In this smart, funny, impassioned call to arms, a pop culture critic merges memoir and commentary to explore how popular culture shapes ideas about who women are, what they are meant to be, and where they belong.
In her series of personal and critical essays, You Play the Girl: On Playboy Bunnies, Stepford Wives, Train Wrecks, & Other Mixed Messages Carina Chocano explores her own most formative media-related experiences (growing up and raising her daughter) as she considers how pop culture and media enforce gender stereotypes, roles, and relations by acting as a mirror—a fun house mirror distorted by the ideology of industrial capitalism, which sees women almost exclusively as consumers and objects of consumption.
Chocano’s analysis of the commodification of women and girl power, of the fratriarchy, of The Bachelorette as a game of attrition, is laser-sharp and brilliant. You Play the Girl strikes a chord with every woman, regardless of age. Chocano charts the taxonomy of the girls all females apparently must strive to be. There is no high or low brow culture here. Chocano writes about Katherine Heigl and Telemachus (he would have loved Twitter, she writes) in the same breath and you wonder why you’ve never made the connection before.
As girls, we’re born into a world that directs our subjectivity away from us all the time, that tell us not to trust our own eyes, that tells us to deny our feelings, that makes it nearly impossible to know who you are. Carina asks, “what makes you feel seen? How much of your self-concept have you absorbed from the world around you. Is it possible to remove that self-concept from your mind? To remove all of that information from your brain and re-create a self and walk around in it? Women do this work daily. Before the heroine can set out on her journey, she has to free herself from the tower like Rapunzel, or from the lunatic reverend’s suburban-backyard bunker. She has to liberate herself from the oppressive fairy tale, the fear-mongering tabloid story. She has to refuse and to write her own way out.”
Carina Chocano is the author of You Play the Girl: On Playboy Bunnies, Stepford Wives, Train Wrecks, & Other Mixed Messages, which was shortlisted for the Pen/Diamondstein-Vogel Award for the Art of the Essay and the National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism. A contributing writer to The New York Times Magazine, her work has also appeared in New York magazine, Elle, Vogue, Rolling Stone, and many others. She has been a film and TV critic at The Los Angeles Times, Entertainment Weekly, and Salon.com. She lives in Los Angeles.