Whose got what it takes to host the Finnish Idols? Style verdicts in Finnish web chats

2/2009

Sari Elfving

The article examines how the public image of a Finnish entertainment program hostess is used to create and maintain cultural conceptions concerning gender and style. The research material consists of public image of Ellen Jokikunnas, the Finnish Idols hostess, and its interpretations on web chats (bulletin boards). In addition to this, the article analyzes and criticizes the beliefs concerning professionalism in media entertainment – that is, conceptions of TV host or hostess.

In the web chats, the style of Ellen Jokikunnas invited middle class moral judgements. Especially the excessiveness of her style was considered trashy, not suitable to Finnish TV. Criticism targeted at her bodily excessiveness was associated with the historical image of the unruly woman.

On the other hand, the criticism had its context in the Finnish middle class efforts to define and maintain its own identity. Even though the concept of ”white trash” has been willfully kept out of the imagery associated with Finnish society, the contemporary media entertainment seems to provide an ample breeding ground for recycling and reinterpreting the styles associated with white trash culture. Public judgment of trashy style in web chats can generate ideological conjunctions between style, gender, and class. As public sentiments of disgust aimed at the trashy style become self evident and accepted as a norm, the generation of class conceptions is transferred to the area of cultural affects. This area of affects, furthermore, should be seen as an active area of cultural politics.