Bad Barbie: Farrah Abraham
Farrah Abraham is a US reality star who featured in MTV’s 16 and Pregnant, and later Teen Mom. For UK readers unfamiliar with these shows, the Daily Mail love using the cast members as stark warnings of immorality,excess, teenage pregnancy and improperly coded femininity.
Farrah has recently been getting a lot of media attention for performing in a porn video, reportedly making her $1 million, with infamous male porn star James Deen. Farrah insists the video was a private film, Deen states that he was hired to make a faux ‘home movie’ to be later released as a ‘leaked’ tape.
The repulsion Farrah creates is not just that she is *shock horror* a 21 yr old single mum, who made a consensual adult film, but that she deliberately created the video for financial gain, that she wanted to flaunt her body and have sex in the public domain. If Farrah had done a ‘Paris’ or ‘Kim’, acted distraught and coy, wanting public redemption, the public and media reaction may well have been forgiving. But Farrah decided to make a sex tape, she is unappologetic and was savvy enough to sign with Vivid Entertainment, one of the most successful porn studios in the world. Farrah also allegedly chose Deen, knowing he is the ‘it guy’ of the moment in porn. Farrah was seemingly in-control of the choices she made, and her defiance causes disgust.
What I find particularly interesting about the Farrah sex tape, is the mainstream interest in publishing stills from the footage, for example at http://hollywoodlife.com/2013/05/03/farrah-abraham-sex-tape-pics-porn-farrah-superstar-backdoor-teen-mom/. Farrah’s body is good enough to get vistors to the site, but she is bad for displaying it without shame, “For a “personal video,” Farrah sure seems to love playing it up for the camera”. Chrissie and Eleanore, the presenters at Hollywood Life, talk about the sex tape in Mean Girls snarky manner, where they talk in-depth about Farrah’s lingerie, and rate what they think Farrah’s tape will be like in comparison to Kim Kardashians. Referring to anal sex and the title of Farrah’s film, Eleanore asks: “Will she be better at back door or front door action”. Chrissie promises viewers: “We are going to get some more footage when it comes out on May 6th”. There seems to be an excitement in shaming Farrah and mocking her.
Bev Skeggs states that “The excessive immoral woman is also a useful figure… providing the soft porn grotesque for titillation and disapprobation” (2005, p.968). It is not just Farrah being put on trial, it is all women. Proper and improper female bodies and conduct are coded through the actions of Abraham.
The working-class single mother, especially the teenage mother, has long been a body of disgust onto which cultural anxieties about decline and decay are projected. This figure also serves as a warning to all women; that improperly performed femininity deserves punishment.
Sara Ahmed notes “to name something as disgusting is performative…it generates the object that it names” (2004, p.93 cited in Tyler, 2008, p.24). Farrah’s calculated decision to appear and release a professionally-made explicit film, and moreover her refusal to apologise or be remorseful means she becomes the object of disgust that the media creates. The wider anxieties of decay and immorality mix with Farrah’s body, she becomes the danger itself.
The female celebrity chav serves as a figure to regulate and discipline the bodies and behaviour of all women (Tyler & Bonnett, 2010, p.381). Farrah is a threat to properly performed female sexuality.
Dr Phil TV ‘psychologist’ who has long enjoyed putting young female celebrities on television trial for their sins, wants Farrah to be publically accountable. Interesting, Farrah’s sexual partner in the film James Deen, is not put on trial. Boys will be boys.
Sexual excess, vulgarity and lack of self-control have long been associated with the working class woman, and the media loves to feature grotesque and shameless bodies as symbolic of chav values. Tyler quotes definitions of the word ‘chav’ from urbandictionary: “Favourite jobs of chavs; drug dealer; McDonald [sic] worker; prostitute, page 3 “model” (Tyler, 2008, p.24). Overt sexuality is dirty.
“..large breasts, which are a key signifier of working-class female celebrity associated with glamour modelling and pornography, especially when surgically enhanced” (Tyler & Bennett, 2010, p.386).
Not only is Farrah a young, working-class single mum who stars in a porn film, she has also undergone plastic surgery including a breast augmentation and rhinoplasty. And shockingly, Farrah likes displaying her body. On Dr Phil, Farrah says “It’s about me and my body”. Far from being passively objectified, Farrah is commodifying her own sexual encounters.
Skeggs writes about “The body beyond governance” (2005, 2005, p.296) and this is what Farrah represents. She rejects Dr Phil’s middle-class values. She repeatedly refuses to be sorry for making her film. This constitutes a ‘bad self’ someone who does not embody the correct codes of behaviour, a failure of self-responsibility (Ibid, p.974). Dr Phil tried in his evangelical way to redeem Farrah, but she rebuffs his forgiveness.
Comments beneath the online Farrah articles are brutal, calling her a “slut”. “slag”, “fake”, “disgusting”, “worthless”, “fame hungry”, “Once a hoe, always a hoe”, “dirty”… comments on Deen are somewhat lacking.
As always, feel free to contact me with comments/ questions either by commenting here, or at @princessjack. Thank you for reading.
Adams, M & Raisborough, J (2011) ‘The self-control ethos and the ‘chav’: Unpacking cultural representations of the white working class’, Culture and Psychology, 17, 1, pp.81-97
Ahmed, S (2004) ‘Affective Economies’, Social Text, 22, 2, pp.117-139
Ahmed, S (2004) ‘Collective Feelings: Or, The Impressions Left by Others’, Theory Culture Society, 21, 25, pp.25-39
Daily Mail (2013) Racy images from Farrah Abraham’s $1.5 million sex tape leaked after Dr. Drew brands her decision as ‘horrible’Available at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2319055/Farrah-Abraham-sex-tape-images-leaked-Dr-Drew-brands-decision-horrible.html [Accessed 5th May 2013]
Raisborough, J & Adams, M (2008) ‘Mockery and Morality in Popular Cultural Representations of the White, Working Class’ Sociological Research Online, 13 (6) 2 Brighton: University of Brighton
Skeggs, B (2005) ‘The Making of Class and Gender through Visualizing Moral Subject Formation’ in Sociology, 39, 5, pp. 965 -984, London: Sage
Stiehl, J (2013) Farrah Abraham’s Sex Tape Pics — New Photos From Skin Flick Revealed, Available at: http://hollywoodlife.com/2013/05/03/farrah-abraham-sex-tape-pics-porn-farrah-superstar-backdoor-teen-mom/ [Accessed 5th May 2013]
Tyler, I & Bennett, B (2010) ‘‘Celebrity Chav’: Fame, femininity and social class’, European Journal of Cultural Studies, Vol. 13, 3, pp. 375-482, London: Sage
Tyler, I (2008) ‘Chav Mum Chav Scum’, Feminist Media Studies, 8, 1, pp.17-34 London: Routledge
Tyler, I (2006) ‘Chav Scum The Filthy Politics of Social Class in Contemporary Britain’, Media Culture Journal,Vol.9, Issue 5, London:Routledge
YouTube (2013) Farrah on Dr. Phill pt 1, Available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WhC0xSNP7mo [Accessed 5th May 2013]