What's Haunting Dove's Real Beauty Campaign?

Image from Dove's Real Beauty Campaign. Unconventional models of various body types, ages, and races stand, smiling, against a white background

Image Credit: People's Lab

Every image is haunted by the excluded. Every social movement is haunted by flaws. After reading Avery F. Gordon's Ghostly Matters: Haunting and the Sociological Imagination and Nivedita Menon's Recovering Subversion: Feminist Politics Beyond the Law, I became a bit haunted by the possibility of subversion. These two texts tell us that ghosts, in various forms, are absolutely everywhere, and after ruminating on their content and methodologies, I started to see ghosts, too.

In Your (Type)Face: Part I

Gill Sans

Image via Parimal Parmar, Bēhance.net

I'm in the midst of the (long) process of building a digital magazine called Covered with Fur for Austin small press A Strange Object. This week I'm choosing typefaces, which, as one editor puts it, is a "vertigo-inducing" prospect, especially on the web. As I research and test various webfonts, I'm struck by a) how many exist, b) how many ugly and/or illegible fonts there are, and c) how little I know about type design and type designers in the digital age. I mean, I watched Helvetica, just like everyone else, but I don't put nearly enough thought into the people who design the typefaces I use regularly (which include, of late, Times, Helvetica Neue, occationally Didot, if I'm feeling fancy; I used to be strictly Garamond, but I grew out of that, thank God).

My first question: what typefaces, if any—old or new—are designed by women? 

Erasing Wyldstyle: Heteronormativity in the LEGO Movie

artist's depiction of the anatomy of a LEGO figure. Part of a skeleton and some organs are visible

Artist Jason Freeny's LEGO Anatomy Model

Image Credit: hiconsumption.com

In my last post, I laid out the theoretical groundwork of biopolitics for a critique of the subversive potential of the LEGO movie. Biopolitics, or the epistemological and sociopolitical forces that determine how individuals understand bodies and “life,” lets us examine both the LEGO movie's own critique of social constructivism and comment on the movie's failure to adequately separate itself from static models of gender and sexuality.

The Building Blocks of Biopolitics: The LEGO Movie, Empire, and Multitude

A post for The Lego Movie, featuring main characters Emmett, Wild Style, and others

Image Credit: Forbes

Not only did seeing The Lego Movie (2014) lodge the parodic pop song “Everything is Awesome!” firmly in my skull, it also sent me scrambling for a way to intelligently theorize the film's highly sophisticated commentary on politics, capitalism, gender and the body. I emerged from my search with a brief history of biopolitics firmly in hand, and, with “Everything is Awesome!” still running through my head, I will now start assembling the theoretical pieces needed to construct an insightful critique. Part 1 of my ruminations on The Lego Movie, then, provide an introduction to the theories I'll be using in Part 2. Stay tuned, all, because EVERYTHING IS AWESOME. Hopefully these posts will nicely compliment Scott's awesome thoughts on how The Lego Movie capitulates to some disturbing movie cliches in the name of creativity.

Militant (Feminist) Grammarians

Markson diagram

Cropped from image below

You know you’re a huge nerd when multiple people from various corners of your life all forward you the same link, and that link is a bunch of diagrammed sentences.

This snazzy, minimalist new print from "renowned" infographic artists Pop Chart Lab satisfies the demands of everyone's favorite niche demographic (all those grammar-fiends/”classic-literature”-snobs/data-visualization-enthusiasts/fans-of-quality-design in your life) to a T. But before you place your order, let’s take a closer look at what this “Diagrammatical Dissertation” actually visualizes.

Scopophilia in A Game of Thrones

Headshots of female characters from A Game of Thrones

Image Credit: Fanpop.com

An incessant struggle for dominance. A never-ending vigil against opposition. A fierce match of razor-sharp wits. A game, one might say, of thrones. Wait, no. I meant a game of feminism.

Nudity, My Dear Watson: Sherlock and The Woman

Text gives information Sherlock gleans from the type of suit a man wears: left side of bed, horse rider, public school

Image Credit: Personal Screen Capture from Amazon Prime

BBC's ongoing show Sherlock is a present-day adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle's nineteenth-century detective stories, and it gleefully delights in its modernity by incorporating new technology and polishing up old visual tropes associated with the rationally-minded crime solver. Whether it's confronting viewers with just how resistant Sherlock himself is towards the popularity of his infamous deerstalker or transforming a first-person narrator's short stories into fodder for a personal blog , Sherlock 's self-referentiality invites its fans to think about the implications of these alterations. The alteration of the media used to tell the tales of the Great Detective Sherlock Holmes also introduces some arresting issues. If Sherlock's deductions were shrouded in mystery or only available to readers through Holmes's own explanations, the show actually allows viewers to “see” the detective's thought processes by stylistically superimpos i ng text onto the show's images.

Frozen: The Anatomy of a Gaze

Elsa from Frozen gazes into the distance

Image credit: The Guardian

The first song composed for (but ultimately cut from) the recent Disney blockbuster Frozen explicitly engages with Disney's presentation of female characters. In the song, entitled "We Know Better," young princesses Elsa and Anna lay out a laundry list of objections to the traditional idea of a "Disney Princess." The film's two heroes refuse to be the sort of princess who "always knows her place," insist that a real princess “laughs and snorts milk out her nose," and maintain their right to mention “underwear.” Though whimsical, the film sets out its heroines' priorities: the only things they take seriously are their sisterly friendship and the political demands of ruling the realm. In climactic two-part harmony, the girls promise to "take care of our people and they will love / Me and you." If films like Tangled and Brave taught Disney that their princesses can (quite profitably) take center stage without dressing up as boys, Frozen insists that its female leads will be more concerned with national policy than with the clothes they wear.

Beyonce's ***Flawless Feminism

Beyonce confronting the camera in video

Image Credit: Screenshot from "***Flawless" video

I’m so glad to be back on viz again after some time away, especially as having to write posts again gives me the chance to discuss Beyoncé Knowles’s newest record, Beyoncé, which was released without any press or preview in late December as a “visual album.” The album has 14 songs and 17 videos included in it. While critics had things to say about Jay-Z’s verse on “Drunk in Love” and the remixed audio from the 1986 Challenger disaster in “XO,” the most noticeable song was “***Flawless,” which features an excerpt from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED talk on feminism. Paste Magazine’s review of the album noted the album’s feminist thematics, which others have discussed as well. Since I’d like to add to this conversation about Beyoncé’s feminism, I thought I’d take up how Beyoncé’s visuals, especially in “***Flawless,” depict those concerns.

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