Last month, the comic book community discovered the casting details for an upcoming big-budget superhero movie adaption. (I guess there must have been a Y in the day.) Following plans to relaunch the Fantastic Four movie franchise, FOX revealed that team member Johnny Storm would be portrayed by African-American actor Michael B. Jordan in a race-blind casting for the Human Torch. So far, so Hollywood.
However, the backlash against news of a Black Human Torch from certain sections of the fan community quickly proved to be so vicious that the catchphrase ‘FLAME ON!’ suddenly took on a whole new (somewhat racially dubious) meaning. This indignation from predominantly white, heterosexual, male fans both represents an intriguing point in the cultural evolution of comic books from fringe texts to mass media products and raises the question of the cultural ownership of geek culture; to whom exactly do superheroes belong?
The recent Japanese obsession with high school girls contains an element that cannot be dismissed as merely desire for young women […] the love for the combination of sailor clothing and young girls suggests a tendency towards polymorphous perversion, encompassing a preference for homosexuality and a clothing fetish in addition to pedophilia.
While ‘girl-power’ may aim to empower women of all ages via its championing of ‘a pleasure-centered form of empowerment tied to ideals found in third wave feminism’, (Newsom, 2004) many analyses of girl-power texts marketed towards children appear to focus on predominantly adult issues rather than consider the potential empowerment of young girls. For example, Tamaki Saitō’s analysis of the schoolgirl archetype within Sailor Moon (2011; 57, above) appears to more closely resemble the discussion of an explicitly pornographic text than of a Japanese anime and manga series aimed at children ‘ages seven and up’. (Cheu, 2005; 294)
When Saitō argues that the schoolgirl’s cultural popularity cannot be ‘dismissed as merely desire’, his argument clearly refers to adult (male) viewers as opposed Sailor Moon’s target audience. In this context, any consideration of the schoolgirl as a symbol of girlishness with which young viewers could relate is superseded by her status as a ‘pornographic trope’, (Allison, 2006; 133) her potential as a role model ignored in favour of her alleged representation of latent sexual deviancy. Although it may be important to question whether children’s texts such as Sailor Moon feature controversial content, academia’s narrow focus on adult issues within girl-power media has resulted in a failure to critically consider the intended audience’s relationships with these texts.
‘The girl who lives behind the aura’:
Blonde Pop Icons, Phallocentric Photology &
Rebellious Darkness in the work of Lady Gaga
Hello and welcome to the landing page for my undergraduate English Literature dissertation. Chances are you’ve arrived at this page either because you’re interested in the radical feminist implications of modern pop music or you just quite like ‘Bad Romance’ and there’s nothing good on the telly at the moment. Regardless of which category you fall into, I am very grateful that you’ve decided to give this essay a bash and I hope you enjoy it!
While this project primarily focussed on Gaga’s recent ARTPOP album, music and videos from throughout Gaga’s career also feature prominently as different ideas are shown to be gradually developed. If there’s anything you’re not familiar with (whether it’s a Gaga song or a confusing-sounding French feminist theory) I would definitely recommend giving it a quick Google or just asking me in the relevant comments’ section. (While I’ve attempted to comprehensively explain things throughout the essay, being an academic piece of work requires it to expect a certain level of theoretical understanding that non-literature students may have luckily bypassed.)
If all of this hasn’t put you off then I hope you enjoy reading the project that took over my life for a good six months but was worth every second. I’m immensely proud of the final result and very happy to be able to share it with you all now after months of work. And remember, you’re a free bitch. – Adam
Table of Contents
Chapter 1. ‘I stand here waiting for you to bang the gong’: Introduction
Chapter 2. ‘Got my flash on, it’s true / Need that picture of you’:
Foucauldian Constructed Identity and the ‘Blonde Pop Icon’
Chapter 3. ‘Bleach out all the dark / I’ll swallow each peroxide shot’:
Phallocentric Photology and the Constrained Pop Icon
Chapter 4. ‘I’m gonna marry the night / I won’t give up on my life’:
Rebellious Darkness and Feminist Empowerment
Chapter 5. ‘My ARTPOP could mean anything’:
Anti-Phallogocentrism and Radical Feminine Potential
Chapter 6. ‘No matter black, white or beige / Chola or Orient made’:
The Negation of Race as Cultural Difference
Chapter 7. ‘Up heaven’s stairway to gold / Mine myself like coal’: Conclusion
‘You and me could write a bad romance’: Acknowledgements
Table of Contents | Next
While I have little personal experience to back up the theory, I sometimes get the impression that being a woman in the music industry might not be the easiest job in the world. For, despite recent scientific advances in the important areas of space exploration, nuclear power and vegan ‘bacon’, no one seems to have solved the secret to being a rock star and a girl at the same time. From having to deal with inevitably doomed romantic entanglements to being endlessly reminded by the media that you’re morbidly obese because you’re bigger than an XXS, writing a memorable hook for your latest song appears to be the least of most female musician’s problems.
On top of all that, women in music also seem to enjoy the convenient double standard of always being the fall guy for shitty situations. (Or fall girl, rather.) From Yoko to Miley, the world of music has taught us that if something’s gone tits up then it’s usually easiest to blame the person with the tits. (And definitely not the middle-aged man dressed like Beetlejuice that she’s grinding into.)
Sometimes there are these beautiful moments where two thoughts wander from the furthest reaches of your consciousness and meet inside you together at the same time. They unite, like providence. They find their other component and together they surrender and form something more beautiful than either of them could have alone.
And it’s a comfort. The greatest of reassurances; that something so lonely and cold and small can just awaken and fixate in your mind and find another. Be united by you; the vessel. It’s the closest I’ve ever known to equanimity. This harmony. It is perfect.
The following article discusses queer cinema and the context of gay pornography so, surprisingly, mentions dicks here and there. Just a heads up, Mum.
Last week I went to the Cineworld Glasgow to see I Want Your Love, a 2012 queer film following in the ‘porn with a story’ dynamic of films such as Shortbus. The decision of the cinema to screen such a film was rather surprising to me, given how pornography at large and gays enjoying themselves aren’t two of the most conventional themes in mainstream cinema, but luckily my brief optimism in the arts was crushed when I got to the ticket desk.
‘Hi could I have a ticket for I Want Your Love at 9:00 please?’ I figure this is a perfectly normal request at, of all places, a cinema.
The female cashier’s face drops into a grim expression at the mere mention of the movie. She slowly leans forward towards me, practically mounting the desk, and asks in a low voice that suggests I’ve asked her for a family ticket to Baby Murder 4 in 3D!, ‘Well do you know what the film’s about?’
Oh Twitter, how wonderful you are. Unlike Facebook, largely absent of the people that we know in real life but actually can’t stand. Unlike Tumblr, generally words help. In the 21st century nothing has changed the way we use language more than Twitter, its systematic brevity only permitting the sharpest of anecdotes, the precisest of observations or the wittiest of comebacks. We salute you!
…Except when you do things like this. For every brilliant, moving, thought-provoking 140 character instalment you roll onto my timeline, there is likely twice as many tweets that make me want to bash my head off the keyboard in frustration. Instagram’d pictures of food, rolling weather updates, extensive critical analysis of niche anime series that you can’t even pronounce; these really ought to be the contents or Twitter’s recycling bin. And even though we’re only human, the following 34 kinds of tweet in particular have no place on the glorious Twittersphere. (Thank goodness for the ‘Unfollow’ button, eh?)