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.

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.

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.