College Females in the Media

The images presented in the media play an important role in everyday life, and sometimes the messages presented to young women about their identity and beauty are biased. I chose to research how my identity as a female college student is portrayed in popular culture today. Some of my findings were new and reveling while others were familiar. I chose three movie artifacts to analyze. They are called: “Legally Blonde,” “Sorority Wars,” and “Sydney White.” These movies affect the young generation of females, because they portray stereotypes toward women, ideal body standards and certain biased female behavior.

The movies that I analyzed took place on a college campus and featured females with an “ideal body” image. They also had a similar “sorority” theme trend, which seems to be a popular college theme involving females. However, I also realized that in each movie the female college students behaved and acted differently when it came to dealing with problems and negativity. For example in the movie “Sorority Wars,” directed by James Hayman, there was a scene where Katie the (main character) chose to join a different sorority because she wanted to avoid the negativity in her first sorority. Throughout the movie she sought justice for the unlawful behavior of the other sorority houses, which included illegally drinking. Then the “war” became against Katie (the prized legacy for the Delta sorority) because she chose a different house and went against the “mean girls.” The entire movie is centered on Katie and her interactions with the “mean girls.” This consistent trend of “mean girls” theme, categorizes how female college students tend to behave in sorority houses. Also the cast for this movie are all models, skinny females, and this impacts the ideal standard of how female college students should look.

sorority-wars.21334

"Mean Girls"

                               “Mean Girls”

“Sydney White,” directed by Joe Nussbaumthere, casts a female college freshman named Sydney, who joins her mother’s once honorable sorority. Sydney White meets a group of “dwarfs” who accept her for who she is, and she ends up living them because her own sorority won’t accept her. The purpose of the movie is to entertain the audience with comedy/drama that happens between college females. This movie also presents the stereotype of “mean girls” that dislike Sydney, and plot against her. This stereotype portrays the struggle of fitting into a college campus because there will be girls that dislike you and don’t accept you. Sydney stands out because of her unique character, and in the scene below we can see that the “blonde” females don’t accept her in their sorority, and later dismiss Sydney from the house.

Sydney is about to be humiliated and dismissed from the sorority house.

     sydney

Lastly, I realized that only in the movie “Legally Blonde” directed by Robert Luketic and written by Amanda Brown, featured actual classrooms and course work that was involved with the female college student. This movie also focused on a “blonde” female stereotype. Although, this film was changing the way blonde college girls are represented in the world. The main character (Eli Woods) is determined to show the world that she is more than just another pretty blonde face girl. No one believes in Eli, because of her blonde hair and “not that smart.” All the law students laugh at her, strongly judge Eli on her appearance, and the way she looked. I think many people think poorly of women and don’t believe that they can as successful as men, and capable of getting “law” degrees. From the movie Eli’s ambition and dedication won the favor of her professors, and thus in the end she won a court case.

legally blonde 2

Eli Woods arrives to Harvard University, and receives glares from the other students.

From my secondary research I chose to research how different stereotypes of female college students are portrayed in the classroom setting. From my finding “Confronting Math Stereotypes in the Classroom” by Guy A. Boysen, I concluded that female college students face stereotypes and sexism on a daily basis and that negatively affects their academic ability. College students that experience sexism and various stereotypes also experience emotional stress. In one of my primary artifacts “Legally Blonde” the main character Elle Woods faced a negative stereotype from her peers because she was blonde. Because of this stereotype the character was categorized as “not smart” and incapable of finishing school for a law degree. In the movie “Sydney White,” Sydney faces a negativity from the “mean girls” and that affects her emotions and behavior. 

Another secondary source that I analyzed was called “Pressure to be Prefect” by Pavica Sheldon. Sheldon focuses on the fact that the pressure to achieve a perfect body and cultural attractiveness ideal is very high. All these movies that I previously mentioned focus on the “ideal” body standard. The studies concluded that when female college students are exposed to media that shows thin, well-proportioned models, it affects their self-esteem and thus they feel less attractive afterwards. Another study by Cohen called the National Association of Anorexia

Nervosa and Associated Disorders found that the participants “were dissatisfied with their own bodies” when they watched music videos and TV shows with such “ideal” imagery. Study reported that “53% of American girls are ‘unhappy with their bodies” by the time they are thirteen years old, and the percentage “grows to 78%” by age of seventeen as a result of seeing ideal body types in the media. This it is important to help young female college students develop a stronger identity that is different from what is presented in the media. Overall from my finding I realized that the movies that are aimed for the young female audience can affect the self-esteem and behavior of those females. Although not all female college students will be affected by the ideal  body image in the media, I think it’s important to boost the confidence of young college women and teach them to not glorify slenderness the is portrayed in popular culture today.

Throughout my analyzation, I came to the conclusion that teenage college movies with female students will always have a lot of drama, conflict, and comedy. Most of the movies that involve the female college student identity are “chick flicks” and they target the majority of the female audience. In real life, female college students are thought to be hardworking students that are on top of their studies and have their life together. However, in some movies that I analyzed, female college students engage in drama like “Sorority Wars,” thus the portrayal of female college students seemed to be biased.  In every movie that I analyzed I also noticed that the “ideal” beauty standard is being portrayed to college students. Also in some movies female college students don’t go for difficult degrees and it’s rarely shown that a female college student is actually behind a book studying. I feel that movies today don’t exist without the “bad guy”, and in this case there is a group of “mean girls” that portray negativity and jealousy toward a certain female college student character.  It’s important to understand the messages in the media because young women are constantly exposed to these potentially harmful messages at a young age, and those messages are constantly influencing them.

Significant Learning Moments

Something that stood out to me this term was about the history of advertisements, presented in week three. When deconstructing the advertisements I was surprised by the deep meaning each advertisement held. The course text presented that week was called “American Advertising: A Brief History,” and the point that stood out to me the most was that the advertising industry falsely pictures the world to the consumers, so that they hope for it. They picture things like prosperity, material comfort, luxury, while in reality many Americans don’t have that kind of life. This made me think how people always keep wanting better things in life, to be more successful, forgetting the things they already have. Sometimes the media can make peoples so anxious that people don’t fully appreciate the things they have because they are busy chasing their new goals. Also if the media falsely pictures the world, it can influence people to feel less about themselves and what standing they have in life.

The topic presented in week four called, The Influence of Advertising, also stood out to me significantly. One discussion question asked if advertisements contributed anything of value to our culture, and I think that they do, because they reflect the world we live in. Although there are inappropriate racist commercials that use offensive stereotypes to sell products, we should not allow or tolerate them. However, many other commercials can mirror our beliefs, and influence how we see the world; those ads can be positive. Positive advertisements can open our societies eyes to see that typical things that we say can actually be offensive to certain genders and people. The course text presented that week called “Ways of Seeing” by John Burger also opened my eyes to a new way of “seeing” advertisements. In Berger’s piece it was interesting how the oil paintings showed the luxurious life based on what the people already had, but today advertisements show that people need to buy certain products to have a good luxurious life. I learned that although advertisements are addressed to the public, the ideas presented can be personal and influence individualist to want something because it will enrich their lives.

References

Cohen, M. (2012). Teen health and the media. University of Washington Experimental Education Unit.

Boysen, Guy. “Confronting Math Stereotypes In The Classroom: Its Effect On Female College Students’ Sexism And Perceptions Of Confronters.” Sex Roles 69.5/6 (2013): 297-307. Academic Search Premier. Web. 5 Nov. 2015.

Klawans, Stuart. “The Girls Of Summer.” Nation 277.3 (2003): 50-53. Academic Search Premier. Web. 6 Nov. 2015.

“Legally Blonde.” IMDb. IMDb.com, Inc, n.d. Web. 26 Oct. 2015

Sheldon, Pavica. “Pressure To Be Perfect: Influences On College Students’ Body Esteem.” Southern Communication Journal 75.3 (2010): 277-298. Academic Search Premier. Web. 6 Nov. 2015.

“Sorority Wars.” IMDb. IMDb.com, Inc, n.d. Web. 26 Oct. 2015

“Sydney White.” IMDb. IMDb.com, Inc, n.d. Web. 26 Oct. 2015

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About voksana

I am a third year student at Portland State University, and look forward to finishing my Bachelors in Business Administration. In my spare time I enjoy playing piano and traveling with my family.

2 thoughts on “College Females in the Media

  1. Hello, Voksana!

    This was very interesting to read. I think you bring up several great points and problematic trends in pop media surrounding female college students. I admit the only one of the three movies you analyzed I’ve seen is “Legally Blonde”, but going off other films/T.V shows I’ve seen it is common not to see female college students actually studying (which I never really noticed before). I do like “Legally Blonde” because it combats ideas that typically feminine things are inferior just because they are feminine, but I agree that Elle does present what is conventionally attractive and what is conventionally attractive is a stressfully impossible bar to reach. The presence of “mean girls” is a common thing in films where the protagonist is female and it’s pretty tiring to see over and over. It just encourages girl-on-girl hate and I strongly dislike the stereotype.

    Anyway, great essay. I connected to so much of it.

  2. Hey, Voksana!
    You did a great job bringing up several different points from each movie, at first I was confused because you were only really summarizing the movies, but then I realized you bring it all together at the end. Neat idea.
    I wanted to read your essay especially because I researched the same think that you did, because of that I wanted to see what things you caught while doing your research that I didn’t. Let me tell you, you got a lot. You brought up the point with the mean girls, and I didn’t even think about it. I analyzed Legally Blonde as well and I noticed that instead of the popular girls being the mean girls in this movie, it was the “nerdy” smart girls, it’s like they purposefully reversed everything in this movie.
    While reading the post, I felt like you really knew what you were talking about. You knew exactly what to say, and you backed up all of your points very nicely, which made it much more reliable.

    Great post! I learned a lot more on my topic than I thought I could!
    Best regards,
    Arely Vidana.

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