Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Moving from Disinterest to Resistance, Step by Step.

The concepts in Brown's study "Disinterest, Intrigue, Resistance" illustrate a normal sequence of maturation in women in their receptiveness to sexual media content, from being disinterested to intrigued to resistant. I think a lot of people can identify with these stages of maturation, having experienced them in their own lives during puberty. However, I also find it interesting that these stages are so commonly seen in popular media especially extended longer content like TV series or movie octalogies. This opens up the possibility that these stages of maturation could also be a product of our media and that it may be socialized or that perhaps there is just a two-way relationship where biology and media work together to evolve how we approach puberty and sex.

In the TV Series Step by Step, Al Lambert embodies these transitions through the stages perfectly. In the first few seasons, Al is about eight to twelve years old, and is the pinpoint depiction of a tomboy, who plays many competitive sports against other boys and occasionally beats up on her physically inferior brothers. The show indirectly explains this by the lack of a mother figure in her life, and the uninhibited influence of her father's ideals. Al Lambert at this stage of her life would not be caught dead interested in boys and she frequently mocks her older sister Karen for being so caught up with how to attract boys.


In episode 20 of season 2, Al comes home with a principal's demerit for cutting gym. She explains to her father that she needs her first bra. Frank, her father, knows this subject is out of his expertise and tells Carol that she should help Al with this step in her life. When Carol eventually talks to Al, she tells her that they should spend some time at the mall to buy what she needs and maybe buy a few dresses for her too to which Al quickly replies, "Whoa whoa wait a minute, I'll let you buy me a bra but if you try to dress me like Tinkerbell up there, you can kiss this mother daughter stuff goodbye!" Yes, Karen is Tinkerbell. However, this sentiment changes gradually and gracefully through the series.


In episode 7 of season 4, Al is really nervous about a first date and seeks out her older siblings, especially Karen, on how to act during a first date. Karen dresses up Al and teaches her the three magic phrases to say to a guy: That is a great idea, why didn't I think of that, and wow, you are so smart. In contrast to her earlier self, Al gladly dons a dress and even surprises her father who says, "Wow Al, I've never seen you so grown up!"


And in the final chapter of the three stages, episode 23 of season 4, Al, Karen and Dana all attend a college party. Al and Karen are both still naive and bring that innocent intrigue with them to the event. Al meets a very attractive guy at the party and they decide to dance and then take a walk around campus. Their tour eventually takes them to the guy's room. Karen and Dana are still at the party and overhear some of the fraternity brothers notice that the guy with Al is missing. They discuss how the guy will probably be missing the football game because he is with some girl. "He has it down to a science," they say, and they also note how he puts on some music while saying, "You are so easy to talk to, and then commenting on the girl's eyes. He's been to the promised land more times than Moses!" Dana and Karen are immediately run to save Al. Meanwhile Al is living through the planned experience but resists when the guy tries to progress past simply making out. At that moment Karen and Dana burst through the locked door and the guy runs for it. Al is clearly very hurt and starts tearing. She explains her feelings of betrayal, saying that she thought "he was a really nice guy, but before she knew it, he was trying to lay her down on the bed." Dana tells her, "It really isn't your fault. The guy was practically a professional and I was unsure of letting you come because you didn't understand guys this age." An experience like this will probably make Al more cynical of relationships and males in general and completes her transition from disinterested to resisting.

Al Lambert is far from an isolated case. Hermione Granger is also another person who undergoes a very similar sequence of stages. Could the commonness of these transitions support the argument that people are actually learning through the media how to progress in their perception of relationships throughout puberty? Would someone that is completely devoid of any media exposure go through these stages? And if they still did go through these stages, would it be because his/her partner was exposed to media and acted in a way that in a way contaminated the original person? What about in a closed society with no media exposure at all? Would those people then be free from this transition or would they still go through the stages?

So what is really influencing what? Is it that humans are naturally wired to undergo these sorts of transitions and that media producers, who are also human, naturally portray their characters with these same biological wirings? Or is it greatly more complicated than this? If we assume that the stages are not biological, then why do they exist in this way? What is causing each of the stages? While the disinterested and intrigue stages can be attributed to mostly hormonal factors or just natural curiosity, a resisting stage would have to come about through some sort of bad experience with the opposite sex whether it be in real life or through the media. Simultaneously, those bad experiences may originate from, like in Al's case, a guy who may have learned from the media how to attract women and what to do with them. In the same way, the director of said media could have learned these archetypes from earlier media. I could continue, but it would go on forever, which describes the difficulty of finding out the answer to this question as to where really these archetypes and ideas are originating from.


Brown, J. D., White, A. B., & Nikopoulou, L. (1993). Disinterest, intrigue, resistance:
Early adolescent girls' use of sexual media content. In B. S. Greenberg, J. D. Brown &
N. Buerkel-Rothfuss (Eds.), Media, sex and the adolescent (pp. 177-195). Cresskill, NJ:
Hampton Press.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.