Category Archives: Media Criticism

Tina Belcher, an Iconic Animated Character

By: Rachel Harmon

If you have not seen Bobs Burgers, you need to start. Not only is this an iconic animation series for young-adults, but also has one of my favorite animated characters ever: Tina Belcher. She is the oldest of her two siblings and her family owns a Burger Shop. She is the awkward girl we all were at some point in our lives (or still are). She gives us many cringy but hilarious moments in every episode. She may have minimal social skills and may not understand what is socially acceptable as a teenager girl, but she is happy with who she is and refuses to be like everyone else. Some of her most notable quirks are her fantasies about Jimmy Junior, her erotic friend fiction, AND her obsession with BUTTS. She is definitely one of the most empowering animated female characters I have ever watched because she expresses her real feelings, even if they are “weird.” It is difficult for a teenage girl to be herself unapologetically, but Tina owns it. Tina is my animated icon and she should be yours too.

Please enjoy one of my favorite Tina moments, because like her, I appreciate a good butt.

Tina Belcher giphy

Surviving R Kelly: Black Girls’ Lives Matter

By: Moriah Mikhail

The Play-book of a master manipulator:

Lure, charm, ensnare, lie, coerce, abuse, lie some more, compliment, abuse again, threaten, control, cover up, and then lie again. repeat.

After watching the Surviving R Kelly Lifetime documentary, it seems Kelly has not only mastered this play-book but may have written it himself. The disturbing reports of pedophilia, sexual and physical abuse, as well as manipulation the girls recounted from their experience with the R&B pied piper were enough to make any viewer physically ill. And yet the most disturbing component of Kelly’s systematic manipulation is how he specifically chooses the girls he preys on. This once idolized Black artist utilizes the oppression experienced by Black women and girls to his advantage, successfully (until now), silencing his victims. One Survivor featured in the Lifetime series, Asante McGee, alleges that the singer preys on super fans specifically, employing his power as an R&B superstar to sexually manipulate vulnerable fans. McGee became involved with R Kelly at the age of 32, but she describes that regardless of age; “if you are vulnerable and he knows he can control you, that’s who he’s gonna go for.” The significance of that tendency is this—the R&B molester’s main goal with these girls is to seek control and exploit them with little threat of repercussions. He preys on the very community that has helped him achieve stardom, and worse, many young girls from that community. Because of this, survivors have been hushed by their own community and their reports against him have evoked little outrage. As Chance The Rapper described, and an opinion many unfortunately hold: “I didn’t value the accusers’ stories because they were black women.”Kelly is utilizing a racist societal ill to his advantage, and it cannot be stressed enough how problematic that is, especially for a black artist idolized by the black community.

For those that have not been able to tune into the series, I will summarize a few critical points. Disclaimer: some of the stories mentioned below may be triggering for certain viewers that have experienced sexual or domestic abuse; please use discretion as you read and prioritize your mental health.

1994 marks the start of R Kelly’s apparent trail of pedophilia with his illegal marriage to the then 15 year old, Aaliyah, considered the princess of R&B. As described in the docuseries, those in his inner circle considered his relationship with Aaliyah to be an anomaly in Kelly’s sexual history. They believed he loved her and that he thought she was “different,” “mature,” and “beyond her years.” I use quotes not to say she could not have exhibited those characteristics but that coming from Rob it sounds more like a cover-up to convince his peers that their relationship was an exception and not an obvious red flag that he was (and still is) a pedophile. Recently, Kelly’s lawyers have come to his defense claiming Aaliyah lied about her age saying she was 18 but recently a video clip resurfaced, proving R Kelly was in fact aware she was 15 at the time of their marriage. He was 27.

Sparkle (Stephanie Edwards)describes a different side of a familiar scandal in Surviving R Kelly. The trending upcoming singer introduced her niece to R Kelly when the young girl was just 12 years old. Her hopes were that Rob could do for her niece what he did for her—help her achieve stardom, as the girl (whose identity has been kept confidential), was an aspiring young female rapper. This same girl that Sparkle clearly holds a sister-like protective love for is more widely known as “the girl R Kelly peed on.” Yes, a girl introduced to Rob at the mere and vulnerable age of 12 is the same girl from the “sex tape” (filmed rape) that Kelly faced child pornagraphy charges for in 2002. When the tape was taken Sparkle confirmed her niece had to be 14 years old because she recalls her hairstyle in the tape was the same she wore when she was around that age. Kelly was 35. The girl and her family, paid off and embarrassed, did not testify against the girl’s rapist. Sparkle, even after overwhelming discouragement from people in the music industry, spoke out against R Kelly and all that came from the trial was the ruin of Sparkle’s music career and charting songs for R Kelly. The Jury found him not guilty.

During the course of the 2002 trial, R Kelly’s superfans display their support from outside the courtroom. One young female supporter catches his eye—an underage Jerhonda Pace. He exchanges numbers with her outside the very courtroom he is entering to face child pornography charges. The two begin communicating via text and phone call immediately. The young girl is swept into Kelly’s house where he harbors his cult of underage sex slaves. We watch the once star-struck superfan walk off the set, crying, as she recalls the abuse she experienced from him. Lisette Martinez meets Kelly in the mall at the age of 17 and is pulled into his cycle of manipulation and abuse. Dominique Gardner connects with R Kelly through her fellow superfan friend, Jheronda, and remains a prisoner to the house for 9 years after. Countless women describe eerily similar experiences of being star struck, flattered, charmed, built up, tore down, coerced, threatened, controlled, abused, and emotionally drained in their abuser’s sick cycle of manipulation. The survivors that ended up in “the house” describe his harsh control of degrading rules where the women would have to knock or stomp to ask permission to enter parts of the house, perform sex acts he requested for himself or on others, call him ‘Daddy’ and relieve themselves in buckets in their rooms. Some names mentioned like Jocelyn Savage and Azriel Clary are still prisoners under his control, along with countless other women and girls.

Surprisingly, there is even more disturbing accounts that the documentary covers but in summary Kelly displays a 20 year long track record of pedophilia, abuse and manipulation. Not to mention he hints at admitting to these accusations in his songs and even released a 19 minute song titled “I admit” where he mentions his cult, sex slaves, and having sex with “the younger ladies.”

The #MuteRKelly movement is stronger than ever with the emergence of this unveiling docuseries, and I stand behind this movement 100%. We cannot conveniently “separate the art from the artist” as the money this man makes from music royalties on the radio and streaming platforms, and ticket sales from concerts go directly towards his cause of covering up his trail of pedophilia, molestation, and abuse. Predator Kelly is not an “artist;” he is a professional serial rapist and abuser, R&B is simply his means to support his true demented career. When you Mute R Kelly, you contribute to the cause of supporting these survivors, freeing his current victims, and achieving some sort of justice for every life broken by this man. Stop playing his music at your BBQ’s for the ‘nostalgia’ and wake up—stand for these survivors that have been neglected for too long by their own community.

Louie​ ​C.K’s​ ​“Feminism” and why it always sucked

By Anna Bottrell

Every Hollywood abuser outed has their own special punch in the gut sensation, but Louie C.K. is one that pained me with a little extra oomph. As a supposed feminist, how could I have been watching everything he’s been putting out for years while somehow missing that he’s a complete scumbag? Can hypocritical assholes imitate good feminists that convincingly? I’ve used this as an opportunity to think about what warning signs slipped on by.

Louie’s feminism takes a familial note. I can recall Louie winning celebrity jeopardy in the name of a charity for women injured in childbirth, and the time that Louie endorsed Hillary Clinton because she is a mother. His daughters are his stated motivation behind almost every positive thing he does. “Women” in the more general, he sees in a semi-angelic light. In a well known bit, he compares the leap of faith a woman has in going on a date with a man as insanity . Men are lower creatures. They are closer to the animal kingdom. Louie isolates intrusive sexual urges as male.

I am not going to attempt to connect Louie’s picture of the world to reality, or assess its accuracy or inaccuracy. I’m merely going to trust that his signature “raw” style of standup does actually reflect the tone of his inner attitudes on gender. There have been comedy bits done by every genius and every hack on “the difference between men and women” for years, but Louie’s specific tone of moral dichotomy is unique and permeating throughout his career.

The plot of his movie that barely escaped release, “I Love You, Daddy”, centers around a man (played by C.K.) who admires a Woody Allen-esque filmmaker and subsequently dismisses his reputation as an abuser and manipulator of young girls. That is, until his own daughter is the girl involved. Fathers having some sort of moral compulsion to guard a young woman’s sexual behavior is a recurrent trope that goes back to images of self righteous dads intimidating potential boyfriends with shotguns. I Love You, Daddy is different from these typical cases of fatherly overreach, where the dad believing that he has a say is a much more simple case of patriarchal control of households and a moral view of looking at women’s sexuality. The filmmaker is an abuser of minors, but then again, Louie’s character is dismissive of abusers, and also reportedly shown miming masturbation in front of a room of people (eerily similar to CK’s actual behavior with women).

The idea that women can be tugged around by protectors and violators like little rag-dolls is fairly typical Louie C.K. material, perpetuating the image he builds where women are defined by familial connections and by a lack of the chaotic urges that lead men astray. Men’s feelings and actions are the ones focused on, even if women are pivotal to the story. This treatment may make men the bad guys and show women in a positive light, sure. But, it’s dehumanizing, and it’s dismissive of predatory behavior in men, by including it in a universalized picture, and therefore implying that at least the motivations behind it are unavoidable.

An illustration of this concept sticks out in my memory, from the TV show Louie. It is a scene in which Louie is rejected by his romantic interest and proceeds by attempting to rape her. She wrestles him off of her, and chides that he can’t even rape correctly. The scene isn’t strictly comedic, and instead veers into the drama that mixes with the humor of the show. It also wasn’t very realistic, though I have no idea if it was supposed to feel real in any way. The scene very clearly came from a male perspective, where the viewer was intended to feel the swell of Louie’s emotions, and the woman’s lack of a reaction was secondary.

In Louie’s world, him being an abuser doesn’t really make him a particularly bad guy, even though he’s harmful. In his world, all men are driven by similar urges. He is one of a scummy pack, and all he can do is try to devote himself to a fatherly role, trying to save the ones he has an emotional obligation to save, from this lopsided world.

Women who aren’t his daughters aren’t really rewarded the same courtesy. It may be that in order to feel an incentive towards respecting women, he feels the need to see them as more little girls under his wing. This would explain the highly criticized part of his shoddy apology, where he overemphasizes how much 5 the women he abused had “admired” him.

Additionally, though Louie claims to care about “women” in terms of this wide group of inherently superior individuals, he still thinks of his needs and feelings and urges first in all exchanges with them, and assumes them to be a form of “other” while the flawed male is the default. One can observe this while listening to his comedy, that the male perspective is the one that we are invited to occupy as the audience. Louie is a man, so some might think it is a given. However, I think that’s a bit of a lazy way out when it comes to art. And, make no mistake, Louie C.K. believes himself to be an artist. Consider the rape scene on Louie. The woman was a developed character, but when a man near her was having intense emotions, his were the ones that superseded hers. If in other cases she was granted the opportunity to be fleshed out, then this sudden laziness without a joke to balance it doesn’t really seem artistically defensible.

In the future, I hope feminism is held to a higher standard. Even if he had never shown anybody his penis, the picture he creates of a world where the current patriarchal system of oppression is a byproduct of inherent psychological urges isn’t compatible with an agenda of social change, which is what any form of pragmatic feminism should include.

I’m concerned by the fact that I never unpacked these objections until it was too late. Maybe I was distracted by the positivity, the flattery of his portrait of women. Maybe I excused it as a joke, not seeing the underlying attitudes that Louie was espousing, and that his hordes of male fans relate to. I don’t know how many of them use the same excuses to themselves that Louie did, considering their morality to be biologically handicapped, but it’s about time that we stop spouting gender pseudoscience to each other veiled and packaged in the form of jokes, or “art”.

Some men say that feminists are overly sensitive, and can’t take a joke. I don’t know what kind of laugh they expect from me half the time, maybe some sort of existentialist reaction where I laugh at the mundanity of hearing the same jokes over and over again, accompanied by the claim that men are better at thinking of jokes than women. Have I heard a man think up an original sexist joke? Maybe Louie C.K. did, and it slipped past me, and I think I laughed. Personally, I thought Louie C.K. was funny, at least most of the time, but this is a prime example of a joke not being funny anymore. When I was a little kid, I thought Bill Cosby was funny. When I was a teenager, I used to laugh along to Joss Whedon’s dialogue in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I laughed at Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie, and Wag the Dog. I don’t think I’m going to be laughing anymore, and if you’re a man reading this article who wants to tell me that I have no sense of humor, then nobody’s stopping you.

The Joke That’s No Laughing Matter

By Sabrina Huston

There’s been a joke going around social media lately. “I have PTSD-President Trump Stress Disorder. Impeachment is the cure.” The joke has become popular enough that there is now a t-shirt for sale on websites from sunfrog to amazon including Prime shipping. Articles about “President Trump Stress Disorder” have appeared in numerous publications, including USA Today, the Huffington Post, the New York Daily News, and the International Business Times, often in a mocking light. To use an acronym such as PTSD, which has significant meaning, for this political joke and reality is despicable and inhuman.

Political anxiety is real. Many people are concerned about losing health care or family members and Republicans in Washington continue to ignore the calls of the people. Politically caused anxiety, while it can often be debilitating, is not the same as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and conflating the two is helping no one.

People seeking therapy for anxiety caused by the possibility of their parents or siblings being deported an increasing occurrence should not be mislead into believing they have PTSD. That misbelief can hurt chances of therapy being successful or helpful at all.

But the main problem here is not the serious discussion taking place on some media sites and within the psychological community over how to best assist those who fear family separation through ICE. The problem is that mental illness, especially PTSD, has increasingly become a punchline.

Triggers are a real thing for many people. Some people with depression are triggered by graphic descriptions of violence, as it can remind them of episodes of self-harm. Many veterans with PTSD are triggered by loud explosions, such as fireworks, which can send them into traumatic memories. Memories of my suicide attempts are often triggered by classical music. Not all triggers make sense, but they are all legitimate and should be recognized as such. Despite this, a popular meme has been making fun of people who object to racism or graphic imagery with the phrase “triggered” overlaid on an often blurred picture. The mocking of a serious mental health concern has caused many college classes to stop giving trigger warnings due to a lack of understanding by the administration and professors as to what triggers and trigger warnings are. A trigger warning, or content warning, is a brief blurb of what may cause or trigger someone’s mental illness symptoms. For example, someone with PTSD will often relive a traumatic memory, including emotions, compulsions, and feelings of anxiety or panic. To not give someone a warning and the opportunity to avoid or mentally prepare themselves for whatever is coming is indeed inhuman and uncaring.

Mental health is a serious issue, especially in the US. In 2014 42,826 people committed suicide in the United States, and 383,000 visited emergency rooms from self-inflicted wounds. The number of suicides is still rising, with an estimated 44,193 committing suicide in 2016. Despite this epidemic, we still treat mental health as a joke, on both the right and the left, as can be seen by the “triggered” memes and the “Impeachment is the cure” t-shirt. Mental health is a serious issue that affects people of all races, genders, sexualities, socio-economic backgrounds, and ages. It is not a joke, it is not something that can be used as a scapegoat for gun violence, nor something to be turned into a horror trope. It is a serious issue far too many people are afraid to deal with properly, often for fear of being mocked or harassed. So, the next time you think of reposting a “triggered” meme, or saying you have “President Trump Stress Disorder,” remember this: you’re making it harder for people to take care of themselves.

Ghood​ ​Ghurl​ ​or​ ​Bhad​ ​Bhabie? How Daytime TV Props up the Madonna-Whore Complex

By Anna Bottrell

Danielle Bregoli is a human meme: the ultimate form of objectification. The 14 year old’s claim to fame is one threatening utterance of mimic AAVE , “cash me ousside, how bow dah”, 1 said on Dr. Phil. A crowd of golden aged women hissed and booed at this narrowly post-tweenage rebel, sitting in beige solidarity with their mustachioed patriarch.

Dr. Phil is a simple concept. Somebody asked, “How do we make Maury Povich less trashy?”, and in popped the doctor with his degree and expertise in mental health, to alleviate the guilt of the viewers. If he flicks his wrist at the end of the episode, sending Danielle to equine therapy, then the viewers can feel absolved of their guilt. They are supporting a benevolent enterprise, not Maury, but Maury Lite.

Danielle appeared on the episode entitled, “I Want To Give Up My Car-Stealing, Knife-Wielding, Twerking 13-Year-Old Daughter Who Tried To Frame Me For A Crime”.

Following her initial notoriety, she has attempted to independently develop her public persona via social media. Additionally, she has forayed into rap. Performing under the nom de guerre ‘Bhad Bhabie”, she released the single “These Heaux”, with two follow-up tracks. She is now signed with Atlantic Records.

Reaction videos to her songs are scattered across youtube, where one can find vloggers with their engines revved, ready to pancake this young girl’s dream of self-reinvention.

Rather than turning up our noses at a girl who was exploited by her family rather than placed inconspicuously in therapy, we should attempt to take this issue with greater objectivity and distance.

On Dr. Phil, teen rebellion is a gendered activity. The episodes of this show featuring troubled young men are generally centered around drug use or violence, issues that their feminine counterparts often deal with as well, but the the teens receive radically different treatments. These are some titles of episodes that have aired since the infamous ‘cash me outsideepisode : “Our 21-Year-Old Daughter Is Gorgeous, Wild and Violent”, “My Beautiful 34 Daughters Accuse Me of Being a Controlling, Manipulative Father”, “Beautiful Missing Teen: The Phone Call, the Chase, the Dramatic Conclusion”, “Drinking Since 18, 3 DUIs by 21, Passed Out by the Side of the Road: My Beautiful Daughter Needs Rehab Now!”, “ Police Called 100 Times on Our Car-Stealing, Drug-Taking, Dad-Beating, Beautiful 15-Year-Old, Who Is Now Corrupting Her Younger Sister”, “My Head-Butting, Furniture-Throwing 9-Year-Old Daughter Looks Like an Angel but Behaves Like a Wild Child: Who’s to Blame for Her Behavior?, “Beautiful, Privileged, Addicted, Homeless … and Pregnant!”, “Help! My Beautiful Teen Daughter Is Living in a Motel With Two Strangers”.

The bodies of these women are commented on, even if the woman in question is 9 years old or a kidnapping victim.

The episodes that feature a man typically have titles like this: “Our Son Is on the Run From the Law so He Can Become a Rock Star”, or “Young, Smart and out of Control: Our 17-Year-Old Son Is Facing 2 DUIs and Prison!”.

The only ones I found that comment on the bodies or sexualities of men are “Bad Boy Blake With Abs of Steel: Can Dr. Phil Break Through His Cold Heart?”, “My Handsome Reality TV Star Ex and Father of My Son Thinks He’s God’s Gift to Women”, and arguably “My Brother Changed His Name to Sexy Vegan, Wears Speedos in Public, and Is Spending My Mom’s 11 Million Dollar Inheritance”.

Additionally, this exploitation takes a twist when one realizes that the target viewing audience of Dr. Phil is women . This implies that Dr. Phil is not calling the girls “beautiful” to appease viewers who watch daytime tv for a flash of breasts, unless his secret business plan is to draw in as many lesbians as possible.

The women watching Dr. Phil apparently aren’t interested in being titillated by men, either, with perhaps the exception of Blake’s abs of steel. In actuality, the mentions of bodies and sex are included for pandering towards the “good girl gone bad” trope, the Madonna-whore complex, the idea that sexuality is not moral for women.

Danielle Bregoli falls victim to this as well, with “twerking” listed as one of her major crimes, apparently shocking enough to rival “car-stealing” and “knife-wielding”.

In the video for her song “Hi Bich”, Bhad Bhabie wears a wedding dress, her hands folded in mocking piety. Her smirk implores us, “Is this what you prefer?”. Do we find the image of her as a dutiful child bride more or less disturbing than the image of her twerking?

Teenage rebellion is a rite of passage that many of us, men and women, squirm through on our journeys to independence. It should not be gendered. Why are women drawn to judge each other by these constructed standards, to mock and jeer at developing sexualities?

If you can stomach it, go ahead and crucify these girls on t-back thongs. However, at Hoochie, we are more concerned with knife-wielding than twerking.

Sansa Stark & Game of Thrones

Last night the new season of Game of  Thrones premiered. And while there are rapist, murders, etc. in the story (really the list is rather long), the character of fourteen year old Sansa Stark gets constant hate.

Actress Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark in HBO's Game of Thrones
Actress Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark in HBO’s Game of Thrones

You don’t have to like the character Sansa, but maybe you should take a moment to consider why you don’t like her before you start complaining about how horrible she is.

In her article, “Why Sansa Stark is the Strongest Character on ‘Game of Thrones’” Julianne Ross writes how this hatred is because Sansa makes these mistakes while still acting like a girl.

She adds:

“The female characters we tend to applaud typically adhere to a particular formula for strength, one that breaks the patriarchal mold of how a woman should behave. This can be empowering, but the constant regurgitation of this one type of “strong female character” limits the kind of women we value on screen and dismisses the merits of those who prove themselves in a different way. Male characters aren’t confined by the same standards, and more stereotypically “feminine” traits like patience, kindness and adaptability shouldn’t be seen as inherently lesser than more “masculine” ones like physical strength or the ability to lead an army into battle.”

It’s an analysis that applies towards many typically feminine characters that are so frequently hated in movies or television shows. So for those of you who hate Sansa Stark, read through this article first before you make up your mind about her.

Power in Female Nudity

I’ll start off with the disclaimer that I have never actually seen an episode Girls. Currently, it is in the long list of shows I will one day get to.

However the show, and Lena Dunham in particular, seems to constantly come up in discussion of feminism and representation of women so perhaps I’ll get around to watching it sooner.

Recently there was some controversy over the question that The Wrap reporter Tim Molloy asked during the Television Critics Association winter press tour for the show.

The conversation being discussed goes as follows:

Molloy: “I don’t get the purpose of all of the nudity on the show, by you particularly, and I feel like I’m walking into a trap where you go, ‘Nobody complains about the nudity on Game of Thrones,’ but I get why they are doing it. They are doing it to be salacious and, you know, titillate people. And your character is often naked just at random times for no reason.”

Dunham: “It’s because it’s a realistic expression of what it’s like to be alive, I think, and I totally get it. If you are not into me, that’s your problem, and you are going to have to kind of work that out with whatever professionals you’ve hired.”

via Buzzfeed

With the third season just being about to start, it makes sense that the show’s panel would be sick of getting asked questions like this.

But whether you watch the show or not, for a more elaborate response to Molloy and why female nudity can be powerful, and should be shown more frequently, I recommend going to this article: 6 Reasons Female Nudity Can Be Powerful

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Shocking Gender Inequality in Film

In light of the record-breaking opening of the female-led action film Hunger Games: Catching Fire this past weekend, the New York Film Academy decided to take a closer look at women in film and what, if any, advancements women are making. After reviewing the data, it is clear that Hollywood remains stuck in its gender bias.
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via the New York Film Academy