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You Play the Girl: On Playboy Bunnies, Stepford Wives, Train Wrecks, & Other Mixed Messages

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  1,269 ratings  ·  207 reviews
In this smart, funny, impassioned call to arms, a pop culture critic merges memoir and commentary to explore how our culture shapes ideas about who women are, what they are meant to be, and where they belong.Who is "the girl"? Look to movies, TV shows, magazines, and ads and the message is both clear and not: she is a sexed up sidekick, a princess waiting to be saved, a mo ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published August 8th 2017 by Mariner Books
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Average rating 3.89  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,269 ratings  ·  207 reviews

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Start your review of You Play the Girl: On Playboy Bunnies, Stepford Wives, Train Wrecks, & Other Mixed Messages
Nov 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars

A whip-smart essay collection about how we portray women in movies, TV shows, magazines, and more, as well as how women learn to internalize and emulate these portrayals. Carina Chocano does an amazing job discussing the problematic ways women's stories get told, ranging form how women face objectification and sexualization, to how women always end up in marriages no matter how fierce or strong they seem, to how we glorify youth and innocence and slight playfulness in women and devalue
Joe Valdez
Jul 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: film-tv, memoirs
As research for a novel I'm writing, I'm not only reading detective fiction but branching out to read memoirs by women or Black, Hispanic and Asian writers for looks at how they see, or don't see, themselves reflected in popular culture. While I'd never followed the reviews of Carina Chocano during her tenure at the Los Angeles Times from 2003-2008, like Manohla Dargis--whose departure to the New York Times slid Chocano over from TV to film--Chocano was a trustworthy voice from my generation, th ...more
Nenia ✨️ I yeet my books back and forth ✨️ Campbell

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This author's name sounded familiar to me, which was odd - because as far as I knew, I hadn't read any of her works. Netgalley strikes again! As it turns out, Carina Chocano had published an essay in another feminist book I read recently, called NASTY WOMEN. The essay, titled "We Have a Heroine Problem" was about the Madonna/whore lens with which we view women in the public eye, except it's more like the paragon/demon complex (my name,
Gabrielle **

“(…) there’s nothing like trying to live up to an impossible standard to keep a woman in her place.”

Last weekend, I watched “Desperados” on Netflix. I was bored, I guess, and I loved Lamorne Morris in “New Girl” so I figured why not? He was great, but the movie itself sucked. Not only did it suck, but it kinda pissed me off. The credits rolled and I think I said: “I can’t believe we still make this kind of trash chick flicks in 2020!” out loud (but ther
Pop culture has labeled "girls" for decades and they are portrayed as anything but empowering or even realistic. For decades, the women on the screen are seen as dumb sex objects, maddening incompetent nitwits or raging "bitches" out to get revenge. It has slowly started to change but it is still pervasive in all forms of media. Author Carina Chocano has written an excellent book on just how and why we got there. If you have a teenage daughter, you might want to pick up a copy and do a read toge ...more
August 2017 My Book Box Non-Fiction Selection
Recently, I watched part of Keeping Up with the Jones. It’s a movie about a suburban couple whose new neighbors turn out to be spies/special agents/CIA something or other. It has a good cast, and there were parts that were quite funny. I didn’t watch all of it, however, because it soured. The two men become buds, in fact the movie is really a bromance despite the couples, but the two women nope. In fact, the suburban wife dislikes the spy woman even
Aug 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
You can also find this review at https://booksbestfriendblog.wordpress...

Note: I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Similar to Bad Feminist, I often found myself nodding in agreement as I read You Play the Girl. For example, I also felt the same way as Chocano after watching Trainwreck. Why did Amy’s character think there was something wrong with her? Why did she have to use her father’s mistakes to justify her own life? Couldn’t she have both enjoyed having fun wi
Jul 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Carina Chocano is the essay writer I wish I was. She examines how pop culture treats women and girls- and how it affects us. From Katherine Hepburn and how her image had to be toned down for people to accept her movies; ‘I Dream of Jeannie’ and ‘Bewitched’ (how two insanely powerful women constantly deferred to men); to the huge Disney princess phenomena wherein a princess is someone to be saved by a man or presented to a man. ‘Desperate Housewives’, ‘Real Housewives’, ‘Desperately Seeking Susan ...more
Lexi Goyette
Nov 15, 2017 rated it liked it
Overall, this was a fast read for anyone looking to think critically about the media we consume on a daily basis. Movies like Pretty Women, Knocked Up, Thelma and Louise, The Stepford Wives... TV shows like Mad Men, The Bachelor, Inside Amy Schumer... All are dissected and analyzed critically. Carina Chocano had a career as a movie critic. Almost every essay uses TV/film examples to illuminate her thoughts.

Here's what I didn't like...

1. Chocano paints a vivid picture of the roles assigned
Feb 11, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: owned
This book started out strong. I was entranced and horrified by my own ignorance, and this book was going to help me see past the wool covering my eyes.

Then, it got...different. It stopped being an empowering look at how women are manipulated, or how many of us have forgotten our own history, and felt bitter and meandering.

Quite a few pieces of the essays read to me like they'd been shoved in sideways to bulk up the text rather than written because that was where they belonged. For instance, on
Sara Bruhns
Jun 30, 2020 rated it liked it
3.5 stars for a thought-provoking compilation of essays about pop culture portrayals of women. Great to read if you want to increase your awareness of how women are identified and have been identified in the past, through movies and TV shows especially.

Anyone thinking of reading this book should be aware, first of all, that these essays are predominantly about pop culture portrayals of straight white women. I'm not sure why Chocano didn't go into topics of race, sexuality, ect. But I will say th
Very nearly a 5 so I rounded up for how much reassurance and joy this book brought me. I will expand on this soon.
Aug 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
“You Play the Girl: On Playboy Bunnies, Stepford Wives, Train Wrecks and Other Mixed Messages” is a four part book of well written and analytical essays of various cultural themes. Popular films, books, articles and famous people and events are added and highlight author Carina Chocano’s stories and observations. Chocano, a journalist and storyteller takes pride in the creative thinking process, her short stories and articles have been featured in several notable publications including the NYT, ...more
Rheama Heather
Aug 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
Carina Chocano is a former movie / TV critic and author of these brilliant essays. Here she explores the underlying sexist messages of pop culture.

I’ve only seen a few of the movies Chocano references, and I don’t necessarily agree with all her observations. But I don’t have to agree to appreciate her insight.

She got my wheels turning about the specific gender stereotypes I've absorbed from birth. As a preschooler, I colored while my mother’s soap operas played in the background. Those ladies we
Aug 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Chicano's focus on women's issues fills me with hope, and some anger. She explores the state of our lives through popular books, movies, and happenings and she does it with literary skill and always a sense of humor and fun which helps when the reader's gut reaction is likely anger or even helplessness. I last had the sense of being in the presence of someone who's wise years ago,when I read Faludi's Backlash and Wolf's Beauty Myth though neither of those women had he same joie de vivre that Chi ...more
Spencer Tierney
Jul 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Chocano takes the reader through a fast-paced yet precise history of roles women have played over time in real life and on screen & in texts, seamlessly showing the parallels between the literal and the symbolic worlds. There's even a brief history of the waves of feminism told through movies. She's a brilliant essayist and cultural critic, with strong one-liners, poignant questions, and a masterful way of weaving personal anecdotes, literary analysis, groundbreaking legislation, film reviews, a ...more
Jason Diamond
Sep 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This has been a great year for essay collections and this one is at the top of the heap. "Celebrity Gossip" is easy one of the best pieces of cultural criticism I've read this year. ...more
Lisa Mcbroom
Chocano writes a memoir of her puberty and how events in pop culture shaped her as a person.
Feb 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
An analysis of feminism in pop culture.

Have you ever watched a movie that made you feel icky for some reason that you can't precisely identify? This author can describe the reason, clearly and articulately. And spoiler alert, it's usually because the movie sends a pretty messed up message about women.

Movies discussed include Flashdance, Pretty Woman, Desperately Seeking Susan, Stepford Wives, Fatal Attraction, Knocked Up, Lars & the Real Girl, Frozen, and others. Don't get me wrong, I like som
Nov 19, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2020
This was a case of picking a book based on its title. What I didn't realize is that it's a collection of essays (yup...didn't read all the way to the bottom of the cover) or that these essays focus primarily on film/television criticism.

Criticism is not my jam. Literary Criticism was the one required course in my English degree that I was afraid I was going to fail. (I got a D on my first paper and panicked, because I didn't get Ds.) But I eventually learned to "talk the talk" and dissect a poor
Julie Fenske
Oct 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
!!!! An essay collection that is cohesive, educational, and inspirational in a quietly riotous way. Carina Chocano takes us through the heights and depths of various tropes, stereotypes, and hardened realities of women (sometimes meandering a little, I will say) while weaving her personal anecdotes as girl growing up in the 70s and 80s, a film critic, and mother - all written through the lens of comparison to Alice in Wonderland. Her ability to present and analyze a huge variety of topics while ...more
Nov 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
Life-changing, though fails to often (or ever?) talk about race. Still, I feel relief and validation from reading how a woman cultural critic also feels angry and disappointed by pop culture. I learned the terminology for a feeling I often have when watching movies and television -- "symbolic annihilation". I am symbolically destroyed when characters who look like me are either never there, or represented as tropes, with very little of what makes us real. ...more
Michelle Adamo #EmptyNestReader
I really expected to like this book. I really wanted to like it. The book is focused on a topic that is of great interest to me. How women (and men) are portrayed in the media. How those roles influence beliefs, values and behaviors in children, teens and adults - both female and male. How we - all of us - blindly absorb what we see and read without really thinking about the underlying message. Whether it’s Disney movies "Being the prettiest was the pinnacle of womanly achievement.” or Playboy m ...more
Aug 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A brilliantly written series of essays that made me glad I don't participate in popular culture and wonder why the author does. ...more
Sep 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
i checked this book out from the library. i feel like i'll be giving a bit of me away when i return it. i won't rest until i have a copy of my own that i can underline & memorize. this book is BOMB. ...more
Oct 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is the First off, Carina is a phenomenal writer with a cutting, eagle eye view of things. She's also super funny, there were times I would be eating while reading this book and nearly suck my food down my windpipe from laughing.

One of my favorite aspects of her essays was that she continually weaves in the story of her young daughter Kira's experiences absorbing advertising and movies at such a tender age. An excerpt from the book after she and Kira had passed a city bus wit
Cathryn Conroy
Feb 01, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When actress Isla Fisher did an interview to promote the movie "Wedding Crashers," she was asked how her appearance in it had changed her career. She said it hadn't, acknowledging there weren't many comic opportunities for women in Hollywood. "All the scripts are for men and you play the girl."

How is it that women, beginning when they are little girls, learn how to "play the girl" in society? In these 21 smart and sassy essays, author Carina Chocano expounds on all the mixed messages with which
Mélanie Maillot
May 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In this book, Carina Chocano talks about stereotypical women and prejudiced/toxic representations of them in various cultural media, particularly in the film and the music industry but also in tv shows, literature, pornography, women's magazines and the gutter press. She also explores the status and role of women facing the recent technological evolutions - my favourite example being the one of sex dolls that she thoroughly presents in one chapter. From the Odyssey to Andersen's fairytales, Pret ...more
Rachael Neidinger
Update: I think the things that were bothering me about this book are it is:

1) slightly out of touch with the millennial generation and beyond, in terms of what pop references are most relevant and how people feel about them now. I didn't recognize every single film or tv show she talks about which felt telling.
2) Like others have mentioned in their reviews, there was not a lot of analysis from the perspective of race. Most (all?) the characters and personalities she discusses are white and th
Jul 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book, these essays by Carina Chocano, have touched me like no piece of writing has done in a long time. As a woman who loves cinema and talking about cinema, it's easy to feel like the world is gaslighting me. Like directors and writers and critics are living in a world where a man being a person and a girl being A Girl is a fair representation of humanity. Reading this I felt that someone finally understood all my frustrations regarding female characters and also managed to put these frust ...more
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