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.

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.

I’m so Fre$h

For my next installment of Television and the 90s Chick I’ll be looking at a 90s classic, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. My project focuses on all aspects of femininity and sexuality in 1990s television so I am looking at television from different races, ages, social groups, and locations so this one is a good point of view in regards to different races and social classes in comparison to Full House since the Banks family is an upper class black family while the Tanners were a middle class white family. For background on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air you can check out its IMDb or Wikipedia pages. A good source to look into for race in 1990s television is <em>Color by Fox by Kristal Brent Look in which she discusses the development of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. The basics of the show are this: it ran from 1990 to 1996 and starred pop culture icon Will Smith as Will Smith “a street-smart teenager from Philadelphia” who moves in with the Banks Family in Bel-Air in order to get away from the trouble in his neighborhood. At this point I’m sure you’re thinking “what does The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air have to do with 1990s femininity?” well I’ll tell you. The show features many strong female characters such as Aunt Vivian, Ashley, and Hillary. During the series it shows how Will and the other men of the show such as Will, Uncle Phillip, and Carlton interact with women while also showing the reactions, experiences, and troubles of the male and female cast members.
Moving on to look at some actual footage of the show I will be mostly looking at scenes from this YouTube video, which is titled Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Funny Moments. The first I will be looking at starts at 00:33 and features Will in the basement with his new girlfriend Kathleen and they are kissing. He makes a comment to her saying “I love you for what is on the inside” then as they are kissing he accidentally pulls a piece of her weave off her head before screaming and throwing it to the side. This here shows Will in an attempt to be progressive by saying to his girlfriend he doesn’t only care about her looks but loves her for her personality and character. This statement is then put to the test as they are kissing and he accidentally grabs the hair off of her head and is immediately scared of it. This puts into perspective Will’s understanding of female identity, especially of black women such as Kathleen, who often wear weaves. While he appreciates her trying to look pretty for him, he does not understand the work that goes into it and when must come face to face with it he is scared.
The scene continues with Will sitting on the floor with the weave now on his head as he sings “I’m stuck in a basement sitting on a tricycle, girl getting on my nerves. Going out of my mind, I thought she was fine but I don’t know if her body is hers.” Here the shows dialogue mentions two things I want to discuss: Kathleen’s bodily autonomy and the craziness of all women. While this show is based on comedy it is still making comments about the world in a large context. In a society where plastic surgery and ways to change ones body for “the good” run rampant, I wonder if comments such as these could shape a generation and create the world we live in today? Clearly Will does not find Kathleen’s attempt to be conventionally beautiful good enough due to the flaws such as Will’s ability to remove the hair. This could lead to girls making more permanent changes to their bodies in order to appear “natural”. The crazy woman trope is another common aspect of television, especially sitcoms such as The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. We see it briefly mentioned in this episode so I won’t go into too much detail now but will come back to this topic in future blog posts.