Fighting Against Conformity

In the TV show, Orange is the New Black Carrie Black also known as “Boo” is an inmate at Litchfield women’s prison. Her character can be described as outspoken because she is never afraid to say what she feels or to be the way she is. In the episode “Finger in the Dyke” there is a lot that is learned about Boo. The title implies the episode will focus on the sexuality and the way Boo identifies. It is a very graphic name, but it relates to the way the character behaves because those two aspects of her are very important in the way she presents herself in the show; Boo is a very complex character and she depicts one of the many sexual and gender identities that exist. She describes herself as a Butch Lesbian. She has the word Butch tattooed on her arm and she feels it is a really big part of her identity and something she has had to fight for. This show has a lot of underlying messages in general about issues dealing with gender and sexuality, but the scene I wanted to focus on was on season 3 episode 4. It is a scene where Carrie Black “Boo” is young and her mother wants her to wear a dress, but she refuses to wear it. The scene starts off with a very unhappy looking teenage Boo wearing a dress. Her mother in the background seems hopeful that her daughter will finally listen to her and stop dressing in ways that make her stand out. The mother then goes on to say that she shouldn’t try and go against the expectations of society because that would bring the wrong kind of attention. What this suggests about society is that there is a set of structures dictating the behaviors and characteristics of each of the sexes, and to stray away from the expectations set will only result in judgment and ostracism. In society, there is a clear gender binary that has dictated the way males and females have to look like and behave like. The mother then walks away angrily as the father comes in to help her “deal” with the situation and try to convince Boo to wear the dress. The father takes a different approach to “dealing with” Carrie’s opposition to wearing the dress. There are a couple of things he says that help with understanding the way people view those who fall outside the gender norms. He pleads Carrie to just wear the dress to make her mother happy. What can be interpreted from this is how conformity plays a role in society. In the scene, the imagery is very strong because it shows just how intense it can be to not conform. You have the mother who is getting really upset and calling her daughter a bitch because she doesn’t want to fit into the mold that her mother is trying to force her into. Boo is very visibly upset, and she also refuses to give in right away. People conform to the gender norms they don’t always identify with because they want to stay in the boundaries set by society in order to keep everyone happy and prevent conflicts. The father then goes to talk about her teenage hormones. What he is implying from this is he thinks what she is going through is a phase because of her hormones as a teenager. He is being dismissive of the way she feels. Boo expresses this to him because she brings up how she thinks it is not a good enough reason to change the way she is in order to make other people happy.

This is something people who fall outside of the “traditional gender norms” have to deal with. Overall, the scene tries to argue how there are pre-set gender norms that people are expected to fit into. Society has built this idea of what a young girl is supposed to look like, and if the person does not fit the mold, like wearing a dress on picture day, then there is a lot of judgment directed at her. In the reading “Female Masculinity” by Judith Halberstam she talks about being a tomboy; in society being a tomboy comes with difficulties because it is seen as a phase and once the girl goes on to her pubescent stage, then the pressure to conform to the rules of femininity are forced upon her by the people in society and, like in Boo’s case, her parents.  The scene is especially powerful because it brings to the forefront the way family can be at the center of trying to push people into conforming to what society wants. One one hand it is because of the concern that they will be judged by others, but it is also on some level because they also believe it is the way things should be.

The intention of the clip is to show the oppressive nature of gender conformity. The scene focuses on how there is an expectation for young girls to be complacent and to behave in a certain way. They have to wear dresses and have to not want to stand out. The mother mentions how there is a bad kind of attention that Boo is trying to get is not the “good kind.” She brings up the way other kids will make fun of her and that plays into the role of how people are forced to conform because of the way other people will treat them. A lot of what happened in the scene was touched upon in the documentary “Three to Infinity: Beyond Two Genders.” There is this idea that forces people into these two binary roles in society when in fact peoples’ likes and dislikes can go beyond that. People will identify differently and that makes people uncomfortable because it is something they do not see often because there are so many social constructs around who people have to be according to the standards set by society. Anyone who doesn’t meet the criteria for what it means to be feminine or what it is to be masculine is looked at weird because people don’t know how to categorize them. Boo is “Butch” and this identity takes on different characteristics and intersects masculine and feminine traits. The intersection defies the binary spectrum which is something people are not used to seeing, therefore leading to judgments against her. It is an effective in portraying the struggles of gender conformity because it shows the strain on relationships and the anguish of the teens trying to push against the behavioral expectations of their gender.

The target audience would be the younger generation. The show does have a lot of younger women as the main characters, but it is still graphic enough to not have the target audience be young teenagers. This affects how the show is written because it can be more explicit with the way it tries to explain things as well as it can focus on a variety of issues that women have to face. This is important because the show does expose the viewers to stories they may have never thought about before. The show does go beyond the plot of piper chapman in order to increase awareness into the lives of the other women in the prison. The episode. in particular, is trying to make people understand that there are a lot of limits to the traditional binary roles and that there are people who identify outside of them. People have to fight all of their lives to justify who they are if they do not fall into one of the two categories designated by society, and they have to put up with judgments constantly while trying to defend who they are. It is necessary to expand the spectrum of identification and move away from the binary in order to understand gender identity and expression, as well as sexuality, come in various forms.


Works Cited

“Finger in the Dyke.” Orange is the New Black. Netflix. 12 June 2015. Web.

Halberstam, Judith. Female Masculinity. Durham: Duke UP, 1998. Print.

Charlotte CouncilWoman LaWana Mayfield

On Saturda, February 6, Charlotte Councilwoman LaWana Mayfield came to visit campus and spoke about her experiences as the first openly LGBTQ member to be elected to Charlotte City Council. Although she faced a childhood full of adversity, LaWana did not let this affect her and continued on a journey of public policy from a young age.

LaWana spoke of her career in LGBT rights and her personal journey into finding herself as a LGBTQ individual. She said that it wasn’t something that she knew all along, and in fact, she was in her mid-twenties before she had the first thoughts of the possibility that she may be a lesbian. It took her a few more years and a lot of self-searching before fully accepting and coming to the realization that she was a lesbian. When asked, she said that she had always felt like she had been ‘part lesbian’ but she hadn’t always been a full, relationship seeking lesbian.

I feel like this is evidence of Rich’s lesbian continuum in which everyone falls somewhere along the continuum and where exactly you fall can shift throughout your lifetime. At the beginning of her life, Miss Mayfield was not as far on the continuum as she currently identifies, however, she still identified herself as falling somewhere on the scale.

Since her election six years ago, she has worked tirelessly on many economic as well as social issues in her area, some of her greatest achievements being: getting Charlotte Airport in her district, the non-discrimination act extended for Charlotte, and her current battle of the “Bathroom Bill.”  Although she takes LGBT issues very seriously, she said that one of the hardest things about holding a political office as an openly LGBTQ member is not letting that title define her. She says that she cares deeply about economic policies and that is the real reason she began her career in social justice. Sometimes, many people in the LGBT community will express their anger with her because she doesn’t always make those social changes her number one priority.


Orange is the New Black: An Analysis of Female Sexuality


Orange is the New Black is a Netflix original TV show that details life in Litchfield Correctional Facility, a prison. Based off of the popular memoir by the same name, the show follows the main character Piper Chapman as she goes through the process of being sent to prison and her life before and after. While Piper is a young, educated, white woman, many of the other characters are people of color or are of various ages and backgrounds. The show has been praised for its portrayal of LGBTQ characters as well. While the show’s main purpose is to entertain, seen in the humor that is always present, it also aims to teach lessons and showcase different aspects of life that the inmates often face. This can be seen through the moral dilemmas that the inmates often face and the things that they learn about themselves and those around them.

As a whole, this show tackles many issues including race relations, power struggles, religion, love, and, as portrayed in the scenes provided, female sexuality. Often in the show, there is a division among the races; all the black inmates live near each other, the white inmates eat lunch together, and the Latina inmates work with each other. This speaks to the intersectionality of the show and how it addresses the struggles that various women go through. The variety of the characters, due to its portrayal of a racially diverse cast with various sexualities, along with the topics covered, appeal to a wide audience range. The characters all have different backgrounds and backstories that certain episodes delve into. All of the women are from varying classes and each is convicted for something specific to them. The audience members can easily find characters to relate to or at least empathize with. This increases the effectiveness of the show at causing social change or at least garnering views.

In the scenes presented, the main issue that is dealt with is female sexuality. Orange is the New Black deals with this issue is by addressing the lack of education and knowledge about female sexuality. Two scenes from the second season show some of the inmates discussing female anatomy. While the conversation starts out playfully, it soon turns into a discussion about clarifying a confusion about their own genitalia and how everything works below the belt. Eager to discover the true location of the urethra, the women head to the restroom and begin their search. Noticing their confusion, another inmate, Sophia offers her advice. The perspective that Sophia offers is interesting because she is a transwoman. Sophia basically had the opportunity to design her anatomy the way she wanted. These women all have vaginas. To the viewer, especially male viewers, not knowing one’s own anatomy may seem a foreign concept. The fact that these women are so openly talking about their genitalia on a television show is something that would be considered to be out of the ordinary, meanwhile jokes about male genitalia are made fairly often. Perhaps the lack of knowledge about female sexuality stems from the fears towards women as sexual beings. These fears have existed for quite some time. For example, in his 1880 novel Nana, Émile Zola essentially blamed a female prostitute for the downfall of France. Even in today’s society, we still have these fears towards female sexuality and the female body. This can be seen in the backlash that young girls face for their clothing choices at school. Female bodies are constantly being policed by society, similar to the way that Anne Balay writes on how LGBT steelworkers had to be careful of the way that they presented themselves in order to remain in the closet and therefore, safe from harm. This policing of female bodies is detrimental to their education, and this is mirrored in the scene provided; these women essentially do not know themselves, or at least do not know a huge aspect of who they identify to be. However, as the women in the scene are further educated about their bodies, they become happily surprised with what they learn. In the second clip provided, Sophia goes even further in depth with explaining female anatomy. Then Sophia brings up something basically unheard of, female pleasure when it comes to sexuality. As one Huffington Post writer said, “No one taught me about masturbation. Sure my mom gave me the rundown on where babies come from, but she certainly didn’t mention anything about orgasms” (Lumpkin). Sex education often discusses reproduction, but glosses over pleasure and rarely discusses the concepts of various sexualities and gender identities.

Furthermore, Orange is the New Black  tackles the concepts of gender identity and sexual orientation. For these scenes in particular, it is important to note that these aspects of identity are highlighted. One of the women in the scene, Poussey, explicitly confirms her lesbian identity in her comment about familiarity with female anatomy, but also Sophia, a transwomen, is the one who takes on the task of explaining female anatomy to the other inmates. This decision to use Sophia as the character to enlighten the other inmates about female genitalia brings attention to the fact that she is Trans. Although she is not in the scenes provided, the main character of the show, Piper Chapman, also falls somewhere along the lesbian continuum mentioned by Adrienne Rich; Piper identifies as a bisexual woman and is in prison due to a complications with her drug-dealing ex-girlfriend. The fact that some of the characters shown in the scene along with many of the other characters fall somewhere along the lesbian continuum shows how this program interrupts the norm of compulsory heterosexuality, another term presented by Adrienne Rich. It is notable that the women in the prison are all complex characters. More often than not, women in movies are written to be bland and one-sided. These three-dimensional women have backstories, wants, and desires. The characters are realistic. Their presentation breaks the norm in movies that women are mainly used as a prop or crutch for the scene. These women carry the scene on their backs and propel the show forward with strong acting.

Overall, Orange is the New Black mainly focuses on the different points of  intersectionality and female sexuality. The portrayal of racially diverse characters shows the experiences that women of different races and backgrounds go through.  Differences in gender identity, and sexual orientation help to break down the concept of compulsory heterosexuality and expose viewers to the lesbian continuum. Rich’s use of these terms Lesbian Continuum and Compulsory Heterosexuality give the show something to not only showcase, but also something to change. In the aspect of female sexuality, the fact that the women on the show are able to talk about sex so openly and their anatomy proves yet again how the show can appeal to many, while also breaking norms; the idea that it is fine for males to talk about and make jokes about sex.

While Orange is the New Black may have amassed a strong fan base over its past three seasons, there are aspects of the show that could have rubbed some the wrong way. For example, the fact that many of the women in the show identify along the LGBTQ spectrum may have alienated some viewers who buy into the notion of compulsory heterosexuality. The fact that there are very few male characters may have received cries of “sexism” as well. No matter how strong the backlash is towards the show, it is still going strong, having recently been renewed for an additional three seasons (Cooper).



Cooper, Mariah. “‘Orange Is the New Black’ Renewed for Three More Seasons.” Washington Blade Gay News Politics LGBT Rights ICal. Washington Blade, 2016. Web. 08 Feb. 2016.

Lumpkin, Jincey. “Masturbation Is Not a Dirty Word.” The Huffington Post., 11 Feb. 13. Web. 08 Feb. 2016.

“Orange Is the New Black – Laverne Cox Gives a Lesson in Female Anatomy – S2 Ep4.” YouTube. YouTube, 21 June 2014. Web. 08 Feb. 2016.

“Orange Is the New Black S02E04 Poussey and Taystee Pee Hole.” YouTube. YouTube, 11 July 2014. Web. 08 Feb. 2016.


Exposure to the LGBT community from a younger age

In 2014, the television show Good Luck Charlie made history on Disney Channel by being the network’s first show to feature a same-sex couple. Susan and Cheryl, the lesbian couple featured, in no way serve as the basis for the plotline of the episode because they are only featured for one minute. However, the fact that they are appear at all demonstrates that Disney Channel slowly may be moving towards broadcasting more diversity in their television shows. A short clip of the show makes a big statement, and although it is not perfect, it definitely is a step in the right direction for the television network. This decision to show a same-sex couple was met with mixed reviews from the public and from parents of the children who watch the television show. Conservative Christians were especially against the episode and protested against the network. However, hopefully, by exposing children to the fact that families do not always have a mom and a dad, these children will grow up to be more accepting of diversity than their parents. As a whole, the scene brings forth an attitude of acceptance and normalcy towards Susan and Cheryl, and it sets the stage for more children’s shows to follow in its path.

Disney Channel handled the introduction of their first lesbian couple far better than one would expect. It would be easy for the introduction of Susan and Cheryl to be a major plotline just for laughs or for the show to follow the cliché outline of a character originally not accepting a gay character but seeing that the individual is “just like everybody else” by the end of the episode. However, the show uses Susan and Cheryl to make a subtle statement. The couple only appears in a minute of the show, and while the scene does bring forth some laughs, it is at the expense of Charlie’s parents, Bob and Amy, instead of Susan and Cheryl. In the clip, Amy tells Bob that she has invited one of Charlie’s friends over for a playdate and that she also invited her friend Taylor’s mother, Susan. This confuses Bob because he already had met Taylor’s mom and thought her name was Cheryl. The couple argue over which person is right about Taylor’s mother’s name, but they soon realize that they both are right because Taylor has two moms. Amy and Bob treat Cheryl and Susan the same way that they would treat any other couple, and the entire encounter treats the issue very casually. The scene is funny because of the fact that Amy and Bob so blindly assumed the heteronormative standard, and the fact that the network makes makes fun of this is a subtle protest against the fact that people assume that a male-female couple is the norm.

Because the show is geared towards children and tweens, it is especially refreshing that a lesbian couple is featured. Disney Channel and the shows that are played on the network serve as an important model for kids on what is “cool,” and it also gives kids role models through the lead actors and actresses in the programs. Young children are easily influenced, so many of their opinions and reactions to ideas are reflections of the beliefs of the people around them. Because of this, the morals conveyed in the TV shows that they watch religiously are absorbed. This causes an appearance of a lesbian couple to be more impactful in a children’s show than in one made for adults. Because Amy and Bob are accepting and react positively towards Susan and Cheryl, this paves the path for the tween viewers of the show to have similar reactions towards same-sex couples. Although Charlie’s parents are a little surprised at first, they both are very welcoming and treat Susan and Cheryl in the same way they would treat any set of parents. Neither Amy nor Bob make any statement that conveys any sort of negative reaction. This reaction generates an outline for children to follow if they are confronted with a similar situation, and Bob and Amy teach children that all couples should be treated the same.

Despite these positive aspects of the episode, it is by no means perfect. To an adult, the episode makes it very clear that Susan and Cheryl are in fact a couple. However, this fact may not be obvious to younger children who have never been exposed to any sort of LGBT individuals. Susan and Cheryl are never addressed as being a romantic couple or even in a partnership. When Susan introduces Cheryl to Amy, she does not introduce Cheryl as her “wife” or “partner.” Instead, she introduces her as “Taylor’s other mom.” This introduction implies a romantic relationship, but this implication might go over the heads of young children. If a child has never met a LGBT couple, he or she may not jump straight to the conclusion that Taylor’s two moms form the same sort of union as a mom and a dad. Kids may just think the fact that Taylor has two moms to be weird and move on without wondering or asking any questions. This distinction of referring to the two women as “Taylor’s moms” instead of “Susan’s partner” or “Cheryl’s wife” is further enforced when Bob makes the connection to Amy. He express, “Oh, Taylor has two moms!” which potentially further distances children from making the connection that Susan and Cheryl love each other. This issue over how the two women are referenced may indicate that Disney Channel did not fully commit to the task of exposing children to the LGBT community. The couple is present, but it is clear that Disney tried to make the fact that they were a couple indistinct so that it would go over the heads of children.

One of the other problems with the clip is that no diversity is expressed within the whole scene. Susan and Cheryl are white and portrayed to be middle-class, which further enforces the stereotype that gay couples are all white, wealthy, and in long term relationships. Both are also very feminine, and at first glance, it would not be clear that either of them were lesbian. While this could be viewed as a positive because it teaches the cliché lesson that “gay people are like everyone else,” this does not serve as an accurate, universal depiction of being a lesbian. Generally, lesbians on TV shows and in movies are portrayed to be on the feminine end of the spectrum, similarly to Susan and Cheryl. Therefore, this television episode sets the stage for the stereotype of rich, white, female lesbians to be wired in the brains of children from a young age. If this episode is the first time a child is exposed to a LGBT couple, the fact that the couple fits this stereotype has the potential to influence what he or she believes to be a “normal” gay couple.

Despite these problems with the scene, there is one especially subtle detail that even if not planned, adds another dimension to the episode. Susan and Cheryl’s daughter is named Taylor, which is a gender neutral name. One top of this, Taylor does not have what is traditionally considered to be a female haircut. She has a short, boy-like pixie cut, which is typically not seen in young girls. Most moms choose to let their daughters grow out their hair and have long curls or pigtails, but Susan and Cheryl did not do this with Taylor. Although not much else is revealed about how Susan and Cheryl parent, these two details reveal that at least in these instances, the couple does not enforce gender norms on their daughter. Disney Channel is generally associated with the sparkly outfits of Hannah Montana and having characters that clearly fit gender norms, so the fact that Taylor is not incredibly girly is another subtle aspect of the clip that potentially signals changes for Disney.

For many, the fact that Susan and Cheryl appeared on the show was considered to be a positive step for Disney Channel. However, the episode was met with backlash, especially from the Christian conservative group “One Million Moms.” This group campaigned against the decision to showcase a same sex couple and sent an email protesting the scene, urging Disney to “avoid controversial topics that children are far too young to understand” (Kuruvilla). It is expected that the episode would be met with criticism, but the group’s argument is illogical. If children are too young to understand a gay couple, can it not be argued that that would also mean they are too young to understand a straight couple as well? Even though the fact that Susan and Cheryl are a couple may go over the heads of some kids, if LGBT couples become more present in children’s television, hopefully they will learn to accept all people. This possibly can cause even the children of the makers behind “One Million Moms” to see why the views of their parents are outdated.

The fact that Disney Channel showcased a same-sex relationship on a television show for young children demonstrates progress, even if there were flaws with the depiction. As a whole, the scene maps out a start for expanding the diversity of sexual orientations of characters on the network. Hopefully this was only the start and LGBT characters will become common in all television. If children are never taught that being gay is different or abnormal, then as their generation grows up, equality will become more of the standard. This one episode of Good Luck Charlie clearly cannot make this difference, but it may be a sign that Disney Channel is taking the initiative to take this step.

Works Cited

Hadamsj. “Good Luck Charlie- Susan & Cheryl.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 26 Jan 2014. Web. 1 Feb 2016.

Kuruvilla, Carol. “Disney Channel Debuts Lesbian Couple on ‘Good Luck Charlie’.” NY Daily News. NYDailyNews, 5 Feb. 2014. Web. 7 Feb. 2016.

The Heterosexual Planet of Gazorpazorp: Gender Norms in Rick and Morty



     Rick and Morty is an animated adult television series centered on an alcoholic scientific genius, Rick Sanchez, and his naïve fourteen year-old grandson, Morty. The show takes little for granted as the two embark on preposterous adventures to alien planets and through alternate dimensions. Like many of today’s adult cartoons the show’s creators, Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon, rely on absurdist humor, supplemented with nihilistic comments, to entertain and amuse their primarily male audience. Despite challenging most of what we know to be true about the physical universe the show appears to leave western societal norms completely intact. In “Raising a Gazorpazorp,” an episode centered on gender norms, the show creates humor by relying on viewers’ assumptions of gender stereotypes and compulsory heterosexuality in order to create humor.

In the episode Rick and his older granddaughter, Summer, find themselves on Gazorpazorp, a planet that initially appears to be inhabited exclusively by aggressive predatorily sexual male aliens and reproducing sex robots. Rick’s only explanation is that the planet evolved to replace females with “birthing machines,” but that the subsequent lack of distraction allowed men to focus on war and bomb each other back to barbarism. There is only one type of alien, but they are assumed to be male and then prescribed exaggerations of traditional heterosexual male tropes such as an overtly healthy libido, aggression, and strength. Despite being in an all male environment the possibility of the society being homosexual is never addressed. These gender and sexuality norms are used as a comedic reflection on our own society. For example Rick demands that Summer wear a burqa, lest she be raped and killed, and says, “The least you could do is be ashamed of your gender.” The scene and Rick’s explicit sexism throughout act as a foil on our own gender preconceptions, but rely on gender and sex norms to arrive at the punch line.

Rick’s initial prediction proves wrong as the characters soon discover the planet is ruled by women who isolated themselves from the dangerously aggressive men centuries ago. The women live in what might be described as an extreme version of Mary Astell’s suggested “blessed abode.” They have withdrawn from men, emphasize education and personal betterment, and the women appear to be celibate. The women do not appear to have reject Astell’s societal vices, however, as the aliens have long legs, large breasts, and elaborate clothes to accompany their additional sets of arms.  Nonetheless the females use robots to reproduce and are removed from traditional roles of domesticity.

The humor in this scene, however, comes from exaggerating female tendencies and norms usually experienced by men. For example the women greet each other with, “I am here if you need to talk,” the courthouse steps read “sis semper calumniam” translating roughly to you are always wrong, and a girl is charged with the crime of having “terrible bangs.” Because the plot of Rick and Morty is essentially inconsequential the show relies on these small jokes for entertainment; these small jokes in turn rely on ingrained western male ideas about femininity.

In these scenes Rick and Morty also relies on contemporary beliefs that there exists a strict divide between female friendships and female intimacies rather than the lesbian spectrum described by Adrienne Rich. Realizing this divide herself Sharon Marcus writes, “I now grasped that our contemporary opposition between hetero- and homosexuality did not exist for Victorians” (19). Despite being a recent idea this distinction is immediately assumed and applied to this fictional planet simply because the brief glimpses of relationships between women shows closeness but never implies a sexual nature. It is interesting to note that a planet where attractive female aliens did engage in homosexual behaviors is by no means “out of bounds” for the show’s writers, but it is likely that the women of Gazorpazorp would have sacrificed their intelligence and societal advancements to become a male fantasy. To include both lesbianism and intellect would take the viewer out of his comfort zone and destroy the intended humor.

While the genders on Gazorpazorp were separated both in behavior and geography they remained heterosexual. The only mention of homosexuality is made by Summer as she argues that gender “equality” on Earth is necessary because, “On Earth a certain percentage of our males are born gay, which is why my clothes are better than all of yours.” Flawed reasoning aside, this line can be unpacked to better understand how notions of sexuality are reinforced. First this small comment certainly reinforces gay stereotypes. Judith Butler cautions against this claiming a homosexual identity can constrain and legislate in dangerous ways; she writes, “The political problem is not to establish the specificity of lesbian sexuality over and against its derivativeness, but to turn the homophobic construction of the bad copy against the framework that privileges heterosexuality as origin” (310). Though small Summer’s quote certainly does fit in the larger narrative of typifying homosexuals.

Secondly the wording used implies that males being born gay are in some way unnatural. While slight and likely not noticed by the casual viewer this idea that heterosexual attraction is natural and a byproduct of evolution, and therefore queerness is unnatural, is also societally produced. Jonathan Katz writes, “Kraft-Ebing hypothesized an inborn ‘sexual instinct’ for relations with the ‘opposite sex’ the inherent ‘purpose’ of which was to foster procreation” (234). Although the idea was new in the late nineteenth, it is so commonplace now that the show uses it throughout the Gazorpazorp scenes to reinforce heterosexuality, and the viewer, myself included, fails to notice the assumptions that are made.

While in a traditional television show a character’s own views of gender might be changed by visiting such a planet, the postmodern show makes it clear that nothing has changed as Rick is still sexist. He even says, “After all that stuff we just did nothing really mattered. There was no point to it.” This is essentially what every joke was revealing. Despite depicting a female dominated society the show was able to entertain, ironically, by using dated gender stereotypes embedded in viewer’s minds to make their jokes. It is the viewer’s own sexism rather than a sexist message that completes the jokes.  While underlying, the norms are still enforced and, in a society where new age media plays a pivotal role in how we explain and understand the world, these reinforcements are just as damaging as and less rejected than traditional oppressive content.


Butler, Judith. “Imitation and Gender Insubordination.” The Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader. Routledge. 1993.

Evans, Thomas. “Wubba Lubba Dub Dub! : The Pursuit of Happiness in Rick and Morty.” Under Construction at Keele. Keel University. Volume 2 Issue 1. 2015. Web. 3 February 2015.

Katz, Jonathan Ned. “The Invention of Heterosexuality.” Socialist Review 20. 1990.

Marcus, Sharon. Between Women: Friendship, Desire and Marriage in Victorian England. Princeton University Press. 2007.

“Raising Gazorpazorp.” Rick and Morty. Adult Swim. 10 March 2014. Television.


Double Standards in Today’s Society


Andres Sanchez

The piece of contemporary media I will analyze is a Pantene commercial from 2013 in which touches on society’s double standards and encourages women to leave labels set by society behind and break from the chains of society’s views. The commercial relates to Adrienne Rich’s ideas in her work Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence where she identifies the meanings of male identification and lesbian continuum. The Pantene commercial intends to explore how current society has not changed much from the time Rich wrote her work in 1980 as although more women gain higher positions in jobs, the labels that were created decades ago must still follow them everywhere they go. Through these labels, the audience is able to see the ways in which standards hold the men and women of today. With these intentions and use of rhetoric, however, the commercial challenges the male audience to react to the commercial in a different way than the female audience.

The commercial by Pantene begins with comparing a man and a woman, both whom are bosses of a company. As the man addresses his partners, he is labeled as “boss”, but as the woman addresses her partners, she is labeled as “bossy”. The label with which the woman is set contains a negative connotation as bossy can be perceived as someone who is imperious. As the commercial progresses, women and men continue to be labeled differently in contrasting situations with men being labeled as “persuasive”, “dedicated”, and “smooth” while women are labeled as “pushy”, “selfish”, and “show-off”. The polarity of labels in the commercial intend to persuade the audience, in this case men and women, that even though women are allowed to pursue higher positions in today society, double standards are working against them for doing so. For example, one of the scenes in the commercial demonstrates the distinction between a man and a woman who are working late at home. In the man’s situation he is labeled as “dedicated” while the woman in the same situation is labeled as “selfish”. In Rich’s work, she defines male identification as “the act whereby women place men above women, including themselves, in credibility, status, and importance in most situations regardless of the comparative quality the women may bring to the situation”. By using this to interpret the scene in the commercial, the woman in the scene is labeled as selfish because she is seen as someone who has to be the caretaker of the house and doing anything other is selfish while the man is seen as the one responsible for the income of the home. In every scene of the commercial, each woman is labeled because she is going against the male identification.

Apart from the idea of male identification, the Pantene commercial also touches on Rich’s idea of lesbian continuum which she describes as “forms of primary intensity between and among women, including the sharing of a rich inner life, the bonding against male tyranny, the giving and receiving of practical and political support”.  The women in the commercial can be seen as those who are part of this lesbian continuum by challenging male identification and pursuing higher positions in jobs. It is because of this opposition against society standards that they are then labeled with negative connotations. The commercial does not shame on the women for doing so, but shames the double standards of society for judging women who want to pursue jobs and take actions that are believed to be those belonging to men. A possible fallacy within the commercial is the way in which only women are seen as the victim, but this is reasonable because the commercial focuses on a product is meant for women. This fallacy, however, can cause some of the male audience to feel uncomfortable at the fact the commercial can be viewed as an opposition to male privilege in today’s society while other part of the male audience may feel unrepresented by the fact commercial only targets the way in which society’s labels affect women and not men.

The rhetorical devices used in the commercial include connotations, contradictions, and tone. The contradictions and connotations are clearly seen in the commercial through the polar labels set on men and women having men being labeled with words that associate with positive connotations and women with words of negative connotations. The song used in the commercial, “Mad World by Gary Rules”, is a very interesting choice as it emphasizes one’s disgust of the regular chores of daily life and the way in which one does not look forward to the next day through the lens of a person who is viewing the world as an outsider. The way this song connects to the purpose of the commercial is that is gives off a tone of angst towards how society has set guidelines which women and men must live by, and once they step out of these boundaries set by society, they are judged and labeled. All these rhetoric devices work together to make the audience feel disdain towards the stereotypes established by society towards one’s gender.

Although women in today’s society aim to obtain better positions in their professional life and move away from domestic stereotypes, there are always labels awaiting them if they do so. According to Rich, these labels are a byproduct of the ideas of male identification and lesbian continuum set in the 1980s. The Pantene commercial analyzed is a great representation of what double standards in today look like. Even though the product advertised and commercial focus on women, the depiction of men is also a product of today’s society. By only including the effects of labels on women, the Pantene advertisement leaves out the male audience and can bring about different reactions by men. In the end, the commercial calls for a great reflection over what standards we hold for each gender and for a break from these standards. The double standards of today should not be a guideline for how one should live their life. These standards exist worldwide, unconsciously or not, and they will continue to exists as long as labels are prevalent based on one’s gender.