As we’ve already learned this past month in class, gender roles and the way they are presented on television matter a great deal to feminism and gender studies. As my co-bloggers have already established, mainstream media (in this case, most often television shows and movies) tend to be a large contributor for where we derive our role models. This seems to be especially true for young women who want to take after their favourite strong female leads seen in popular culture today. Though some television shows (such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer – discussed in our lecture and in a different segment of this blog) are successful in depicting strong, confident women that defy feminine gender roles, I will be focusing on what is more likely to happen in today’s popular media – which is just the opposite. It is no secret to us now that Western mainstream media has a knack for depicting girls and women as sexualized manifestations of replaceable objects. What’s worse, is that this tends to happen gradually to big stars formally known as role models, and right in front of the public’s eye.
I will be focusing on a specific corporation that is notorious for this phenomenon. Almost every person I know grew up on the wholesome values and movies constructed by Disney. Ironically, this is the company that seems to have bred the most famous ‘bad girls’ in the media over the last decade. Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Lindsay Lohan, and Miley Cyrus were all, during the openings of their careers, connected to Disney in some way and could probably be considered the seed that planted their fame. They also share another thing in common, they were all at some point, glorified in the tabloids as sex objects.
Unfortunately, the trend does not look to be slowing down. The most recent example of a Disney star seeking a less than clean image is Selena Gomez. Gomez began her career as the star of a Disney network sitcom called Wizards of Waverly Place. The episodes recount the tales of a young girl in a family of wizards, and the harmless fun they get into with their magic.
Gomez’s latest project to be released is a film called Spring Breakers. It will be out later this month, and early advertisements suggest that the plot line most likely strays from one you would have witnessed on her Disney channel TV show. From what I can tell, the storyline centers around four young females and their sexy misadventures throughout their ‘spring break’. Below is a photo from the film, Gomez is on the far left.
Selena Gomez is not the first and will not be the last young female celebrity discovered by Disney to make a bold transition from sweet to sexy. I find the most alarming part of this to be that young girls become aware of the media around the age where television shows like Wizards of Waverly Place are age appropriate. They idolize and follow their favourite star, who, more often than not, just becomes a nameless face in the sexualized game of media. Should we not be concerned that we are starting these young girls off with seemingly innocent role models? When do stars like Gomez’s transitions become too sexualized to be considered “role model material”? Should we be justifying the Disney corporation as suitable for young girls to be watching, knowing what typically becomes of the females that star in these shows?
Gomez was recently at a press conference promoting Spring Breakers. A reporter asked her about her feelings on her loyal young fan base and what she would tell them if they expressed the desire to watch her latest film. Her reply, with a grin and wide eyes: “don’t go see it?”