Tag Archives: feminism

The Pacific and Sgt. Lena Riggi

We’ve been eagerly awaiting our weekly installments of The Pacific, which is a Tom Hanks-produced mini series on HBO. The show provides a very realistic and gripping portrayal of the soldiers of the Marine Corps in the Pacific Theater of WWII. Each of the 10 installments is an hour-long glimpse into a specific battle, soldier, and/or company of soldiers. I’m very much a beginner when it comes to war movies, and much of the time my eyes are glazing over during battle scenes and the psychology-student in me is trying to assess the sanity of humankind and why there’s even a need for such grotesque violence and machismo. However, I find that although I don’t agree with war, war movies themselves introduce me to incredible characters. This is certainly true of The Pacific. It’s created in the same vein as Band of Brothers, another excellent HBO mini-series produced by Hanks about WWII. The Pacific, though, I think does a better job of balancing character-driven plots with action-driven plots. The acting and cinematography is amazing, and for an hour a week, I am a bird in the heroic lives of these soldiers.

This week, I was really taken by a character named Lena Riggi (Annie Parisse). First, what a wonderful name, right? Anyways, she’s a sergeant in the Marine Corps. She comes across John Basilone (Jon Seda), a gunnery sergeant who’s become somewhat of a celebrity soldier and the face of the war against the Japanese. He’s a bit of a notorious womanizer, and he’s instantly drawn to her. She’s feisty, smart, and willful. She went against her entire family’s wishes for her to be a subservient wife and mother, and joined the army. She’s also not impressed with his lavish dinners and sweet talk. But over time, he proves himself to be more than his image and they fall for each other. Although most of her scenes were in the kitchen or dining room, you could tell she was destined for greatness. If she had been born in a later generation, she could’ve been an incredible sergeant who wouldn’t only be in the kitchen. However, for her time, I think she disrupted the stereotype of a woman and pursued a lifestyle that she wanted. At one point, she even says that she blinked and all of a sudden she was thirty and happy, and then Basilone came into her life. I’m glad she didn’t define all of her happiness in relation to him – she had a life, an identity, and a career before him, and she wasn’t quitting anytime soon. And I’m glad Tom Hanks and the entire team on the show brought in a character who was breaking boundaries in her own ways.

Update: A reader found the real Lena Riggi’s obituary, and so I thought I’d post it! Check it out here!

Toys ‘R’ Gendered

This was an assignment I did for a gender/culture media class over the weekend.

This was the first time I’ve been to Toys R Us in well over ten years – I was shocked, and yet somehow not totally surprised about the amount of gendered toys and sections at the store. I will start by mentioning a couple of the more progressive types of toys that I found – Fisher Price did a good job; when I first noticed a doctor’s kit, I came close, expected to see a boy on the cover, and actually saw a girl. Little Tikes also put boys and girls on the covers of their sports toys.

The first small thing that shocked me was in the Lego’s department: all boyish Lego’s were of firetrucks, building things, and Star Wars. The girls’ Lego’s all features a house with flowers and them jumping rope outside. Now, a disclaimer for my blog reader(s), these images and activities are not inherently wrong – I’m not saying that girls SHOULD be doing boys activities and vice versa. That would be just as bad as ascribing them the passive, pink, motherly role. I’m saying that we should challenge these messages that are being advertised & let boys and girls be more than just the pink/blue, passive/active boxes.

Next, I also noticed the blatant difference between the atmosphere of the boys sections and the atmosphere of the girls. Boys had wrestling action figures, NERF guns (all of the models on these guns were boys, of course), and massive Tonka trucks. Girls had an explosion of pink tutus, makeup and princess toys. The biggest, most frustrating shocker for me was the “Cook/Clean” section – literally, all pink, and all girls. Toys included toy vacuums, kitchen sets, a “Deluxe Cleaning Set,” and various other accessories pertaining to domesticity. Across from that section were baby dolls that said “Mommy, Look I can swim” on the box.

I’ve had various conversations with friends and family since completing this analysis, and every time I discuss it I become even more passionate about this blatant gender-typing. Some people mention that maybe girls just naturally gravitate to pink and boys to trucks; I strongly disagree. These social constructs begin at birth or even earlier – kids are conditioned/socialized to want to play with these gender-specific toys through the toys that parents buy them as newborns, television commercials, and other kids’ toys. It’s frustrating that stores like Toys R Us won’t consider blending these toys, but rather segregates boys and girls. The messages of female domesticity vs. male worldliness and outside exploration were clear to me. In other words: girls, go clean, cook, and be mommies, and boys, go build, learn, work, and destroy. I remember I kept repeating “this is the twenty-first century” as I walked through the store – I couldn’t help but be reminded of the advertisements from the 1920s. I also kept thinking about how I would present toys to my future kids – I’d give them both boy and girl toys, without ascribing those titles of course. I’d give options, and let them play with whatever they wanted. I wouldn’t dress a girl solely in pink & then say that she simply “wants” to play with dolls. I wouldn’t tell a girl that she’s inherently a mother – and I wouldn’t deny it; but what about the boy – wouldn’t he inherently be a father? Shouldn’t he too be changing diapers and feeding these realistic dolls? Shouldn’t both girls and boys be in the kitchen or vacuuming? Shouldn’t there be more options and more discussion of this in the twenty-first century? I think the answer to all of these questions should be yes.

R.I.P. Betty Suarez

Rumors have been flying for a while now, but the death of ABC’s Ugly Betty still manages to pack a punch. I wouldn’t say I’ve ever waited anxiously for each episode, and I often caught up online, but the show had a very natural ability to cheer me up with it’s hallucinogenic colors and off-the-walls characters. Based off of a bunch of telenovellas, Ugly Betty brought us a first-generation college grad who’s journalism degree brought her to Mode Publications – as an assistant to a fashion magazine editor. In a true telenovella manner, the plot abounded with outrageous scandal upon outrageous scandal. But, I think the underlying themes of the show were those of family, support, and an acceptance of the “other” – be it latina girls with a healthy body image & yet lack of fashion sense, vixens who’ll do anything to get on top, self-serving receptionists with occasional heart, and guys who treat their sexuality as normative and just another facet into their identity. In a way, Ugly Betty paved the way for Glee, I would say. Betty’s nephew, Justin, made it mod to appreciate fashion, musicals, and theater. I’m going to miss all of their personalities; I’ll miss Daniel, who changed so much from playboy to grieving husband. I’ll miss the colors of the show, and the fierce writing that will live on in syndication. I’ll miss Betty’s innocence and her journey to find a niche for herself in the writing world!