Jean Kilbourne and bell hooks agree in their writings that the media often distorts what we perceive as reality in one way or another. Film, television, and advertising shape our ideals and what we believe should be true. Kilbourne focuses on the distortion of gender, particularly the distortion of the female gender in society in the excerpt from her book included in From Inquiry to Academic Writing, whereas hooks analyzes the misrepresentation of the impoverished and homeless in the excerpt from her book.
Despite their differing foci, both authors would likely agree that the TV show Dance Moms is a prime xample of the underlying themes of gender and class distortions that the media commonly portrays. The ongoing series Dance Moms is a reality TV show that depicts the lives of several young female dancers. These dancers are extremely privileged, as the dance classes, costumes, and travel required is all very expensive. The dancers compete amongst each other to earn their place on top of a sort of pyramid each week, with the pyramid implying that they are the best out of the group for that particular time period.
The girls are materialistic and constantly shown living in luxury. The ostumes they are usually dressed in show excessive amounts of skin and leave little to the imagination. The show lines up with centuries worth of commonly held beliefs of what characteristics, attributes, and possessions make up someone’s value or status. Throughout the years, particular genders and classes have been discriminated against more than others. Women and the impoverished are arguably among the most impacted individuals.
Historically, women, and the lower working class, have had the least amount of respect and rights. Despite advances away from such societal tendencies to treat these roups as lesser, it is still true today that women and the poor are frequently discriminated against, even if it be less severely. Jean Kilbourne and bell hooks bring such prejudices and bigotry to light. Jean Kilbourne is a doctor of education, renowned author, and professor who has written articles and books on anorexia, tobacco, addiction, and the effects of the media on society. Greene, 489-490) bell hooks is a notable author and critic who often writes on gender, race, and politics. (482)
Both authors argue in their texts that the media negatively impacts and misrepresents specific groups in society. It is probable that the show Dance Moms falls under the category of media that each author would consider as derogatory towards both women and the impoverished. Kilbourne would criticize the show for over- sexualizing young children. ooks would condemn it for having a primary focus on the exploitation of the ostentatious and expensive lifestyles of young dancers, making it seem as though wealth and material possessions indicate the value of an individual.
The media depicts the poor as well as women in negative lights. hooks iterates this in regards to the poor that “.. the poor re portrayed through negative stereotypes. ” “Willing to commit all manners of dehumanizing and brutal acts in the name of material gain, the poor are portrayed as seeing themselves as always and only worthless. (hooks, 485) The poor are judged by their possessions and therefore, they are given a low status in society. Kilbourne points out that women too are many times thought of as lesser, particularly lesser to men, by saying, “When women are shown in positions of powerlessness, submission, and subjugation, the message to men is clear: Women are always available as the targets of aggression and violence, omen are inferior to mean and thus deserve to be dominated, and women exist to fulfill the needs of men. (Kilbourne, 509)
The media of choice, Dance Moms, perfectly exemplifies how television demeans women and the poor by sexualizing young children and objectifying them by portraying them in revealing outfits as well as placing importance on their possessions and money which act as a means of gaining happiness. This objectification of women and the valuing of persons based on their belongings degrades and dehumanizes the girls shown. The media too often dehumanizes individuals. It promotes the inferiority of groups such as women and those in poverty and as a result, those groups are not seen as equals.
This can lead to violence, aggression, and the humiliation of these minority groups. Kilbourne states that, “It is very difficult, perhaps impossible, to be violent to someone we think of as an equal, someone we have empathy with, but it is very easy to abuse a thing… ” “The violence, the abuse, is partly the chilling but logical result of the objectification. ” (Kilbourne, 498) It is because of their low status in the eyes of society that women and the poor all victim to increased violence, aggression, and humiliation.
In some cases, this inferiority complex is created by promoting materialism and implying that being working class or anything but wealthy is a negative occurrence (such as in Dance Moms). hooks notes the common societal view concerning the impoverished and the wealthy that, “Worth is gained only by means of material success. ” (hooks, 485) It is because of widespread beliefs that possessions equal value that individuals are made inferior and thus subject to the aforementioned aggression and humiliation.
Not only does the dehumanization of individuals put them at n increased risk for receiving aggression, but it also lowers the self-esteem of the individuals. hooks mentions that, “Television shows and films bring the message home that no one can truly feel good about themselves if they are poor. In television sitcoms the working poor are shown to have a healthy measure of self-contempt.. ” (495) Because the poor are dehumanized, they feel as though they are not capable of being happy, or at the very least, that they should not be happy because they are not wealthy and do not meet the ideals of today’s society.
In regards to the abuse imposed on women from the media, Kilbourne also adds that “.. it hurts, it does damage, and it sets girls up for addictions and self-destructive behavior. ” (508) Both authors concur that the media wreaks havoc on the self esteem of girls and the poor alike. Dance Moms in particular negatively impacts both groups, and causes for unnecessary self-loathing by holding girls up to extreme and impossible standards of “sexiness” and material status. With all of these points in mind, it is possible that one would argue that the media does not negatively portray individuals, specifically in regards to Dance Moms.
Critics opposing the deas that Kilbourne and hooks support may contend that women and the impoverished are also not effected detrimentally by advertisements and television. It is true, that not all forms and sources of media objectify and/or sexualize women, or describe the poor as being lazy, useless, worthless or invaluable. It is also true that the intention of Dance Moms may not be to depict girls in a negative light and to imply that being working-class is a bad thing. The fact of the matter is simply that the majority of advertisements and TV shows do objectify women and place the wealthy on pedestals, and that Dance
Moms does sexualize girls and ostracize the impoverished, whether or not it is deliberately doing so. Jean Kilbourne and bell hooks did not directly write about the harmful effects of Dance Moms on females and the poverty- stricken. Their individual writings do however back up the idea that the TV show does have such harmful effects on each minority group. Both authors see eye to eye in relation to the damaging power of the media on certain groups within today’s society and their claims support the notion that TV shows like Dance Moms are destructive to the self-esteem and self-worth of women and the poor.