Barbie Gets A Makeover

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Photo: Barbie.com

Last semester, I worked on a semester-long project analyzing Barbie as a brand. We looked at problems they were having, things they were doing well, and opportunities for growth.

The obvious issue we saw with the brand right away was the negative perception of the Barbie doll in today’s society, whether that be the issue of unrealistic body proportions, or the stereotypical (and sexist) career choices for Barbie. The lack of Barbies in STEM (Science, Tech, Engineering and Math) careers was a specific criticism presented by consumer advocacy groups.

However, in October Barbie launch this campaign, the “You Can Be Anything” campaign, which was supported by the video below (it went viral within days).

This campaign encouraged a move away form those stereotypical “female” occupations and showcased an emphasis careers like: professor,  soccer coach, and a high-power businesswoman. And because it was such a sweet video presenting such an up-to-date perspective from Barbie, it was received with rave reviews (AND this very same campaign introduced a wildly popular Computer Engineer Barbie).

In our analysis of Barbie, we saw this as a huge step in the right direction for the brand in dealing with those negative association regarding the portrayal of Barbie in the professional world. However, by the end of the semester when we presented our project there was still the issue of body image. We still saw it as a huge obstacle Barbie needed to tackle, and recommended that Barbie begin to produce more realistic dolls.

So, you can imagine my excitement today when I saw the news that Barbie was releasing new dolls with different body types- something brand new for them!

The new dolls come in a variety of hair colors, cuts, and textures, as well as with a variety of facial features and skin tones. But, most newsworthy was the introduction of the “tall,” “petite,” and “curvy dolls.”

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Photo: Mattel

The goal of these new dolls is for girls to be able to find Barbie dolls that they can see some of themselves in.

While I do think this is a great, long overdue, step in the right direction, I do have a few problems with this new line.

My main issue I have is that the “curvy” Barbie isn’t so much “curvy” proportions as much as the doll simply portrays a woman with an average weight. The original Barbie is still being portrayed as the “norm,” while the new curvy Barbie is seen as a heavier Barbie, which I think could still negatively impact a young girl’s body image.

In my opinion, the “curvy” Barbie should be rendered the norm, and the old, “original,” Barbie should be retired from the shelves. That would truly be a Barbie revolution.

Not to mention, from what it looks like, the tall and petite Barbies still have the classic unrealistic Barbie proportions. What’s the point in attempting to represent different body types and heights  if most dolls still portray the same unrealistic weight?

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Photo: Barbie.com

I do think it’s fantastic that Barbie is implementing different facial features and hair textures, however. Better representing different cultures across Barbie dolls is a great way to include more girls and allow them to see themselves in the doll, rather than the blue-eyed, platinum hair model that has dominated for so long.

And while the height and weight additions to the dolls definitely need more tweaking before we can applaud Barbie, the attempt at representing more body types is absolutely a step in the right direction.

Barbie has such a powerful position in pop culture, and more importantly an influence on so many young girls spanning the globe. Let’s try to do right by those girls and get dolls on the shelf that don’t sell them a narrative of beauty that isn’t attainable.

The “curvy” doll is the first step. Keep it going.

 

The 1975 are back and somehow cooler than ever?

When I first discovered The 1975, I was still in high school.

I was looking for new music one day, and decided to check out what iTune’s “Free Single of The Week” was. The song featured that week was, fatefully, The 1975’s “Chocolate.” I downloaded it on a whim, and knew immediately that there was something special about it.

What I liked about The 1975, even back then, was that they sounded so different from what was on the radio, and they were definitely quite different from my typical music taste. I got a “cool” vibe from them and wanted more, searching for what other existing music I could find from them on the internet– which turned out to be just a handful of songs from various EPs.

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By the time their self-titled album (finally) came out, months had passed from my initial discovery and I was well into my first semester of college. I was a New England girl at a big, southern state university. I felt completely out of place and I was already planning to transfer schools for the next semester. But in the meantime, I was trapped and just trying to make it through each day.

When “The 1975” was released, it was all I listened to– it was the complete antithesis of the culture I was living in. And as cheesy as it may sound, it felt good to have that music blasting because it brought me back to myself when I felt like I was at risk of being changed by my environment.

Any time I left my dorm to go to class, I listened to that album while I walked. I listened to it for months. Music has always guided me through my life, but that album in particular was a bit of a crutch for me in a difficult, but critical stage. I will always hold it dear for that reason.

I saw The 1975 on tour the following summer in Boston, and they didn’t let me down. Seeing them perform that album in front of me 100% cemented them on my list of favorite bands (and officially cemented their song “You” as one of my all-time favorite songs).

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The 1975 at The Royale, Boston. May 2014.

Flash forward to this past summer when The 1975 appeared to have deleted their social media accounts and  then returned only to start posting cryptic messages about their future. There were rumors that they were breaking up, but no one really knew what was happening.

As more information was revealed, we found out that the band was doing a bit of a rebrand- a move away from the black and white tropes of their wildly successful debut and moving into a more “colorful” chapter– whatever that meant.

I was nervous about the new project, because it seemed they were making a huge effort to move away from the version of The 1975 that I knew and loved.

However, when their first single off the new album “Love Me” came out I was so pleasantly surprised. It sounded different, but it still somehow sounded like The 1975.

The lyrics are a little tongue-in-cheek, but that’s what makes the song so thought provoking and interesting. Part of the reason I had enjoyed this band so much in the past was because I thought they were brilliant lyricists. And while “Love Me” takes an interesting approach lyrically, it still holds up to the standard of quality I hold the band to.

Not to mention the total 80’s vibe that this song puts out.

 

With faith restored, I eagerly awaited the release of another song, which ended up coming in the form of “UGH!”

Just based on the title, “UGH!” had intrigued me during the entire promotional period leading up to it’s release. Especially due to the sarcastic nature of “Love Me,” I thought “UGH!” might have a similar feel.

However, “UGH!”  sounded quite different from “Love Me,” and also very different from the previous album – yet, there was still some intangible quality that made you recognize it was, indeed, a song by The 1975. I haven’t figured out what that quality is yet, but I’m still trying.

While “UGH!” is a little slower than “Love Me,” I ended up liking it better because of the lyrics. “‘Cause you’re the only thing that’s going on in my mind/Taking over my life a second time”  really stood out to me from just listening to it the first time.

Not to mention, that Matty’s dance moves in the “UGH!” music video are super endearing (even though the “Love Me” video is also quite an interesting journey).

 

Their third, and most recent, release is called “The Sound,” and it’s the song that I would most classify as “a bop”– meaning it is so, so danceable. And, again, it sounds very different.

I think “The Sound” is the biggest move away from the other two songs, as well as the first album, because it sounds the most like pure pop–but I’m still absolutely loving it. The reason I waited to write this post was because I wanted to live with the song for a week in order to give it a proper evaluation: I’ve listened to it while working out, cleaning the apartment, walking to class– and it makes all of these things more enjoyable.

There’s no music video   yet, but I’m sure one will probably be released in the coming weeks if they are following the same release pattern with this song as the others.

 

At the end of the summer when we started to find out more about the direction The 1975 was going in, I was so worried that I wasn’t going to like The “new” 1975. But it turns out I like them just as much (if not more) than The “old” 1975.

Their album, I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it, is set for release on February 26th and I am so excited to hear the rest of the songs they have been working on for the past few years (the track called “The Ballad of Me and My Brain” looks particularly interesting).

Looking back on those cryptic messages about The “new” 1975, I think they make total sense now. This era does seem much more “colorful,” even if I can’t quite explain why.

Their last release meant so much to me and became the soundtrack of my life during such defining moments. And while I’m simply looking forward to hearing the new songs, I’m even more eager to live with the album– to see if The 1975 will end up defining another era of my life.

So to answer my own question: yes.

Yes, The 1975 are back. And, yes, they are better than ever.

 

Kilgrave from Jessica Jones is a Woman’s Worst Nightmare

I just finished binge watching the first season of Netflix’s original series Jessica Jones in less than a week. I’m not typically interested in superhero movies, so seeing Marvel associated with the title of the show didn’t really appeal to me too much at first. But, I had heard only great things about the show so I decided to give it a go.

Jessica Jones had so many things I love in a show. High drama, anticipation, a bit of mystery, a badass female lead and some strong female friendships. But, if we’re being honest, the thing I found most interesting about Jessica Jones was the villain.

***Warning: if you are planning on watching Jessica Jones or are currently watching the show, I would refrain from reading the rest of this post until you finish. I’m not about to write everything that happens, but I don’t want to give anything away.

The thing about Kilgrave was that he wasn’t your stereotypical super villain. There was no secret lab, no crazy weapons, no plans of taking over the world. His power was mind control. He could make people do anything he wanted, and when he first met Jessica, he used his mind control to make her be his “girlfriend.” He could make her do anything he wanted.

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At the start of the season, we don’t know much about Kilgrave and Jess’s relationship, or how she was able to get away from him. But right from the get-go we can see that Jess is struggling from some sort of PTSD with flashbacks and visions of Kilgrave licking her face, stalking her and just harassing her in general. She believed him to be dead, but the abusive nature of their relationship was so vivid to her, years after the fact, that she continued to lose sleep over it.

And through various scenes in which Jess and Kilgrave are facing off, we come to see that Kilgrave doesn’t see any of his actions in pursuit of Jess to be “wrong.” He claims he was just a man in love.

When Jess, who is now the only person immune to Kilgrave’s power, accuses him of raping her in their past relationship, he is completely confused.

Kilgrave: “We used to do a lot more than just touch hands.”
Jessica: “Yeah. It’s called rape.”
Kilgrave: “What? Which part of staying in five-star hotels, eating at all the best places, doing whatever the hell you wanted, is rape?”
Jessica: “The part where I didn’t want to do any of it! Not only did you physically rape me, but you violated every cell in my body and every thought in my goddamn head.”
Kilgrave: “That is not what I was trying to do.”
Jessica: “It doesn’t matter what you were trying to do. You raped me again and again and again—”
Kilgrave:How am I supposed to know? I never know if someone is doing what they want, or what I tell them to.”
Jessica: “Poor you.”
Kilgrave: “You have no idea, do you? I have to painstakingly choose every word I say. I once told a man to go screw himself—can you even imagine.”

While this is completely disturbing, the reason I found it so disturbing is because it really isn’t that far off from real life. Kilgrave did rape Jess. He made Jess do something she didn’t want to do, even if it appeared that she was doing it of her own free will. The circumstances may be a little different, with Kilgrave’s force over Jess being a mental one rather than a physical one due to special powers, the concept of him thinking he’d done nothing wrong because they “stayed at five star hotels and ate at all the best places” is all too realistic.

Even more concerning? When Kilgrave realizes he can no longer control Jess, he starts doing everything in his power to try to control her again, to force her to love him, because he thinks he deserves it. He feels entitled to her. He thinks she is his.

During the final showdown between the two, Jess lets Kilgrave believe he has finally regained his control over her. “You’re mine now… you’ll be with me now,” he says to her. “After a while, however long it takes, I know you will feel what I feel.”

Super entitled. Super creepy.

The last words Kilgrave says to Jess? “Tell me you love me.”

While believing she is under his control, he literally orders her to profess her love for him, because he thinks that they belong together, that she should love him, that she belongs to him.

I know that this is obviously an extreme case– the two people involved have superpowers for god’s sake. However, I felt eerie comparisons to the UCSB shooter, who literally killed innocent people because women, who he felt entitled to wouldn’t sleep with him or give him attention.

Like I said earlier, Kilgrave isn’t your typical villain. He isn’t scary because he wears a silly outfit, or has a physical deformity. He’s not loud, he’s not physically intimidating, and he’s doesn’t have any fancy gadgets.

In fact, Kilgrave dressed well, spoke well, was rather attractive and remained calm and collected in most instances.

But, he’s the scariest villain I’ve ever come across in a TV show or movie.

He terrified me because he felt so entitled to this woman that he literally tried to use mind control to force her to be with him. He terrified me because he was completely obsessed with her. He terrified me because he thought the problem was the rest of the world getting in his way, instead of realizing that the problem was actually himself. He terrified me because he seemed so real.

Certain qualities he possessed reminded me of real people I’ve seen, real pieces of conversations I’ve heard, and, unfortunately, real news stories I have read.

Like it or not, I think that we still live in a world where many men feel entitled to women.

And I couldn’t help but think that if his power was placed in the hands of some random guy out there in the world, there’s a good chance those powers would be used in the same way as on this TV show.

As great a show Jessica Jones was (it comes with my highest recommendation), I kept finding myself thinking about Kilgrave’s attitudes toward women, and Jess in particular, and how he literally killed people to try to get to her. I think he’s so scary to me, and probably to other women, because even without mind control, he possesses so many qualities that we are afraid of.

Just throw in the mind control, and you’ve got yourself one of the scariest villains on the TV.

After almost 5 years, I’m still watching Pretty Little Liars

 

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(Adam Taylor/ABCFamily)

When ABC Family (now called Freeform) first aired Pretty Little Liars it was June 2010. I was just finishing up my freshman year of high school. Now, almost five years later I’m a first semester college senior… and I’m still watching PLL.

Over the years, Pretty Little Liars has gained a reputation as a hyper-dramatic, empty, “stupid” show for the teenage girl demographic. And after watching it for a while, I let this perception get the best of me and became embarrassed to admit that I was “still watching” a show that was being ridiculed by my peers and adults alike (luckily it was a phase that didn’t last too long, but I was embarrassed nonetheless).

I could write an entire blog post alone on the way teenage girl’s interests are constantly devalued (and how that’s affected me personally), but that is not why I’m here today.

The reason I’m writing this post is because I just watched the premiere of the new (and I believe final?) installment of Pretty Little Liars. Even though the mysterious “A” of four years was unmasked at the end of last season, Pretty Little Liars is back with a new storyline flashed “5 years forward” into the future. The PLL girls have gone away to college and now have careers, but they end up back in Rosewood for a whole new disaster to take place.

I know a lot of people were annoyed when they found out this would be happening. People labeled it as just a new way for the station to continue making money off the wildly popular show. I’ve also heard it called “stupid.” The entire premise of the original show was founded upon this anonymous “A” villain terrorizing the girls, so why would people still want to watch after “A” was unmasked?

Let me tell you why.

Yes, the mystery behind “A” and all of the constant drama that occurred on this show has always kept me hooked. And even though sometimes the show made me want to pull out my hair from frustration, the thing that kept me interested throughout the series was the characters.

After watching this show for so long, you get attached to the characters as you live their struggles with them. And even more importantly, you start to love their relationships and friendships with each other. I am a huge supporter and lover of strong female friendships, and the female friendship between the four leading ladies of the show is so strong and admirable–so much so that at the end of last season I almost cried during the scene where they were saying goodbye to each other before heading off to college.

That’s why I was really interested this season. I wanted to see where they all ended up and where their lives were going after being away for 5 years. I wanted to know if they were all still close friends, if they were still dating their high school boyfriends, what their families were up to, just everything. “A” or no “A,” these characters are dynamic and interesting and just plain lovable. You can’t help but root for them.

And while I won’t give away any spoilers, I will say that my favorite moments from the episode were the simple moments: when Spencer, Hanna, Aria and Emily were reunited at the Brew, or when they were out having drinks together laughing and enjoying each other’s company after being apart for so long. They were moments that made them seem like real people and real friends, rather than characters who have a bunch of ridiculous things happen to them (which is also the case).

I will say I was a bit worried about how this season was going to go with this slightly different format, but I can confidently say that after watching this first episode, I will be seeing Pretty Little Liars along to the bitter end.

I definitely do love Pretty Little Liars for the drama. I liked to be shocked. I like to be on the edge of my seat. I like to try to solve the mystery alongside the characters in the show. But, even more than the drama, Pretty Little Liars shows just how strong and smart and powerful young women can be, especially when they band together. And that’s something I can enjoy whether I’m 15 or 20.

 

 

Zayn Malik’s Billboard Interview Has Angered Fans, Myself Included

Unless you’ve been living under a pop culture rock for the past year, you probably know that last March Zayn Malik left One Direction (which is now on a “break”) to be a “normal 22 year old.” Hearts shattered, tears were shed, worries of the end of 1D began. I too went through the grieving process, believing that the band just wouldn’t be the same without Zayn’s high notes.

I was ecstatic when 1D’s “Made In The AM” was released in November, exhibiting that they were just as strong as a foursome as they were with the original 5 (no harm, no foul Zayn). And when I found out a Zayn Malik solo album was in the works, I was excited to see what he would do in 2016.

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Miller Mobley/Billboard

But today Zayn let me down again. A cover story about him for Billboard’s 2016 predictions issue has been released, and Zayn said some less than desirable things.

Let’s start with the most mild: his comments about his former bandmates. When asked if he had listened to One Direction’s fifth album yet, this was what he had to say:

“Nah,” he says. “I’ll be honest. I thought the first single was quite cool. I heard the second single and” — he screws up his face — “yeah, I didn’t buy the album.”

In a previous interview with The Fader, Zayn had discussed how he didn’t find One Direction’s music “cool.” That’s all fine and good, and it’s also ok if he didn’t like the band’s second single off the new album (which, by the way is “Perfect” if you were unaware). But, I just felt like the delivery of the comment was a little snarky. When Zayn first left the band, he said he knew he would keep the other bandmates as “four friends for life.” But, is that really how you would talk about your friend’s music?

I don’t think so, and I don’t think the One Direction boys think so either.

Because Zayn also discussed his relationships with the rest of 1D, saying they weren’t going as strong as he thought they would be.

“I had every intention of remaining friends with everybody, but I guess certain phone numbers have changed and I haven’t received calls from a lot of people. I’ve reached out to a few of them and not got a reply. Certain people have pride issues, but it’s stuff you overcome in time.”

While this made me a little sad to hear, can you really blame them? Zayn left them halfway through a tour and has proceeded to completely shit on their music in subsequent interviews. Doesn’t really sound like a friend to keep around.

This portion of the conversation alone gave me a bad feeling about Zayn as a person, but it honestly gets worse.

The interviewer takes a really interesting turn and asks Zayn if he has “learned anything from the girls who admire (him) about the challenges they face particular to women?” I thought this was such a good question with potential for a really enriched answer. The power of a young, female fan base is incredible and few people have seen it in the same way as Zayn. His response wasn’t what I was expecting.

From his vantage, the mechanics of fame are simple: “I was raised by a lot of women, so there’s nothing any fan girl could’ve ever taught me about any woman,” he says. “I fully understood every person who’d come and see the band, because I have crazy aunties and crazy sisters who would fan-girl over actors. If people can’t have something, they want it.”

Really? I mean, it’s great that Zayn was raised by a lot of women, and I’m sure that it definitely influenced him as a person… but does he seriously think that you can learn everything there is to learn about the female experience just from people in your own family? I’m pretty sure if he learned so much about women from his upbringing as he said he did, he wouldn’t be so quick to call his own aunts and sisters “crazy.”

Zayn has had the privilege to come into contact with women from all over the world, so saying that he “fully understood every person” he came into contact with is ignorant and just plain incorrect. He could have learned a lot about women if he didn’t write them off as irrelevant “crazy” fans.

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Miller Mobley/Billboard

And Zayn, more than anyone, should know it’s probably not the best thing to be labeling his fans as “crazy.”

While his fanbase may grow with the new album, his core group of fans right now are loyal One Direction fans who are still supporting him after abandoning a tour they may have purchased tickets for. Those “crazy” fangirls are the ones who will buy the music, promote it on social media, and go to his shows if he goes on tour.

By the time I got to the end of this section and read “If people can’t have something, they want it,” I wanted to slap him across the face. If I ever wanted Zayn before, I most certainly do not now.

If we’re on the same page, this is all looking pretty bad, right? But, in my opinion the worst part of the article is when Zayn is asked about what he looks for in a girl.

“I need a challenge. Also, I like girls that are a bit chunky in certain areas — the nice areas. I like a fuller woman. I enjoy an intellectual conversation as well, where someone can construct a sentence beyond what hair and makeup they’re wearing, and talk about something political or about the world. I like an opinion.”

Here’s an opinion: Zayn clearly doesn’t understand that an interest in makeup and a women’s intelligence level are not mutually exclusive.

Here’s another opinion: I really like my new liquid eyeliner.

Here’s another opinion: I consider myself to be a very intelligent individual.

Here’s another opinion: I believe I can construct a sentence and talk about politics, all while liking my new liquid eyeliner. 

As for Zayn’s interest in body type: it’s fine he has one. Everyone is attracted to certain things. I think the thing that really gets me is the phrasing. “Chunky” but only in “the nice areas.” It was definitely cringe-worthy, and honestly I don’t know if that was a necessary piece of information to share to move the article forward.

His description of his ideal girl, to me, just reenforces that he doesn’t know much about girls at all. It’s such a narrow outlook and, for a large part, incorrect and unrealistic. It’s too bad he didn’t learn anything from that global fan base of his, huh?

After finishing this article, it was like I had a sour taste in my mouth. I’m still very interested to hear Zayn’s debut solo album, and I am genuinely excited for it’s release. His musical talent is undeniable, and I’m sure it will be a high quality record. However, a lot of the things said in this article were rude, sexist and ignorant- and it honestly might make me enjoy the album less.

If this year really is “Z016” like Zayn tweeted, it seems like it’s off to a rocky start. Your “crazy” fans aren’t happy with you, Zayn. I’m certainly not.

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Miller Mobley/Billboard

To read the full Billboard article click here