Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Gia: Breaking Free of Hegemony

Once upon a time in a far away land there lived a beautiful young girl named Gia. Gia was no ordinary girl, for she was the prettiest girl in the whole world. Unfortunately, Gia came from a broken home, in which her mother moved out of the house when she was only a girl and dropped out of her life. Gia was raised by her father and brothers and lived a simple life, although she longed for her mother or at least another woman’s influence. Suddenly, one day, Gia’s life changed. She was out with a friend of hers and she was asked to model for a photographer. This was the beginning of the rest of Gia’s life. Soon thereafter Gia had an interview with a very successful modeling agent, Wilhemina Cooper. Wilhemina became like a mother to Gia and transformed her into a supermodel within moments. Gia also rekindled her relationship with her mother during her road to fame and fell in love with a beautiful makeup artist named Linda. Gia had everything she ever could have wanted; a best friend, a lover, fame and her mother back in her life. She was the classic fairytale princess that overcame her own personal obstacles to ascend into stardom. Unfortunately, the tale of the supermodel named Gia was not as picturesque as it may have seemed to an outside observer. Gia strayed so far from this fairytale framework that it cost her her life.

Gia fell into the world of drugs, which eventually led to her demise. Although Gia was able to conceal her drug addiction from the general public for a long time while modeling, eventually the truth came out when she was forced to do a television special in order to be permitted to model again. Many hardships contributed to Gia’s downward spiral. Primarily, the relationship with Gia’s narcissistic mother was a source of great turmoil for the young model. Additionally, the ups and downs of Gia’s secret love affair with Linda severely affected her. Finally, the death of Wilhemina, the only person that Gia truly trusted and had a reciprocal loving relationship with, contributed to her drug abuse. Even though Gia, a seemingly average girl from Philadelphia, did break into the world of fame and beauty and transform it forever, the side effects that this life had on her were not worth the supermodel status that she acquired.

The negative side effects that she experienced can be attributed to the low self esteem that she developed during adolescence due to the absence of her mother. This is a common problem among adolescent girls, especially in situations where an event or unfavorable situation triggers the onset of it (Kilbourne 259). Gia’s low self esteem can be seen throughout the movie. As a supermodel, Gia is simply required to look pretty and sell herself to the audience. For example, when asked to tell her drug addiction story in a television special, she states “I’m a model. I’m not supposed to talk. I’m just supposed to look beautiful” (Cristofer). She knows this is her job because since the beginning of her career, during her first interview with Wilhemina, she is told “talking at all is not really encouraged in this profession, or encouraged at all” (Cristofer). Gia is merely a piece of meat in the modeling industry and she has accepted that role, quite possibly because she does not have the self esteem to see herself as anything more than that. In referring to Gia at a photo shoot, a photographer states “This is meat. This is Sirloin” (Cristofer). To an outsider who was not aware of the reality of Gia’s life, she appeared in pictures to be fierce and powerful; she appeared to represent the new face of the modeling industry, but in reality she was an exposed and vulnerable individual, which is a theme that can be seen throughout many modeling photographs (Kilbourne 264).

Despite her inevitable downfall, many would say that Gia truly lived a fairytale based on the role she played in our hegemonic society. Gia was a beautiful supermodel who was portrayed on the covers of numerous magazines and in the advertisements of many different items. Because of the hegemony in our society, Gia was revered by many people. According to Stuart Hall hegemony is defined as a “framing of all competing definitions of reality within [the dominant class’s] range” (Lull 62). British social theorist, Philip Elliot added to this idea by saying that the effect the mass media has on the public is “how they subtly influence their audiences to perceive social roles and routine personal activities” (Lull 62). Within the power framework set forth, being a supermodel is a prestigious glamorous job, that the average young girl would see as a dream come true. This admiration blinds the average person to the reality behind the alluring face on the magazine cover. Thus, because of this obsession with fame and being a member of the upper echelon of society, many people would see Gia as lucky, and not as a casualty of the modeling industry or the casualty of a young girl being forced to grow up too soon.

Gia did not live happily ever after. Even though Gia’s story seemed to follow the path of a traditional fairytale in our hegemonic society, Gia veered from the path to greatness and her life ultimately ended in tragedy. Gia was a superstar who was on top of the world at one time, but she was also a drug addict who chose heroin over love and a healthy life. Because of these decisions and the hardships that Gia endured as a result of them, Gia should not be seen by anyone as a fairytale princess. In order to break free of these gendered constructs set forth by the hegemonic structure of our society, it is necessary to see Gia’s story for what it truly is, a sad tale of a young girl who struggled with substance abuse and emotional problems. Unfortunately, this notion does not equate to a fairytale even if Gia was the most successful supermodel of her time.


Gia. Dir. Michael Cristofer. Perf. Angelina Jolie, Elizabeth Mitchell, Faye Dunaway, Eric
Michael Cole, Mercedes Ruehl. TV Movie, 1998.

Kilbourne, Jean. “The More You Subtract, The More You Add.” Gender, Race and Class
in Media: A Text-Reader. 2nd Ed. Gail Dines, Jean M. Humez. Thousand Oaks,
California: Sage, 2003. 258-267.

Lull, James. “Hegemony.” Gender, Race and Class in Media: A Text-Reader. 2nd Ed.
Gail Dines, Jean M. Humez. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage, 2003. 61-65.


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Jessie said...

I think you've got something very interesting when you open your post with the idea of meat that doesn't speak, which is this ideal construct (by the fashion industry). Obviously the conflict can be seen in the very nature of the fashion industry and Gia's embattled relationship and ambivalent attitude toward it, but also in the conflict between the supposed beautiful women who are described as (in short) "meat...whose job is not to talk."
Therefore, I'm not sure if the phenomenon your analyzing here is one that is illustrating a freedom from hegemony or an example of Lull's hegemony of conflict. It seems to strike me as the latter; however, your writing is well supported by the readings you chose and would just benefit from a clearer focus. By clearer, I mean a focus that can be analyzed from end-to-end, intellectually risky and, tackled in depth. This clarity of focus and analysis is a task you're (in my estimation) up to :o)

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