Narrative and Technology
Final Project 2007
The female narrative has been constructed and reconstructed over the centuries by
various people, places, and things. The word narrative means story. Who is responsible for adequately telling and retelling the female story? How has the advancements in technology altered the documentation and representation of the female story? As a women of the 21st century I find myself looking to the pictures and words around me, not so much for validation of my existence as a 21st century female, but for the assurance that our story is being responsibly documented, because after all, the way women are represented now will be one of the ways future generations “read” our story of the present..
What about this generation will remain for the future women of the world to learn from? The technological advancements of today has made the images and representations of women more main stream than ever. The internet, advertisements, cable television, and reality shows all have impacted the way women are perceived. Thanks to the technological ease of digital imaging, and other outlets, the female story is being tainted. It is my opinion, that media is negatively affecting the current female narrative, and sadly even still, is that too many women are ignorant to this fact. The story being recorded is that of a superficial, consumerist, shallow representation of women. As I look at vintage dresses and early commercial advertisements, I laugh at the way women are represented and wonder how they could stand for such ludicrous treatment. In my eyes, the way women were treated and depicted in the media outlets, i.e. television, commercials, magazines, is detrimental to the female narrative.
One of my favorite television show is I Love Lucy. This show represents a common contradiction. While Lucile Ball was in part responsible for the production of the show, an example of the power women could have and did have in the 50’s and 60’s, ,in every episodes Lucy is the epitome of the cliché women. Cliché is the house wife and simpleton, enamored with simple the idea of her husband, who dutifully caters to the need of the house and child with no other aspirations. In many episodes she pokes fun at the idea that women can hold responsible position outside of the house
Women and see images of what an ideal woman or girls should look like and or epitomize. Often times these images have been approved by some man, who is most likely in charge of production in some form or fashion, who approves what he thinks men will want to see, in tern the result is fashioned under male influence, and is not what women of the 21st century represent. For example, the Miss America Pageant started by Frederick Hickman more than 75 years ago, and is very prevalent today claims to “…represent the highest ideals. She is a real combination of beauty, grace, and intelligence, artistic and refined. She is a type which the American Girl might well emulate.” Is this what the women of 2050 will take from our existence today. Our story is being recorded with these negative stereotypes.
There has never been an “ugly” Miss America, and it is safe to say there might never be. Too much emphasis is placed on the superficial aspects of beauty, and the media continues to play its part in perpetuating these shallow ideas. Beauty is a concept that is judged through individual perspectives, but because technology has advanced in the way it has, the mass production aspects has overshadowed what is the more realistic attitudes of women. In addition to shallow ideals about the female body, women and young girls are being taught gender roles. The amount of television they watch will have a great impact on the way in which they see themselves and other women. By continually running weight loss advertisement in Cosmo Girl magazine, and placing “How to loose those ugly pounds in 10 days” in Cosmopolitan, they are emphasizing the important of theses weight loss and other physical transformations as the important things in life. Although these advertisements are not the only thing the magazine has to offer, flipping casually flipping though a magazine, I was aware of more of these types of advertisements than any other kind. Allure magazine, which is prescribed for young girls constantly, presents ways in which alterations to the body can be made to become “more appealing”. How can girls consciously grow into anything other than appearance zombies? Just as I am opinionated when I flip through an older issue of Essence Magazine publishes in 1950, as will the future be as the thumb through magazines from today.
Mental development is one effect that is due to the representation of women in the media. As a teen I can attest to the fact that I actively used media as a large part of my socialization. If they are seeing things that encourage a specific lifestyle, and function of women in either the domestic sphere or social, they will ultimately connect their own responsibilities to the ones they are seeing. Legally there has not been a great increase in laws to discourage the portrayal of women negatively in the media. This is largely in part to the First Amendment. The legal system is choosing to not regulate content because it is crucial to the theory of limiting the role of government from freedom of the press, with respect to the First Amendment (Kundamis, 9). Various theories have been developed to look at the way in which messages are received and what they do to our psychological nature. For example, McLuhan said that when the cultures dominate medium is reading, individualism is a strong message. With the advancement in media and technology, reading is defiantly not our cultures’ dominant medium. This is sad when thinking about narrative. I love being able to read stories about women, written by women, of the past, and as technology continues to grow this form of narrative representation will alter, and thus far this alteration is not one of a positive nature. When we are children we begin our personal relationship with the media, the traits that we learn most about are fear, aggression, and sexuality. Having young girls learn primarily about their sexuality through television commercials, music videos, and magazine ads, off sets reality for them. This is the cause of negative messages about the female body. “The child’s ability to differentiate between fantasy and reality is at the crux of development of children’s relationship to mass media.”
According to Huesmann’s developmental theory, these sexual messages can become a part of the child’s “life script” (Kundamis, 20).