Monday, December 13, 2010

The Birth of Myspace and the Death of Identity: Digital Imperialism in the 21st Century

Originally conceived as a project branching out from Friendster, Myspace quickly became the number one social networking site in 2006 after its launch three years prior.  Americans were entranced with the newfound ability to make new friends across the country, reconnect with long-lost acquaintances, and showcase personal happenings in real-time.  The ease of accessibility and its seemingly simple service unleashed a cultural revolution, not only across the country but around the world.  Nowadays, thousands of individuals log on to social networks to tell others about their lives and chat with friends on a daily basis, generally convinced that social networking has made keeping in touch a difficulty of the past.  But what has social networking really embedded within the ideologies of America and of the world?   By looking more closely at the twenty-first century social networking and technological trends, it becomes clear that the Internet does not plainly improve life like the majority of users would believe.  The birth of Myspace, along with succeeding social networking websites, has brought about the perpetuation of the postmodern subject by skewing the line between reality and an ideal, parallel universe via the World Wide Web, altogether causing the destruction of unique, individual identities among its users, locally and globally.

The "World Map of Social Networks," which illustrates the international impact of social networking.

User stats of Friendster (left) and Facebook (right) researched in late 2009.

Along with the development of New Media, Myspace is responsible for the explosive trend in social networking, instigating a virtual reality that people immerse themselves within.  The Internet allows for a certain amount of anonymity, and the ability to respond to messages at one’s own discretion captures many people, even making it possible for individuals to delete and/or edit messages before sending.  With many users claiming that they can be “themselves” online, the actual question then becomes: who is the real me?  How do I define my “real” self?  Is it the person I am when I’m at home with the family or is it the person I am when I’m with friends?  Is it the person that interacts with a group of school friends or the person that hangs out with a group of church friends?  Am I the musician or the athlete, the student or the gamer?  Suddenly, the belief that humans possess only one true self is challenged, and we as humans come to discover that we have many identities, depending on the context that we are in and the people that we are associating with at any given time.

The postmodern notion concerning identity becomes important in the understanding of the twenty-first century idea of self.  In Chris Barker’s Cultural Studies: Theory and Practice, Stuart Hall explains the concept of the fractured identity, stating that “the subject assumes different identities at different times, identities which are not unified around a coherent ‘self’.  Within us are contradictory identities, pulling in different directions, so that our identifications are continually being shifted about” (220).  Barker summarizes the postmodern self as “[involving] the subject in shifting, fragmented and multiple identities.  Persons are composed not of one but of several, sometimes contradictory, identities” (220).  Myspace, then, allows us to create and perform just one of the many identities we possess or will sooner or later possess.  We will even revise that identity over a period of time, based on the other identities that we have which may subvert, question, and contradict the identity carried out on the Myspace platform.  Undoubtedly, the many selves that we undertake make it difficult for us to figure out which one is real, if any at all are.  Furthermore, social networks make it nearly impossible for us to make out our physical reality from our online reality.

One example of the distortion between the physical and online realities is the online game, Second Life.  People play MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game) like Second Life and World of Warcraft because the games create an alternate reality online and allow users to interact with others by means of avatars.  However, the environment created in Second Life actually just repeats what is in the physical reality.  Gender, first and foremost, is a key element of online reality that is derived from “real life.”  The actions carried out by the avatars, and the aesthetic fa├žade of avatars themselves, imitate real life behavior, relationships, and fashion.  Judith Butler, in her piece, “Imitation and Gender Insubordination,” asserts that "gender is a kind of imitation for which there is no original; in fact, it is a kind of imitation that produces the very notion of the original as an effect and consequence of the imitation itself" (722).  Second Life users are simply transferring gender constructs from the physical realm to the virtual realm, with users creating avatars that are very masculine or feminine, encompassing very attractive characteristics throughout.

A "married" couple in Second Life who first met online and later got married in real life.
Expounding the idea of a reproduction of gender from real life to virtual life, Barker references scholar Anne Balsamo, whose work primarily concentrates on the causation between technology and culture.   Barker states that “[virtual space allows us to] transcend our class, gender or race.  Since no one can see you in cyberspace, no one can judge you based on your cultural characteristics.  The problem, of course, is that actors in cyberspace remain tied to the everyday material world whose impact on the virtual universe persists” (360).   He then goes on to restate Balsamo’s suggestion that “virtual reality is reproducing the power relations of broader cultural forces.  The idea of the ‘body’ in cyberculture is still marked by gender and race…because of the tendency to reproduce familiar comfortable ideas” (360-1).  On the surface, technology seems to give us, as users, a freedom of self, permitting us to construct any identity we desire.  However, a closer examination of gaming leads us to observe how virtual life is maintaining dominant notions of gender and power.  Moreover, virtual life spreads Western ideologies of identity globally, creating a type of “digital imperialism” (370).  If online platforms are merely reproducing the physical realm and all of its power relations, class struggles, and gender roles, it is hardly possible to discern the borders between physical and online realities.

An advertisement for Playboy's soon-to-be immersion into Second Life.
Another complexity concerning realities is the growing dependence on technology and electronics that Americans have.  More recent social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter are becoming a part of everyday life.  In addition, “smartphones” allow Americans to stay connected to the Internet wherever they are, 24/7, and more wireless phone networks continue to add better Internet browsers and applications to their devices.  If members of social networks are also consumers of smartphones, iPod Touches, and Wi-Fi enabled netbooks, where does the line get drawn between physical reality and online reality for these individuals?  Messages from social networks can be sent to email inboxes, which are also instantaneously sent to cell phones, infiltrating family dinners and romantic dates which society once thought of as sacred, intimate moments during the week.  The penetration of the Internet on everyday lives is, thus, becoming increasingly normal for American families, and AT&T plays on this idea in their new "Really?" Windows Phone 7 commercials, illustrating how Americans, regardless of occupation, location, or situation, have become absolutely addicted to wireless devices.

Two of the new Windows 7 Phone commercials.

Further, the skewed line between real life and virtual life becomes challenging as a result of growing technological capabilities that allow for constant Internet connection.  If a person’s identity on Facebook is different from his or her identity with the family, it can become problematic to sort out both realms at the same time when having to respond to a Facebook message at home.  This type of situation makes it obvious how social networks carry on a postmodern notion of identity, since most people are not the same person online that they are in real life, nor do they converse the same way even when talking and interacting with different people.  The person must choose to perform one identity or the other or, eventually, learn to combine both identities into one new self.

The initial process through which a person creates an online identity is most prominently carried out when a person signs up for a social network, best characterized by the idiom, “dress to impress”.  Myspace and Facebook force each user to create a starting identity and each person must choose a main profile picture with which to represent themselves.  Subsequently, they must construct a biography, and declare their relationship status, activities, likes and interests, and education and work.  Indeed, profile pictures are chosen very particularly in order to make us look the best to other people.  Myspace made the infamous “mirror picture” popular, and it became the norm to take a picture of yourself in a mirror.  Because of the need for a personal picture, social networks are now overflowing with mirror pictures.  Moreover, biographies are written to make us sound the best, and we carefully generate several egotistical, gratifying, and witty statements to explain who we are or who we want to be.  Our social networking profile, therefore, must be crafted to represent who we are, or at least who we want to seem like.

One of the original "mirror pictures," by Myspace founder, Tom Anderson.
However, this initial identity changes over time, and one important element of social networking that allows for the revision of identity is the “status update.”  Myspace originally made it possible for a picture and your name to define you, but Facebook now makes it possible for your picture and your status to define you.  In 160 characters or less, users must now meticulously choose the right words to represent their emotions, desires, and thoughts at any given point in time.  In spite of this, seconds later, users can revise their previously acknowledged updates, creating new updates and/or deleting the old ones if they so choose.  The creators of Twitter even jumped on the bandwagon, building a social network that revolves only around posting status updates, known to Twitter users as “tweets.”   At a total of almost 100 million tweets per day, Twitter has no other capabilities other than tweeting, making it clear that thousands of people find complete gratification in just updating others on their lives on a continual, and sometimes hourly, basis.  The ability given to a person to update their online identity at the click of a button indicates a cultural movement from one, static, objective identity of a person to multiple, always-shifting identities.

In consequence, the craze of social networking seems to have caught Americans between conformity and individual identity, in addition to consciousness of self and downright narcissism.  Both conformity and individual identity, although inherently distinctive, are advertised to users on social networks.  Myspace promotes a notion of individualism, encouraging each user to make unique pages filled with music, graphics, pictures, et cetera.  Still today, there is a core layout with the ability to revise certain elements of the profile page.  However, the layout of all Facebook profiles is identical, and the only components that allow a person to stand out are the status updates, personal information, and pictures.  If social networking is supposed to encourage individualism, Facebook contradicts itself by discouraging true uniqueness and limiting users’ choices.  When the Facebook layout changes, as it does from time to time much to the dismay of its users, every user is forced to accept and adapt to the change.  The perplexing paradox of a conforming yet individual profile illustrates the freedom, or lack of freedom, that users actually have online.

Additionally, social networking promotes both self-consciousness and pure narcissism.  Social networks allow users, especially those in their young teen years, to figure out who they are; to find themselves.  When a person initially sets up their profile, an identity is created, whether new or pre-existing for the person, and that identity can be modified at any time.  Users can even choose various musicians, movies, television shows, activities, and interests that are representative of who they are.  More importantly, individuals are able to engage in dialogue with friends that they may normally only see at school or on the weekends, even making new friends along the way.  After a while, however, many individuals gradually become narcissistic, constantly posting new status updates and pictures to show their friends how much fun they are having, how many other friends they have, what recent accomplishments they have had, et cetera.  The online phenomenon of social networking becomes less about maintaining relationships with others and shifts to a focus on maintaining a good image of oneself.

In the end, social networking in and of itself has become a cultural symbol that Americans and international users have accepted as fascinating and brilliant.  In one of their introductions for Literary Theory: An Anthology, “The Politics of Culture,” Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan assert that “culture is both a means of domination, of assuring the rule of one class or group over another, and a means of resistance to such domination, a way of articulating oppositional points of view to those in dominance” (1025).  Despite the complexities of the culture of social networking, it is clear, while browsing friends’ pages and profiles, that people have lost the ability to be unique.  Instead, individuals adapt to an online revolution that compels users to pick and choose among friends, activities, privacy settings, pictures, and so on.  In doing so, the desire to create autonomous profiles via the World Wide Web is simply an unreachable ideal.  The domination of social networking, then, is indeed assuring the rule of cultural norms – gender, race, imperialistic, and otherwise – and those who are in the ruling class or group in real life will remain the rulers in virtual life.  Citing Balsamo, Barker also claims that “innovative technologies are not necessarily used to forge new ideas but are more likely to reinforce the traditional hegemonic narratives about the gendered, race-marked body” (361).  A number of users may choose to subvert the social networking system, but it seems almost ridiculous to suggest that users could one day overturn the ideologies so strongly preserved by virtual reality.  The Internet, for now, seems to merely be reflecting and mirroring real life; a sort of virtual mimesis that attempts to imitate real life as closely as possible.

Ideally, the Internet crafts an arena for people to be individuals and express themselves, but social networking merely seems to maintain a postmodern, fragmented idea of self.  People are not actually being “themselves” online, they are simply being or creating just one of their many selves; a self that will either be revised or deleted in the future.  Furthermore, the Internet essentially discourages people from going too far outside the norms, preserving powerful gender and class relations on the virtual stage.  The “digital imperialism” of the West extends its reign internationally, spreading the postmodern ideologies of conforming, individual identities to the individuals around the globe who choose to sign up for social networks.

In all, social networking has perpetuated a heavy dependence on technology and electronics in the twenty-first century, with Americans quickly distorting the boundaries between their physical reality and their online reality.  The Internet, with the help of developing technologies, has cunningly infiltrated real life, causing users to not only confuse virtual life with real life but destroy any so-called uniqueness in themselves that Americans find so vital. The birth of Myspace and all of the glorious capabilities it has brought with it – finding old friends, making new friends, on-demand access to information, and staying connected to people on a real-time, global-scale – comes at the cost of the death of our own identit(ies).

Anderson, Tom.  Myspace.  n.p., Aug. 2003.  Web.  13 Dec. 2010.

Butler, Judith. "Imitation and Gender Insubordination." Literary Theory: An Anthology. Ed. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. Malden: Blackwell, 1998. 722-29. Print.

Rivkin, Julie, and Michael Ryan. “Introduction: ‘The Politics of Culture’.” Literary Theory: An Anthology. Ed. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. Malden: Blackwell, 1998. 1025-1027. Print.

Barker, Chris.  Cultural Studies: Theory and Practice.  Los Angeles: Sage, 2008.  Print.

Dorsey, Jack, et al.  Twitter.  n.p., 15 Jul. 2006.  Web.  13 Dec. 2010.

Zuckerberg, Mark, et al.  Facebook.  n.p., 4 Feb. 2004.  Web.  13 Dec. 2010.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A New Media Debate

Today's class discussion centered around the utopian vs. dystopian outlook of society due to the emergence of the Internet and other such technology.  This topic is one I really love to discuss because I am a part of the new media generation.  Coincidentally, over the weekend I had a debate with Bob (whose real name is of course concealed) about the new, high-tech gadget, the Kindle.

Although the picture above strongly suggests that "books aren't dead," one of Bob's friends asserted that the Kindle is a "crime against books," and he was asking for the opinion of our mutual friend -- the irony of all this is that I virtually intruded on their conversation, but that's beside the point :) -- I chimed with in my two cents: although I can understand the efficiency of the Kindle, I simply appreciate being able to physically hold a printed book.

The utopian vision that comes with the Internet can actually be dystopian in many ways.  The ability to carry a thin screen with 20, 30, even 50 books is convenient, especially when you don't have room for books or you're traveling.  But I don't particularly want to stare at a screen and definitely not for a long period of time.  Growing up during a time where printed books were all that existed (and I'm not even that old), it's a sad thought to realize that printed materials will one day seize to exist.  Condensing books onto a gadget makes me feel twice removed from the actual books, just like watching musical theatre on TV makes me feel removed from the actual live show - it just wouldn't be the same.  Instead of grand libraries and bookshelves, people are soon going to have their collection of books in their backpockets.  Book signings will be a thing of the past; that is, of course, unless you want someone to sign your Kindle.

Imagine a world without books!  This brings me to the idea of Fahrenheit 451, which we also watched in class today.  This overall utopian vs. dystopian topic is really too broad to discuss in just one blog, so I'll end with this thought: it may be that books aren't actually disappearing in the 21st century, and they're certainly not illegal like in Fahrenheit 451 (yet), but I can't imagine not being able to thumb through a book, feel paper, underline and highlight freely, and most importantly, have a collection of books on my bookshelf.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Codes of Media

In "Television Culture" by John Fiske, four codes of television are examined:
1) social: mostly aesthetic elements - appearance and speech
2) technical: the technological aspects of media that go into the actual creation of TV shows, movies, etc.
3) conventional representational: the traditional elements of a story, like the narrative
4) ideological: elements which encompass a society's ideologies, such as class, politics, etc.

All of these codes work together to shape, say, a television show.  Fiske goes on to say, "the reading position is the social point at which the mix of televisual, social, and ideological codes comes together to make coherent, unified sense: in making sense of the program in this way we are indulging in an ideological practice ourselves, we are maintaining and legitimating the dominant ideology, and our reward for this is the easy pleasure of the recognition of the familiar and of its adequacy" (1094).  The notion of legitimation is a very Marxist-based perspective -- the ideologies of the owner-class (modes/relations of production) construct and govern the art, politics, culture, etc. of the working-class (superstructure).  We are born into these codes, which, in actuality, creates a never-ending cycle.

A prominent discussion we had in class on Thursday had to do with the rising theme of anti-establishment within movies.  Some texts that represent this idea are Robin Hood and The Dark Knight, and more subtly in Borat.  But what we see as anti-establishment actually is anti-current-establishment.  That is to say, in order to be a radical text, the establishment that is being attacked would have to be demolished altogether.

The example I want to use is the 2009 film Law-Abiding Citizen.  Although the movie may seem radical in promoting anti-establishment, the final outcome simply serves to legitimate the beliefs of the ruling class; in this case, law enforcement and, particularly, the legal system.  To summarize the plot requires some length, so bare with me.  And *THIS IS A SPOILER ALERT* for those of you who don't want to find out the ending :)

Clyde Shelton, played by Gerard Butler, witnesses two men rape and murder his wife and daughter.  Prosecuting attorney Nick Rice, played by Jamie Foxx, eventually decides that he would rather fight for his reputation of convicting criminals than help Shelton, letting the main murderer walk away after just a few years in prison.  Shelton, betrayed by the legal system and Rice, devises a brilliant plan, killing both murderers in gruesome, brutal ways.  Immediately arrested and held for the murders, Shelton uses the justice system against itself for the rest of the film.  At the end, his plans are eventually foiled, and he ends up getting outsmarted by Rice.

The entire movie is very deliberate with the anti-establishment theme, as Shelton takes the legal system into his own hands.  He threatens Rice and mysteriously commits crimes while being held in solitary confinement, sometimes even using the laws against Rice.  The ending, however, serves the legal system, basically showing  viewers that criminals (no matter what their motives) never succeed in the end.

All of that said, it is clear that the director wants the audience to sympathize with Shelton's character.  Having to watch his wife and daughter's vicious murders, with the added fact that Gerard Butler is one of Hollywood's sexiest men, makes it obvious that he is the "heroic outlaw".  Jamie Foxx, on the other hand, is portrayed as conniving in his own ways, looking out only for himself.  This valorization of the criminal looks to be a rising theme in movies throughout the years, but most are not really radical when more closely inspected.

Butler, Gerard, and Jamie Foxx, perf.  Law Abiding Citizen. Overture Films, 2009. Film.

Fiske, John. "Television Culture." Literary Theory: An Anthology. Ed. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. Malden: Blackwell, 1998. 1087-97. Print.
The movie trailer for Law-Abiding Citizen.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Seinfeld & GLEE vs. Society

Does life imitate Seinfeld or does Seinfeld imitate life?

Some argue that Seinfeld may bring about a 20th century, "no holds barred" way of life but many argue that it's vice versa; that the thoughts evoked and often pronounced throughout the show were and are imitations of a subconscious reality that Americans traditionally suppress.  The controversy of the show springs from violating several mainstream conventions in the media, specifically seen as having a postmodern point of view.

Post-Seinfeld ten years later, I want to point us to the television series GLEE, which has truly become an international phenomenon.  The show is famous for its use of music, but also for the underlying, controversial issues it addresses.  This past week's episode, "Never Been Kissed", brought about many societal issues that are currently looming in America yet are untouched in public for the most part.  Because of the recent suicides of several gay teens, the episode spoke volumes about anti-hate.  (Ironically, though, I would have to assume that most of the viewers of GLEE are already anti-hate to begin with.)

During the episode, the issue of identity is pushed to a new degree, and the director seems to handle two specific story lines in very careful ways.  One: Kurt Hummel, played by Chris Colfer, the only openly-gay student at his school, meets another gay teen from an all-boys academy who eventually encourages him to have courage throughout his trials.  I will be giving more emphasis on the second, however: Shannon Bieste, played by Dot-Marie Jones, a football coach who is neither "feminine" nor lesbian.  Bieste's character calls into question the idea of sexual identity [and identity in general].  Before "Never Been Kissed" was aired, several other episodes had already placed the character of Bieste in a comprosing, vunerable position: her sexuality was unknown, she is a female football coach for an all-male team, and, as a result of her position of leadership and authority, she had to act tough and strong, both mentally and physically.

Although the writers choose to allow Seinfeld-like thinking (i.e. the students do make fun of her and do not repress their thoughts), they must also show strong opposition, with Mr. Schuester, played by Matthew Morrison, pointing out their wrong.  Along with asserting that she is not gay, Bieste only appears masculine on the outside, whether it be the demeanor or physical attributes (Jones is a strength-based athlete - weight-training, shot put, arm wrestling, etc. - in real life).  But who first defined masculine in the first place?  Where do the ideas of masculinity and femininity come from?  And why is it that society, in general, automatically looked at Bieste's character as not normal or even wrong?  Even the position of a football coach is reserved for males.

Without delving further into the topic, as I only wanted to brush upon the questions looming around last week's GLEE episode, I conclude by stating that sexuality and gender appear more and more to be social constructs, especially when individuals are harassed and put down for not meeting the status quo.  As an implicit attack on the base-superstructure model of Marxism, GLEE calls us to begin understanding where our ideologies come from - allowing ideologies to be questioned instead of complete acceptance without thought.

Falchuk, B. (Writer), & Buecker, B. (Director).  (2010).  Never Been Kissed [Television series episode].  In R. Murphuy (Producer), Glee.  Los Angeles, CA: 20th Century Fox Television.
The girls of GLEE perform a mash-up of "Livin' On a Prayer" by Bon Jovi and "Start Me Up" by the Rolling Stones in last week's boys as girls against girls as boys episode.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Judith Butler, Alec Baldwin, and the Implications of Sex and Capitalism

In "Imitation and Gender Insubordination", Judith Butler states that "gender is a kind of imitation for which there is no original; in fact, it is a kind of imitation that produces the very notion of the original as an effect and consequence of the imitation itself".  In Glengarry Glen Ross, Alec Baldwin seems to portray a masculinity that, in fact, has no origin.

The famous monologue has Baldwin's character using foul-language and a stern voice, all in an attempt to get the salesmen, played by Ed Harris and Jack Lemmon, to start "acting" like men.  Beyond that, it seems that the salesmen just sit there and take it -- accept it, really.  Is this how men should behave, then?  Or only those in power that need to motivate other people to act upon something?  After all, Baldwin's character is also working for an unseen boss and is expected to perform and get results.

The entire speech, in addition to Baldwin's word-choice, which include many queer-related phrases, seems to emasculate the salesmen.  He feels he must belittle them in order to get them to act, and to a businessman, it could be argued that this is the only way to go if you want to make money.  Thus, the notion of capitalism penetrates the whole scene, from the watch, to the mention of the car, to the obvious fact that their jobs revolve around the free market.  In addition, feelings make humans weak and irrational, so men must keep themselves emotionless -- apparent in the fact that neither of the salesmen really react to Baldwin's yelling, besides their meager attempts to verbally fight back.  Just from watching this one famous scene from Glengarry Glen Ross, it is clear that the idea of masculinity is still that men must be tough, strong, even vulgar if the occasion calls for it.

Butler, Judith. "Imitation and Gender Insubordination." Literary Theory: An Anthology. Ed. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. Malden: Blackwell, 1998. 722-29. Print.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Being Unique in a Postmodern Culture

In "'Material Girl': The Effacements of Postmodern Culture", Bordo states that "the very advertisements whose copy speaks of choice and self-determination visually legistlate the effacement of individual and cultural difference and circumscribe our choices" (1101).

Americans claim that being "unique" is a goal; a privilege that each person should take seriously.  But shirts like the one pictured above seem to question this idea of "uniqueness".  How can I wear a "unique" shirt when a company is producing it in mass quantities?

Even Madonna was originally seen as a figure that overthrew the gender expectations dictated by social norms, but she later made herself look "normal", as Bordo points out.  "She has gone on a strenuous reducing and exercise program, runs several miles a day, lifts weights and now has developed, in obedience to dominant contemporary norms, a tight, slender, muscular body" (1111).  What does this message send to her fans that praised her anti-Barbie look and seemingly unique, expressive nature?  This sudden change in outward appearance suggests that we can only be as unique as society allows us to be, which is not that unique at all.

Bordo, Susan. "'Material Girl': The Effacements of Postmodern Culture." Literary Theory: An Anthology. Ed. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. Malden: Blackwell, 1998. 1099-115. Print.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Shakespeare, *NSYNC, and The 40 Year Old Virgin

An eloquent poet from the 17th century, a boy band from the 90s, and a Steve Carell film might have little in common aesthetically, but at the root of their products are complex gender issues.

In "Taming of the Shrew", Kate eventually becomes "tamed", verbalizing her transformation in her final speech.   Although there is much debate about if the speech is actually a reveling of her true feelings, there is no doubt that the images her speech she creates are a recognition of the gender expectations at the time - submissive, subservient, and dedicated to their husbands.

Beginning as early as Elvis, The Beatles brought the Sexual Revolution to new heights, as millions of women went crazy at the sound of a note.  More recently, *NSYNC and the Backstreet Boys were two famous boy bands known world-wide who could bring women to tears and screams.  Be it their good looks, suave dance moves, or sensuous voices, not only did they drive parts of the economy, they helped in shaping what we now know as the teeny-bopper or youth culture.

In The 40 Year Old Virgin, the gender roles are reversed and Steve Carell plays a 40 year old male who has never slept with a woman before.  His friends immediately tell him that they have his back, but see his virginity as a "problem" that must be "fixed", based on the apparent societal expectations of the genders and sex.

Although the sexual issues that have been existent for centuries are not visible at first glance, it becomes clear that influential writers, musicians, and films, among other media, have a profound affect on and perpetuate cultural notions of gender roles - no doubt, today's society is no stranger to these continued gender roles, through celebrities like the Jonas Brothers and Justin Bieber.

Brian Stokes Mitchell and Marin Mazzie performing "So In Love" from the musical adaptation of "Taming of the Shrew", "Kiss Me, Kate".

The 40 Year Old Virgin trailer.