Sunday, April 8, 2012

Research Paper Prospectus

              Something that has always fascinated me is the dichotomy present in the myth of the genius vs. the myth of the idiot. When prompted to compose a final research paper on the subject of stereotype and popular culture, I couldn’t help but notice how the genius myth and, more specifically, the idiot myth relates to the stereotype of class in a film which is completely centered around such topics. Not only does the film stereotype the genius/idiot myths, but it additionally projects a sense of fear of what the future will become if the world continues to be tranquilized by mindless entertainment and overly-useful technology. This film is called Idiocracy and it is shaped from the mind of Mike Judge (of King of the Hill and Office Space).
                The idea of class being associated with intelligence is one that the world (and more specific to the film, The United States of America) has been conditioned to identify with a specific correlation, that being that the more intelligent you are, the higher social status and more wealth you will accumulate. Though we have been taught to think this way, the idea that this is a universal law is completely false. Times change, society changes and with it so do standards for what constitutes success. In the world of Idiocracy, an alternate, futuristic universe is created where the idiots hold the seat of power and the immensely few intelligent people are socially at the bottom of the hierarchy.  For example, the President of the United States in the film is additionally a wrestler and “Playboy Superstar” who additionally radiates the stereotype of the gangsta; meanwhile (towards the beginning of the film), the smartest man in the world is a fugitive on the run. This, and the above mentioned fear that this is our future is what I endeavor to write about in my research paper.
In my paper, I endeavor to discuss the two main character types (idiot and genius) through only the most essential characters to the plot of Idiocracy. Before I begin my initial analysis I introduce the piece by discussing the social condition of current modern society and then elaborate further on the ways in which this applies to the characters of Idiocracy. With the characters, I first discuss Joe Buars (our “genius”) and his social status relevant to said intelligence. Secondly, I discuss Frito (an “idiot” and Joe’s lawyer), President Camacho (the head idiot in charge) and members of the presidential cabinet (a teenager, a bimbo, an “advertiser”, a retarded man and an obese fool) along with their social statuses. Finally, after these characterizations, I make a last analysis on the message of fear that these characters represent and weave in other aspects of the film including set, costuming, scriptwriting and plot. 
This clip from the movie serves as an example into certain aspects that I wish to talk about within the film. In it, Joe and the presidential cabinet are discussing how to rectify the current famine problem; there has been a famine for some time in Idiocracy’s version of The United States, and the people are too stupid to see that the cause of the famine is the fact that they have been watering their crops with an energy drink. Such an example sheds light on how the idiot and being low-class is only relative to the perspective of the people during a given time in history. After all, these idiots are helping to run the American government.

The first source that I found to compliment my writings comes from the University of Cambridge and is entitled “Knowledge, Wisdom, and the Philosopher” by Daniel A. Kaufman. While it does not involve the film Idiocracy, specifically, nor does it mainly involve the myth of the genius vs. the idiot in popular culture, it does consider and deeply contemplate what constitutes someone as “intelligent”— does it simply involve knowledge or must there be other factors combined with knowledge such as wisdom? Indeed, is it possible for someone to be a genius yet at the same time a complete fool? These questions arise many times with the film Idiocracy and such a publication, while distantly related to the source at hand, is a useful component that can be applied to the central argument of my research paper.
My second source comes from the journal Psychology Today and is entitled “Idiocracy: Can We Reverse It?” This source is directly applicable to the article that I have chosen to analyze for my final research paper (i.e. the film, Idiocracy) and is written by Professor of Psychology at the University of Guelph, Hank Davis. While the first source correlates with the class stereotypes component of my paper, this article serves to illustrate the concepts of fear that Idiocracy presents. Not only does it exemplify points which have been made in the film, but it applies them to real-life situations occurring in present-day. The article talks about how we are slowly becoming true representations of the very thing Idiocracy mocks and provides examples from the movie, correlating them to things he has observed in our own world.
Our perception of intelligence and how it constitutes class is a myth, a story that has and will change as history continues on. Labels are simply words as are classifications and as they start to change they become stereotypes. The myth of the idiot and the genius and their subsequent associations with class is one such example of this and one I wish to explore in my final research paper. 

Friday, March 30, 2012

Believe in the Working-Class Hero

Eleven years ago, a commercial airplane impeded itself right into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. Many were killed and New York became a center of chaos, disorder and destruction. Destruction caused by the terrorists behind it. The symbol of the terrorist is one that has invoked fear in the hearts and minds of the American population for years since the September 11th attacks. Subsequently, this has caused an age of stereotype associated with such a symbol and the American government has had a huge role to play in the manifesting of such myth. The Presidental address, delivered by George W. Bush, himself, and an interview at Camp David with Vice President Dick Cheney both express views of class in conjunction with the 9/11 tragedy. They use their rhetoric as a means of swaying the people of the world into a patriotic state of mind benefiting in their favor.
President Bush starts his speech—which is more of a performance when it comes down to the nitty-gritty—with an attempt at awakening American patriotism within the hearts of the many people worldwide who may be tuning in. Immediately, he starts talking about the bravery of the Americans involved, expressing that: “We have seen it in the courage of passengers, who rushed terrorists to save others on the ground…”and throughout the speech he continues with praises of the American people, such as: “We’ve seen the unfurling of flags, the lighting of candles, the giving of blood, the saying of prayers…we have seen the decency of a loving and giving people who have made the grief of strangers their own.”
This patriotism evokes the image of the “working-class hero”; it glorifies concepts of brotherhood and togetherness and emphasizes that most who have had a hand in dealing with the terrorist attacks were indeed a working-class population. Three individuals throughout the piece are
exemplified, and some even put on display, in a sense, to convey an air of validity and reality. Todd Beamer is an example, who is mentioned very early on in the address. He is a civilian who gave his life in the attacks and his wife is asked to stand up in the crowd to show the audience. Others include George Howard, whose police shield was displayed by the president and Father Mike who was mentioned in the interview with Cheney. Father Mike died giving a burial service.  In these heroic classifications, The United States is projected as the protagonist of the story, ultimately enticing the population of most of the world to pledge a certain loyalty to the U.S.
                In addition, President Bush introduces individuals who will be aiding in the future security of the country as far as terrorists are concerned and he describes these individuals in a way that the common people can relate, implying that they have been hand-picked for the people through these descriptions. One such case is Pennsylvania’s Tom Ridge the new head of Homeland Security, a department that, up until a little after the September 11th attacks, did not exist. In addition to being a working man, Ridge is also portrayed as a hero. George Bush says this of him: “…tonight I announce the creation of…The Office of Homeland Security. And tonight I also announce a distinguished American to lead this effort, to strengthen American security: a military veteran, an effective governer, a true patriot, a trusted friend…” In Ridge’s military status is he portrayed as a hero, as a governer he is portrayed as a patriot and as a “friend” he is portrayed as being human and a man of society that everyone can identify with; after all, friends are everywhere.

                In the role of the villain we have, most obviously, the terrorists—those individuals whom the government would say are members of the Middle Eastern Al Qaida. Vice President Cheney, in his interview with Tom Russert, is quick to point out that Osama Bin Laden is an aristocrat. In contrast to the “just-like-you” homely image of the U.S., the aristocrat represents something altogether mysterious and even evil.  In popular culture, people like Adrian Veidt (a.k.a. Ozymandias), the super villain in Alan Moore’s Watchmen, Lestat from Interview with the Vampire and Dr. Frank N Furter from The Rocky Horror Picture Show are all villains who are portrayed with great wealth and high social status. Osama Bin Laden is used with American Propaganda in the same way—and those associated with him are the terrorists America is trying to condemn. Therefore, we have the association that aristocracy equates evil while being common equates good.
                In the Dick Cheney interview, the vice president also associates the terrorist attacks on September 11th with evil genius. He says: “And the—so the sophisticated—on the one hand it’s very simple. It doesn’t involve a lot of hardware or complex devices that they have to bring into the United States. They, in effect, turned some of our own system against us, but its simplicity does, in fact also speak volumes in terms of planning, creativity, ingenuity in terms of how they go about these type of problems.” These characteristics—creativity, planning and ingenuity—are also present in those villains of popular culture described, who are of upper class and it is commonly a myth that those villains of wealth and prestige are also ingenious in their villainy. Therefore, the terrorists’ genius must be in direct correlation with Osama Bin Laden’s aristocracy. Again, Adrian, Lestat and Dr. Frank are good examples of this.
The evil aristocrat and the patriotic hero are archetypes that have been utilized by the American government to urge people everywhere to side with America and help fight against the tragedies that the “enemies of freedom” (terrorists) have achieved and have yet to achieve. The use of rhetoric in relation to class is one such tactic to accomplish this. 

Friday, March 2, 2012

Savage Devils: The Native American Stereotype in Disney’s Pocahontas

We’ve all seen them, we’ve all grown to love them. Disney movies are classic and timeless, forever in the hearts and minds of the American public as generation upon generation passes. While we’ve become enamored of the characters, fairytales, storylines and messages that the Disney movie brings, many often forget just how racist and offensive some of them can be. One such is example is the 1995 cartoon version of Pocahontas. In this film, the Native Americans are portrayed as second-class citizens, stupid and barbaric as well as fearsome and mystical—characteristics which have, for too long, plagued the community. This portrayal also corresponds with Michael Omi’s ideas about racial stereotype in his article “In Living Color: Race and American Culture.”
Omi’s ideas about the stereotype of Native Americans in Western films as stated within his article can most certainly be applied to Pocahontas. From the very beginning of the film it is evident to an almost obscene degree what the white characters of the film think about the Native American characters; remarks such as “I’m gonna get me a big house and if any Injun tries to stop me, I’ll blast ‘em” and “We’ll kill ourselves an Injun, or maybe two or three!” (as expressed in one of the first musical numbers, sung in jovial merriment by Governer Radcliffe’s white, English crew).
“Injun” is such a derogatory term for Native Americans and the way that they are expressed in this beginning sequence (as well as throughout the film, in general) they are made out to be like cattle or deer—ready to be shot for sport, for fun, for sadistic enjoyment. The English characters also refer to the Native Americans as savages (i.e. “Do you think we’ll meet some savages?”) and Governer Radcliffe, himself, refers to the tribe he meets as “filthy heathens”.
 This directly relates to Omi’s thoughts on the Western where the Native Americans are thought of as scary barbarians. Omi states: “[In the Western], [t]he classic scenario involved the encircled wagon train or surrounded fort from which whites bravely fight off fierce bands of Native American Indians…the representatives of ‘civilization’… valiantly attempt to ward off the forces of barbarism.”  In Pocahontas, there is a scene where the Native Americans of Pocahontas’ tribe observe the English settlers digging for gold on their land not out of spite, but out of clear curiosity. Upon being discovered by the settlers, the Native Americans are immediately shot at without initiating any attack whatsoever. Why is this? Simply because of the fear of the “barbaric” Indian. The settlers initiated the attack because they expected the Native Americans to, even though the Native Americans were not there to fight. A stereotype, not a reality, caused this event to occur.


When the English’s ship arrives on the shores of West Virginia, Pocahontas is the first one to notice. Perhaps because she is a “stupid barbarian” she thinks the sails of the ship are “strange clouds”.  In an encounter with Pocahontas, John Smith expresses just how stupid he thinks Pocahontas and her tribe are. In this exchange, John teaches Pocahontas how the English say ‘hello’ and Pocahontas teaches Smith how her people say ‘hello’. Upon learning the Native American way, John concludes “I like ‘hello’, better,” as if to indicate that the white way is always superior. Further into the encounter, Smith and Pocahontas have the following exchanges:

                “Pocahontas: Our houses are fine!
John Smith: Only because you don’t know any better!”


“John Smith: We’ve improved the lives of savages all over the world
 Pocahontas: What’s a savage?
 John Smith: Savage…is a term for people who are uncivilized.”

This is all said and done completely overlooking the fact that the Native Americans of the exploration age were developed in areas of housing; they had longhouses and roundhouses, not simply teepees. In Pocahontas, though the tribe of the area would have been the Powhatans who did not use teepees (teepees were exclusive to the Plains Indians), they are portrayed as utilizing these structures. This inaccuracy shows plain ignorance. Indians of the time also had a spiritual practice, a tribal hierarchy, the chief being the head of the “government”; they had medicine and even used hallucinogenic drugs; they made clothes out of the hides of animals and crafted bow and arrows; they grew corn and harvested other foods as well as hunting their meat. How can a culture that has accomplished all this possibly be classified as “stupid”? The portrayal is thus inaccurate and subsequently a stereotype.
A stereotype not touched upon by Omi is the concept of the “Mystical Native American”; that is, that all Native Americans are shamans or magicians. I myself being half-Seneca have experienced this stereotype and it most definitely exists; even modern-day Native Americans are thought of by many to have certain supernatural abilities not limited to anyone in the race. In Pocahontas, the title character herself talks to animals, like her friend Miko the raccoon and a nameless hummingbird. Additionally, she talks to a tree called “Grandmother Willow”. Throughout the film, Pocahontas is troubled by a dream she had about a “spinning arrow”. The dream turns out to be prophetic as the “spinning arrow” refers to John Smith’s own compass. A further scenario involves members of Pocahontas’ tribe conjuring the images of future events to come out of the fire—seemingly out of nothing. Though this could be attributed to drugs, none were present through the scene, yet all the tribe members saw the images play out. The only explanation for that is mysticism. Native Americans do not have mystical powers. Additionally, a question arises to contradict an earlier assumption that Native Americans are stupid: If we are so stupid and uncivilized as many people say, how then could we have acquired so much magic?

In conclusion, the stereotype of the Native American as a scary savage, uncivilized barbarian and idiotic mystic has its place in popular culture. Though there are others, Pocahontas is one of the most obvious examples. Michael Omi discusses certain aspects of this stereotype in his article and it is not hard to see where and how these principles apply. 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Pretty Little Poison: The Beauty Myth in one of ABC Family’s Newest Hit Shows

One of the most popular current shows targeted towards pre-teen and teenage girls is Pretty Little Liars. The main storyline of the show involves a group of four used-to-be misfit high school girls who are dealing with the tragic death of their beautiful and popular ring-leader: the girl who transformed them from outcasts to cool. As they grieve their best friend’s death, the girls get a series of texts from an anonymous ‘A’ threatening to expose all of their ugly secrets. In modern day pop culture, this is one work that exemplifies today’s beauty myth.
The title, itself: Pretty Little Liars evokes a sense of glamor and femininity and the opening credits of the show emphasize this fact. For the majority of the opening theme, the camera is focused on girls applying lipstick, curling their hair, donning high heels and painting their nails. This corresponds with Naomi Wolf’s points in “The Beauty Myth”. In her writing, Wolf states that: “We are in the midst of a violent backlash against feminism that uses images of female beauty as a political weapon against women’s advancement…” Pretty Little Liars may be promoting this concept to influence its female viewers into complying with this myth; the purpose of such notions in order to retain a male-centric “status-quo”.
In flashback episodes of the show, when the story takes us back to Hanna, Emily, Aria and Spencer’s misfit days, the girls seem to worship Alison. It is clear that they are hanging on to her every word.  This proves to be true when in multiple times during the two seasons of the show, they can perfectly recite quotes said by Alison from the distant past. Why did they revere her so much? Again, the beauty myth is the answer. According to social convention, women today should be thin, beautiful and glamorous. Alison embodies all of these things. She is thin, she is seen by many at Rosewood High School as ‘beautiful’ or ‘perfect’, she is rich, and she wears designer clothes.
One specific episode details the life of the character Hanna Marin, who, before an amazing transformation, was known as ‘Hefty Hanna’ in relation to her size and shape. She would binge eat as a result of depression and try to hide her food from her friends. Alison finds out about these binges and shows Hanna how to throw up, thus Hanna becomes bulimic.  Fast forward to present-day Hanna Marin who is the new popular girl in school, replacing Alison; she is thin, beautiful and privileged just like the girl she once idolized. Her dark past she has put behind her and she has stopped binging and purging now that she is at her ideal size.
In an episode of particular significance, the ever-looming ‘A’ threat forces Hanna to go to a bakery and pick up a box of cupcakes. There are about half a dozen in the box and she is instructed to eat them, lest disaster ensue. Enter best friend Aria Montgomery who stumbles upon Hanna and her unfortunate circumstance whereby Hanna confesses the truth about her eating habits. Aria goes on to express how dangerous this is and how strong Hanna is for overcoming this personal demon.
Hanna’s weight loss is glamorized within the series and it cannot be denied that her “methods” for this transformation are also subsequently glamorized. What this message promotes to the viewers of the program is that a.) eating is bad and b.) having an eating disorder such as bulimia is a perfectly legitimate way to lose weight, so long as you “get better” once the weight is gone. Essentially, it seems to imply that you should do whatever you have to do to fit into the social constructs of beauty.
In “The Beauty Myth”, Naomi Wolf states that with the rise of feminism and the sexual revolution, “…the weight of fashion models plummeted to 23 percent below that of ordinary women, eating disorders rose exponentially, and a mass neurosis was promoted that used food and weight to strip women of [a] sense of control.” In the storyline of the Pretty Little Liars episode, ‘A’ becomes the uncontrollable force in this situation, echoing Hanna’s former uncontrollable bulimia and forcing her to re-live the past. This reminds her in a very haunting way that she should not stray from social convention. It could even be “dangerous” (the situation entailing that if she doesn’t comply with ‘A’s demands, ugly secrets will be revealed, courtesy of ‘A’ him/herself).
Spencer Hastings is a character within the series who deals with the myth of beauty in a very different way, but with the same overall ideas in mind. Spencer is notorious for being the competitive one who always has to be the best or the most successful. She has been shown in episodes as having the most rivalry with her older sister Melissa and Alison DiLaurentis (who is later revealed to be her sister, as well).This rivalry takes root in Spencer’s jealousy of these two women because they are the most beautiful in her family and successful because of this (e.g. Ali is popular and looks like a model, Melissa is beautiful and successful in both academic areas as well as marital and reproductive areas). She often complains that she is never good enough compared to her sisters and has frequent outbursts of rage targeted towards them.  In “The Beauty Myth” Wolf illustrates how success in the contemporary world is directly linked with a concept of beauty. In order to be successful, you must also be beautiful and since her sisters are more beautiful, they must also be more successful. It is in Spencer’s nature to be the best and so this situation does not rest well with her.
These are but a few examples of how the show relates to the current constructs of beauty in society. Significant occurrences within Pretty Little Liars which provide supporting evidence of the beauty myth are in abundance throughout the series. With the right analysis these become evident quickly and serve to both point out the faults in the beauty myth while also promoting it.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Andrej Pejic: Gender-Bending Supernova

Ah, the feminine sensuality of a lingerie ad. The model is what society deems the cultural norm of beauty within the present age (albeit not all do, however this is the model set up by the media and fashion industry)—waif-thin, bones protruding from the skin, leggy and long, blonde hair.  But do you want to know a secret about the woman in this advertisement? She’s actually a man. The person you see here is Serbian male model Andrej Pejic. Pejic is rising to fame within the modelling industry for his unique ability to model both men’s and women’s clothes. Interestingly, most of his work involves gender-bending; he is a man favoured amongst women’s retailers and often hired to represent these companies over female models.              
Pejic challenges the myth that certain physical characteristics are exclusive to a particular gender simply by embodying the stereotype of the woman while physically being biologically male. This is what has created the hype around him and his career and catapulted him to celebrity status in the fashion industry—but what is it that the lingerie company has done to create an ad that embodies the very idea of femininity using a male model? The answer is simple: they have played upon the conditioning of the masses that already inevitably exists within any audience and manipulated stereotype to meet their own needs.
Perhaps the biggest indication of gender has to do with the tone of the advert. What are they selling? The product is push-up bras. This is the most obvious indication of the “gender” of the ad (to provide a personification). There is very little text on the page and the minimalism of the text is what draws the audience’s vision towards it. The reader, then, is quick to notice the phrase “mega push-up bra”. Immediately, the wires of the mind connect to associate this with femininity, for only females wear bras. In addition, the minimalism of the ad draws the viewer’s attention to the model who is thin, wearing a dress and has long hair—all symbols that society has deemed to translate as “woman”.  A quick glance at the text combined with the main images would produce this assumption quickly with little analytical skill required.
As most clothing ads strive to do, the push-up bra company, Hema, displays its product within the photograph (hence the requirement of a model). The fact that a Hema push-up bra gives the illusion of breasts on a gender biologically disinclined to produce them—or if false breasts were added just for the ad—is what highlights the breasts in this situation; however, one would have to be aware of the real gender of the model at hand for this to be realized. For those who are not familiar with Pejic, the shadowing and lighting of the ad would highlight the breasts, as would the cut of the dresses, both of which provide an elongated v-neck commonly known in fashion to highlight this area of the body.
Additionally, the clothing that has been chosen for Andrej, like much of women’s clothing in modern day, leaves much room for the bare flesh to be exposed. Another aspect of femininity is nudity, nudity being associated with purity, innocence and vulnerability. This is further advocated within the photograph as a certain delicacy is projected from the image where we see Andrej’s bones protruding from his flesh. Bones are fragile and in females are frequently seen as having the consistency of porcelain, therefore prone to breakage. The color of the skin adds to this doll-like effect, Andrej being quite pale in complexion.
Aesthetically, the length and color of Pejic’s hair denote a cultural paradigm of youth and innocence commonly associated with the female gender.  The nearly white-blonde that has almost certainly been achieved with the use of chemicals (and therefore intentional in affecting an audience) serves to create these associations and to further even more the illusion of a doll. Pejic closely resembles a Barbie, one of the most popular icons of femininity in American and even world culture. There is also the idea that the longer the hair, the younger the individual. Many older women today have cropped their hair or cut it into a bob whereas the younger generation grows it long. Culture connects youth with beauty and beauty with femininity.
The body language in the ad is also a key indicator of the persona that Andrej projects. In the image to the far left, his hip is thrust out to the side. The female hips are worshipped by the male gender and the flaunting of the hips is indicative of sex. In the image to the right, Andrej slouches his shoulders in an attempt at submissiveness (i.e. that the female should submit to the more dominant gender of the male) and gazes at the camera with a hypnotic and enticing stare.
That the concept of the “male model” is a contradiction to society’s gender rules should be considered. When you think of a model, what immediately comes to mind? The image of a woman, for most. The idea of the model is rooted in sensuality and the use of the body as an object; as something to sell. Sex, sensuality and the human body (in this sense) are all attributes of modelling and all attributes of femininity. While some models are not as androgynous as Andrej, the concept of the “male model” as a rule, is a situation in which a contradiction to the mythos of masculinity occurs.
In ‘Gender Role Behaviors and Attitudes’, Aaron Devor says: “…both males and females are popularly thought to be able to do many of the same things, but most activities are divided into suitable and unsuitable categories for each gender class.” The very essence of a male model illustrates this concept: he is a man doing a woman’s job. In this advertisement, Andrej is a man doing a woman’s job to an extreme degree going so far as to impersonate a female. Thus, we can conclude that gender is not conducive to whatever an individual’s sexual organs may be. Andrej does just as good a job modelling female-specific garments as a woman would. He just happens to have a penis. 

Friday, January 27, 2012

Sexism and Stereotype in Children's Toy Commercials.

Perhaps one of the most gender stereotyping advertisements occur as children’s toy commercials. On the one hand, you have commercials for boys that promote control, power , and strength, capitalizing on the mythos of what it means to be “a man”’.  In contrast, little girls are constantly being sold the ideal image of “the woman”, which is both depressing and sickening. In these practices the advertising and toy companies are selling certain ideals to these children, conditioning them to believe what the “acceptable” characteristics of each specific gender are. This alienates both sexes, albeit in different ways. Furthermore, there is the variable of those with a confused gender or who are gender-neutral that need to be considered. The stereotypes of the “man” and the “woman” could potentially effect negatively on the lives of these individuals who don’t identify with these genders in the traditional sense, providing further confusion and alienation concerning their social identity.
So, what does Rose Petal Cottage, a toy created by the minds of Hasbro, have to say about a woman’s role in society, specifically? What message is being projected on to little girls (and even little boys, for the effects are two-fold)? Let us first consider what is attempting to be sold: Rose Petal Cottage is an imitation home where young girls can “have fun” doing laundry, baking, cleaning and taking care of babies. The house has its own mock washer and dryer, crib with a baby doll, changing table, oven and other implements conducive to this type of conditioning. In the advert, the company is associating the mythos of the submissive wife, mother and homemaker with a child’s sense of fun. The jingle itself, states: “I love when my laundry gets so clean, taking care of my home is a dream, dream, dream.”
Really? That is the “dream”; the most important goal in a woman’s life— to clean and cook and raise children? I have never seen a commercial in my entire life depicting a play office where little girls can pretend to be the CEO of a corporation. Yet there are more woman today who do this than who are stay-at-home moms. There are woman in rock ‘n’ roll who are powerful and damned good at what they do, tougher than any man they may come in contact with. Why then, is the myth of the homemaker still so prevalent? The answer is in the question, itself. It is a myth. What once was reality is no longer so. The fact that society cannot break itself from this long deceased truth is what creates the stereotype.
The sickest and most saddening aspect of the Rose Petal Cottage advert is that it was first released in 2007. That was a short five years ago. Certainly, now that humankind has reached the 21st century, that we are in the height of the information age, the stone age ideals of the 1950s would have dissipated? Yet we see commercials like these glorifying a woman’s submissiveness. A woman cannot have power, she is not in control of her own destiny like men are. Games of strategy like Battleship and Risk are no place for little girls, those are the boys’ games.
When a girl breaks away from this stereotype and chooses to immerse herself in the games of the opposite gender she is in danger of being labelled a “tomboy” and if this labelling continues on until at least middle school she may be further categorized as a “lesbian” regardless of what her actual sexual preference may happen to be. Women are not helpless. Women are strong. Women are powerful and capable. Concerning the game of battleship, it is considered taboo for a girl to play this game, yet there are a vast number of women who work in the navy. Similarly, there is a growing number of stay-at-home dads. As young boys, were these fathers to play with Rose Petal Cottage they would also be labelled as homosexual, once again regardless of actual sexual preference.
Boys, providing that they view this advert in combination with one specifically catered to the stereotype of their own gender, will gain a false sense of dominance and entitlement, while the girls will soon develop a sense of inferiority in accordance with this. The boys will connect the associations of male/alpha/dominance with female/omega/submissiveness. A simple stereotyping in a commercial can influence the perceptions of these individuals in adult life and may, in extreme, cases be a cause for domestic violence or worse, which is a growing problem within the modern world. In the case of gender queer children, the stereotype that the Rose Petal Cottage commercial implies gives them no place to identify with. Perhaps in this they are lucky, for they will not condition themselves to the stereotype. It could occur, however, that the stereotype may resonate with them and they will feel outcast and alone.
In its essence, Rose Petal Cottage is telling the children who may see the ad while watching cartoons that firstly, an outdated cultural truth is still prevalent and should be adhered to; secondly, that girls should grow up to be women that fit into this cookie-cutter gender “norm”—that is, that they are destined to be slaves to a home and a husband; thirdly, that this should be “fun”. Hasbro is not selling a toy. It is selling a weapon of mass brainwashing and romanticizing an old form of slavery. It is telling gender queer children that since they cannot fit into this stereotype (or its opposite) and that they have no place in society. It is telling boys that women are their maids and not human beings capable of great change and influence in the world. If commercials such as these continue to air, I fear for the future generations that will be brought up into this world. It’s time to get out of the dark ages and move forward, not regress.