Plenty is said regarding the objectification of women in every form of entertainment, from blockbusters to less known video games. Some vigilantes with an excess of estrogen and time to burn strive to identify every single scene or character in an entertainment production which might be linked, even by a feeble strain of hair, to misogyny.
When discussing male objectification, many articles refer to “hyper-masculinity”, which is apparently the equivalent of an alpha male archetype on steroids. Others refer to villains being disproportionately more male than female. The goal of this post is to draw attention to a few motifs which largely go unnoticed.
It’s well known that in a film some characters matter whilst others don’t – as we follow the brave alpha male around, we don’t stop to count how many people he shoots, strangles or throws off buildings. He selects the killing method according to their position; if their back is turned he might break their necks; if they face him he shoots them, as shooting people in the back is cowardly; shooting one after another though, after good eye contact, is supposedly dignified.
At the end of the day he laughs it off in a pub, cool as an ice block, though he has just committed multiple murder, without knowing if each and every one of those men actually posed a danger to him. It is very rare for the main character to kill a woman; the overwhelming majority of throw-away characters are male.
In real life, one would worry about who these people are, how they ended up in a criminal gang and how many grieving families they’re leaving behind.The insidious message seems to be, besides using the characters as props in a story, that it’s OK to view some human beings as disposable, as long as the narrative (and ending) is comfortable enough. Just like soldiers are told to refer to others as “casualties of war” in real life.
In fact, since their only utility and context is being disposed of, they might as well be named after their chosen killing method.
The disposable husband
In a number of films based on intense adventure (B films in particular, but not only), a variation of the following story unfolds. A previously divorced woman who now has a new life and family (though usually her child was fathered by her ex husband) becomes involved in a turbulent situation (a natural catastrophe, a terrorist attack etc), during which she, her child and new husband are in great danger. The ex shows up and saves the day; by the end of the film, the two rekindle their affection and get back together.
I’ve always found it interesting that the new husband so often gets to conveniently fall off a cliff, break his neck, drown etc., sometime during this great adventure.The public is supposed to feel contented that the heroine found the love of her life again and reunited her family, even though just a few days before, she was sharing her bed with someone else, who at the time of her great happiness, lies in a ravine, with vultures pecking at his spine. Remember that wedding ring? A hyena just chocked on it.
Somehow, this poor sacrificial chump who gave her stability, accepted someone else’s child as his own and shared her daily life, just ceases to matter – everyone just forgets about him, including his wife. She doesn’t stop to grieve, to recover his body (hell knows; maybe he’s not even dead but lying somewhere wounded waiting to be rescued…) or consider that he’s got a family out there who will miss him. It’s all about her and her wonderful romance. Something about this Hollywood cliche is creepy and chilling.
The same goes for some comedies which involve a woman reuniting with her ex; the current partner (sometimes the fiance) is sent off with a warm gaze and a “see you later”.
Molestation turned into a comedy prop
This is something I’ve only witnessed twice in films but it might be more prevalent. While the film industry (and society in general) rightfully demonises male sexual attacks on females, the reverse is seen as amusing; even thrilling. I’m referring to scenes of men being tied up, in situations of extreme mental pressure (their lives being threatened), with women carrying out sexual acts on them without consent. I’m not sure if that would even work anatomically, but it seems to dwell in some people’s imagination. An no, violating someone’s body is not sexy or amusing.
The romantic comedy “hero”
Or should I say target of ridicule. Subtle ridicule, that’s true. A few years ago I was subjected to a romantic comedy on a bus, three times in a row, after not watching television for ages. Memories of similar films brought the realisation that men are often portrayed as clumsy, awkward and embarrassed by women’s better abilities. In the film in question, a man kept being rescued by a woman in dangerous situations, while freaking out or injuring himself. Whilst not absolutely impossible, this type of scenario reeks of feminist propaganda, which claims it’s normal for women to perform better than men at tasks which involve physical strength (such as shooting a rifle).
Of course these are just a few examples; hopefully I can come up with more.