Friday, July 16, 2010

Representation of Gender Roles in the Media: “Lucky Be A Lady”

Representation of Gender Roles in the Media: “Lucky Be A Lady”

            The media throughout time has portrayed an image of what is masculine and what is feminine in the HBO series The L Word is a show that represents gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender, individuals in the episode “Lucky Be A Lady” the character Shane McCutcheon played by actress Katherine Moennig, is seen in a masculine light. Shane is considered to be a butch woman in modern pop culture. When Shane is faced with a tough decision she takes a modeling gig that makes her extremely uncomfortable. Writer and producer, Angela Robinson, displays Shane in a way in which she is “the it girl,” that represents what every guy and girl want to be at that moment. Robinson uses Shane’s character as a representation of how fads in pop culture manifest in the daily lives of others and how feminine trends can also transfer into masculine trends simultaneously. While Shane is accepted as the newest fad, questions of what is masculine and feminine are raised; therefore, these representations are interpretable, yet, people are still categorized into gender roles.
            Shane McCutcheon is in fact the newest fad, in which she is modeling what looks to be male underwear. Shane’s only reason for going through with this modeling job is to pay for her little brother’s hospital bill. Robinson did not just include this segment in the episode just for fun; however, she was sending out a message directly to the pop culture community. Her audience is anything but specific; her blunt photos are directed to all audiences, gay, straight, men, women and so forth. Pop culture is sending out daily messages through the media suggesting that Shane is new and hot and society should conform to dressing “Shane like” instead of being ones self. For example, Shane’s overall look is controversial because she is topless modeling what seems to be men’s underwear.  Her look targets young men in their twenties, but at the same time the focus is also on women in their twenties. Seeing as though Shane is a woman with feminine body features, yet, her masculine features make her the perfect model for both genders; therefore androgynous.

            On the other hand, the fact that Shane has a flat chest leaves doubt in the public mind on whether this look is acceptable. Anything associated with a female is supposed to be feminine. This societal belief is the direct cause of controversy. Shane’s differing body features does not just stop with her flat chest; she has flat board abs, a slim, athletic physique and hair styled just like a large portion of men today. For instance in The Beauty Myth, author Naomi Wolf writes that a, “Women’s beauty must correlate to their fertility, and since this system is based on sexual selection, it is inevitable and changeless” (121). Upon first glance Shane can easily be mistaken for a man and that is where the problem lies for pop culture she is a woman therefore she must have womanly qualities.

            When Shane was first introduced with the idea of modeling two episodes previous to “Luck Be A Lady” a song played in the background that sums up the way pop culture wants its audience to react to Shane. The lyrics say, “The boys wanna be her, the girls wanna be her,” not just because she is modeling the newest fashion and is a clear representation of it, but because Shane has features that both genders can appreciate and relate to. Again, the image Shane is portraying is problematic because in Newman’s piece on Portraying Difference Race, Class, Gender, and Sexuality in Language and the Media he argues that, “we live in a society built upon dichotomous distinctions between boys and girls, men and women, and masculine and feminine” (78). Though this is true, and but at the same time it is a problem because this belief does not allow room for transgender, butch women, gay men and so forth.
            Furthermore, the media continues to create a look for individuals to follow. With every new fad there is a great motto that goes along with it and Shane’s is no different. Displayed on posters and billboards everywhere is a line that says, “You’re looking very Shane today.” To be a symbol of a specific brand of underwear is to embody that product. The product that Shane is modeling is mainly a men’s underwear brand. Hugo Boss is the face of men’s underwear and women’s underwear is secondary. The make that Shane is chosen to model is closely related to that of men’s underwear where the front is exactly like the male jockey with the classic Y-front. Newman highlights the decisions that the media makes, stating that, “They promote stereotypes of masculinity and femininity, not only by choosing which kinds of men and women to portray but also by choosing which kinds of stories and programs to run” (89). The modeling agency purposely choose Shane to portray the look of looking feminine and masculine in order to expand the societies view of things that normally are not acceptable. Moreover, Shane seemed uncomfortable and taken back by everything that comes with being the new face in pop culture.
            At one of the biggest Hollywood parties, The Roll The Dice Premiere, Shane is everywhere. From the models, to the fans, posters, waitresses and waiters all embody “the Shane” look. Shane arrives in a black suit and tie and when it is time to walk the red carpet she is joined by two ladies that are dressed “Shane like”. One of the women has voluptuous breasts with visible nipples; she is a clear representation of the female audience. While the other woman has no visible breast and has defined muscle structure in her upper body, a clear representation of men. The media therefore emphasizes that Shane’s look is for both genders. A question was asked by a guest at the event that shows the effects that pop culture can control the minds. That guest asks Helena Peabody, a close friend of Shane’s, “Does she prefer to sleep with boys or girls.” The question of Shane’s sexuality shows how Shane’s conflicting image is revealed in pop culture to be once again questionable.
            While society, by way of the media seems to convince people that androgyny is acceptable, people still question sexual identity and sexual preference. At the same time pop culture convinces society that one has to be masculine or feminine, not both. The problem with today’s culture is that no one is accepted for who they are. Everyday there are constant judgments upon ones appearance and the media promotes images that ride the line of both masculine and feminine features, yet, does not accept it.

Works Cited
“Lucky Be A Lady.” The L Word. The L Word Season 4.
            Showtime. HBO. 2007

Newman, David. "Portraying Difference." Identities and Inequalities Exploring the intersections of Race, Class, Gender, And Sexuality . 1 (2005): 78.

Newman, David. "Portraying Difference." Identities and Inequalities Exploring the intersections of Race, Class, Gender, And Sexuality . 1 (2005): 89.

Wolf, Naomi. "The Beauty Myth." Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women. (2002): 121.