Gender as Imitation of Idealized Images

Patrick Gallagher Landes

Dreamworld 3 and Tough Guise 2 make visible a culture in which men imitate hyper-masculine figures in media. These media images also always relate femininity in relation, and subservient, to masculinity. Thus, women also imitate these social (and sometimes physical) positions because these images idealize both masculine and feminine identities. Dreamworld 3 presents rap music videos which feature mainly black men abusing drugs and alcohol while simultaneously itemizing and sexually harassing women, who apparently enjoy such behavior. When we see these juxtaposed to images of real life mass harassment of women in public, as Dreamworld 3 does so nicely, we realize that these images idealize a frightening masculinity in real life. Tough Guise 2 goes further by saying that not only should follow this masculine image, but they must master it, or else face harsh ridicule.

Women are also portrayed in popular culture as nothing but currency and sexual objects who constantly crave sex. Music videos use the aforementioned tactics to do this, but also use camera techniques and story lines to heighten these feminine traits. Camera shots which pan across women’s bodies and disregard their faces and using the space between a woman’s separated legs illustrate how women’s bodies are only used for visual and sexual pleasure. Women who sing in their own music videos may initially resist the monetary gain which comes from hyper-sexualizing women but often slide into using sexual images to attract capital out of a hegemonic masculine system.

Perhaps what shocked me most about Dreamworld 3 was how this whole system of music video production is produced by white guys who want to make money. But not only do they make huge amounts of money, they do it while being racist and sexist. When I heard the film’s reference to these music videos as parallel to Birth of a Nation, I’m pretty sure I let out a slew of curses. These music video producers portray black men as powerful, lust-driven, drug addicts in a very similar way to the makers of Birth of a Nation did while simultaneously showing women as itemized, hyper-sexualized, and lust-driven. These images are then dispersed to an adoring audience who wishes to become like that. I don’t think I’ve thought as gender as imitation much before seeing these films, and maybe it’s because imitation was focused on in one of my theater classes, but media give so much social value to these images of masculinity and femininity, so if we want to gain social values ourselves, we have to imitate them. This is exactly why Barney from How I Met Your Mother or Ron from Parks and Recreation get quoted so frequently. This is no doubt why, if you shout “VEGAS!” at a party with no actual reference to going to Los Vegas, girls will yell with excitement. We are trained to imitate exactly what media shows us: all in the name of social capitol.

Anyway, it disturbs me to think that people have been imitating the types of images that Dreamworld 3 and Tough Guise 2 talk about. I like to think about a sort of counterculture which seems to be emerging—one where men treat women as real people, rather than items or currency of sexual desire. However I am reminded that this is really a subculture and so much violence exists within men and women still are at a social disadvantage because men feel the need to use this violence against them to bolster their own masculinities. 

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