’m going to indulge in what most people usually use blogs for — getting something off my chest. So I hope you’ll humor me when I say…

…damn it, damn it, damn it! A normally tedious CW show that thinks it’s more creative than it really is finally has a great line (a rich boy who saves a naive girl from a sketchy photographer is called “her knight in shining Armani”) — but I got there first. Regular readers of this blog know I’m working on a book about the political and cultural implications of reality television for Seal Press. My first chapter focuses on the use of fairy tale imagery in reality TV dating, mating and makeover shows, and includes this line:

“On dating shows like ABC’s The Bachelor, erstwhile princesses sit on their aimless asses, fend off fellow ladies in waiting and hope to be whisked away by a network-approved knight in shining Armani.”

The larger context for this pun is a chapter that discusses the intersection of romance and finance in reality TV, where product placement assures that millions of dollars worth of name brand diamonds, designer fashions, high-end sports cars and luxury vacation resorts are positions as fairy tale lynch pins. The “knight in shining Armani” that reality TV portrays as the “prince every girl dreams of” actually does a huge disservice to men by presenting “Prince Charming” as little more than any jerk with a firm ass and a firm financial portfolio. If reality TV infantilizes girls and women in shows that would have us believe the modern American woman wants nothing more than to be rescued by any rich, handsome lunkhead who’ll have us, the genre also demean boys and men by presenting their intelligence, humor and character as wholly irrelevant, so long as they can show us the money.

Back on the CW, the “knight in shining Armani” is just another pun. Which is fine. Except… here’s the thing: since the book won’t be published until the fall, everyone who reads it and happens to watch Gossip Girl (which could happen since, as everyone who loves Bitch magazine knows, pop culture fans and pop culture critics are often one and the same) might assume I cribbed a line of dialog — something I’ve never done and would never do. So although our blog’s very respectable 122,000 unique visits per month can’t compete numbers-wise with network TV viewership, I figured I’d take this moment to mention that, in fact, I’m not ripping off a sentence from a show that glamorizes conspicuous consumption, promotes the age-old double standard of “studly” boy v. “slutty” girl and, most unforgivably, portrays attempted date rape as just another forgivable, forgettable “bad boys will be bad boys” moment from one of the show’s favorite sons.

Now, remember, I said this was piddly. So, I wrote a little pun that ended up also being used on a mediocre teen soap opera. I’m almost embarrassed to be annoyed by it. I mean, don’t I have anything better to do tonight (says the woman about jump on a plane in the morning to visit three cities in two states for a total of three lectures, two media literacy events and one public forum on sexism and racism in media coverage of the elections)?

Oh, right. I do. So, if you live in or near Arkansas or Central Washington, Tacoma or Seattle and care about the role of the media in shaping public perceptions about elections, candidates and policy, stop on by and check out the last stops on WIMN’s fall lecture tour. I’ll be presenting “When Anchormen Attack: Gender, Race and the Media in Election 2008″ at:

Oct. 28, 7pm: Arkansas State University, Jonesboro (logistics here)

Oct. 29, 6pm: Central Washington University, Ellensburg, WA (for logistics, scan down calendar column on the right)

Oct. 30, 6pm - 8pm: Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma, WA (logistics here)

I’ve been on the road a ton for WIMN over the last two months. These talks come on the heels of recent lectures at James Madison University, Virginia Commonwealth University, Worcester State (read a student’s response), Colby Sawyer College, Bridgewater College, Oklahoma City Community College, Lasell College, MIT and Ramapo College between September 9 and today… and an invigorating, astute conference at St. John’s University, “Making History: Race, Gender and the Media in the 2008 Election,” where I presented along with fellow WIMN’s Voices blogger Carolyn Byerly and media justice allies including Leonard Baynes (left), Janai Nelson, Jordan Berg, Cathy Sandoval and many others. (Check out this keynote address by Donna Brazile. If I have time, I may post more about this conference at a later date.)

As always, if you’re based on a college or high school campus and want to bring WIMN’s lecture on gender and race issues in media coverage of this historic presidential cycle to your community, please contact WIMN via this form or by emailing an inquiry to info[at]wimnonline[dot]org. Winter and spring are wide open if you’d like to plan ahead — and FYI, I’ll be updating “When Anchormen Attack” after the election to be more of a retrospective on how media help to shape election outcomes.

Also, feel free to contact WIMN if you’re interested in other lectures or media trainings in our media literacy/media education program, including topics such as:

“Bachelor Babes, Bridezillas & Husband-Hunting Harems: Decoding Reality TV’s Twisted Fairy Tales”;

“Condoleezza Rice is a Size Six, and Other Useless Things I Learned from the News: Challenging Media Misrepresentations of Women”;

“Race, Class, Gender & Katrina: The Human Impact of Disastrous Reporting”;

“Women, Media & War: How Does the Silencing of Women’s Voices in War Coverage Shortchange America?”…

among others.

OK, hopefully that focus on serious media criticism redeems me for starting out this post with a relatively trivial little gripe about Gossip Girl beating me to a pun.

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