Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Don't Hate Me Because I'm Beautiful

I have, over my life, accumulated a few good friends - some of them female. And some of these female friends went on to marry and have daughters of their own. And some of them have complained to me at one point or other on the horrible example the media sets for their daughters. (My sister, for example, won't let her daughters watch any Disney cartoons because the heroines all count on a man to come and save them.) As the father of a beautiful young lady who watches television and movies, and I have to admit I just don't get it.

I became aware of this perspective in the late early nineties. Our female sex ed teacher berated us about... Dick and Jane books. Boy, did she hate those Dick and Jane books. See how the dog plays with the boy? See how the dog sleeps when the girl tells about the things she likes? Subliminal programing! The only problem is that these examples were from at least twenty years before any of us were born. I remember thinking... who honestly gives two shits? True, sexism did and does exist, but by the eighties anyone caught committing it anywhere near a school had their pants sued off of them.

Maybe it never seemed like a big deal because to me, the adult men on television had it much harder than the women. (The late great Issac Asimov said it much better than I in his essay, "Mr. Spock is Dreamy!") Almost every husband or father on television - Ralph Kramden, Al Bundy, Fred Flintstone, Homer Simpson, Peter Griffin - was an idiot whose wives' IQs at least doubled theirs (with, perhaps, the exception of Peg Bundy.) These wives would at best roll their eyes at their husbands' dreams, at worst, take delight in detailing their past failures. And boy did these men dream. And fail, always because of their own stupidity. Maybe that was the worst example of all - don't try, you'll fail, you'll fail, you'll fail.

So tell me your tales. Was there a time when something you saw in the media made you feel inadequate? I'm not talking about being angry about a show portraying (men, women, soldiers, librarians, cops, penguins) in a way you don't like, I'm talking about something you saw as a child - a character in a movie, TV show or book, that honestly made you feel bad because you didn't measure up to it.



Knitting Painter Woman said...

OK, I'm enough older than you that I DID actually read Sally, Dick and Jane. I never WANTED to play with Spot or Dick (let alone any infamous Spotted Dick).
The Leave it to Beaver Mother haunted me when I had children. She always looked slim, pressed, and CALM. Her babies never spit up on her. She seemed never to lose her temper.
And the women on TV weren't ever fat. Or uncertain about as many things as I was. So I didn't feel beautiful.
Even though DH says "the boys must have been hot for you." Ha! Not that they ever let on to me.

String said...

I never identified with ANY female roles on TV except Emma Peel of the Avengers. I always identified with the guys, much more interesting 'lives' so to speak. It was NEVER my intent to grow up, get married and have babies, or be someone on the 'arm' of someone famous (as in many TV character partnerships)

So to me, it must be 'sexist' as I found nothing interesting to identify with...oh yeah, except the Wicked Witch of the!

Aravis said...

I was a lot like String. I was a tomboy and couldn't be bothered with girly things, except perhaps to scoff at them. When I got older, the teen magazines like "Seventeen" sometimes left me feeling a little inadequate, but nothing serious.

I always identified with Molly Ringwald's character in "Pretty in Pink." She was herself, didn't let other people change who she was. That was how I wanted to be. In my case it was hit-or-miss, but that's what I aspired to, rather than someone else's idea perfection.

String said...

Oh Yeah, Molly, that's a good one! Now my mind is skipping to movies...hummm.

Tony LaRocca said...

I was never jealous of the way any actors looked but I have to admit, I always wanted a voice like the late great Valentine Dyall :)