Monthly Archives: May 2012

“Re: the quintessential lady writer. She was fat in high school. Whether she is still fat doesn’t matter. It has already colored her point of view and made her very mad. She will always be fat inside. She beats you to death with her brains, but you don’t know you’re being killed because you’re laughing so hard. Try to remember all humor starts with hostility (cf., comedy writer).

“She goes through a lot of therapy. Trying to get in touch with all those feelings nestled beneath all that fat. When she gets to them, and discovers she’s as hideous on the inside as on the outside, she becomes truly furious. The finding of these feelings gives her total permission to forget about yours.

“She makes serious money with some clever writing. But money is more often the scorecard for men. Sex is her scorecard, critical to her self-image, probably because she was laid so infrequently when it was first coming on… Now lots of men who eschewed her company in high school sleep with her to curry favor but she never knows if they love her for herself or her one-liners. Too afraid to find out, she sharpens her skills, often on other women…

“Deep down, she just wants to be a cheerleader and fuck the quarterback… who just wants to fuck the tight end…”

Phillips, Julia. YOU’LL NEVER EAT LUNCH IN THIS TOWN AGAIN. New York: Random House, 1991. Print. p. 425.

“This is a radical oversimplification, but Hollywood tends to sort women into two categories: those with bodies that fall within the generally accepted parameters for commercialized beauty, and those who don’t. If an actress’s body falls within those parameters, all kinds of stories are available to her: she can have a career, a child, be a warrior, a lover, a genius, a drunk. But if an actress’s body doesn’t meet those standards, most of the stories she will be allowed to literally embody will be drawn from the non-conformity of her looks….”

Alyssa Rosenberg, “Lena Dunham’s Looks, the Misogyny of the GIRLS Backlash, and Staying in Your Assigned Story”, THINKPROGRESS

Comment to full text of story by respondent Elise S.: “I completely disagree with this statement: ‘What’s fascinating about Hannah, and what guaranteed a backlash to GIRLS is the character’s absolute refusal to stay in her place. She’s hungry for sex but not grateful for it. She has no need for Adam or anyone else to teach her that she deserves to be treated well: Hannah knows that, demands it, negotiates her shaky way towards it.’

“1. There’s no refusal to stay in her place because she HAS no place. This is a story about a girl who is utterly lost. She doesn’t know who she is, where she’s going, or what she wants out of her life other than she wants to write. That’s all she’s got.

“2. I don’t know what sex scenes you’re watching, but she’s definitely grateful for it. That’s why she keeps calling Adam despite the fact that he treats her like crap, and disappears for weeks at a time and only responds to her when there’s going to be sex involved.

“3. She makes absolutely no demands about being treated well. She repeatedly puts herself into situations where she’s totally disrespected. It’s so infuriating to watch that I find myself yelling at her to get some self-respect.

“If anything, I think Hannah falls into the exact place that Hollywood expects her to – based on her looks. She doesn’t fit the traditional norms of ‘pretty’ so she’s free to allow herself to be disrespected. She’s not allowed to be in a happy relationship with a traditionally Hollywood ‘good looking’ guy.”


Ginny: (Looking at chest) I swear, they’re bigger today than yesterday.

Sasha: You have an unhealthy obsession with your boobs.

Ginny: I know, just like my mother.

Boo watches Sasha eat.

Sasha: (Gesturing with cracker to Boo) Do you want?

Boo: No, I’m on a diet. Joffrey auditions are next week.

Sasha: How much thinner are you gonna be in a week?

Boo: I don’t know. Thinner!

Sasha: I’m bored. I’m gonna go find beer.

Ginny: (Huffs) I couldn’t have gotten my mother’s nose.


This is a much delayed post. Last summer I had the opportunity to teach “Introduction to Celebrity Studies”, a course of my own design for my department. The original proposal was for a 400-level course; the syllabus for that proposal is below.


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I initially planned for this course to be more specifically focused on intersections of identity–particularly gender and race–and celebrity. However, the course was accepted as a 200-level class, so I had to readjust. I decided to make it into something more introductory. The final course number was C204, an open-topics course focused on media, culture, and society. It can work toward the Communication and Culture major or for Social and Historical Studies credit in the College of Arts and Sciences. The first version of my C204 syllabus is below.


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Breaking the syllabus down from a 400-level course to a 200-level one was unexpectedly difficult. Although I carried some readings and screenings over to the 200-level course, I felt the need to organize it completely differently. As an introductory course, it seemed like a good idea to arrange it in sections according to foundational concepts. It also seemed like it might be a good idea to reduce the length of readings and to include tests.

I also had to change the timeline based on the schedule of the class. Originally it was a six-week course, meeting at least one hour and fifteen minutes daily. I had to change it to be an eight-week course, meeting about fifty minutes daily. That was quite a challenge. Discussion sections are the only fifty-minute classes I’d ever had to teach up to this point. Figuring out how much lecture and discussion I could fit into that limited time was tough. I planned it and adjusted the best I could while teaching the course. If I could make changes for the future, I would probably try a longer class time meeting fewer days in the week.

The main project of the class was the Contemporary Celebrity Profile, a group project focused on analyzing the elements in the construction of a celebrity who rose to fame since 1980. When designing the C204 syllabus, I thought it might be useful for the students to have an example to go by, so I included a “Classic Case Study” section on Marilyn Monroe. The idea was that they would read and screen items that would parallel parts of their own Contemporary Celebrity Profile projects. However as we were going through the semester and coming closer to the students’ celebrity profiles, I started to realize that the case study would be more of a distraction than a benefit to them. I then rearranged the assignments in the syllabus so that the students would complete similar assignments from the “Classic Case Study”, but use the celebrity from their profile project. Those alterations are in the second version of the syllabus, below.


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For the contemporary celebrity profiles, the students had to do both an oral presentation and a blog. The students chose their celebrities by voting on individual pitches. The final selections were Tina Fey, Charlie Sheen, and Justin Timberlake; you can view their final projects at these links.

Like with my previous post on my syllabi for “Race and the Media”, please feel free to post comments or suggestions here, and download and share the syllabi as you think might be useful. Also let me know if you’d like to know more about particular assignment guidelines. I’m happy to share!

“Mulling the failure of CBS and FOX to adequately consider women writers as a source of creativity for their networks is a low point for the 2012-2013 pilot season. But there is a high point, even though it seems snarky, because this year, more than most in the past, women wrote pilots that were every bit as awful as the men. For the first time in recent memory, or at least in my reading of pilots, women were allowed to be as bad and as mediocre as the men and that is the best measure of progress. So onwards and upwards (or downwards as the case may be) and let’s keep an eye out for everyone. And, as has been asked many times in the past, WHAT ABOUT WRITERS OF COLOR?”

Swanson, Neely. “How Did Women Pilot Writers Fare in 2012?” DEADLINE HOLLYWOOD 22 May 2012. Web.

Postscript:Two days later, Josef Adalian of NEW YORK magazine’s VULTURE section posted this roundtable from six female showrunners on their experiences in the industry and their insights about the current state of television. Emily Kapnek, creator of SUBURGATORY, added this.

“I think true equality comes when we stop differentiating between the female shows and the male shows. The male shows aren’t under the same scrutiny, and they’re not really referred to as male shows either. There’s been so much emphasis this year on the female shows and female creators and female stars and female writers. It’s not that it hasn’t been great and empowering. But at some point, that can’t be the most interesting thing about my show. It better not be.”

“….(Debulking) removed not only (literature scholar Susan Gubar’s) ovaries, uterus and fallopian tubes, but also the appendix, seven inches of intestine, layers of fat and a membrane lining the abdominal organs.

“Debulking is the standard surgery for advanced ovarian cancer, says Ursula Matulonis, an ovarian cancer specialist at Boston’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Doctors try to trim away tumors that they can’t entirely remove, hoping to make chemotherapy more effective. Combined with chemotherapy, which can knock out microscopic cancer cells that surgeons can’t find, the surgery, while painful, is a woman’s best chance to cure or at least control cancer for a long time.

“For Gubar, now retired from Indiana University but still living in Bloomington, Ind., where she taught for 36 years, ‘debulking becomes a metaphor for what treatment does to women,’ she said in an interview.

“‘Massive amounts of tissue are taken out of your body,’ Gubar said. ‘Various chunks are taken out of your life. I lost my professional life. You lose the capacity to love the people you love the most…. With chemo, you become a zombie. Even your sense of humor is eclipsed. You can’t think about the vast bulk of what your life has been before: your husband, your family. Your emotions, your spirit gets debulked.'”

Szabo, Liz. “Professor Writes About the Painful Effects of Ovarian Cancer”. USA TODAY 20 May 2012. Web.

“What about girls? Guys love girls–all that homosociality might become suspect if they didn’t! It’s women they can’t stand. Guyland is the more grownup version of the clubhouse on THE LITTLE RASCALS–the ‘He-Man Woman Haters Club’. Women demand responsibility and respectability, the antitheses of Guyland. Girls are fun and sexy, even friends, as long as they respect the centrality of guys’ commitment to the band of brothers. And when girls are allowed in, they have to play by guy rules–or they don’t get to play at all.”

Kimmel, Michael. GUYLAND: THE PERILOUS WORLD WHERE BOYS BECOME MEN. New York: Harper Books, 2008. Print. p. 13-4