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Monthly Archives: August 2013

Breaking Pointe

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Anyone who knows me at all knows that I really love dance-based reality TV. And dance movies. Even bad ones. This is a sincere, earnest love – nothing ironic, nothing cool. I just really love dance, and I love to see the process of dance being made. I don’t mind the manufactured drama, either, and I particularly enjoy a good dance-off.

I just starting watching the ballet drama Breaking Pointe on the CW. It follows several dancers from Ballet West, the professional company in Salt Lake City (near where I live). I had watched several episodes with unquestioning delight when a strange realization came over me….why are all the featured male dancers straight? I know very well that there are lots of dancers, ballet and otherwise, who are straight. But it seemed odd to me that all but one of the dancers featured on the show were straight and featured in heterosexual story lines.

We have the guy who’s married to one of the female dancers and is featured bonding at the gym with other male dancers, gruffly exchanging tips on how best to lift free weights. There’s the terrifyingly awkward scene when the male dancers gather at a bar to drool over go-go dancers. I’m not saying ballet dancers don’t lift weights, or that they can’t be shown in a masculine light. But I do think it’s strange that an interesting world like ballet has been so forcefully jammed into the Real World Vegas model (bikinis*, hot tubs, hookups, strip clubs). This is especially confounding when they’ve dealt so thoughtfully with race. There are transparent conversations about how white ballet is, and how white Utah is. The single black dancer in the company is featured on the show, with discussion of the tensions that come with being a minority in the art form. When that dancer is not given a bigger part in the upcoming show, the artistic director openly discusses not wanting to cast the only dancer of color in the role of a Jester: “I don’t want to make our only African American dancer into a joke.” I hope at some point they choose to address sexuality as well, beyond featuring one gay dancer, who incidentally is edited to be absolutely a villain.

I’m interested to hear about what you think about the “straight-washing” of this show…thoughts?

Here's Ronnie, the biggest bro-dude of the cast.

Here’s Ronnie, the biggest bro-dude of the cast.

 

* The female dancers rent a cabin in the mountains and run out to the hot tub to relax, wearing tiny bikinis. It’s an image straight out of the reality TV titillation handbook. Interestingly, although the female dancers are very thin, the set-up exposes the functionality and athleticism of their bodies – thin, yes, but not really conforming to standard ideals of sexualized beauty. Although I cringe when they glossed over issues of body pressure and eating disorders (“we’re just all killing ourselves to be thin” uttered with a laugh), I did find a satisfaction in seeing the hot-tub trope made more complex by the visibility of their painfully thin, muscular, ballet-shaped bodies.

 

 

Orange is the New Black: Feminism without the F Word

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Orange is the New Black’s female cast (image from Orange is the New Black Facebook page)

As I prepare to teach a Gender, Race, and Sexuality in Popular Culture class this coming spring, I have been looking for an example of a television show or film that can start out the term, offering a strong jumping off point for our feminist analyses of pop culture. And I am thrilled to have found it in Netflix’s newest original series, Orange is the New Black.

[Spoilers ahead, so only make the jump if you have seen the show; if you haven’t yet seen it, stop reading and go watch it] Read the rest of this entry

Breastfeeding and Maternal Failure

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Marketing Doesn’t Always Help. Photo from 500motivators.cm

Since beginning this blog, we have wanted to write about breastfeeding and the current culture that surrounds it. Both of us had troubling experiences when our expectations about breastfeeding collided with the too-often ignored realities that come with it. We want to start by telling our stories, and then offering some thoughts about what women can do to deal with encouragement and discouragement around breastfeeding. Read the rest of this entry