Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Todd: The Supposedly Straight Surgeon

Kupers says that men often “do a lot of toughening up” and keep other men at a distance so that we can be free of any closeness that might make us feel vulnerable (Kupers 500). I will use this statement as a focus to analyze the “Scrubs” character The Todd. The Todd acts ultra-masculine. He is the stereotypical meathead who is always giving high-fives, sexually harassing his women co-workers, and acting in ways to affirm his masculine sexuality. Despite this macho, hyper-masculine attitude his heterosexuality is often questioned by the other characters of the show. Todd’s behavior is so over the top that everyone assumes or suspects that he is gay and is trying to hide it by constantly affirming that he is straight. Kupers would say that Todd toughens himself up so blatantly that it is natural for other to suspect that he is trying to repel any feelings of intimacy with other men, because he is uncomfortable with his desire for that intimacy.

Work Cited

Kupers, Terry A. Revisioning Men’s Lives: Gender, Intimacy, and Power. The Guilford Press, 1992.

Here's a video of the Todd in action.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Power, Authority, and Gender

“Scrubs” is a part of popular culture and so it carries with it messages about cultural ideas. Some messages are hegemonic and others are counter-hegemonic. This post will discuss the different messages about power, authority, and gender that are sent by “Scrubs” and whether they are hegemonic or counter-hegemonic.

The first hegemonic idea about power, authority, and gender that “Scrubs” propagates can be found by looking at who has power and authority in the hierarchy of the hospital. Dr. Kelso and Dr. Cox are the two characters that are most often shown as being powerful. Dr. Kelso is the chief of medicine in charge of the hospital and Dr. Cox is the “alpha male” who teaches interns how to be doctors through fear and intimidation. Both of these characters are white men so “Scrubs” contains the hegemonic message that positions of superiority belong to white men.

“Scrubs” also contains counter hegemonic ideas about authority and gender. The most notable example is the episode entitled “My Female Trouble” where Carla and Elliot are described as two strong independent women who can make men feel like little boys. In this episode, Carla’s husband, Turk, is being sued for malpractice by a former patient whose tennis game is not as good as it was before Turk performed surgery on the patient’s shoulder. The patient is upset because tennis games are the only times when he feels he has friends. Carla stands up to the patient and convinces him to drop the lawsuit and then uses intimidation to force Dr. Cox to play tennis with the patient. Elliot also stands up to Dr. Cox in this episode when she tells him that she’s no longer afraid of him, because she knows she does not need him as much as she used to. Prior to this episode it was commonplace to find Elliot crying after a critical comment from Dr. Cox so this was a major change in her character. Showing two women characters standing up to Dr. Cox is counter hegemonic because it shows that even a cocky alpha male can be stripped of his authority by a strong woman.

In this episode, Jordan’s character also sends a message about women and power, but it conforms to the idea that men are the natural authority figures and is therefore hegemonic. In the episode J.D. is dating a woman that he wants to break up with, but can’t because he can’t stand up to her, so he decides he needs the help of another woman even stronger than his girlfriend, “a real witch.” Then he asks Jordan for help. This statement sends two messages. First it depicts Jordan as the strongest woman character on the show. J.D. didn’t think, “I need a strong woman so I’ll go talk to Carla,” or, “I need a strong woman so I’ll ask Elliot for help,” he immediately went to the only woman he thought strong enough to help. The last part of his statement is probably the most troubling. J.D. says that he needs “a real witch.” He describes a woman who is strong and intimidating enough to help him as being evil. This fits into Enloe’s statement that cultural norms forbid women to be “wielders of violence,” aggression, or intimidation (Enloe 515). Jordan is so strong, and so independent that society cannot acknowledge her as admirable or even acceptable and she is labeled a witch.

“Scrubs” overall describes positions of authority as roles for men, but it does also send messages about the power of women. Carla and Elliot are displayed as strong in a positive light, but ultimately by describing Jordan as a witch because of her strength, strong women are portrayed as deviant.

Work Cited

Enloe, Cynthia. “Wielding Masculinity Inside Abu Ghraib: Making Feminist Sense of an American Military Scandal.” Ms. Magazine Sept./Oct. 1995: 514 – 522.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Grey's Anatomy vs. Scrubs: Or the Limits of Representation (post from blog by Maia)

I've started watching Grey's Anatomy really regularly (they're repeating Season 1 in NZ), I'm not quite sure why - because I don't really like it that much. I don't think it's well-written, by half-way through season two I hated almost all the characters. But watch it I do, if nothing else it gets things to blog about it.

Shonda Rhimes (Creator of the show) said that she wanted Grey's Anatomy to look like America. Of the four authority figures we see most regularly, three are african-american, and one of those is female. This is a world where you can live in a trailer park and grow up to be surgeon. Rich or poor, male of female, Korean, African-American or white - anyone can work at Seattle Grace.

Compare this to Scrubs, the authority figures are all white men, and while you can be a doctor and female or a doctor and African-American, the women of colour are all nurses.

There was this episode of Scrubs where all the main characters...

dgolazeski said...

I don’t think this post is saying that we should see more minorities committing crimes on television. It’s saying that a show that acts like issues of class, race, and sex don’t matter is making these problems worse by making the viewers believe that these problems don’t exist. Scrubs shows these issues as problems in episodes like the one described in the post.

Another episode of Scrubs that deals with issues of gender is the episode where Elliot starts dating a male nurse. In this episode Elliot goes out with a coworker from the hospital and really likes him until she finds out that he’s a nurse. After that she considers dumping him for that reason only. This white male carries a stigma because he has a job that society believes is a job for a woman. I’m not saying we should feel bad for white males who are nurses, but we should try and unlearn our socially constructed instincts that tell us that leadership jobs are for men and subservient jobs are for women.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Femininity in "The Girls Next Door"

This entry is a follow-up to my first post in which I discussed the norms and ideals of masculinity that are portrayed in an episode of “The Girls Next Door.” This post will discuss the norms and ideals of femininity displayed in the same episode. The episode deals with how a women is expected to look, act, and eat.

Before even the opening credits of an episode are finished the show already presents a feminine norm related to appearance. The three main female characters (Kendra, Bridget, and Holly) all look pretty much the same. They are all blonde, white, and skinny. Even their hairstyles are practically identical. Right from the start, this show is setting blonde, white, and skinny as a standard for feminine beauty. Another trait that is common to all three women is that they are all comfortable being naked or nearly naked in front of men with whom they are not romantically involved. This is obvious since they all modeled for Playboy magazine, but they are also shown getting dressed during the episode. As ridiculous as it may seem that the popular media is defining a “normal” woman as a woman who is willing to be naked or at least almost naked in front of others, we live in a society where girls are being sexualized through dress at a younger and younger age so it may not be as ridiculous as it sounds.

In one of the most startling scenes of the episode, attractiveness, health, and an eating disorder are all combined and describe a particularly dangerous feminine norm. While Bridget and her parents are eating a meal together she says that in order to get ready for her burlesque act for Hefner she is going to try and “get healthy” and not eat anything at the meal. This one statement says a lot about feminine ideals and norms. One of the things the statement does is equate being healthy with being unreasonably skinny. Bridget is already in shape and in no way needs to lose weight, but she wants to anyway. Rather than admit that she wants to lose weight, she subtly replaces the words “lose weight” with “get healthy”. This replacement is not just a simple euphemism for dieting. It sends an extremely dangerous message to girls by telling them that not only is it ok to stop eating to lose weight, but that it is good for them. This statement is encouraging girls to start eating disorders. The problem is compounded when her parents see her eating nothing and just ignore it. By not speaking up, her parents are silently saying that it is acceptable to have an eating disorder. Bridget is starving herself, her parents support her by ignoring it, and suddenly eating disorders are being presented as part of a normative definition of femininity. The last part of this statement that makes everything even worse is that Bridget is doing this for her burlesque act for Hefner. She is starving herself so that she can be desirable to men. This sends the message that girls should do things for the approval of others, even if it means putting yourself at risk.

The ideals and norms of femininity displayed in “The Girls Next Door” are troubling to say the least, but it is important to remember that the existence of the norms and ideals of society are not to be blamed on popular media. The media is merely reflecting the norms and ideals that already exist in society. The media can be blamed for perpetuating malignant ideas, but in the end it is the viewers who enable this to occur. If no one tuned in to watch the program then the show would be cancelled, but the show is still on so obviously people are watching and enjoying the show. Analyzing popular culture can only help us realize what ideals and norms exist around us. If we want to steer society away from norms and ideals that are damaging then we need to worry about society itself not just its popular media.

Masculinity in "The Girls Next Door"

The first post of this blog will be a slight deviation from the blog’s main focus. It will not deal with issues of gender, race, or class in the television series “Scrubs”. Instead this post will analyze the norms and ideals of masculinity that are found in a particular episode of the show “The Girls Next Door”. The episode being analyzed is the episode where Hugh Hefner turns 80 and his birthday party is planned. This episode describes a number of societal norms and ideals related to gender, some more obvious than others. This blog entry will analyze the masculine norms shown by Bridget’s father, and the masculine ideal portrayed by Hefner.

The episode also touches upon masculine norms through the behavior of Bridget’s father. Bridget’s parents come to visit her and in one scene they are all having a meal together. During the meal, Bridget’s father is shown eating a sizable amount of food and burping in the process. While some, if not all, of this was shown for comedic purposes it does send the message that it is normal for men to eat a lot and be a little vulgar while doing it. Another aspect of Bridget’s father that shows masculine norms is his appearance. He is a middle aged, slightly overweight man. Not a single female character is shown during the entire episode that is overweight at all. These two facts put together tell the audience that it is acceptable for men to be overweight but unacceptable for women to be overweight.

The show “The Girls Next Door” paints a very clear picture of the masculine ideal in the lifestyle of Hugh Hefner. Hefner is preparing to celebrate his 80th birthday in the episode and is also dating Kendra, a model in her early 20’s. Male viewers who see an elderly Hefner with a girlfriend in the prime of her life could easily think that Hefner’s method of attracting women is obviously foolproof. In this way, “The Girls Next Door” shows the ideal man as a man who is rich, powerful, and does not have to commit to one woman for any significant length of time. The ability to choose not to commit to one woman is further solidified as part of the masculine ideal during the planning of Hefner’s birthday party. Bridget, one of Hefner’s ex-girlfriends, is planning to perform a burlesque act for Hefner’s birthday where she will climb out of a giant cake and strip for her ex-boyfriend. Kendra, Hefner’s current girlfriend, will be at this party. In most situations, if a woman saw her boyfriend watching his ex-girlfriend strip for him she would be upset to say the least. The fact that Bridget is not worried that the show will upset Kendra shows that Hefner is able to have a girlfriend, Kendra, but still enjoy a quasi-sexual relationship with Bridget. Hefner can have his cake and eat it too. This entrenches the idea that an ideal man does not necessarily have to commit to one woman. Another part of Hefner’s relationship with Kendra that sends a message about the masculine ideal is the way they interact with one another. When they talk they are very formal with one another as opposed to being casual and comfortable. By doing this they are showing each other a persona rather than who they actually are. Dr. William Tardy says that a relationship that lacks at least some level of real communication is an unhealthy one (Petrie 223). This episode is describing an unhealthy relationship as being part of the masculine ideal.

The show “The Girls Next Door” depicts a masculine ideal that in many ways is problematic and dangerous to a society that is supposed to value and strive towards equality, but the ideals and norms it displays that relate to femininity are much more alarming and will be discussed in the next post of this blog.

Work Cited

Petrie, Phil W. “Real Men Don’t Cry…And Other ‘Uncool’ Myths.” Essence Nov. 1982.