Wednesday, July 23, 2008

From Gossip Girl to Ghetto Girl: What Messages Are We Sending?


From Ghetto Girls to Gossip Girls, just what are our girls reading?

I had been thinking about Gossip Girl, as recently read an article
in the New York Times which featured a dissertation by Dr. Naomi
Johnson. In her study she analyzed the brands being mentioned in the
pages of the three titles, Gossip Girl, The Clique and A-List and
came to the conclusion consumption is the new femininity for
the girls in these books.
Michael Winerip reports,

She examined three series, with combined sales of 13.5 million — “Clique,” “Gossip Girl” and “A-List” — and found, on average, there was more than one brand mentioned per page, 1,553 brand mentions in 1,431 pages of the six books she had read.

Massie, the lead “Clique” character, doesn’t wear miniskirts and sandals. She wears Moschino minis, Jimmy Choo sandals, and Chanel No. 19 on her thin wrists, rides in a Range Rover, drinks Glaceau Vitamin Water and totes her books in a Louis Vuitton backpack.

Dr. Johnson concluded that romancing boys was no longer the primary objective of this new generation of romance novels, as it had been in the good old days of the 184-book series “Sweet Valley High.”

In the new romances, she wrote, “brands are more important than romantic relationships to female protagonists’ popularity.”

Two weeks ago, Ruth LaFerla wrote about the impact that the show, Gossip
Girl, is having on the fashion industry. She writes,

Now the show’s sense of style is having a broader impact, in the retail marketplace. Merchants, designers and trend consultants say that “Gossip Girl,” which is in summer reruns on the CW network before returning Sept. 1, just in time for back-to-school shopping, is one of the biggest influences on how young women spend.

Fans stride into boutiques bearing magazine tear sheets that feature members of the cast and ask for their exact outfits. Or they order scoop-neck tops and hobo bags by following e-commerce links from the show’s Web site.

“The show has had a profound influence on retail,” said Stephanie Solomon, the fashion director for Bloomingdale’s, adding that it appeals not just to teenagers but also to women in their 20s, the daughters and the younger sisters of the generation that made “Sex and the City” requisite viewing for aspiring glamoristas.

I was immediately reminded of this article when I came across the
Street Lit Review last Sunday. While the Gossip Girl genre is targeted
towards middle class white girls, the Ghetto Girl genre is targeted
towards low income Black and Latina girls.

If I were fifteen, I would be reading Ghetto Girl Lit and Gossip Girl as well.
However, it wouldn't have ended with that. I would be consuming
some Walter Dean Myers, some Ntozake Shange and some Rosa Guy
as well.

The issue isn't that the girls are receiving the messages about sex.
As a teenager, you are always seeking out what you parents say
you should have. Its natural. In middle school we really thought
we were doing something reading Go Ask Alice and A Hero Ain't Nothing
But a Sandwich. However, our reading habits were diverse.

The covers of the Ghetto Girls books are a bit racy, as the desire is to
catch the young girls attention. What I found in Street Lit Magazine was
that the covers of the Grown Girl Lit , Ghetto Girls big sister, looked
awfully similar to covers of
prison skin rags, KING, SMOOTH etc. It is
as if the line between stripper chic, rap videos and adult fiction is being

If the Gossip Girl genre is about consumption and sex and the Ghetto Girls genre
is about drug dealers, sex and fast money and faster cars, what exactly
do we expect our girls to become when we are sending them these
messages through entertainment?


Unknown said...

It's not that any one perspective, book or TV show or music is that harmful, to me. But if that is ALL you see...

What can we do to make sure that young women are getting a range of influences? How can we support music, art and lit that opens up new worlds to them?

I'm sure that some people want to stop Gossip Girl and Ghetto Girl and the like, but I think that the effort would be better spent in presenting alternatives to them.

This is something that is easily done within our own spheres of influence, I can buy books and music for my cousins and nieces and children of friends. I can talk to them.

How do we take that influence and spread it throughout the community so that the girls who are reading these books and watching these shows and videos get exposed to more than just base sexualization and materialism?

All-Mi-T [Thought Crime] Rawdawgbuffalo said...

nothing worth while as a whole i tell ya

and chk this
"work hard and don’t complain"

Model Minority said...

Ran into a filmmaker today.

We were hollering about it.

Needs to be 360 of support.

It feels good love.

I think we are on to something.

RPoeta said...

You are on to something!!!

I been writing on street lit and black femininity for a while now.Ofcourse, I fell off due to working full-time and other things..but what remains constant to me is that we must be willing to teach and work with young Black girls and Latinas and allow them to see that these images are socially constructed and that they have the power to create their own images of self. To help them know and understand that they have agency.

M.Dot. said...

What up BP. Your boy mentioned your work to me when I told him about this post. Suffice it is to say, Your crew is BANANAS!

Check this out.

I just found it yesterday.

Interesting idea. But they need more theory.

I am thinking of reaching out to her re: the NP

the prisoner's wife said...

i hate it, i hate it, i hate it, i hate it!

ugh. street lit annoys me. not because the stories are so repetitive (i mean, that too, but..) but because it's so poorly written. this Gossip girl stuff is sort of the same for me. it mirrors what the girls are like in middle/high school and probably even fuels them to be that much worse. i try to incorporate lots of minority writers that my kids can relate to, but also challenge them with the story & language. walter dean myers is perhaps my favorite & my kids love him. another good one is the short story collection, "Who Am I Without Him" by Sharon G. Flake. it's great & everybody (boys & girls) love it, which isn't easy to pull off.

neo said...

Well we expect them to make good moral decisions. We expect them to understand its ALL ENTERTAINMENT and you couldn't possibly live that out 365.

don't we?

Anonymous said...

Computer Programming! What goes in, must be manifested ...

Post a Comment

eXTReMe Tracker