12 Posts of Christmas: In Defence of Rachel Berry as Feminist.

In the spirit Christmas, I’ve decided to revisit some of my favourite posts of the year in the twelve days leading up to December 25th.

I’m taking this final 12-Posts-of-Christmas opportunity to squeeze two Rachel Berry-related posts into the one. Think of it as one last Scarlett Woman gift to you.

The first post was written “In Defence of Rachel Berry”, while the second explores the character as a feminist one. You can access the original posts here and here, respectively.

In the first season of Glee, Rachel Berry was introduced as an attention- and approval-seeking know-it-all diva, who sticks a gold star next to her name on the New Directions’ sign-up sheet because that’s what she sees herself as. Season two showed the glee clubber soften her resolve a bit, realising that she’s still only in high school, and has her post-high school years to carve out a Broadway career and have the world see her as the star she knows she is. The season final saw her choose a relationship with Finn Hudson in her senior year at McKinley High, despite having to leave him to head to New York when she graduates.

Not all young girls have to wrangle their feelings for the school jock whilst contemplating a move to the big city to make their dreams come true, but many of Rachel’s problems are shared by the show’s audience.

In the most recent Lady Gaga-themed episode, Rachel struggles to accept her “Jewish nose” and considers rhinoplasty. She also strives for the acceptance of her New Directions band mates, and to be seen as fashionable and popular.

It’s in the character’s nature to be highly-strung, goal-oriented and ambitious, so it’s not likely she’ll change any time soon. And why should she? While there are certainly other young women out there who identify more with the saccharine Quinn Fabray, the sassy soul sisters Santana Lopez and Mercedes Jones, or badass Lauren Zizes, there are plenty who see Rachel as their Glee counterpart, myself included.

A recent New York Times article by Carina Chocano praised the “relatable” and “realistically weak female character”, like Kristen Wigg’s Annie in Bridesmaids—“a jumble of flaws and contradictions”—over the “strong” one. “We don’t relate to [the weak character] despite the fact that she is weak, we relate to her because she is weak,” Chocano writes.

But what exactly does she mean by “weak”?

Pop culture commentator Dr. Karen Brooks notes that talented, beautiful, popular and successful female characters need to be broken down before they can be seen as relatable. “The more talented and beautiful you are, the greater the threat you pose and so ‘things’ are introduced to reduce that threat,” she says. Just look at the “women falling down” video on YouTube.

While Rachel’s had her fair share of setbacks, it seems Glee’s audience is finally beginning to understand her. “We’ve been given time to understand Rachel’s initially painful personality and to identify both her strengths and weaknesses. Her ambitions and drive haven’t shifted, but the context for understanding them has,” Brooks says.

“Rarely are unpleasant characters redeemed, they are simply ‘punished’, while the ‘good’ characters soar to impossible heights, not on the back of hard-work and self-belief, but usually [because of] a love interest and wishing hard. Rachel is a healthy and welcome exception to that,” Brooks continues.

So she’s an unlikely heroine we can all get behind, you might say? “A girl who reminds you of you,” as Chocano opines. An everywoman, if you will?

If Rachel Berry encourages more young women to see themselves as gold stars striving to have their accomplishments recognised, then so be it!

*

Last week I wrote in defence of Rachel Berry.

This week, I wanted to explore the character as a feminist one.

While Glee isn’t exactly known for its positive portrayals of women,people of colourthe disabled, or the gays, Rachel has managed to grow in spite of all this, and become somewhat of a feminist icon.

wrote that audiences have come to know and love Rachel not because her obnoxious know-it-all persona has changed, but because “We’ve been given time to understand Rachel’s initially painful personality and to identify both her strengths and weaknesses. Her ambitions and drive haven’t shifted, but the context for understanding them has,” as Dr. Karen Brooks reiterates.

Other bloggers have come to similar conclusions.

Leah Berkenwald at Jewesses With Attitude writes:

“I… have trouble with the vilification of Rachel Berry on a feminist level. How often do we dismiss women as ‘bossy,’ ‘know-it-all[s],’ or ‘control-freaks’ when their behavior would be interpreted as leadership, assertiveness, or courage if they were men?

“… In the right context, Rachel Berry’s personality would not seem ‘intolerable’ or ‘annoying’ so much as bad-ass, renegade, and hardcore.”

And Lady T, who used Rachel as her “Female Character of the Week” on The Funny Feministsaid:

“… The show wanted us to root for a girl who was ambitious, daring, and driven.”

It might be because I have been known to be seen as bossy, a know-it-all, a control-freak (just ask my new housemate!) and ambitious that I’m standing up for her, but just think of another feminist heroine in modern pop culture who could also be described using these words: Hermione Granger. The only difference is, she isn’t vilified for these attributes.

I have also been called ugly and a slut, not because I am ugly and a slut, but because these qualities are removed from the “‘good’ [female] character… [who] soars to impossible heights, not on the back of hard-work and self-belief, but usually [because of] a love interest and wishing hard.”

If you look back to the beginning of Glee, especially, Rachel was often deemed ugly. Now, anyone who’s seen Lea Michele knows she’s not exactly unconventionally attractive, but Rachel is characterised as this because she’s annoying. And she’s annoying because she stands up for herself, knows what she wants and how to get it. (From a racial point of view, she could also be seen as being “ugly” because of her Jewishness.)

Despite these inherently “unattractive” qualities, Rachel manages to snag her man, Finn, in what can be seen as typical Glee sexism and discrimination:

“‘I love her even though she’s shorter than Quinn and has small boobs and won’t put out and is loud and annoying.’ 

“The show wanted to make me believe that Finn was doing Rachel some grand favor by simply being with her at all.”

On the other hand, it can be seen as a poignant take on teenage life that the underdog is always being compared to the most popular girl in school: Quinn Fabray.

If Rachel is Glee’s feminist heroine, Quinn is her polar opposite. She has had next to no character development, which leads to her motivations changing week to week.

In “Original Song” she tore Rachel down, telling her to get over her “schoolgirl fantasy happy ending” with Finn, who would never leave Lima, taking over Burt Hummel’s mechanics business, with Quinn, a real estate agent.

But in “Born This Way”, she was “broken down” by her fat past coming back to haunt her, to come across as more “relatable”.

Sure, Rachel’s had her fair share of being “broken down” (being dumped and subsequently egged by Jesse St. James, being publicly broken up with by Finn, getting slushied… I sense a food theme here.), but in the grand Glee scheme of things, she’s actually doing pretty well for a female character.

Now, if only we can get Mercedes a boyfriend

Related: In Defence of Rachel Berry.

Rachel Berry as Feminist.

The Underlying Message inGlee’s “Born This Way” Episode.

Do “Strong Female Characters” Remind You of You?

The Problem with Glee.

The Underlying Message in Glee’s “Original Song” Episode.

Brown Eyed Girl.

The Underlying Message in Glee’s “The Rocky Horror Glee Show” Episode.

The Underlying Message in Glee’s “Duets” Episode.

Sookie as Feminist? Hear Her Roar.

Do “Strong Female Characters” Remind You of You?

SlutWalk.

Slut-Shaming as Defence Mechanism.

Elsewhere: [The New York Times] A Plague of Strong Female Characters.

[Bitch] The Transcontinental Disability Choir: Glee-ful Appropriation.

[Jewesses with Attitude] Why Rachel Berry Deserves Our Compassion.

[Huffington Post] Hermione Granger: The Heroine Women Have Been Waiting For.

[Feministing] Pretty Ugly: Can We Please Stop Pretending That Beautiful Women Aren’t Beautiful?

[The Funny Feminist] Female Character of the Week: Rachel Berry.

[Jezebel] Why Won’t Glee Give Mercedes a Boyfriend?

Image via Wet Paint.

TV: Rachel Berry as Feminist.

 

Last week I wrote in defence of Rachel Berry.

This week, I wanted to explore the character as a feminist one.

While Glee isn’t exactly known for its positive portrayals of women, people of colour, the disabled, or the gays, Rachel has managed to grow in spite of all this, and become somewhat of a feminist icon.

I wrote that audiences have come to know and love Rachel not because her obnoxious know-it-all persona has changed, but because “We’ve been given time to understand Rachel’s initially painful personality and to identify both her strengths and weaknesses. Her ambitions and drive haven’t shifted, but the context for understanding them has,” as Dr. Karen Brooks reiterates.

Other bloggers have come to similar conclusions.

Leah Berkenwald at Jewesses With Attitude writes:

“I… have trouble with the vilification of Rachel Berry on a feminist level. How often do we dismiss women as ‘bossy,’ ‘know-it-all[s],’ or ‘control-freaks’ when their behavior would be interpreted as leadership, assertiveness, or courage if they were men?

“… In the right context, Rachel Berry’s personality would not seem ‘intolerable’ or ‘annoying’ so much as bad-ass, renegade, and hardcore.”

And Lady T, who used Rachel as her “Female Character of the Week” on The Funny Feminist, said:

“… The show wanted us to root for a girl who was ambitious, daring, and driven.”

It might be because I have been known to be seen as bossy, a know-it-all, a control-freak (just ask my new housemate!) and ambitious that I’m standing up for her, but just think of another feminist heroine in modern pop culture who could also be described using these words: Hermione Granger. The only difference is, she isn’t vilified for these attributes.

I have also been called ugly and a slut, not because I am ugly and a slut, but because these qualities are removed from the “‘good’ [female] character… [who] soars to impossible heights, not on the back of hard-work and self-belief, but usually [because of] a love interest and wishing hard.”

If you look back to the beginning of Glee, especially, Rachel was often deemed ugly. Now, anyone who’s seen Lea Michele knows she’s not exactly unconventionally attractive, but Rachel is charactertised as this because she’s annoying. And she’s annoying because she stands up for herself, knows what she wants and how to get it. (From a racial point of view, she could also be seen as being “ugly” because of her Jewishness.)

Despite these inherently “unattractive” qualities, Rachel manages to snag her man, Finn, in what can be seen as typical Glee sexism and discrimination:

“‘I love her even though she’s shorter than Quinn and has small boobs and won’t put out and is loud and annoying.’ 

“The show wanted to make me believe that Finn was doing Rachel some grand favor by simply being with her at all.”

On the other hand, it can be seen as a poignant take on teenage life that the underdog is always being compared to the most popular girl in school: Quinn Fabray.

If Rachel is Glee’s feminist heroine, Quinn is her polar opposite. She has had next to no character development, which leads to her motivations changing week to week.

In “Original Song” she tore Rachel down, telling her to get over her “schoolgirl fantasy happy ending” with Finn, who would never leave Lima, taking over Burt Hummel’s mechanics business, with Quinn, a real estate agent.

But in “Born This Way”, she was “broken down” by her fat past coming back to haunt her, to come across as more “relatable”.

Sure, Rachel’s had her fair share of being “broken down” (being dumped and subsequently egged by Jesse St. James, being publicly broken up with by Finn, getting slushied… I sense a food theme here.), but in the grand Glee scheme of things, she’s actually doing pretty well for a female character.

Now, if only we can get Mercedes a boyfriend

Related: In Defence of Rachel Berry.

The Problem with Glee.

The Underlying Message in Glee’s “Original Song” Episode.

Brown Eyed Girl.

The Underlying Message in Glee’s “The Rocky Horror Glee Show” Episode.

The Underlying Message in Glee’s “Duets” Episode.

The Underlying Message in Glee’s “Born This Way” Episode.

Sookie as Feminist? Hear Her Roar.

Do “Strong Female Characters” Remind You of You?

SlutWalk.

Slut-Shaming as Defence Mechanism.

Elsewhere: [Bitch] The Transcontinental Disability Choir: Glee-ful Appropriation.

[Jewesses with Attitude] Why Rachel Berry Deserves Our Compassion.

[Huffington Post] Hermione Granger: The Heroine Women Have Been Waiting For.

[Feministing] Pretty Ugly: Can We Please Stop Pretending That Beautiful Women Aren’t Beautiful?

[The Funny Feminist] Female Character of the Week: Rachel Berry.

[Jezebel] Why Won’t Glee Give Mercedes a Boyfriend?

Image via Wet Paint.

Magazines: You Say It Enough, It Loses Its Meaning.

 

“N*gger.” “Wog.” “Hitler?”

According to Fiona Scott-Norman in this fortnight’s Big Issue, Hitler is still a word thats “boil… cannot be lanced”.

N*gger has been reappropriated by African American’s in hip hop and rap music. Wog is a common utterance in Australian society that I don’t personally feel comfortable using, but just flick over to any Aussie comedy and you’ll hear it.

But the same doesn’t go for Hitler, whose reference at the Cannes Film Festival recently by avant-garde Danish film director, Lars von Trier, has seen him banned from the festival for life. “For life!” Scott-Norman reiterates.

von Trier was joking when he said he could relate to the “enduringly monstrous” Hitler. There’s no question it was in bad taste, but banning for life? Really? I’m sure they could focus on banning people like Roman Polanski, who’s a U.S. fugitive wanted for sexual assault, or Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose marital indiscretions have come to the forefront in recent weeks. But racism is viewed more harshly than sexism. On one hand, I think both should be treated equally. On the other, at least there is a no-tolerance policy on racism in France. John Galliano is testament to that. Mel Gibson’s—who’s been caught on tape espousing racist and sexist vitriol—inclusion on the red carpet at this year’s Cannes not so much.

Related: FuckWalk: The Floodgates Have Opened.

Ain’t Nothin’ Gonna Break My Slutty Stride.

Minus Two & a Half Men.

The Big Issue, 1–14 March 2011 Review.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Islam.

From the transcript of SBS Insight’s “Fear of Islam” episode, which aired back in November of last year:

“… Every single thing that has been said about Muslims, that they are un-American, that they are foreign, that they are exotic has been said in this country about Jews in the 20th century, was said about Catholics in this country, in the latter part of the 19th century, so it’s a common occurrence in the United States…

“If we want to make sense of this mess and stop pushing Muslims into the arms of the extremist, we need to make meaningful distinctions between the religion of Islam that a billion Muslims follow and see as a guidance of peaceful righteous moral life and the puritanical Islam of a minority which so captures the media’s attention…

“… It’s kind of convenient to simply pick an choose whatever violent bits and pieces one finds in the Koran and ignore the equally important verses that talk about compassion and peace…

“… You have Today Tonight and A Current Affair which essentially on a fortnightly basis is Muslim bash [sic]. When you get that perception of Muslims, for a lot of mainstream people their understanding of Islam is established through a ridiculous documentary focused on extremism or A Current Affair Muslim bashing, so we need to understand where we are getting our knowledge of Muslims…”

Elsewhere: [SBS] Insight: Fear of Islam Transcript.

Image via Quran Reading.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

 

The difference between truly Mean Girls and the just plain Clueless:

“In the end, Cher’s altruism may be what saves her reign, for unlike Regina, Cher tries to live up to her end of the social contract. If Regina can’t rule, she decides that no one can. She hurts her society by pulling a wiki-leaks and releasing the contents of the Burn Book, thereby causing complete anarchy…

“In essence, the reason Regina was overthrown is the same reason any dictator is eventually overthrown: the monarch breaks the social contract with his or her people and those people have been prepped by cultural illuminati with new ideas about government rule.”

“Fashion’s Fascists.”

And, in the same vein:

“Fashion people everywhere rushed to check their hair before joining the chorus of dismay, almost as if racism and sexism were not the stock-in-trade of their industry. In fact, it is an open secret in high fashion that black and minority ethnic faces… are not welcome.”

When having “a great personality” is code for “fat” and/or “ugly”.

It’s taken me a little while to get around to reading this, but check out Girl with a Satchel’s Erica Bartle in “JC & the Cool Gang”.

“How Rachel Zoe Became Hollywood’s Most Powerful Fashion Player.”

Glee’s Lauren Zizes: badass or fat bitch?

The myth of Bart Simpson’s birthday.

Jihad Cosmo:

“We had been thinking that what Cosmo was really missing was a healthy dose of religious fanaticism and a few passionate exhortations to violence, so we can’t wait to read the article ‘that urges readers to give their lives for the Islamist cause.’”

UK sculptor Jamie McCartney’s “Great Wall of Vagina” (semi-NSFW).

How to be a mermaid.

Elective C-section or vaginal birth?

How to move to New York City, according to Gala Darling.

Images via Overthinking It, The Hollywood Reporter, YouTube.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

 

Megan Fox’s body politics:

“… You have a picture of said body—made even thinner through creative posing—that’s used to sell underwear. In other words, she is paid to be thin. Period. All the talk about her abs and her weight-training regimen don’t have anything to do with the reality: Her body is her business. Literally. It’s her business, not ours, whether she’s healthy—that’s between Ms. Fox and her doctor. And it’s her business—an integral part of her financial strategy—to be thin.”

This is a superb, graphic and thought-provoking piece of writing on waxing, vaginoplasty and the ubiquity of female lady-parts. Semi-NSFW, but I recommend reading it at any cost:

“… while we can look over with horror at a tribe of women who claim that if their five-year-old happened to bleed excessively after having her clitoris cut off, that she must have been a witch, here in our own backyard, we give it some fancy name like vaginoplasty and somehow it’s less archaic? Goodness, we’re so civilized.”

Bern Morley on song lyrics and what we let our children listen to. Good stuff.

The double standards of cheating. FYI, I don’t agree with them.

Sachar Mathias divulges her favourite black dolls. Does this make-shift Michael Jackson Ken count? It is circa late ’90s/early ’00s—his face mask, baby-dangling period—so maybe not…

Anti-Semitism in the fashion house of Christian Dior goes further back than just John Galliano’s comments.

James Franco was a jerk to Kristina Wong. I think he’s a jerk in general.

CNN recently published an article asking if “whites are racially oppressed?” That’s like saying there needs to be an international men’s day if there’s a women’s one. Seriously, someone tried to argue that to me last week!

Charlie Sheen and “The Disposable Woman”.

Thanks for the shoutout, Beauty Redefined.

Celebrities behaving badly: who’s responsible?:

“But is it the responsibility of the media to be the moral gatekeepers of what we should and shouldn’t know about? Is it their responsibility to diagnose supposed ‘mental illness’ and on that basis, stop reporting on certain stories?

“… If drug addled celebrities on the front pages didn’t sell, they wouldn’t be there. So is the problem us? Just who is egging on who[m] here?”

Alissa Warren is a bit unsure if Waity Kaity is the royal for her.

Rick Morton on Pauline Hanson’s political return.

Images via Jezebel, Carlen Altman.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

 

How to be a Victoria’s Secret Angel:

“Holding tight to a mission statement that stands first and foremost to ‘empower women,’ and a slogan stating the brand is one to ‘Inspire, Empower and Indulge,’ the company ‘helps customers to feel sexy, bold and powerful.’

“Where once sexualized representations of women in the media presented them as passive, mute objects of an assumed male gaze, today women are presented as active, desiring sexual subjects who choose to present themselves in an objectified manner because it suits their ‘liberated’ interests to do so.

“Not only are women objectified as they have been, but through sexual subjectification, they must also now understand their own objectification as pleasurable and self-chosen.”

Why Britney Spears is the everywoman pop star of our generation.

Unfortunately for John Galliano, “Rehab Does Not Cure Anti-Semitism”.

Also, Gawker wonders “How the Hell is Anti-Semitism Having a ‘Moment’?”

Owen Wilson managed to escape the tabloid microscope of Hollywood after his 2007 suicide attempt, unlike so many other stars who’ve fallen of the mental health wagon (the aforementioned Britney, Lindsay Lohan and flavour of the moment, Charlie Sheen):

“…it is Wilson who seems to have gotten the hall pass. He has never explained what happened to him that anguished Sunday in August…

“It’s a fascinating instance of a celebrity hiding in plain sight—and getting away with it—that stands virtually alone in Hollywood’s PR playbook.

“What’s the statute of limitations on personal issues in Hollywood?”

Baby bullying in the Bonds Baby Search competition. Seriously?! Baby bullying?!

What would it be like to sleep with a women’s magazine?:

“Vogue: You’re really flattered. They’re probably the hottest person you’ve ever slept with. Neither of you gets off.”

US political commentator Rush Limbaugh feels that Michelle Obama doesn’t have the right body type to be an advocate for beating childhood obesity:

“I’m trying to say that our First Lady does not project the image of women that you might see on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, or of a woman Alex Rodriguez might date every six months or what have you. I mean, women are under constant pressure to look lithe, and Michelle My Belle is out there saying if you eat the roots and tree bark and the berries and all this cardboard stuff you will live longer, be healthier and you won’t be obese. Okay, fine, show us.”

Racist, sexist and sizeist on so many levels.

On that, “Beauty is Not a Spectrum” at Eat The Damn Cake.

The secret lives of sex store workers.

“Charlie Sheen’s ‘Porn Family’, Explained.”

Images via Squa.re, Everyday Facts.