Welcome to the September 2012 Issue of Re/Visionist!
R/V is excited to be back in action with a new editorial team and tons of great content coming your way this Fall 2012!
We’re starting out this back-to-school season with an eye toward teenagers because, in many ways, they are a neglected part of the feminist community. When they are discussed, they are rarely granted agency, for as a society we hold a tacit belief that teenagers are…well, idiots. And while it is true that their frontal lobes are less developed than our adult ones, it is a crying shame to deprive young women and men of a nuanced dialogue about feminisms. Worse yet, the content we do provide is doing more harm than good. (Side note: it amazes me how much we obsess as a culture over infants and babies–Baby Mozart, anyone?–and then sort of give up on teenagers. But that’s a convo for another time.)
I recently house-sat for someone with cable television, and for the first time in years, I flipped to the Disney channel. I will admit that while I was an avid reader as a teenager, Disney remained a significant source of cultural and social education for me until I was at least sixteen (in part because I have a younger sister… and in part because I liked its relatively “clean” and happy-go-lucky content). But in the decade since, I’ve gained a feminist lens and lost an good deal of naïveté. I watched the channel in horror for over forty minutes, rubbernecking a series called “Austin and Ally.” This flashy comedy employed the exact Disney channel series formula that was in place during the reign of shows like “Lizzie McGuire,” “Hannah Montana,” and “That’s So Raven” of a decade ago. All of these shows featured a teenage girl protagonist– and all ranged from problematic to simply empty in their representations of the teen girl condition. The series rely on consumerist, white-washed, and romantic messages, wrapped in the technicolor, musical, energetic signature of the genre. Like its predecessor “Lizzie McGuire,” the show I watched features “diversity” in body type and race/ethnicity, but only in tokenized friend characters who lack complexity (the rounder, Latina actress who plays Ally’s friend “Trish” functions as a foil to adorable, tiny, quirky, “Ally”; at one point Trish is snoring loudly, and in multiple scenarios her spazzy character causes misfortunes for her friend). Comedy requires stock characters and stereotyping to an extent. But at the end of forty minutes of this show, I officially felt ill, especially when I proceeded to look up the show’s viewership: for prime-time, it recently posted a 5-month high of 3.5 million viewers aged 6-11. (For analysis of Disney channel and its problematic messages from a teenage feminist, check out Julie Zeilinger’s blog, thefbomb.)
Happily, aside from this setback, the past 6 months have brought me a fair amount of complex, strong, and confident female characters in popular culture. Katniss Everdeen restored my faith in mass-culture phenomena. Then Veronica Roth’s book series Divergent got me excited about “dauntless” sixteen-year-old girls like her protagonist, Triss. And of course, Pixar’s latest, Brave, represents an independent, outspoken, and tough princess, breaking the trope’s mold with her lack of romantic interest and central conflict centering on a mother-daughter relationship.
The Teenagers & Feminisms Issue is, likewise, full of examples of FEMINIST MESSAGES geared toward teenagers. My co-editor Katy Gehred counteracts the Disney-channel-formula with her praise of the series The Legend of Korra. Katy also explores the “fangirl” and her power–from Elvis to The Beatles to Bieber–in defining globally popular music and promoting a multi-trillion dollar music industry.
Then, I bring you two more exemplars of feminist content for teen girls: one, a review of 19-year-old Julie Zeilinger’s new book, A Little F’d Up: Why Feminism Isn’t A Dirty Word; and second, a look at the play DOMESTIC, which tells the story of a 17-year-old girl named Jessica who takes a situation of domestic violence into her own hands.
Finally, read our web-content editor Emilie Egger, who asks the question, “Could Nancy Drew have survived as an adult?” in a sharp comparison of two 1930s female detective characters: the traditional and youthful Nancy Drew, and the femme fatale Brigid O’Shaughnessy from The Maltese Falcon. Emilie introduces us to her argument that these crucial representations of young women in the 1930s can teach us much about the power of our characters and their stories today.
It’s a new school year here at SLC, and we have some new ideas for this space–one of which involves YOU. We want to see more of you commenting on our pieces. Did you like it? Did you disagree? Did we miss a particular angle of an argument, to which you can offer expertise? Do you have similar or contrasting content to share with us and our readers? Please help us transform re/visionist from a one-way conversation into a multivocal forum!
Without further ado, enjoy the Teenagers & Feminisms Issue! And come back often for more weekly content in addition to our monthly issues.
THE TEENS & FEMS ISSUE features: