Monday, May 15, 2006

We Know Why You Watch Lost

I've mentioned before that I am quite fond of teen books for girls because they don't shy away from the fact that women like to look at men. It's odd, really, that it's so well understood that teen girls like to look at teen boys, and yet, one of the common counter-arguments that comes up when discussing women's prevasive objectification is that women don't find pictures of men arousing. The mental gymnastics and willfull blindless it must take to keep both of these "facts" in one's head at the same time is simply mind-boggling. (Especially when one adds in the well known "fact" that when women love action movies it's because the guys are hot.)

The way that teen girls interest in the opposite sex is portrayed helps with the mental gynamstics, however. One watches boys, but men look at women. Even when subjected to the female gaze, teen boys are portrayed as being active. When teen girls aren't watching boys, that are boy-gazing staring at them dreamily as one would look at a beautiful sunset or a starry night. The idea of lust is pushed as far to the sidelines as possible, despite the obvious truth that it is the central reason for the "watching" and "gazing."

I adore teen books like Twilight and Tithe, and yes even The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, because they neither pretend that emotions and personalities aren't a big part of sexual attraction nor deny that girls are just as vulnerable to plain old lust as boys are. For the most part though, such honest depictions are limited to teen books and magazines where such content may be kept safely in the teen section - and ouside of the mainstream.

Which is why I love The N's ads for Summerland. The gist of all the ads are "Summerland = Jessie McCartney, so watch Summerland on The N." The absolute best one shows a few minutes of a particular episode - pared down into less than one because all the parts without Jessie are fast forwarded through. One particular scene where his shirt is off is rewound then replayed. The voice over says something like "We know why you love Summerland. Watch Summerland on The N blah blah blah."

I seriously could not stop laughing the first time I saw it.

Yes, the ads are still restricted to non-mainstream TV, but they are on TV and they don't try to pretend that lust isn't the motivating factor. I mean, we all know girls and women will be "swooning" over Orlando Bloom and Johnny Depp in Pirates this summer, but the trailers and print ads aren't going to focus on that. Chances are they won't even mention it - unlike the marketing for Serenity, Aeon Flux, Resident Evil or just about any other action movie with a woman in a lead role.

If only we could have more ads like this for adult women, maybe more people would understand the difference between "sexy," "objectified," and "demeaning."

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