Thursday, April 16, 2009

About the Wedding, Part 2: Media and Hegemony (and a chicken recipe at the end)

Today, I hope to explain one of the connections between weddings and the media (see Otnes & Pleck, 2003 for a great read on this topic). Wedding ceremonies have a great deal of cultural significance, correct? They're big days. Even I, with my strange views on weddings, would agree that they're important days, they carry meaning, are a way to express thankfulness to family and friends, and celebrate family traditions. Don't get me wrong, I cry with the best of them at just about every wedding I attend. However, I believe that we focus entirely too much on the wedding ceremony - centerpieces, colors, bridesmaids, tuxedos, flowers, wedding party gifts, dresses, hairstyles, DJs, locations, food, alcohol, monograms, programs, invitations, save the dates, engagement/bachelor/bachelorette parties, bridal showers, bridesmaid luncheons, and makeup - and not nearly enough on the institution of marriage. Media messages serve a particularly strong role in not only validating the wedding as normal/good/desirable but also reminding us that it's ok to participate in some major spending to accomplish the "perfect day." Off the top of my head, I can list a number of tv shows that feature weddings - not marriages - as a central focus. They are, "A Wedding Story," "Say Yes To the Dress," "Whose Wedding is it Anyway," "Platinum Weddings," "Rich Bride/Poor Bride," "My Big Redneck Wedding," "Bridezillas" or pretty much anything that's on the Style Network on Saturdays. Now think about all the movies that detail wedding planning or have weddings as a central plot. And now think about how many media messages tell us anything about the marriage - except for when to call it quits, or how to recognize when things are going horribly wrong.

Yes, pre-marital counseling helps direct some of our attention on life after the "I Do's." But, many couples never go to pre-marital counseling, nor do they question or anticipate what might happen in the years following the wedding ceremony. We somehow know exactly how to plan weddings when our time comes, but how are we to know what's "normal" in a marriage re: conflict, decision-making, loss of independence, feelings of entrapment, or general free-floating anxiety that comes from the realization that you're together "forever?" We know how to plan a wedding, somehow, and we know what it *should* look like. The dress. The tribe of female friends happily standing by in support, with matching dresses and springtime flowers. A smoking-hot, sensitive-yet-masculine man waiting at the end of the aisle, with tears in his eyes. But what have media told us about how we *should* live as a married person? Who takes out the trash? Who does the dishes? Who carries out the wide variety of emotional labor involved in maintaining a relationship, like remembering birthdays? Social calendar planning? Band-aids and neosporin on cuts? Just how exactly does one go about making sure that you change together as a couple, while hanging on to at least part of who you are as an individual? Here's a crazy thought: what if marriage isn't a good idea for everyone? And all the laws, religious teachings, and normalized cultural discourse are really just our way of convincing ourselves that it's a good idea? Enter hegemony (Gramsci, 1984), which is a way of creating, perpetuating and maintain dominant beliefs/worldviews. Media messages serve hegemonic functions in normalizing a range of activities - like weddings and marriages.

Why aren't there media messages focused on the marriage (Wife Swap doesn't count, yo)? Several reasons. One, media are businesses, and they have to make money, and they do so in any way possible - but generally by reminding us that "they're just giving us what we want to watch." We've either started believing we enjoy "reality" television, like shows focusing on weddings, or we're just not speaking up enough about how we're getting sick of seeing horribly inaccurate representations of real life on the tube. Two, media messages are powerful, and they have the ability to shape our perceptions of reality - in this case, continued emphasis on weddings - as several things (a) taking place between a man and woman (b) involving lavishness (c) special days that define "who we are" and (d) as the "normal" and "right" thing to do in any relationship.

So what am I doing about it? Talking to my sweetie every night about this stuff, instead of the wedding. And talking about how we are going to overcome the conflict, stress and struggles we'll go through in our long and happy marriage. And purposely trying not talking about my wedding, ever, unless asked, so as to give the marriage more significance. And drinking a lot of tequila when none of the above helps. :) Kidding about that last part.

Speaking of tequila, last night I rather enjoyed a (yes, just one, promise, gotta run today) fruit-juice margarita. Sra. Cooksey introduced me to the beauty of:

Guava-Mango Margarita
1 part tequila, pref. Cabo Wabo Reposado
4-5 parts Guava-Mango juice (by Welch's in the fridge section)
salt rimmed glass

It went magically well with my random "Jerkish Chicken" that I shredded after cooked and threw into flour tortillas.
Jerkish Marinade
1 jalapeno pepper, seeds removed
some chili powder
some cumin
some allspice
dash of cloves
about 1/2 cup brown sugar
about a teaspoon of honey
about 1/4 cup EVOO
some chicken broth (cause mine ended up too spicy and it needed calming down)
couple cloves of garlic
about 1 tsp of dijon mustard
couple dashes of red wine vinegar

Combine all ingredients together in a food processor or blender, pour over 3 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, marinade for at least 1 hour in fridge. Grill (or bake, but grilling is awesome) until cooked through. Enjoy.