Friday, November 6, 2009

Wish Fulfillment TV


I alluded to something, post-before-last, and said a further discussion of it was for another post. Let's have that post, then.
--vamping to my own smaller audiences with my tongue only a little bit poking at my cheek ... THIS is the part that speaks to another kind of wish-fulfillment, but one for another post. Stay tuned.
Awright, here we are.

One of the things about exploitive TV, the kind where specifically it's women who are exploited, is that ... this isn't just targeted for men to watch. "Charlie's Angels", "Alias", "America's Next Top Model"; any show or movie or motion picture entertainment piece centering on chicks donning multiple costumes (gag me: "Pretty Woman") has a firm and complete understanding that, s*xy as its stars may be, and startlingly attention-getting as chicks-in-wigs are for a certain demographic of men ... there's every bit as substantial a demographic of women - who want to play dress-up. Who want, specifically, to play femme fatale.

I grew up with a thick streak of vanity, and its outward expression has come always in the form of self-decoration. How I wear my makeup, the clothing that I like. It's something I keep myself fairly honest about in terms of social interaction - and the bells and whistles are for my own amusement, not for "some man". It is human nature to enhance, to focus on appearance, to go way the heck overboard in playing with it.

Females-as-dolls shows play with the very concept. I don't remember ever really seeing this discussed, though; certainly not within the concept of feminism, either.

There are a lot of areas of most people's lives they don't contemplate much. Dressing-up fantasy is a pretty ingrained part of our culture - for women most particularly. For a feminist, though, this is a dirty little secret, if not outright abomination. And not merely because the stereotype feminist hates men/lipstick/brassierres, but because so much of what dressing-up represents is so deeply, so very exploitive and squicky. It's not just those women who refuse the label for themselves who think I can't be a feminist - there are those happily in the club who find "traditional" outward expressions of femininitY to be outre' if not downright traitorous.

But feminism - like costuming, and preening in umpteen different looks as a creative and conceited outlet - is about choice.

I wish I could make some point *about* this brand of wish-fulfillment. But there are too many. For some, taking ownership of old-fashioned forms of dress and vampishness is akin to the dreams some have of just letting go of control, forgoing the responsibility it can represent to be A Feminist. For others, "old-fashioned" is appealing precisely because it has nothing to do with the politics of just waking up every single day. For others, aesthetics and creativity are key; I have found over time a fifties (Dior's New Look) profile just happens to be flattering, and so even as I peek at all my own personal baggage I just happen to like a dirndl-inspired silhouette and nipped in waist. Some shapes just appeal to us. Some ideas. Some dreams ... "if I were only Barbie, I could be anything - do anything."

We all learned long ago, the Barbie thing is a serious trap. That's why TV makes it safe. To watch Dollhouse, to watch Farrah and her winged hair, to watch Sidney don a wig and go shoot another spy. It both absolves us of the burden of expressing ourselves, and invites us to judge others even as we live a little vicariously, guiltlessly. Women who are all things to all men - who seem like they might even be all things to themselves, within themselves - are just as beguiling to women as surrogates, as they ever have been to men as safely unavailable/available paper dolls.

I wonder why I've never seen a deconstruction of this aspect of exploitation entertainment. I'm intrigued, and squeamish, and fascinated by my own participation. I'm powerfully curious.

I'm guilty.

I'm still, though, so happy with this part of myself ...

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