Week 5 Day 2 Discussion Question 3

In “The End of Men and the Boy Crisis,” Kristen Anderson writes the following:

Contrary to the inflamed rhetoric about the end-of-men, boys and men continue to be at the center of popular culture and education. Male characters continue to dominate television shows . . . television commercials, commercial voiceovers, films, music videos, magazine advertisements, newspaper comics, and even cereal boxes and clipart. Boys and men are portrayed as doing things—they take risks, they adventure, they are leaders, they work, and they take care of business. They matter. Boys and men continue to be portrayed as the regular, normal, natural human. Girls and women largely operate in a service capacity to boys and men. What girls and women do matters less. (94)

Do you agree with Anderson’s assessment that, in popular culture and education, “Girls and women largely operate in a service capacity to boys and men”?  Why or why not?

One thought on “Week 5 Day 2 Discussion Question 3

  • March 14, 2022 at 1:21 am

    As a broad and perhaps overgeneralized statement, the claim that “Girls and women largely operate in a service capacity to boys and men” does ring true. It rings especially true in popular culture, entertainment and media, and it is something that I’m not sure will ever go away unless a separatist society is achieved, which is relatively impossible. I think that Anderson’s statement of “What girls and women do matters less” is somewhat extreme, however, because there definitely have been shifts in the way women are represented in some forms of media. We can take advertisement companies as an example. Now, with the rise of technology and with the growing understanding that women (educated or otherwise) make up a large part of the consumer population. Ads, television commercials, commercial voiceovers and comics have been very clever in the way they market themselves to women; Dove’s beauty campaigns are a great example of the ways in which diverse women are represented on screen, being vulnerable and sharing stories about sexism/the stereotypes women face. On the surface, these commercials can be seen as a post-feminist way of embracing women. However, it can be argued that such companies and such commercials are still essentially exploiting the woman’s body and using performative advocacy for women’s rights in order to simply make money. I agree with the way Anderson writes about this in her article “Consumerism, Individualism, and Anti-activism”; she writes that “This ‘fun-feminism’ is problematic because male dominance, power, and privilege are not addressed, and the feminism presented is merely stylistic and not directed toward social change” (8).

    Whereas I do believe that boys and men continue to be at the center of popular culture and education, I think that women are being represented with more nuance and complexity than have ever been before. An example that demonstrates these two statements at once is analyzing Ki-jung’s character in the 2019 film Parasite. Ki-jung is ultimately the one who comes up with a detailed and thorough plan for their family to begin working for the upper-class Park family. Her character is intelligent, charismatic and cunning; she owns her sexuality cleverly as well, understanding that she can manipulate some situations to her benefit by leaving her underwear in a car, leaving the Park family to assume the male driver had a sexual encounter in their car. She also is shown on screen in powerful shots; there is an iconic take of her towards the end of the film when her home gets flooded. She is perched on top of their toilet, smoking a cigarette quietly, watching the flood happen. It is a shot that holds power and her character is just very multidimensional.

    However, at the end of the film, Ki-jung’s character is killed by the man who lives in the Park family’s basement. Ki-jung’s brother, Ki-woo, survives this chaotic moment, and the film ends on various takes of him thinking back on his past and thinking about what happened to his family. The fact that Ki-jung dies and Ki-woo does not can bring us back to the question of what it means to kill off women in films as a way to move the story along only to have men be the ones to finish narrating and reflecting on said story. We’ve seen this in Imitation of Life (Annie dies), Psycho (Marion dies) and A Fatal Attraction (Alex dies). Regardless of the specific plot/storyline of each movie, women’s bodies on screen time and time again are used as vehicles to keep a film going, for emotional charge, for shock factor, etc. I think that this key difference is what Anderson is trying to explain when she writes that “post-feminism is represented by a popular culture marked by an undoing or dismantling of feminism but that is not in favor of a total re-traditionalization” (4). In this way, I do agree with Anderson’s point of view that “Boys and men continue to be portrayed as the regular, normal, natural human” and that “Male characters continue to dominate.”

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