Review by André Favors, The University of Louisiana at Lafayette
Mediated Girlhoods: New Explorations of Girls' Media Culture
Mary Celeste Kearney, editor
New York: Peter Lang, 2011: 310 pp.
Mary Celeste Kearney's edited collection, Mediated Girlhoods: New Explorations of Girls' Media Culture (MG), is the tenth volume of Lang's Mediated Youth series edited by Sharon Mazzarella. This collection presents a multifaceted approach that not only sees girls as mere consumers or producers of media but also as the complex producer-cum-consumers of media which Sarah Banet-Weiser describes in her chapter (290). By including a spectrum of methodological and disciplinary approaches, MG presents a holistic approach to girls' media studies. MG also differs from the typical Western stress within American scholarship on media studies by including chapters (1, 7, 8, 9, 10, and 13) focusing on girls from Singapore, Japan, Sudan, Israel, and Australia. MG has 15 chapters presented in 3 parts; given the grand scope of this book I will discuss each part separately and highlight chapters that best represent the book's purpose of showing a more complex view of girls' media studies.
"Part I: Representation and Identity" presents chapters that closely read how girls are identified and presented within media particularly film, television, and literature. MG does a good job of ensuring a broad scope in this section by including depictions of Latina and queer girls. Kristen Hatch and Angharad N. Valdivia in their respective chapters in Part I show how representations of underrepresented girls historically and presently complicate identity and girls' media studies. Hatch's “Little Butches: Tomboys in Hollywood Film” looks at the history of tomboys in film from Calamity Jane and Gidget to Little Darlings and Girlfight and how their representation has shifted from tomboy being a stage of a girl's life that inevitably develops into a normative heterosexual woman to representations that are not afraid to show lesbian romance. Hatch details how cultural shifts have changed the wildly popular representation of tomboys to the fewer yet more nuanced portraits within contemporary Hollywood. Valdivia's “This Tween Bridge over My Latina Back: The U.S. Mainstream Negotiates Ethnicity” approach is historical. It both looks at television and film representations of Latina girls and mediated doll and toy lines that are derived from these representations. Valdivia's insights in how representations of Latina girls have become more prevalent and are displacing portraits of Blackness is very keen; she also notes that while more diversity is being seen within the media and popular culture, whiteness is still the privileged position.
"Part II: Reception and Use" presents the stories of girls' interactions with media. This section provides the most depth as far as cultural explorations (including various cultures and intercultural approaches), methodological diversity, and a wide variety of media (television, film, music/radio, literature, and the internet). Shiri Reznik and Dafna Lemish's “Falling in Love with High School Musical: Girls' Talk about Romantic Perceptions” provides analysis on focus groups conducted with Israeli girls. Their analysis looks at how cultural factors (socio-economic status, religion, etc.) effect girls' perception of romantic love on a popular American movie and television show. They delve into why Israeli cultural adaptations of this show do not play as well with their subjects. Reznik and Lemish's chapter exemplify how this book is able to make cultural and intercultural connections within girls' media studies.
The final part of MG, "Production and Technology," illustrates the ways in which girls are no longer just consumers of media but also produce their own. It presents a deeper analysis of how the marketing of newer technologies like cell-phones, laptops, and girl-centered social networking sites is effecting girls and their parents. Jane Greer's “Remixing Educational History: Girls and Their Memory Albums, 1913-1929” provides a look at how remixing has historical roots. She also details how girls were adept at using techniques that countered the manufactured scrapbooks' design, thus demonstrating their creativity. Greer's analysis of memory books dispels the common conception of girls' educational experience as traditionally geared towards homemaking; her reading is indeed complex.
Mediated Girlhoods provides readers a keen look at girls' media studies. It gives readers a wide scope of analysis of several different media from many different methodological and disciplinary backgrounds. On whole this book does well to analyze past preconceived notions of how girls are represented in media and how they use and produce media and technology.
André Favors is the review editor for Technoculture and a graduate assistant in the Department of Communication at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
© 2011 André Favors, used by permission
Technoculture Volume 1 (2011)