Feminism Meets Pop Culture

By Brianna Lanham Featured image

It’s no secret that the fight for feminism and complete equal rights for both female and male genders has progressively blown up like a balloon. Since before women’s suffrage, the right for women to function equally as men do throughout society has specifically impacted the work force in an exceeding manner.

Beginning in New Zealand in 1893 (I always knew I liked you guys), the right to vote became a reality for women for the first time. Therefore, politics began to shift in a manner that the nations had not witnessed before. On top of all the political and economic reconstruction, the right to speak out, have an opinion, and by golly! to even show a little skin (hence why we don’t where long skirts and cuffs anymore, ladies) became a reality. Outside of the more noticeable aspects of change, feminism has carried into cultures globally the transformation and acceptance of women’s roles in the entertainment industry. They pose as a major phenomenon in society: and here’s why.

For all of you “Netflixers,” (men, don’t pretend you don’t watch Friends religiously like the rest of us) the feminist movement has broadened the creativity levels and range of possibilities for drama and plot in any television broadcast. Let’s face it: without major female leading roles in modern day pop culture, such as Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games series, or even classic romance films like Jennifer Grey in Dirty Dancing, the publicity and excitable fandom that seems to obsess viewers today just wouldn’t be the same. Can you imagine what the 1998 Disney film Mulan would be like if the leading character were male instead of female? The entire essence of originality, historical significance and controversy that revolutionized the lovable and fierce Disney princess would be lost. Rebellion, in the eyes of a democratic society, seems to be the emphasis most of the population in a liberal uprising of generations are leaning toward.

As economic and political values shift over the course of decades, the entertainment industry truly has no option but to conform. In other words, our culture demands strong female roles to lead and conquer on the big screen. While most leading protagonists in cartoons throughout the 90’s revolved around a male character, more and more female characters are rising up both on and off the screen. From Hilary Duff in her first leading television series Lizzie McGuire, to Miley Cyrus in the Disney Channel television series Hannah Montana, the media interest in female role models for young girls, and even for woman as a whole, began to seemingly increase and climax.

As the teenage actresses grew up, so did feminism. Miley Cyrus considers herself a feminist, posing as a sexual role model and publicly engaging in electric, sexual interactions with her close friends, stage crew and fans. Her image displays a personalized depiction of liberation through her body and seductive exploitation as she rolls across the stage during performances. Her iconic "tongue" blew up in tabloids and was later considered a personal favorite to fans. Some may view this as taboo, seeing as how the somewhat kinky and raw sexual associations Cyrus encourages have posed as a rebellious advocate for equality and freedom of bondage in judgement. As we all age, the fad is becoming less about which Powerpuff Girl you want to be and more about which celebrity-songwriter you support.

With that being said, pop culture seems to primarily focus on a single component: sex. Sexualization of women is a social justification that once was ignored but now seems to have latched onto any respectable female role in the entertainment industry. Take Ellen DeGeneres for example. In 1997, DeGeneres came out as a lesbian. On top of being highly idolized for her courage and somewhat scandalous confession, her show began to mimic her reputation. As the general population began to notice more of her ideals and her boldness to express them despite conservative and classical American values, her vulnerability and eccentric personality hit big numbers with her viewers in her TV talk show, The Ellen Degeneres Show.

Similarly, television series that support “real life” scenarios of sexual female interactions and support of their bodies tend to demand higher viewers. The Netflix series Orange Is The New Black stars Taylor Schilling as Piper Chapman, a woman in her thirties who is sentenced to 15 years in a women's prison for a decade-old crime. The show outlines various dramatic and explicit relations between characters interacting in both sexual and physical ways. While some may argue the explicit language and actions the female characters partake in inside the prison are unrealistic and overproduced, the point is this: male officers failing to make female prisoners follow the rules make for VERY high viewer rates.

If it weren’t for the entertainment industry and the contributions of political and social figures across the nation, the severity and combat for equality of all sexes would be at a loss. As queen Beyoncé says in her hit single, Flawless, “Feminist: a person that believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.”