Morgan’s World: The Reflection

When I started off with this project I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do and if there was really anything in the 90s teenage girl category that I would find entertaining while also being able to find a lot of information on. After thinking about topics such as Pokemon and video games I eventually decided on the concept of “Television and the 90s Chick.” I thought with this idea I could go back and look at some of my favorite television shows growing up and analyze them in ways I never did when I was younger while also including some shows I had never even heard of before until the Console Living Room meetings. Over the course of this semester I analyzed 13 different 90s television shows by watching either full episodes or clips depending on what I could find that was streaming for free or that I already had access too such as through Netflix and Hulu. I also wrote a paper though at the time that I am writing this reflection it is not completely done.
Some issues I encountered during the semester included finding good clips/episodes of all of the shows. Since I was running a blog I wanted the videos to be easily accessible to those reading my blog and I also didn’t want to download episodes such as through PirateBay. I was originally going to provide television shows to run on the TV in the Console Living Room but due to issues with that not working I didn’t do that. I had nothing else to provide to the physical room so all of my work was done digitally. For some of the television shows I looked at I didn’t find a lot that I thought was applicable to the research I was doing and towards the end I started to think about what other shows I could’ve done that may have been more cohesive. Looking back on my blogs I found All That and Clarissa Explains it All to be the most boring that I looked at and offered the least amount of incite when looking at both the show and scholarly articles on the show. I originally included those shows because they had been suggested to me and I had seen them on lists of popular 90s shows but they didn’t add much to my research. After analyzing shows such as Buffy, the Vampire Slayer I started to see a lot of references to Xena: Warrior Princess and I thought to myself “why didn’t I do this show? I loved this show as a kid.” So if I were to go back and do it again I would update the list to fit more of the girl power, feminist narrative my blog posts started to fall into towards the end.
In regards to the scholarly articles, I found a lot of good sources for what I was talking about. I hadn’t realized prior to this semester how much work had been done on 90s television specifically on girl power and feminism in shows such as The Powerpuff Girls, Charmed, and Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. I was also interested to find articles that claimed shows such as Sabrina the Teenage Witch helped to subordinate other women since I had never even thought about it in that way.
Writing my paper so far has been surprisingly easy since by doing the blogposts I found a lot of sources that meshed well together. I also started to really think about what I specifically wanted my final paper to be on while I was doing the blogs so it helped to shape my point of view and help me look for parts that would fit in well. For my final paper I am discussing everything I learned through my analysis and showing what previous research has to say in regards to the influence television had on girls in the 90s such as through girl power and dealing with serious issues to help educate the viewer. For my paper I am not using all of the shows due to the fact it would be too long and I wanted to only use the shows that were the most cohesive. As of now the paper is mainly focusing on Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, The Powerpuff Girls, Sex and the City, Charmed, and Beverly Hills, 90210 since all of these shows had a strong focus on girl power and dealing with issues relevant to viewers.

Morgan’s World: The Final Paper

When many of us think of 1990s television we are filled with nostalgia for the past, millennials longing for a childhood that no longer exists. Television shows such as The Powerpuff Girls, Sister, Sister, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer bring back memories of wanting to be witches, have superpowers, or find a long lost twin. But what else did these TV shows teach us as we grew older? In this essay I will be analyzing the popular 90s television shows mentioned above while also including other hits of the 90s such as Sex and the City, Charmed, and Beverly Hills, 90210. During my analysis I will be looking at trends such as girl power, feminism, and how these shows taught lessons through their storylines. By looking at all of this I plan to see how 90s television shaped the generation that watched them while having a specific focus on girls who watched these shows. Some questions I plan to answer are: Did 90s television aim to impact a certain demographic? What was their intended impact? Was this impact successful? What part did feminism play in 1990s television? What kind of issues were commonly discussed in 90s television and why? Can we trace the impact that 1990s television left to current society?
When originally given the constraints of 1990s teenage girl I wondered: “what topic can I do that will be interesting but also have a considerable amount of resources available?” While I am no longer a big fan of classic, cable television due to the creation of streaming services such as Netflix and YouTube that give a more personalized experience I was a big fan of a cable television during my youth. Many of the shows discussed in my research were shows I watched growing up in the late 1990s/early 2000s. Prior to this paper I ran a blog in which I analyzed 13 different 90s television shows by watching episodes/clips available on YouTube or Hulu with one show a week. During this time I discovered many concepts and sources that I had not known about prior to this project so I started formulate ideas during this process of my research. Currently I have 13 blog entries with each one being about a different television show that is approximately 500 words long so I will be building off of that original research in this paper.
As I started to look for different literature about popular 90s television I found many that encompassed the general ideas of the new normal, feminism, and life lessons/morals to be learned. The first show I analyzed that I found an appropriate application to everyday life and realism was Sister, Sister. In TGIF: Thank Goodness It’s Family: Family Messages in ABC’s 1990s Friday Night Lineup by Kourtney Hanna Smith she first introduced me to the idea of Third Wave Feminism Movement and its influence on 90s television and culture by using Sister, Sister as one of her main examples. In this article Third Wave Feminism is described as, “Third wave feminists were urged to take on feminism in a new way in with themes of inclusion, multiplicity [of diversity in the forms of race, class and sexual orientation], contradiction, and everyday feminism,” (Smith, 2015). The author also puts into perspective the necessity for studying television,” Collectively, television family relations are purposive, that is, they achieve outcomes expected of families such as limitation and resolution of conflict, successful socialization of children, and effective management of day-to-day life. However, such portrayals of family life can be misleading, causing unrealistic positive or negative views of how family life functions or how the world works. Inaccurate depictions in fictional television programs can shape cultural views of the world. Because of these inaccurate fictional portrayals, research is necessary to study television’s effects on human thoughts and behaviors,” (Smith, 2015). This inaccuracy of portrayal and the need for accurate portrayal places the need for realism and different points of view to be important parts of television. This is applied to Sister, Sister through the use of realistic problems teenagers might have and the author describes, “Many of the themes and lessons in Sister, Sister’s early episodes deal with adolescence trials and tribulations. Physical appearance and dating woes dominate the girls concerns, from needing dates for the school dance, to being afraid of having a pimple.,” (Smith, 2015)). Real life issues such as these make the show relatable to everyday girls who are watching at home and can then see the process of events after Tia or Tamera respond to the event. This can be used as a learning strategy for young viewers by analyzing what they are watching subconsciously.
Other literature included discussion on Sex and the City in Sex and the City: A Postfeminist Point of View? Or How Popular Culture Functions as a Channel for Feminist Discourse by Fien Adrians and Sofie Van Bauwel. The description of feminism in television is continued in a more adult show. Here the author notes that the original creators never intended for Sex and the City as a feminist but that in both academic and media formats it has evolved to represent contemporary feminist ideals. This reading specifically places Sex and the City in the postfeminism era that is described in different ways with some finding it to be a marketing technique done to suck women in to buying what the seller is selling through empowerment while others claim that it is meant to be a balance between feminism and femininity (Adriaens and Van Bauwel, 2011).). The authors support that Sex and the City falls under the second claim and that it blends together feminism and femininity in an interesting way for audiences. Aspects of postfeminism such as consumer culture are a common trend in Sex and the City with it being described in the show as, “By consuming, the female protagonists develop their identity. Public citizenship is constructed through the notion of woman as shopping citizen. Not only goods and services are consumed; men can also be situated within this process of commodification. Men are presented as consumption goods for women to buy, consider, fit and return (when not considered useful),” (Adriaens and Van Bauwel, 2011).). When looking at trends such consumerism in television shows it brings us to ask ourselves, “to what extent does the viewer pick up on it and does it change their habits or ideals?”
While I have discussed literature on realism and feminism as tools in television I now move on to intentional live lessons. The best example of this is Beverly Hills, 90210. During my early analysis of this show I assumed it to be very vapid and superficial but as I did research and watched it myself I soon found that it offered advice to the audience on how to deal with serious, real life problems such as sexual assault and economic status. As I started doing research on this show I quickly found a quote by the creators of the show a quote from Aaron Spelling that says, “We have a sign up here that says when you do issues, and God knows we did forty-one issues on 90210 alone, ‘Don’t preach, teach.’ Say things in a way that young people understand them,” and another quote from producers of the show was, “We hope that we can have some impact a) to entertain, and b) when its over to get them [teens] to think about what they have seen, for maybe about five seconds. That was always our goal, just five seconds. And the fact is, it seems that our impact is a little longer than that,” (Magee, 2014). These quotes put the whole show into a different perspective for me. Shows such as Sex and the City did not intentionally include feminist dialogue yet had them anywhere but Beverly Hills, 90210 intentionally put specific storylines, dialogue, and events into their show with the hopes of impacting their audience. Because they did this it allows for more inspection of the reasoning and I think also offers a stronger impact to the resulting media since they created it with specific intentions in mind unlike Sex and the City where things can be found but were not always done intentionally.
For the main part of my analysis I will be combining previous literature on the subject of feminism, life lessons through media, and realism through media along with trends found on scholarly sources about these television shows and my own viewing of the television shows. This is very much what I previously did for my blog posts but more concise and with those three specific points in mind. The shows I analyzed for my blog were Full House, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Friends, Sister, Sister, Saved by the Bell, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Beverly Hills, 90210, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Clarissa Explains it All, All That, The Powerpuff Girls, Sex and the City, and Charmed in that order. While all of these shows had an impact on society for this analysis I am interested in those that deal with feminism, life lessons in media, and pieces of realism in media the most since they are the most common trends among them and also have the strongest impact on female viewers. Because of this I will be mainly focusing on Sister, Sister for its realism, The Powerpuff Girls, Sex and the City, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer for their feminist messages, and Beverly Hills, 90210 for life lessons and morals that can be learned from watching show though this part can also be seen in the analysis of the other shows..
To start off my analysis I will be looking at realism and the attempt for television to be as encompassing of reality as possible and I will be looking at the show Sister, Sister and the possible impacts this can have on an audience. In Sister, Sister we see, “traditional family values of love, friendship, togetherness, and instilling the importance of hard work and education in children,” (Smith, 2015). The concept of family and love is pervasive among television aimed toward a younger, family friendly demographic. Sister, Sister uses this preconceived notion to shift away from the norm of a nuclear family to allow room for blended families such as the one featured in the show to also be considered normal among viewers. This is used as an example to show the viewers that even though they may not have a family that is the typical mother, father, and children setup that it can still be a loving, normal family. This concept can also be applied to shows such as Full House that deal with the struggle after losing a spouse and features three grown men trying to raise three little girls after the death of their mother. By television providers producing shows that deviate from the norm it broadens what is considered normal in both television and real life.
Moving onto feminism in 90s television I will be first looking at Sex and the City. As I previously mentioned postfeminism was not intentionally added into the show but is a theme among it nonetheless. The show focuses on the career goals and romantic relationships of four women living in New York City. I previously mentioned consumption as a trend among postfeminism. In Sex and the City the women consume men in a similar fashion that many say men consume women: with little regard to the relationship toward sex. In the show, “Women are thus allowed to use men to fulfill their needs and desires. Although consumption seems to be an important topic, it is often mocked and represented with a little irony. This ambivalence and contradiction is typical for postfeminism (that is, situated within the postmodern tradition),” (Adriaens and Van Bauwel, 2011). ). Another aspect that is notable in Sex and the City while also playing a large part in other television is fashion, “Phenomena such as The Spice Girls and Madonna prove that fashion can be a symbol of power and a source of pleasure: Dressing up equals fun, fun equals empowerment’. The process of getting power by means of the body, the image or fashion, is often called “fashion feminism.” Sex and the City offers a lot of attention to fashion and fashion articles. References are numerous: Valducci, Gucci, Dior, Prada, Boss, etc. Fashion and the act of shopping in general are represented as funny. Characters receive power for their fashion sensitivity, the power ‘‘lesbian’’ for example: ‘”The power lesbians, they have it all, great shoes, killer eyewear and invisible makeup.” Identity is acquired through fashion,” (Adriaens and Van Bauwel, 2011). While some forms of feminism claim that femininity is in direct opposition of feminism, Sex and the City shows that they can coexist especially in the form of fashion. Fashion is used as a form of empowerment to women and postfeminism allows women the choice to be who they want to be. This is expressed in Sex and the City through consumption and fashion but also the strong women it is based upon. This example helps to show women viewers that their value is not intrinsically based upon their sex lives and that they can be as free as the men depicted in the show are and it shows how lesbians are seen as powerful without a man and are something to aspire towards.
Next up is The Powerpuff Girls, while vastly different from Sex and the City in regards to the demographic they are appealing to and the storylines, they are both remarked as feminist works. Girl power is a common theme in the show, “The Powerpuff Girls occupy a space more closely related to the “contested terrain” of Riot Grrl third-wave feminism because they reclaim and reinvent girlhood by insisting on the simultaneity of femininity and power. They are indeed cute little girls and do all the things that little girls are “supposed” to do, but they also repeatedly demonstrate more physical and mental strength than all of the men and almost all of the women on the show. They must negotiate between their opposing identities as little girls and superheroes, and they do so fairly well—most of the time at least. But it is in these difficult moments that they most clearly gesture toward the contested and transformative space of feminist agency,” (Hager, 2008). It is through this approach of non-sexualized, strong girls that the show is creating the idea of girl power to their audience. Since this show was most popular among a younger demographic it gave children the chance to see females be seen as strong and relevant members of society while still having girlish, cute tendencies showing that they do not need to be like males to have those characteristics.
The final show to look at for feminist trends is Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Buffy is often considered the iconic woman warrior of 90s television, paving the way for future generations of strong females. This show was created specifically for womens empowerment, “Whedon’s Buffy character first appeared in the 1992 high-camp film, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, reflecting both the screenwriter’s attraction to gothic horror stories and film and his anger at the omnipresent reality of male violence against women: “This movie was my response to all the horror movies I had ever seen where some girl walks into a dark room and gets killed. So I decided to make a movie where a blonde girl walks into a dark room and kicks butt instead.” While Whedon and executive producer of the TV series, Gail Berman, see their program as supplying role models for young women, Whedon is also attempting to reach young men: “If I can make teenage boys comfortable with a girl who takes charge of a situation without their knowing that’s what’s happening,” Whedon insists, “it’s better than sitting down and selling them on feminism,” (Early, 2001). While he is not directly saying Buffy is a feminist show it is implied through is comparison between watching a TV show about a strong woman or being schooled on feminism. Buffy is a great example of feminist ideas being displayed in television for consumption by both girls and boys. The girls become more comfortable with the idea of being strong, independent women and the boys become more comfortable with women and do not feel threatened. I think Buffy is one of the prime example of 90s television that aimed to raise of women and making it a norm in our society.
The final show I will be analyzing is Beverly Hills, 90210 for its aim to help viewers intentionally. This is also a trait that can be seen in Buffy the Vampire Slayer since both creators made decisions during the creation and run of the show to give the show substance and application into everyday life through empowerment and advice. While I have previously mentioned the way in which Beverly Hills, 90201 wanted to speak to its audience instead of preach at them with the content it showed, during the creation of it writer Darren Star, “remembered the network asking him to write “a high school show that had never been done before. It had to be honest and thoughtful and treat its characters with respect. There have been shows in that vein on TV about cops, about doctors, about lawyers—about everybody but teenagers,” (Magee, 2014). It is through this show that an attempt can be made to breach the gap between teenagers and adults and speak with them about issues such as sexual assault and teen pregnancy in a way that is nonjudgmental and allows the teens to learn from characters on a TV show. Television such as this was created with the intention to fill these gaps and probably helped many young teenagers out, especially teenage girls, who were dealing with these issues at the time and did not know how to deal with them. Shows such as this give an example of a path that can be taken by viewers while also working as a moral compass for the viewer when looking at the show but also real life.
In conclusion, I did not find quantitative data that showed the impact that 90s television had on society but that was not really what I aimed to do. Through analyzing these shows I was able to discover how feminism played a part in their development and viewing while also looking at other aspects such as making television more relatable to the viewer by showing real life situations and by addressing controversial issues to help guide the viewer if they ever come across them themselves. My viewing and analysis of these shows makes me believe that they were successful in trying to educate the public and empower women. Many girls during the 90s had strong, free females to look up to ranging from the cast of Sex and the City to The Powerpuff Girls thus creating a passage for females of all ages to view content that empowered them. Postfeminism is a common theme in many of these shows and can be seen still developing in society today possibly due the media consumed by girls of yesterday.

Sources
1. Smith, Kourtney Hanna. TGIF: Thank goodness it’s family: Family messages in ABC’s 1990s Friday night lineup. Thesis. Middle Tennessee State University, 2015.
2. Hager, Lisa. “”Saving the World Before Bedtime”: The Powerpuff Girls, Citizenship, and the Little Girl Superhero.” Children’s Literature Association Quarterly 33.1 (2008): 62-78. Project Muse Web. 26 Apr. 2017.
3. Adriaens, Fien, and Sofie Van Bauwel. “Sex and the City: A Postfeminist Point of View? Or How Popular Culture Functions as a Channel for Feminist Discourse.” The Journal of Popular Culture 47.1 (2011): 174-95. Wiley Online Library. Web. 26 Apr. 2017.
4. Early, Francis H. “Staking Her Claim: Buffy the Vampire Slayer as Transgressive Woman Warrior.” The Journal of Popular Culture 35.3 (2001): 11-27. Wiley Online Library. Web. 19 Mar. 2017.
5. Magee, Sara. “High School is Hell: The TV Legacy of Beverly Hills, 90210, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” The Journal of Popular Culture 47.4 (2014): 877-94. Wiley Online Library. Web. 19 Mar. 2017.

Charmed to meet you

We’re finally on the last blog post of analyzing 90s television and I’m charmed to say that my last blog is on one of my families favorite shows ever: Charmed. Here we have another television show that only caught the tail end of the 90s with it running from 1998 to 2006. This is another show that is a little different from the line of children and teen shows I have previously featured but adult oriented shows also have great influence on teens and that holds true for the 90s. For those who aren’t familiar with this show it is similar to Sabrina, the Teenage Witch in that it revolves around a family of female witches living in the human world. I’ve found during my analysis that shows geared toward audiences that are late teens and up such as Beverly Hills, 90210 and Sex and the City include much more serious issues in them that aim to help their viewer while shows such as Sister, Sister deal with gentler issues such as internet safety. I find that holds true for Charmed as well in which it deals with death of family members, anxiety and isolation, and raising children.
The scholarly article I looked for this blog was Why Teen Television Appeals to Women by Rebecca Feasey. In this article she analyzes the demographics most popular with Charmed (16-34 year old women) and how it is most popular among a mature audience. She also notes common trends in the show such as that sisterly bonding is the main focus when in many other shows it focuses on the alone female or the female with her male love interest but here female family is the strongest bond of all. The author also discusses similarities to Sex and the City. She also notes that the sisters are very different from each other and that if they can overcome their differences to have a such a strong bond than the show can use this to help situate it in contemporary feminism. Discussion on second wave vs contemporary feminism and the impact that has on television in regards to dress choices of cast is also mentioned and the article regards female fashion choice in Charmed as an application of contemporary feminism.
Charmed was a difficult show to find full episodes or long clips of on YouTube so this clip will be my point of reference when looking at the show. Here it features the sisters bickering about using their powers while Phoebe talks about “the age old question of who approaches who” when discussing a handsome man sitting across from her at the bar who then comes up to talk to her. Here we see the girls talking about gender norms when interacting with a romantic partner.
While doing these blogs I found many applications of feminism to television ranging back to second wave feminism to third wave/contemporary/postfeminism and that many different terms seemed to be applied to the time period in which I am studying.

Sex and the City

While I never watched Sex and the City as a child (what parent would allow that) I learned to love it during my teen years when it started to run on E! The show ran from 1998 to 2004 so it only really got the tail end of the 90s though it has left its mark on pop culture all the same. For those who have never watched, since I know it is pretty different from the kid and teen demographic most of the shows I have discussed so far, I will give some background. It follows 4 women in New York City and each them has there own distinct personality trait. Carrie is the ringleader of the group, a journalist who writes a popular sex column. Samantha is the self proclaimed group slut but also a strong yet sexy business woman. Charlotte is preppy and wants to have a family while working in an art gallery. Finally Miranda is a strong willed lawyer who is the brains of the group. While all of the women have strong careers and personalities they also have very active romantic/sexual lives. The show basically follows all 4 women through theIR trials and tribulations regarding work and love in the chaotic city of New York.
I have been a fan of those show for years so I am very familiar with issues dealt with in the show but anyone wanting to look at some of the scenes I will insert a clip here which shows the relationship between her and Mr. Big. Throughout the series Carrie and Mr. Big have an off and on again relationship with Carrie often wondering why she is not good enough for Mr. Big after her marries a much younger model. While they eventually end up together the path to that point was very rocky. While Carrie and the other women long for physical intimacy and lasting relationships that doesn’t make them weak. Many times throughout the series Carrie or one of the other women take control of situations and are seen as strong role models such as when Samantha has cancer or Miranda cares for her ill mother in law. The show does a good job of showing real life struggles women may have such as the ones previously mentioned but also marital struggles leading to divorce, cheating, and infertility. I think Sex and the City is similar to Beverly Hills, 90210 in that it deals with real life problems and tries to help its viewers understand that everyone goes through these things without being preachy.
The scholarly article I read for Sex and the City was Sex and the City: A Postfeminist Point of View? Or How Popular Culture Functions as a Channel for Feminist Discourse by Fien Adriaens and Sofie Van Bauwel. In this article the authors assert that Sex and the City is a product of postfeminism. The authors describe postfeminism, “For many scholars, postfeminism is created by media and the advertising business to increase sales by means of using empowered representations of women in their campaigns,” though they later describe their own point of view as, “Postfeminists are against the totalitarian disposal of traditional female gender roles by feminism; personal choice is the central concept. If a woman chooses to stay at home for her family, that is her choice, and this choice is equal to the choice of choosing a career.” The article also describes personal female pleasure, a prominent point in postfeminism, as a common aspect of Sex and the City and that the women take control of their sex lives and initiate, accept, or decline at their leisure.

Sugar, Spice, and Everything Powerpuff Girls

Anyone who says they didn’t love this show growing up is plain wrong and I can’t be convinced otherwise. The Powerpuff Girls was one of my favorite shows as a child. I had t-shirts, toys, blankets, cups, Gameboy games, and who knows what else. This show encompasses girl power as I have described in previous episodes such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer. While I loved this show as I child I am interested to go back and look at from a scholarly perspective as an adult.
As most of you probably know, The Powerpuff Girls follows 3 little littles who are created in a laboratory and have superpowers. Throughout the series they are called upon by the Mayor of Townsville to fight crime and bad guys. Without even having to watch an episode of this show and only reading the synopsis we can already see some trends. The Mayor, an older man, must call upon 3 little girls to fix his problems and thus puts the girls into a position of power. This is contrasted by the character of Sara Bellum, the Mayor’s assistant. This character is only shown from the shoulders down with her voluptuous body as the main point of her character but she is very often the brains behind the Mayor’s ideas and her name is meant to be a pun off of the cerebellum, a part of the brain, which is ironically since her we never see her face/head. Here I think the show creators are making a point about how women are sexualized to the point that their thoughts and opinions are second to their looks but as as child I never would’ve picked up on that fact.
I was able to find the very first episode of The Powerpuff Girls on YouTube and that is the one I will be talking about here. While I have already discussed the representation of females in the show I have not discussed possible implications to viewers. I found a lot of relevant scholarly articles when looking at The Powerpuff Girls but the one I will be including in this blog is Saving the World Before Bedtime: The Powerpuff Girls, Citizenship, and the Little Girl Superhero by Lisa Hager. In this reading the author puts into perspective how many superhero females focus on discovering their sexuality while also figuring out their powers but The Powerpuff Girls do not have that issue since they are children. With this it allows for the show to be a source of empowerment for little girls with sexuality completely removed. The author also notes that shows such as The Powerpuff Girls are retaliating against conservative American culture by breaking gender stereotypes and empowering women. Empowerment of women has been a strong theme among the shows I have looked into so far and I find it interesting to look back and think to myself, “did The Powerpuff Girls have any impact on my life and the way I see things?” and I think “probably so.”
A final note for those reading, was there a specific Powerpuff Girl you associated with the most? There could be a whole other blogpost on the framework in personality on The Powerpuff Girls. I always felt I was a Blossom.

All That

Next up is one of the most iconic shows of 1990s Nickelodeon: All That. During my childhood I watched this show but it was not my favorite though it did help Amanda Bynes to get her own spin off show, The Amanda Show. All That ran from 1994 to 2005 and was similar to Saturday Night Live in format since it featured short comedy skits and musical acts.
For this analysis I will be looking at this episode which is available on Youtube. The cast of All That featured in the episode is very difference with both males and females and a variety of ethnicities. While watching this episode was interesting just to see what 90s television was like I didn’t see much of a cultural impact that the show could have on teens of the 90s, especially teenage girls, other than showing they can just as easily be funny as their male counterparts. I also looked for scholarly articles on All That and it was very difficult to find anything related to what I was doing. I guess this show will have to be the dud in my research since it has given me little to work with.

Clarissa: Explaining it One Episode at a Time

This next show I had never even heard of until the first meeting for the Console Living Room and that is Clarissa Explains it All. All I really knew about it going into this project was that it was a 90s Nickelodeon television show starring Melissa Joan Hart who was also in the television show Sabrina, the Teenage Witch which I have done a previous blog post on. Clarissa Explains it All ran from 1991 to 1994 and follows a teenager named Clarissa as she navigates life while explaining it all to the viewer.
While there were no full length episodes I did find a variety of short clips. The first one I watched was this one which features Clarissa babysitting a little girl. In the clip I watched Clarissa seems like a pretty normal teenager babysitting an evil little girl while her brother tries to blackmail her. When watching the show I didn’t see much that I felt could be applied to my paper so I moved on to looking at scholarly sources.
The source I found was Girls Rule!: Gender, Feminism, and Nickelodeon by Sarah Banet-Weiser. In the reading the author describes Clarissa as part of the “self-confident, assertive, and intelligent” girls in television along with shows such as The Wild Thronberrys. The author makes this point, “The embrace of consumer culture is the site for tension within girl power programming on Nickelodeon as well. Once feminism (as represented through girl power), becomes part of the mainstream it has traditionally challenged, can we still talk about it as political? Can feminism be represented and enacted within popular culture, or is popular culture by design hostile to feminism?” I think this is a point that is relevant to my research because I am directly analyzing the effects that media has culture and specially on women within society. While I am not specifically looking at feminism and its place in society I am analyzing how television can influence trends such as feminism in society.

I’ll cast a spell on you

This next show is what inspired me to join a cult and start drawing pentagrams everywhere: not. Sabrina, the Teenage Witch was one of my favorite shows as a child that I loved to watch with my nana (I watched a lot of these shows with my nana I’m now realizing). The series ran from 1996 to 2003 and starred Melissa Joan Hart as the title character. When I started my research on this show I was expecting to find a bunch of articles on Sabrina, the Teenage Witch glorifying witchcraft and religious intolerance, which wouldn’t fit in as well with my paper, but instead I found an article on Sabrina, the Teenage Witch titled The Rules of the Gendered Realm: An Interpretive Study of Sabrina, the Teenage Witch by Genevieve Marie Andrade that discusses how the female cast members reinforce gender stereotypes and subordinate one another. Because of this I will be doing this blog post backwards than the others I have done with the research in the beginning and the analysis of the show afterwards because during my time watching the show when I was younger I don’t remember women’s subordination being an undertone.
The article asserts that adolescence is harding for girls as they find their appearance matters more than what they do and that television influences meaning-making in adolescents therefore assumptions about gender are made by the viewer. The author did research into 6 episodes and said that she found that the female characters had no agency when it was unrelated to their appearance and that they mostly did things to help men. With my understanding of what the author is trying to assert I then went and watched the show to see if I also noticed these trends.
I was available to find some full episodes on YouTube though noise is distorted. For this analysis I will be looking at season 2 episode 4 Dante’s Inferno. In this episode Sabrina’s boyfriend Harvey tells her that his parents want him to start dating other girls. Sabrina is upset and her aunts try to set her up with wizard boys but she says she only wants Harvey. The next day at school she finds out Harvey already has a date so Sabrina goes back to her aunts who set her up with a boy named Dante. Sabrina goes out on a date with Dante and her aunts talk about how they haven’t been out on dates in ages. At school Sabrina finds out Harvey’s date is a model named Jean who Sabrina starts to say bad things about. Sabrina and Harvey go on double dates and it goes badly but at the end of the episode Sabrina uses her magic to get Jean to talk to Harvey again.
After watching the show I feel the article is correct in its assertion that television has the ability to influence girls and in this specific episode of Sabrina, the Teenage Witch I did see points where appearance was important such as Sabrina being jealous of Harvey’s date because she is a model and Sabrina thinking less of herself because she doesn’t find herself as beautiful as Jean. Though I don’t know if it was as bad as the article deemed it to be though I could see the impact that could have on teenage girls.

What’s your zip code again?

Next up is a show that my mom and aunt were huge fans of growing up but I have literally never watched before: Beverly Hills, 90210. This show ran from 1990 to 2000 and helped to launch the career of stars such as Shannon Doherty (who was also in the show Charmed which I will be reviewing later on), Jennie Garth, and Tori Spelling. This show is highly regarded as one of the best teenage dramas to grace the small screen and has been the basis for other tv dramas and a remake that began only 8 years after the original shows conclusion. Sadly this show does not have full episodes streaming online for free so I will be mainly using separate clips for this blog post but for those of you who have CBS accounts you can watch full episodes here.
For the first part of my analysis I will be using this YouTube video. It features Brenda talking on the phone with an unknown girl who is talking about how she just needs to talk to someone. Brenda says she will listen and the girl on the phone starts to tell Brenda about how she likes this boy at school and she thinks he likes her to. She then asks “when you tell him to stop and he doesn’t, does that mean it’s my fault?” to which Brenda replies “No! At least I don’t think so..” and the girl concludes saying “How do you know if you’ve been raped?” From a viewers perspective I think the show opens up the dialogue to talk about serious problems teenagers, especially girls, may have such as sexual assault. While Brenda is there to help the unknown caller she isn’t confident in her answer when telling the girl it wasn’t her fault for being raped. Including scenes and story lines such as this shows viewers steps they can take if they ever combat these issues in real life and know how to help those in need. In my personal experience I have heard my peers say they don’t like when television or entertainment slips in issues such as these but I think seeing these things can have a positive impact.
Continuing on this point I found a scholarly article titled High School is Hell: The TV Legacy of Beverly Hills, 90210, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer by Sara Magee. Here the author asserts a point similar to mine and claims that when something becomes tons of copies of it start to appear in the media but what sets shows such as Beverly Hills 90210 and Buffy the Vampire Slayer apart is there ability to talk about serious issues such as rape and helps educate their audience while still being entertaining. In the article it uses a quote from Aaron Spelling that says, “We have a sign up here that says when you do issues, and God knows we did forty-one issues on 90210 alone, ‘Don’t preach, teach.’ Say things in a way that young people understand them.” Another quote from producers of the show was, “We hope that we can have some impact a) to entertain, and b) when its over to get them [teens] to think about what they have seen, for maybe about five seconds. That was always our goal, just five seconds. And the fact is, it seems that our impact is a little longer than that.” I think these goals are similar to ones I discussed in my Buffy post and can have a great impact on an audience to shape a generation in their thinking.

Buffy, gotta slay ’em all

This one is an icon: Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Many women loved this show, especially my nana, during its run from 1997 to 2003. I know I have watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer before but I don’t really remember much about it (I was more of an Angel fan). The basic premise of the show is that it follows a girl named Buffy whose lineage has fought evil forces and she must continue on the tradition using her magic powers. During the show she is accompanied by friends and love interests while fighting evil. Sadly this show has the same problems as Saved by the Bell in regards to easy, free availability as it is available on Hulu. After not finding a quality video online I have decided to just use the pilot available on Hulu. For those reading who do not have Hulu there is an unaired version of the pilot available here though there are some differences.
The show starts off similarly to any other teen drama: gossip, cool girls, and dead bodies falling out of lockers. We’re told Buffy had to move schools due to her burning down the gym of her previous school in L.A. so she starts off as a strong character. We also see Xander literally falling for Buffy as he skateboards past her. Other girls in the show take on typical tv tropes: the cool girl Cordelia and the nerd Willow. I mostly used this episode as a jumping point because when originally looking at my topic I saw a lot of scholarly articles on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
One such article is Staking Her Claim: Buffy the Vampire Slayer as Transgressive Woman Warrior by Frances H. Early. The reading follows the trend of increasing media about men at war and shows such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Xena pushing back against that narrative. The article features a quote from Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator Josh Whedon in which he says, “If I can make teenage boys comfortable with a girl who takes charge of a situation without their knowing that’s what’s happening it’s better than sitting down and selling them on feminism.” I think this quote really encompasses what I am aiming to research in the course of this project: how media has impacted culture specifically in relationship to women. Here Josh Whedon talks about his aim to make strong women common in American media and culture through the use of his television show. This is why studying television and media is important, especially when looking at older generations, to see if the media has impacted society and if it had the impact that was intended.
When looking at Buffy I think the show did fulfill what Josh Whedon aimed to do by making Buffy a household name and inspiring many young girls while also paving the way for other shows to feature strong female leads and moving away from the male centric television show.