Remember this video? http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/sound-of-music/3001376
(In case you need it, here’s the OG: https://youtu.be/yYvyh3IIdDk )
Maria is a problem because NEWSFLASH she’s a headache, she’s an angel, SHE’S A GIIIRL. Mind you, I love Sound of Music, but I realize that Maria is a trope. Maria speaks to issues of girlhood and society’s utter fascination with trying to figure out girls. How do you catch that moonbeam in your hand? HMM. So let’s talk about girls, baby. Let’s talk about you and me. Let’s talk about all the good things, and the bad things, maybe?
“Fine we’re sorry we talk about you, Maria, but you give us no choice”
Girls have always been something of a mystery inhabiting worlds that adults need to figure out/ uncover. Girlhood itself has been a social construct, and the ideas of girls is in constant flux. Even throughout the SNL video, “girl” is used as term to describe Maria in the negative and then flipped right around “oh you’re my willo-the-wisp giirrl” to be empowering. So how’d we end up here? How is Maria an objectively bad nun because she is girlish, then she’s a great character with confidence who makes the nuns laugh because she’s girlish? It’s in part due to the ways that girls and girlhoods is defined by society.
First of all, society is built upon certain hegemonic ideals—it’s white, middle class, heterosexual centered—and girls who make it into public discourse are the same (take a quick moment to google image girl– nothing but white, consider the show HBO show Girls–once again WHITE). But this is in part due to the way that girls gained attention, and that’s through consumerism. Mass marketers started selling to girls when they realized they had purchasing power, and the need to control female consumptive practices required that girls fulfill specific characteristics/traits. This, in turn, perpetuates the idea that girls are all the same—girls are seen as malleable to cultural artifact, and needing protection. Girls represent a moral panic– they have infant minds and are unable to be critical. The women’s movement in the past rejects the word girl (and in turn, girls) because women were to be seen as strong agents with sound minds. Perhaps just like the nuns at the abbey, but *SPOILER* the nuns get chill with Maria and protect her later on from the Nazis so there is a turnaround for girls and feminism.
“Do not front with me right now!”
Girls have power…. GIRL POWER…! In the 90s, a fringe movement of women being pushed around by dudes at punk rock concerts growl back toward misogyny (Bikini Kill–Rebel Girl for your listening pleasure). Known as the Riot Grrls, they told girls that they have power, that they have agency to create their own images—they were destructive and bad ass. It was awesome. So awesome that it was put into the mainstream, but with some caveats. Girl Power became something to buy again, rather something to create. Gentle, sweet, non-threatening consumer girls once more. Kinda like mopey, sad Maria when she goes back to the abbey after Georg is all I have a sensible fiancée, and Maria is now a good nun but everyone hates it. It spoils the feeling of empowerment as well because girls being empowered gets tied directly to purchasing. To have girl power now is to be able to buy a shirt that says “feminist” on it or buy a tube of red lipstick. Even that moldable girl thing comes back, and we have older feminists writing books about girls being too much (http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2016/08/18/hot-sex-young-girls/ ). Girls represent a scapegoat for uncertainty, tension, and anxiety by social, political, economic change. Girls become problematic because everyone is working out their issues on the bodies of girls. Bit of a let down, we’re the sad Von Trapp kids wondering when will Maria come back (WHEN will empowerment come back).
“WOOOW Good to hear this, a bunch of nuns singing smack about me!”
But like SNL Maria, girls are getting to clap back! New media practices have enabled girls to produce their own narratives, and to interact with feminism. We’re writing a blog about girls being agents of their own worlds, and you’re reading it! Things look up! Girls are becoming part of the narrative. Girls face different problems than women and these all build up into the festering wound that is gender inequality. Girls are still great if still a little confusing! The following collabs will tell you so! One does not solve a problem like Maria, but let Maria be her own person–besides, which you see, she has confidence in herself!
*link to feature photo: https://memegenerator.net/instance/55846596