Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Teen Choice Awards for Adults [Television Tuesday]

Today, I'm welcoming Laura of Adventures of a Young Feminist to the blog for my first non-50BPT cross-post! Laura also wrote the second entry in the aforementioned series, on Salman Rushdies' Haroun and the Sea of Stories. Thanks Laura!

Laura Sundstrom is a 22-year-old recent grad from Beloit College with a degree in Women's and Gender Studies. She spends her spare time looking for a job and blogging about feminism and pop culture.

I'm a couple years past my teen years, so why would I want to spend my Monday night watching the Teen Choice Awards? Well, I'm fascinated by pop culture, much of which revolves around teens and people who still wish they were teenagers. And when I head buzz around pole dancing and slut-shaming that took place at the Teen Choice Awards (which was filmed on Sunday), I had to watch it!

So I sat down on Monday night with my glass of wine ready to live-tweet the Teen Choice Awards 2009 (@ShelbyKnox came up with the hashtag #teenschoosewine for those of us live-tweeting the awards show under the influence of alcohol).

This year, the awards show was hosted by the Jonas Brothers. I was not terribly impressed and of course we had to listen to two performances from them. Watching the Teen Choice Awards (something I haven't done in a couple years) was an interesting experience. Even if you didn't know it was called the "Teen Choice Awards," you would definitely know who the demographic was. From the humor, the "Dare the Jonas Brothers" bits, and most of the things nominated, you can tell that it is marketed towards teens, especially teens that watch the Disney Channel.

The Teen Choice Awards seemed to basically be a showcase of the sexualization of teen girls and teens trying to be adults.

The main example of this? Miley Cyrus' performance of her song "Party in the USA." She came out wearing hot pants, heels, a racer-back shirt, and a mesh bra that could be seen from the sides and back. I highly doubt that most 16-year-olds' parents would let their kids out of the house dressed like that. What makes it worse: pole dancing. That's right. The 16-year-old "role model" was pole dancing at the Teen Choice Awards. In fact, with a pole that was attached to the top of an ice cream cart. As @ShelbyKnox said (tweeted): "I wish Miley didn't feel she has to sexualize herself in such a way to have fans. She could be such a role model." Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana had a ton of fans before she started to sexualize herself. I don't care if she's trying to move away from Disney. This is not the way for a 16-year-old girl to do that.

Now don't get me wrong: I'm all for women expressing their sexuality. But when a 16-year-old girl is sexualized in order to sell records, there's problem. I don't see Miley Cyrus' performance as her expressing her own sexuality, I see it as a plot to attrach more fans. The sexualization of younger and younger women is what causes a lot of these body image issues that girls and women have. If they weren't trying to be this "perfect" sexual teenager, girls and women might be more happy to just be themselves.

Then there was the sexism that was in the categories. On instance that particularly stuck out to me was that there was an award for Choice Actor in an Action/Adventure movie, but no Choice Actress. Granted, the action/adventure genre is not heavily populated with women. But there are women in these movies, enough so that they could create a category for these women that "kick butt."

Then there was a new category: Choice Fab-u-lous. A category designed specifically for gay men in fashion. I think the important question to ask is if this category is honoring the contributions that these men have made to the world of fashion, or does it further the "othering" of them by creating a separate category specifically for gay men in fashion? I would probably say the latter, especially because of the title of the award and they way that it was said. But, in Miss J's acceptance speech (Miss J from America's Next Top Model) he shared his award with all the gay, lesbian, and trans people in the country and said that this award made them as fierce as he is. I thought that was a really good touch.

Because the show was filmed on Sunday, some events were leaked. I heard about an event involving Dane Cook on Shakesville in which he "slut-shamed" Vanessa Hudgens for the naked pictures she took a while ago for Zac Efron that were leaked onto the internet. As a result, the crowd boo-ed him. Sadly (kind of), this was not aired. I would have like to seen him boo-ed, but we don't need to broadcast to the country another instance of slut-shaming, so I guess it is good that it was cut out.

I have to say, I'm huge fan of awards shows, especially the Academy Awards. But the Teen Choice Awards was pretty painful to sit through. I hated to see all of the sexualization of teen girls and the stereotyping of numberous demographics (George Lopez on Latinos, for example). I also thought it was inappropriate that this award show was supposed to be run by votes from viewers (aka teens) and some of the things they were supposed to vote on were not appropriate for teens. There were rated R movies (such as Slumdog Millionaire) nominated along with True Blood (which is a great show, but I don't think is appropriate for the age demographic for the show). These things are especially seen for their inappropriateness when they are up against movies and shows from Disney. If parents want to let teens watch these movies and shows, that's their business. But the Teen Choice Awards should not be promoting these age-inappropriate movies and shows to their primary audience of teens.

But the Teen Choice Awards in a venue for teens to try to be adults, for the way they dress, to the way they dance, to the movies they vote for. But I do have to say I have a favorite moment. It would have to be when Ellen Degeneres won Choice Twit (yes, they now have awards for Twitter) and promised that she would give away $1000 to a follower next week. I was happy that Ellen, a proud lesbian, won the award as opposed to Kim Kardashian or Ashton Kutcher, who she was up against.

It's hard to fully summarize what was going on in my mind throughout the Teen Choice Awards because it was a two hour show and so many things happened. One minute I was impressed with a decision made by the show and the very next minute I was disgusted by what was going on on stage. But I guess that says a lot about the Teen Choice Awards. It tried to be a "progressive" but just ended up being a mess of stereotypes and sexualization. I think the awards show should just remember who their main demographic is and fix the show accordingly.

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