Female College Students in Media

College is an institution all parents want their children to go to. They drill it into their children’s minds that college is everything you need. That without college you can’t go farther in life. Children then watch movies about colleges and decide that they must be this way to get into college and be popular. That if they aren’t a certain stereotype they won’t be able to do anything with their life. One article titled Mean Girls? The Influence of Geneder Portrayals in Teen Movies on Emerging Adult’s Gender-based Attitueds and Beliefs states:

“It is argued that individuals adopt gender characteristics in part by monitoring the rewards and consequences associated with others’ behavior. Thus, representation of female characters in the media would be expected to play a role in viewers’ perceptions regarding gender identity, which may ultimately influence attitudes and beliefs about appropriate gender roles” (132).

I agree with this article’s idea that the media can influence how children grow. Children take certain attitudes about gender roles, from the world around them, and how they, as a female, should act. Media heavily focuses on the idea of females in college. The two main stereotypes about females focuses on their hair color, the blondes and the brunettes. Blondes are portrayed in two different ways: either they are dumb blonde or the mean blonde. Brunettes are often cast as the kind but shy character. These two stereotypes are often found battling each other because of what these girls grew up believing.

If you look at my roots you can tell what my true colors are: brown. I see myself in media as the shy but smart type. They type that doesn’t know how to act around others, but does well in school. One movie that shows this stereotype is Sydney White starring Amanda Bynes. Amanda’s character, named Sydney White, is first seen at a construction site. It is also made known that she got a scholarship to college because her father is just a plumber. When she gets to the college campus, Sydney tries to get into her mother’s sorority.  A sorority full of blondes with a blonde, named Rachel,  as their president. It is immediately shown that the blonde president doesn’t like Sydney. Not because of her hair color, but because Rachel’s ex-boyfriend is flirting with Sydney. From then on Rachel sees Sydney as a rival for her ex’s love and for the friendship from the sorority girls. After the hazing ritual the freshman are inititated into the sorority. During the banquet everyone is given a pin by Rachel, everyone except for Sydney. After this Sydney realizes just how mean and vindictive blondes can be. Because of this she goes to live with the misfits. Outcasts like her that have been shunned by the rest of the world.

Later, in the movie, both Rachel and Sydney duke it out to be president of the campus. It is no surprise that all the “outsiders” side with Sydney. For she is the kind brunette unlike her vindictive counterpart. The blonde has even pushed her sorority sisters so badly that one from her own house goes to help Sydney. Sydney White is a movie that shows the battle between the typical idea of blondes and brunettes. This movie shows just two ways girls can be: either nice or mean. While I love Sydney White it is a movie that most children should probably not watch. It is a movie that doesn’t show good role models for young girls. There is only one blonde that is nice, but other then her the movie shows all the stereotypical ideas of blondes and brunettes.

Another movie that shows the stereotypical idea of a blonde is Legally Blonde, in this movie Elle Woods is the star. She starts out as the blonde head of her sorority house.  When her boyfriend breaks up with her Elle decides to follow her ex to Harvard Law school. Working hard she gets a 179 on her LSATS a feat which is very incredible. The people who look over her application are all males, males that see the dumb blonde and are, at first, skeptical of why she wanted to get into their prestigious school. Elle makes a movie to sell herself to the acceptance committee and in the movie she is often seen either in a bikini or in a small, tight outfit. With her charm, and her hidden brain, Elle is able to get into the law school.

Twice, during the movie, Elle brings up how she is viewed by her peers. The first is when her boyfriend breaks up with her. She asks him if he breaks up with her because she is “too blonde”. The second time, Elle shows prejudice against a brunette, when asked why she replies that because she acts that way because people, also, discriminate against her because of her hair color. Why can’t she discriminate against them? With this statement Elle shows that she knows what people think about her: that because of her hair color she must be dumb. When in all reality she is quite smart. Once she decides to be openly smart Elle is able to not only graduate from Harvard Law, but graduate at the top of her class. A feat that even her smart, white ex-boyfriend couldn’t achieve.

Elle starts out as a dumb blonde. A blonde who had no idea she could possibly be able to get into a school like Harvard Law. With hard work Elle is able to show that she does have a brain. That she can be smart enough to do so well on her LSATS. Having such a strong, blonde protagonist shows young blondes that they can be something. These children can grow up and not have to be mean or dumb. Instead, following Elle’s example, they can become a lawyer or a doctor. Elle is an excellent role model for girls showing them that they can be anything that they want to be.

A different character that also knows she that the world thinks her to be a dumb blonde is Shelley from The House Bunny. While she isn’t a college student, she, like Elle, goes to school because a guy. Shelley tries to make herself smarter because she wants to be good enough for him. She believes that he won’t like her because she is “dumb” and thus goes to college classes to learn more about the world and gets tutoring from the girls she takes care of. Before her lessons Shelley shows how ignorant she is of the world. She doesn’t know what the policeman wants when he asks her to blow for an alcohol test. Instead, she believes that he is asking for a blow job and gets herself a night in jail for her confusion.

Before her fiasco with the police officer Shelley was working as a bunny for Hugh Hefner. Thinking that Hugh didn’t want her anymore Shelley leaves the house with no idea of what she is going to do. Her first stop, after spending a night in jail, is a college. There she stumbles upon a sorority house. After meeting the girls she decides to become a house mother. The mother of the house, that Shelley finds, is also a blonde. Unlike Shelley, she is a very mean woman. She sees how strange Shelley is and says that Shelley can never be a house mother. Shelley proves her wrong and becomes the house mother of the outcasts. This house is full of girls who couldn’t find a place in any other sorority so they banded together. While Shelley says strange sentences, like “eyes are the nipples of the face”, the girls soon come to love her and Shelley grows to love them.

What Shelley does not know about the world she makes up for knowing about how to get people to pay attention to her. She teaches the girls how to be more outgoing and how to charm others. One of the girls, named Natalie, is a typical shy but smart brunette. At first, she doesn’t know how to talk to her crush, but because of Shelley she learns how to. Natalie learns how to be an outgoing girl, but in the process loses part of herself: compassion.

Why Shelley is kicked out of the Playboy Mansion is because of another blonde. One of her fellow bunnies gets jealous of Shelley and works up a scheme to trick Shelley. She writes a letter, pretending to be Hugh, saying that Shelley was being kicked out. When Hugh returns there is another fake letter saying that Shelley had decided to leave of her own free will. Eventually, the woman gets caught and then thrown out of the house. After Shelley moves back to the mansion the girls realize their mistake; that they have become like the mean blondes they hated so much. Natalie states that they must become a combination of their old and new selves. A combination of the outgoing blonde and the kind brunette.

Shelley soon returns to the college and her girls. She has realized that she doesn’t love modeling anymore, but, instead, has fallen in love with these girls. She has become smarter and more worldly because of their teachings and they have become smarter because of her. She is no longer just the dumb blonde that people called her. Now, she is truly herself. A person who has shown her true colors because of the people she loves and those that love her.

Young girls are watching these movies and learning what the world wants them to become. That they can be smart, but must not be outgoing. Or that they can be outgoing, but in the process must be dumb. Everything boils down to them either being kind or mean to other girls their age. It all depends on their hair color and that is how the world will view them. This thought process can be toxic for young children and teenagers. For like Sydney White you must be either kind or mean. There should be more movies like The House Bunny or Legally Blonde that teaches that one can be both outgoing and kind at the same time. These are the ideas we should be teaching our children. So, that when they go to college, they have a good view of the world and how to behave in it.

Works Cited

Behm-Morawitz, Elizabeth, and Dana E. Mastro. “MEAN GIRLS? THE INFLUENCE OF GENDER PORTRAYALS IN TEEN MOVIES ON EMERGING ADULTS’ GENDER-BASED ATTITUDES AND BELIEFS.” Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly Spring 2008: 131-46. Web.

The House Bunny. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, 2008. DVD.

Legally Blonde. MGM Home Entertainment, 2001. DVD.

Sydney White. Universal Studios Home Entertainment, 2008. DVD.

 

 

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4 thoughts on “Female College Students in Media

  1. Hi Bayley,
    I really enjoyed reading your paper. I liked reading about this topic, as I feel that ours are related in a way. I agree with you that too many movies portray the identity of female college student in a negative way, with characteristics dependent on their hair color. I also thought you chose very good examples to support your argument.

  2. Hey Bayley,

    I found your paper very insightful. I never put this concept into play when watching a movie. I of course have noticed the dumb blonde aspect but not the dual. A fun fact about Legally Blonde is that the tag line for the movie is “go blonde this summer.” I used two of your sources, Legally Blonde and House Bunny, for my paper about sorority girls. I found it very interesting that we made many of the same points throughout our paper even though we were on different topics. I think it is important that media changes their views because it can be a large influence on young children. There are both positives and negatives to each side.

  3. Hi Bayley,
    Great essay! I loved the section about hair color relating to personalities in particular. I remember even as a child, hair color seemed to separate the girls in my class into groups. I don’t see it too much in real life now but in movies still, for some reason, hair color is a distinguisher in stereotyping girls and their personalities. Blondes are “mean” while brunettes are “intelligent loners”, but why? I was always curious as to why movies kept that idea in their films even though we as a society have grown out of that idea.

  4. Hi Bayley,
    Your essay was quite interesting. It does seem like a lot of stereotypes in the media are dependent on hair color, especially when it comes to young women. Blondes are dumb and shallow, brunettes are down to earth and smart, and anyone with black or differently colored hair is usually some sort of rebel. It’s interesting because I don’t really see these stereotypes are true in actual personal interactions. Maybe it’s just the people I surround myself with, but I don’t know anyone who judges someone on their hair color or style unless it’s extremely radical, and then it’s just sort of a “whoa” type comment. I wonder why it is that the media still clings on to these ideas about women’s hair. I hope it’s outgrown soon!

    Anna

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