Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Genuine Ken: Episodes 2 & 3

In episodes 2 & 3 of Genuine Ken (I can't believe I'm still watching this... just kidding I totally believe I'm still watching this) the wannabe-Kens decorate a bachelor pad in teams and learn to surf. Whitney Port and her team of judges wanted to see how the contestants dealt with teamwork (some better than others) and then ... who was the best at surfing? This competition seemed really odd to me. They were actually judged on how well they could surf. A Malibu Ken sort of thing. None of them had surfed before (one guy had never been in the ocean before), and so it just was a really weird way to measure their Ken character. The contest of the episode was not explained until it was over, so I was surprised they didn't judge them based on their willingness to learn and try... In any case, I am sort of disturbed at how much I am thinking about how they could make the show better because it's really sort of hopeless.

I'm still kind of clueless as to who the audience of the show is supposed to be... Boys trying to learn what women want? 7 year old Barbie-buyers? Women who never outgrew their Barbie obsessions? Procrastinating feminist college students!? I'm really baffled. It is clearly a ploy from Mattel to try to drum up some attention (and they definitely could not hold a "Genuine Barbie" competition because that shit would get protested) for the brand, but I'm just not sure to whom they are trying to convince. I've watched all the episodes so far, but I really don't think I'm their target audience.

It's interesting to me how the show is sort of commodifying idealized masculinity, which is not something that we generally think about when the commodification of gender is brought up. Usually it's women. But men have gender too, don't you forget it. The challenges that get the guys to put together furniture and show off their athleticism are not surprising, nor are they particularly interesting, but these were carefully chosen activities for the show, and they are what Genuine Ken is promoting as the idealized masculine boyfriend... so in that respect... I guess they're mildly interesting. On the wall of their Barbie Dreamhouse there are all these pink phrases that look like those word magnets with stuff on them like, "Someday my Ken will come... he really is a doll!" and "You can take me home to mom!" which I thought were really interesting (I'm going to try to look closer and see more of them) because they were really explicitly relating men to... dolls. That's a new one! Everyone's a doll! Equality for men and women! I don't know if this is gender equality or a step in the wrong direction.

The guys' reality show identities are getting more solidified through their commentary, which is another mildly interesting aspect of the show...? Each of them are identified by a Ken nickname, "Compassionate Ken," "Dreamer Ken," "Artistic Ken" (etc) but what they all have in common is their seemingly unfailing confidence. I know it's a reality show (barely...) and these things get edited, but still, it's funny as well as irritating. How the heck did these guys find out about this show? Who thinks, seriously, "I want to be in a Barbie competiton!?" I'm not saying that in respect to gender, just in respect to sanity. HOWEVER, I know I said earlier that if "you want to start dating from this pool, you are insane," but I totally have a crush on Chris ("Compassionate Ken"). In the past two episodes, the judges started trying to force the guys to go against each other (drama! OMG!), and Chris totally did not play into that. Also, he took time out of surfing practice to help another guy. Good for him. Also he's the cutest one. Anyway, I don't want to date him, I'm just saying, that if I were a judge, I know who I'd be backing.

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