8 Things I Learned from Jenna Marbles

Jenna who? If you’re asking yourself this question then you likely are not a teenaged girl. That’s ok, neither am I. Let me explain…

Jenna Marbles is sort of like the Buffy Summers (a.k.a Buffy the Vampire Slayer) of the vlogosphere. Despite looking like the stereotypical “hot chick” (in fact, she’s worked as a bar promo girl and gogo dancer), she dramatically defies expectations. She may not be slaying vampires and saving the world (yet), but what makes Jenna Marbles an interweb anomaly is her in-your-face over-the-top silliness, the blunt honesty with which she presents herself, and her sharp commentary on human behaviour.

Jenna Marbles

A Jenna Marbles video still (Some Idiot/How Sports Bras Work)

I fell into a Jenna Marbles YouTube rabbit hole one day when I was looking for clever stuff about girls to counteract that horrible unfunny misogynist garbage known as Sh*t Girls Say. That’s when I stumbled upon a video called White Girls at the Club. I laughed and, more importantly, I felt like Jenna was the smart popular girl who was on my side. It turns out that I was already quite late to the party and thousands upon thousands of people had already discovered lil’ Miss Marbles (real name: Jenna Mourey).

Every Wednesday sees the birth of a new Jenna Marbles video; this is what is referred to as “Sexual Wednesday”. Some are funny, others are just meh, and many are quite brilliant! I think I’ve watched most of them by now and so I’m going to share with you the wisdom that I have absorbed from Jenna Marbles.

1. Be yourself, just like your mum told you: You can’t invent a Jenna Marbles. Marketers sit around trying to come up with something different and cool that all the kids will like. But it won’t work unless it’s genuine. The Lady Marbles is uniquely herself — a bottle-tanned bikini babe with a potty mouth who makes funny dog voices on the internet. And she actually now earns a living doing this!!! Back in the early naughts before we were all connected through social media, Jenna would have been the funny weird girl at the party. Now she’s the funny weird girl with a TRILLION LIKES.

2. Puppies like it when you sing to them (and cats are plotting the destruction of Earth): Jenna Marbles seems to have real insight into the minds of bizarre looking skinny dogs and she selflessly shares this knowledge with the world. And, like she says in How To Talk To Animals, if you don’t like animals, good luck living your life without a soul. I concur. (Also, sometimes I look into my cat’s face and I think, maybe… nah, she’s too dumb to plot Earth’s demise.)

Jenna and her namesake doggy, Mr Marbles

Jenna and her namesake doggy, Mr Marbles

3. When in doubt, drink: Coming up with a new idea each and every week can’t be easy. Sometimes Ms Jenna seems to throw her hands up and say — screw this, I’ll just do something normal… but I’ll do it DRUNK. And who knew? Drunk makeup tutorials are kind of entertaining, while a My Drunk Kitchen Tribute is simply amazing! Darnit, now I really want wine. And cheese cake.

4. Slut shaming gets you into trouble: Even though she knew that the word “slut” was controversial and she tried to preface the video with “this is just my opinion, you’re allowed to disagree”, many people, and feminist people in particular, weren’t happy that Jenna had questions for sluts. I totally understand why it’s upsetting to some that a young lady of web influence refers to other women as “sluts”. And, in an ideal world, one-night-stands would only happen between 2 sexually empowered people and everyone would get their cookies and retain their self-respect. But that’s not the world we live in and Jenna, for better or worse, articulates how much of society views promiscuous girls.

One awesome part of the video that some critics seemed to miss, though, is the section in which she actually teaches girls how to intervene in a safe way if they think someone might be headed for trouble. She’s doing EXACTLY WHAT FEMINISM TAUGHT US and that’s to look out for each other in bars and facilitate escape from dicey situations. And just like the Slut Walk ladies, she says it’s ok to wear slutty clothes. In other words: you’re not asking for it. So yes, she does some blaming and shaming, but there’s also a nice message hidden inside. I salute all who took the opportunity to explore the issue in a non-blamey non-Jenna-hating way. (Also, if you’re looking for sisterhood, check out Why Girls Hate Each Other.)

5. It’s all smoke and mirrors: The first Jenna Marbles video to go viral was How to Trick People into Thinking You’re Good Looking. In addition to being a hilarious parody of all the crazy stuff women do in order to look good, it actually hints at a theme that recurs in her oeuvre: Being hot is not some precious gift handed down to the chosen few by angels. It’s just hair straightening and some self-tanner that anyone can do. Not surprisingly, many young women comment on how pretty and skinny Jenna is. But, unlike the myriad of images of skinny blonde women in the media that could potentially make teenagers (and grown women too, for that matter) feel like they don’t measure up to societal standards, Jenna Marbles is not some passively silent figure. No, she’ll tell you how she does her makeup, how she gets her boobs to looks big (a gem from her gogo days), as well as what she eats and does at the gym. Jenna Marbles has agency and she willingly shows us all sides of herself, not just the glossy finished product.

6. Nobody has it all figured out: One of my favourites of hers is the video I’ve inserted above. Despite having gained internet fame and, one assumes, considerable financial rewards, Jenna Marbles is a human being who still doesn’t know where she’s headed in life… just like us. I also love her escape fantasy — on a farm covered in animals.

7. Date guys who wear shirts, real ones, ones that have sleeves: Watch a few of Jenna’s videos and you’ll eventually come across a dude by the name of Max No Sleeves. This guy’s schtick is that he cuts the sleeves off of every t-shirt he owns, presumably to make his arms look more muscular. This is a man who is likely insecure and will break your little heart eventually. The down side of internet fame has got to be watching the twittersphere go nuts over your split from such a fellow. This is a lesson I hope no one needs to learn more than once.

8. Humour will get you everywhere: Hey, do you get annoyed by guys trying to dance all sexy on you?  Or are you peeved that the person next to you on the train keeps trying to chit chat when you just want to read your book? Don’t get mad, just make the face!  And also, will your brain explode if you see one more music video with girls bouncing their booties all over the place? Here’s the antidote. As much as I harbour continuous silent outrage in the face of all the injustices and commonplace sexism I encounter, there are times when anger just seems like a self-destructive waste of energy. Maybe more of us should adopt the Jenna Marbles approach: just be creative as f*ck and have a good time doing it!

So, thank you Jenna Marbles for brightening up my computer screen on a regular basis and teaching me about life. Now I’m going to try and go trade my giant fluffy [evil] kitty in for a sleek Italian Greyhound. [Not really.]

Comments

  1. I guess I should watch her videos!

  2. Loving this tribute to Jenna! She is awesome. And I understand the criticism of her “slut” videos, but anyone who has watched her vlogs will know she is one of the best feminist internet icons. She shows that women can be pretty, funny, nice, smart, and act like herself. It’s the reason I like her.

    • I’m glad you enjoyed this, Emry. Exactly– she’s not trying to be anyone else but herself in all her weird multi-facetted glory. Thanks for commenting!

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