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  • Writer's pictureAlysha Autumn

Task 1: Reflect on gendered viewing habits.

Updated: Oct 30, 2019

I am a religious TV watcher, the following are TV shows I loved this year:

In the table above, spread across genres and platforms, I tend to lean toward female driven content. All of the shows listed feature female leads and female writers, and most have female directors, but curiously, the only show that does not pass the Bechdel Test is the one with "Girl" in the title, Gossip Girl (according to Entity Mag- I know, I couldn't believe it either). The Bechdel test is a device used to call attention to gender inequality in film, television, and pop culture. The Bechdel test is made of three parts- to pass a media text must pass all three steps:

1. Are there at least two female characters?

2. Do they speak to each other?

3. Do they speak to each other about something other than men?

The Bechdel Test is not meant to comment on the quality of a media text or even to describe a film as feminist, but simply a means to distingush male-driven texts and how women are portrayed and viewed in popular media- a cultural barometer. Films and media construct the ways we think about media, and that begins the moment we begin to consume it.

As women, we often belittle our interests by reducing shows created for women and enjoyed by women to "trash television". Television is gendered, starting from childhood.

In general, I have found that women tend to prefer serial TV shows over episodic or self-contained series. For more on the difference between the two, listen to this podcast, The Art of The TV Episode by Paper Team. In the podcast it is stated that in serial television, "there is no boundary between one episode to the next". This allows for the development of relationships between characters, callbacks to previous episodes and seasons, and further investment by the viewer.

I believe that this trend is also influenced by the newly popularized binge-watching trend through streaming. Growing up, I saw this gender divide between my parents' viewing habits. My mother loves soap operas (she has been watching Young and the Restless her whole life- that is over 11,000 episodes!!!), she loves Lifetime/The Women's Channel movies, and generally will only watch the highly-rated primetime shows with my father. My Dad on the other hand, generally sticks to episodic viewing of male-targeted TV, like Bar Rescue and Yukon Gold. Wildly popular primetime shows like Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad served as the connection between their viewing habits.

Gender is deeply embedded in how cultural content is marketed. A failed example of this is Jennifer's Body, one of my favourite films. It's a horror movie that was a failure at its release, but in recent years has been reclaimed as a feminist cult-classic. The film centers around Jennifer's (Megan Fox) demonic possession that drives her to kill and eat men for power, strength and beauty. The film was developed by the director of Juno, Diablo Cody, at the peakof her career. It was tested with 18-24 year old boys and marketed as such, playing on Megan Fox's sex appeal, described by critics as "theTwilight for boys", a silly and mystical sex fantasy designed for teen boys. The marketing was centered around the femme fatale trope, and the promise that Amanda Seyfried and Megan Fox were going to make out in this campy soft-porn flesh-eating-cheerleader flick. It was a failure from its conception when analyzing it as a male fantasy, but to flip the switch and depict it as a female revenge fantasy, that is where its value shines through. This film is especially relevant in the age of #MeToo, as Jennifer's story begins what appears to be an attempted sexual assault and torture which is the spark that pushes her to a revenge fuelled killing spree, turning her trauma into power and using her tortured body to "wreak bloody vengeance on the patriarchy". The video below is a discussion between Megan Fox and Diablo cody on their views of the film's gendered viewing and how its failure in the male market in 2009, allowed for success in the female market ten years later.

Gender is an integral role in cultural content and is reflected in marketing and consumer perception. It is important to recognize the role of women both on, and off-screen because their roles greatly influence the climate of popular culture and the habits of those who partake in it.

xoxo Alysha Autumn

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