I am happy to see more accurate portrayals of culture in mainstream media every single day, but I have to call out a few that seem to stick around that definitely need to go. Not because they’re ‘manufacturing consent’ or oppressing the helpless consumers, but because they are just plain ridiculous.
Blond = Better
I know there are actual historical reasons that blondness became a symbol for goodness and or better breeding but frankly, they are dumb. We need to make it official. Blond is not better. It just is. And it is as good as brown, black, red, grey, silver, white and calico. (And anything else you want to add to the human hair spectrum.) Not sure who reinforced this in pop culture but I’ll throw a thanks to Baywatch. You can go home now. It was fun to have you but I believe your sitter has to leave by 11. Tan is not better, either. In fact, the whitest kind of pale is super gorgie, especially when paired with red lipstick. (I only call out pale white because it’s the group victimized most by this all-hail-the-tan trend but all colors are great.) I dyed my hair blond when I was in college and I looked like (kids, cover your ears) a cheap prostitute. It’s because I’m Korean and I have an olive complexion, so the blondness made me look like I was bad a generic brand Barbie. You were born a color and you look best that color and if you don’t see it that way, maybe you’ve got to spend some time with it for a while. I know I had to.
Fat Husband / Hot Wife
This stereotype astounds me every day. I know it is to appeal to those who might like to imagine themselves in the place of said man, but it’s about time to let this one go. Why can’t we try a large funny girl with a svelte hot husband? Or better yet, why can’t we have all different shaped people together all the time? The fat-husband-hot-wife duo is getting monotonous and it’s not super exciting to watch if you happen to be a girl. It’s also sending a message to us girls to “settle” for anyone that even remotely tries.
Guys that Want to Escape Their Wives and Families
This is a joke that gets told over and over again in beer commercials and adult comedies. There’s always a guy that wants to squeeze boobs, drink beer and be gross and his lame girlfriend is trying to make him marry her or talking to him too much. Then comedy ensues. I don’t know any couples in this unfortunate situation but the joke construct must derive from somewhere. Can we thank Cathy cartoons? Ally McBeal? Who knows. All it does to portray people like this on-screen today is make men think that they should be plotting an escape from commitment of any kind. I, for one, would like to see more of the happy best friend couples portrayed or perhaps the girl with an overly emotional, clingy boyfriend.
Fat Skinny People or Ugly Pretty People
I see people in movies or commercials for girly foods that are meant to be “fat” or “ugly” and in fact they are played by people that are super thin and gorgeous. This annoys – and more importantly, confuses – me because based on this fact, the story no longer makes sense. What it does do is make me assume that I should think that that person is fat and therefore I am fat and did not realize it. I see this communicated in other areas, not just weight. There is a tendency to show men and women that are 20 years younger than the age that they are portraying on film, as well as people of color that are decidedly “whiter” than people of color that you might have in your life. This watering down of reality is bizarre and without reason. We live in the world, we see the people in it; what are we gaining by misrepresenting reality? (Directed to no one in particular in the cultural ethos.)
Girls With No Other Goal in Life Than Getting the Guy
I know this is based on real life but not to the degree that we see it on film. Can’t we tell a new version of the story with a girl that’s career-driven over guy-driven? It’s more often that a girl will like a guy and then find out he’s a total player and redirect her attentions to her job and spend her time hanging out with her girls. A lot of girls don’t care about getting married and finding Mr. Right, and that’s totally fine and good and real. Let’s find a new story about a girl that doesn’t want the proposal at the end of the movie. Or maybe she decides being successful is the most awesome thing in her life.
I take this note from Bossypants but it’s something I have thought about and feel strongly about as well. There are so many people in mainstream culture that look exactly the same. They are chosen because they look like rich models or something, but what this sameness looks like to me is humanity de-sexed. The generalizing of beauty makes people feel like blow-up dolls or a Final Fantasy rendering of a “human”. Without diversity and flaws it’s like watching a hologram instead of a person. Oh – wait, that’s already a thing I guess.
Looking onward and upward and loving the changes in so many areas of mainstream media. Wanting more of the colors and textures of reality in film and TV so that we can all feel connected to the storytelling. As always, please share any stories you have of your own! xo Sarah