Know Your Place: Women and the Containing Ideal in Popular Culture (update: I- with Peggy Ahwesh, and II – the rape of Lara Croft)

Posted: June 23, 2012 in Uncategorized

acrackedmoon, over at Requires only that you Hate, takes a metaphoric sledgehammer to the Southern Vampire Mystery (Sookie Stackhouse) novels of Charlaine Harris which follow the adventures of a odd telepathic waitress in a world where Vampires have “outed” themselves to the world. In four scathing parts Acrackedmoon performs a no holds bared rundown of the novels and the inherent undisguised racism, misogyny and just plain bad writing to be found there. As the writer puts it at the onset of the series:

Let’s start off with this: while it’s possible to like things that are problematic, I genuinely don’t understand what there is to like about these books. Is it the shitty writing? Is it the misogyny? Is it the jingoism? Is it the rampant, raging, explicit and relentless racism?

I’m not talking about the show, which I understand is slightly less racist than the books. This isn’t some “reading too much into it” thing; this isn’t even social justice crusading stuff. The racism in these books is absolutely obvious, undeniable, and constant. There is nothing redeeming in these books. There’s nothing good about them. All they do is confirm that barely-literate fiction that affirms and endorses popular bigotries will enjoy great popularity and commercial success.

From Dead To Worse: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

Charlize Theron as Evil Queen

Ruby Soup with Pearl Juice’s Maaretta looks at two contemporary pop products and details the incessant voice of stereotypes strumming through the narrative products.

The supposed re-evaluation of the Snow White myth in current filmic recountings is devastated in this detailed look at Forgotten Progress:”Snow White And The Huntsman” Reinforces Gender Stereotypes Despite Claims of the active feminine heroine.

As the author notes: “Many movies fail to portray women and men in an enlightened way, but few fail to do so in such a dishonest and outright depressingly hilarious way as “Snow White and The Huntsman”. The characters of Snow White, The Huntsman and the Evil Queen serves up a messy stew of old tired caricatures of the genders and asks us to savor it as feminist cuisine extraordinaire. In the midst of this muddle of narrative flavors the film serves up a few side dishes of antagonists so stupid that their fall is unquestionable and a mini-course of plot-related questions hanging unattended to.”

Desperate Housewives in original cast shot

And with a poignant glance at a show which many felt attached to because of the multiplicity of diverse characters formed around a singular grouping of women,  Maaretta confronts the cheerless truth of An Ending Not So Well: Three Unfortunate Plot Events In The Final Season Of “Desperate Housewives”.

Anita Sarkeesian over at her website Feminist Frequency looks at a number of persistent and continually erupting Tropes regarding Women in the products of Hollywood:

The Manic Pixie Dream Girl,  Women in Refrigerators,   The Smurfette Principle,  The Evil Demon Seductress,  The Mystical Pregnancy, and The Straw Feminist.

The six video explorations, with transcripts included at the site, were done in collaboration with Bitch Magazine and form an enlightening and insightful look at popular cultures management of the feminine.


Sarkeesian’s next big venture in this regard is her kickstarter (where money is donated to help fund long term work outside of the culture industry) project Tropes vs. Women in Video Games.  Check it out the detailed layout of the project and help her along in this ambitious program. Try to help if you can.


Lara Croft and wii controls

Along the digital game divide of the gendered gaze Charlie Brooker, over at the Guardian, ponders how sometimes it’s hard to be a woman especially when you are made out of pixels.  A mischievous glance at the boys thinking about the digital woman (with focus on Ms. Packman and Laura Croft), with a veiled, but supportive, shout out to Ms. Sarkeesian who is delicately identified as “a female culture critic”.


Peggy Ahwesh, Still from “She Puppet” 2001

Update I: How could I forget?:

The diverse and eclectic experimental film/video artist Peggy Ahwesh, who came to prominence with the  groundshattering film study of the construction of the female subjectivity in“From Romance to Ritual” (1985), uses the gaming action of Lara Croft (Ahwesh captured video while playing through the game) to analyze the image as the borderguards of thought in her 2001 series “She Puppet”.   Croft is redefined in the non-linear captures of the video game quest (with a entrancing voice-over) to both illuminate and undermine the curtailing ideological gradiants of the feminine in the dominant Sign systems of Cultural Imagery.  The Video piece is in its entirety below, and can be seen also at her video postings. Definitely take a look!


Update II: What?

In the new redesign of Tomb Raider video game executive producer Ron Rosenberg  announced that in order to make Lara Croft less inclined to be objectified as a sex object  her character will become a potential victim of rape. Rosenberg elaborated on the scenario to be included, which is founded on a number of “island scavengers” attempting sexual assault on the Iconic Gaming Heroine, as a advancement of her character because “She is literally turned into a cornered animal. It’s a huge step in her evolution: she’s forced to either fight back or die.”

Trailer of Tomb Raider gameplay 2012

Alyssa Rosenberg, over at Think Progress, has an open letter to those who told her that this is what they’ve been waiting for: “In last week’s conversation about the fact that Lara Croft will be threatened with sexual assault in the latest release of Tomb Raider, commenter Yitzhak Ben-Moshe wondered “One wonders how many sick puppies will let it go and watch the rape happen. Disgusting.” No sooner had he said that than two people showed up in the feed to validate his fears. “As long as you get to watch Lara Croft get raped uncensored, I’ll pre-order the special edition right now,” wrote Jordan Cunningham. “I been wanting to see that foe nearly a decade.” And Eric Ericsson chimed in “Rape in my tomb raider? Oh boy, I cannot wait to raid her tomb.This letter is to them.”

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