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Spectacular Girls

Spectacular Girls: Media Fascination and Celebrity Culture

Sarah Projansky
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 308
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  • Book Info
    Spectacular Girls
    Book Description:

    As an omnipresent figure of the media landscape, girls are spectacles. They are ubiquitous visual objects on display at which we are incessantly invited to look. Investigating our cultural obsession with both everyday and high-profile celebrity girls, Sarah Projanskyuses a queer, anti-racist feminist approach to explore the diversity of girlhoods in contemporary popular culture.The book addresses two key themes: simultaneous adoration and disdain for girls and the pervasiveness of whiteness and heteronormativity. While acknowledging this context, Projansky pushes past the dichotomy of the can-do girl who has the world at her feet and the troubled girl who needs protection and regulation to focus on the variety of alternative figures who appear in media culture, including queer girls, girls of color, feminist girls, active girls, and sexual girls, all of whom are present if we choose to look for them.Drawing on examples across film, television, mass-market magazines and newspapers, live sports TV, and the Internet, Projansky combines empirical analysis with careful, creative, feminist analysis intent on centering alternative girls. She undermines the pervasive moral panic argument that blames media itself for putting girls at risk by engaging multiple methodologies, including, for example, an ethnographic study of young girls who themselves critique media. Arguing that feminist media studies needs to understand the spectacularization of girlhood more fully, she places active, alternative girlhoods right in the heart of popular media culture.Sarah Projanskyis Professor of Film and Media Arts and of Gender Studies at the University of Utah. She is author ofWatching Rape: Film and Television in Postfeminist Culture(also available from New York University Press) and co-editor ofEnterprise Zones: Critical Positions on Star Trek.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-6479-4
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction: Finding Alternative Girlhoods
    (pp. 1-24)

    All girls are spectacular. I take this as a given. I consider it to be a feminist claim. Nevertheless, contemporary U.S. media tell us otherwise. Hence, I start with this assertion to remind myself and my readers that it is possible to believe this to be true. In media, some girls are fabulous, others are not; some girls’ stories are worth telling over and over again; others warrant telling only in passing or not at all. Girls who are large, differently abled, queer, of color, and/or poor; make “bad” or “dangerous” choices; feel depressed; or even just act silly (1)...

  6. 1 Pint-Sized and Precocious: The Girl Star in Film History
    (pp. 25-56)

    When my daughter was five years old, she frequently wore sunglasses. When she did, teachers, friends’ parents, and even strangers often commented, “You look like a movie star.” At the time, I was struck by how readily everyday girls such as my daughter could signify some of the meanings generated by and through the term “star”: glamour, to-be-looked-at-ness, performance, self-possession, independence, and (paradoxically) adultness. I was also struck by how commonplace the notion of a “girl star” is, so much so that the link between a five-year-old, sunglasses, and stardom appears perfectly transparent, yet also fascinating enough to remark on...

  7. 2 “It’s Like Floating” or Battling the World: Mass Magazine Cover Girls
    (pp. 57-94)

    One way to study the increase in attention to girls since the early 1990s is to track the number of girls to appear on the covers of mass-market magazines. In a previous study ofTimeandNewsweeksince they began publishing in 1923,¹ I discovered that girls have always appeared on the covers of these mainstream news magazines. Almost every year since 1923, at least one issue of each magazine has featured a girl. Thus, as in other areas of media culture (including film, as I discuss in the previous chapter), mass magazines throughout the twentieth century drew on and...

  8. 3 What Is There to Talk About? Twenty-First-Century Girl Films
    (pp. 95-126)

    As part of the turn-of-the-twenty-first-century media obsession with girls, between 2000 and 2009 literally hundreds of films featuring girls as central characters appeared in U.S. movie theaters: a group of films I define here as “girl films.”¹ Some of them were obscure, lasting only a few weeks in art house and specialty theaters (e.g.,Quinceañera[2006],Gracie[2007]); others enjoyed long runs and extensive public discussion (e.g.,Mean Girls, [2004],Juno[2007]). Some had large budgets, generated lots of hype, and/or featured major stars (e.g.,The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants[2005],Twilight[2008]); others were lower-budget, surprise crossover hits...

  9. 4 “I’m Not Changing My Hair”: Venus Williams and Live TV’s Racialized Struggle over Athletic Girlhood
    (pp. 127-154)

    In 1997, teenage girls dominated women’s professional tennis and its U.S. media coverage. That year, African American Venus Williams turned seventeen and began playing regularly. Starting the year ranked 216th and ending the year ranked twenty-second, she played three of the four Grand Slam tournaments,¹ broke through at the U.S. Open when she reached the finals as an unseeded player, and appeared on the cover ofSports Illustrated.² The already-successful Swiss sixteen-year-old Martina Hingis began 1997 ranked fourth in the world, reached the finals of all four majors, won three of them, and ended the year ranked first.³ Another teen...

  10. 5 Sakia Gunn Is a Girl: Queer African American Girlhood in Local and Alternative Media
    (pp. 155-180)

    In the early morning hours of Mother’s Day, May 11, 2003, fifteen-year-old African American gay/lesbian/transgender/AG (aggressive)¹ Sakia Gunn and several of her friends (including her close friend/cousin Valencia Bailey and her girlfriend Jamon Marsh) were returning home to Newark, New Jersey, from Greenwich Village/Christopher Street Piers in New York City via public transportation. While they were waiting for a bus at 3:30 a.m., two men approached them. The men may have invited them to party or simply initiated a conversation. The girls stated that they were not interested and that they were gay/lesbian. At some point, at least one of...

  11. 6 “Sometimes I Say Cuss Words in My Head”: The Complexity of Third-Grade Media Analysis
    (pp. 181-216)

    While the bulk of this book offers a critical analysis of media representations of girls, this final chapter is based on research with actual girls. Here, I write about a media project I did in 2009 with my daughter’s twenty-one-student third-grade class in a Midwestern, public elementary school. As I describe below, I designed this project to identify children’s analytical perspectives on media, and on representations of girls and gender in particular. I wanted to know: How is it that girls (or boys, for that matter) interact with and make sense of media representations of girlhood? How do girls and...

  12. Conclusion: Girlhood Rethought
    (pp. 217-226)

    As I sat in the lobby of a Melbourne, Australia, airport hotel, trying to put the finishing touches on this conclusion, news of the horrific shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, played almost continuously on the television over the bar. While I tried to tune out the sound, as well as my own pain about the deaths and my aching desire to see and touch my own children, the image of a beautiful young girl with strawberry blonde hair and freckles flashed across the television screen. She sat with her mother, speaking to an interviewer about having survived. She smiled a bit...

  13. NOTES
    (pp. 227-254)
    (pp. 255-278)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 279-294)
    (pp. 295-295)