Thought provoking post by Abigail Derecho at Henry Jenkins blog , who is completing a dissertation at Northwestern University in the Comparative Literary Studies department, specializing in digital culture, She talks here about action movies and TV soaps and the role of women
Daytime drama has undergone a serious decline in ratings over the past decade, and I attribute this mostly to network executives' lack of investment in, and lack of knowledge of, the soap genre. As a result, soap fans (of which I am one) have engaged in more heated battles, meaning mail/e-mail campaigns, phone campaigns, and massive flame wars online, over the last 10 years, than I have ever seen in any other fandoms. Soap fans fight TPTB (producers, writers, network execs) for story changes, and they fight with each other because they feel that no one is really getting the quality or kinds of storytelling that they want, so fan groups that have different interests are mutually regarded as "competition" for the networks' attention. So far, the networks haven't responded to fans' demands for improved (i.e., better-written) stories and for more respect for show history.
The soaps continue to go down in quality, and viewers continue to tune out. Meanwhile, all of prime time has co-opted the technique of seriality which daytime dramas spent decades developing and enriching - all reality shows are soaps, most prime-time dramas are soaps or have some serial elements, and many prime-time sitcoms (Friends, Seinfeld, How I Met Your Mother) have multi-episode, sometimes multi-season story arcs.
Millions of women fans spent years and years contributing to writers' knowledge of how to make seriality work. Their input and feedback, manifested in a multitude of activities from their mere viewership to their fannish activities, helped to build up that store of knowledge, helped to program those data banks. Not only do those fans get zero credit, but the soap-y shows that women now watch on prime-time - Prison Break, 24 - are much more geared towards male audiences and male interests than towards women audiences and women interests. Again (see my above point), it isn't that women can't or don't enjoy male-oriented programming. But women fans lost good soap operas, which were dramas dedicated to women's enjoyment, and we did not gain the equivalent in serial prime time.
Boys with ther toys
In the latest issue of WIRED (July 2007), Optimus Prime, my favorite character from my favorite cartoon ever, Transformers, is on the cover. Here are some excerpts from the article about the new Transformers movie: "They started as toys for boys," "Boys ages 5 to 11 -- and it *was* boys -- faithfully tuned in week after week to watch the saga of these doughty bots," "For nearly two decades...sons of Prime waited for Papa Bot," "Thus [with Transformers] began the cyber-outsourcing of masculine heroism, a process that would eventually, inextricably, link Y chromosome to Xbox," "man-children of a certain age look to this Transformers movie...for redemption, as men." So, I, a hard-core fan of Transformers ever since I was a little girl, am excluded over and over again by this article. It's not just this one article or writer that concerns me, it's the way this environment of geeky, technologically-themed, toy-oriented pleasure is often assumed to be a 100% masculine domain. I don't think the statement "Girls like robot characters" would surprise anyone. Girls like all kinds of characters; they play video games; they watch sci-fi/action/adventure movies and TV, they read comic books. And then they grow up to be women media-studies scholars ;). But the mainstream press, written by non-academic fans, consistently associates certain media - and I don't just mean films, here, but technology of all sorts, from Blackberries to C++ to robots - with masculinity
we look for sterotypes and then we create them?
And in a post we made a while ago I quoted Leonard Shalin who wrote a book entitled the Alphabet and the Goddess
Shalin proposes that the process of learning alphabetic literacy rewired the human brain, with profound consequences for culture. Making remarkable connections across a wide range of subjects including brain function, anthropology, history, and religion, Shlain argues that literacy reinforced the brain's linear, abstract, predominantly masculine left hemisphere at the expense of the holistic, iconic feminine right one. This shift upset the balance between men and women initiating the disappearance of goddesses, the abhorrence of images, and, in literacy's early stages, the decline of women's political status. Patriarchy and misogyny followed.
Shlain contrasts the feminine right-brained oral teachings of Socrates, Buddha, and Jesus with the masculine creeds that evolved when their spoken words were committed to writing. The first book written in an alphabet was the Old Testament and its most important passage was the Ten Commandments. The first two reject of any goddess influence and ban any form of representative art.