Susan Bordo

Words: 1364
Pages: 6

Talia Zicklin


Ms. Thao Nguyen

Essay 2: Research Narrative

03/07/2023 Beyond the Fantasy

Baywatch, the iconic TV series that graced the screens of millions around the world, is held as a nostalgic relic of the ‘90s. Its portrayal of the sun-kissed beaches of LA, the adrenaline-pumping rescues, and of course, the impossibly attractive lifeguards who patrolled the shores with unwavering diligence resonated deeply with audiences. In seventh grade (very much after the 90s), my friend and I would watch religiously every week. We found ourselves drawn to the action and the personal drama that unfolded. It was only in hindsight that I grasped the profound impact these images would have on my understanding of self and identity.

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Reflecting on this experience, I am reminded of the complexities inherent in navigating identity within the realm of popular culture. The show undoubtedly helped shape my understanding of beauty and femininity and it also sparked critical internal conversations that spurred me to interrogate some of the underlying messages that are shown through the show. Susan Bordo’s exploration of cultural images as vehicles for shaping identity provided me with a newfound perspective on themes embedded within Baywatch. Just as Bordo dissected images to reveal their underlying messages, I found myself dissecting the scenes of Baywatch to uncover the narratives surrounding gender norms and body ideals. The iconic characters, like Mitch Buchannon and CJ Parker, embodied archetypal representations of masculinity and femininity that were reinforced throughout the show. The male lifeguards are portrayed as muscular, chiseled specimens of physical perfection - symbols of strength, courage, and virility. Conversely, the female lifeguards were celebrated for their physical beauty and sensuality rather than their life-saving abilities. Their roles often revolved around being the audience’s eye candy, clad in revealing swimsuits and engaging in flirtatious banter with their male