English 313 HON
Throughout history, there has been a binary system, a kind of over-arching dichotomous key that has ruled society and has affected its members. Similar to other binary systems, including: cat and mouse, prey and predator, king and servant, etc., society has expressed a similar master/slave relationship where the woman is subservient to the man. This relationship most likely started during the age of the Cro-Magnons, when only the men had to provide food for their mates and offspring due to their greater size and strength. This tradition continued as time went on, shown in the knights defending and providing for their ladies, and the farmers who would provide and farm for their wives and children. Through this consistent and unwavering line of tradition and values, men and women were brought up knowing their position in life, and knowing what was expected of them. Presently these “roles” have been brought under challenge and subject to reconsideration or revision, and new stereotypes have emerged where anyone can create the future that they desire. Television, a relatively new medium for expressing information, has mirrored these changing values. In the same way, these values have also been duplicated in the modern books that are being produced. This essay will examine these new changes of roles for women as portrayed in these two mediums: television and books, in particular through the Love Saga, a collection of eight movies that follow the lives of a family as they brave the dangers of frontier life, and The Ranger’s Apprentice, a series of books that tells the tale of medieval life with a fantasy spin on the world.
Roles, in particular through their impact upon space and place, describe the usual associations of the different sexes to different places and jobs. Doreen Massey proposes, “gender relations vary over space: spaces are symbolically gendered and some are marked by the physical exclusion of particular sexes” (Barker, 377). In a conservative or rather more traditional viewpoint, a woman’s gender role in society is to raise the children, take care of the house, and to run social events. The spaces separated that her from other members of society and distinguished her position within that society normally included the house, a coffee shop where she could meet with her friends and chat, possibly the school for teaching or for dropping off and picking up her children. This sphere of life was left almost exclusively to the women. In contrast, the men would stereotypically work to make a living and therefore support the family, stay in relatively good physical shape, and to hang out with his comrades and associates. The space that the gentlemen most often use include: the office, possibly a study, the gym, sports field, TV room, among many places. These spaces have been cultural codes that have been upheld in the past but have undergone many changes in this modern culture.
Television has mirrored many of these different spaces and places in its many myriads of shows that have graced the screen. Some show that defined these roles would be I Love Lucy. This show, among many others, in captured the values that were prominent in the time, such as a lack of discussion about sex, to the effect that they slept in different beds during the show, also Lucy fit the stereotypical view of women by appearing simple and yielding to her husband, no matter the case that they were discussing, within reason of course in conjunction with her additional attempts at employing her womanly wiles to turn his head and change his decision. John Fiske, a media scholar and most notably know as the Professor of Communication Arts at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, proposes that, “Codes [of television] are links between producers, texts, and audiences, and are the agents of intertextuality through which text interrelate in a network of meanings that constitutes our cultural world” (Rivkin 1088). What he is saying illustrates the carefully chosen language and the codes that are cleverly expressed through the text in television so as to mean something unique to each of the viewers because they interpret it through their individual view of the culture. Therefore in examining I Love Lucy, Lucy fits the type of character that would be expected out of the women of the time, she was the slightly dim-witted woman who relied on her husband often enacted to an exaggerated extent so as to make it more comical, therefore fitting the prescribed values of the time.
The Love Saga is a collection of movies that appeared on the Hallmark Channel that commenced with its first installment in 2003. These movies are set to take place during the 1800’s in the Midwest of the
In contrast to the women portrayed in the Love Saga, the women from the modern cult TV show, Sex and the City, are very much embodiments of the stereotypical and slightly derogatory “modern woman.” Unlike the normal, “spaces” that women were considered to normally occupy or complete, these women are single and work in the professional world. They do not fit the “stay at home mom mold", and definitely do not even consider trying to be married. They seem to assume that guys are more there if they need them rather a necessity or obligate part of their existence. In the particular scenes from the Season 1, Episode 7, “The Power of Female Sex,” the different characters discuss their private “uses” for men, which strikingly, this use never seems to be for the use of a partner or treating them as if they deserve any respect. This is a very different view of gender roles because instead of the man being the boorish character that always needs to be in control of the situation, which part now seems to be acted by the woman. This is further accentuated by Amalita who constantly seems to use the men in her life as people to get money from or to get sexual pleasure from, however she then dumps them when she does not need to get them anymore. This obsession with sex and money was a role that formerly was the vice attributed only to men but is now seemingly also being associated with the women. There is also the scene about women using the men for money and using their own sex as a bartering chip, which seems to produce a double standard. This modern perspective on the identity and role of women, displays them empowered, and yet also as ruthless, for they do not try to adapt to the way men live, but rather they opt to pull ahead and imprison them, the men, and the same way that they were traditionally, as women, imprisoned.
The modern woman is portrayed very differently in these two television productions. Looking at the women in the Love Saga from the aspects of the women in Sex and the City, they would appear as super conservative and not liberated at all. However, Belinda, a woman who decided that she would become a doctor, became one and thus surpassed everyone’s expectations in that area. She decided to branch out of the normal space of feminine occupation to an area of her dreams and desires, one such role that generally was thought only a man would have the intellect or tenacity to fill. From that historical viewpoint, this would be considered unheard of and very progressive, in fact, such that Drew Simpson, a lawyer from
From the liberal, modern viewpoint, she would be seen as a traditional almost overly conservative character, for, despite her revolutionary attitude to become a highly advanced and educated woman of science, she does get married and when her husband dies, she remarries, which would conform to the normal actions of women in that time period needing a husband for protection, income, or some other sort of social clout or acceptance in society. This is a foreign concept for a lot of Sex and the City because not only do the four women hold professional jobs, they also partake in sexual intercourse when they desire it and none of them stay married for an extended period of time. Furthermore, they can act as though they are above the social niceties and stigma because of the very much more progressive and accepting culture in which they live and operate. Despite her not sleeping promiscuously with every desirable man in her path or manipulating the affections of such men to meet her desires, Belinda does, however, fit the mold of the “modern woman” because she does show a certain amount of outspokenness that belies what should be seen in her given time period and physical location. Derrida, a French philosopher, discussed the ability to know an object based on our knowledge of another object. In essence, there is a force that differentiates elements into binary opponents (Rivkin). We only know how modern and rebellious of an individual Belinda is based on her bearing with her mother and in particular her grandmother. Marty, married for convenience based on the standard and expected behavior of the time. She was a strong woman, however, that would have been normal for the women of that time period. Instead of show her emotions at the death of her husband, she instead chose to grieve silently, instead of making a fuss and trying to fight the situation, she accepted her lot philosophically, and furthermore instead of requesting to stay with her love, she accepted that he had not asked her to stay and was prepared to head back to New England instead of pushing her lot and attempting to stay. This greatly differs from the character of Belinda, for she was outspoken, and very opinionated. When she wanted something, her pushed her way and convinced her adversaries to accept her viewpoint. This is seen many times in the way that she handles Doc when she wants to be a doctor, Drew when she want believes that she doesn’t have to comply with the social norm, and that is the way she is with her patient Mrs. Stafford-Smith.
Not only do television and other the visual medias levy, question, accept, and reject the varying role of the women in a given example of society, but the written media through books do too. The book series, The Ranger’s Apprentice, is a teen or young adult fantasy series that takes place in a country similar to Medieval England. It follows five young wards of the castle, as they grow, and succeed in their particular vocations for which they were chosen. The main character is a young boy who is chosen to follow a mysterious group of “special ops” spies known as the rangers. One of his best friends is an intelligent young girl, named
On the contrary, due to a stark difference in the attitudes in the more modern time and place, the characters from Sex and the City would have supported the actions of
Thus, despite the time period in which a tale is told, the biases from the era in which it is written often shine through in the lives, thoughts, and actions of the many characters. The more traditional view of the women was upheld very cohesively in I Love Lucy partly because it was written while that mindset was still prominent. However, even in a more “traditionalist” film series like the Love Saga, there is an element of the modern woman in the character of Belinda that cannot be completely hidden amidst the author’s attempts to maintain the overarching traditional nature of the times. This can also be seen in the character of
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