This week’s Illustration Friday topic is “Influence.” I chose to illustrate the “Influence of the Media (and Marketing) On Girls”–this is a topic that is very important to me and that I think about a lot in terms of my art and future. Growing up I witnessed a change in the culture of girls and the media where the emphasis for girls was placed overwhelmingly on their appearance and they were marketed to in an unprecedented way. This phenomenon is well articulated in Peggy Orienstein’s “Cinderella Ate my Daughter” and throughout her blog where she outlines how girls are growing older faster as they are bombarded with images and products that reinforce that ‘femininity’ and girls self-worth are directly related to their outward beauty, kindness, and consumerism. On a daily basis magazines, films and television shows tell girls that intelligence and beauty are mutually exclusive traits and that her beauty and finding her ‘prince’ are of uptmost importance and girls today struggle to navigate this cultural shift–in a world where we also tell them they can ‘have it all’ we also reinforce that they must ‘BE it all’ (in the words of Orienstein) that girls must be smart, sexy, strong, kind, intelligent, beautiful, outgoing, and quiet all at once.
As an Animation MFA student the lack of strong female role models in the media worries me–how will we draw more women into animation & therefore widen the roles of female characters if they don’t grow up with characters to admire? Characters that show them to be strong and smart? In Orenstein’s blog she looks hard to find a films and shows that counter the negative images that girls receive on a regular basis and recently critiqued the increasing sexiness of Harry Potter’s Hermoine character as she aged in the films. Hermoine was a strong and smart character in the books–but in the movies this is not how she’s portrayed–becoming blonder, thinner and more stylish as she aged by the 7th film Hermione wasn’t the heroine we’d grown up with and once again, girls are told that beauty trumps intelligence and convictions. Recently I purchased an “InStyle” Magazine to practice drawing people from and ran across this quote that further shows how our expectations for girls have diminished–Mixed in with ads that try to help me cure my wrinkles at 20 and tell girls to “Tame the Wild” to get perfect hair– Emma Watson (aka: Hermoine Granger) tells Instyle as they chronicled her hairstyles and she recalls a her latest style saying “I was so scared to wear my hair slicked back like this–I had to be very confident.” Really? Scared? For your hair do? Scarlett was scared to stay behind in the burning city of Atlanta and it took confidence to deliver Melanie’s baby alone in Margret Mitchell’s “Gone with the Wind.” I’m sure Empress Maude, mother of Henry II, was scared to climb down the tower of London to escape an approaching enemy army and it took confidence for her to wage the war in the first place. I’m sure Sybil Ludington was scared to ride miles alone through the Connecticut wilderness to warn American militia of the British invasion of Danbury–these women showed REAL confidence and faced REAL fears. But your hair–really? That’s not something to be afraid of–if you like it short who cares? and if you didn’t like it that way why on earth did you cut it?? But then again in flipping through this magazine I could see how beauty could be the only thing on their minds–every add seemed to tell me that what I had wasn’t good enough and that if I wasn’t thinking about my face, weight, age, wrinkles, hips, butt, or eyelids I damn well should (and especially if I’m on a date in which case I should buy special lighting products and a hi-tech zit zapper to “stay social” and fix my face). I’m always trying to think of ways that I can make characters that counter this attitude–mine aren’t perfect by any means but I think about it often.
As artists how can we changes things and provide young women with viable, intelligent role models to grow up with? Recommendations anyone?