Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Rant: Deconstruction of the Female Image

Pop culture is something that is inherently central to all young people’s life, especially college age, in my opinion. As a music industry major, I have always enjoyed meticulously following the career paths of musicians. I like being in the know about what song is #1 and what artists are the new hot commodity. When I was eleven, I used to sit by the radio and listen to Casey Kasem’s Top 40 Countdown and writing the slots of this week’s countdown on a piece of paper to add to my binder collection.

But by having this dominance of pop culture engrained on me, not just involuntarily but voluntarily too, I quickly get caught up in what is new and trendy, rather than it’s real message.

Susan Douglas and Catherine Orenstein’s “Pop Culture Is Us: Two Essays on a Theme” hit home to me on that front. Their ideas on such television shows as “Extreme Makeover” and “The Swan” are ideas that I vapidly agree with. While watching the former with my mother one night, I was disgusted by all of the plastic surgery and work they “forced” on this woman (as I’m sure, whether it was her idea or not, the reasons were trivial and materialistic). But by the end of the night, you see the final product, and you are amazed! She looks incredible! But at what cost? Who is to say what is “incredible”?

I think their ideas tie in very well to the music industry market as well, now more than ever. I miss the days of old when it didn’t matter what you looked like, what mattered is if you could sing with soul and passion, creating music that the people liked to hear. Those days are gone. Now, if you’re halfway attractive, skinny and can take direction to learn some pop-locking choreography, they can ensure you sound like a great singer, even if you can’t sing a note. "Talent", in a broad sense, is optional. Artists like Britney Spears are excused from singing live at gigs, because she is also a dancer, and dance is a huge part of her live act. Great voices like Christina Aguilera get ridiculed for her shocking choice of wardrobe, while more and more models are becoming movie stars and Lindsay Lohan gets to record her own album. It all seems backwards. We tend to blame the victims, while the ally of the oppressor is praised.

And it’s certainly not just the women who are at the center of the controversy. A huge part of today’s music market is rap or hip hop music. I will not say that all rap music and all rap artists are bad; some things need to be said, and if they can said to a catchy beat, all the better. The issue arises when rappers are praised as artists when the only lyrics their songs consist of are graphic depictions of women, sex, drugs and violence, often to women. What is even more disheartening is the songs are “cleaned up” by deleting offensive words, rather than offensive concepts, and placed on the radio. Artists compete to make their video the sexiest, flashiest, most “innovative” clip out there, when really the derogatory images portrayed by both male and female artists should be downplayed and ridiculed rather than heralded as the hottest new song of the summer.

The idea that musicians now are sources of revenue to start a franchise rather than a good album is readily accepted as truth. Shows like “American Idol” and “Making the Band” are always very quick to state that a person has a good voice, but if their appearance is not up to stratch of today’s flippant aesthetic, there is no point of getting this poor amateur’s hopes up. What’s even more upsetting is, as Douglas and Orenstein have said, this is what we deem entertainment.

No comments:

Follow Me on Instagram via @melismaticdiva