Jenna Marbles: Modern Feminist?

 

Chances are, if you are part of Generation Y, you know who Jenna Marbles is. She has become one of the most well-known Youtube personalities over the past few years.  Her real name is Jenna Mourey, and her dogs (who often make appearances) are named Kermit and Marbles.  Jenna Marbles posts a variety of videos—ranging from “What disney movies taught me ” to “how to trick people into thinking you’re good looking.” She comes out with videos each Wednesday, which is now dubbed “Sexual Wednesday” by both her fans as well as herself. 

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click the screenshot (taken by author) to watch one of Jenna Marble’s videos!      

In the videos that she posts, Jenna often cracks jokes about women and plays up certain stereotypes. She uses a voice that is slightly higher pitched than her own, wears very intense make-up, and constantly makes herself (as well as all women) seem shallow and, frankly, not very bright. However, the comments on these videos are very rarely upset women and offended feminists—it will be women agreeing to whatever Jenna is making jokes about; they usually compliment her on how “spot on” the video was. There are also a lot of women complimenting her make-up as well as men describing how physically attractive she is.

There are a few things that I have come to wonder about the phenomenon that is Jenna Marbles… a) is Jenna Mourey any different than Jenna Marbles, b) is her success on youtube related to her “heterosexiness”, c) and where does she fall in terms of post-feminism?

After looking at biographies on her website, it does not seem that Jenna Marbles, the Youtube personality, and Jenna Mourey, graduate of Suffolk University from Upstate New York, differ too greatly. Her offline personality and her performances on Youtube seem to run consistent with each other. Perhaps, this is why she is so successful—she realizes that there is a certain value in staying genuine online. Due to her identity consistency, her mockery of femininity is seen as self-deprecating humor than legitimate criticism. Her viewers seem to realize that she is poking fun at herself as much as she is commentating on societal norms. This is the reason her comments on Youtube are less criticism and more praise.

  Another reason Marbles might be considered successful is her positive embrace of both “grotesque” and “heterosexy” all at once. In fact, it is hard to decide which keeps her YouTube numbers up—the heterosexiness which attracts the males to her videos, or the grotesque humor which is appreciated by the women she is describing in her videos. My theory is it is one that goes hand in hand—her Youtube videos would not be nearly as relatable, and therefore popular, if she was just a pretty face talking about how she applies her make-up. With that being said, her abrasive, somewhat grotesque humor might not be as well reciprocated if she wasn’t viewed as very attractive to women and men alike. It seems fair to say that Jenna realizes that both aspects to her performance are necessary. This is why she promotes her video debuts on “Sexual Wednesdays” and is constantly updating her look. This is also why she keeps her jokes fresh and different topics. Recently, Marbles has even posted videos dressed as males and makes videos like “what guys think while driving” and others. Her humor has started to transcend multiple audiences.  This concept is explored in “The ‘grotesque body’ in young women’s self presentation on Myspace’” by Amy Shields Dobson:

“Perhaps submissive, passive femininity is no longer hetero-sexy in contemporary culture, and rather than, or more correctly, as well as, signifying a subversion of ‘traditional’ feminine traits, grotesque body representation by young women signifies a conformity with new regimes and stereotypes of femininity” 

            So where does Jenna Marbles fall on the spectrum when it comes to the feminism movement?  While I can see how one might view her as a step back in the post-feminism, with her physical appearance directed towards males and jokes towards women, I personally think she embodies the post-feminism movement. If Jenna Marbles wasn’t interested in showing personality and pushing the boundaries of feminism, she would have just performed on instagram with selfies of herself all made up. She would not have made mock videos of how to perform on a date. And she definitely would not have made videos dressed like a man.

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click the screenshot taken by author to watch Jenna Marbles’ video “What guys lie about”

 

  Sarah Banet-Weiser supports this theory in her piece “Branding the Post-Feminist Self: Girls’ Video Production and YouTube”

“Additionally, public self-expression and self-branding is validated by the cultural context of post-feminism which, among other things, connects gender empowerment with consumer activity (Hollows and Moseley; McRobbie, The Aftermath; Tasker and Negra). These entangled discourses of neoliberal brand culture, Web 2.0 interactivity, and post-feminism all rely ideologically and materially on individuals becoming what Nikolas Rose might call the entrepreneur of the self (Rose)”

While Jenna Marbles is a goofy, weekly video, it is important to realize Jenna Mourey is a great example of the post-feminism movement online. She is the perfect expert on “entrepreneur of the self” whilst still connecting “gender empowerment with consumer activity.”

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