“Tough Guise 2” and “Dreamworlds 3”

Gracie Hall:

Both films we watched this week were focused on the ways in which media help to perpetuate cultural norms and reinforce dominant ideologies. Dreamworlds 3 focused on the stories being told in music videos. The film begins by looking at how music videos, since their debut in the 80’s have become a central part of the music industry. Not only are these music videos used to share and sell music, but they are also used to tell stories of how to be men and women. One story that is common in music videos is the narrative that the most important aspect of femininity is sexuality. Women are portrayed as being nymphomaniacs who far outnumber men. Women are portrayed as being in a constant state of arousal, and are dependent solely on men for their emotional stability. Dreamworlds 3 also focused on how the pornographic gaze has become commonplace in music videos, through camera angles, fragmented bodies, images of compliant strippers and the ritual of showering women with money or liquid.

The film was careful to state that it is not these practices themselves that are to blame, but instead the lack of diversity in stories being told. Instead of viewing women’s sexuality in conjunction with intellect, athleticism, independence etc., the narrow story focuses on only one human aspect in isolation, blown out of proportion. What is interesting to note, is that it is largely white men who control media culture and are reproducing these narratives about groups who are in non-A categories. Women and men of color-especially African American men are learning how they should act through media created by white men, and this is having detrimental effects.

One connection Dreamworlds 3 made was between masculinity in media and real world assault. In the film there are clips of women in cages, women who are tied up, chased around, stalked, forced onto the floor or up against a wall, spanked and smaked. These women who are being attacked never say no, and become aroused. The stories being told in these music videos becomes a script and legitimize assault.

Tough Guise 2 makes a similar connection between real world violence and media. However, unlike Dreamworlds 3 which in some ways shows media as the cause for violence (though not completely), Tough Guise 2 notes how changing perceptions of masculinity have been embraced and perpetrated through media–leading to a seemingly never ending cycle of violence. Jackson Katz begins by showing the ways in which media coverage of violence is genderless. Despite the fact that most violence is enacted by men, this fact is made invisible through linguistics and reference to dominant ideologies. Or, when gender does come into the conversation about violence we are quick to blame evolution, hormones, or brain structures: when in fact it is a mix of biological AND environmental factors. One important argument I think Katz made is that violence is taught rather than learned.

As we read in depth in Kimmels articles masculinity depends on adhering to a strict and fragile concept in order to not be seen as feminine. Katz similarly references this notion, stating: “boys are expected to master the tough guise or risk being ridiculed as not man enough”. They learn the ways to master this tough guise from narratives told in our sexist, homophobic culture. They are taught from prominent male figures and media (and as Kimmel would argue, women as well) to turn to violence as a go to way to solve disputes and establish and protect masculinity. This violence will allow them to gain respect, success, and power. Katz notes that there is an even higher pressure to conform to this concept of masculinity and regenerative violence for men along the intersections of race and class.

Katz also notes that over the years there has been an upping of the ante to embody a real men. Men are now taking up more space, are carrying larger guns, and are becoming increasingly brutal as time passes. This changing and constrainment of masculinity has been promoted and justified by a “wussification” of America. I thought Katz brilliantly showed the ways in which political leaders (such as Regan), institutions (such as the Boy Scouts of America), and public policies (such as gun policies) have been enacted in times of change and progress to “reassert masculinity”. What I found most interesting is that these practices instead of reaffirming positive portrayals of masculinity are actually leading to an over conformation which has resulted in violence.


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