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For our project in Sex, Gender and Society Karen, Emma, Patrick and I did a content analysis of various popular films. Our goal was to analyze how each film depicts the female body and draw connections between each of the four categories that rate a films appropriateness. We examined four films from each MPAA category (G, PG, PG-13 and R) and those films were chosen from the top twenty grossing films in each rating category. The result of our analysis may surprise you, or it may confirm your suspicions about how women are depicted in popular culture. What we wanted to draw out from our study are the glaring similarities in the way that the female body is used and gendered across the rating system. Regardless of the audience age, viewers are getting a standard message about the role of women.

Please explore the films that we watched and feel free to comment on anything that peaks your interest!!

Thanks,  Brittany

 

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NO STRINGS ATTACHED

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No Strings Attached, which starts Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher, is often compared to Friends With Benefits that Features Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake. Knowing that the movie has been rated R the viewer can go in with an idea that the film will have strong content. The movie starts off at summer camp as teenagers both Emma and Adam become the main characters they meet a couple one more time when they’re in college and later on at a market but fail to keep in touch. One night Adam’s and his girlfriend breakup and he ends up meeting with Emma again. Here they have sex for the first time. They have sex a second time and end up making an agreement that they will have casual sex with ‘no strings attached’ meaning that emotional feeling will not get involved in their new relationship.

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            Adam later finds out that his ex-girlfriend is now dating his father , this girl is portrayed as a “blonde bomb shell” always seen wearing small clothes that highlight her breast and legs. She is also portrayed as a woman who is only with his father for his money, in this part the movie places an emphasis on the stereotypes that blonde women encounter. Adams masculinity is put in question since he does not have a stable job ,and his girlfriend has left him for his father. He is not portrayed as a ‘looser’ since he is still able to have casual sex with a ‘hot girl’ like Emma. Masculinity here is saved due to sexual interaction. Yet his ex-girlfriend is bashed for showing her sex appeal in the way she dresses; double standards that hurt the woman’s reputation but portray him in a positive form.

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Emma is a medical intern at a hospital in Los Angeles and she explains to Adam that she does not have the time to devote to an emotional relationship so its better to simply have sex. I found this part of the film extremely interesting since the woman is the one who makes the first move breaking a huge gender stereotype of males always taking the initiative especially when it comes to sex. Adam begins to catch feelings for Emma, which once again breaks another gender stereotype since women are often seen as the ones to get emotionally attached easily. Adam begins to get jealous around Sam who is another hospital intern that works with Emma, he is more muscular and has the same career goals as Emma making Sam a threat for Adam. This is when masculinity is largely highlighted in the film, Adam’s feelings continue to grow as he takes Emma on a date but she reminds him that they are simply friends and that the agreement was to not get feelings.

            Adam’s dream is to get his writing in film taken seriously and he is able to get a job through the help of Lucy, who is clearly attracted to him. This is problematic because at this moment Adam’s intelligence is completely mocked, the only reason he got a job is because of his looks. This is great example of what women experience in the work field , constant sexual harassment by their bosses in order to provide them with jobs. This is however seen as something comical when it happens to a male, something that needs to be taken way more seriously since issues like these do happen to men as well.

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            In this film I feel that the stereotypical roles of men and women are switched. She is in the Medical field which is something that is male dominated, she does not get attached as easily as Adam does and she seems to be the dominant one in the relationship. The only problematic thing that I find about this film it’s the ending , it gives an unrealistic finale to the hookup culture. Hookups hardly ever lead to real formal relationships, they tend to end and both people go their own way as if nothing had ever happened. I guess the film took a different approach as to how society works in real life, in this case providing an ending that rarely ever happens. I wish it would have been more realistic on hook-up culture especially in the college scene since that is where most of the hook ups occur.

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MEAN GIRLS

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“YOU CAN’T SIT WITH US”… The famous line that I feel many of us have heard and many of us know to what exactly is referring to. Mean Girls the famous movie written by Tina Fey and directed by Mark Walters, highlights many of the ‘problems’ that teenage girls endure throughout high school. The movie start off with two parents looking down and talking to their child about their first day of school, seconds later we realize that they are actually talking to their teenage daughter who is going to school after being homeschooled for years. The main character is played by Lindsay Lohan, who plays the character of Cadie Haron; a teenage girl who just moved back to USA from Africa. She has been homeschooled her whole life, now she is out to face the harsh world in high school.

            Her first day of class she spills coffee all over her teacher shirt (played by Tina Fey) the teacher then proceeds to take her shirt off that reveals her bra right when the principal walks in. This is the first time the body of a woman is hyper-sexualized in the film. No one in the class makes a big deal about it everyone just simply laughs and moves on with their days. The next person that brings attention is Damian the “gay guy”, he is portrayed as the stereotypical flamboyant pink loving gay man. Although the film acknowledges queer people it does it in a way in which it allows everyone to make fun of him and question his sexuality. Regina, Gretchen, and Karen compose the ‘plastics’; they are seen as the hot popular girls on school. Their looks are everything to them and that is how they gain their popularity , it shows the stereotypical idea that girls who are pretty can’t be smart. Later on Cadie is accepted into the group but the only reason she is able to be part of the plastics is because she is pretty, this is when she understands that being a good students becomes social suicide.

            In her class she meets a very attractive boy who she really likes but is unable to have something with due to “girl code”, you cannot have something with your friend’s ex-boyfriend. The movie takes its famous name of Mean Girls due to how mean girls are to each other. Although they are all friends they are always judging one another based on personal looks making this very problematic for the viewers. One of the most problematic issues that I feel this movie presents is the moment when the girls stand in front of the mirror and speak about how horrible their looks are when they’re absolutely gorgeous, it makes the viewers at home feel extremely horrible and begin questioning their body images. They girls are constantly trying to loose weight and always looking for ways to look hotter all to impress man.

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            The movie takes a sharp turn when one of the students begins to have sex with one of the teachers. This is taken as a joke , but in my opinion this is extremely problematic. I do not understand how statutory rape can be joked about in such a way and never be presented with consequences. The film is presented in way that shows the viewers how these actions are ok in high school, statutory rape, slut shaming, weight bashing , and racial jokes are NOT OK , nor are they something to joke about.

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            At the end of the movie everything is “resolved” as Cadie decides to actually show her talents in math instead of trying to dumb her self down for a guy. She is chosen as homecoming queen and gives an emotional speech as to how everyone is beautiful and how no one should judge one another. See this part is “cute” and all but it does not fix all the problematic situations that have been presented for the past hour. The films have been placed in such a mocking and ‘funny’ way that at the end when everyone tries to act serious is never really taken into consideration. The overall message that Tina Fey was trying to send out of girls acting like this to one another is not okay gets hidden behind all the other problematic actions. At the end of the film a new group of freshman come in and they become the new “plastics” sending the final message that girls will always be like that to one another. Normalizing the problem of slut shaming that is portrayed throughout the hole movie through the burn book, and stereotypical ideas of teenage girls.

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The Lorax

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The Lorax is an environmentally friendly film created by Dr.Seuss. It provides a very colorful and entertaining setting to allow kids to become much easily attracted to it. The three main characters are the Lorax , the once-ler, and Ted all three main characters being male figures. By having the three main characters as male figures already gives children an idea of who is in charge when it comes to the real world. Some female figures do appear and those being Audrey, Grammy Norma, and Ted’s mom. These three characters have the roles of a girlfriend, a mother, and a grandmother; the stereotypical roles that a woman goes throughout her lifetime.

            By this introduction Dr.Seuss is already providing genders with roles they must assume. The Lorax being the informed guy who cares about the future of the earth, the once-ler who besides being the narrator of the story is also the industrialist villain, and finally Ted a 12 year old boy who is eager to find a real tree to impress Audrey. Audrey is the local environmentalist , but at the end of the day the one who sets out to find the tree is Ted , overall highlighting male dominance in the film. The film lacks a strong female lead, all the women who are portrayed have been accompanied with very stereotypical ways of acting. For example the mother really embodies the stereotype of the overbearing mother, one who is too over protective of her son never allowing him to do anything.

            Audrey originally proposes the idea of ever wanting to see a real tree, here is when Ted decides to venture off. She however is never placed in a position where she could also venture off as a heroine to find the plant. It is very similar to Disney princess movies where the prince has to fight off everything that gets on his way to rescue or bring a reward to the princess. As he goes on this journey to find this very wanted plant he is also proving his masculinity to her in hopes to gain her love. The grandmother on the other hand is able to get some sort of action as she helps get the plant from the “bad guys”. Take into consideration that the term ‘bad guys’ constantly gets used in the film overall highlighting that all the characters that play as villains are all male.

            Ted’s mother is set to portray the stereotypical form and ways of motherhood. Never in the film is there a father figure present ,but the mother’s actions are shown as highly overprotective and overbearing of her child. By not having a father figure the idea of fatherhood is presented as something that males simply do not do , leaving all the responsibility up to the mother. Although this is a good movie for children to watch because it teaches them to be environmentally friendly and to take care of our earth, it over exaggerates gender stereotypes and gender roles. By doing this it immediately lacks a large amount of female lead characters to play important roles that are crucial for children to create a more gender equalized world.

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Pocahontas (G)

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Since I was a child the idea of watching Disney films was something that was expected amongst little girls my age. We were expected to simply sit down and take in everything that happened in these movies and films without questioning them. When I first watched Pocahontas as a child I was content that there was finally a Disney princess who somewhat looked like me, I however never understood why they were referred to her and her people as “savages”. I’ve decided to revisit the movie as an adult and to be able to better understand not only the racial part but also the way women’s bodies and femininity are portrayed. The movie starts off by introducing a scene in which the strongest men of the village are departing to find the “new world” and on the process they expect to fight off the ‘savages’. The scene shows the wives of the warriors staying behind crying and taking care of the children, overall highlighting the stereotypical role of the woman.

In this specific scene not all the male characters are able to leave, some stay behind along with the mothers, I found this extremely interesting so I decided to look further into this scene. I began to compare the males who stood behind versus those males who were embarking to go to war; this is when I realized how different their body types were. The males that were going to war were much larger, had muscles, and most of them appeared to have an angry and courageous attitude. Those who were staying behind had no muscles and most of them were shown to be crying along with the women. This demonstrated the comparison between femininity versus masculinity and how those who were “masculine” enough were able to go and fight, while the others had to stay behind placing their masculinity in question.

This idea of male warriors does not only happen in the side of the Europeans, it is also shown in Pocahontas’ clan. All the males that show up are muscular and this immediately allows them to gain a good social standing amongst their clan. Being a warrior also immediate respect from the clan, while being a woman you have to be born into privilege (being the daughter of the clan leader, marrying a strong warrior, or being an elderly woman with knowledge). The clan has traditions which Pocahontas often times does not want to fulfill such as marrying the warrior her father wants her to marry. With the arrival of the Europeans Pocahontas falls in love, here is when she is seen truly happy. Her goals are unable to pass that; her love towards nature no longer compares to the love has for this man. So what does this teach little girls? The overall message that gets portrayed to little girls is that one does not know true love until you have fallen in love with a man.

The idea of the feminine touch is not seen until the very end, when Pocahontas’ father is about to kill the love of her life, she comes running and protects him with her body. Although in my opinion this should have been seen as an act of bravery it sends more of a message of her taking on the stereotypical protector role of a woman. This is the first time in the whole movie where she sends a message of wanting to stand up for what she believe in, unfortunately in this moment she is not standing up for herself but she is standing up for a ‘brave’ man who needs her help. Although she is putting herself at risk his masculinity is never questioned, he is still portrayed as a strong soldier who endured this for love, so his ‘bravery’ always remains with him.

Overall, the film was supposed to be about the role of a woman, it turned out to be a male dominated film both in actions and in numbers. Pocahontas appeared but her role always contributed to a man. The fact that the main character role is overshadowed by male dominance is problematic. We need to think about the audience that this film is targeting, children specially little girls. Children absorb interactions at an extremely fast pace and when these types of interactions are the ones being presented it becomes an issue. Overall this film is extremely derogatory to women and Native Americans, the fact that people are referred to as savages because “they look different than us” really sets a tone of who is the targeted audience, young white girls. I believe that Disney should really look into their films and really acknowledge the pain, discomfort, and developmental issues films like this can cause upon a child. All this movie does is romanticize the interactions between Native Americans and Europeans, over all disregarding what really took place; a genocide.

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Wedding Crashers (R)

Wedding Crashers is certainly the most inappropriate film that I have watched so far. It is expected that this film was the most problematic in portraying women because it is rated R, but at the same time, many of the themes in it are certainly applicable within the other films I have watched. There are so many thematic images and roles of the feminine body within the film that it is difficult to adhere to a few, but I will focus on the most prominent ones.

The first of those is women as objects. The function ranking within the film certainly favors the men. Throughout the movie, there are scenes in which the women are part of the plot and dialogue, but do not speak—the men speak for them. I could give a dozen examples but here are just a few: Sack announces his engagement to Claire at the dinner table and, before she can even open her mouth to comment or object to these previously unheard-of plans, he forcibly kisses her into silence; more simply, when John and Claire head off for a bike ride, John is the one to tell Jeremy where they are going despite the fact that it was Claire’s idea; and additionally, in this same conversation, only Jeremy and John speak, although Gloria and Claire are both present. From major scenes to very brief ones, generally the female body appears as a prop in the background of the dialogue that is carried out by men. Aside from dialogue participation, the film is simply misogynistic in the way that is portrays women. Towards the beginning of the film there is a montage of both Jeremy and John picking-up girls at weddings and them throwing them naked onto a bed afterwards. The montage consists of women in their underwear or completely naked literally being tossed onto the bed. Images like this of women’s bodies, again, display that the female body is merely an object that can be moved around or used in whichever way the misogynistic man desires. Within scenes like these throughout the film, women’s bodies are controlled by the men around them, and they ultimately do not have the same freedom of movement or agency for themselves. The passive roles that the female characters are given within the film perpetuate the patriarchical ideas of the active man merely using women as objects.

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The audience may see themes of feminine touch within the film, but different examples may result in very different effects. The first type of feminine touch that becomes prevalent is from Gloria. She frustrates me as a character because she fully embodies the Madonna/Whore dichotomy that is so problematically found in popular culture. The fact that she pretends to be a virgin at the wedding to seem more desirable is just horrible. Despite her ‘inexperience,’ the way that she presents her body suggests otherwise. After Jeremy and she have sex on the beach, she sits next to him elated, feeling her body and running her hands through her hair. The way that she caresses herself has a very different effect than much of the feminine touch we have discussed for some other films Many times, that touch is caring or motherly, but this is completely different. Here, Gloria uses feminine touch to accentuate and show-off for Jeremy. The female body is presented for the pleasure of the male gaze.

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Feminine touch is also used to portray the caring side of the women within the film. Like I said, Gloria has a stereotypically duel personality in which she is either childishly innocent or daringly sex-driven, however, there is also a caring role that plays into her female character. Both she and Claire exhibit caring attitudes towards the men around them. When Jeremy gets tackled during football, Gloria jumps up in worry, or when he gets hunting pellets stuck in his butt, Gloria silently pulls them out one by one. Claire plays a similar role. When Sack gets food poisoning, her father comes out to let her know that she should check on him, and then for the next few days, she cares for him, asking if she can do anything for him. All of these caretaking qualities that Claire and Gloria exhibit during the film go unrecognized by the male characters to which they cater to, and yet it is expected of them—as evidence by Claire’s father. The touches of caring within these scenes are gentle and unassuming, placing the ladies in a subservient role to the men around them.

 

Pretty Woman (R)

If you’ve ever seen Pretty Women you know it’s about prostitutes, so the very nature of the movie suggests the objectification of women because men “buy” them for sex. From the very beginning we see women completely focused on their looks, dressed in short, tight, revealing clothing, to get men’s attention. Yes, these women are prostitutes and don’t represent the typical female population, but with shots focused on their breasts and butts it sends the message that these two parts of the body are very important for a woman’s success (i.e. getting a man).

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Although Vivian’s world seems to change when she develops a relationship with Edward, the idea that she is being paid to be a beautiful woman on a man’s arm is still very much the same. She is the definition of an object, because to him, at least initially, she is just for show. What’s interesting to see is the change that the shift between worlds brings about in Vivian. Although in principle she is still doing the same job, she is far less confident and comfortable in her new world. In the beginning she sits with her body square and open, and even though she was also very sexualized in these positions, she seemed powerful. This image of power came from the fact that these positions are masculine and masculinity in itself is power. As she becomes accustomed to this new world Vivian becomes a “lady.” With this proper lady-like attitude comes the aspect of femininity, and with femininity comes a sense of weakness. She conforms to this new world of femininity by closing her body off, crossing her legs and taking up less space, something Karin Martin discusses in her article. This is how a “good woman” is supposed to behave and this is how they get a man. Although Edward was always attracted to Vivian, he falls in love with the girl she becomes, not the girl she was.

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In order to have her job with Edward, Vivian must conform to the norms in his world. Vivian immediately loses all power to be herself if she wants to keep her job, so Edward gains complete control over her. Not only does he have money, which comes with power, but he also has the power to make her into the person he wants her to be. Vivian has very little knowledge of how life works in this new world and so she is reliant on Edward. He guides her around, determines the clothes she wears and how she acts. Vivian is like a child. She lies on the floor watching television and eating snacks while Edward sits in a chair watching her, almost like a father would.

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As an R-rated movie, Pretty Woman is bound to have more explicit sexualization of woman, but regardless of how explicit it was it really sent the same messages about women and objectified them in the same way. Across the board, there is a huge focus on the female body. Women are sexualized and objectified by the clothes the wear and the ways in which they use their bodies, even in movies marketed to young children. There is also this idea that men are in control of women and that women really depend on men to survive. These are both features that we see in Pretty Woman, but they can be found in almost everything.