12/17/08

Twilight, Girl Culture, Boy Culture, and What it Says About Us

Last week I mentioned how, to me, Twilight seems to tap into a part of girl culture that is obsessed with self control, especially in regards to food and appearance.  But now I'm wondering if I've just been duped by a popular culture narrative that pits the idea of over-achieving, ambitious, hyper-focused girls against slacker boys.  Think of the movies by Judd Apatow and his many imitators, movies like "Knocked Up" and "Forgetting Sarah Marshall."  (Movies that I thought were pretty funny, by the way.)   In these films, girls tend to be depicted as gorgeous successful professionals while the men are definitely not gorgeous as well as unambitious and proud of it.  But in a twist of the traditional romantic comedy tradition, the slacker boy gets the up-and-coming woman, and even if he doesn't get her, he gets the chance to reject her.  

Popular culture does not really depict reality, but it often depicts our anxieties about reality, and it's pretty clear by the success of these movies among teenage boys, that boys are worried that they are getting left behind.  Girls outperform boys at school, and they now make up the majority of medical and MBA students.  So clearly young boys are seeing a sort of truth in these films as their own anxieties are worked over and assuaged with each new film.  Girls can outperform you, goes the logic, but they will remain cold-hearted, frigid bitches until they learn to submit and embrace their inner pussy cat.  Wow.  We really haven't come very far if boys need to hear these stories so consistently and if this narrative has become so implicit that we assume its true.  

Because it's not true, is it?  Girls are not models of self restraint.  If they were, we wouldn't have to worry about teenage pregnancy, or drug addiction, or bullying, or any of the million things we worry about when we think of the young girls in our lives.  And boys are not all slackers, as I am daily reminded when I look at the all male student council of my daughter's elementary school.  

So what's in it for us?  What do all of us get from these stereotypes?  I don't know.  But I'm going to think about it.  

3 comments:

altadenahiker said...

I like your essays. Must throw a couple of other movie titles your way and see what you make of them.

pasadenaadjacent.com said...

Heres another thing I'd add. Ever notice how women put on this show about "loving the things he loves" I see her often. She's the poor smuck trailing ten paces behind him on a shinny new mountain bike he coned her into purchasing. Once she's out of the picture, her mountain bikes on the curb celebrating "Trash Tuesday"

barbra said...

This is very observant of you. I think you've hit on some things! I'll be thinking more about them.