Sunday, May 13, 2007

Conversation Ender: Harry Potter poster edition

As you all may know, I can be very opinionated with people I like and trust. Like with you readers. Oftentimes I get very passionate, and I share what I'm feeling. This is what happened last week when I read Dan Carlson's post, An Ignoble Spirit Embiggens The Smallest Chest, on his blog Slowly Going Bald. From the opening paragraph:

Emma Watson has been given a digital breast job in the Imax ads for this summer's Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

I was reading along with the examples of other times this has unnecessary practice been done to prominent celebrities, nodding head, saying to myself, "Good job pointing out these things out, Dan." Then he made his fatal mistake:

It's not whether the images were designed to completely deceive the viewing public, but the fact that we as a public ask for and often demand these images...

...We ask for these things. You know? Sure, you and I don't, not an individual level, but we do. We as a people do. So I'm disappointed that it's happened again for Emma Watson, and I'm sure she's somewhere between pissed and mortified, since being a female teen on the world stage has to be a punishing existence. But, really, is anyone surprised?

Oh Dan.

Here's the comment I left in response:

we as a public ask for and often demand these images


I , as part of the public, neither asked for nor demanded these images. Who exactly do you think Warner Bros. asked about the decision to give a 17-year-old girl (who is actually playing a 15-year-old) bigger boobs? I know I wasn't consulted. I don't think any other Harry Potter fans were consulted en masse either. Did I miss the big ad placed in Variety and The Hollywood Reporter? "Who wants Hermione to have more boobage? Call us now!" Don't blame the public for poor decision making on the part of a studio marketing team.

Additionally, equating the cover of Maxim or GQ with a poster for a movie based on a children's book is wrong. I don't think anyone in the Harry Potter cast expected to be sexually objectified when they signed up for the movie. The only person involved with this franchise that I remember releasing suggestive photos in the past year was Daniel Radcliffe. And I don't see any major alterations done to his body in any Harry Potter one-sheets.

I guess I'm not "surprised" because Mr. Radcliffe is male, and "we as a people" don't "ask for these things" from boys. " "We" just expect these things to happen to 17-year-old girls, whether they want them to happen or not.

That effectively ended the conversation on that post. Now, Dan is not a bad person. He seems pretty nice. The same day that I left the above comment, I also left a comment on his post, A Letter From HR, in which I politely asked him to define what the phrase "used a pica pole to scratch your chode" meant. And he replied with an explanation. But that just wasn't enough for me. I have to have it all, all the time. I want my every comment replied to on every blog that I comment on. I have issues, I know.

I will note that I restrained myself from criticizing Dan's finding humor in describing his female coworker as "cute enough to kidnap." I should get some kudos for that.


Catherine Avril Morris said...

First, I feel duty-bound to point out that you, my dear, don't respond to your poor readers' comments on your blog, either; at least, not all the time. Or, at least, not mine! I had to point it out! Had to!

Second, I agree with you. Well, it seems like Dan had a good point, he just made the wrong one. In saying "we" ask those studio marketing teams to make Hermione's boobs bigger (which, I agree with you, "we" certainly don't), he seems to have meant that most people buy into that beauty standard in all other ways: they go around wanting their own/girlfriend's boobs to be bigger, checking out other women's boobs (and making fun of "man-boobs"), envying other women's big boobs while also labeling those women as whores just for having those boobs, buying bras (or bras for their girlfriends) to enhance their (girlfriends') boobs, paying $4000+ for surgery in which the doc roughly stuffs plastic baggies full of salt water into the chest cavity to make said boobs bigger...etc. All that obvious shit.

So Dan took that to mean "we," in the wide sense, want Hermione's boobs to be big and round and stand-up and fuckable on the Harry Potter poster. What he seems to be missing, though, is that "we" really don't; what's really going on there, and what is, to me, way more commentable, is that we, the public, are, by default, led around by these decisions made by...who? A team of a handful of people, we don't know their names, holed up in a Hollywood office building or studio somewhere. What makes them the harbingers of American culture?

This is one of those chicken-or-the-egg questions, I think. Who determines our culture--the people living it or the media reporting on it? I think it's both, but maybe weighted more toward the media side. Either way, it's a sick, cyclical trap we all get into and can't think how to get out of. So we might see Hermione's boobs embiggened on that poster and hate it, and get pissed and blog and rail against it...but those marketing teams are going to do it again next time. Because you're right, they didn't put out an ad in any paper, asking "Who wants us to do this? Anyone? Anyone?"

Back when GWB started the war in Iraq I had the same horrible, pervasive feeling of helplessness I think a lot of people had, based on the fact that our president started this awful war in our name, but as far as I know, he didn't ask any of us if we thought it was a good idea. And when we spoke out against it, he ignored us. It's related in my mind.

It's like an abusive relationship we're stuck in. I think this about a lot of paradigms, actually. Like the Republicans vs. the Dems, specifically: it's like an abusive relationship in which the weak Dems are stuck apologizing, cowering, rationalizing, etc., hoping not to be struck again by the big bully, and the big bully keeps striking because that's what a bully does. I think those studio teams are out of touch with reality...or with what plenty of people consider reality. Marketing teams are bound by financial concerns, marketing strategies that ping around inside their they make the girl's boobs bigger. That'll work. It's like McDonald's advertising salads and "healthier sides" (or is that one some other fast-food chain?). They're trying to appeal to ever-wider groups of people, so they have to come up with bullshit ways of doing it. Movie people (and every other marketing team in America) think Sex Sells. Make those boobs bigger.

I hate that my only cogent response is to think, Maybe I should go live in [insert some other country here, almost any other country]. Running away from it won't help either. But what will?

Catherine Avril Morris said...

Whoa, dude, I had no idea that comment was like 3 pp. long. Sorry about that.

Bianca Reagan said...

I enjoy the lengthy comments, so there is no need to apologize. As you may have divined from the post made after this one, it's been quite a day.

I should respond to comments more. Especially since I have at most five fans. And it's not going to get any easier when more people find the blog.

I always appreciate your comments, catherine, and your telling your family to read my blog.

I don't think you should move to another country. My own brother has implied that I should move to another country if I have so many problems with this one, which is an inherently ridiculous. The United States was based on the myth that "all men are created equal" and that we should take in the tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free. We are supposed to object conscientiously to injustice and oppression. That's what America is supposed to be about. Making things better.

America is also about the extermination of indigenous peoples and the continued enslavement of the less fortunate. But we don't talk about that. Because we complainers would have to move to Canada. And those Canadians have their own problems.

Thanks for reading my blog! You should post more, too.

Catherine Avril Morris said...

Awww, thank you for appreciating my comments. :)

I don't think I or any of us should move to another country, either. That wouldn't solve anything. (I get annoyed with my friends who talk about not wanting to have kids because of how crappy things are now. Yeah, how's that going to solve anything? We need to have kids so there will be people to help make this place better, 20, 30, 40 years from now!)

And I get VERY annoyed with people who think anyone who has a problem with anything at all about America should leave. God--the idea that a patriot is someone who shuts the fuck up and goes along with the atrocities their government is committing--that just makes me sick. And to state the obvious, that's NOT what this place is supposed to be about. I feel really ineloquent this morning, so I feel like I can't even get this thought out, but--the best things about America, in history and in theory, have been the people and the movements that were focused toward social and political change. The idea that our country is young, founded by a bunch of criminals, tax-dodgers and philosophical mavericks who wanted to get out of the political and social systems they came from, which had been entrenched in The Way They Were for centuries. America is supposed to be all about progressive change and the betterment of all. And yes, in reality, it's about repression and oppression, keeping everyone down except a select few, and the godly power of money. And greed, and self-absorption, and... But with all that awfulness comes the opportunity for progressive change and the betterment of all, right?

Or maybe I'm way too naive and blindly optimistic.

Also, I just reread your comment and realized I just restated stuff you said. Yeah, well...I can't help it, I haven't had coffee yet...

Manny said...

Whoa, let's back up the fem truck here. I agree with Dan's statement that, on the whole, the public expects a certain image from its celebrities. And let's face it, the old addage "sex sells' was obviously at work. These kids are getting older, and studios are going to want to cash in on the ability of its characters to draw a more diverse audience. Meaning giving Hermione bigger tata's = teenage boy $$. Not that objectifying women is acceptable, but neither has it been, or probably ever will be eradicated.

I've been reading your older posts and you are both very well spoken and funny (for an icky girl), but if you look hard enough at anything, you're going to find something that offends you. But hey, it's your blog and you can call "anti-feminism" if you want to.

Now go make me a sandwich.

Bianca Reagan said...

manny, you can make me a sandwich, if you feel so inclined. I like Quiznos.

I don't think I have ever used the phrase "anti-feminism."

Most importantly, let's examine your "exploit Emma Watson for financial gain" argument. Do you really think teenage boys are go to see a Harry Potter movie for the boobs? Why wouldn't they just stay on their computers at home and see bigger, naked boobs for free?

Furthermore, five years ago, those teenage boys were pre-teenage boys. Meaning, they grew up with Harry Potter since they were kids. As such, I don't think they would suddenly stop watching the series at the fifth movie installment. Getting teenage boys to watch Harry Potter is not diversifying the audience. It's pandering to a segment of the audience who (barring a natural disaster) are going to see it anyway.

This raises so many questions for me. Like, how far are you willing to go to make a multi-billion dollar franchise even more money? Could you explain away previously-nonexistent cleavage on Hermione? How about fake chill-induced nipples? And why is there a need to attract teenage boys to see this movie? Are teenage girls poverty-stricken? Do they not like cinemas? Because when I was a teenager, I had both disposable income and disposable time.

Thanks for commenting! :)