The Feminist Media Reader : What Happens in Sunny Beach vs. Disney's Frozen

by - Saturday, January 11, 2014

A new section of this blog that I've been toying with for a while, welcome to the first edition of The Feminist Media Reader. As a pretty hot topic at the moment, and something I passionately believe in, feminism and by opposition, misogyny, is all around us, so I though it would be interesting to comment on some of the films, TV music and cultural phenomenons that I come across which I think are either awful, sexist and often, point blank disgusting (i.e. me having a rant). However, I think it's important to remember that for every sexist there is someone or something helping to push feminism forward, however small, so I will include these also just to counter the doom and gloom. Make sense? Good. We shall begin.

FEMINIST FAIL: What Happens in Sunny Beach/What Happens in Kavos

If, like me, you love relaxing after a busy day with some trashy TV, you will probably be aware of a little Channel 4 series entitled 'What Happens In Kavos'. Clues in the title really, but the basic premise is a fly on the wall series examining the booze, bonking and bravado that occurs on so called 'lads' holidays. As a nearly 21 year old, I can't say that the idea of spending a week's getting wrecked has ever held a massive allure, but then that's just me - I know lots of people who've been on these trips, got up to some japery, but come home no more moral-free or liver-lacking than expected. In the interests of education I sat down to watch this show with an air of curiosity, expecting a cheeky real-life episode of The Inbetweeners, perhaps with a tad more depravity.

What I was not expecting was the pure, unadulturated filth that comes out of so many of these young people's mouths, male and female. I was not expecting boys having shot drinking competitions to decide which of them should get to have sex with their chosen 'object', a girl who had seemingly never admitted to liking either of them. I was not expecting fireworks up bums, or urine drinking forfeits, or having sex on stage to win competitions, or the tactic boys employ of 'shagging battleships' i.e. finding unattractive or overweight girls in the hope that they will be easy and help get the numbers up. Or how about the boat party games, where for some bizarre reason, everyone seems to be naked and boys are instructed to run about the boat, slapping as many women around the face as possible with their ‘equipment’. I don’t know about you, but if a stranger came anywhere near my person, let alone my face with their penis out , I would be calling the police.

Now, I would like to make it clear at this point that I am in no way a prude - I am all for people to do whatever they like consentually, and if that truly is having sex with 6 boys at once, as one girl on the show is rumoured to have done, then so be it. But does anyone really enjoy this stuff? Do girls really enjoy being objectified in this way? Would they laugh along with it so willfully at home? Or is this merely a case of overseas rebellion away from the parents gone absolutely mad?

Lets examine (in a non pervy way, for once) 19 year old Annie, a girl who in this weeks episode gave up her job in the UK to become a new Club Rep in Sunny Beach. What her colleagues charmingly refer to as 'fresh meat', Annie openly admits that she feels uncomfortable in the party environment and that she is pressurised into drinking more than she wants to (3 'buckets' seem mandatory for most reps), but only 5 weeks in and she confesses that she had become so accustomed to alcohol that she has the shakes when she DOESN'T drink. When Annie sleeps with her coworker, she is applauded publicly by her somewhat creepily blasé boss for 'losing her sunny beach virginity', and then charged five lire for breaking his rules of employee fraternisation. This kickstarts a bizarre backwards prostitution scheme of young people having 'prices' on their heads, and Annie is fully aware that guys are hovering round her like flies on manure due to the fact that she is new, hasn't racked up the men and is therefore 'cheap' to sleep with. Is she repulsed by this? 'I suppose it sounds pretty horrible yeah' she shrugs. Not exactly a resounding assertion of horror.

The brilliant irony of it all, to me at least, is that these boys, the ones who are sizing up which girl they want to harass next with the sort of care that you or I would take when weighing up the benefits of a latte over a mocha, are not only minging people inside, they’re all about as appealing as Robin Thicke painted in marmite. Geordie shore combover, #yoloswag t-shirt, identikit vans and shit board shorts. Yeah, great catch you are mate, so very original. But yet they pull. And pull. And pull. It doesn't matter how truly terrible their chat up lines are (One rep who is 'flaghunting' i.e trying to sleep with a girl of every nationality goes for 'Are you swedish? I can tell by your tits'), or how brazenly many of them will simply pull girls skirts up, grabbing them off the dancefloor in a way the gypsy community would be proud of. It simply doesn't matter, because the girls are still humouring it.

Whilst I do not believe that the Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents model of spying on your children is a good one ( let's face it, it's a surefire way to create a mistrustful relationship with your child), I do think putting these things on television is the only way to expose them for what they are. Even now, I'm shocked and appalled at how little this show has been written about, or how hardly any feminists appear to be writing about lad culture through the medium of drinking holidays. Although one thing is for sure: If I ever have a daughter, she won't be going anywhere near one of these places. On second thoughts, no son of mine would either. And why would they want to? I never did. None of my friends ever did. There are plenty of places where you can go on holiday, get drunk with your mates and escape reality without this bizarre, body punishing 24 hour culture of disrespect, decadence and depravity. When did a holiday become about coming home needing another holiday for a full body rehab? Why would you want to be used and discarded by sex crazed strangers pressured by society to feel like they have to behave this way in order to make the most of their youth? Bringing up a generation of young men who think they have to rack up sexual partners like bus tickets and drink their bodyweight to maintain friendships, or girls who think having to forcibly push boys off of them is part and parcel of going on holiday is a few short steps away from calling rape 'banter'. A slippery slope indeed.

FEMINIST FRIEND: Disney's Frozen (spoiler alerts to follow)

In order to get over my culture shock, I settled down with a far cosier premise of the latest Disney film, a company who have been making promising change in terms of their depiction of women.  First we had our first ever black Princess (a long time coming, but better late than never), then we had an ass-kicking tomboy in Brave, and now we have the tempestuous sisters of Frozen.

A fairly innocuous story (one princess is cursed with the ability to turn everything into ice, nearly kills sister, is found out by society and forced to exile herself, whilst her land is resigned to an endless winter) Frozen boasts some truly three dimensional characters in the form of Anna and Elsa, with flaws and naiveties and some true obstacles to overcome. Whilst young and innocently lured into believing Prince Hans to be her one and only, Ana is a fierce comedian, the first Disney Princess you would really want to be friends with, loyal and sassy rather than the simpering wrecks we've been used to. the relationship she forges with Christoff is a true one, not based on sexual tension or necessity, but via natural affability. Some songs ensue, there is the normal disney fodder of cute animals and comedy sidekicks but then we get our peril: Cursed to die a slow icy death lest she be saved by an act of true love, Ana is wronged by Hans, who wanted her for her crown, and stricken as what she sees as her impending demise. It seems that without a man to save her, Ana is useless, and instead considers the possibility that our comedy hero, Christoff, might be the one to save her after all. HELLO PLOT TWIST! With all looking lost, the sisters realise that the true love they are seeking comes from each other, not the man they, (and we as an audience, if we're being honest with ourselves) thought it would. The sisters, quite literally, do it for themselves, and the man Ana does end up getting is merely a plot aside to the problem that she managed to solve for herself. Pretty cool eh? Sure, it's not on a par with the 'I had a dream' speech, but it is a bold step forward for Disney to admit that there doesn't always have to be a Prince Charming or a Damsel in Distress, promising that they may continue to get with the times in the future.

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