Archive | May, 2011

XOX or WTF? Gossip Girl and misogyny

30 May

Gossip Girl is an insanely popular show with a huge fan base, so I really hope I am not the only person who finds it completely messed up that in the pilot episode of Gossip Girl, Chuck tried to rape Jenny, but then two seasons later (S3, E 22 – Last Tango, Then Paris) they have “consensual” sex?

GG used to be kind of a guilty pleasure for me. I wasn’t delusional; I was aware that my age-group wan’t exactly its target audience, but I was absolutely in love with the idea of New York: the lifestyle, the scenery, so I supposed the show had its redeeming qualities.

Yet if I had a little sister, I’m not sure that I’d have ever wanted her watching it.

This wasn’t even Chuck’s first case of sexual assault: earlier in the episode, he had also attacked Serena after confronting her for sleeping with her best friend’s boyfriend. When Serena helped Jenny escape from Chuck before it was too late, his response was, “Your life is over, slut!”

The preachy, stifling attitude that most characters had towards Serena and her sexuality were annoying at best, and downright bigoted at worst. I disliked that the character who had once been described by her lover Dan as someone who “never apologizes for who she is” soon became reduced to a “reformed bad girl” by the writers. How boring! Her character became completely  irrelevant, as even Gossip Girl herself admitted during their graduation.

It still bothers me that Serena had to be re-written as a “good girl with a past” to be accepted. Meanwhile, Chuck suffered zero ramifications for his actions with Serena, sending the message to young viewers that while promiscuous sex is just about the worst thing a woman can do, there’s nothing wrong with a man assaulting a “slut” who probably “asked for it.”

And the misogyny only worsened from there:

Last Tango, Then Paris, is a deeply disturbing episode wherein an underage Jenny loses her virginity to a would-be rapist and a repeat offendor, Chuck. It certainly ended with that “OMG” bang that GG writers will strive for at any cost, but not in the way you’d hope to see.

I needed to know if others shared my views, so I went online to see what people had posted. I came across an interview with the writers, and I thought that this was a good way to see how they would justify their plot twist. The answer was horrifying:

“It’s a move that’s been in the DNA of the show since the first episode,” revealed co-writer Josh Schwartz.

O-M-G, I thought to myself. So Chuck trying to rape Jenny is a precursor to them having relations later on? What message does this send for young viewers? I wondered. I read on:

“That relationship is something that was in the pilot—it was Chuck being a predator. And here they meet in a place where they are almost equals, in terms of where they are emotionally. It was a way to track the evolution of the characters over three seasons,” Schwartz continued.

Co-writer Stephanie Savage added, “Jenny at her lowest is choosing to do the thing that she so resisted doing in the pilot, and Chuck at his lowest does the act that he’s been so remorseful for since the pilot.”

Obviously, he wasn’t all that remorseful.

Secondly, I would argue with the statement that Chuck and Jenny were even close to being equals in any way. The class, gender, and highschool-clique differences are astounding enough, but the reactions of the other characters revealed who was truly on top in our misogynistic society.

Rather than confronting Chuck, Blair instead turned her anger towards the under-aged Jenny, slut-shamed her, and “banished” her from NYC, thus branding her like a character in an 1850s Hawthorne novel, except this show lacked that isn’t-this-backwards double-meaning.

Jenny has since been removed from Gossip Girl, and is no longer allowed in the city without special permission from Blair. She was only seventeen years old and basically branded a dirty whore and ran out of town.

Rather than confronting Chuck, even Jenny’s father Rufus was upset with his daughter, quick to send her off to her mother’s for her own “good” and “a fresh start.”

Because men always know what’s best for women–which is clearly whatever ensures that she maintains her honour and chastity.

And although Rufus wasn’t exactly eager to forgive Jenny, her dad really jumped on board when it came to forgiving Chuck. In Season 4, episode 3, The Undergraduates, Rufus buried the hatched altogether, remarking that “Jenny keeps telling me it wasn’t [Chuck’s] fault. Maybe it’s time I believed her.”

Not his fault that he took advantage of an under-age girl at a time when she was vulnerable?

Am I the only person who finds this to be ludicrous parental behaviour?

And why are Chuck and Dan friends for a brief moment in Season 5? Why are they even talking?

Glorifying assault as some sort of sexy forshadowing for subsequent liasons is not only repulsive, but sends extremely oppressive messages for female sexuality at a time when girls are just starting puberty and coming to understand who they are sexually.

PS – Did Chuck seriously try to pawn Blair in a business deal in Season 4? Wtf?! Why isn’t he in jail yet??

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Orientalism still alive and kicking: UCLA girl, Macleans, and anti-Asian racism beyond The Big Bang Theory

15 May

Unfortunately, it turns out that my recent disappointment with The Big Bang Theory is only one small part of a much larger trend: anti-Asian racism in the West. This racism occurs in all media types, such as in newspapers (with these recent articles in the Canadian publications  The Toronto Star and Macleans magazine), Facebook (for example, this new Australian anti-Asian Facebook group), YouTube (as seen through the ramblings of the infamous “UCLA Girl“), and of course, hit sitcoms and films in America.

This racism is malignant and festering, and the scariest thing about it is that it doesn’t even try to be covert, as much of the discrimination in the West does. The killings of Indian students in Australia over the last year and the recent rape and murder of Asian university students Tosha Thakkar in Sydney, Australia, and Qian Liu in Toronto, Canada, expose how deep-seated this hatred is. And although I wish I could blog otherwise, this intense loathing is not limited to the sentiments of a few parochial rubes–it’s a dominant Western ideology.

The low-brow Facebook “like” titled “Trying to figure out if your [sic] in Asia or Australia when your [sic] in the city” managed to acquire over 12,000 members in a matter of days despite having a wall full of pro-colonial rhetoric and comments such as “we should shoot them on site,” while the counter-racist Facebook group “‘Too Asian’? TALK BACK” dwindles at just over 1,000 members. Meanwhile, little-miss-UCLA’s father revealed that her viral rambling was meant to be only one part of a series of vlogs that clearly neither he nor she saw anything wrong with. This isn’t even the first time that some of the most widely read Canadian publications have made gross generalizations about Asians. And despite the poor reviews for the blatantly Orientalist Sex and the City 2, the fact remains that it was still the highest grossing rom-com in 2010.

Edward Said, who coined the term “Orientalism” in his book of the same name, stresses that it is hardly a new development in Western thought. It dates back to the days of Marco Polo’s [alleged] travels to the exotic-but-inferior “East.” But nowadays, as the economies of China and India continue to expand, recent anti-Asian backlash from white-pride supporters is hitting the West hard. And this time it’s taking a different turn than back in the days of the Head Tax and the Komagata Maru.

As IT and outsourcing become the way of the future, closet white supremacists fear for their jobs, their social benefits, and what they see as their “loss of culture” as they slowly begin to realize, in terror, that due to the phenomenon of the birth dearth, our economies depend on immigrants to stay afloat. These small-minded lunatics resent every sushi restaurant they pass when they deign to make their way downtown. They grimace when they find that their walk-in doctor’s appointment is received by a olive-skinned face. They scowl when they hear fireworks on festival dates that are not known to them.

Anti-Asian racism has existed since the pre-Columbus era, but this particular wave of racism is different in one fundamental way: in these particular cases, Anti-Asian racism is almost exclusively targeting students. But unfortunately for the racists, our governments still need immigrants.

And the Western governments’ immigrants of choice? The professional, educated class.

This time, the wave of racism is tinged with a hint of not only fear of the unknown, but flat-out jealousy. Unlike stereotypes towards other racialized groups, it is the stereotype of the smart, over-achieving, academically-gifted-but-socially-stunted Asian that prevails in current media. So-called “credible” newspapers dish with condescension and mock-concern about the tribulations of the “unassimilated” Asian student while Asian actors struggle to get roles outside of “the smart one” or “the nerdy one.” Positive media representation of Asians is hard to come by, and this is only if Asian actors manage to find roles at all.

Yet even so, note the tone of envy in UCLA girl’s voice, as she rails about her annoyance at the amount of friends Asians have to call; the loud, weekly get-togethers which she’s neither been invited to nor had the privilege of holding herself; and the horrors of the Asian extended family system while she is left to “fend for herself”–something she claims Asians do not know how to do.

I don’t know, UCLA girl, with a professional class of diaspora living around the world, rapidly growing economies, and major world powers despite what you tactlessly dubbed “the tsunami thing,” Asia seems to be doing quite well for itself.

Globalization is unavoidable. Larger-scale interracial dating, Hakka restaurants, and cultural mixing are not only inevitable, but embraceable aspects of the future. Nationalism died with the 20th century. So get over it.