Anonymous asked: dont you think "modern family" propagates set gender roles? in the sense that phil is all about "being a man," he does the fun stuff only with luke, etc etc. how do you view this from a gender egalitarian's point of view?
I don’t think so at all. I think Modern Family is, for the first time in decades, an accurate and faithful portrayal of modern family dynamics.
Take Phil and Claire. Claire is the more severe, wrathful, and aggressive parent. Phil is the more compassionate, gentle, and passive parent. The traditionally masculine/feminine roles are swapped. Of course, Phil can at times be severe and Claire at times compassionate, because they’re human beings. The episode where Phil makes the girls stay in and clean while Claire takes Luke out for the day addresses this.
Phil likes to play with his son because 1. he’s a good father and 2. because there’s an idea of what a father’s supposed to be like and he wants to live up to that notion of masculinity. Which reveals a vulnerability and a humanness in him that isn’t often present in father characters, but is nearly always present in actual fathers, especially in this sort of post-masculine society. See also his constant desire to prove his manly mettle to his father-in-law. That’s a thing. It’s real, it’s a dynamic that people can relate to.
Remember, good media doesn’t deny how things actually are or constantly subvert roles to the point of alienation. You don’t want to hide the image of a dad playing catch with his son. That’s a good thing. The family doesn’t have to subvert traditional roles in *every single way.* It’s supposed to reflect the reality of three dimensional human beings, who some of the time act within the roles they’ve been given but are capable of and given to acting outside of them too.
We don’t want to *switch* the limitations, we want to broaden them.
(Also, Phil just has more in common with Luke. He can’t quite relate to Haley, whose interests and role are vastly different. Claire relates to Hailey because she used to be very similar. He can’t relate as much to Alex because she’s precocious and intelligent and he’s sort of goofy and dumb. But they do bond over geekiness at times. Luke is a simple, playful, easily distracted dude—just like Phil. It makes sense that they have a buddy-buddy relationship. That’s another one of the things I love about the show—it shows realistically how friendship is possible between a parent and a kid. [Gilmore Girls does it with mother and daughter, but their similarity in age and the fact that they live alone together are major factors.])
Where the term “Slut-Shaming” doesn’t apply:
This is a part of my counter argument to someone who disagreed with my assessment of slutty/sexy costumes as a harmful combination of demeaning and indulgent.
“Suggesting that [sexy/slutty] costumes play into defining looks as a woman’s most important characteristics [sic] still affects women who do want to be sexy.”
Everyone WANTS to be sexy. Everyone wants to be desired. But only the arrogant and the insecure (males and females alike) incorporate that desire into their everyday behavior. It’s nice to be wanted, sure, just like it’s nice to be complimented. But fishing for compliments is indulgent and annoying, and fishing for desire is equally so.
People, regardless of gender, who parade their sex around (slutty) are as annoying as intelligent people who parade their intelligence around (pretentious/pompous) or rich people who parade their wealth around (snobbish). Peacocking is fine in a situation where you’re actively trying to attract a single person that you like, but as a lifestyle, it’s vulgar. It’s called being showy.
That’s not a gendered accusation, it’s a human psychology/sociology issue.
The reason women are said to look slutty more often than men are is because physical attractiveness is valued more in women. In men, the analog social trait is wealth. The male equivalent of a slutty looking girl is a douchebag who flashes his cash and his car and anything else that serves as an indicator of wealth. Some people find it attractive, but most people consider it tasteless.
“Women should dress how they want.”
Of course people have the freedom to dress however they want to. But NOT the freedom not to be judged for how they present. Nobody has (or deserves) that sort of exemption. That is such a silly thing to feel entitled to.
We have freedom of speech, but we can’t get angry when people judge us for what we choose to say.
Dress is communication. Since people don’t spin a wheel to choose their garments, we can assume they’re chosen deliberately. Dress is a huge part of the presentation of the self. And that, just like any choice and any presentation/performance, reveals things about the person doing it. Which is a transmission. It’s communication.
And if that message is “look at me!” then it’s bloody annoying and you’ll be judged accordingly.
(It is, however, inexcusable to interpret the message of any form of dress as “rape me!”. THAT argument is called victim-blaming and it’s unacceptable.)
In Defense of Costumes
randomsyncrazy asked: Guy, I am so upset after you posted that meme about culture. It was supposed to be a thing to get people to stop wearing racist cultural appropriating costumes on Halloween, and you joined in with a lot of unkind people who were ridiculing the campaign by trivializing it. I thought you would’ve thought that through :(
I think it’s a silly campaign. I’m certainly not for the flattening and trivialization of different cultures, but you have to be aware that on the other side of that continuum is cultural homogenization and taboo-mongering.
My little sister (who is a junior in high school) and her two friends went as a mariachi band this year. I’ve always been proud of my two sisters for avoiding the slutty costume route, a custom which is increasingly becoming costume de rigueur (pun intended).
Anyway, my little sister called me up and asked me if I left my accordion in my old room at home. I wasn’t going to point out that an accordion and two other instruments wouldn’t actually be an authentic mariachi ensemble, because I was so pleased that even in the absence of my influence (I moved out 3 years ago) she had elected to forgo the shallow and weak validation that can be achieved with a “sexy” costume, and that she’s attracted a group of like-minded friends. Both of my sisters are beautiful girls—they could easily “pull off” the look—but year after year they choose more clever ensemble costumes. My other sister, who started college this year, went out with two friends in homemade Rock, Paper, and Scissors costumes. The year before, it was Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato.
I know this is a little tangential, but I want to illustrate that I’m aware that Halloween costumes both reflect and influence our culture. The slutty/sexy costume trend demonstrates the embarrassingly and harmfully imbalanced value system that’s taught to males about females and to females about themselves. AND by operating by those standards, the problem is exacerbated and the torch is passed to a new generation of young girls.
I do not, however, think that my sister’s choice to don a sombrero and a poncho is based on or propagates harmful racial attitudes.
Halloween costumes have always interested me (the slutty/sexy ones just as much as the others) because they are unabashedly mimetic on the part of the maker and the consumer. A Witch, A French Maid, The Devil, Hugh Heffner—although rooted in reality or rich historical mythology, these entities are reduced to their basic symbols and signifiers in order to be universally understood. Nobody goes as Beelzebub or the fallen angel Lucifer, they put on red horns and a pointed tail and a grab a pitchfork. Nobody goes as plainclothes Hugh Hefner at a restaurant or an event, they put on a red faux-silk robe and puff a pipe. Mimicry is, by nature, reductive.
So let’s study my sister’s costume with mimetic/semiotic sensibilities in mind. Let’s say she wasn’t even being a mariachi musician. Let’s say she was just wearing a sombrero and a poncho and riding a false burro (one of the costumes decried as offensive by this campaign).
Where did she see/learn this image? It’s a trope. Perhaps The Three Amigos. Perhaps (and much more likely) it was an old Looney Toons or Disney cartoon. (These are notorious purveyors of undiluted tropes, both racial and intra-cultural.) Psycholinguistically, this trope was cataloged using the word “Mexican” or even “Spanish.” This is problematic—for a time, anyway. When she went to school and met boys and girls described as Mexican, she’d assume that (or wonder whether) these people exhibited the same traits. That’s not racism (or at least not a deplorable brand), that’s just how your brain works.
As a young human, she would have to gain enough experience with actual 3-dimensional Mexicans to dilute the monopoly that the trope had of the descriptor “Mexican.” As happens with most of us, she would learn to separate Trope-Mexican (the Movie-Mexican™) from real-life-Mexicans based on those experiences. She would learn the things that seem to be true—that many Mexicans seem to be able to speak or understand Spanish—and the things that seem to be false—that many Mexicans hold the burro as their preferred method of transportation.
There is no doubt in my mind that my sister is observant, curious, and intelligent enough to have made this adjustment by now. So when she makes the decision to dress in a poncho and a sombrero, she is not dressing as a real-life Mexican or Mexican-American. She is dressing as a Movie-Mexican™. She is dressing as the trope, as the flattened and distilled idea. And if we understand that, we understand that the costume is not inaccurate or reductive, because it refers to the trope. She is not claiming that her costume is accurate to life, it is accurate to media. Halloween costumes are not intended to be accurate to life, NOR DO THEY HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY TO BE.
The Movie-Mexican™ trope itself is reductive and inaccurate, because it means to refer to the real-life entity, and does so poorly. Does media have a responsibility to correct this? Certainly. I believe few things more strongly than I do this. But it is not a Halloweener who dresses as a trope who influences the culture. It is the artist/screenwriter who establishes the trope.
Responsible 21st century media, such as Modern Family and Louie, is doing a great job of diluting these monopolies. But where there is money to be made, there will be lazy and irresponsible media (Man Up, Most Reality TV) and perhaps (read: definitely) worse, lazy/irresponsible media masquerading as the opposite (Glee).
(And then those, such as Family Guy, who have a foot in both camps.)
THIS BEING SAID, I am not for the total dissolution and abolition of tropes from media. That would be, aside from impossible and impractical, wholly unnecessary. The most potent and effective measure is to instill media literacy in people—especially in children. If media literacy isn’t required in schools by the time I have children, I’ll quit whatever job I have and become a lobbyist. Before it is instituted, however, it’s up to parents, older siblings, and mentors to help children cultivate a sense awareness of how media works, what media is trying to do, and what it is capable of. Of how things are encoded and how they should be interpreted.
The solution isn’t to abolish the moustachio’d Movie-Mexican™ out of fear that he is endangering the real-life-Mexican with his pistols and his poncho—it’s to make everyone conscious of the distinction between the two. The two CAN coexist—so long as we spread the understanding that one exists in fiction and one exists in reality.
The boy in the the It’s A Culture Not A Costume poster who holds up the photograph of the “Mexican” costume is dressed in a black T-shirt and wears a necklace. He doesn’t resemble the Movie-Mexican™ in the slightest. But you know what? That makes for a shitty costume. Is my sister going to wear her normal everyday clothes and walk from door to door saying “I don’t really have much of an accent but my mom does and my grandma makes delicious empanadas. I’m not ashamed of my heritage but I don’t wear it on my sleeve because I have a lot of other qualities. Identity is a complex and dynamic thing. You should study intersectionality. Trick or treat!” ?
No. Who wants to dress up as something as hum-drum and realistic as a regular person? We dress as creatures of history and fantasy and fiction—as goblins and caricatured pilgrims. As history is filtered through media and encoded into tropes, it becomes its own type of fiction. If you will…fistory? Ew. Let’s go with pseudo-history. The Movie-Mexican™, is a creature of fiction and pseudo-history. The geisha, the medieval king, the gold prospector—all creatures of fiction or history or pseudo-history.